What we can learn from Indigenous Populations and their Connection with their Environment


What we can learn from Indigenous Populations and their Connection with their Environment

By Charly Stringer

Understanding the relationship between indigenous cultures and the environment is monumental to developing the world today.

Indigenous communities have a passion for nature, both physically and spiritually. They understand and respect the importance that the environment has on all living beings.

One-third of global forests, crucial for curbing gas emissions, are managed mainly by indigenous people, and nature is degrading slower in these areas than in areas managed by others.

Let’s find out more about the connection that Indigenous populations have with the environment: — Over centuries, indigenous communities have adapted their agriculture to be able to grow food in harsh conditions. Their tried and tested methods mean they could survive in areas with high altitude, extreme cold, or dry grasslands.

Climate change arguably affects indigenous populations more than anyone, as they rely on the natural world for shelter and food. But climate change isn’t their only threat; large-scale industrial activities, toxic waste, deforestation, conflicts, and forced migration are also big worries for their way of life in the future.

Indigenous communities live in areas that spread across 70 countries, from the South Pacific all the way to the Arctic.

These areas include many of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Their knowledge of the land they live on, along with the animals and plants they share it with, is comprehensive. Environmental perspectives have been influenced somewhat by the advancement of indigenous culture.

Scientists and researchers often turn to indigenous communities to learn. Who better to ask about nature than the people who have lived in it and relied on it for generations? They know migration patterns of Beluga whales, how mammals might react to climate change and melting ice in the Arctic, which animal populations are growing and which are reducing. They have relied on this knowledge to survive.

We must continue to learn from these communities to secure a healthy world moving forward. They make efforts not to over-fish, over-harvest, or over-hunt; they don’t take more than they need; this is an important lesson we can learn from them. For many native American indigenous peoples, the “seven sacred teachings” (or seven Grandfather teachings) are the guiding principles to follow in life.

These teachings can be a guide for caring for the planet:

Love (Eagle):

Unconditional love that is mutual and reciprocated is how we must approach our relationship with the natural world. To know love is to know peace. The eagle was chosen to represent love because it can reach higher than any other creature.

Respect (Buffalo):

The buffalo provided warmth and food to indigenous peoples. They developed a sustainable relationship with buffalo and a true respect for all that they provided. We must show the same respect to the land and all that it gives us.

Courage (Bear):

Courage is to face danger with bravery. To have moral and mental strength can be difficult. Courage is what we must show when standing up for the land, just like a mother bear protecting her cubs.

Honesty (Raven):

The raven represents honesty and having genuine intentions. This is the approach we must take to protecting the world as we move forward. We must be honest about the damage that has been done.

Wisdom (Beaver):

The ability to make decisions based on knowledge and experiences is true wisdom. We can learn from both the good and bad decisions we have made for the planet and move forward in a better way.

Humility (Wolf):

Humility is what we must show when facing the reality of what our actions have done to the planet. Humility is acknowledging our past mistakes and then learning from them.

Truth (Turtle):

Truth is all of the other teachings combined, the reality of where we are with our relationship with the natural world, and what we must do to protect it in the future.

80 percent of the world’s biodiversity is in traditional indigenous areas. These areas take up 22 percent of the planet’s surface. We must protect these territories for the sake of indigenous peoples but also for the sake of everyone else.

There is also huge food for thought here, and we should certainly take a leaf out of their book. In particular, adopt some of the teachings that guide them so we can better connect with nature and protect the environment.


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