Sustainable Living Conference: Seeds, Goat Cheese, and Native Grannies
A briefing from our man in Santa Fe about the 8th Annual Traditional Agriculture & Sustainable Living Conference, which is being held at Northern New Mexico College, Espanola NM, October 25-26:
Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray (Mohawk) heads this annual gathering and her organization Four Bridges Traveling Permaculture Institute (visit www.4bridges.org and the Four Bridges Facebook page) is the host. Guest speakers for this year’s conference are Native environmental activist Clayton Thomas-Muller and radio-talk show host/author David Barsamian. Feature Speakers are Dr. Vindana Shiva, PhD (world renowned environmental activist, physicist, feminist, writer, philosopher of science and director of The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy) and Dr. Gregory Cajete, PhD (Native American educator from Santa Clara Pueblo, his work is dedicated to foundations of Indigenous Knowledge in education, a NM Humanities Scholar, NM Arts Commission member, taught 21 years at IAIA, currently teaches Native American education at UNM). Also attending will be members of “The International Council of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers” and Roberto Sahanero of Bolivia (founder of Los Masis, Centro Cultural Masis, promoting Andean culture) will speak and Los Masis will perform. Sponsors are Tewa Women United, Traditional Native American Farmers Association, Red Winds Council, the Water-Culture Institute, and CEDEHC (www.cedehc.com.mx).
This gathering started out as the Food & Seed Sovereignty Symposium and seed-sharing is still an important component of every conference. Permaculture, organic gardening, straw bale building, solar/wind power, sustainable living have all been past topics. This year, goat cheese making and herd management is on the agenda, and Mohawk organic gardener Rowen White returns to hold workshops.
Last year’s guest speakers included “The Mushroom Man” Paul Stamets, whose work with mushroom/mycelium species has gained worldwide attention for the amazing work that these species can be directed to, for toxic waste remediation, food, medicines, and organic pesticides; and Bolivian activist Oscar Olivera, the protest leader who helped to win the Cochabamba Water Wars in Bolivia 1999-2000, when the government attempted to privatize local water rights in the Cochabamba region in favor of an international corporation. Winona LaDuke (Ojibway) and Gary Farmer (Oneida) were also invited to last year’s event.
Thomas-Muller (Cree) presented Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki at a Lannan Foundation event at The Lensic Theatre in Santa Fe, and is an Idle No More supporter/speaker/activist. Barsamian, from Boulder, Colorado, is the founder and director of the popular Alternative Radio program and an author/activist. Dr. Vendana Shiva recently attended a gathering in which the TV broadcaster Bill Moyers interviewed poet Wallace Berry at his home town in Kentucky. The event was part of Berry’s own Sustainable Agriculture & Living Conference and the release of his new book “The Re-Settling of America”. Some of the points Berry made are important to all people and are at the heart of what we call Sustainable Living:
People being forced to leave fertile land in search of “making a living” is insane; making a living should not mean to “make a killing”, making way too much money to pay for all your new expenses at the cost of land, air, water, animals, and people; it’s not just some things but that all precious things are in danger and that they reveal themselves in their passing away; there is no sacred and unsacred places, there’s only sacred and desecrated places; we need a healthy diverse diet, which means diverse agriculture, which means more crops, animals and people on the land; there is a highly destructive ratio of fewer people on more land while letting technology do the work on the land, which leads to more toxic chemicals, erosion, contamination and corporate control; the so-called unemployment problem is the result of this industrial revolution which values technology over people; the fictitious and disastrous notion that corporations can speak as, and have rights as individuals; and no there is currently no politician who will say or reveal these things, it is only poor, powerless people who are affected by these things that are speaking out.
"We have come to that hard place
between a mountain and insanity.
Overdeveloped nations of the world are in danger!"
These are the issues basic to “Sustainable Agriculture and Living” and Native Peoples have something to say and to offer on these problems and solutions. What we call “sovereignty” is of no use if our communities cannot sustain themselves with traditional philosophies and modern techniques. The eagerness with which our leaders mirror the capitalist and development structures means more money and less sovereignty for our people. We should not be racing toward resource extraction contracts, we should be exerting control over our own land bases and working with neighbors like Wallace Berry and all grassroots Sustainable Agriculture & Living organizations.
Capitalism is telling us that if we want it all, we can have it all, and do everything to get it all and keep it all, at any cost and don’t ever worry about anything else, because there will always be more resources, more land, more people to exploit. This paradigm has spread around the world, so now we fear China, India and Brazil who are acting just like the Western World in demanding their shares. What is revealing is what our Western experts are saying to these developing nations, “There’s not enough! There’s no more! Be careful of your exploitation and your development! Or we will all suffer!” Examples abound of this hypocrisy: The Keystone XL Pipeline will send oil to New Orleans refineries, but the product will not stay in North America, it will be sold to these developing nations for more money than can be made domestically.
We have come to that hard place between a mountain and insanity. Overdeveloped nations of the world are in danger! If we continue to buy into overdevelopment and nonstop resource extraction, we contribute to the insanity. We need to return to the land and live sustainable lives, without corporations and their bought and paid for political representatives. That is why “Democracy” is not working right now in Washington DC. We have collectively given up our personal rights and freedoms and Sustainable Living is a way to take it back, starting by taking back our own lives.
Alex Jacobs, Mohawk, is a visual artist and poet living in Santa Fe.