The Land is a Teacher

I’m on a plane, just woke up from a take-off catnap, decided I would seize the moment to write a note about re-connecting with the land. I suppose it is a bit ironic to write about this topic now, being at thirty thousand feet in a sealed flying pressurized tube with wings. Yet, in some ways it reflects the degree of separation many of us live with in relationship to the natural world in these times.

In the days of my great grandparents, our people spent around eighty percent of their time on the land, among the elements and animals, and the remainder in tents and semi-subterranean sod homes. Today, we spend around eighty percent of our time or more in well-insulated homes, shielded from the elements and lucky to see an animal, aside from a neighbor’ pet or an urban dwelling critter, on most days.

A late respected elder Chief, who spent his first eighteen years of life on the land, once asked me, “can our generations understand the world in a similar way with this difference of time spent on the land?” He went on to share, “our people received much of our cultural teaching from being on the land and with the animals, there is much to learn out there, even our language.”

There is a natural way of being, as a human. When we are living it, we may feel in moments as if we are one with the universe, in love with everyone and everything around us, spiritually attuned. A major part of this is our relationship with the land. Our elders often speak of it as respect for the land and animals.

When we spend time on the land, planting, gathering, hunting, fishing, and exploring, we shift our consciousness and deepen our awareness. The more we do it, the more in alignment we become with natures’ time, with the seasons. There is less stress and confusion in this environment, because it operates at a pace that is natural to us.

The plane has landed, I am in my hotel room and it is time for me to rest. Tomorrow, I leave for a remote piece of land on the Northwest Arctic coast of Alaska with three thousand pounds of gear and food. We are preparing to bring out twenty-four youth and together will live on the land, build a maqii (Native style sauna) and inusuk (meat drying rack), hunt, fish, gather eggs, share knowledge, and build relationships. This is one of the solutions; to prioritize a reconnection with the land and share cultural knowledge with younger generations.