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My name is Kawisente, I am Kanienkehaka (Mohawk)

My name is Kawisente, I’m a Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) Clan Mother from Kahnawake, a Mohawk reservation just across the bridge from Montreal. I’m a mother of two: a daughter, age 17 and a son, age 14. My children and I have always been active in social and environmental causes. Culturally we were taught to be responsible for caretaking of the land, water, and all living things.

Because of people being disconnected to the natural world, we see all life suffering. Because of colonization, my people are lacking certain skills, (forest skills). Many people are just taught to have a high paying job and take care of their nuclear fmaily.

I first met Steve Leckman a few years ago when my chidlren were young and it was proposed by friends that it would be beneficial as families to learn these skills to bring back this connection to Mother Earth. Traditionaly it is the Uncles and Aunties that take the children and show them these skills. But Uncles, Aunties, Grandparents are too busy working. So Steve’s survival program and its volunteers fill the Uncle Aunt role.

Helping to bring the inner child (forest child) to the surface, playing in the forest, makes people connected to nature. When you’re living in it, you love it and so you value and protect it.

I allow non-native people on this land because I believe this program is a medicine that needs to be dispensed or prescribed to everyone. My children and non-native children are working side by side as caretakers of Mother Earth. Nursery school is where our first introduction to others begins. Forest teachings should begin as young as possible. This is when we are being formed and where we’re most open-minded.

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Indigenous has it right

“From Standing Rock to Queensland, colonized and indigenous people are demanding new relationships to water that sustains the life and land which provides for the people.
This approach entails returning lands and resources to indigenous control and rethinking our relationship to the environment by recognizing and protecting indigenous values and the rights of nature through the law.
While indigenous values, beliefs and practices are as diverse as indigenous people themselves, they find common roots in a relationship to land and water radically different from the notion of property. For indigenous people, land and water are regarded as sacred, living relatives, ancestors, places of origin or any combination of the above.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/27/western-idea-private-property-flawed-indigenous-peoples-have-it-right

 

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What’s the most effective way to create change in a …community, school, church, institution, business, neighborhood…

We Are Nature Rising takes direction from regenerative cultural practices that create health and well-being for people.  Culture is like an invisible mentor, always guiding and informing the people.

The Three Great Mysteries: air to a bird, water to a fish, mankind to himself
~ Hindu Proverb

Cultural initiatives are a very effective way to create change in a …community, school, church, institution, business, neighborhood…

 

Culture is about the context.  It’s the ocean you are swimming in.

The WW2 Victory Gardens are an excellent example of a cultural level initiative to create change.  This was a whole systems cultural approach that essentially changed the nature of the ‘ocean’ that people in this country were ‘swimming in’.  Take a look at this article clip below that shows the many ways this simple gardening initiative really had it going on.  It wasn’t just “hey let’s do this” and everyone thought it was a good idea. It was intentional.

What if we applied this approach to a nature connection campaign, a community resilience, local food, slow money, intergenerational community peacemaking campaign ?

Please comment below, I want to hear what you think !


During World War Two, 200 million people gardened, and 40% of produce consumed in America was homegrown.

TEACHING A CITY TO GROW FOOD

How do you teach an entire city to grow food?

The Mayor of Boston helped plow up the Boston Commons.

Movie stars became part of the program. Veronica Lake changed her hair from swept over one eye to keeping hair back and out of the way – better for women munitions workers and gardening. The campaign was called “Hair wins the war”.

Cartoon characters and superheroes were used to further gardening message.

Popular culture was drafted into the gardening movement – beer drinkers showed having a drink after sweaty gardening. Fashionable gardening clothes were sold from department stores.

Children were brought into the movement by their parents and their schools. Chicago held well-attended harvest festivals and garden parades.

Corporations got involved. Sears started 24,000 Victory Gardens in the Los Angeles area. International Harvester provided the plows in Chicago.

To keep that food year round, there was a mass program of canning. Five billion pints of produce were canned by volunteers every summer during the war. “Pressure cookers and canning supplies were in such high demand that their production was overseen by the government.”

Gardens began sprouting behind sign posts, on railway embankments, in school yards and church yards and in window boxes.” Vacant lots and parks were also used – any spare space.

The Office of Civilian Defense was put in charge, with Fiorello La Guardia. His “assistant” was the President’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt – the last person to plant a food garden on the White House grounds until Michelle Obama. Could the Department of Homeland Security start thinking about real food security, and help found local gardens instead?

90% of the participants had never gardened before. This required a massive public training effort through: community groups, film nights on how to plant, educational brochures, talks by experts, newspaper articles. They mounted Kiosks near gardens and in public places to post notices and articles, a kind of social media of the day.

