Category Archives: Indigenous People

I am very interested in the ways in which people from different hidden corners of the world perceive man and nature. I believe that there is a revolution going on, especially at the point where those people meet and educate us westerns.

Becoming a collective

The World Parks Congress ended about three days ago. No more running around on the lookout for people to interview. Team buddies Lilian and Johannes left straightaway; back to Bonn and Beijing. Tom´s road parted from mine in Bombaderry:  gotta love the Aussie village names. I am now writing in the train from Kiala to Sydney. The melancholy in my heart helps me perceive the soothing charge of the rocky, wild beachscape passing by outside.

The video we made with the YPMC was received with a standing ovation induced by Daniela, who presented it. It was made as a voice for our generation of environmentalists. It starts with “we are a collective”. That means that we´re a community, a network of young brothers and sisters, dispersed all over the world. It believe it is true: indeed we are a collective, indeed, we act for nature, but more importantly: this is only a start for collective action. Or it can be.

One of the main questions heard at such congresses is: “what do you do?” It is perhaps because of the way they are set up, the way they are funded and the contemporary imperative of presenting yourself in a pitch. People get paid to praise themselves. It has been like this for the young people as well. It has weakened us. A better question to ask would be: “what shall we do?”

Some of the things that the young people currently seem to do well are: getting other young people outside with a no walls campaign, stimulating the outreach of a rapper on nature and educating children on the importance of nature. They are important initiatives, but the world needs more than that. We need strong, well enforced laws that answer nature´s cry for help, we need massive divestment from fossil fuels into sustainable energies. We need well-being, not money, to be central in our decision-making. We simply need massive global reforms.

After some good talks with Tom on the road, I´d like to propose something to all young ‘changemakers’ who attended the World Parks Congress in Sydney last week. Those who identify with the term ´leaders of the future´. We´ve all been involved in empowering communities. We know the tricks to helping them have a voice. Yet where we failed so far, is where we forgot to apply this expertise to ourselves as a group. The real collective may have been presented to the congress, but it is not yet there.

We are probably the only group of young people who are this close to the big conservationist decisions ahead. Probably among the young ones with the biggest potential to make the big changes. We know each other, and we have each others trust. We have support from our elders. We have well-established networks, though we lack the overview. Let´s change the nature of our presence at these congresses, and indeed ´lead by example´. Let´s shift the motivation of our visit to co-creating something that has impact. Raise funds for that. The next time we visit a congress, perhaps Hawaii, let´s take time to represent not ourselves to each other, but our community to the world. Let´s work towards coherence and infect the crowd with it. Use our joint presence to create something we think is important.

To reach this, I think it´s crucial that we all stay in close touch on the longer term. Build a closed digital platform, meet up. Share our expertise to build a collective CV. Let´s listen to each others opinions, gain insight in our common strengths and weaknesses. Dreams and worries. Discover our real potential. Without drifting away. We commit to this, remember?

The first question is easy: what can I contribute and how much time do I want to spend on it? The rest will follow. We could map our networks, find out what we lack. Look for leverage for change. Together we can create something that really is bigger than us. Acting local has been great, but let´s bring this to a bigger level. Let´s become the collective and act globally.

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Calming Volcanoes

Rainbow Thunderheart or Bavado LeBeau is a Native American shaman from Wyoming, concerned with the healing of mother earth. He is part of the bird tribes and sound healers. His ancestors have asked him to teach the people of the world about the laws of nature. He has travelled to 28 American tribes to get to know them. His teachers educated him on how to maintain a good relationship with nature and its spiritual entities. He now acts as spiritual guardian of the Yellowstone Park and has travelled to the Netherlands to give teachings on his work. I have asked him for an interview and he agreed.
(Picture: Aljaz Gabersek)

College
Lian organises the session; it comes with several landscape healing rituals and a sweat lodge ceremony. She invited me to join diner. It’s hectic when I meet Bennie, right before we eat. He’s in blue with nice ornaments. Gentle, to the point. Diner is vegan, made of rice and local flowers. Before we eat, we hold our hands above the food to get rid of the bad energy. I feel like making lots of inappropriate comments, but manage to keep most of them in, where they light up a little flame that makes me smile. The companions smile back. An airy young blond man on my right explains that he is from a far away galaxy, and that he always purifies his food this way. He gives me some tips on how I can do the same. I try. It seems to be a big deal for him.

