by The Reverend Dr. Bradley Hauff, Indigenous Missioner for The Episcopal Church, Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota
Indigenous People and Creation
The Indigenous worldview is about the balancing of all that is in the Cosmos. Human beings, animals, marine life, insects, plants, and things that are not seen by the Western mind as living; rocks, earth, mountains, sky and stars, all live in relationship to the other. If all participants in creation are living together in a state of right relationship, balance occurs, and it is holy. When the relationship is troubled or broken, balance is disrupted, and negative consequences result. When creation is abused or traumatized, it has a ripple effect on everything, including the relationships between people, and vice versa when human relationships are troubled or broken. Additionally, the Earth and all her features are etched into the psyche of the people who live in a particular region. The geography, the weather, the animals, all become archetypal influences in the human mind so as to be inextricably part of the individual’s understanding of self and the community’s understanding of culture. Native philosopher Gregory Cajete refers to this as ensoulment, a process in which the roots of human meaning are grounded in the same order as they perceived in nature, the Cosmos is mapped within the mind of the person, and the person experiences the natural environment as a part of them and themselves as part of the natural environment. To put it simply, we are all in this together – all of Creation. We are all linked, we are all in one piece. The Western mind and Christianity have traditionally considered this weltanschauung as heretical, because it contrasts with the dichotomization of Creation and living and non-living. Indigenous people see all as one and the same. From this perspective it can be clearly seen that environmental care is an integral part of the cosmic balance, and things such as climate change indicate an imbalance that Indigenous people would see as affecting everyone and everything in numerous ways – geological, physical, emotional and spiritual.
Joseph and his brothers have experienced brokenness in their relationship. The result is that the brothers and everyone in the land are experiencing famine, and the future looks bleak. When the brothers are reconciled, the result is their restoration and the famine is eventually ended. From the Indigenous view, the Earth is disturbed when humans do not get along, and healthy when they do. Climate change is an indicator of this sort of thing, a dysfunction resulting from mistreatment of the Earth. The reconciliation of Joseph and his brothers was orchestrated by God, the Mysterious Holy One omnipresent in everyone and everything.
“When kindred live together in unity” is holiness. Indigenous people see unity as an indicator of balance. The result is a balanced Earth, indicated by the dew of Hermon falling on the Mountains of Zion. Everything is exactly as it should be, and it is seen and experienced as a blessing from God.
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
The ancient Hebrew people believed that holiness and holy events were revealed on the top of mountains. For Indigenous people, mountains were seen in a similar way. The Black Hills of South Dakota, for example, are seen by the Lakota as their Holy Land and the origin of their people. The Eagle is seen as angelic because it flies higher than any other bird and therefore is closest to the Heavens. The psalmist writes that those who are brought to the holy mountain are those who are balanced. They do what is right for all. They are just, they serve God by doing good things and living in the right way. God is God of all peoples, not just a chosen one.
When the Earth “has yielded its increase,” she is in a state of balance, health and gladness. This indicates that the way of God has been made known upon the Earth. This delights God, who responds by showing graciousness and blessing to all the peoples, and they praise God in return. God’s face is manifested in a happy Earth.
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
When Creation is abused, when relationships are broken, God does not reject us, but calls us to return to the proper order of the sacred Cosmos. Paul, aware of his sins, has experienced this holy faithfulness, and is mindful of his relational connection to his people and their relationship with God. In the Indigenous view, this connection goes far beyond the descendants of Abraham. It extends to all that is seen and not seen.
Jesus said, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.” To the Indigenous mind, a plant not planted by God is contradictory. Such an idea could only be an indicator of profound, unthinkable imbalance, as manifested by hypocrisy. The opponents of Jesus were engaged in such hypocrisy in their understanding and practice of the Jewish law and their condemnation of others. Hypocrisy makes a mockery of authenticity and congruence, which are necessary for balance. It has no place in a Cosmos that would enjoy relational harmony. Therefore, it must be uprooted.
As God is the God of all, there can be no one people rightfully claiming that they are superior or more blessed than others. Nothing in the Cosmos has a place of superiority; only God, who is within nature and the human heart. The Canaanite woman reminds Jesus of this as she is in a unique position (non-Jewish) to do so. Jesus extols her for speaking this truth, and the effect of balance is seen by the restoration of her daughter’s wellbeing. Balance and the wellbeing of Creation are grounded in the relationships we have with each other, and that is truth.
by Rev Dr Bradley Hauff, South Dakota