Episode 10

December 25, 2023


On Indigenous Lands and Indigenous Hands

Hosted by

International Wildlife Coexistence Network Josh Adler
On Indigenous Lands and Indigenous Hands
For the Wild Ones
On Indigenous Lands and Indigenous Hands

Dec 25 2023 | 00:45:15


Show Notes

Find out why the world is turning to indigenous communities to lead the way on protecting nature.



Co-Founder of Indigenous Led, CRISTINA MORMORUNNI.


Music Credits:

For the Wild Ones Theme by Priya Darshini

Cat Music by The Lost Demension

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] HOST: We hear almost every day the statistic that 80% of the world's global biodiversity is on indigenous lands and indigenous hands. The next part of that conversation never happens. Which is why? Why is that? [00:00:16] HOST: This is for the wild ones. And we're about to take the conversation further. [00:00:40] HOST: Hi, I'm your host, Josh Adler, from the International Wildlife Coexistence Network. So glad you've joined us. This is going to be a fantastic conversation with Cristina Mormorunni, co founder of Indigenous led, an organization that is stepping up to address the ecological crises by protecting, healing, and celebrating indigenous values and leadership. [00:01:15] GUEST: There's so many layers to this work, and it's so complicated by both the past, the history, but also the present moment. And then obviously, every tribe is different. A different culture, different realities, different desires. But it's so complicated, right? Sometimes having authority doesn't feel like the right authority for you as a nation. Right? They have tribal sovereignty. They don't need anything from the federal government or states. But it's a complicated riddle, and I think Yellowstone is probably the quintessential complicated riddle of past and present colliding, and it's not entirely clear how to untangle those in order to create a different future. I think there's a lot of folks that don't understand how important it is for tribes not only to decide what they want to do and where they want to do it and how they want to do it, but the fact that not all intentions are pure, and a lot of people really are trying to divide and conquer tribes still to this day. And so I think there's twitchiness sometimes around things that, ironically could actually bring people together. [00:02:23] HOST: I can understand that because we experience that a lot in the conservation world, too, with different ngos who get very territorial, you would think folks would want to work together, but it doesn't always work out that way because of needing to pull funds or support and have your own audiences, have your own initiatives, claim things. [00:02:41] GUEST: Yeah, I've been working in the conservation arena for God. I honestly don't even know anymore. I think it's around 30 years. I actually think it's gotten worse. And in a weird way, I think this present moment that is so focused on indigenous led conservation and really elevating that paradigm and this emergent moment that has such a high recognition and focus on the significance of indigenous worldviews and how central they are, not just to conservation, but to turning our world around, whether it's climate or biodiversity or justice and equity. Arguably, we're just in this huge relational crisis and so I think more and more and more people are recognizing the significance of that indigenous way and that indigenous worldview. To be blunt, you just see ngos dividing tribes to have them as their partners. My most cynical self is like, what is that really about? Is it really about coming alongside as an ally and providing support and resources? And when I talk about resources, I mean dollars and capacity, or is that just about being able to put it into a grant proposal that you work with ex tribes and raise more money? I've had the privilege or challenge of working in philanthropy and conservation my entire career, and it's pretty wild to be on the receiving ends of proposals and know some of the work and know how much BS is in those proposals. And some of it is beautiful and authentic and real and fabulous. And we couldn't do it any other way than collaboratively. But there's a lot of winnowing that needs to be done for sure. It's complicated. [00:04:19] HOST: You feel like you are able to kind of cut through when you see that BS and recognize it and evaluate whether or not to work with organizations. [00:04:29] GUEST: I'm an imperfect human being. Sometimes I think I am perceptive and I see things or feel things, but I've definitely been burned. And I would say, because I have worked a lot of my life in western conservation organizations, I also really understand the complexity and the pressure. And even as a high level regional director, how you're in a machine and there's just a lot of pressure to fundraise and I don't know, it's a very complicated reality. And to be honest, part of me doesn't really like hanging in it very long because I want to believe that all humans are kind and good and come from a place of love and respect. And I get burned every day, but I'll still believe every day that people are