Below is the edited transcript of the video above:

Ocean Robbins: Welcome to Food Revolution Conversations. I’m Ocean Robbins, co-founder and CEO of Food Revolution Network. Our focus on this interview is on how we are able to be taught from indigenous knowledge to assist us restore proper relation with our personal lives, with one another, and with our planet.

I’m thrilled to be joined for this interview by indigenous activist, ecologist, scientist, and therapeutic meals advocate, Lyla June. Lyla is an indigenous environmental scientist and wholesome meals techniques advocate. She’s a doctoral scholar on the University of New Mexico and an educator, neighborhood organizer, musician, and inspiration to a complete lot of individuals, together with me. 

Her work focuses on private, collective, and ecological therapeutic. Her internationally acclaimed performances and speeches convey collectively prayer, hip hop, poetry, acoustic music, and phrases. Her private objective is to develop nearer to Creator by studying tips on how to love deeper. Lyla, welcome.

Lyla June: Thank you a lot for having me, Ocean.

Indigenous Cultural Sophistication

view of forest clearing

Ocean Robbins: Well, I’m simply thrilled to have this time with you. There’s a little bit of a fable that indigenous folks, pre-Columbus, had been primitive. Yet, the reality is that there have been extraordinarily subtle cultures that did one thing that actually no one in industrialized civilization has come near doing, which was truly making the Earth increasingly plentiful and delightful. Can you share a little bit bit about that and what your research have taught you in regards to the historical past there?

Lyla June: My PhD work is on the intersection of indigenous meals techniques and indigenous land administration, and the way we’d domesticate the pure food-bearing capability of total bioregions. Even although I’m getting my PhD in it, I’m nonetheless like a little bit child in comparison with a few of my elders who’ve been not simply speaking about this, however dwelling it their complete life. I’ll simply illustrate what you’re speaking about with a few examples.

The Shawnee

Lyla June: One is in Kentucky. The Shawnee ancestors, they really created a meals forest. We know this as a result of the fossilized pollen report is there within the ponds. And you possibly can date the macrofossils and the pollen to see how previous it’s. What we see is that about three,000 years in the past, the Shawnee Osage ancestors, in what we now name Kentucky, truly sustained a meals forest of black walnut, chestnut, hickory nut, acorn, sumpweed, goosefoot, all these edible plant species in that space for three,000 years.

We additionally see fossilized charcoal, which signifies that they managed this with (low-intensity burns) clearing the understory, ensuring you solely have 13 bushes per acre — which is a really skinny forest. Because across the US right this moment, we see a variety of overgrown forests the place you’ve a variety of actually sick bushes as a substitute of some actually sturdy and wholesome ones. 

We noticed this inflow of pollen are available three,000 years in the past and fully change a cedar and hemlock-dominated forest. They simply moved in, reworked the entire place right into a meals forest, and endured for three,000 years. 

The Bella Bella

Lyla June: Another instance is the Heiltsuk (often known as Bella Bella), neighborhood in British Columbia. They’re proper up between Vancouver and Alaska, on the shoreline in British Columbia. They hand plant kelp forests — to this present day. And they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years. The impact of this kelp forest cultivation is that it will increase the floor space upon which the herring, which is a small, silver fish, can lay its eggs. 

The Heiltsuk folks construct these enormous forests of a particular kelp that grows sooner than any crops had been used to. I feel it’s like a meter every week or one thing like that. And so, you’ve plentiful floor space. This elevated floor space offers a house for the fish eggs that in flip present the inspiration for a whole meals internet. The seals eat them, and so they in flip develop into meals for the orca whales. The salmon, the wolves, the eagles, the people — everybody up the meals chain is dependent upon the herring roe.

And, in fact, the herring could be very outstanding of their (the Heiltsuk’s) creation tales, of their histories, of their cultural data and tales. Essentially, it’s an necessary a part of the ecosystem there, and so they perceive that. And they domesticate it. That’s one other instance.