The college room is full. When no more people enter, the group gradually becomes silent in expectancy, until we cannot even hear whispering. “I’m not going to talk yet” says Lian. The humming starts again.

Bavado gets the stage. He stands legs wide and his voice is peaceful but loud. After introducing himself, he sings a song that he calls a message of his culture. He blows on a whistle. The high-pitched sound, he explains, scatters the negative energies in our minds. It’s beautiful. In a long presentation, he sketches a paradigm that is for a part new to me. Some words I find hard to digest, with others I feel as though I know exactly what he’s talking about. I’ll give you a short personal summary.

Central in Bavado’s vision is grandmother spider’s web. This is a pattern similar to that of the seeds in a sunflower. It is spread all over the world and the intersections of the lines have sacred sites, to wich everything is spiritually connected. Bavado says that the problems are global and they therefore concern us all.

The large-scale mining and transportation of gold, oil and minerals of the past century has put the weight points of the earth’s tectonic plates out of balance, comparable to removing a piece of a spin and sticking it to the other side. Consequently, the earth spins into a new equilibrium, which causes tsunamis, earthquakes and volcano eruptions. This process has been predicted by tribes from all over the world, who learned this information from inhabitants of different star systems. Some of these legends were passed from parent to child; others were carved as drawings on stones. It was predicted, for example that when the White Buffalo returns, the nations will stand together as brothers and sisters to heal the earth. The process goes hand in hand with the coming of a generation of children who are born spiritually awake. Today, Bavado says, people from all over the world are having vision dreams about volcano eruptions and they have the chance to do something about it. The global reset is going to happen with or without us, but we have the potential to smoothen it a little.

Rainbow Thunderheart has himself once dreamt about a super eruption of a volcano in Yellowstone. To prevent this, he has made a journey by 19 sacred natural sites surrounding Yellowstone in a wheel with a diameter of 1200 miles. On each of these sites, he taught volunteers how to engage in a healing ceremony with him. After he motivated all groups, they did a joint ceremony where every group was located on every sacred site to send their positive energy to the centre, the volcano itself, where he did his prayers. During this process, a hole opened in the ground that allowed steam to go out, relieving the pressure of the mountain. He says the ritual  also helped reduce the impacts of weather hazards in the area.

For the solutions, Bavado explains, it is important to understand that the elements, earth, wind, fire and water mimic our thoughts and our actions. Throughout the generations, atrocities such as rape and violence fell upon the heads of children. Parents had no control over it, the behaviour was embedded in the DNA. Today, we have the chance to heal this pain from our past. In this process we should be aware that we can not always sense the bad energy. We should therefore bless everything we take in: tap water, food, emotions, words, thoughts, you name it. In this process we should all have complete faith in love.

Someone in the public asks: what to do with the new forms of radiation such as Wifi or nuclear radiation? The answer for Bavado is simple: “I love the radiation, so I send my love to it. That is what shamans do. That is the essence of the power and it is true for everything: either you stop resisting, or you get ill.” Doubt can kill us.

Cleaning the thoughts
It is about ten O’clock at night when the presentation ends. We clean up and part ways. I go to the Lian’s house to meet Bavado for some questions. It is a walk through an alley with many trees. They calm my mind as I wonder how far I really go along in this. In the past years I have lived in the conviction that there is no such thing as bad energy, that it is all part of a huge energetic circle of life and death, but I sometimes felt this vision took the sting out of me. Bavado’s advice is to let go, that’s precizely what I stand for. But let go of what?

Part of the diner group is present in the living room where we have our chat. They are jolly, playful company. I ask Bavado how exactly he obtained his knowledge. He answers that it’s in the myths and the legends of his tribes. The way to understand it is to listen between the lines of the tales. “But if you listen to these tales, be careful with the thoughts that are already in your head, they may change the vision.” The basic teaching of the elders is that you should continuously put effort in keeping your thoughts clear and clean, just like you always have to clean up your house. A practical tip: replay your spoken words in your head. Look into them to see what you created.

I ask about the role of emotions. He says they are important. We are made out of twenty emotions, he explains, all ruled by the moon. Like the tides, there are higher emotions and lower ones. But we don’t usually notice our emotional cycles because we are distracted by the events in our lives. They’re easier to feel during sunrise. It is important to be with your emotions during prayer. Just like in a relationship: when you really love someone, you feel it in the words you speak. If you feel the love for the mother earth, she can hear you.