kind and good and lovable. I mean, how else do you deal with it, right? Having recently transitioned from a western conservation organization and transitioned all that work and co founded indigenous led, I don't know if I'm just a little bit more twitchy about it, or is it because I work on buffalo and buffalo now are just so hot and so everything's coming out of the woodwork, both good and bad. Who knows? Complicated spiral of craziness for sure. [00:05:43] HOST: You just evoked this really wild, probably inappropriate social media depiction of bison is the new trendy thing. But I am very aware of what you're speaking to in terms of the lip service of elevating indigenous people and native people to help address climate change, biodiversity, nature loss, and the need to parse how that process is actually moving us in a direction that is appropriate and healthy for indigenous people and tribes. As well as your use of this word machine around kind of western organizing structures really stands out in contrast to a question of can we organize based on natural ecological models and systems that aren't machinistic, maybe are more trophic, for instance, which is still a cold word, right, for processes of the living world. So these challenges that you're bringing up are really powerful in getting to the heart of our moment where we absolutely do need to uplift indigenous peoples wisdom and leadership. But how can we do that in a way without just perpetuating the machine? Is this huge question I think we both have. [00:07:03] GUEST: Yeah. God, Josh, there's probably 10,000 questions in what you just said. Maybe the first piece that I think about a lot is, thank goodness, right? Thank goodness. So many of us have been working towards this moment. So many of us who are no longer here have been working towards this moment where indigeneity is recognized and elevated and amplified. Indigenous power is seen for what it is. It's such a powerful worldview for this crisis that we're in, right? We're in a relationship crisis with ourselves, with each other, across different communities, cultures, between us and the. More than human world, everywhere is a relationship crisis. And we don't know how to talk to each other anymore, let alone love each other, support each other, be our highest human self. So, thank God we're in this moment where indigeneity is uplifted, and we're having these conversations about why it's so important that we're standing at this threshold, and what that opportunity really is. All the sacrifices that were made to get us to this opportunity, and all the sacrifices we will need to make to leverage this opportunity, right. To really live into the power and opportunity in this moment. And one of the things that I'm really struck by is, even though there's so many people talking about this, funding this, recognizing this, there's statistics. We hear them almost every day. The statistic that 80% of the world's global biodiversity is on indigenous lands and indigenous hands, the next part of that conversation never happens. Which is why. Why is that? And we've been working really hard to get that conversation to happen, because if it doesn't, basically what I hear is, okay, cool. We got 80% of these places. 80% of the world's biodiversity are in these indigenous territories. So we'll just protect those. And it's like, wait, you mean the models that have destroyed the planet? You're going to put them there? Really? And that disconnect is so profound. I mean, these are very smart, caring people that I'm like, wait, do you hear what you're saying? Instead of hitting pause and going, holy Moses. Holy crap. Holy whatever. How do we get to this moment? We've invested millions of dollars in western conservation models, and sure, we have a success here or there, but in the scheme of things, we're failing. We're losing. And still that western conservation mind thinks, wow, we'll just keep doing that. We know the arrogance of that is mind boggling. And yet we never hit pause to just go, whoa, really? Is that the mirror that I have to look into? And it's like, well, yeah. So that's one thing that I think is really fundamental. This is a paradigm shift that we have an opportunity to all lean into and do. I do fundamentally believe that all of us know, deep in our dna, how to talk buffalo or beaver or bumblebee. We know what it is to be in relationship with the natural world. It's not that long ago that we have severed that incredible gift of relationality and reciprocity and kinship. We know it, but we need to also recognize that some people have never stopped knowing it. Some people still speak buffalo, some people are still evolving the language of relationship actively, and we should look to them. I'm putting my western conservation hat on here for a minute. We should have had the humility to realize that we have a hell of a lot to learn, and there's a hell of a lot of questions that we need to ask before marching down the road of telling any indigenous organization, individual leader, nation, what to do or even to say, hey, we've created a table for you. I don't want a table created for me. I want to create