December 2020 | A “KINCENTRIC” VIEW OF LIFE.

“Indigenous people view both themselves and nature as part of an extended ecological family that shares ancestry and origins. It is an awareness that life in any environment is viable only when humans view the life surrounding them as kin.” Enrique Salmón.

Great horned owls. Photo by Zack Mikalonis

Dear Friends,
There has been no interview this month and that’s okay. December’s a good time to lie fallow. We can sow a cover crop to fertilize our soil. Here are some seeds from a wonderful article by Melissa Nelson, Decolonizing Conquest Consciousness. Melissa is an Indigenous ecologist, writer, editor, media-maker, and scholar-activist, and has headed The Cultural Conservancy for the past 25 years. She is also a professor of Indigenous Sustainability at Arizona State University. As host of the ‘Native Seed Pod’ podcast, now in its third season, Melissa’s work was mentioned in our interview Sacred Seeds II in June 2019.

Tansi Kia, Boozhoo Nindinawemagaanitog! I greet you all as relatives. I acknowledge and give thanks to my Anishinaabe, Cree, French, and Norwegian ancestors for giving me life. I am evidence of their survival. I acknowledge that I live and work on the lands of the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo peoples…I take a moment to recognize and give thanks to all of the First Peoples of Mickinaak Minis (Turtle Island), our Anishinaabe name for North America, and all of you around this sacred Earth.

…At this turning of seasons, the broken parts of our world are being uncovered and uplifted so we can see differently, re-learn to be human, and heal. Yet, how do we intelligently and compassionately respond to the broken world and act in times of such turmoil? What can we do to transform individual and planetary consciousness to live respectfully with the land, its creatures, and with one another?

First, let’s examine the root causes of our predicament. The problems we are facing, from climate chaos to societal upheaval, are not causes but are symptoms of a deeper imbalance in our relationship to the Earth, ourselves, and thus each other. As chief Oren Lyons, faith keeper of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy has said, there will be no peace on Earth until we end the war on Mother Earth. We end this war by listening to the wisdom and warnings of Indigenous leaders, including greater respect for Indigenous peoples’ distinct land-based sustainable practices. As Robin Kimmerer astutely observes, we need to restore the Earth but equally if not more importantly, we need to restore our relationship to the Earth. That is what has been broken on Turtle Island through over five hundred years of colonial ruptures and injustices. Humanity must transform conquest consciousness to kinship consciousness. The dominant worldview of conquest and greed must be transmuted to one of kinship, reciprocity, and generosity if we are to survive and thrive as human beings on a living Earth.

Group Effort. Photo by Tim Ray

As modern humans, we must decolonize conquest consciousness, which focuses on fragmentation, domination, competition, materialism, arrogance, and black-and-white binary thinking. This colonial mindset represents a hierarchical abuse of power that is exhibited in patriarchy, white supremacy, extractivism, and the commodification of the sacred, whether that be genetically modified seeds or human trafficking. Most of us have, sadly, been impacted and infected by conquest consciousness and need to decolonize our minds and behaviors to shift toward a new kinship worldview and lifeway. 

In our Anishinaabe oral tradition, we have stories about the dangers of conquest consciousness embodied in a greedy, frightening cannibal monster we call Windigo. This conquest consciousness has infected many and has eaten its way into the heads of countries. It is another type of pandemic—an addictive, insatiable mental illness of sorts. Humanity’s urgent challenge is to resist and banish the windigo consciousness. We need to embrace a worldview and way of living that recognizes all life as interwoven kin and understands that humility and generosity are essential laws of nature to ensure life continues…

Allen’s hummingbird. Photo by Zack Mikalonis

…Throughout the US there are currently dozens of massive fires raging in the West. Concurrently, a continuous cycle of hurricanes and freak storms ravage the Southeast. Some places have had 60 days of hazardous air, other places have no water or electricity, and yet others have too much water with extreme flooding and 125 mph winds ravaging towns. Climate chaos is shaking us up. We are re-learning, the hard way, to respect those processes that give us life: Air, Water, Earth, Fire. These elements are speaking to us and reminding us how precious they are. They provide essential physical support and also give us immense beauty and inspiration which are the foundations of culture and art. The natural world stimulates and fertilizes our imaginations. The Earth gives us what we need physically, but also what humans need emotionally and spiritually — that is the beauty of summer thunderclouds, autumn maple leaves, hummingbird movements, and crashing ocean waves. We bear witness to this beauty and also to the destruction of this beauty at the hands of the Windigo…

…We need a full spectrum transformation to decolonize, banish, and compost conquest consciousness from our heart-minds, communities, governments, and world. We must embrace kincentrism because our lives and the lives of so many others, depend on it…By revitalizing our kinship with each other and the Earth, we can transmute poison to medicine, disturbance into growth, pain into justice, and destruction into creation.

Reflective. Photo by Tim Ray


‘Short & Sweet 2’, the second zoom book launch for my new book, At This Table, is now edited and on my YouTube channel at this link. You can listen to David Field’s guitar music and these six poems: ‘Meeting’, ‘Stealing Fire’, ‘The Irish Fiddler’, ‘Squall’, ‘I Take Drugs’, and ‘Into Your Arms’. Enjoy!
Please consider the gift of poetry.
With all good wishes for your inner light to shine,


Xmas Day

Like a fool or a jester, 
            while we were lost 
in celebration,
            she kept a lone vigil, 
fast and prayer
for our souls, 
            and for the troubled spots;
where brothers and sisters
            had plain forgot, 
they were sisters
            and brothers.
Her tablecloth
            of fine hoar-frost,
lay spread 
            in the garden.
Her white hair, 
            normally wound in a bun,
streamed loose and wild 
over her black shawl,
            as she stepped outside
to share her bread
            and listen to 
each bird’s call.
Often she’d make
            soup for her guests,
who flocked 
            to her flat daily,
and she’d lighten 
            us with jokes.
Feasting with 
            family or friends,
I can’t help but recall 
            how starkly, 
and with what majesty, 
            her entire being 
sang of surrender.

Songs from a Small Universe

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