The Amah Mutsun

Lyla June: In Santa Cruz, California, you’ve the Amah Mutsun folks. The chairman, Val Lopez, mentioned that their rule of thumb was to have about 13 bushes per acre. (By having a couple of massive robust bushes, with loads of area between them, they had been in a position to dramatically scale back forest hearth hazard.) The oak groves offered plentiful acorns, which are literally extremely scrumptious and nutritious. These oak bushes have fire-resistant bark as a result of they co-evolved with human hearth for thus lengthy.

Clam Gardens

Lyla June: Then, one of many different examples I like to present is the clam gardens. The clams prefer to exist a sure depth under the ocean floor. And so, alongside the shoreline, many countries will truly improve the depth of the shoreline to create habitat for these clams. 

And so, what I’m discovering is a variety of indigenous meals techniques are about habitat building, such that your meals will come to you, and also you don’t should go to it. And you not solely create meals for your self and your folks, however for all dwelling beings since you’re not the one one consuming these clams.

Resource Overconsumption

filling glass with tap water

Ocean Robbins: Well, thanks for sharing all of that. It’s truly very heartening, I feel, for these of us who suppose that we’ve to invent one thing that’s by no means been earlier than to ensure that our species to outlive — to comprehend that we’ve some knowledge we are able to draw upon. Just for example… We are on useful resource consumption overshoot all over the world. We are depleting our aquifers at an unsustainable charge and billions of persons are going to expire of consuming water within the subsequent technology.

We are depleting our topsoil. In reality, UN researchers have estimated that we may run out of farmable soil within the subsequent couple of generations as a result of the quantity of soil that we’ve to develop our meals is a 3rd of what it was within the US when Columbus landed. 

We’re destabilizing our local weather, creating extra droughts and floods. And with much less topsoil, they trigger extra injury. Droughts are extra intense as a result of there’s much less water saved within the soil. Floods are extra damaging, and so they wash away what soil there may be. And it doesn’t maintain the water.

All of this may trigger devastation. And all of this impacts our skill to develop meals for future generations. These sorts of ideas, how we stroll and dwell and develop our meals, are elementary to our survival.

Stewards of Biodiversity

colorful vegetables in compartmentalized tray

Lyla June: Absolutely. About 60% of the meals that the world enjoys come initially from indigenous peoples of the Americas as a result of our meals sciences had been so subtle. 

As chances are you’ll know, native peoples — which means folks with hundreds of years of historical past in a spot — are about 5% of the worldwide inhabitants. And but, they’re overseeing, in line with a current UN report, 80% of the world’s biodiversity. This concept that we had been simpletons or primitive couldn’t be farther from the reality as a result of we had an unbelievable data of the biodiversity ideas that truly cultivated and, such as you mentioned, regenerated the land round us.

Ocean Robbins: When you say that indigenous peoples characterize 5% of the world’s inhabitants and but are stewards of 80% of the world’s biodiversity, do you imply that that the animal and plant species of the world are hyper-concentrated in areas that indigenous peoples are serving to to guard?

Lyla June: Yes, they maintain tenure over about 20% of the Earth’s land which holds about 80% of the world’s biodiversity, by species depend.

The Vitalness Of Indigenous Peoples

Ocean Robbins: That’s truly excellent news for followers of biodiversity as a result of it signifies that a variety of the world’s species are at the moment, to some extent, being protected by indigenous peoples who’ve a fairly good monitor report of caring for biodiversity. But, in fact, in lots of components of the world, these lands are threatened, even right this moment. It isn’t simply that encroachment on native peoples occurred a whole bunch of years in the past. It’s persevering with every single day in a lot of these very hotspots that you simply’re describing with oil exploration, with deforestation, with cattle ranching, and so forth.

Lyla June: Yes. Native peoples aren’t only a cute factor to have round. They truly are important to the persistence of humanity. And it’s time to cease treating us as if we’re disposable as a result of we’re not. 