the table, and I want to decide what that table looks like, who's sitting at it, and what the conversation is and who I want to invite that isn't from my community. Right. And that's such a different frame. There's part of me that thinks, oh, my God, it's so blatantly obvious what's wrong with us that we don't kind of cop to it more frequently. But it is also very subtle, and I think we need to slow down. It's not going to be easy to figure this out. [00:11:34] HOST: It feels like a lot of people acknowledge the need to stop, but nobody has a real notion of how to stop, how to disassociate from the machine of society. There's this word, an enunciation, which is a kind of collective stopping. It happened with the pandemic in a way. We had this enunciation where there was this space, this clearing of the sky. People stopped. They looked around them. They reassessed their lives and their relationships, but then they went back to it all, back to the machine so willingly, like prisoners who had not really gotten away from prisoner mindset. I don't want to get too far down this road, though, because you gave me the perfect segue. You are creating the table. You formed indigenous lead. Tell me about the formation and mission of indigenous lead. [00:12:27] GUEST: I think your comment about the pandemic. First of all, I just want you to know I got goosebumps all over, because that was the moment that I saw. I saw the moment where the world hit pause, and in that pause, there was the opportunity to remember and then take forward a different way of being. And to your point, it didn't happen. I really believed it. I mean, I am the eternal optimist, and I really believed it. And so the emergence of indigenous lead kind of happened in that pause, that heightened awareness that happened because of that pause. And I was the regional director for the Wildlife Conservation Society. I was running their Rocky Mountain regional program. That program had a decadal partnership with a Blackfoot confederacy that was centered in the rematriation of buffalo, free roaming buffalo to Blackfoot territory. And we've been working at it in true collaboration, at least in my humble opinion, for a long time. And so when I inherited the program, I selfishly took that work over. It was like a dream come true to be doing that work. And when I think about strategy, I talk about it as sort of the horizontal, like that big horizontal vision theory of change, whatever language you prefer. And then, because humans are humans, how do we have a vertical that touches down that theory so that people can taste it and smell it and feel the grittiness of what it means to do something usually a little bit out on the leading edge that you haven't done before. What does that feel like? What's the dirt under your fingernails? So we very much were building out the work with that in mind, that we had this idea before the world kind of blew up in 2018. We were talking about indigenous life conservation, and that is something that I've done my whole life, more or less in various disguises. But we were able to talk about it within the wildlife conservation Society, and we were actively sort of building out through relations and contacts and networks and constellations of partners building that work out from Blackfoot across indian country. Early days, for sure, and in all instances, we recognize that working through the lens of biocultural keystone species. Now I've just sort of given up on this whole western language, and I'm like, keystone relatives. So it was Keystone relatives. We were looking at species like beaver, which we also work on now. And we were looking at Jaguar, and we were dreaming big. And then fast forward pandemic. We had built that program pretty significantly, and I was having conversations about what's next with my then boss. And we sort of landed on this reality that WCF had committed to this work for a long time, well before it was cool or fundable or anything like that. When we realized it was time to transition this work, we called it the Enie initiative. Enie is buffalo in Blackfoot, transitioning the Enie initiative into its own entity. And I had gotten very close with Irvin Carlson, who is and was the black peep buffalo program director. Irvin is also the long term president of the Intertibal Buffalo Council. I was like, irvin, what do we do? And we both kind of said, indigenous lead. This is indigenous lead. And we were just coming out of a Yellowstone buffalo meeting. To say I was cranky is probably understatement of the century. And so I was like, right, okay, we're indigenous led. And I'm like, and we're indigenous led in all caps and 180 font. And this is about indigenous power. So that's how indigenous led came to be. Irvin Carlson's co founder. Obviously, the grittiness of the work is still very much centered in what we were doing when I was at WCS. How do we restore our Keystone relatives? How do we return rematriate species like buffalo and beaver so that that ripple effect, both culturally and ecologically, is seen in these critical landscapes. But at the highest level, what indigenous led is about is indigenous led is