The City of Chicago was broken up into 7 regions, then down to block captains. Each official garden received a decal. There were many more gardens in private yards, and people who didn’t want to register of keep the paperwork. 75,000 of these decals were posted in the first year in Chicago, 1942.

In 1942, Chicago had 12,000 community gardens on over 500 plots, covering 290 acres. That doesn’t include private or non-registered gardens. By 1942 it was 53,000 gardens on 1500 plots. 14,000 children were gardening.

The first Victory Gardens were in Chicago, and it became a national model. The largest garden there was 32 acres, with 800 families participating.

Chicago passed an ordinance against damaging or stealing from Victory gardens. The fines were $50 to $200, which would be $650 to $2,600 in today’s currency.

It’s interesting to note that the food shortage and poverty during the Depression of the 1930’s was so severe that 35% of the men drafted for World War Two could not be accepted due to malnutrition.  

I wonder, Was this the primary motivation behind the Victory Gardens ?  National Security?

How did Chicago do it? “We had government support. There were overarching organizational structures. There was a donation of space and equipment. There was mass education, promotion, corporate and individual commitment, and recognition.”


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We Are Nature Rising is a project of Merrohawke and has 501c3 tax deductible status.  Make a donation today and help lift the next generation of leaders !  DONATE
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The role of extended family in regenerative culture

The following is an excerpt from Bill Pfeiffer’s book about transformational leadership experiences in nature. He interviewed me for one of his chapters in: Wild Earth Wild Soul.

We ended up talking about the role of extended family in bringing culture back into a regenerative state again.

excerpt…

Mark: If we take the long view of human beings as animals on the planet, we know— even with our limited anthropological lenses—that the culture our ancestors created was an imitation of the natural world they inhabited. The amount of nature-based arts that Native cultures have is outstanding—music, storytelling, dance, regalia, crafts; it goes on and on. And you know what? There’s no school in sight. The school I grew up with was designed to feed a machine, and I think it kills children’s creativity. Sir Ken Robinson and John Taylor Gatto have spent their lives explaining how this happens. Instead, I’m championing a life of intergenerational community mentoring designed around nature’s instructions. Nature becomes the school, and that’s been very successful and resilient over the long haul.

I think facilitating regenerative culture is like a holistic Chinese Five Element acupuncture treatment. Mentors who have spent a lot of time connecting with nature and applying that to people are like a combination of the acupuncture practitioner and the needles. They stimulate the meridians and multiple places throughout the entire body called culture, through core routines of nature connection and cultural mentoring.

Bill: Where do we start this cultural change?

Mark: One place to start is with the extended family.  It wasn’t that long ago that extended family was far more vital, so it’s not too hard to actually bring it back. The questions I ask to get people to think along these lines are: How long ago was it that the grandparents still lived with their families? What was life like before the nursing home? And what are the cultures around the world that are still that way? How many of you long to be in a village? How many of you wish to be seen by someone who can see your gift? How many people have adopted you as part of their extended family?

The answers to these questions are richer and more meaningful when the extended family becomes familiar with transition ceremonies around death, rites of passage, rites of competence, festivals, and other things like that. This is the beginning of intergenerational healing.

If you feel moved, please SHARE this post and help us lift up We Are Nature Rising !
We Are Nature Rising is a project of Merrohawke and has 501c3 tax deductible status.  Make a donation today and help lift the next generation of leaders !  DONATE
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Circles and Squares

 

Circle

Circle

Square

Square

In Toronto, I gave a three hour talk at the Royal Botanical Garden.

It started with the awareness question of  “Notice all the squares in the room, anything that is a square or rectangle.”  Then another question: ” Notice all the circles in the room”.   Once asked, the shapes came into our awareness.  What else is like that ?

The next awareness: “Notice the shape that we are sitting in”.  Rows in a large square shape, all facing the one presenter.  “Feel what it feels like in your body, right now.  Now, everyone get up and rearrange themselves into one circle”.

Once settled, I asked, “So what does it feel like now ?”  People shared these things:

I feel vulnerable.

I’m participating.

I’m responsible.

This is like community.

I can’t hide.

If rows of chairs (squares) is like content (school) then a circle of chairs is like context.

Front row only education is a shift in the context of learning.  It’s a shift in culture.

Where else can we shift the context to create cultural change ?


If you feel moved, please SHARE this post and help us lift up We Are Nature Rising !
We Are Nature Rising is a project of Merrohawke and has 501c3 tax deductible status.  Make a donation today and help lift the next generation of leaders !  DONATE