Indigenous Tribes Promote Sustainable Solutions

Indigenous People are humanity’s connection to the land and to its’ history. Whether it is through an understanding of plant-medicine, ceremony, or stewarding the land, we all have a lot to learn from tribal communities. Long before Bill Mollison coined the term Permaculture, natives were living and working in harmony with the natural elements in a celebration of lives’ bounty. It should be no surprise that indigenous tribes are now combining modern permaculture techniques with traditional ways to lead a revolution of sustainable solutions. If you are wondering just how you can make a positive change in the world you will enjoy learning about these tribes!


If you are not familiar with Bill Mollison, he is certainly someone worth taking some time to learn about. Permaculture is modeled off of traditional agriculture practices and is an integrated system of design which Mollison co-developed with David Holmgren. This modern expression with ancient roots will continue to become invaluable as humans rise to address global ecological issues. Many believe that this integration between spiritual and scientific is a fulfillment of Eagle and Condor Prophecy.

The Hopi

Screen Shot 2016-10-07 at 5.49.31 PMPerhaps the longest continuously thriving agricultural villages in North America are the ancient Hopi People. The often call corn their mother. This is not necessarily a metaphor because the cultivation of corn and other crops was the moment in history when people went from hunting/gathering, to become villages and farmers. This was also in many ways the birth of culture because people now had to stay in one place and learn how to get along. Storing grains also allowed for populations to grow, creating more leisure time. This led to the onset of ceremonial cycles that are place-based, and the evolution of sacred dances, music, and storytelling. In this regard, corn is the mother of human civilization.

In a similar way that tribes in the deep jungle speak of the ways plants communicate to them through medicinal concoctions, the Hopi listened to the corn. They say that it taught them how to be farmers. Living in the arid high desert, their farming technique is known as dry farming. Corn is planted deep in the soil where it stays moist from winter snow despite weeks without rain in the summer. Of course it is believed that their dances help the crops grow and bring rain. There is a logic to the notion that humans, who are basically made of electrically-charged water, when unified in spirit and dancing can bring clouds which are also electrically charged water. In this way they also believe that humans are relatives of the clouds.

Today on Hopi, their traditions continue, but like everywhere else they are evolving and adapting to changing times. The Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture Institute is a shining example of this community-inspired sustainable revolution. The Hopi are not alone in this global movement, with the help of internet and social media, people everywhere are sharing ideas creating hopeful solutions locally to global issues.

In the Hopi language “Hopi Tutskwa” refers to the life ways and knowledge of the land and soil. The origins of Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture stem from a deep commitment to maintain our distinct identity and lifeways as Hopi people in order to pass knowledge to the future generations and rebuild sustainable and healthy communities. -Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture Institute

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The Ashaninka

In the Oxapampa- Asháninka -Yanesha biosphere reserve, their ancestral home in the Amazon, the Ashaninka are also innovating in beautiful ways. Though their environment is very different from the high desert of Arizona, nature provides them with everything they need. Our modern world has the luxury of shipping things long distances, but this comes at a cost to the environment. Permaculture attempts to source locally which reduces the human footprint on the land.

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The Ashaninka understand this well though their region is classified as a biodiversity hotspot, it is also under intense pressure from human activities such as deforestation and overfishing of tropical fish, that endanger local species including humans. They have a shamanic culture where they work with various plant medicines and their core beliefs are centered around harmony with the land. This sacred connection between humans and the land has been lost in many parts of the world and will be essential to our survival as a species.

Since 2013, the Asháninka Association of Integrated and Sustainable Fisheries (Asociación Asháninka Productores de Peces Integral Sostenible – APIS), comprising 20 families living in the Oxapampa-Asháninka-Yanesha biosphere reserve, installed a laboratory to breed paco fingerlings (Piaractus brachypomus) for consumption and sale. The project is part of a Programme of Sustainable Economic Activities (PAES) of the Peruvian National Service of Protected Natural Areas (SERNANP). -UNESCO, Indigenous Communities Promote Sustainable Development in a Peruvian Biosphere Reserve

This global treasure covers 1,800,000 hectares of Amazonian Rainforest and is essential for sequestering CO2 from our atmosphere. This is how local efforts bring global results. Logging, over-fishing and hunting, migratory agriculture and unsustainable use of agrochemicals could destroy this region in a few generations if it is not managed wisely.
This Biosphere reserve is a true laboratory of sustainable development, that working to develop solutions to these problems and that is why it is no surprise to have an indigenous tribe spearheading the movement with other local and international organizations.

Permaculture, Get Involved!

Working with indigenous communities can be one of the most spiritually fulfilling  experiences one can have. Due to a history of colonialism, it is important to learn and respect local traditions, to present one’s self humbly and in service. Working with the land is also deeply fulfilling and if you would like to learn skills that make you an asset when you visit different communities then you may be interested in taking a free introductory online course in permaculture. The internet is truly becoming integrated into the current merging of ancient and modern wisdom!

How do you connect with your own cultural lineage? How do you connect with the land you live on? When was the last time you made an effort to turn off your devices and commune with nature? These are important questions to ask one’s self in this time of accelerated change. Each of us was put here to make a difference, to tune into our own calling, and a little silent time in nature, or working the land is the best way to connect with your divine impulse.

*Featured Image, Corn Maiden, by Kevin Chasing Wolf Hutchins*'

About Jacob Devaney

Jacob writes for numerous publications including Huffington Post, Uplift, Culture Collective and others. He is Founder of Culture Collective which strives to use art and media to raise awareness about important, social, cultural, environmental issues. Jacob co-founded in 2012 and has collaborated to produce globally synchronized meditations on the solstices and equinoxes. A musician and artist in his free time, he loves stilt walking and making giant puppets while enjoying quiet time in nature. Splitting his time between the American Southwest and Hawaii, he has worked for years with multiple indigenous tribes including Hopi.