The Wisdom of Indigenous Cultures

A guest post: Share the World’s Resources in conversation with Freddy Treuquil and Victor Lem Masc.

In late October 2010 a group of eight indigenous elders travelled to London, UK, to share the message that it is time to re-connect with Mother Earth in order to overcome a global environmental disaster. Motivated by a deep concern for humanity and the planet, their visit formed part of a wider movement in which indigenous peoples are calling on the world community to urgently rethink modern notions of progress and development.

Share The World’s Resources (STWR) interviewed two of the elders during their stay in London to further explore the indigenous call for people to reconnect with the basic community and ecological values that should define what it means to be human. Freddy Treuquil is an artist and longstanding prominent member of the indigenous Mapuche community in Chile. He also founded and directs the Native Spirit Foundation, a non-profit charitable organisation which promotes the knowledge and preservation of indigenous cultures and supports education in indigenous communities. Victor Lem Masc is the Mayan spiritual guide of his Mayan Community in Guatemala. The spoken interview was translated from Spanish by Augustin Bazzini.

STWR: Could you explain in more detail what you have referred to as the spiritual ‘cosmology’ of the indigenous people you represent. What is the relevance of this cosmology to the modern, consumer-driven economy that shapes the lives of increasing numbers of people around the world?

Victor Lem Masc: The indigenous people that we are representing in this visit are the Aymara, the Mapuche, the Kuna, and the Maya. We have come to the conclusion that there are common elements that unite us in our vision, no matter the distances between the different people. The distinctive characteristics of each people and each community are very similar, especially in relation to their cosmology or the way that we each see life, to our spirituality, and to the concept that everything that exists has life and energy.

The great effort that we and the elders have made to come here is to share the wisdom of the indigenous people. We have faith that the knowledge we bring based on our ancestral traditions and our ancestral practices of life can contribute to the equilibrium of the universe. The most important aspect of this process is the spiritual part, the search for a balancing of the energies of the earth. This is something that we can now see in the science world through their discussions about quantum physics. The indigenous people already know all of this – it is the way that they have understood life for thousands and thousands of years. The only difference is between visualising and conceptualising these ideas. Because we try to live close to nature, we experimented and developed our approach to life that is harmonious and in balance with the universe. We are now telling other people in the cities of Europe about our view of life, because we believe it is necessary that all the people around the world should wake up and that we should work together.

In each city that we have visited, we have found that people are interested in change and have a desire for a new way of living. However, as reality is so immense, we see this willingness to change as a single seed in a big grain silo. There are many people who are in need of that change or that transformation. The only problem is that they cannot see how to sustain or realise it. We have many tools, many elements that are within their reach, but what they need is this spiritual relationship and connection. That is what it has to do with – mass unity. For the indigenous people, the concept of spirituality is all-encompassing and integral, a wholeness, we don’t see it as separate from our daily activities. Everything is equal; culture, economy, spirituality, social life, work – everything forms a part of this wholeness and is interrelated.

For example, in our culture the economy has its spiritual component. But the consumerist society dominates people and makes them subservient to the consumer culture. People become dominated by consumerism and they get stuck in this way of life; the accumulation and possession of material things. People caught up in this process, in this consumerist way of life, are not happy, not satisfied. They have everything, but at the same time they are empty because they don’t see the spirit in things. In our culture, balance and equilibrium is therefore encouraged. We should only consume what is really necessary. In that way we are contributing to the sustainability and equilibrium of the universe.

Part of our work in this visit to Europe is to share with society the many worries and problems that we have seen and been told about by other people. There is a need for people to reconnect with their spirits. So we share with them that it is important to come back to oneself, to go back to our origins, to find out your own culture. Because we notice that history has been fragmented, so there are many people who are not strong in their identity. We don’t come here to impose our cultural values. We simply want to share what we think is important, which is to invite people to reflect on and find their spirituality and to connect with the universe, with everything that exists, with the sacred.

Freddy Treuquil: We don’t see with the same eyes that you see. You might see what is apparent, the material part, but if you ask me about the people, the humans that live here, I can tell you what I see. There are many people that want to be forever young – to party. They are empty, they have built in themselves an emptiness from their vanity. They are in competition on all the different levels of the material world, like sexuality, all the clothes, everything that you have; all the different material aspects. Here [in London], for example, they spend double what they earn.

But we also find people and organisations that are different from what I just described; they are educating their children in a different way, they work the land, they are searching for ways of living a sustainable life. Like working in the community, collaborating with each other. In fact we are here with some old indigenous people, one of whom is 115 years old, and when he met with some of the different groups, he said ‘But these people are indigenous, like us’. Because we share food, we share singing, we dance together in a great human community.

Rather than just observing, what we try to do is reflect on what we have seen, because we also have a lot of work to do in our community. The other important point that we have to work on in our community is our indigenous culture, because our culture is still alive. Many people talk in the name of the indigenous, but it is never the indigenous who can speak for themselves. This is our contribution to this great rainbow movement for change that is growing at the moment.

So we work on an individual level, we talk with people and help discover the power inside each one of us as individuals. The same way you feed your body, the same way you have to feed your spirit. And that helps produce a balance in life. As Victor was saying, for the indigenous people everything is connected. If we don’t make a change in the balance of our individual life, we won’t be able to see that the earth is also out of balance. We cannot be conscious of how our individual behaviour and actions in life also create bad effects to other people around us. The indigenous people are culturally and spiritually rich. We can also build on our materialistic wealth, but it has to be in balance, without harming the other. That should be done from our humanity, from us as human beings, because life is very fragile. This is something that people generally cannot perceive – that life is very fragile.

So this is the message that we have been sharing, this is what we came to share with the different people, communities and organisations in Europe. One of the Elders said “My heart is going back home full, because we have identified that there are other people who see the same way as we do”.

A longer version of this interview is published at Share The World’s ResourcesNative Spirit Foundation is a non-profit, charitable organisation operated entirely by volunteers, which promotes the knowledge and preservation of Indigenous Cultures and supports education in indigenous communities.

This work is published under a Creative Commons License. When reproducing this item, please attribute Share The World’s Resources as the source and include a link to its unique URL. For more information, please see the organisation’s Copyright Policy.

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