For Aztec and Mexican-American bestselling author Anita Sanchez, the term “indigenous” has a lot of meanings.
“Anthropologically, we are all indigenous, because to be indigenous means to be of the earth, the water, all the animals, the minerals, but we’re also stardust,” she says.
Sanchez, author of “The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times,” says humans are “both earthly and cosmological beings.”
“But in these times when people use the word ‘indigenous,’ they’re talking about some of us whose families have kept and passed on the original knowledge,” she adds. “It doesn’t mean we’re even in the same land space because so many of us got moved all over the place and so many are more urban than in reservations all over the world.”
Once a year, Sanchez leads a journey into the sacred headwaters of the Amazon for the Pachamama Alliance, of which she is a board member.
The trips are made up of generally business people and their families who are searching for clear purpose and connection to nature.
Sanchez recounts one time where the group met a young indigenous boy who was fishing along the river and one of the participants asked how does he know when he needs to move away from the water if there’s danger lurking.
“And he looked at the [tourist] and he just said, well he didn’t say ‘dummy,’ but it was a kind way of saying ‘silly,'” Sanchez chuckles, quoting the boy as saying: “‘You watch the birds, the frogs, they’re all gonna move. I’m gonna move.'”
In these times when people use the word ‘indigenous,’ they’re talking about some of us whose families have kept and passed on the original knowledge.
The signs of the natural world changing are all around us and “have been here for us for some time, of the ice melting, of different species dying,” she adds.
“We’re causing this. We just need to observe,” according to Sanchez.
BLESSINGS FROM A PANDEMIC
Despite the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, which killed many indigenous people, including members of Sanchez’s own family, the global pause that came out of it resulted in cleaner waters and skies due to less pollution, she notes.
“Where I live in the foothills of the Rockies, more mountain lions and bears were coming through,” she says. “I remember I used to be able to see the skyline of Denver 35 miles away with clarity, but I hadn’t for years because it was all smoggy.”
The pandemic was a chance for people to be present to the world around them, according to Sanchez.
“We just need to slow down, to actually have it hook in, have it register in our hearts and in our minds, so that then our actions will follow,” she says.
Learn more about Sanchez’s work at foursacredgifts.com.