Quillwood Podcast

QP11: Making Peace With Our Heritage, with Lyla June Johnston

May 16, 2022 Eric Garza Season 1 Episode 11
Quillwood Podcast
QP11: Making Peace With Our Heritage, with Lyla June Johnston
Show Notes Transcript

Lyla June Johnston is a Diné writer, singer, spoken word artist, and activist. In this episode she talks to Eric about making peace with European heritage, colonial histories, place-based identities, reconnecting with our indigenous heritage, the sophistication of traditional ecological knowledge, and the fragility of American society, among other things.


  • 00:00 - 02:03 — Episode introduction
  • 02:03 - 07:47 — Making peace with European heritage
  • 07:47 - 18:50 — Colonial histories, trauma, and place-based identities
  • 18:50 - 22:41 — Processing a fear of remembering
  • 22:41 - 29:06 — Reconnecting with our indigenous heritage intuitively
  • 29:06 - 33:42 — Showing courage as we reclaim an indigenous identity
  • 33:42 - 36:55 — Creating parallel systems rather than repairing broken systems
  • 36:55 - 42:53 — The sophistication of traditional ecological knowledge
  • 42:53 - 46:57 — American society as a fragile, precarious system
  • 46:57 - 48:54 — Episode wrap-up

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Eric Garza: Welcome to the Quillwood Podcast, a show dedicated to helping people just like you learn to navigate today's changing world. I am your host, Eric Garza.

Last episode invited us to think about justice in this time of collapse. This episode revives a conversation I recorded a few years ago where I talked with Lyla June Johnston about making peace with our heritage, and by extension the things our ancestors might have done to undermine justice. Lyla is a writer, a spoken word artist, singer, and activist who is primarily of Diné heritage. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

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I hope you enjoy today's episode.

Eric: So I recall from your essay The Story of How Humanity Fell In Love With Itself Once Again that it took a while for you to make peace with your European ancestry. I'm curious, what was that process like for you, of making peace with your European ancestry?

Lyla June Johnston: Well, it's a very interesting question because most Native Americans in this country, most indigenous turtle Islanders, they do have some European history somewhere back there. Not all, but I might say the majority. We have a lot of native people in reservation communities with a lighter complexion or darker complexion, and so there's this racial tension even within indigenous communities of like, who is more native than the others. What I experienced, what I think a lot of native people experience, where they are taught the history of what happened, everything from Sand Creek Massacre, to the Dawes Act, to the Trail of Tears to the Long Walk, to the real story behind Thanksgiving, and on and on and on and on. You get this really, really detailed history growing up of how brutally indigenous peoples were treated by European American settlers. You get a really deep understanding of what went on for America to exist as it exists today. The natural tendency is to be ashamed of the European side of yourself. Maybe it's your grandfather, or maybe like, for instance, my grandmother, she has one European grandparent. That one, almost like a fly in the ointment, where you wish that wasn't there. And so this is sad, but true. A lot of native people don't like to have that in their genetic makeup.

I grew up with that very strongly in my home. I was encouraged to not claim my few European grandparents and I was encouraged to focus on my indigenous heritage. That was a problem, obviously, because it not only turned me against myself, and all that I was, it also turned me against other European Americans. And so my process has been a lot of not only making peace with myself, but making peace with European Americans in a way that is more constructive than writing them off or shutting them out, or judging them before they walk in the room, or deciding that there's no possibility for peace and true alliance between European Americans and indigenous peoples.

What that process looked like in my personal life was going to a Hogan, which is where my Diné people gather for ceremony. And in the ceremony, ironically, in this indigenous Turtle Islander ceremony, I actually felt these European ancestors come, which is very interesting. And I can't really explain this to the non-believer, so I won't try to cater to that, but what I would say is that I felt a rush of ancestral love throughout my whole being. And it was these European ancestors that I had denied and forsaken for my entire life. And I felt silly for not honoring them and just shutting them out and pretending like they didn't exist. But in response, they just said, don't worry, we love you anyways.