But what if you are divided between different thoughts or emotions? Then they work against each other and create a conflict. Bavado points his fingers to each other. A part of your energy can splinter off, leaving you more vulnerable for negative energies. It happens quite often in the case you follow a command of another person, and then blame that person for what you did. It does not work that way. You are the only one responsible for your actions.

Bavado distinguishes between different kinds of dreams. Some represent one of the four elements. If you get a dream like that, it tells you to go shape shift –impersonate – that element. Then there are vision dreams that give you a glimpse into the future. Bavado tells a most fascinating thing. Before he came into this life, he agreed to the events in it. Everything was shown to him like a movie in fast forward. He remembers being sent here to do what he is doing now.

So what are the most valuable lessons you learned from your elders? I ask to conclude. “Well, he says, once when I was young my girlfriend broke up with me. My grandma said: get over that girl, because there are plenty of fish in the sea. What she meant was that you should not get stuck onto things. My grandpa sat next to her. He said: that’s ill advice. If I would have taken it, you would now be alone”. He pauses for a while. “Yes and my grandpa also taught me to be gentle to girls when they are in their moon time. They could cause an earthquake five states wide…”

Under fire

De Snijtafel has taken on the verdict on Zwarte Piets image in Amsterdam. What? Okay, let me explain this…

Kasper Jansen and Michiel Lieuwma have recently emerged as a YouTube hit called De Snijtafel (The Cutting Table). They take fragments of tv programs and verbally cut them into pieces by pointing at their errors and stupidities. If a song text says: “I love you not because you give me your hand, but your fingers that point towards me”, you will see them speak about an unknown number of fingers hovering in the air in front of you. Lately, they have also criticized several popular TV programs, sometimes painfully revealing how they manipulate us into main stream thought patterns. Some episodes are very interesting to watch if you get the language.

Their latest video touches on the theme of Zwarte Piet. That story in a nutshell: Dutch kids believe in Sinterklaas. That’s a tall bisshop with a red dress and a white beard who navigates from Spain every year with his steamboat and deals out presents with help of his clowns who look like black slaves without chains who are called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete). One year ago, if you would have asked a dutch person why black pete is black, the answer would have been: “Because he goes through the chimney to deliver the presents in children’s shoes.” Don’t ask.

There has long been hidden frustration about this tradition, but it has also been celebrated as an innocent, joyfull event. Recently, UN discrimination specialist Verena Shepherd has declared this tradion racist, meaning it will probably change.  The jurisdiction set in motion here are means to induce the changes. It seems puppet play to me, but I don’t know the details.

In their video, Kasper and Michiel analyse the verdict of a case against the municipality of Amsterdam. The city has given authorisation for the public celebration of the Sinterklaas event in 2014. The verdict now calls that a racist act. Without necessarily disagreeing, Kasper and Michiel expose that in the verdict itself, black people are framed as opposers of the white people’s tradition. They note that while the court claims to counter stigmatizing cultural expressions, they in fact are guilty of it themselves. With that, it loses yet another bit of its credibility.

It seems to be a trend. In the past year, politicians as well as other influential dutch personalities have publically expressed critique on the dutch court. Don’t get me wrong, I think it will remain an established entity, but its reputation is becoming flawed. It seems that authority is trusted less than before.

Will this lead to consessions of the juridical system? Will its members become increasingly carefull? Will there be a democratization of law in general? Or will the gap between juridical positions and their trustworthiness increase? If so, what follows? Interesting times indeed.

Baby Steps

Among us are elders, spiritual leaders and other representatives of indigenous cultures from all over the world. We are sitting in the circular Music Room of the Fonseca building. In this final session, we are shaping a message for the WILD10 conference. Under time pressure.

For the last few days here in Salamanca, I have been translating Felipe Gómez. He represents the initiative of Oxlajuj Ajpop, a Mayan alliance to preserve sacred natural sites and spiritual cultures of Guatemala. According to the Mayan calendar, he is air; a communicator. His speeches have been gentle but strong, and it is an honour to let him speak through my mouth. Some of his key points are that the economy needs to change, that we should continuously dig into our unique potential and that we should work together save the world.

