Canada Day: First Nations’ knowledge-keeping and humanity’s care for the planet

The Indigenous peoples’ entire culture is profoundly and holistically interwoven with their oral literatures of the natural world. The sacredness of these story-traditions springs from the intimacy of the Indigenous connections to the land: there are few if any such deep ecological connections in North American culture. The science of ecology is but decades old; the Indigenous have lived literally “in nature” in the Americas since the first Siberian Indigenous peoples crossed the Bering Strait land bridge some 12,000 years ago.

Science, for all its wonders, is an eyeblink compared to the millennia’s-worth of interactions with the land, the water and the sky the Indigenous peoples have experienced and embodied in their story-traditions.

It’s facile to ascribe a kind of collective guilt to the industrialized countries who colonized the Americas in utter ignorance of the learnings about the planet and its wellness—and who destroyed not just visible cultures but the invisible learnings which structured those cultures.

We, each of us, has a role to play. If not now, when? If not me, then whom?


Brands for Canada has undertaken a serious challenge: to mitigate the impact of industrialized overproduction on the ecology. We’re all about adaptive capacity—understanding how, from multiple visions of a better world (economic, social, cultural, and ecological), humanity will align to reshape our imperatives in the face of global climate disruption.

Two things: the wisdom of those who have lived closest to the land has been for centuries abused, ignored and marginalized. There is no conscience save a conscience informed by wisdom; we are at our peril if we ignore the consciences of those far more deeply imbued with the values of real stewardship of the earth.

Second, extreme weather events have deeply damaged the ecosystems of those cultures most dependent on living close to the earth and the oceans.  What we call prosperity has exacted terrible harm on the health of Indigenous peoples, from the peaceable fishing and hunting patterns thousands of years old disrupted in a matter of decades to healthcare fundamentals utterly destroyed because the cultural fabric required to support even the simplest of improvements in diet and well-being has been deracinated.

But to whom do the Indigenous communities themselves turn to in times of such complex moral questions? In many cases, the answer is instinctual: to those in the community held to be keepers of knowledge, of the sacred truths that bind the community to the land and to purpose.

The beautiful thing about such a choice—to look to the elders and the wise—is that it reflects the community’s own capacity for resilience.


That in mind, there are few online resources about the deep questions regarding global climate disruptions than the Assembly of First Nations web resources dedicated to “Honouring Earth”—and why the answers to those questions are true because they’re beautifully aligned with the spirit of the earth itself.

The spare prose of the web page is well worth considering in the spirit of Canada Day itself.

Sustainability isn’t just a pretty word: it’s been a way of life for those closest to the land since the dawn of time.