an organization that was founded by indigenous people, for indigenous people to work with indigenous people. And we really have one very simple kind of vision, if you will, and that is to build indigenous power and voice so we can protect and heal and celebrate the natural world and our relationship with it on our terms, the way we know how to do it, the way we've been doing it since time immemorial. That's really why we wake up in the morning. We also care a whole lot about things like getting buffalo back on the land and free roaming and restoring landscape and all the things that you would imagine would fall under that. But that's really what it's about. It's about indigenous power. [00:17:19] HOST: Well, you've returned the favor. You gave me goosebumps when you were relating the mission at indigenous led. That's a good reason to get up in the morning. I want to ask you about rematriation. It's a term maybe listeners aren't as familiar with. What is rematriation? What does it look like in practice? [00:17:37] GUEST: It's such a great question. There is a growing body of academic scholarship around rematriation versus repatriation. People are hopefully familiar with the decades of work that have gone into rematriating what is held by organizations like the Smithsonian that belongs to indigenous peoples, whether that's their relatives, literally, or art, culture, regalia. There's just so much that was taken. And one of the things I love about rematriation is where the similarity between repatriation and rematriation is anchored, is in the return. Right. It's about returning things to their homelands. What I love about rematriation is that it is more full bodied, if you will. Rematriation is about returning not just an artifact or cultural relic. And I don't want to discredit any of what's being returned. Right. It's all very important what's being returned from a cultural standpoint, from a spiritual standpoint. But what I love about rematiation is it's about returning a way of life that is in association with that being. So, in rematriating buffalo, for example, we're not just restoring those 20 buffalo or those 200 buffalo or those 2000 buffalo. What we're restoring is the relationship with buffalo, the language that we speak with buffalo, the way of life that surrounds buffalo. And it really is, in my view, more holistic and more aligned with an indigenous worldview than repatriation. I also think it's particularly relevant when we talk about buffalo, and many people probably don't know this, but this is why buffalo are just so damn cool. They're led by the cows. Buffalo society is a matriarchy, and so it seems even more relevant and pertinent to talk about the rematriation versus the repatriation of buffalo. But for me, it's really about that holism. [00:19:40] HOST: In speaking about holism and indigenous led as a growing movement and organization, how does this work into a holistic strategy for paradigm shift? [00:19:53] GUEST: It's so core in our work and certainly in the founding of indigenous lead. But even when I was working for the Wildlife Conservation Society, I've always been obsessed with this Thomas Pinchin quote, for those that don't know, Thomas Pinchin is an amazing american novelist, and he has a quote out of one of his novels, Gravity's Rainbow, which is, if they can get you asking the wrong question, they don't have to worry about the answers. And I think there's just something fun about that and provocative and a little pokey. What I really like about it is that it elevates work that since has been really popularized by Simon Sinek around the why. What's your why? And I do think that having worked in conservation for 30 years, we don't spend a whole lot of time actually articulating why we do what we do, like really riddily, right? Why do we exist? Why is what we do unique? Why do we wake up in the morning? What's our real core purpose here? Way down in the base layers. And so, for indigenous led, when we started off designing our work, we asked that question, why? Which is about, as I mentioned earlier, building that indigenous voice and power. And the reason we build it is our what, right? So our what is to protect and heal and celebrate our relatives and their homeland. And then how do we do it? Well, through that lens, you realize you can't just do science, or you can't just do policy, or you can't just even do art, right? That we're embedded in a system. We're trying to re enliven or revitalize a living system, whether that's the ecological system or the cultural system or the relationship between the two, and then the cosmology that surrounds all of that. So if we aren't thinking systemically, there's no way we're going to realize that why? And there's no way we're going to be effective in advancing what we do and how we do it. And so from our perspective, we have to do science, right? And again, we think very holistically in that pillar of work. So it's not just about indigenous science versus western science. It's actually about both, sometimes in their own right and their own power. Sometimes it's about looking through both of those lenses and frames. And sometimes