by John Thunder Malloy (Nov 20, 2014)
Well, number one, the Earth ethic. Indigenous people believe that all life is sacred. That’s what we –500 mile spirit runners– run for. It sounds like a simple statement. All life is sacred. Well when you start realizing that the sky is sacred, the Earth is sacred, the water is sacred—all these things are sacred—you don’t get pushed around. […]
I use the Earth ethic all the time with kids who feel suicidal or homicidal. It’s like when you commit an act of violence, you are basically disconnecting yourself. You are putting yourself outside the circle. You are connected to the circle. The circle includes the plants, the trees, and all life forms. You need to know the names of these trees. You need to be able to talk to that animal that’s hurt, that’s never going to fly again because it was shot out of the sky by someone who doesn’t know any better. We can’t fix it like you fix your leg, because the bones are hollow.
The kids start learning. Pretty soon they start realizing that the bear is our relative. Well, if he’s a relative, respect and fear are two different things. Do you have to fear that bear? You have to know that bear’s way. We tell you about these animals and you fall in love with them. Why is that?
The Native Americans have taught me that everything is connected. Those sage bushes out in the desert, why are their leaves smaller? Why do their roots go down so far? Why is that? Because they’ve got to communicate to the next plant. They might say I’ve got more than I need. You can have this. You start seeing how sophisticated and universal these truths are. […]
It totally went along with what Native people had showed me. And that’s what I wanted, because I saw urban, wounded people coming and the psychiatry didn’t work. The medical model didn’t work. Science didn’t work. Behavioral practices didn’t work. What worked was the indigenous way where you see the god in everything. You revere everything. You learn the wind is sending you a message. You start honoring the invisible world. You start having a wow! in your life. The Native way is so freeing.
People say what are you talking about? They’ve got unemployment. They’ve got drugs. They’ve got domestic violence and stuff. But they don’t pause and look at, hey, that was intentional. You know? That was government strategy. I’ll give you alcohol. I’ll give you a blanket with TB. Few know about the California trail of tears. People go to Sacramento to see Sutter’s Fort and “Oh, what an interesting fort.” They don’t see how he started on the Oregon border and his mission was to kill every living Indian there was. […]
The point is we imprison ourselves. I know people in prison more free than people walking around here. So we disable ourselves. If you’re comparing yourself like, “I can’t read like him,” or “I can’t run like him,” or “I can’t paint like that,” you’re basically putting coats over your power—which is a native way of saying missing your medicine. You have a responsibility to discover your medicine. And once you discover it, now your responsibility is to share it. That’s what this school did.
So you become a servant for the rest of your life. You don’t have a choice. I don’t have a choice. My own direction is north. That’s what I was given. You go north. There are going to be obstacles, but I was never daunted by the obstacles, which were plenty. Obstacles were never from those who had nothing. It was never from students or parents. It was always administrators who wanted to block your vision. A kid can run six miles who is just a street kid who has been slamming dope. So what else can they do? These kids also had to talk in front of a couple hundred people within weeks.
–John Malloy. Excerpt from interview in Works & Conversations: We Are All In This Together. [Illustration offered as an anonymous gift :-)]