What does the word indigenous bring to your imagination? What images do you have of indigenous people? Of the way they live their lives, their beliefs – of the places in which they live?
Historically, European cultures have been saturated with ideas that denigrate indigenous people. They have been branded “primitive” and used to benchmark the heroic rise of industrial ‘progress’. This has left a fatal wound, where many people of European origin have cut themselves from their indigenous roots, falling instead into the seductive spell of the industrial age. The scar left behind is that the majority of European cultures rejected the blood and soil of their own indigeny.
By sharp contrast, in more recent times many people have come to idealise indigenous cultures as examples of fair and sustainable societies. Future hopes of sustenance and justice have then been projected onto them, demonising industrialism as a lost cause.
In both cases people of European origin have become disconnected from their indigenous selves. We either walk away in disgust, or endlessly seek some kind of idealised participation in cultures that are not our own.
Either-way contemporary indigenous people lose out. They are either dismissed and oppressed or else romanticised – their sacred cosmologies, traditions, art and objects stolen and assimilated sycophantically into consumer culture.
Can we of European origin unearth our own indigenous selves? Can we redraw the map – with ourselves as part of the terrain? Can we call forth our imaginations into a modern indigenous form?
In July, Mary-Jayne Rust, Annie Spencer, Colin Campbell and Dave Key will gather at Schumacher College to explore this complex, powerful and sensitive subject. Through stories and practices we will trawl our personal and collective sense of indigeny – whatever that turns out to be.
The course will be an adventure, a navigational resection, a mapping of the ground where leaf, rock, fur and bone meet the imagination. And it will be a call: to dig deep and find the wellspring of inspiration that can bring our own indigenous wisdom to the social and ecological challenges of our era.
This blog was co-written by Mary-Jayne Rust & David Key