So this kicked off a huge research exploration for me into European indigenous culture. And what I found was that we have the witch burnings, we have the Roman expansion, and even below that there's other layers and layers and layers of colonization of indigenous European peoples. I began to see Europe as less of a country and more of like a torture chamber where people were tortured, sometimes literally in torture chambers, for thousands upon thousands of years. This gives rise to a culture of fear and a culture of patriarchy, and a culture of rape, and a culture of greed. I realized that you don't just wake up one day and say, I think I'd like to commit genocide on a whole continent of indigenous peoples. That's not what Columbus just woke up one day, or Cortes, or all these different "explorers". They came from centuries, millennia of intergenerational trauma that gave rise to this inhumane attitude and outlook on life and on ecology. Taking a more restorative approach is how I came to have peace with my European grandparents, and how I came to see it not punitively, as a lot of Native Americans see it, as screw the white man or screw the settler, this very vengeful—which is understandable—but taking a more restorative approach and say, Okay, wait, instead of hating these people and hating their systems, why don't we take a look at the root of this and try and heal that. And if we can heal that, that we can make a big difference for everyone.

Eric: You're talking about trauma, and the idea of releasing ancestral trauma associated with colonialism and, you didn't mention this explicitly, but mass migration too, that's another area of trauma that I've heard people talk about. And maybe that depends a little bit on us coming to a deep understanding of colonial histories, not just in here in North and South America, but also in Europe. Do you think that coming to a really deep understanding of those colonial histories is a big part of this conversation?

Lyla June: Absolutely. I mean, if you have people fleeing Europe, either from persecution of their religion, or they're simply looking for riches in an unknown land that they can exploit and then bring back and profit off of. Or perhaps they're leaving from a sense of wanting to get away from from a dark place. And when you have two thirds of your entire continent get obliterated by the Black Plague, that's a pretty serious trauma. And a lot of times people want to get away from the trauma. So you have this mass migration, as you call it, to Turtle Island, which is what I call "America". And what you have is you have these incredible influxes of peoples who are traumatized, and when they lose connection to their homeland—because throughout the world, homeland and story and the cultural metaphor that binds a human group together—if they lose that, and all those things are intertwined, right? A lot of our stories are rooted in homeland, a lot of our guiding principles are rooted in homeland. And if we lose a sense of self, and self is also very rooted in land—oftentimes, we say we are the land in indigenous communities, and the land is us.

So you have a huge, massive amount of people basically being ripped from their homeland, or voluntarily leaving their homeland because it's gotten so bad. Or they have nothing in their homeland to anchor them, that they'd rather go and exploit resources and people for profit on pirate boats—you can call them explorers, but they were pirates. So what I'm seeing is that when you have that detachment from homeland, which didn't start at the point of migration to Turtle Island, but rather started even before that, when you have the Roman expansion, already relocating people, dislocating people, already giving people a sour connotation with their homeland, that they don't even want to be there anymore—you have what I would say is an identity crisis. A lot of European Americans have lost that earth-based identity. Not just Earth based, but place-based identity. For example, being Tuscan, you are from Tuscany, and you are from those hills, and you know those trees, and you known those mountains. If you're Gaelic, you are connected to these oak groves, you are connected to these sacred sites. And so when you lose that sense of self, indigenous self, which is connected to homeland that your ancestors have been on for millennia, then you start to try and create a new culture for yourself, a new sense of identity. And that identity that we've been given as so called Americans is consumerism, and individualism, and just complete materialism. And that's why a lot of European Americans either cling to that, or they reject that and have nowhere to go.

A lot of people say Americans don't have a culture, and that's why they seek out indigenous culture. But we do have a culture, and it's the culture of consumerism. It's a culture of patriarchy. It's the culture of objectification of land and women. So anyways, long story short, what I'm saying is when you uproot yourself from your homeland, or you are forced to uproot yourself,

there's a huge loss of original self, original story. And then you have what we're seeing today, which is people trying to fill that void with a new culture of consumerism. And we also have what we see today: many European Americans rejecting that and wondering where to go. So they study Hinduism, they study shamanism, never fully realizing that they have their own indigenous culture right inside of them. Even if it's buried under millennia of torture, it is still there, and it's still powerful, it's still sacred, and it's still connected to homeland.

