A Native Wisdom Sampler: World #IndigenousDay

Indigenous Worldviews-August 2015

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

 

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Step Into Their World With Respect: Promoting Indigenous Travel

It is difficult finding indigenous travel experiences that communicate the importance of indigenous wisdom within the tourism framework.  Ayniglobal.org is a great example.  They are “dedicated to preserving authentic traditions and passing on indigenous wisdom.”  Unfortunately, most indigenous travel day trip itineraries are too superficial.  They usually include a dance/artisan display, authentic food, meeting local people and exploring nature; but, many trips usually do not include information about the indigenous group’s spiritual beliefs and practices, their cultural philosophies or even their views about everyday life.

There can be a conscious effort to talk about the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of indigenous peoples’ beliefs even on a day trip.  For example, instead of travelers learning just about food, also talk about the cultural and/or spiritual symbolism of certain types of food.  When out walking through nature, instead of just showing travelers a mountainside important to indigenous people, explain why it is important!  Many indigenous people revere all nature as sacred and certain areas of nature are equivalent to a church or temple.  There is a direct personal relationship to nature and everything in it.  Some indigenous people, like the Q’ero people in the Andes Mountains, “have individual names and uses for all plants, grass, birds and animals” (Williams,100).

When planning indigenous travel, it is important for tourism businesses to learn how to communicate with indigenous communities in a respectful way.  Dr. Susan Guyette, in a webinar about Sustainable Cultural Tourism, suggests asking these questions:

“Are sacred sites being protected?  Are welcoming songs being practiced and documented?  Are indigenous entrepreneurs being assisted, being trained and given promotion?  Is ecological restoration taking place?” Have respect by listening.  Listening is a central aspect of communicating with indigenous community.  Make sure that decisions come from within a community.”

Indigenous travel has the potential to empower indigenous communities economically as well as culturally and spiritually.  If done in a respectful manner, indigenous communities have the opportunity to preserve culture as well as alleviate poverty.  Dr. J.E. Williams from Ayniglobal, shares his thoughts on how social businesses can empower indigenous people:

“A social business for indigenous people gives everyone in the community the opportunity to participate, just like they would in growing crops, in creating the kind of lifestyle they deserve. They have the opportunity to mobilize their innate talents and to employ their creativity and skills for solving their own problems, for determining their own destiny, for banishing poverty from their lives by their own efforts, and freeing their children from the damaging effects of generations in poverty.”

References:

Guyette, S. (2012, November 12). Sustainable Cultural Tourism [Webinar]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/53652132

Williams, J.E. (2005). The Andean Codex: Adventures and Initiations among the Peruvian Shamans. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing.

Williams, J.E. (2013, May 19). Social Business: Not Just a Dream, a Reality – Founding of a Q’ero Run Tour Company [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://ayniglobal.org/social-business-not-just-a-dream-a-reality-founding-of-a-qero-run-tour-company/

Book Review: Light of the Andes by Dr. J.E. Williams

Mountain at Machu Picchu

Ever since I came back from my trip to Peru, I’ve been looking forward to the release of Light of the Andes by Dr. J.E. Williams.  While visiting the Andes Mountains, I felt a deeply spiritual connection to the land of Peru.  Reading Light of the Andes helped me understand and place my experiences in Peru within a broader context.   It was a feeling of being in a land that I had never visited before, yet it felt like home.

While every person experiences things differently, there may have been similarities between what I experienced and what Dr. Williams experienced upon his first trips to Peru years ago.  Perhaps it was this feeling of being home, that led him to the very special Q’ero people, and his his soul brother, Don Sebastian Pauccar Flores.  Dr. Williams has chronicled his initial encounters with Don Sebastian in his 2005 book, The Andean Codex.  Light of the Andes continues this journey with Don Sebastian to the great Andes mountain, Apu Ausangate.

While storytelling is a very effective form of communication, it is the principles interwoven within the stories that create a deeper understanding.  This is the very difficult technique that Dr. Williams employs in his writing style in both The Andean Codex and Light of the Andes.  While there are many principles within the Q’ero tradition, I was most interested in the concept of ayni (reciprocity).  In the preface to Light of the Andes, Dr. Williams writes:  “Ayni is the touchstone of the Q’ero worldview who hold it as the code of life, an innate imprint discoverable in nature and ever present in the universe where it forms the content of every thing—the matrix of all being.”

In The Andean Codex, Dr. Williams ventured into the land of the Q’ero to experience life from their perspective.  Most importantly, the relationship between Dr. Williams and Don Sebastian forms a basis for their journey.  In Light of the Andes, Don Sebastian takes his first trip to Lima, the capital of Peru, and experiences urban city life.  When I returned from my first trip to Peru, I  experienced some of the same culture shock.  Once I felt the deep spiritual connection with the Andean world, it felt very disjunct and spiritually barren when I returned to the US.  While I had missed the familiarity of modern 21st century Florida,  I instantly felt a longing to have the spiritual energy of the Andes with me as well.

Most of all, I was impressed by Dr. Williams’ profound spiritual, physical, emotional and mental preparation. His initiation process at Apu Ausangate was the result of years of dedication.  He had to integrate the Q’ero principles into his life before venturing up the mountain.   It is because of his dedication over many years to this process that we as readers have been given a gift.