The meeting has kicked off in a confusing way. People keep dropping in, and we enlarge the circle every time. I fear we’ll end up diffuse. Shay, who gathered us, came in stressed and fearful, something she picked up in an earlier conversation on the economic value of ecosystems. She interrupts a speaker, but is called back by a representative of the Tla-o-qui-aht, who asks for the rule that people don’t be interrupted. Interruption is a sign of disrespect in his culture.

Just after the final entrance of people and the final enlargement of the circle, Julie asks for an opening ritual. How did she know? Her friend Terry sings a song of his childhood, through which he calls the spirits for protection of the newborn. During yesterday night’s diner, he told us in a powerful voice: “we’re setting baby steps now, but in 20 years, we’ll be running”. The song restores peace in the group and the conversation becomes more meaningful. But we have only half an hour left.

Much is said, more remains. Perhaps it’s not the words that matter now, but the fact that we’re together. We trust in our common future and if we keep our faith strong, our actions might indeed make a difference. It may not be that visible yet, but up here in the Music Room, I’ve felt a movement rise. After over a millennium of suppression, the voice of nature is publically spoken. It won’t be silenced this time.

King

He’ll wear stoat fur in front of the world. Tradition before justice. The country loves him.

Walking though Roosendaal helps me realise that indeed, Amsterdam is a superior town. This place is dull and spineless. I cannot even find a supermarket after a 40 minute walk which includes crossing the centre. Yet when I see the portrait of the royal couple in the display window of a shop, I feel at home.

The country hates him. All he does is take up space. He and his beautiful family enjoy their mansion in Greece. Who pays for that? The crowd. We live in 2013! How can a man be granted dominion over a whole country purely because he left the right womb at the right time? Of course we know that he’s no more than a puppet like all of us, but we want our cage to be golden like his!

We love his wife. Man, can she dance! For a Dutch girl. And so smart! Much better than her dad. We’d rather forget her dad, but we understand if she doesn’t. That’s just who we are.

And his kids. Three girls. How cute.

Great interview he gave. Planned, but so what? A real man will rule. No beard, but he stands for our past. And our future. Present, he stands for us all.

So we’ll watch the crown besiege him. That’s how much he’ll take for us. Thus will be our lives. Happily tied to his. So what if some threaten that? That’s not what we’re drinking to. That’s not what we’re singing to. We believe in miracles.

As if you do better.

Thesis Spiritual Experiences in Nature

For those who are interested, I wrote a thesis in 2011 on spiritual experiences in natural areas in the Netherlands. I got an 8,5 for it. I have have written an abbreviated version for publication, but it was rejected for one or two good reasons and a whole list of quite silly ones. My intention remains to publish it when I have more time. Whenever that may be.

Here it is:

Havik2011ThesisSpiritNature

Serpent

Evil animal, they say. Symbol of health. We have entered the Chinese Year of the Snake. Problems, if we have to believe our Eastern brothers and sisters. But because it’s the water snake, the trouble should be minor. Small meteorites…

Some men are snakes. They creep through little holes in their prey’s mind to find the point where they can have it submit. In their weak spot. It has something to do with fear. It could be money, or love or perfection as well. That’s where they put a little bit of venom.  The experienced snake doesn’t kill his prey; it merely hides his access point in order to slowly keep draining. Until he’s had enough.

The actual snake is a powerful animal. It sees heat and hunts at night. But its own blood is cold.  It bites, and spits poison from the back of its throat. A snake can swim. It mates with the point of its tail. The King Cobra builds a nest.

Snakes play an important role in every religions over the world. Eve got the apple. Buddha was protected. The Mayans, the ancient Greeks and the Norwegians have snake gods. They are the sign of pharmacies. Its angry liquid can kill you, but it can also ignite your travels into different realms. Divine liquid according to some Hindus. A symbol of wisdom.

There’s a snake inside you. Along your spine. Its teeth are your teeth. It hisses with your breath. Its strength is yours to use.

Look for it if you dare.

Indigenous Rebellion

I got an e-mail in my box today, with a dialogue between my friend Bas and a Hawaïan elder called Apela. She gave a call to European shamans to wake up, rise and connect. Interestingly, when I saw the message, I had already written the title of this blog post in my booklet, but I wasn’t entirely sure of the content.

Idle No More , if you haven’t heard about it yet, go check it out. Inspired by Occupy, Lakota have started protests against the fear-inducing Canadian regime. They’ve unchained spiritually led indigenous peoples from all over the world who are now in similar political struggles.

