Nature’s Community, Our Community

By | October 5, 2011

I meet and talk with many people who are looking for a well-organized community that features regular drumming and singing, storytelling, games, and ceremonies. I understand their yearning, and at the same time I am concerned that they are looking to substitute one ready-made culture for another. They are not stripping down to life’s essence in order to shed the old formulas of passive participation and lack of direct involvement in the creation of culture.

Indigenous culture evolves from living the lifeway, not the other way around. A living, vibrant community that is of the people springs forth from the people. This includes all people—animal, rock, plant, and cloud, along with human. Rather than starting a community, indigenous humans join the community of all these people that already exists. The humans listen and learn how to live sustainably in their new surroundings, how to be honorable and respectful of all the life there, and how to function in balance like an interactive organ within a healthy organism. The community teaches its new members its music and rhythms. From the heartbeat of the Mother and the songs of wind, birds, and water, chants and drumbeats spring spontaneously forth. The new people are naturally drawn together in ceremony to honor what is given. This is living culture, and everyone is a creative part of it.

If we tried to follow a book or something we had been told—or even what we already knew—our bowl would be full and we’d have no room for what the new community had to give. We’d want the community to accommodate us, to change in order to meet our preconceived notions. If we came with an empty bowl, we’d find relationship, and maybe even home.


Rose on October 13, 2011 at 5:41 pm.

This really gave me a new perspective on this dynamic. I’ve met people who don’t want to go or stay in our community because it doesn’t have enough drumming, singing, or ceremony to suit them, and I can see immediately that it wouldn’t. I’ve heard people bemoan the lack of group musical experiences, but with other people I’ve experienced that group music because those people actually created it. It’s more challenging, and much slower, to grow a cultural tradition, especially if the community has a lot of turnover. In our case, the lifeway is the core that remains steady, and the accoutrements such as drumming and singing come and go.


Tamarack on November 19, 2011 at 10:19 am.

Hi Rose,

I like your statement that “the lifeway is the core that remains steady”—it defines your community by its spirit rather than by any particular people. Trees come and go, yet the forest lives on, as does your community even though individuals might come and go. Such communities tend to have long-term stability and deeply rooted traditions, similar to the communities of native people.



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