The Knowledge of The Elders

Environmental awareness is something that has slowly been gaining traction in the U.S. and the world, but many don't know we have a local wealth of knowledge of the environment: the Seneca Nation of Indians. Terry Belke explains.

SALAMANCA, N.Y. - Though environmental awareness seems to be taking on more importance in society, the actual connection to the planet is something that many are still searching for. Certainly any outdoor experience can go far in reconnecting, but we can benefit from human guidance as well.  In Western society, finding someone to walk us down that path can be difficult.  Fortunately, we have a nation of environmental leaders living in our midst.

The Seneca Nation Of Indians have lived in Western New York for thousands of years, and their knowledge of the Earth can benefit us all.  "We just have instinctively known that the Earth is our Mother. She provides for us in the most loving way. There's nothing more that we can ask for than what our Mother provides. To ask for more is to be selfish," said Stephen Gordon, a Seneca Nation Councilor.

"We're all at fault, and it's just what we've grown into as far as society and where it has taken us. But at the same time, common sense is still in our blood, and we produce a little bit more care in what we have and our Mother Earth," said the Seneca Nation Culture and Language Center's Sheldon Sundown.

    %INLINE% The philosophies of the two cultures could not be more different. Western Society views nature as a commodity - something to be bought and traded, a thing with no value aside from what we assign to it.  "The universe, Mother Nature, is bigger than we are, and Western Society doesn't seem to understand that," explains Blaine Tallchief, Head Faith keeper of the Cold Spring Longhouse.  "We treat the earth as a living being, understanding that she is our Mother," said Stephen Gordon.

The Seneca Nation has many programs dedicated to helping the environment.  The Seneca Nation's Fish And Wildlife Department is but one example.  In addition to their work in the field, community outreach plays a big part in their mission, and they're spreading ancient knowledge in decidedly modern ways.  They know that today's youth are tomorrow's stewards.

"There are a lot of young people that use the social media as networking, and we thought we would jump into that whole network to get a point across, our viewpoints, but also to share what other people have: ideas, programs, and projects," explains Will Miller, Director of the Nation's Fish & Wildlife Department.

The wisdom offered by our elder brethren is one not given lightly, and it should never be taken for granted.  The earth is here for all of us, and crossing the barriers that were erected by hate and oppression will make the entire human race stronger.

"The old people used to say an old Seneca phrase which means come here and sit down.  I'm going to talk to you.  I'm not going to scold you.  I'm going to give you encouragement and just remind you what it is to be a good human being," says Gordon.  "This is our time and our responsibility to help one another, to work with one another.  We can do this together."
 


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