It’s not that big in Europe. Strange, isn’t it? Well… An important question in this matter is: who are the holders European indigenous knowledge? Witches have either been burned or converted by thousand years of effective anti-magic regime. People here are the suppressors’ descendants. If anything, Europeans owe the world an apology. But just like the rest of the world, the European people are divided and some have remained close to nature. Yet what’s left of the traditional European knowledge is hidden somewhere deep inside the dusty libraries of the church. Dead text with illustrations.

A Peruvian curandera once told me that the witch-hunt has caused ancient shaman’s spirits to scatter over the lands, and are now carried by different people at once. She said that the time is near in which the separate parts find each other back and stand up against the repressors of the past. The image has stayed with me.

I believe all knowledge is still alive in the dreamworld. I believe the people of the past have left clues for us. I believe we can learn from them. If only we know how…

Apela’s experience with Euro-shamans is that they are afraid to acknowledge their potential, because they are not accepted as such by their communities. My point is this: we are all indigenous people with spiritual powers and all of us are in need to be in touch with our ancestors, whether that is in words or in images or just in the feeling of being protected and safe.

Forget the chains. Let’s be who we are together. The choice remains yours.

Nigger

A hundred and ten. That’s the amount of times Tarantino made Django’s characters mention the “n-word“.

When I was a kid, the Dutch translation of nigger, neger, was not a bad word. That’s not even twenty years ago. If you pronounce the word neger in the Netherlands nowadays, people think you don’t like black people. The word negerzoen, “nigger’s kiss” has been officially banned. Nowadays you call a chocolate cake with whipped cream a “kiss”. As if that makes sense.

Nigger sounds racist. Here in the Netherlands, it did not untill we learned about the fact that it does sound racist in the States. Fear came in. What if we hurt these people we don’t want to know about? They might come after us…

The term “foreigner” has suffered a similar fate over here. Can’t say it anymore. It’s allochtonous person now. I suppose that got introduced under the philosophy “if no one understands it, it doesn’t hurt anyone.”

Some words have become black sheep. They take the blame for our bad thoughts. We can’t admit the thought, so we ban the word. That solves it. I want to ask all word banners this: if your conscience is clean, why would you avoid a word?

The problem is ownership. Remember the feeling when someone calls you by a name you didn’t have before? Why do we have that? I think the word nigger was banned in the US because it reminds the user and his audience of the face that white folks owned the black folks. But that’s not the case anymore, is it? We need to let go of the past.

The fact that we banned the word means there is something we don’t dare to say. That there is something to hide. The difference of skin colour? Why would we hide that? It’s something else. A judgement. The true racist act is not calling someone by a name, the racist act is banning the name.

Here’s a word for all niggers out there. Some of you are my friends, I have no clue who the others are. But I do see that you have a different skin colour than I. That’s because I have eyes. No other reason. If I ever call you a nigger, I hope you will know that I don’t mean it I own you as a slave. I hope you’ll see inside my eyes that even though we may be different in many ways, we have one and the same soul. I was not born in a racist world, and I will not accept such thoughts as mine. If I ever call you a nigger, please know that this is an act of resistance against racism. I am not owned by judgements or fears. I will call you as you may call me: in a playful way.

Hidden guilt is your cage. Tarantino tries to free.

Negotiations

Imagine you are a shaman and you have the power to negotiate with angels. What would you ask? What would you offer?

The Tropenmuseum can pay its bills for another year (Back to last year). I was back there with my mom. One of the artifacts of the expo “unexpected meetings” shows the image of negotiators with the spirit world. It is accompanied by a sign saying that such people occur in communities world wide. It made me think. If local communities used to have negotiators for local issues, wouldn’t our emerging global community need some globally oriented spiritual negotiators? What would you go for if you where you one of them? What would you pay?

If indigenous cultures are right and the spirits should be kept at peace, then our society doesn’t seem to do his job well. Big players of the world have cast manipulative energies over big parts of the world and most people feel powerless to change it. The needy nor the rich consult the universal wise.

Perhaps, below the surface of Ipads, hunger and other crises, shamans have their way of being in touch. What would it look like if they were negotiating for us after all? Will we soon see global elders rise, who speak with the gods and are heard by mankind? Will they show us the global way?

Dreams…