Eric: You touched on so many different things with that answer, and I'm going to try to grab on to at least a couple of those threads. You talked about the idea of anchoring, and being anchored to your place. Having that anchor fills that void in your soul. and then when that anchor is lost, you have this void that you need to fill. But as I think about everything you said, and the consumerism, which makes a whole lot of sense to me, not just looking at what is today the United States from a cultural standpoint, but also just looking inside of myself and the different phases of my own life that I've gone through. And yeah, just trying to think of what steps as an individual I would take to create something to fill that void, besides consumerism, but also without necessarily just trying to mine Native American spiritual traditions of various sorts, or as you mentioned, Hinduism, or—something that I did in my own past—Buddhism and Zen practice, reaching out to some of these other fairly substantial bodies of of culture that have become available through books and through workshops and things like that.

Lyla June: Right. This is my personal opinion, I think a lot of my indigenous contemporaries may disagree, but I personally don't mind European Americans learning from indigenous culture. If anything, I wish they would. And I wish that they could take the wisdom that we have of how to live and apply it in every aspect of their lives, and then the world would be a much better place. So I don't feel like we should completely bar or demonize the practice of learning from indigenous cultures, be it Buddhist, be it Hindu or Diné, or of various cultures that are walking a nice path, and are walking something that we feel resonant with.

So I don't want to demonize that. However, I do feel like we as European Americans—because even though I am mostly indigenous to this continent, I still honor the fact that I am part European American—we as European Americans, we are shortchanging ourselves if we think there's nothing inside of us that's of any value. Because there are ancestors who worked and prayed, and connected and honored women, and honored the earth for thousands upon thousands of years, and I think where we need to look is beyond that thin wall of time which dominates our understanding of Europe. The King Louie, the Napoleon, the King James, the Roman expansion, all these things, and look beyond that and see that there were incredible indigenous, earth-based cultures in Europe.

Recently in 2009 they found a clay effigy in German soil, and it was an effigy of a woman. And it is thought to represent cultures that honored women, honored the feminine, and honored the Earth. This is a hallmark of a sustainable healthy society, one that honors women, honors the earth, and honors the feminine. If we can do that, we honor life itself, and we're healthy. So guess how old this effigy was that they found in German soil? It was 40,000 years old.

So this is what I am trying to help fellow European Americans see, that we have been honoring the earth and honoring women for tens of thousands of years. And there is a time not too far in the past where we had a lot of medicine, and we were on point. And we knew what we were doing.

Now, there was a huge cultural disruption, probably more than I can accurately speak to. But I do know that they estimate 6 to 9 million women were persecuted as witches, and everything from being burned alive to drowned alive to tortured in torture chambers, to being raped, being beaten. And so these women, these so called pagan devil worshippers, these so called witches were not evil women, they were actually the holders of European indigenous knowledge.

I wrote a song recently, and it starts out saying 6 million women thrown to the flames, the library's burning, I will remember their names, because it's time for us as European Americans to honor those women, honor the women we came from, and honor the indigenous knowledge we came from, and to not get caught up in this idea that we are Napoleon, we are Aristotle, we are Julius Caesar. That's not who we are. That's the bastardized version of our true self. And as soon as we understand that we have medicine inside of us that if we pray hard enough, or we dig deep enough, we will not need to reach out to Hinduism, or Buddhism, or Native American things, although those might help us guide us back on our path to our own European indigenous selves. But that is the true self that we need to honor, and to shed these false labels. And I could go on and on about that, but I want to pause and give you a chance to cut me off if you need to.

Eric: I definitely have no interest in cutting you off, you're on a thread that is just really interesting. I'm speaking partly from an intellectual sense here, of really connecting intellectually to this idea of overcoming cultural disruption, learning how to reach back before that cultural disruption. But also there's an emotional reaction that I'm having of fear, of what does it mean for me to do that? And I don't know where that fear comes from. But it's there, and I can feel it, and it's palpable.

Lyla June: Interesting.

Eric: And yeah, just it's a really peculiar thing. And I don't know if that is just me struggling with my own European roots, or... I don't know exactly what that is. I'm just noticing it and pondering as we have this conversation where that is, because I haven't felt that before.

Lyla June: What is the fear of?

Eric: The best I can articulate it off the cuff is that it is a fear of remembering. I'm kind of interpreting this as best I can on the fly. I am, relatively "well adapted" to this insane culture in which I am now embedded in, and a fear that is coming up right now is that if I connect to that kind of culture before this violent, colonial, rape culture, if I learned how to connect with that, I'm not going to fit it anymore. And I think that's what I'm afraid of.