And so, it’s not nearly defending these lands. It’s about defending the folks. And it’s not nearly defending the folks’s our bodies. It’s about defending our data as a result of that’s what is sustaining all of it. 

Living Within a Capitalist System

seedling sitting on coins in dirt

Ocean Robbins: It appears to me that one of many challenges that some indigenous peoples face is tips on how to work together with a capitalist financial system and but protect their values, tradition, and so forth. And for those who are actually in a position to be self-sufficient, it’s one factor. But after they develop into depending on exterior inputs, whether or not it’s know-how, or web, or meals techniques, then it’s a lot tougher to keep up sovereignty inside their very own communities. 

What is your tackle tips on how to navigate that? Every neighborhood is totally different and each context is totally different, however what are a few of the ideas you maintain for a way indigenous peoples can protect, maintain, and deepen their tradition or their values in communities all over the world, care for his or her ecosystems that all of us depend upon for our survival, and on the similar time, discover a technique to dwell in relationship to the trendy world?

Lyla June: Well, that’s the million-dollar query. But from what I’ve seen, an enormous drawback is solved by doing precisely what we’re doing, which is debunking the parable of who’s civilized and who just isn’t. I feel we’ve to debunk this mythology that claims that native cultures are inferior, and US Western civilization is superior. And once we try this, we’ll make extra room for indigenous worldviews, cosmologies, and practices. 

An Interconnected World

Ocean Robbins: One of the issues that’s occurring to me on this dialog, too, is that no one exists in isolation. We all breathe the identical air, drink the identical water, and share a standard local weather. And in that sense, the survival of indigenous peoples does rely indirectly on the survival of humanity as a complete. 

And so, in that sense, I feel we come again sort of full circle to say, not simply how can indigenous folks survive in face of the onslaught of violence, but additionally how can the industrialized world reconnect with our rightful place as people on this planet?

And it appears to me that most individuals I do know in North America carry a deep feeling of loneliness of their hearts, a sense of uprootedness, a sense of not fairly belonging. And we tackle that in every kind of various methods. I feel that loneliness kills extra quickly than cigarettes do. And it’s one of many epidemics of the industrialized world. Do you suppose that there’s indigenous knowledge that would assist everyone, no matter the place their ancestors come from, or the place they dwell right this moment, to really feel extra of a way of belonging to the world?

Honoring Our Ancestors

group holding globe above their heads

Lyla June: Yeah.  If you return far sufficient, we’re all of an indigenous folks or peoples. 

I imply, I’m half European by and enormous. My European facet does have a little bit little bit of native tribes blended in there. But for essentially the most half, my ancestors on that facet are Scottish, Scandinavian, and possibly different issues.

And after I was within the hogan with my mom’s folks — it’s a standard sacred constructing — as we sat in it, we needed to introduce all of our clans. All of our 4 grandparents, we’ve to say the place they’re from. So I used to be saying the European ones, and impulsively, I may really feel these ancestors coming in. And I used to be overtaken by their love and their kindness and their magnificence. 

My complete life, I had been skilled to suppose that white was unhealthy. That white folks had been the slave house owners and those who dedicated genocide. But in that ceremony, they got here very strongly. And I knew that I used to be indigenous all the way in which round, and that I needed to honor ALL of my ancestors. 

And so, I did return to Europe. I went to the British Isles, Switzerland, Italy, and France, and I prayed on the mountains. I may really feel that we Euro-Americans come from a land, too.

We Are All of the Land

Lyla June: And I actually noticed that our job as white folks is to shake the amnesia and to do not forget that we’re from stunning lands and goddess-worshiping peoples. They discovered these clay effigies throughout Europe. And one in all them was present in German soil. And it’s of a girl. And it’s imagined to symbolize the fertility of the earth, the fertility of ladies and honoring ladies. And they radiocarbon dated it; it was 40,000 years previous. So that is how lengthy our folks have been utilizing their fingers to mould the clay into an effigy to honor the sanctity of the earth and of ladies. And that’s who we’re (and what we come from).