it's like, I don't know what I'm doing. I think I'm doing all of it at once. Right? So we have a very dynamic body of work centered in science. And then policy, really important part of the reason we host these regular conversations is to explore what are the different ways in which we can catalyze policy change to support this worldview, whether that's at the state level, tribal level, federal level? Are there regulatory changes? Are there legislative changes? What does the policy landscape look like? We also think about policy as diplomacy. Right. There's a huge piece of this work that's really at the highest level about diplomatic relationships, and so core to that is it's not just, I'm going to scratch your back so that you scratch mine. It's really about this dynamic way in which we can forge politically oriented relationships with an end goal. Right, where we're all working towards the same end goal. So we kind of have fun with thinking about diplomacy and policy. We have a lot of thought and emphasis and love that we direct to storytelling and communications. That is the interstitial tissue. In many ways, I think of our work, of how the different pieces hang together is that storyline that through line, one of the elders that I work with said to me recently, story is medicine. And I think that's really true. And in a way, that's where the story and the calms and the media work that we do, we really think about it as a form of healing, and we actually are about to launch a whole body of work that's centered in art and healing and advocacy. So weaving all of that together, and then the final sort of pillar of work that we think about is movement building and mobilization. So, to your point, we are indigenous led, the organization. And I love to think about the fact that, oh, could we also be indigenous led the movement. Right. We have a long way to go to get there, but it's a cool intention and a cool, kind of lofty goal for us. In a lot of our mobilization work, we think about how do we engage different audiences. We are very intentional about the fact that, yes, we are an indigenous led organization. We are an organization that was founded by and for indian country, but we also recognize that it is critical to realizing our vision for healing the world, to work across every boundary and every divide that this culture has created. And so it's incumbent upon us to really build connections and build bridges and build relationships. So some of that mobilization is really thinking about key audiences, key stakeholders, key influencers. How do we connect with them and build relationships with them and work towards that future vision? Collectively, we all bring different things. So there's a whole pillar that's really centered in that movement building and mobilization. And much like the storytelling piece, our youth work is an interstitial sort of thread that ties everything together. We think about youth front and center all the time. Our next generation, our current young generation. And not only do we have a youth program and connect youth to each other, but to their elders and the land. But in our science program, for example, we're launching an indigenous scholars hub to surround those emergent scholars with the confidence of their culture so that they are okay in very colonized institutions, which many of them are not. And so how do we support them? So, youth are everything and everywhere. There's so many needles we have to thread. The world we're living in is so different from the world of our ancestors, right? And there's just so many crazy realities that make no sense, and yet we have to live in them and with them and through them. You'll talk to our elders, and they teach us that the youth stay quiet. They stay quiet and they listen and they learn. And I absolutely respect and honor the teaching of my elders. And then, as someone who's lived between worlds my whole life and is just so cognizant of the present moment, I'm like, ooh. And how do we lift our youth? How do we think and believe and know that our youth might actually know more than we do? That's a really interesting challenge culturally to navigate. I do it with a lot of deference, a lot of humility, and a lot of respect. But the youth, they know a lot. They should actually be in charge. It would be a different world. [00:27:00] HOST: There are so many threads to pull here in what you're saying between youth voices, storytelling, diplomacy, are there some key principles that are guiding your ethos? [00:27:12] GUEST: Yeah, that's a great question. In my experience, anytime we do anything through that lens of indigenizing the work or building indigenized work, it always starts with a core set of values. And we've been operating under a set of values for a really long time. It's really interesting in some ways now because they almost feel tropish and cliche, which makes me a little sad. But maybe it's a good thing in that they've been so broadly adopted. But from where we sit, it all starts with a relationship. The chorus of the core value for us is relational. And then, obviously, because you care so deeply about relationship, you