Lyla June: Right. And that's where I think collectivism comes into play. Pioneer is kind of a trigger word in native communities, but the good kind of pioneering, for instance, perhaps, myself pioneering into my own European American ancestry and what that means, and how I think that's actually beautiful, and how I honor it has given other people permission to do the same. And me going to England recently, and going to the sacred sites, going to the Sacred Stone, the natural stone formations that have natural water pools on top of them, full of water, in the mist, on top of the Dartmoor forest, and really connecting with how many beautiful ceremonies must have gone on at that very rock that I stood on, and really connecting with the fact that the people of that land knew how to pray with blue stone, knew how to pray with the seasons, knew how to connect with the solstice season, the equinoxes, to really connect with that land and with myself, my indigenous English self, to do that gives other people less fear of doing that as well. And who knows, maybe your fear would be quelled if you knew that you were not alone in that journey. And that unearthing that medicine, and really allowing that medicine to sprout and blossom, and all of the principles and all of the behaviors that go along with that medicine, which entail equality, entail selflessness, entail generosity, and all these things that will help the world be a better place, that allowing that medicine to sprout and to change us, our behavior, the way we look at things might be easier if it's done as a collective, and you might make it easier for other people to do if you have the courage to move through that fear and connect with it.

Eric: I can definitely see that. And I'm primarily of European ancestry, I do have a little bit of indigenous Turtle Island blood from southern Mexico, coming in from my dad's side of the family. But my European ancestry is just from all over the place, from conquistadors coming in through South America and up through Mexico, and then also on my mom's side of the family, people from Ireland and from Scotland, and Germany and France. I think one of the things I struggle too is, acknowledging this melting pot, and all these different historical lines, threads that I would need to follow—and this is this isn't an excuse for not doing it, just kind of thinking out loud and acknowledging where this is for me, just acknowledging absolutely this work. And obviously it's useful work and good work. But also, it's daunting. And I think the dauntingness of it is one of the things that has made it hard for me to jump in and get started.

Lyla June: Well, one story I think could help is the story of the Winnemem Wintu tribe, which I worked with during my time at Stanford, researching with them and trying to protect their sacred sites. They are an indigenous nation from what is now called Northern California. And one of the things they did was they had the first womanhood ceremony that their tribe had ever had in 100 years, back in 2006. This ceremony to honor the first menstruation of a woman went underground for a century, and they never practiced it. And in 2006, they started bringing it back. 

So you have to ask yourself, how did this tribe remember how to do this when all the elders who had gone through it were dead, didn't leave any books behind, there's a few oral teachings here and there, but never actually knew how to do it? What they did was they sent warriors up to fight—and to them fighting means fasting in the mountains alone, that's how they fight—they sent warriors up to fight—and lot of these warriors were women, and some of them were men as well—went to fast for four days up on there, they call it the top of the world, to this very special place where they can see the whole expense of their homeland with one vista. In that process of praying, they brought down certain songs, they brought down certain visions, they brought down certain understandings.

A lot of what we're being asked to do must be done intuitively, must be done through prayer, and must be done through nothing short of magic. And for a society that doesn't believe in magic anymore, it's gonna be very hard to recover our indigenousness. Because we say the only way you can get knowledge is through a book, or through Google, or through a professor. If that knowledge doesn't exist in a book, doesn't exist in Google, there's no professors who know it anymore, how are you going to get that knowledge? You're not going to. And so my point is that there are ways of obtaining knowledge that are way, way beyond what our society believes is possible. And that is to our detriment. And if we had a moment to really believe that, through prayer, through fasting, through solitude, through intuitive listening, we could remember who we are as indigenous Europeans, then we could change the world. And we could change the world for our descendants. We could bring back our own womanhood ceremonies, our own manhood ceremonies that inculcate positive principles into the next generation. And we could give our children something to be proud of. We can give our children a life where they don't feel like aliens, unwanted aliens in Turtle Island, where they don't feel like dishonorable conquerors who don't have anything good to honor themselves about. We can change these things for our descendants by embodying what our ancestors truly stood for before the deluge of violence and torture that ensued.

