Drawing on cultural studies and contemporary social justice, the new book Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community by independent scholar and social critic Pegi Eyers (Peterborough) offers strategies for intercultural competency, healing our relationships with Turtle Island First Nations, decolonization, rewilding, restoring an ecocentric worldview, returning to the Old Ways, creating a sustainable future and reclaiming peaceful co-existence in Earth Community.
At an Elders Gathering hosted by Trent Indigenous Studies in 2012, Pegi heard revered Elder James Dumont say that “everyone needs to get back to their own indigenous knowledge (IK).” Like a lightning bolt from the blue, this simple statement activated a monumental series of questions about her own life and issues in the wider society – questions regarding denial, obfuscation, entitlement, white supremacy, power, identity, boundaries and Settler Colonialism – issues that she felt duty-bound to investigate, and in some cases track down to a final conclusion. The coming together of Pegi’s experiences, formal studies, relationships with First Nations individuals, knowledge gained on the sidelines of Mississauga Ojibway territory, and new awareness in regard to white privilege and the destructive effects of cultural appropriation have compelled her to examine the ideas in this book.
For those of us with European heritage, core questions continue to arise in discourse on locating our own ancestral traditions, Rejecting Empire (decolonization), and reclaiming authentic roots in Earth Community, and the themes explored in Ancient Spirit Rising are an attempt to add to this critical conversation. There is nothing more personal than one’s identity, and a major focus on the widespread entitlement of cultural appropriation reveals it to be an extension of racist colonial policies. Every use of stereotypical images to sell products or act of cultural appropriation through New Age Capitalism proclaims the dominance of the Settler Society in every sphere of cultural life. Ultimately, this attitude of “take-take-take” adds to the erasure of genuine Turtle Island First Nations, who are working toward the recovery of their own traditional culture, sovereignty and self-determination.
Mending our fractured relationship with Turtle Island First Nations first and foremost means relinquishing some aspect of the white perspectivism and privilege we carry as members of the dominant society. Manifesting as bizarre notions about indigenous peoples such as the idea that Canada is somehow a Métis nation; or the invisibility of indigenous peoples to most in the mainstream (including those who profess to be progressive); or the idea supported by academia that we have the right to enter any cultural sphere and datamine, represent and interpret the knowledge found there for everyone else (and even to indigenous peoples themselves); or the reprehensible trend to continue with adopting First Nations pseudo-practices or identities even when cultural appropriation has been fully explained (why give “shamanism” up, when it is just so much fun?); to just plain old-fashioned racism that gets carried from uninformed parent to uniformed progeny in the form of disgusting bigotry and stereotypical slurs – these modern attitudes continue to re-center the Settler and place “whiteness” at the center of the universe.
Even the celebrated “cultural exchange” is not enough, as drawing close to “the other” for a couple of hours by learning about First Nations in polite non-threatening casual seminars just perpetuates the default of Settler comfort and evades any serious acknowledgement of systemic inequality. And then there are the neo-liberal universalist white-led colorblind proclamations of “We Are All One” or “All Lives Matter” that sidestep any responsibility or meaningful action that could arise from facing the reality of the role we play in the ongoing oppression of people of colour. Members of the dominant society continue to be protected at all costs, and we will come up with a thousand different self-important or hostile ways to deflect, sidestep and derail the important conversations we need to be having. Yet, there is much that we can do to eliminate institutional racism and contribute as allies to the anti-oppression, human rights and land claims struggles of our First Nations neighbours. Learning about and respecting indigenous cultures and lifeways, attending anti-racist training, and understanding white privilege from reading and videos is our first step, and Ancient Spirit Rising suggests a multitude of initiatives to heal the colonizer/colonized divide. Our generation is the one that needs to fix the FN/Settler relationship, and somehow find alternative and more humble ways to be house guest on Turtle Island this time around.
Ancient Spirit Rising examines the loss of our own vital ethnocultural connection to tribe and place, and why there is a trend to borrow identities from other cultures. Come back to your roots! From the wealth of resources available today, an authentic self-identity can be reconstructed from old/new earth-centered societies, using the timeless values of indigenous knowledge (IK) as our model. A weaving of analysis, evocation and promptings of the heart, Ancient Spirit Rising includes extensive notes and exhaustive references, and is an essential “compendium for change.”
Book Launch Event ~ Chapters Peterborough ~ Saturday October 3 from 1:00pm- 4:00pm.
Book Signing and “Meet the Author” ~ see you there!
Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community is also available from Amazon and www.stonecirclepress.com