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Old 08-27-2005, 06:40 PM   #1
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Native Currents: 'Basic Call to Consciousness'

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Native Currents: 'Basic Call to Consciousness'

(javascript:PrintWindow();) Posted: August 25, 2005 by: _Editors Report_
( / Indian Country Today
'Basic Call to Consciousness': New edition of a classic that never grows

Basic Call to Consciousness'' is the title of a small book edited in the
late 1970s by Indian Country Today columnist John Mohawk and Senior Editor Jose
Barreiro. In part, the book reported on the genesis of the international
movement of indigenous peoples, which was re-ignited in 1977 by the now
well-referenced International Non-Governmental Organization's Conference on
''Discrimination Against the Indigenous Populations of the Americas,'' held in Geneva,

Even more compellingly, the manuscript, which has become a classic,
contained the nugget of a philosophy or view of history, through the eyes of a body
of chiefs and clan mothers still sustaining natural world spiritual traditions
going back thousands of years. The book was assigned in large part to
analyze for these Native elders from the 1970s the origins of the thinking and
methodology of life of what the ancestor Indians referred to as ''the
whiteman,'' that population who came to their lands as representative of European and
Mediterranean civilization and who had altered American Indian tribal life

The assignment, by the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee to Mohawk, already
a well-known traditionalist and intellectual in the early 1970s and
then-editor of the national Indian newspaper, Akwesasne Notes, was monumental. Mohawk
rose to the task, however, and the succinctly written manuscript, which
provided the three required position papers for participation at the
international gathering, evoked a stunning reaction of recognition, both from the large
audience that heard it in Geneva and in waves of Native discussions and
actions over three decades.

Since 1978, it has been translated to half a dozen languages and
republished, even in pirated form, at least a dozen times. Most interestingly, as Mohawk
narrates in his new introduction: ''For me, the most edifying feedback was
an account I heard from an Indian rights activist at a meeting in Washington,
D.C., in 1980 ... 'Basic Call to Consciousness' had been translated into
Portuguese and a group had carried the book to Indian communities across Brazil
and had read it to the rainforest Indians [Yanomami]. He said these Indians
thoroughly enjoyed hearing it and stated that it represented their own thoughts
and feelings. Nothing that has happened before or since ever brought the
satisfaction of that conversation.''

Below is a short except from ''Basic Call to Consciousness'':

''Our essential message to the world is a basic call to consciousness. The
destruction of the Native cultures and people is the same process that has
destroyed and is destroying life on this planet. The technologies and social
systems that have destroyed the animals and the plant life are also destroying
the Native people. And that process is Western Civilization.

''The Americas provided Europeans a vast new era for expansion and material
exploitation. Initially, the Americas provided new materials and even
finished materials for the developing world economy that was based on Indo-European
technologies. European civilization has a history of rising and falling as
its technologies reach their material and cultural limits. The finite natural
world has always provided a kind of built-in contradiction to Western

''The Indo-Europeans attacked every aspect of North America with
unparalleled zeal. The Native people were ruthlessly destroyed because they were an
inassimilable element to the civilizations of the West. The forests provided
materials for large ships, the land was fresh and fertile for agricultural
surpluses, and some areas provided sources of slave labor for the conquering
invaders. By the time of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-nineteenth century,
North America was already a leader in the area of the development of
extractive technology.

''The hardwood forests of the Northeast were cleared for the purpose of
providing farmlands. Those forests were destroyed to create charcoal for the
fires of the iron smelters and the blacksmiths. By the 1890s, the West had turned
to coal, a fossil fuel, to provide the energy necessary for the many new
forms of machinery that had been developed. During the first half of the
twentieth century, oil had replaced coal as a source of energy.

''The Western culture has been horribly exploitative and destructive of the
Natural World. Over one hundred forty species of birds and animals were
utterly destroyed since the European arrival in the Americas, largely because they
were unusable in the eyes of the invaders. The forests were leveled, the
waters polluted, the Native people subjected to genocide. The vast herds of
herbivores were reduced to mere handfuls; the buffalo nearly became extinct.
Western technology and the people who have employed it have been the most
amazingly destructive forces in all of human history. No natural disaster has ever
destroyed as much. Not even the Ice Ages may count as many victims.

''But like the hardwood forests, the fossil fuels are also finite resources.
As the second half of the twentieth century progressed, the people of the
West began looking to other forms of energy to motivate their technology. Their
eyes settled on atomic energy, a form of energy production that has
by-products that are the most poisonous substances ever known to man.

''Today, man is facing threats to the very survival of the human species.
The way of life known as 'Western civilization' is on a death path, and its
culture has no viable answers. When faced with the reality of its own
destructiveness, Western civilization can only go forward into areas of more efficient
destruction. The appearance of plutonium on this planet is the clearest of
signals that our species is in trouble. It is a signal that most Westerners
have chosen to ignore.

''The air is foul, the waters poisoned, the trees are dying, the animals are
disappearing. We think even the systems of weather are changing [emphasis
added]. Our ancient teaching warned us that if man interfered with the natural
laws, these things would come to be. When the last of the Natural Way of Life
is gone, all hope for human survival will be gone with it. And our Way of
Life is fast disappearing, a victim of the destructive processes.

''We know that there are many people in the world who can quickly grasp the
intent of our message. But experience has taught us that there are few that
are willing to seek out a method for moving toward any real change. But if
there is a future for all beings on this planet, we must begin to seek the
avenues of change.

''The people who are living on this planet need to break with the narrow
concepts of human liberation and begin to see liberation as something that
needs to be extended to the whole of the Natural World. What is needed is the
liberation of all things that support life - the air, the waters, the trees -
all the things that support the sacred Web of Life.

''We feel that the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere can continue to
contribute to the survival potential of the human species. The majority of
our peoples still live in accordance with the traditions that find their roots
in the Mother Earth. But the Native peoples have need of a forum where our
voice can be heard. And we need alliances with other peoples of the world to
assist in our struggle to regain and maintain our ancestral lands and to
protect the Way of Life we follow.

''We know that this is a very difficult task. Many nation-states may feel
threatened by the position that the protection and liberation of Natural World
peoples and cultures represent, a progressive direction that must be
integrated into the political strategies of people who seek to uphold the dignity of
human beings. But that position is growing in strength, and it represents a
necessary strategy in the evolution of progressive thought.

''The traditional Native peoples hold the key to the reversal of processes
in Western civilization that hold the promise of unimaginable future suffering
and destruction. Spiritualism is the highest form of political
consciousness. And we, the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere, are among the world's
surviving proprietors of that kind of consciousness. We are here to impart
that message.''

Excerpted from Akwesasne Notes, Eds. ''Basic Call To Consciousness'' (2005),
the Native Voices Series of The Book Publishing Co., Summertown, Tenn. First
publication, 1978.
Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.
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