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To survive, we must respect environment

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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Wisdom at the Creek

At Yale University, a group of professors have collaborated to create a "Forum on Religion and Ecology." At a time in our history when problems concerning the future of our natural environment have reached epic proportion, they have put their heads together to form solutions.

The major universities in this country have always been forerunners in areas of scientific, medical, and environmental research and publications. Doctoral theses produced in these institutions have provided a large percentage of the nation's answers to many of our most grave concerns. These professors have concluded that the answers to our environmental problems have always been available to us, right under our noses, yet many of us have failed to notice.

The best of Yale's scholars have been looking back into the history, philosophy and religions of indigenous peoples around the world. What they have discovered is the fact that these ancient tribal communities placed one of their highest priorities on respecting and honoring the natural environment. They didn't just give it lip service either. Nature made her demands and the humans followed her lead in nearly every aspect of their lives.


How much did the seasons, the weather, water, natural medicines, constellations and animals influence their lives? The natural world seemed important enough to leave a permanent record of their experience carved in stone in various places all over the world.

One such place is the petro-glyphs at V-Bar-V Heritage Site in Rimrock. It was important enough that ceremonies and rituals concerning our relationship with the natural world have survived until today and are still practiced locally among native people.

Professor John Grim of Yale describes these continuous expressions of honoring the supernatural aspects of nature as "rays of light" from ancient times. He points out along with his colleague, professor Mary Evelyn, that "Religion has become a new environmental ethic." It's not only within the indigenous religions but also the oldest writings of Christianity as well. People from ancient times were forced to live closer to the Earth and realized with alarming clarity that to defy the natural laws and environment nearly always ended badly for them. They learned early on that a good, prosperous life meant creating a harmonious relationship with their closest companion, nature. The spirituality of the internal soul was integrated with the everyday tasks of finding food, clothing and shelter along with achieving social status and material wealth.

Sacred Environmentalism

One of the old Iroquois clan mothers was fond of saying, "If you are good to the mountain, the mountain will be good to you." Her children and grandchildren were taught to give thanks to the Creator as they gathered plants and harvested crops.

"When you take something for yourself from the Earth, offer something in return. If you gather herbs for medicine, place some seeds and water there before you leave," she said.

We are fortunate indeed, to live in a place where nature has the opportunity to touch our hearts with her closeness. If we stop and take a deep breath, we may be reminded to honor and respect the greatness of all things and assign a greater priority of consideration for our planet and the generous gifts of her natural resources, along the shores of Beaver Creek.

Fran Dancing Feather, editor of the newsletter for the Beaver Creek Adult Center and author of numerous articles and three books lives with her husband Wayne in their home in Rimrock.

Copyright 2010 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: March 3, 2010

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