Also, during my work as a cultural anthropologist--indeed long before
I embarked on this second career--I became aware of the deep
reverence that the American Indian has held towards the Earth and
all the different life-forms therein. More recently I came across one
of the best ecological tomes I have ever read. At the very beginning
of this book, the American Indians were given their due. To quote:
"In America the Great Work of the First Peoples was to occupy this
continent and establish an intimate rapport with the powers that
brought this continent into existence in all its magnificence. They
did this through their ceremonies such as the Great Thanksgiving
ritual of the Iroquois, the sweat lodge and the vision quest of the
Plains Indians, through the Chantways of the Navaho, and the
Katsina rituals of the Hopi. Through these and a multitude of other
aspects of the indigenous cultures of this continent, certain models
were established of how humans become integral with the larger
context of our existence here on the planet Earth."
[Thomas Berry, THE GREAT WORK: OUR WAY INTO THE
FUTURE, Well Tower, 1999, p. 2.]
And it would seem that once again American Indian spiritual
scholars are attending to their old ways and applying them in
contemporary ways when it comes to the human relationship
with Mother Earth. Continuing in my thought, I oft ponder over
my very own Indian spirit guide. Who is he? What does he
Surmising, considering the presence of the American Indian
on this continent for thousands of years, perhaps their composite
spirits are "embedded* in the Earth. Indeed, many of their
Creation stories talk about their coming forth out of the Earth.
They are creations of the Earth, so to speak. Perhaps they
return to the Earth, and somehow their spirits speak with a
common voice--hence, for me, my Indian spirit guide. I was
Perhaps others as well? I am thinking of my idea of the "Guard,"
in that in other ways this Indian Spirit speaks to them, draws them
towards becoming stewards of the Earth.
However, these days it is different I suppose. It is ironic that all
manner of folk now seem to be graced, drawn towards a greater
respect for the planet and its majestic natural enclaves. Perhaps
seeing the astronauts' Earth photographs, seeing our beautiful
blue planet from the perspective of the moon, now privy to satellite
pictures, we are finally viewing this planet and its continents, our
continent, in a keenly different way. It really, really is our
To end my little story, I must make mention the word "Gaia."
Though I'm mystical in my way, I'm also scientifically inclined.
Gaia was a Greek goddess who personified the Earth. But
we moderns have taken over her name. Awhile back a scientist
by the name of James Lovelock, a fellow of Britain's Royal
Society, worked with the NASA space program. Looking at
satellite photographs, he could see the Earth as a *whole.*
He re-coined the word "Gaia." And in more scientific terms, the
name for Earth, Gaia, is represented as a "vast self-regulating
organism." As for myself, I think of the Earth as a self-regulating
natural system composed of nearly an infinity of intelligible
And it is the All of this incredible natural system, our precious
home, that we need protect as "Gaia's Guard."