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Editor’s Note: The following has been minimally edited for readability.
Steven Newcomb: Closing Remarks
Rights of Mother Earth Intl Indigenous Conference, 6 Apr 2012
video, mp3 (6:08)
Rights of Mother Earth: Restoring Indigenous Life Ways of Responsibility and Respect. International Indigenous Conference April 4-6, 2012 held at Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence Kansas.
... I would never allow the word Nation, or Six Nations, or Confederates, or Council Fire at Onondaga, or any other form which would revive, or seem to confirm, their former ideas of independence. Treat them as though they were your citizens, therefore, subject to your authority. The style by which the Indians are to be addressed is of moment also. They are used to used to being called brethren, sachems and warriors of the Six Nations. I hope it will never be repeated. They should rather be taught that they have become wretched and destroyed themselves and that public opinion of their importance had long since ceased.

The reason I read that is because we as the Original Nations and Peoples of this land, or from this land, of this continent, of this hemisphere, have an original, free and independent existence. By that I mean originally free and independent of all forms of Christian European domination. That was bequeathed to us by our ancestors and we therefore have a rightful free and independent existence, that is the right to be again free and independent of all forms and manner of domination or subjugation.

This poses a dilemma for Federal Indian Law but I want to switch real quickly—and I won’t go real long here—but I want to switch real quickly to the presentation by our brothers and sisters from the south, from the country of Ecuador. Because in them talking about their understanding of rights of Mother Earth it’s contextualized within their culture, within their spiritual understanding of all the elements of life. That includes the spirits of the water, it includes the spirits of the river that they mentioned. When those things are abused and people, the colonising society creates destructive effects—or it could be our own people doing that—but the colonizing society creating these destructive effects, then those spirits will leave and that river will begin to die, or it will die.

So think of the massive, huge devastation of the tar sands and that’s a graphic illustration of what I’m talking about by domination and that’s a graphic illustration of what happens when those stories and those understandings are not followed. In other words our ancestors were saying if we do not actually perform these practices of thankfulness daily, and we do not perform the ceremonies of thankfulness on a regular, constant basis, then eventually those things that sustain us will be destroyed.

Look at the track record. You can now look and you can look at the litany of all the the things that have happened because those things were being destroyed. By them saying that they could remove our Original Laws, our Original Values from the land, and then they’ve come in with this other set of values of destructiveness, then you have the actual track record of that.

Look at the track record of our nations and peoples in the thousands of years of existence and what we have contributed to the planet. Then you can begin to extract all that stuff from the world. Imagine the world today, without some sixty percent of all the foodstuffs of the world that came from this hemisphere as a result of indigenous knowledge and wisdom and cultural and ecological and spiritual practices.

Look at the Amazon rainforest. I think I mentioned this the other day: up to 2,000 square miles and perhaps all of the rainforest was part of an intentional growing process by Indigenous Peoples according to many scientists [who] have looked at the cross-cutting in the Amazon and seen the charcoal and the pottery shards all the way up.

There are many, many examples. But the track record of ecological sustainability on the part of the dominating society is not there. So I think that if people were given a choice: whether they literally believe—as we do, based on experience—in the spiritual understandings of those relationships with life forms, or whether they understand it as a story that’s important, nonetheless, it’s still a true experience in terms of emperical data.

Because you can look. You can say, Okay, you stop doing those ceremonies and then look: here’s the mercury in that lake, all the way to 50 feet down, Lake Onondaga; you can go to Hanford Nuclear Facility and look at all that radiation that leech from Hanford Nuclear Facility into the ground water, into the Columbia River, according to the official website of the State of Oregon.

I’m not making this up. Of course there’s a litany, I don’t have to go into all the long details. But this is what happens. These are direct consequences of no longer following the Original Law Systems and Value Systems that were developed over thousands and thousands of years by our ancestors.

I’ll leave you with that and I think that the contrast between ROME and HOME is pretty interesting. And one last thing is that when that dome is inverted—or the dome shape, structure, which represents the domination thinking and conceptual system that creates a reality of a domination system—when that is inverted and it’s filled with the water, it’s now a symbol of the Sacred Feminine and it’s also a symbol of the rebalancing of life that needs to occur for the sake of the earth and all living things.

So thank you very much.

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