Welcome to this course on Indigenous Religions and Ecology. We'd like to begin with this overview of the study of Indigenous religions and ecology. Yale University acknowledges that Indigenous peoples and nations, including Mohegan, Mashantucket Pequot, Eastern Pequot, Schaghticoke, Golden Hill Paugussett, Niantic, and Quinnipiac and other Algonquian speaking peoples, have stewarded through generations the lands and waterways of what is now the state of Connecticut. We honor and respect the enduring relationship that exists between these peoples and nations and this land. This land statement is not simply an end in itself, but rather it's part of a larger process that we undertake in this course, which is an effort to convene voices and perspectives of Indigenous peoples from many parts of the world. While not exhaustive, we hope this will be a platform for further exploration and discussion of issues of concern that Indigenous people are currently facing. The ancient lineages of worldviews, practices and ethics of diverse Indigenous communities have increasing relevance for the flourishing of the Earth community. This is a course then in which we are trying to rethink both what we know of Indigenous color cultures as well as the limits of what we think we know. For example, acknowledging ecological limits is a major contrasts between Indigenous societies and contemporary nation-states committed to economic growth at any cost. Learning to live with limits even in times of abundance has shaped diverse Indigenous societies many of whom have lived in their homelands for centuries. This sense of limits continues even among many urban Indigenous communities. What may seem a contrasts can actually been be misleading, namely, to associate a wilderness immediately with Indigenous peoples and urban settings with non-Indigenous peoples of different nationalities. We see, for example, in this slide, the association of Papua New Guinea Islanders was wilderness and in the South American contexts, Bolivian peoples in an urban setting. We know that in North America, well over half the native population lives in cities. This course attempts to explore many of the paradoxes that confront us today as we face environmental degradation and climate emergencies in our changing world. Indigenous peoples have already confronted significant environmental challenges in the face of historic encounters these past five centuries. They are now presenting their own distinct cultural responses to the paradoxes of survival on our living planet. No one term in an Indigenous language may exactly translate or even correspond to the terms Indigenous, religion or ecology. Yet symbol making and life orienting interactions with the natural world are communicated in these place-based traditions called Indigenous. Exploring these and other terms provides the focus in the next lecture. But this overview asks how we might bracket what we think we know in order to listen to other teachers. For Indigenous cultures, the world of living beings has been their primary teacher, the Earth itself. Although as we picture here, the Earth, as we see from space may not have been known to Indigenous people earlier. The sense of the larger Earth speaking to the people it's definitely there. This sense of speaking suggests that no one ritual action and no single mythic cycle among the diverse Indigenous peoples provides a text or a language for understanding the religions. What we do understand is what Indigenous elders and teachers have told us over the centuries. Namely that their cultures arose from knowledge that was given to them by the land and by life within the land and the larger cosmos. The sense then of the trees speaking to the people. Many traditions speak of the beauty of the world around them, the insects, the life around them speaking this. Following this lead then, this is a course that explores broad questions. For example, what forms of knowledge arose among Indigenous peoples? We know that Indigenous peoples live in close relations with land, weather, animals, and plants in a region. In this course, we explored different regions of the earth and consider these knowledge relationships that have allowed Indigenous people to flourish for centuries. Here, relationships between plants in a Dine, Navajo sand painting is presented as having restorative capacities. Indigenous ways of knowing recognized this interwoven character of the environment and celebrated in songs, stories, and rituals. Different Knowledge paths interact, opening insights into a whole that is widely acknowledged among Indigenous peoples. This integral ecological whole embraces the human within a living natural world. Diversity of living systems around the planet naturally lead to diversity of Indigenous peoples. This brings us to another question. How does the diversity of Indigenous cultures relate to biodiversity? That is the diversity of life in the natural world. In recent years, we have come to the realization, dramatic realization that biological diversity has survived in greater abundance in regions where Indigenous peoples live. That is, the areas of the planet where lifeforms are most numerous overlaps with the regions where Indigenous people live and sustain themselves. One way to think about this diversity among Indigenous people is to consider language. Here we see the teacher in exchange with a variety of people in her community. Humans have evolved using communicative sign, sound, and embodied expression. There are about 6,500 languages among the human family today and over 4,000 of them are Indigenous. The numbers and significance of Indigenous language are a fundamental sign of creativity among the human species. We're suggesting that here among these T'boli women in Mindanao in the Philippines, the creativity of their dress is related to their language. The sense again, of the whole, the languages of Indigenous peoples are intimately tied to local lands, weather, animals, and plants. Loss of languages among Indigenous people means that the human family loses creative connections to so many places on the planet. In many instances, these connections have been generated by hundreds or thousands of years lived by the same Indigenous peoples in these places. This is quite different than modern societies whose push for industrial and technological development has reduced biodiversity and wilderness areas. