“If what we want for our people is patriotism, then let us inspire true love of country by invoking the land herself. If we want to raise good leaders, let us remind our children of the eagle and the maple. If we want to grow good citizens, then let us teach reciprocity. If what we aspire to is justice for all, then let it be justice for all Creation.”
— Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
A topic I continue to explore through Hina Luna is that of ‘belonging’. Where and from who do we come from? Where and from whom do we belong? I believe that the process of answering these questions for ourselves can offer us a sense of purpose and can help us to build our community. This Love In Action feature introduces us to a grassroots organization that is reuniting Indigenous people of all ages with the land and their cultural ways of life.
The Cultural Conservancy is a Native-led non-profit organization working to protect and restore Indigenous cultures by empowering them in the direct application of traditional knowledge and practices on their ancestral lands. Founded in 1985, TCC is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, unceded Ohlone land and territories of Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo peoples, but their community extends far beyond.
The Cultural Conservancy works with California tribes, Native Americans around the US and Canada, Pacific Islanders, and Indigenous communities in Central and South America on a wide variety of community-based projects, from sacred site protection to the revitalization of endangered languages, arts, and song traditions. Central to TCC’s work is acknowledgement of the sacred relationship of Native peoples to their land and waters, and the importance of their physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Reconnecting people to the land is a necessary collective effort for the sake of our survival, wellbeing, and quality of life as humans. It also hold the incredible power to heal the individual and their lineage.
Indigenous cultural practices are a devotion to reciprocity with the land and, as Kimmerer said, “all Creation”. Reciprocity is a collaborative relationship, one of interdependence for mutual benefit which is essential to all parts of the whole thriving. This is the beating heart of The Cultural Conservancy. This month, I invite you to join me in donating to and uplifting their good work.
In Their Words
“We understand that the world—Mother Earth, humanity, and all life—is in crisis today and humanity needs to change our current course. Societies and institutions change only when people change. And people change through transformative experiences, the power of creative imagination, and the transcendence of spiritual insights—all inspired by a sense of the sacred. Visions, experiences, teachings, and a-ha moments change our way of looking at the world and ourselves. Once we taste Te Ha, “the breath of life that connects us all” (Maori language), we gain a larger vision, and there is no turning back. Then we have an obligation and responsibility to live and act with that new vision in mind.
TCC understands that to accomplish our mission, we must inspire these types of transformative experiences through innovative programs. Therefore, we are committed to facilitating, producing, convening, building, nurturing, and funding learning communities and programs where holistic Indigenous knowledge and lifeways are at the forefront. We understand that Indigenous cultures and their ways of knowing and being are critically important and need to be protected and nurtured by their own culture bearers and leaders and by allies such as TCC.”
Projects They’re Currently Cultivating
✷ Native Foodways Through the revitalization of Native foods, lands, and lifeways, the Native Foodways Program mends the circles within Native communities that have been disrupted by cultural, environmental, and economic destruction. TCC stewards land, grows Native heirloom food and seed, and provides intertribal and intergenerational gathering spaces for community members to teach, listen, learn, dream, and reconnect.
✷ Land Stewardship Learn about Heron Shadow, a TCC project and Native place of refuge and learning for community engagement, connection to the land, growing Indigenous foods, and nourishing Indigenous and intercultural relations.
✷ Native Arts Learn about how TCC provides opportunities for Native communities to animate their voices, engaging in intergenerational, traditionally grounded, immersion experiences such as carving and weaving workshops, internships, youth programs, media trainings, Indigenous agricultural science and art exhibits. These gatherings foster community connection and storytelling, traditional artistic expressions, Native science practices and diverse Indigenous worldviews through integrative practice.
✷ Native Media Honoring both traditional media, such as sculpture and weaving, and new media to embody and express cultural sovereignty, learn how TCC works with Native media based in Indigenous principles and values to weave their relations more strongly together and embody their stories, knowledge, wisdom, beauty and dreams.
✷ Youth and Elders Youth and Elders are integrated into all of their work, which is inherently intergenerational, as they work together to clear the spring of their minds, hearts, bodies and communities, serving not only living generations, but also their ancestors and descendents. Youth and elders engage in activities such as harvesting and weaving native tule plants, participating in community workshops to build canoes, holding night astronomy sessions with traditional Hawaiian navigators teaching Native star sciences, and studying clean water systems to revitalize traditional water springs in the historical Presidio National Park of San Francisco.
How We Can Help Keep The Information Circulating
✷ Listen to The Native Seed Podcast
✷ Visit their online resource library (virtual exhibits, audio, video and more)
✷ Visit and Subscribe to their YouTube channel
✷ Follow them on Instagram
✷ Visit their website and learn more
Mutual Aid : Solidarity Not Charity
The Cultural Conservancy utilizes a “solidarity not charity” strategy in their partnerships with tribes and Indigenous communities, knowing that they, as native people and inter-cultural allies, have much to learn from the communities they partner with. We are committed to a process of reciprocal transformation where we (native nonprofit, grassroots Indigenous communities, and funders) can mutually learn and gain from each other.
Our monetary support helps The Cultural Conservancy continue to build relationships with Native communities and carry out its programs, including:
✷ Native nutrition & cooking classes
✷ Growing produce for Native health centers
✷ Youth mentorship in our youth programs
✷ Transporting urban youth to Native farm classes
✷ Online courses for our international indigenous partners
✷ Native youth foodways internship
✷ Transcribing an elder’s recorded story
*information provided by nativeland.org