by Ambā (Ann-Marie Everitt)
Do you remember the car game that begins with the question Who am I? The opponents always obliged with the follow-up, Am I an animal, vegetable, or mineral? Then the game took flight.
Do I have four legs? Can I swim, can I see at night? The boisterous early round investigations came out rapid fire. “Am I a cat?” I would squeal with delight having learned that I am furry, or “Am I a blue ring octopus”, knowing that I have tentacles and can change colors. A mushroom! And on and on as we rolled down the highway developing our relationships with the natural world, eager to inhabit all that is animal, vegetable, or mineral.
A smile spreads through my body as I lean into this memory.
On the adult journey, I am now on to decolonize myself, I rediscover the pleasure and excitement of learning from the inside out. I center First Nations People and knowledge in this process and discover many commonalities and shared values between Indigenous Peoples and Westerners. Family, community, and spirituality to name a few.
Indigenous wisdom has given a whole new dimension to the way I practice Yoga. It has given me insight into the teachings of unity, in a way that is embodied and experienced rather than a grand concept waiting to be understood in a future enlightened moment.
In Yoga, we say we are one and I try to imagine what that really means and often come up short. A parallel phrase I hear in Native communications is “We are all related”. This conjures an image of connecting dots from one person to the next. When I hear this again, with the benefit of reading about Indigenous kinship systems, the dots now extend to birds, animals, rocks, the sky, the wind, to all of the natural world.
To simply consider my brother can be a lion or a koala, my sister, a hummingbird, and my father a mountain range is thrilling and I am engaged. All of the earth is my mother. The teachings of unity are now living inside me, waking up and dancing.
I am learning Indigenous Knowledge is both sacred and practical. Humans are part of the web of life, not above and separate, we are here as stewards of the earth, not owners and certainly not exploiters and spoilers. We are here to conserve and protect.
Honoring all of life as a precious family is also a pretty sound survival strategy and a pretty good travel hack. In the same way, as we might stop at the home of a beloved aunty for conversation, cheese sticks, and a cool soda before we continue on to our destination we might stop to rest at our relative the rock. Here we too enjoy rest and shelter in their shade, a drink from the waterhole at their base, and a nibble on a berry from a tree cousin nearby. If we listen deeply we might hear a funny joke.
This Indigenous philosophy of kinship makes me feel safe and held, alive and free.
I certainly want to celebrate Native Peoples when I consider that they are only six percent of the world’s population and yet are doing a whopping eighty percent of the environmental protection work. Water, land, and air that is under attack in some way by the industrial expansion project are saved by Indigenous communities.
Every time I have a drink of clean water I know who to thank. And as I sip and savor this moment of refreshment perhaps I can reconnect with that child who knew it was possible to be a turtle or a kangaroo, whose imagination took her inside the skin of another. She is remembering ancient truths that have been hidden by culture and education, the truths that are emerging again in a world that is hungry for peace and understanding.
We are all related.
Indigenous Peoples Day (IPD) falls on the second Monday of October and this year it took place on October 10. You can celebrate in so many ways. I invite you to find your own connection with People that have been hidden from you. Perhaps you like comedy, then find an Indigenous comedian, there are many, if you’re a gardener plant a native tree or if you like a party go to the annual IPD celebration on Randalls Island.
I am supporting two bills that would strengthen Native tribes’ ability to co-manage public lands and protect sacred sites. The Advancing Tribal Parity on Public Lands Act and the Tribal Cultural Areas System Act. Its easy to do, I just followed this link to the Native Organizers Alliance.
Within this beautiful interconnected web of life, supported by each other we all get to shine and live our unique stories. As I support Indigenous Sovereignty I am supporting my own rights to live and to love according to my nature, to become self-actualized.
On October 10 this is what I celebrated.
We are all related.
For more resources and articles:
- The Red Hawk Nation Website
- Information on the two bills introduced to Congress
- Events in NYC for Indigenous Peoples Day
- Five Ideas for Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day
Ambā Ann-Marie Everitt is a certified E-RYT 500 Hatha Yoga Teacher which covers Gentle Yoga, Chair Yoga, Therapeutic Yoga, Yoga for Arthritis, Stress Reduction, Mindfulness and Breathwork. She also has certifications for Yoga of Sound and Voice and work with human tuning forks and other sound instruments to bring about healing and transformation. Ambā is honored to be a part of the IYI Sangha and the RDAD committee.