"All the knowledge of our people is based on a permanent relationship with the places in which we live. The Indian territories are not only physically but also culturally located. We live here with a magical perspective. The people who live in a valley see rivers and mountains in a very different way from a geologist or a biologist. A mountain for us has a name, has children, has loves. It has a history, a story to tell because it has witnessed life passing." .... Ailton Krenak, Brazil - from a Gaia interview, 1989
Indigenous knowledge is generated through an intimate relationship with the Earth; an intimacy which can only be acquired over time and which is passed on from one generation to the next. This knowledge comes from the relationship with, participation in, and observation of place - its cycles, rythyms and seasons. A profound understanding arises through dialoguing and learning from and with Nature, through experience.
Common to all indigenous people is the understanding that Nature is our source of life and wisdom. Nature is lawful and ordered, and humans need to learn her laws to live a healthy and balanced life that does not violate others, including Nature herself. When we destabilise this dynamic equilibrium we become sick and dis-eased. For indigenous communities, all species and elements of the Earth are imbued with the same life force and intelligence; each carrying wisdom and history within them. Humans are recognised as being intimately related to, and part of, this great web of life.
Indigenous knowledge systems are founded in respect, reciprocity and working with Natures' laws. This knowledge is transmitted through practical learning, oral teaching, stories and cultural rituals. Knowledge comes through all of our senses, emotions, intuition and dreams; all of which come through and from lived experiences. Living in accordance with Nature's laws and passing this knowledge on to the next generation is a vital and inherent part indigenous govenance, education and health.
It still all comes back to identity. An African clay cooking pot represents resilience and it represents the Elders of a community. You have to go through fire to become strong and wise! The clay pot gets better the more times it is used to cook with. The Elders have gone through a great deal to gain the wisdom and knowledge that they hold. We must ensure that it isn't lost forever. Mphatheleni Makaulule, Dzomo la Mupo
Indigenous knowledge is embedded in cultural practices which are born out of their landscape, and are constantly changing and evolving. Indigenous knowledge is rooted in reading and responding to changes within the landscape and with this comes great resilience. This is why, in the Convention on Biological Diversity, Article 8j recognises the vital role that local and indigenous knowledge plays in enhancing biodiversity across the world. This is particularly vital for the world's seed and crop varieties, because of the critical need for diversity in maintaining the resilience of our food system, especially in the face of climate change.
The industrialisation of the world has radically undermined unique systems of indigenous knowledge and the territories upon which they depend. Gaia is committed to the revival of these traditions because they respect the laws of the Earth and hold the memory of how humans have and can live in a mutually enhancing way with the Earth. We also believe that diverse ways of human expression enrich the world and are essential for the full expression of human-Earth possibilities. This is especially so at a time when multiple crises are manifesting in the industrialised system.