And the skinny wall of time that dominates our understanding of Europe — King Louis, Napoleon, The Inquisition, the witch burnings — that’s not who we’re. That was a really laborious time the place our folks suffered tremendously, and far of the indigenous data was misplaced with our grandmothers.

But in the event you go earlier than that, you will notice wealthy, indigenous European tradition. And so completely we do belong; we’re of an exquisite folks.

Ocean Robbins: Oh, thanks. There’s one thing sort of elementary right here to how we understand ourselves as human beings. The fact is, I can typically have a look at people as a little bit of a scourge on the Earth. I imply, we torture animals in manufacturing unit farms. And in all places we go, folks have a tendency — many people — to journey round and go away issues worse than we discovered them. But you’re telling us that’s not who we’re, that we even have the capability to dwell in concord with nature and to make issues extra stunning for our being right here. That’s good to know, to say the least.

Indigenous Farming Practices

closeup variety of colorful corn

Ocean Robbins: Indigenous farming practices have performed a big function in natural farming and built-in pest administration in trendy permaculture, as practiced right this moment. Can you give any examples of ways in which indigenous practices are literally being extensively used proper now?

Lyla June: Well, in fact, you’ve polyculture. That was our basic precept, proper? The extra, the merrier. So in the event you simply have a look at our corn, for instance, we’ve a whole bunch and a whole bunch and a whole bunch of sorts of corn. Even these varieties are ever-evolving as a result of we’re repeatedly cross-pollinating. 

I introduced some Pueblo corn to my buddy earlier this spring, and he crossed-pollinated it with his blue corn. We had two totally different strands of blue corn to create a brand new blue corn. That is what we’re at all times making an attempt to do is diversify genes at each alternative. 

You even have, in fact, the biochar motion arising, which is humorous as a result of indigenous peoples at all times burned just about from coast to coast. You’d see widespread, low-intensity burns that truly would improve the soil. You have the transformation of particles into potassium, nitrogen, and different bioavailable vitamins that the grasslands love. One tablespoon of biochar has a soccer subject’s price of floor space. Because the charcoal has all these miniature flats for microbes within it. When you burn, you’re not simply injecting bioavailable vitamins into the soil. You are additionally creating properties for microbes and to create a dwelling soil. 

Water Systems & Aquaculture

Lyla June: Loads of us are eager about water, proper? Here’s a very loopy concept: don’t pollute the floor water! That means, you don’t should drill so deep into the earth to get water. It’s simply flowing proper there to you. 

I imply, Flint, Michigan, and the entire rivers which might be stuffed with fertilizers and different poisonous supplies, they’re all serving to us be taught what doesn’t work.

One final fast instance I’ll give is Tenochtitlan, which is now Mexico City. Before the Spanish arrived, it was a floating metropolis on Lake Texcoco. And they really created these floating gardens.

Imagine a metropolis excreting poop and urine all day lengthy, and so they nonetheless didn’t toxify their water supply. They had unbelievable methods of truly recycling their dung — their very own human dung! It was so precious. Your personal poop was so precious you may take it to the market in Tenochtitlan and commerce it for issues. 

Ocean Robbins: Wow. That’s fairly a picture. We joke about promoting S-H-I-T, however it truly was occurring. Well, that’s fascinating. 


Ocean Robbins: And simply so as to add a few different items, you’ve used a few phrases. You talked about polyculture, and also you talked about meals forests. 

And I simply wish to make clear that polyculture means a number of crops. Instead of a monocrop the place you’re simply rising a large subject of 1 factor, you’re having companion planting and crops mixing it up. And planting one factor in a single season and one other factor in one other season. That creates a range within the soil. Different crops give various things and take various things. And they steadiness one another out. You truly create richer and richer soil while you try this in an clever means, just like the three sisters, for instance. Which are squash, beans, and corn.