And so my point is that, it is daunting work. And like you said, you have many different threads connecting to you to France, to Germany, to Scotland to Ireland, which, by the way, I'm from that area too, so we have that common connection. To Spain. You know, it's like, okay, which one do I choose? And the beauty of it is, it doesn't matter which one you choose. but I think investing in one—doesn't mean you have to completely ignore the others, you can explore them a little bit—but really diving into one gives you an opportunity to get a deeper understanding that then you can share with others, to give them something they can be excited about, something they can hold on to and use practically in their everyday life. Maybe it's as simple as the fact that the alder tree signifies this, and the elm tree signifies this, and the holly signifies this.

When I went to England and hung out with those so-called witches who knew all the medicinal properties of all the trees of England, that's the kind of stuff that gets me excited. People who are connected to that traditional ecological knowledge, and how they make a wheel out of it that represents the earth, and how their calendar is defined by different species of trees. How cool is that? And how wonderful is that to be connected to that knowledge and to be guided by that knowledge, instead of the Gregorian calendar.

So in other words, I would say, number one, you don't have to do all seven of them. You can do any one of them, and go deep into it. And number two, you can go deep into it by connecting with elders who do still exist in Europe with that knowledge, and also through your own prayer and intuitive listening.

Eric: Yeah, so many threads I want to follow there, but I don't think we'll have time for all of them. I wanted to start with the idea... You mentioned the term magic, and as you were speaking, I think that is a place where a lot of this fear of mine comes from. Because I've had a lot of experiences out in natural landscapes where I feel like there are people talking to me and trying to give me useful information about how to engage with that particular place. The challenge I face is taking that experience, which is as real to me as the nose on my face, and taking that to so many other people I'm surrounded by and voicing that and praying that I'm taken seriously in a world where I very much fear that I won't. Because I'm surrounded by a lot of people who are similar to me in their European ancestry but even if they haven't bought headlong into consumerism, they very much bought into the idea of materialism and the preeminence of science as the one way that we can generate knowledge and they've dismissed a lot of the others. So I think that's another big place where that fear comes from. As an individual, I've invested a lot of time trying to connect with other ways of knowing, and living in a society that seems to value one way of knowing pretty much to the exclusion of all others.

Lyla June: Well, I want to say that's a fear you're just gonna have to get over. No, I'm just kidding. I feel you, I totally feel you. I went to Stanford. Anytime I brought up anything about spirituality, I got shut down. I studied economics there, I studied anthropology there. I studied environmental science. I had all these different classes, and not one was I allowed to say, let's pray before we do class today, let's pray that our ancestors can guide us. And that was very, very strange to be a spiritual being within a society that finds spirituality to be laughable and childish. And so I think that I have had to ignore that, for the time being, and just say, This is who I am, this is what I'm connected to. And unless I hold that fire brightly, I'm just gonna get absorbed into the secular world. And the secular world will never be exposed to anything that broadens their very narrow horizons of what it is possible. And this whole idea that we're on a blue green ball, spinning around a star, and that this star is a part of a whole network of stars spinning around a black hole that we don't even know what's inside of it. And people still don't believe in magic?

Okay, if that doesn't convince them, I don't know what's gonna convince them. So I've kind of given up on convincing them, and just walking my walk, talking my talk, and if it helps people, great. If they want to jump on board, great. And if if not, then I really don't know how to help them.

Eric: And I feel that same thing. I teach at the college level, actually. And I've thought about the idea of starting classes, maybe not with a prayer, but certainly with some kind of gratitude offering, or something like that. And I've even struggled with something as basic as that, over the years, because it is so opposed, maybe not even opposed, but just outside of the realm of experience of the vast majority of students that I have. I feel like in many contexts I'm already walking on eggshells with the type of material that I present. But you're right, that is just totally something I've got to get over. And I feel like a lot of the friends that I have that are interested in this, that's probably the best advice they'd ever hear. We just have to find enough solidarity in our experiences, and just learn to get over all the people that can't participate in that solidarity, for whatever reason.

Lyla June: And that's their choice. And we honor that. But that doesn't mean we have to go there. Because that's our choice, to go here, and to not judge people who aren't where we are. And hopefully they don't judge us for not being where they are.