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the science of ecology provided understanding that all reality is interdependent. Now in the 21st century, we realized that modern industrial nation states have diminished the interactive flow of this organic and inorganic exchange. We have created human economies that largely ignore nature's economy. Human economies have to function within the limits of nature's economy in lifecycles. This earth economy is the setting in which Indigenous cultures emerged in ways that encourage the diversity of life. We see here in this slide the devastation of the Earth of Indigenous peoples in Brazil. While there is clear evidence of overreach among earlier human societies, Indigenous communities aspire to live with the Earth in mutually enhancing ways. This for Indigenous peoples is a giving world that requires responsible reciprocity. Indigenous elders observe that their ancestors came to these realizations in relation to land, weather, and cosmological phenomena. We ask in this course, why is a larger view of the cosmos often integrated into Indigenous environmental thought and practice? Here, the symbolic force of the cosmic tree embedded on the jacket of this Siberian Shaman bridges between realms through which the shaman as a healer might journey for healing power. Restoration to wholeness is accomplished in most Indigenous rituals by invoking the spiritual forces in the cosmos. Among the Huichol of Mesoamerica in Northern Mexico, elaborate yarn paintings depict the emergent stories in which butterflies, hummingbirds, and we see here deer, and wolf, they all play crucial roles in bringing forth creation. Thus, all existent beings participate as co-creators of the world. This is a cosmological understanding of the wholeness of life, which is displayed in Indigenous arts and made present through narration in mythic stories and ritual practices. These cosmic visions continue to be imaged in symbols, danced in ritual, and narrated in stories. We will speak of these ideas and practices throughout this course. Because Indigenous peoples continue ancestral insights into the interactions of Earth and cosmos. Visions of the cosmos are different among Indigenous people. This is a very important point to make. The sense of difference of visions and difference of art, and difference of the struggle of Indigenous people in their relationships with their homelands. But this sense of different among Indigenous people, it's evident here in this embrace of image of rainbow as a person in Dineh Navajo ritual art. This sand painting depicts again the wholeness within the person of this cosmic reality. Among Indigenous peoples, these powerful images, they present a shared concern for the wholeness of reality. Individual people, animals, insects, and plants, are recognized and their interaction as an interdependent community is the key to their emergent growth and flourishing. Global economic forces and pervasive electronic media have exploited, altered, and drawn on these complex cultural relationships between land, animals, and people. As Indigenous people give voice to their identity with local landscapes, so also new scientific understandings emerge of complex ecosystems arising from dynamic Earth processes. Similarly, scientific insights into the quantum world and the vast cosmos of innumerable galaxies gives rise to awareness of the seemingly infinite interconnected creativity that surrounds us. This brings us to a further question for this course. Namely, how do cosmological forces activate resilience for many Indigenous peoples. In the last 500 years, Indigenous peoples have come under relentless pressures to assimilate into dominant societies. These pressures to homogenize different cultures into the singular values and identity of nation-states have weakened the cultures of Indigenous peoples. Yet their resilience has carried them through to the present. That resilience is significantly connected to their homelands and to their kinship with life stretching out to the stars. Moreover, resistance to impose changes in these relationships with land, water, and air has taken innovative forms of environmental protection and environmental justice, as we see in this slide of Hunkpapa peoples in Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, standing to defend the sacredness of water, to protect the water in their land. Indigenous elders and leaders have led protests to protect these elemental forces that give life and voice to their communities. In this course, we examined environmental actions that activate innovative moral and legal perspectives that can bridge across cultural divides such as the rights of nature. Exploring these topics, we continue next with a closer look at some of the terminology in the study of Indigenous religions and ecology.