Lyla June: And the fourth, which is amaranth.

Ocean Robbins: Amaranth. Yes — and so they work in beautiful concord. 

And then, there’s additionally, in fact, planting nitrogen-fixing crops — cowl crops as we name them typically.

Lyla June: Yes.

Ocean Robbins: That additionally enriches the soil. It truly provides nitrogen to the soil, which then makes the subsequent crops that come after extra plentiful and vibrant. And these are all methods we restore the soil fairly than simply extracting from it.

Lyla June: Correct.

Food Forests

Ocean Robbins: And a meals forest, if I perceive it appropriately, that refers to when you’ve bushes, fruit bushes, or nut bushes, or different kinds of food-producing bushes. And then you definately’ve additionally acquired different crops on the base of them.

Lyla June: Yes.

Ocean Robbins: And there’s a concord there as effectively, proper?

Lyla June: Yes. There’s a variety of cool paleo-ecological work being executed, which principally means trying into the previous. What did the forest appear to be 10,000 years in the past, or 30,000 years in the past? Every single examine that I’ve been perusing talks about how there was a hyper dominance of edible plant species, particularly round sure indigenous settlements. People would plant (and nurture) the crops that gave them meals. 

Humanity’s Spiritual Crisis

Ocean Robbins: I wish to sort of take us to a broader degree right here. I’ve heard you describe the issues humanity is dealing with within the industrialized world as being partly a religious disaster. What do you imply by that? How do you see that?

Lyla June: Well, we don’t perceive how the world works. We don’t perceive that I’m not simply speaking to Ocean proper now. I’m speaking to Ocean and the entire spirits that hang around with Ocean, whether or not they’re discovered, or whether or not they’re misplaced. We are usually not solely biochemical beings. Even while you’re sitting, you’re not simply sitting. There’s a lot occurring within you. Not solely are we biochemical, however we’re additionally interacting with a religious world. And sadly, the enlightenment period has type of dumbed our senses to have the ability to perceive that we’re part of a dwelling, respiratory, religious world as effectively.

So, once we’re restoring meals techniques, we’re additionally restoring communities. And we’re restoring spirits; we’re restoring cultures. 

Cultivating an Inner Environment

hands planting seedlings in dirt

Lyla June: So, I’ll simply finish by saying this. What I used to be taught by my elders is that to carry the ancestors in you and to be the fingers and the ft of Creator, we’d like two foremost situations: nothing for the self, and no worry. And so, that nothing for the self piece, it means you’re not doing it for fame and status. And you’re not doing it only for cash. 

So, it’s not solely about cultivating meals forests and gardens, and natural farming. It’s about cultivating an inside setting that may maintain area for the ancestors, for the angels, or no matter your tradition calls it, so you possibly can truly develop into the fingers and ft of one thing better than your self.

Those two situations, nothing for the self and no worry, have actually — as soon as I realized that, a variety of issues in my life needed to change. And I’m nonetheless fine-tuning it. But think about if we taught younger people who in class. It would change every thing. But as a substitute, we’ve a homecoming queen and a homecoming king. And you wish to be the preferred. You need your status on the market. And you’re going to high school to get a job to get cash.

So, we nearly practice the drugs particular person out of each baby. And I feel that what we’re making an attempt to domesticate along with these meals techniques, is an inside setting that may maintain that love and that compassion that makes human cultures wholesome.

Ocean Robbins: Thank you. I’d additionally add that gardening, simply touching soil, interacting with crops, could be very therapeutic and restorative. In my expertise, there’s one thing satisfying about it that goes past the truth that I get meals, or that I’ve meals safety. Those are fantastic issues, however there’s additionally one thing about being linked to a way of place.