But then the question becomes, is it our place to jump into systems that are fundamentally secular, and try and exist within those? Or is it our place to create our own spaces that are fundamentally growing out of the ancestral knowledge and exist there, where we're more able to exist? And that's what one of my elders said, when I mentioned that I was trying to go to Harvard Business School to take down capitalism from the inside out. He said, Well, Lyla, you can go into that system and try and change it. But let me ask you this. You could change the system from the inside. You could change the system from the outside. Or why don't you just build your own system, completely parallel to that whole thing, and outside of it? That doesn't have to be constricted to the rules and regulations of that system, which is broken anyway.

And that really changed things for me. I no longer want to jump in and fix a broken bicycle, but just invent my own new bicycle that doesn't have to be beholden to the heritage of dysfunction of the old bicycle. So that's what I've been focusing on as well.

Eric: Yeah, that makes a lot of a lot of sense, if for nothing else from an emotional health perspective, maybe building something that is, I don't want to say clean and new, but being able to approach the building of a new system with mindfulness not to make the same mistakes that others have made as they were crafting the one that we're we're living in now.

Lyla June: Right. And in a way, that's what America is. And America is full of flaws. It's actually incredibly racist, and incredibly classist, and all of that. But at the same time, the "founding fathers"—who were inspired by Haudenosaunee mothers of the Iroquois Confederacy, they're the real founding mothers of this whole "democracy"—but that was what America was, it was a fresh start. It was a, Okay, we learned from Europe don't do this, don't do this, don't do this, don't do this, don't do this, let's do something new. And even though America is a very, very dysfunctional place, full of inequity, it does have certain qualities that are admirable. I believe that's attributed to the fact that they did get to build a new system instead of trying to fix the old one. And I think we're being called to do that again, but in a way that's much more sensitive to indigenous peoples, and follows indigenous peoples lead, and also a way that's much more sensitive to our own healing that we need to do as a species.

Eric: Yeah. And you mentioning the idea of healing, I wanted to go back and pick up another thread that you had mentioned before. And that has to do with the idea of traditional ecological knowledge. In the circles that I move around in, it's oftentimes called nature connection, all the different sets of skills that includes things like ancestral skills, but it's certainly not limited to that. Has that played, that realm of skills like fire by friction and learning to hunt and things like that, animal tracking, has that played a big role in your life or the lives of other people, Diné people that you know?

Lyla June: Absolutely, because what we're realizing is that we've been brainwashed to think that these so called primitive skills are not primitive at all, but they're actually part of a larger network of very sophisticated skills that were honed and fine tuned on Turtle Island long before Columbus was ever a twinkle in his daddy's eye. For instance, you have astronomers in Turtle Island who were well farther ahead than Galileo, and had entire systems built up much more advanced than European systems.

And so you have to understand that we have all, not just European Americans but also indigenous Americans, been brainwashed to think that European equals civilized and Indian equals savage. The point at which history was started to be written about indigenous tribes here, these tribes had already been decimated by 98%, in many cases. We had huge amounts of epidemics, massacres, and entire villages poofing out of existence overnight. And so my point is that maybe the native civilizations that we have historical record of seemed uncivilized and savage, because they had just been ravaged by an epidemic.

Eric: Of smallpox, yeah.

Lyla June: The tribes that we know of today, for example Diné, Creek, Muskogee, Cheyenne, all of these tribes that we call tribes today are not the original composition of the people. These are survival bands. This is the 2% that survived the Holocaust. Two percent!

My point is that, yes, this traditional economic ecological knowledge has played a huge role in my life, because I'm starting to see that the traditional ecological knowledge that my people have left, that Diné people have left, is incredibly sophisticated. Everything from our architecture, to our clothing design, to our agriculture, to our ways of managing water, to our ways of sanitation, to all of the things that human societies need to thrive, are incredibly sophisticated. And we are brainwashed to believe that our own sophistication isn't worth saving.

So I just finished my master's degree at University of New Mexico where I studied American Indian education, as it were, but it's probably better said decolonizing education. And we started a summer school, and the summer school was designed by 30 of my Diné contemporaries. And it was all about food, clothing, shelter, and philosophy. And so we taught each other how to work with traditional foods, and we learned the traditional culinary arts, we built an entire Hogan, which is a ceremonial house, from the ground up, even though none of us had ever done it before. And we found how efficient this building style is, and how incredibly healthy it is. There's no toxic materials. It's passive solar. You don't need any of the stuff that American culture wastes all of its money on. We also learned clothing, moccasin making, weaving, sheepskin tanning, and really saw how everything we need is locally available. We don't need petroleum to ship our apples to Canada, get them packaged in India, and have them shipped back to Florida. We don't need any of that. And that is sophistication at its highest mark, I would say as a society that is so good at taking care of the local environment, and so good at being efficient and economical about using the local environment without depleting it. What is more sophisticated than that?