care incredibly deeply about respect. So respect is another really key value for us. Respect and reciprocity, because everything is a relationship, right? Everything is in movement and connection. And I think that the piece about reciprocity that I particularly think is so important is that it starts from a place of abundance in the broadest sense of the word, right? I am so rich in relationship. I am so rich in resources, I am so rich in vision. I don't need to be egotistical. I don't need to be arrogant, I don't need to be greedy, I don't need to be clutching, I don't need to be competitive. So it just sets this whole notion of, hey, we're all in this together, and what goes around comes around. So that one's really important to me. And then rematriation, which we talked about all the sort of values and worldviews that are embedded in that value in its own right. Rematriating. We used to talk about rewilding, and I still like that term quite a bit, particularly when I talk about rewilding the imagination. But I think rematriating is even better. So I tend to use that one. The other two values sort of go hand in hand, and that is rights. So much of this work that we do needs to better reflect indigenous rights, many of which have been violated almost since time immemorial in this country in particular. But the importance of rights and recognition of rights then keys you up to realize that we really need reconciliation in this country. We need to tell the truth, and we need to reconcile the truth in this present moment to co create a different future together. So those are sort of our core body of values, or the ethos that guide everything that we do. [00:29:56] HOST: You used this phrase true collaboration earlier, so now I'm wondering how those values weave into a process of true collaboration, at least hypothetically, if not practically. [00:30:08] GUEST: I actually think these values weave into everything. Right. The elders always talk about it has to start with values first. It starts with prayer. Every meeting we open with prayer, and there's a whole host of reasons why we do that. But the one that I think is so related to the question you just asked is so that we show up as our best selves into that meeting, into that conversation, into that gathering that we bring our highest selves. And why? Because our highest selves, all of us, regardless if you're native or non native, you know what it means to be in real relationship with someone. And if you know what real relationship is, if you know that it is reciprocal, that it is deeply respectful, there is no room for arrogance in respect, right? Then of course, you're going to enter the cooperation in the right way, in the same way that our elders open us with prayer. So we enter that conversation, that dialogue in the right way. So I think about how many conversations I go into with western conservation organizations or non native individuals, leaders, organizations. If the spirit of reconciliation was there, I think the conversations would be different. And especially if that reconciliation, that commitment to it was grounded in also reciprocal relationship, restorative relationship. [00:31:36] HOST: It makes me feel that we need to stop. Again, it's this stopping to reflect, to do the work in a respectful way, rather than being so consumed by the ecological crisis, which of course is a closing window of opportunity to respond accordingly. But I deeply agree with what you're saying about the need for reconciliation in order to move forward in a way that's aligned, in a way that is bringing forward our best selves culturally as well as organizationally. It's making me quite sad at the moment to feel how COP 28 is going on right now. And there's a lot of big discussions about solving problems, but not from this place of relating. Maybe there's a bit more to say about the role of tribal governments, tribal communities, tribal organizations in the conservation movement. How is it distinct from other groups? And by understanding the distinct role, how can we go further, but also deeper together? [00:32:48] GUEST: I'm still kind of sitting with your last comment about these big international meetings that are just asking the wrong questions. Right? And I don't know how we shift the frame. But I think, first of all, I guess the important thing in trying to tease out what is it to work with tribal governments, tribal communities, tribally led or indigenous led organizations, how is that different? How is it the same? One thing that is really important to recognize is there is no universal truth or way in indian country, right? If there's one thing that's true is that cultures are so unique and beautifully diverse and complicated, and the histories of every nation are so unique and different, their connections to certain relatives, landscapes, the way that they give expression to that relationship is really different. That said, one thing that I, in my limited experience, have had the privilege of experiencing, and I've worked all over the world with indigenous people, from the Southern Ocean all the way to the Arctic Ocean. Obviously not with every