There’s nothing fairly like truly getting your fingers within the dust and truly feeling the supply of life rising in your individual yard or in your individual kitchen, in the event you simply have little sprouts on the counter, to really feel like, “Wow, I’m part of life happening.” It’s very humbling in a means, as a result of we really feel our sense of dependency on the pure world, which actually does give all of us life.

A Song About Water

hands held out catching water

Ocean Robbins: Lyla, I do know that amongst different issues you’re an artist, with phrases and tune. And I’m wondering in the event you would share one thing with us right this moment as we full our time collectively?

Lyla June: Sure. I used to be going to learn a poem. But now, as we had been speaking, I used to be remembering I wrote a tune about water. This goes to be launched quickly with the music video and all of that. It’s truly principally the phrases of a Mescalero Apache elder by the title of Oliver Enjady. So as I sing this tune, preserve them in your ideas. I simply instructed him, “What about water? What do our old people tell us about water?” And that is what he mentioned. And I mentioned, “How do I put that into a song?” He gave me an extended listing of notes that I attempted to show right into a tune, so right here we go.

[SINGING] He mentioned, it’s not a tune; it’s a lifestyle. It’s a without end factor; it’s a message. He mentioned, you possibly can say that our water is life. You can sing it many times, however will they hear?

Are we going to face by these phrases? Are we going to discover a technique to change the way in which we’re dwelling, Mother Earth? She feels every thing, and it hurts. Like the moon, just like the physique of a girl, she is altering.

Can we return to the occasions when water was alive, once we prayed at her edge, and gave thanks for this life? When the water fell from the sky, and we drank from her bosom. When the water fell from our eyes, and the water fell from our wombs? When it rose as much as the floor, now we knew each spring. No worry of competitors, only a relative to all issues.

We are folks of the solar. We are folks of the water. We will have a good time our sons, we are going to have a good time our daughters: give them ceremonies, so when the drought comes, they’ll be prepared.

Will the subsequent struggle be for water? All our options are a part of the issue, can’t win struggle with struggle. There is multiple creation story. Worlds have died, and worlds have been reborn earlier than.

When you contact the water, you contact the world. From tallest peaks to Gulf Streams, the recollections they maintain. We promote her by the acre-foot, and deal with her as our captive. The rivers are undrinkable whereas the aquifer’s extracted.

Our meals will want water to develop, however do it’s a must to take all of it? We attempt to maintain her and management her as we watch our empire fall.

He mentioned it’s not a tune, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a without end factor; it’s a message. He mentioned, you possibly can say that water is life. You can sing it many times, however can you reside it?

Healing Through Connection to the Earth

Ocean Robbins: Thank you.

Lyla June: Thank you for letting me share.

Ocean Robbins: As you had been sharing, it actually moved me while you sang in regards to the water that flows in our tears and flows from wombs. And I felt this actuality that we’re principally water.

And immediately, this phantasm that people are separate from the Earth simply sort of dissolved for me, and I felt the fact that we’re the Earth. We are a part of the Earth. And the Earth invitations us to come back residence to that figuring out so we are able to reclaim our fact, which is that we’re expressions of life on this planet — longing, I feel, to heal and get to be a part of that therapeutic.

Lyla June: I’m glad it may have that impact.

Ocean Robbins: Yes. Well, we’ve been speaking right here with Lyla June, indigenous activist, scientist, ecologist, advocate, singer, and songwriter. You can discover out extra about her at: 

She mentioned, it’s not in regards to the ego, it’s not about worry. It’s actually not, and we additionally wish to construct connections. So, if folks wish to contact her, please achieve this. 

Lyla, it’s been an actual privilege to share this time with you, and I look ahead to extra sooner or later.

Lyla June: Yes. Thank you, Ocean. I respect it.

Tell us within the feedback:

  • Do you are feeling impressed by this interview?

  • Do you ever really feel disconnected? How do you restore your connection to others and the Earth?

  • Do you suppose indigenous knowledge can add which means and worth to your life or to our world?

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