Western thought holds the notion that there is a division between nature and the interactions of humans. We perceive nature as those parts unaffected by people. However, an undeniable link exists between ourselves and our land. In her book, Braiding Sweetgrass, Author Robin Wall Kimmerer presents new thoughts on what it means to become indigenous, a term defined as that which occurs naturally in a particular place. The closer we come to an understanding of our own particular place, the closer we are to becoming indigenous ourselves.
As global migration brought people to new places, many cultures did not divorce themselves from their new natural world. Instead, these civilizations strived to make connections with their surroundings. Pop culture romanticizes the relationship that several American Indian tribes have with the land. Still, there is an ongoing struggle between our ideals and our practices. The debris lining many of our highways is a symptom that an underlying disconnect continues in our own culture. At the same time, proactive groups, and sometimes lone champions, can be spotted filling trash bags by the roadside and paving a better way.
We are learning as a species. Local ranchers and farmers have adopted practices based on the preservation of our grasslands and soil. They have recognized the implications of overgrazing and poor crop management and have developed new methods to maintain the longevity of their trade. Stalwart farmers and ranchers, who are still in the game, have realized that this is the key to survival. Many experienced hunters and area anglers have also developed an understanding of conservation and the need to maintain balance in the forests and streams that define our home.
Technology promises the solutions to maintain better relationships with our land. It also presents ever-more attractive distractions from people and the world around us. In the past, civic organizations dedicated their efforts to programs promoting good stewardship of the land and the local community. Highway cleanups and charitable fundraisers intended to make our home a better place have long been the focus of groups like the Lions and Elks Clubs. Still, their members are dwindling, and society's changing dynamics present a challenge for us to disconnect from the internet and reconnect with nature and each other.
As with all things, knowledge is vital. Understanding our ever-changing local ecosystems is the broader path to sustaining a working relationship with our land. Educating ourselves about other residents, the history of the area, and the inner workings of local commerce are also essential ingredients in our recipe for success. To mend the disconnect, we need to learn from those around us and those who came before. And once we truly understand our neighbors and our own particular place, then perhaps we can finally become indigenous ourselves.