peoples, but I've worked with a lot of different people. And one thing that I've always recognized as somebody that lives between worlds is when I'm in an indigenous context, I relax and I feel safe and I feel comfortable just being in relationship with myself, in relationship with other people. So there is fundamentally something deep about being stewed in a relationship or in a relational context. It's an embodied practice, and so it inherently slows down. I go slamming into these conversations so many times with my western brain all charged and my. I'm the leader of a startup. Oh my gosh, we have to do this and that and the other, and I come slamming into these embodied spaces that are so inherently at human pace. And it's beautiful. And sometimes I just laugh. How did I get so wired? So I guess maybe one important distinction is how thick the relational space is, right? It's like thick air. It's real, it's tangible. And the other thing that really, in my view, stands out in terms of working in those contexts is that everything is related. And so the approaches are inherently systemic. Actually, in almost every culture I've ever worked in and worked with, there is no word for conservation. It's who we are. Conservation is this abstract construct that English created that's out here. It doesn't even make sense. Why would we conserve our relative? Why would somebody have to tell us to conserve our relative, to respect our relative, to protect our relative? So there's just some really interesting worldview clashes that I've experienced working in those different contexts. And then the final thing I'll say is that tribal governments are sovereigns. They're not a stakeholder, they're not an interest group. They're not somebody you go and lobby. They are sovereign nations. And I think we forget that a lot and what that actually means. And it's also very complicated, right? Because then arguably, it becomes tricky to work with a tribal government. And potentially, let's say you have an instance where a tribal government has position x and there's a tribally led community organization that is in disagreement with that position. How do you navigate that world? I respect and uphold tribal sovereignty. But wait, I actually kind of agree with this community group, right? So in that instance, my brain goes, okay, well, it's just a government. It's a sovereign government. I don't always agree with a sovereign government. Having worked with so many different types of people and entities and organizations, it is always a privilege and a homecoming to work with indigenous organizations. And it is always a privilege to realize how many blind spots I have when I'm looking at the world through western conservation, how many assumptions I make, how I've crept into some kind of arrogance. I won't go so far as to say arrogant, but I'm stepping towards arrogance. I'm losing my humility. And then finally, the thing I'll say is an elder not long ago actually shared with me why I was so uncomfortable talking about I me. And he said, christina and Blackfoot, we don't have any word for I. There was no word for I. It's just we. And so I think the opportunity and privilege of working through an indigenous lens with tribal nations or indigenous led organizations or indigenous formed community groups is it's a we. And to solve the problems, the challenges, the realities that we all collectively face right now, if we're going to get out of this game alive, the only way it's going to happen is a we. And so it just reminds you every moment, drop that view. It's a we. It's a we. It's a we. So it's pretty cool [00:38:00] HOST: You're painting a clear picture of an indigenous led paradigm shift. At IWCN, we have this paradigmatic notion of coexistence as a future to shift towards. I'm wondering how these seemingly distinct paradigms might actually be related in your mind. In our mind, I guess I should ask. [00:38:21] GUEST: Yes, in our mind, I think they're inextricably related. First, I'll give you the flip answer. The flip answer is, if we actually lived through the lens of an indigenous worldview, we wouldn't need coexistence. We wouldn't need those terms, we wouldn't need those theories and practices, because we would be living in relationship with the natural world, but because we've forgotten, we need to remember how to live buffalo again, or panther again, or bear again. And so that's where your work is so vital. You too are part of this tapestry of beings and organizations that are working to wake us up, to remember, hey, we can do this. We can live in a relationship, and we will be so much better off for it as we move from this sort of worldview, where in some ways it's simplistic to say it's a Judeo christian worldview, but for lack of a better term, where everything is there to serve us as humans as we move away from that reality, the capitalistic mindset, if you will, or paradigm back to the relational. We need translation tools. We need ways to get ourselves back to fluency of the language of relationship, the language of love. I would say that's what you all are doing. You're translators, much like me. You're working and building