And here we say American civilization is sophisticated when we're living inside of carcinogenic boxes called houses. And we're creating entire disruptions in the thermohaline loop of the ocean, which is disrupting climate patterns around the world. How unsophisticated and uncivilized can you get?

So anyways, I'll get off my soapbox there. My point is that this traditional ecological knowledge—you mentioned friction fires, and animal tracking and stuff—I think that comes with perspective of this going back to our primitive ways, but no, actually, that act of getting close to the Earth, and getting close to what nature provides in the palm of its hand, is actually incredibly sophisticated and advanced. And if we could only see that, we would move towards that a lot quicker.

Eric: Yeah. As you were speaking, it occurs to me that just the way that we define not just words like sophisticated, but there's a lot of words that are like this, where the meanings of them are just really warped. You used the word brainwashing, and I think that's very apt. The meanings of these words are so warped, they have this kind of commandeering effect, of commandeering people's minds away from really paying attention to what's happening, and leading them to something else. What we mean by sophisticated in the United States is that it makes GDP go up, it makes that dollar figure for our economy go up. Whereas something that's not sophisticated might not do that. I think that we need to find ways, among many other things, to recapture some of those words, or at least create new words to make it so that we have a better sense for what our goals are, and getting really clear on those goals.

Lyla June: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think, lately, I've been seeing American society as a very delicate society. It seems to be very robust and very impervious, but if you really look at the structures that support it, which is basically petroleum, and how precarious the petroleum market is, and how the geopolitical landscape can cause oil shortages overnight, and how we wouldn't last a week without oil in this country, and how very, very fragile and precarious this whole system really is, and thinking about how that is not very sophisticated either.

And thinking about how we have an opportunity now to begin to nudge American society to see that it is not the be all, end all. And they're gonna push back. They don't like to believe they're not the be all end all because that's what they've been taught their whole life. It's very hard to let go of a concept that you've believed for most of your life. I can attest to that. But nudging, continuing to nudge, we can't give up on American society, we have to keep nudging them and keep showing them the truth, keep showing them their own flaws, gently, lovingly, but persistently. Because if we do not, we're going to end up in a very, very challenging situation. And we're going to feel why it was important to help Puerto Rico when we didn't, because we're going to understand what they went through.

And I'll just end that thought by saying lately I've been seeing American society as these kind of addicts or slaves to American capitalism, which is not only destroying the earth, but it's also a very precarious situation to be in. And we need a new underground railroad to get these slaves out of this system, ecologically speaking, and that perhaps indigenous peoples, if we are willing to love people who destroyed us, if we're willing to stand up and offer love to a society that tried to wipe us from the face of the earth, if we're willing to respond to that hatred with love, we could become that Harriet Tubman for these slaves. And we could generate these underground railroads to bring people back to the earth. And we could create models that show people that you don't have to be unclean or primitive to be sustainable, but you can actually have a very comfortable life, very beautiful life. And if we can do that, it would help a lot of people in the future because we're kind of headed for a cliff right now.

Eric: Yeah. And looking at the time, I think that's a good stopping point. Did you have any other final thoughts before we wrap this up this afternoon?

Lyla June: No, just that I'm very grateful that you had me as part of this podcast, and I especially appreciate your inquiry into indigenous European culture, and immigration, and colonialism and, and how that has led to cultural appropriation and searching outside of ourselves for what is living inside of our DNA all along. And I'm very grateful to your whole angle for this podcast, because it is my deepest wish that we as a species can come to love ourselves again, and that we as a species can come to see how precious our ancestry really is, and to see that what we've experienced as both colonized peoples and colonizers is not who we truly are. And we don't have to live like this anymore. So thank you for unearthing those conversations. I really think it's going to help a lot of people.

Eric: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Quillwood Podcast. Again, the podcast is brought to you by Quillwood Academy, which you can find on the web at quillwood.org. Check out the Overshoot Reading Group, which starts in June.

Until next time, this is Eric Garza signing off. Walk softly, and take good care.