In our western society, having a relationship with the Earth is a rare topic of discussion or thought. Perhaps, due to technology, we have distanced ourselves so that now we are being challenged to renew our relationship with the Earth. It is a challenge well worth pursuing as I have discovered in my learning about the indigenous Andean teachings of the Q’ero people.
For the indigenous Q’ero of the Andes, I have noticed that it all starts with Pachamama. In J.E. Williams’ book Light of the Andes: In Search of Shamanic Wisdom in Peru, he describes Pachamama as “the earth mother in space-time, the all creative cosmic mother”. Pachamama is very important to the Q’ero and they frequently make offerings to her. When they say, ‘Gracias Pachamama’, you can hear their heartfelt gratitude echoing through each syllable. I have tried to emulate this concept when I offer thanks to Pachamama, whether through a tobacco ceremony or when I am praying to the Mesa (the Andean Medicine Bundle). I have noticed that the more I feel in my heart the love for Pachamama (as one would feel for a loved one), the deeper my connection. This has most certainly led me to a deeper relationship with the Earth.
Oglala Sioux Tribal President Theresa Two Bulls explains: “We feel that we have a sacred obligation to our people to come together in unity. We put forth sacred intentions to help our Great Sioux Nation understand these grounds are beautiful and sacred and they are not for sale.” The Black Hills Unity Concert will start a new way of relating to sacred sites on the Earth. At the core of the environmental protection of sacred sites, is the need for each person’s spiritual connection to the land, in this case the Black Hills. The concert is August 28-30, 2015, free admission for those attending. If you can’t attend but want to donate, go to: Unity Concert. Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/08/20/star-studded-black-hills-unity-concert-focus-sacred-161455
In honor of World Indigenous Peoples Day, here is a sampler of indigenous wisdom teachings from the Q’ero (Peru) and Onandaga (NY). Click above to enjoy more videos and quotes in magazine format.
Ayni is a Quechua word meaning reciprocity. Ayni permeates daily life among the indigenous people of the Andes Mountains as it is not just a sustainability principle but is also practiced in despacho (offering) ceremonies to the Apus (mountain spirits), Awkikuna (nature spirits) and Pachamama. To learn more about Ayni, watch this video from Dr. J.E. Williams at Ayniglobal.
Seven Generations Principle Native North Americans honor the sacredness of all life through the seven generations principle. “Seven generations ago somebody was looking out for me and that’s why I am here. Seven generations from now, I hope, there is somebody there.”-Oren Lyons of the Onondaga Nation
While researching Florida Native American Tourism, I learned about the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes as well as some of the current cultural tourism businesses.
In the Miccosukee Tribe, Buffalo Tiger was a legendary activist in establishing tribal governance. He started Buffalo Tiger Airboat Tours, which is family owned and operated where you can see “Tree Island”, Buffalo’s ancestral homeland.
The Miccosukee Indian Village not only has a museum but also artisans demonstrating Miccosukee patchwork, woodcarving, etc. My sister studied native art in college and she thoroughly enjoyed the level of craftsmanship and authenticity at the village. To learn more about the Miccosukee Tribe, here’s an interview with current chairman Colley Billie, nephew of Buffalo Tiger.
In the Seminole Tribe, it is Abiaki/Sam Jones who was a legend in Seminole history, but currently the Billie family and the Seminole Tribe of Florida are associated with several cultural tourism businesses, like the Billie Swamp Safari, located on Big Cypress Reservation. The Seminole keep their culture alive through the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Museum, offering authentic artisan work both live and in the museum. To learn more about the Seminole Nation, this interview with Victor Billie provides more details.
1. Respect and care for the environment whether it’s land, air, water, animal or plant life.
2. Indigenous culture should be represented in an authentic way so that it is not a commodity, but a celebration of the culture and sacred sites with respect and dignity.
3. In the case of hotels, workers should receive competitive wages, work in a safe and clean environment, and live in the local area.
4. Travelers and businesses are responsible for buying local.
Tourism in the USA has a long way to go to meeting these goals, but with innovation, discussion and action, maybe tourism can work in harmony with the environment.
I would like to share my experience at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel in Peru since Responsible Travel week is happening from 2/11-2/17/13. Before I do that, I’ll share some of my ideas about responsible travel:
1) It provides all involved a means of enjoying the place, giving back to the place visited in some way.
2) Travel organizations employ local workers, while providing competitive wages, training and mutual respect in a safe environment.
3) Travelers seek out experiences to commune with nature, learn about the local indigenous culture, and hopefully feel prompted to give back to those cultures, places or people that they learned about during their travels. The giving back doesn’t always have to be money–it can also be time directed towards their newfound interests gained on a responsible travel trip.
With the above principles in mind, I picked Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel as an example of responsible travel. At a time when most hotels are the exact opposite of responsible travel, Inkaterra at least makes a steady effort in the areas of conservation and biodiversity as well as hiring local employees. I visited Inkaterra Hotel in 10/11 and was able to see these principles in action.
It is highly probable that the Inkaterra resort is so serene because of its proximity to Machu Picchu. However, I will say that by hotel and resort standards, Inkaterra has done an amazing job preserving the natural atmosphere of sacred beauty that is inherently found in Machu Picchu. Once inside the entrance, it’s like stepping into another small room inside the ‘house’ of Machu Picchu. The local village, Aguas Calientes, seems miles away. The plants, trees and animals are lively and serene at the same time. The environment is truly a sanctuary with its beautiful stone walkways past the Vilcanota River. Here is a picture I took while inside the grounds looking up at the small mountains along the river:
While this is a luxury hotel with its spa, pools, sweat lodge, gift shop, etc., I don’t know too many hotels where it is an absolute joy to wander the grounds feeling as if in another world.
For the responsible traveler, there are many activities which provide enjoyment of the local biodiversity. There is a fully staffed Eco Center with expertly guided tours through the orchid gardens, herb garden, tea plantation, to name a few. I was very impressed by the level of expertise and dedication of all of the staff whether they were in reservations, hospitality or in the Eco Center.
My enjoyment of this resort prompted me to search online for more information re: whether they hired local workers, conservation and other issues. I found that Inkaterra was awarded the first Green certification from the Peterson Control Union Green Choice Sustainable Tourism Standard. While this sounds like a distinguished honor, and perhaps it is, I am somewhat skeptical of certification standards in the business community regarding responsible travel. I did some more digging and was able to find the following:
1) According to http://www.sustainabletrip.org/profile/inkaterra-reserva-amazonica (Inkaterra’s Amazon River location), 86% of the staff is local which supports my observations of what appeared to be mostly local staff at the Machu Picchu location. I did find a source that stated Inkaterra was “built and staffed by locals” who used local materials. Profits from other Inkaterra resorts, in both the Amazon and Cusco locations, are put back into conservation. Source: http://www.wtmwrtd.com/files/spotlight07_lr1.pdf (p.27)
These independent online sources support my experience at Inkaterra–a business that knows that without its natural surroundings and local citizens, it would be nothing. Of course, there is the price tag, which is my biggest complaint simply because quality responsible travel should be accessible to all socio-economic groups. Perhaps in the near future, there will be more places such as Inkaterra all over the world, offering lower prices without compromising better responsible travel standards.