Martín Prechtel, the Native American of mixed blood from New Mexico turned Mayan Elder and shaman, has a exquisite gift for words and ceremony. He probably doesn’t know this, but he also taught me to dance. Martin thinks often and long about the relationship of people to the Other Side, and to the spirist and other beings that inhabit our beautiful, complex world. News of My Ancestors quoted Martin, as taken from an interview originally published by The Sun Magazine in 2001:
Shamans are sometimes considered healers or doctors, but really they are people who deal with the tears and holes we create in the net of life, the damage that we all cause in our search for survival. In a sense, all of us — even the most untechnological, spiritual, and benign peoples — are constantly wrecking the world. The question is: how do we respond to that destruction?…..
If we respond as we do in modern culture, by ignoring the spiritual debt that we create just by living, then that debt will come back to bite us, hard. But there are other ways to respond. One is to try to repay that debt by giving gifts of beauty and praise to the sacred, to the invisible world that gives us life. Shamans deal with the problems that arise when we forget the relationship that exists between us and the other world that feeds us, or when, for whatever reason, we don’t feed the other world in return.
As a culture, we do not feed the spirits of the Other World often or well. We forget we are connected to the Ancestors. We increasingly ignore Pachamama who clothes and feeds us, and the spirits of the other world who walk with us each day. For these reasons, it should not come as a surprise the spirits associated with Greed are again strong in the world. One doesn’t have to look hard to find their influence. Perhaps it is not so strange that the peoples most under attack are the very peoples who work to maintain a respectful, appreciative relationship with the spirits:
Throughout the country, Native sacred sites face the bulldozer, and pressure to destroy tribal lands for energy and other resources intensifies. As summer matures, record heats reaches across the country.
In Brazil, where until recently Amazonian peoples were routinely murdered by Brazilian authorities, dams have largely, although not entirely, replaced guns, the Brazilian government openly pursues the destruction of the rainforest and her peoples. Karen Hoffman recently wrote:
Kurt Trennepohl, head of Brazilian environmental agency IBAMA, interviewed by Australian reporter. He kicks the camera out but forgets he’s still got a mic on (8:20): “You have the Aborigines there, you didn’t respect them.” “So you’re going to do to the Indians what we did to the Aborigines?” “Yes! Yes!”
Ecuador, as Al Jazeera English recently reported:
It’s becoming tricky to identify “terrorists”, at least in Ecuador. They are not members of criminal organizations, they don’t spread fear or target civilians, nor have a politically motivated agenda. According to President Correa, “terrorists” are those opposing Ecuador’s development. So today’s “terrorism” might just look like indigenous peoples peacefully taking over the streets, with their ancestral knowledge and values, to demand environmental and social rights.
In Ecuador, “terrorists” are indigenous peoples from the Amazon and the Andean highlands fighting to preserve access to water in their communities. Old penal codes written in times of dictatorship are being revived by leftist presidents to repress indigenous activists. As “terrorists”, they are labelled as enemies of the state, and arrested – by the very president that claimed leftist credentials and staged his inauguration in overtly ethnic style.
We often don’t think of racism as driven by Greed. However, racism against Indigenous people often reflects the devaluing and dehumanizing needed to justify the destruction of Native peoples in the name of “Progress”. In Australia, racism in the health care system threatens to worsen the already poor health of Aboriginal people. Racism Daily reports:
Many of Australia’s Aboriginal people can feel so scarred from encounters with racist health workers they would rather become sicker than return for treatment, a new report says.
It is as though we would destroy those who hold the keys to our survival. Martin often said that when we fail to acknowledge and feed the Ancestors, spirits, and Ancient Ones, they may turn on us, and feed. Now, I have come to understand the teeth they use to devour us, are our own.