From Shasta Bioregional Gathering 5

Sustainable SF

Restoring Sacredness to Places
Chris Peters

My fatherís people were from Trinidad and its coastal areas. Those people still carry out the ceremonies that resulted from years of trial and error, of revelation and of guidance. They embrace a concept of ever-lasting life without final conflict. Among Native populations, a lot of spirit, energy, ceremony, and sense of community still exist. But the impacts of massacres, a 200-year holocaust, and forcible acculturation have taken us to our limit. We are reaching a point where Native people will begin to leave as the spirit people left before we came here.

These days, the number of Native people deeply committed to ceremony are few. A true commitment to ceremony involves searching for spirit within an ecosystem, and communicating with that spirit. A paradigm has evolved from this search for the spirit in nature, and has helped native people to maintain a balanced ecosystem here in Northern California. Government policies and actions have severely threatened this paradigm, pushing us to the brink of extinction.

Sacred places are not meaningful because Native people say they are important; they are sacred to a bioregion. Without sacred places, things tend to fall apart. These places will not be saved until they are acknowledged by all living things. Other living creatures acknowledge them and benefit from them as humans tend not to. For bioregionalism to be effective, a systemic change needs to occur. There has to be a growth beyond the anthropocentric, overly-simplistic solutions that some spiritualities offer, into an embrace of a total world existence.

It is time for a new revelation that takes off where Native people stop. Ceremony evolves in a bioregion; the kind of ceremony that is accepted by everyone -- not only environmentalists, but businesses and whatever else exists in the community. That type of community-binding happens only when a population embraces ceremony.

--Excerpted from a talk by Chris Peters; transcribed by Maria Wickland.
Appears here in edited form.