bridges between worlds, and it's complicated and painful and slow and critical. So I think that work is really critical, and you're absolutely part of the puzzle, part of the riddle that we all need to solve together. [00:39:58] HOST: In this translational work, this paradigm shift work, you've spoken about inciting incidents and psychic breaks. What do these events have to do with the work? [00:40:08] GUEST: One of my favorite topics to think about. So I've been a self confessed professed strategy geek my whole life, so I love really thinking strategically and tactically. How do you catalyze truly transformational change, not a quick fix, not just a policy solution, but something that changes the game, that answers the right question. Right? With the recognition that change is inherently pretty slow sometimes. What I have found is that these catalytic moments, these inciting incidents, these psychic breaks, they create a space. It's almost like a time warp where you can just move things much more quickly than you ever imagined. You can change things much more quickly than you ever imagined. And so that could be something as simple as, hey, the sagegrass is about to get listed on the Endangered Species act. Let's bring everybody together to figure out a solution so that species doesn't get listed, which will cause lots of havoc. Right? Can we get ahead of this psychic break? Covid, the pandemic is a great example of that. Most people didn't even know who they were anymore, or what they were or why they were here right in that moment. Some pretty transformational things happened. I mean, indigenous led conservation, arguably, is where it is, because of that psychic break from COVID and many other horrific things that happened in that period in time. So I think they are unique and they're to be capitalized on in a very linear, non relational way. Like there's a window open. Go. I also think that this moment we're living through is so rife with psychic breaks. There's so much grief, there's so much trauma, there's so much uncertainty and fear and anger. It's really an open question for any and all. And I hope your listeners reach out to me and reach out to you, and we continue to have conversations about this. But what do we do? Because there's like a million psychic breaks right now. So is there a way that we could come together around that pain and need for healing and create a path, even if it's ten people? Ideally, it's more than that. What could we do together and really capitalize on grief and suffering and trauma in a positive way, to create the world that we all want and need to heal from that trauma and that grief and that psychic break. [00:42:37] HOST: It feels like it's imperative to find ways to do that, to translate these psychic breaks into co creative, supportive social changes. Otherwise, the predatorial forces in our culture and society will do it for us in their favor, for their benefit. They're very, very good at doing that. [00:43:02] GUEST: Yes, that is absolutely right. Every emotion has a shadow side. As beautiful as it is, there's a shadow. And if we don't shine the light on those shadows by building and highlighting the beauty, weird things happen, things come out of the shadows. They come out of the dark corners and they wreak havoc. I want to just thank you for this opportunity, for this conversation. So many of the things that we touched on today are things that I would love to actually have more people talk about together and think about. How do we give them expression? What do we do together? What do we change in terms of how we work together, and what new things do we do together? [00:43:41] HOST: My total pleasure. And real quick, how can listeners support indigenous led come be a part of. [00:43:46] GUEST: Our family and bring your unique gifts and talents and passions to the work that we're doing. We've got a bunch of bodies of work on the go. They're all on our website, indigenousled.org and for better or for worse, we always need resources. So if people feel the need, desire, compulsion to donate, we would welcome every dollar. Right now we're with a fiscal sponsor, the Wild foundation, and for the next year they're not taking any fee as a gift to us to get us on our feet. So every dollar goes to the work and I have a crazy goal of tripling our budget this year. But there's so many ways to be involved. We just really welcome people reaching out and sharing ideas and suggestions and potential collaborations. Thanks judge. [00:44:31] HOST: We certainly hope you enjoyed this episode, and we certainly hope you're enjoying this entire podcast series. We love to highlight the relations and leaders in our network, but it's also important to know that we're on the ground building capacity and resources for conservation efforts that are providing solutions every day. Wildlifecoexistence.org is where you can see the latest news in our community. Get involved and discover solutions. And don't forget to subscribe now to for the Wild Ones podcast. We've got more amazing conversations coming up soon. Until then, stay wild.

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