27 April 2017 The “Honorable Harvest”: Lessons from an Indigenous Tradition of Giving Thanks (Robin Wall Kimmerer, Yes Magazine, Daily Good feature article)

The good man is the friend of all living things. —Gandhi-


The “Honorable Harvest”: Lessons From an Indigenous Tradition of Giving Thanks

–by Robin Wall Kimmerer, syndicated from Yes Magazine, Apr 27, 2017

What if this holiday season we fill our shopping baskets with only that which is needed and give something back in return?


In this season of harvest, our baskets are full, rounded with fragrant apples and heaped with winter squash. So too are the steel shopping carts that clatter across the parking lot, plastic bags whipping in the wind. How do we even name such abundance? Are these commodities? Natural resources? Ecosystem services? In the indigenous worldview, we call them gifts.

We are showered every day with the gifts of the Earth: air to breathe, fresh water, the companionship of geese and maples—and food. Since we lack the gift of photosynthesis, we animals are destined by biology to be utterly dependent upon the lives of others, the inherently generous, more-than-human persons with whom we share the planet.

If we understand the Earth as just a collection of objects, then apples and the land that offers them fall outside our circle of moral consideration. We tell ourselves that we can use them however we please, because their lives don’t matter. But in a worldview that understands them as persons, their lives matter very much. Recognition of personhood does not mean that we don’t consume, but that we are accountable for the lives that we take. When we speak of the living world as kin, we also are called to act in new ways, so that when we take those lives, we must do it in such a way that brings honor to the life that is taken and honor to the ones receiving it.

The canon of indigenous principles that govern the exchange of life for life is known as the Honorable Harvest. They are “rules” of sorts that govern our taking, so that the world is as rich for the seventh generation as it is for us.

The Honorable Harvest, a practice both ancient and urgent, applies to every exchange between people and the Earth. Its protocol is not written down, but if it were, it would look something like this:

Ask permission of the ones whose lives you seek. Abide by the answer.

Never take the first. Never take the last.

Harvest in a way that minimizes harm. 

Take only what you need and leave some for others.

Use everything that you take. 

Take only that which is given to you. 

Share it, as the Earth has shared with you. 

Be grateful. 

Reciprocate the gift.

Sustain the ones who sustain you, and the Earth will last forever.

Though we live in a world made of gifts, we find ourselves harnessed to institutions and an economy that relentlessly ask, “What more can we take from the Earth?” In order for balance to occur, we cannot keep taking without replenishing. Don’t we need to ask, “What can we give?”

The Honorable Harvest is a covenant of reciprocity between humans and the land. This simple list may seem like a quaint prescription for how to pick berries, but it is the root of a sophisticated ethical protocol that could guide us in a time when unbridled exploitation threatens the life that surrounds us. Western economies and institutions enmesh us all in a profoundly dishonorable harvest. Collectively, by assent or by inaction, we have chosen the policies we live by. We can choose again.

What if the Honorable Harvest were the law of the land? And humans—not just plants and animals—fulfilled the purpose of supporting the lives of others? What would the world look like if a developer poised to convert a meadow to a shopping mall had first to ask permission of the meadowlarks and the goldenrod? And abide by their answer? What if we fill our shopping baskets with only that which is needed and give something back in return?

How can we reciprocate the gifts of the Earth? In gratitude, in ceremony, through acts of practical reverence and land stewardship, in fierce defense of the places we love, in art, in science, in song, in gardens, in children, in ballots, in stories of renewal, in creative resistance, in how we spend our money and our precious lives, by refusing to be complicit with the forces of ecological destruction. Whatever our gift, we are called to give it and dance for the renewal of the world.

This article is syndicated from YES! magazine. YES! Magazine reframes the biggest problems of our time in terms of their solutions. Online and in print, we outline a path forward with in-depth analysis, tools for citizen engagement, and stories about real people working for a better world. Author Robin Wall Kimmerer is the founding director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.    

This article really resonated with me because it’s what I believe and try to practice in my day to day living.  Ideally I would like to grow my own food,  develop a diet where I don’t require animal protein aside from eggs may be and get away from the plethora of “packaging” that is commercial food.   I have a LONG way to go yet!  The first step to change is consciousness that I can do better, that I can be better.  I have that consciousness.  Next is educating myself and learning the “how” of what I want to achieve.  I have been gradually working on that part.  Then comes the effort and patience part!  The latter two departments are definitely where I am lacking!  It’s so much “easier” and “convenient” to let others do all these things for me but I am finding a great distrust within myself and the commercial food industry.  It is unpleasant and laborious to shop for food actually safe to eat in a traditional small town grocery store.  The produce is usually very limited and I don’t trust any of it anymore.  This means “taking a chance” with frozen fruits and vegetables that say they are organic.  If you want organic and or non-GMO you are going to pay a hefty price for any of it and we do.  For what we pay, we often don’t get very much food.  The food we do buy is what we feel relatively comfortable eating but still get sick sometimes from it or get a bad batch of food that missed quality control.  The other day I had to throw out an entire container of Full Circle organic applesauce because there was mold and who knows what in it!  After I found that we just didn’t feel safe eating it!
We could drive to neighboring towns where there are more options and better selection but it’s one of those trade-offs we make.  Either spend more money on gas and wear and tear to the car and us in search of nutritious and or “organic” food (I’m beginning to wonder if there is really such a thing as truly “organic” anything unless they are growing things in completely quarantined from the outside conditions) or just go through the effort it takes to shop locally and hope someday we start to get better options.   Alvarado TX is kind of a food desert for the average consumer.
We aren’t sure yet, even after 7 years, if we want to stay in this house and make it home.  A lot depends on Kyle’s career future.  If he gets a full time job where he wants to, we will want to move closer to his work so there isn’t much point in doing but the minimum it would take to sell this place.  The other issues are for me, the person stuck at home the most.  From the way our house and neighborhood has started vibrating again (The Hum) which is making living in and outside of  this house very unpleasant.  Our house just pops in different places all day and night like it is being shaken off of the foundation.  Nothing that is happening to our home that needs to be fixed as a result of this vibrating is covered by Homeowners Insurance….no surprises there. As this town grows, it’s getting so noisy in other ways.  The traffic behind our house has always been bad, but because of poor city growth planning it’s the only main entrance and exodus point for multiple neighborhoods and the traffic has gotten much worse with no signs of relief.   We’ve tried in the past to get our City Council to do something and all they do is keep approving more projects that put more traffic on the same road.   I just don’t know what to do right now and have been trying to “let God” on it, that takes time and patience…much like Gardening your own food!
Thanks for letting me vent a bit – may be you can relate to our situation?  Do you live in a food desert? Where do you shop for food?  Do you garden?  Are you experiencing what we are with the constant vibrations?

https://hummap.wordpress.com/World Hum Map and Database Project

Research and World Hum News from http://www.thehum.info


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