Source: A Haskell Indian Nations University production for NASA's Where Words Touch The Earth
In this video segment, learn about the relationship between humans and nature. Listen to a tribal Elder make the connection between the Mythic Trickster, a troublemaker whose plans consistently backfire in story after story, and modern humanity, which has disturbed natural systems with unanticipated consequences. In addition, hear an Elder’s observation that modern humanity no longer listens to nature and that, to help save ourselves, we need to accept that nature has knowledge to share. The video segment was adapted from a student video produced at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.
Water—an essential component of nature that cycles through living and nonliving systems on Earth—binds the environment together. Life could not exist without water; it is a vital ingredient for all of Earth's ecosystems and is considered sacred among Native peoples. The hydrologic cycle continuously exchanges water between Earth's surface and the atmosphere; this natural cycle moves water between different reservoirs, including oceans, glaciers, lakes, aquifers, the biosphere, and the atmosphere. However, this natural recycling process has its limits, and water resources have become endangered because of human activity. Overuse and pollution have reduced the availability and quality of water resources in many areas.
How has this once abundant natural resource become a commodity in need of protection? Although indigenous peoples have traditionally lived in harmony with nature—maintaining a respect for the land and a sustainable impact on the environment—not all of humankind follows such practices. In modern times, lifestyles have shifted away from an intimate connection with nature. As a result, water pollution has become a major concern, with fertilizers, insecticides, animal waste, and motor oil just a few examples of pollutants. In addition, excessive water consumption is a concern in areas where fresh water is scarce.
Modern humankind has been likened to the Mythic Trickster—a troublemaker character in stories that are often told as cautionary tales. Trickster myths are often creation stories about natural phenomena, and impart lessons based on a long history of Native experience. The Trickster character is frequently represented by an anthropomorphic creature (often a raven, coyote, or spider) who possesses both good and bad qualities; the Trickster may be mischievous or foolish, but he is not evil. Perhaps, as often happens to the Trickster, humankind's plan has backfired; the desire to control the environment has led to a variety of environmental problems and negative consequences.
Humans are a part of the natural world, but it is important to remember that humans cannot ultimately control nature. The traditional Native perspective understands that all living and nonliving things relate to one another and have knowledge to share, and that humans are just one part of this complex web. Traditional ecological knowledge has been accumulated over generations of people who have learned from the land; by listening to nature, a deep and spiritual understanding of the natural world is possible. In order to help preserve the environment for future generations, the Native perspective suggests that humankind must re-establish its relationship with nature.
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