December 5, 2016

Protectors vs Plunderers

Learning to live more gently on the earth does not happen spontaneously when you are born into a culture of consumerism. In my pursuit of the simple life I have had a lot of guidance.

The core of my gentle approach to living comes from my parents. And while my own culture has some excellent examples of people warning us of our luxuriously wasteful ways, they do not reflect the large society.

For me, then, the next basic source of ideas and practices for a way of life that made more sense to me is from my First Nations hosts.

I was born in Blackfoot territory. After university I moved north to the land of the Cree. After that Linda and I were hosted by the Coast Salish for 10 years. Two years ago we traversed the whole of Turtle Island and now live in the area of the people of the rising sun, the Mi'kmaq.

It is because of their generosity that I have lived my life in their lands. It is because of their stewardship over thousands of years that there was a functioning ecosystem here when my ancestors arrived from Europe looking for refuge. Look at what we have done with it since then.

We are Earth Plunderers. "The economy or the environment?" could only be asked by such a person.

Native peoples everywhere on the planet, on the other hand, are Earth Protectors. They have not forgotten how to live sustainably on the land. North American native groups have been waiting 500 years for their guests to get with the program, and many of us are still having problems with the "Mother Earth comes first" philosophy.

Standing Rock is the most striking example of sharing the native world view with a consistent message that has been the same since settlers arrived on their shores - we and the Earth are one and the same. What you do to the Earth, you do to yourself. Therefore, treat her gently.

The Water Protectors of Standing Rock are decedents of one of the greatest and well known leaders in the area of what is now known as the USA. The wisdom of Sitting Bull, highly respected Lakota Chief and medicine man, could have helped us avoid problems like the Dakota Access Pipeline, if only we had listened.

Sitting Bull led his people during the time of colonization, and summed up the newcomers in a way that is unfortunately just as accurate today.

"Yet, hear me, people, we have now to deal with another race – small and feeble when our fathers first met them but now great and overbearing. Strangely enough they have a mind to till the soil and the love of possession is a disease with them. These people have made many rules that the rich may break but the poor may not. They take their tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule. 
They claim this mother of ours, the earth, for their own and fence their neighbors away; they deface her with their buildings and their refuse. The nation is like a spring freshet that overruns its banks and destroys all that are in its path."

Sitting Bull died on the Standing Rock Reservation December 15th, 1890. He was shot by police attempting to arrest him on trumped up charges. He, like his decedents over the past 8 months of water protecting, paid a high price for resisting the plans of the Earth Plunderers.

I am in debt to the peoples that have hosted me here throughout my lifetime. Not only because they let me stay, but also because it is through their example that I have learned about living more gently and simply on this great and abundant land.

All settlers on Turtle Island have native people to thank. Today I am grateful to the people of Standing Rock and to so many other native groups around the world, many of whom converged on the reserve in an unprecedented show of solidarity. Thank you for showing us the way to becoming Earth Protectors ourselves.

May what has been happening be the beginning of an ongoing collaborative movement to restore the land, and ourselves, to a more healthy and balanced state. As Sitting Bull said, "Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children."


  1. Thank you for this quote by Sitting Ball and it sums up the mindless drive for consumption well. Well done to the Standing Rock protesters in the US.

    In the UK there is a growing vegan activist movement that is mainly made up of young people. There is no leader or leadership and the movement is self arising. The young seem better able to understand new ideas and people in general become more closed as they get older. It's great to become radically open and let our culturally imposed ideas become washed away.

    1. Alex,

      I have learned a great deal from aboriginal people, past and present. I love their world view, and think there are answers there at which we should be looking.

      A friend of mine has recently opened a vegan restaurant called Plant Matter Kitchen which "brings everything local, organic, and vegan under one ethical and loving roof!" He helped Linda and I go vegetarian almost 20 years ago, and his undertaking is being well received in his community.

      Young people are where it is at, if they can escape the clutches of mainstream culture. We can all make it if only we can rise above those "culturally imposed ideas", most of which are self-serving lies. It has always been time for radical ideas, and radical people. Need more of both.

  2. This is nice summary of the movement that includes climate activism.


    1. Alex,

      Meat production takes a lot of oil. We can make choices that don't include oil. No demand for oil, no pipelines.

    2. Over problems include water use, problems with waste and contamination of the water table and ocean dead zones.

  3. Sitting Bull was wise and predictive. The Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, Dave Archambault, II is the epitome of the Lakota 12 Virtures. I love to hear him speak. Humility pours out of him.

    I've watched many videos that people camped out at Standing Rock have made and posted publicly over the past few weeks. It's inspiring to see their voices being heard by millions of people from all over the world. Finally, we are listening. They have started something very big, something very positive. The are willing teachers. What I've learn will change my life forever.

    Cheers for the 4,000 veterans who are camped out along with thousands of other Water Protectors at Standing Rock during a blizzard.

    Thanks Gregg for the link to an article you posted back in 2012 about Johm Trudell. It's perhaps the most impassioned article you ever written. I felt it in my bones. I will watch the documentary you linked and will definitely learn more about him.

    Here is a good article and video explaining the situation at Standing Rock.

    Standing with Standing Rock,


    1. Terri,

      We have also been watching this closely. The lack of mainstream media coverage has allowed alternative media to shine. Great coverage. I haven't heard what has been happening with all the police brutality since the vets arrived. Did they stand down?

      John Trudell was an amazing person and teacher. He passed on last year, and will be sorely missed.

      Thanks for the link. We certainly live in interesting times. Big things are going on, anything could happen, good or bad. Will be interesting to see how it all pans out, especially with a new administration coming in your country.

    2. Yes, the police did calm down when the vets got there. In fact, there was a meeting on the bridge among the key people on both sides. It was agreed that the police would move back from their side of the bridge and the water protectors and vets would not get on the bridge. But in the following days there was at least one time the protectors and vets went onto the bridge for prayer and ceremony and 3 were arrested that day. The bridge remains barricaded closing off access on Highway 1806.

      Yes! Alternative media outlets are shining brightly. Love seeing all the attention being brought to them. Nice to share this with you and Linda. I stayed up late and watched the documentary on John Trudell. Powerful. I shared the link with some people at Standing Rock. Every single issue that AIM and John Trudell fought so hard for is precisely the same things I keep hearing out of Standing Rock. With approximately 500 nations of indigenous peoples coming together at Standing Rock, it seems their unity could produce some powerful changes.

  4. Replies
    1. Miss Marla,

      Thank you. I am so indebted to my First Nations hosts. Otherwise I guess I would be somewhere in Europe right now. Somewhere warm would be nice right now.


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