Indigenous Peoples and their Relationship with Nature

Many, if not most indigenous people of the world, see nature in a completely different way to us. Uncontaminated by western culture and ideologies up until the last couple of centuries, they have shaped their lives wholly around their environments, working with and caring for, nature. Griffiths describes this as “for indigenous people everywhere, nature is an enlargement of your mind and body, not a curse on your soul, as the Christian west has too often seen it.” (Griffiths, 2008, p68).

For specific examples I have read about the Amazonian people such as the Ashaninka and Aguaruna tribes. They have songs that guide them through the dense forests. Each plant has its own song, giving the Amazonians a deep and personal knowledge of their surroundings, bonding them to nature.  In these cultures, nature is revered within myths and stories. For example, the Amazonians believe in a spirit of the forest called ‘the master of animals’. Hunters must ask for his permission to hunt and offer him gifts in a trade for wild game. This reminds me of the Ancient Greek’s idea of Pan.

Similarly, Aborigines such as the Yarralin people also map their world with song lines, a story in song that describes a route through the landscape. These are so detailed that even strangers can navigate their way through, guided by the words alone. Much of their land is desert, but to Aborigines their homeland is sacred and full of meaning and to the Pintupi people is something they should cradle like a child. Aborigines treat their land with deep respect and believe they must visit it frequently to keep it alive, to nurture it, so it in return will nurture them.  The earth brings strength, well-being and freedom to the people, they are empowered by their environment and they protect and revere it throughout their lives.

The Inuit believe that everything has a spirit, even notions such as weather and sleep they consider as conscious. As a result they treat the whole of nature with awe and respect. I found reading about lives, so very different to our own, humbling as we have so much we could and should learn about what is really important. It gives me a little hope that in some places in the world our environment is still treated with respect and reverence, but really hits home with how we treat ours.




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