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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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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.

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