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Native Currents: 'Basic Call to Consciousness'

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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.sigpic

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