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Indigenous Wisdom with Darcia Narvaez



Dr. Darcia Narvaez is a professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame. There, she directs the Evolved Developmental Morality Lab, where her program of research concerns how provision of physical, emotional, and social resources early in life bear upon the development of ethical behavior. In this episode, we discuss her recent book, Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom: First Nation Know-How for Global Flourishing, edited along with Four Arrows, Eugene Halton, Brian Collier, and Georges Enderle. The conversation focuses on indigenous ethical traditions, and how those traditions conceptualize humanity’s relationship with and responsibilities to the natural world.


APA citation: Cazzell, A. R. (Host). (2020, February 11). Indigenous Wisdom with Darcia Narvaez [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.ambercazzell.com/post/msp-ep26-darcianarvaez


Also see: For Life to Continue on Earth, Every Day Must Be Indigenous Peoples’ Day


NOTE: This transcript was generated automatically. Please excuse typos and errors.


Amber Cazzell (01:14):

All right. Hi everybody. I am back here with Darcia Narvaez again and I'm excited to have you back. Darcia it's kind of by popular request because so many people reached out to me and said that they absolutely loved our conversation the first time and wanted to hear more from you. And also because I was very curious about your work with indigenous wisdom. That's like an area that doesn't seem to be written on much and so it's exciting to be able to talk to somebody who has done thinking about this. And anyway, so today we're going to be discussing Darcia's work on her book, indigenous sustainable wisdom, first nation know how for global flourishing. So first I want to begin with hearing about how you became interested in indigenous wisdom.


Darcia Narvaez (02:07):

Well, I, I wrote my book, neurobiology and the development of human morality, evolution, culture and wisdom. When I was writing it, I had a book proposal and the book didn't want to be kept in the cage of that proposal and it had a mind of its own as creative writers find with their books. And so I'm integrating all this different information and I was led to realize that, wow, well what we're really missing right now, and you can see it's from a planetary destruction that's underway, is indigenous wisdom, wisdom that are cousins. Our ancestors had in living cooperatively in partnership with earth. And so in the book I ended up contrasting, yeah. Different kinds of wisdom. I it then primal wisdom, but that's indigenous wisdom. And I contrast it with the traditional wisdom West of the West, which is a Christian kind of wisdom and realize that there are a lot of parallels, but the key differences between traditional wisdom, probably indigenous wisdom is the fact that two things really.


Darcia Narvaez (03:23):

One is the traditional wisdom was afraid of a humanity's animal nature and indigenous wisdom was very much about embracing your animal nature and growing it well and honoring it. And then the second one was cooperation is, and not only with human beings as in traditional wisdom, but with the natural world. So in an indigenous wisdom. So it's a whole different mindscape world scape that our ancestors who live sustainably have compared to what we have now. And so my book was about how we've narrowed down our humanity in a way that's led us to so many crises that we have now.


Amber Cazzell (04:09):

Wow, that's fascinating. And that was, that was which book again,


Darcia Narvaez (04:13):

That's the neurobiology and the development of human morality, evolution, culture and wisdom that it won a couple of book awards, which was really amazing what William James book award from the APA and the expanded reason award which was funded by the Vatican actually. So that, that it's been a journey in the last number of years, just a few years where I've realized now that indigenous wisdom is where we have to get back to and that's our full human nature is there.


Amber Cazzell (04:49):

Fascinating. So can you just tell me a bit more, I want to hash more into those two key differences. Cause as I was reading your book those, it really sunk in with me that one of the fundamental differences is how, how people construe the relationship between humanity and, and the cosmos. So can you just tell me more about that? Like how does an indigenous wisdom kind of conceptualize that relationship between humanity and the cosmos?


Darcia Narvaez (05:28):

Well, this is a, it's actually quite complicated in a way. For our understanding it's a sense of partnership that the, the natural world is a world full of persons, some of which are human and the, a sense of sentience in everything. Even rocks, rivers, mountains, wins. And I think my work on embodied morality, which is another book also emerged from that 2014 neurobiology book that we are really shaped by our early experiences, our perceptions, the way we, what we attend to, or ability to attend, our ability to the kinds of schemas we bring to situations. All that is, is grounded in those early years dependent on experience. So if we're in the Western world, we put babies into dead spaces, walls, we put them on in cribs and carriers in playpens, all dead things, right? Our ancestry though is to be out in the natural world and interacting with living things, plants, animals, insects, winds, all this animate, animated living nature.


Darcia Narvaez (06:49):

And so our way of raising children shapes them to be ready for deadness really in and not even so they don't grow those perceptions, what I call in my 2014 book receptive intelligence. And so we don't know how to pick it up. We don't pick up the livingness. Yeah. Well the of the entities around us and part of it is we've domesticated them down into, out of their wildness, the animals and the plants that we keep around us. So that's part of the problem too. So it's a sense of livingness of the whole in the complexity and the dynamism of life that it's not a mind separated from body or a heart from thinking a feeling from thinking, no, it's all integrated. That's the natural way of being human being. You could see all over the world and in the tr traditional societies, the sense that feeling really has to come from our thinking has to come from the heart feeling from the mind. I mean, it's all integrated and we in the West have split everything up and fragmented in and think everything's amoral and on not alive.


Amber Cazzell (08:03):

Yeah. I thought that that was helpful. Helpful for me to understand that. Okay. There's, there's sort of these separate conceptualizations of nature. One as nature is sort of this amoral kind of dead thing that ought to be conquered for human purposes and another worldview that sees the cosmos as sacred and divine and something that isn't to be conquered.


Darcia Narvaez (08:38):

That's right. It's partnership. It's not domination. So Riane Eisler has been writing about that for decades and she and the Douglas Frye have a new book out called nurturing our humanity, Douglas Frye's and anthropologists. And so they do an integration, a marvelous just came out that I would encourage people to look at, look up, but they to contrast those two systems and then show how it's just a recent rare phenomenon to have these dominator cultures, but we and there's evidence that the cultures that have been dominated cultures can move to partnership back to partnership.


Amber Cazzell (09:17):

Yeah. And I think another thing that I was struck by that I'd love to hear more on with this partnership piece is that a lot of this, a lot of your book relates to sustainability and climate change and things like this. And one of the things I was, I was struck by was this idea that partnership with nature does not mean I'm trying to leave it perfectly untouched. It doesn't mean that nature is just left alone, hands off altogether. And I wonder if you could say more about that because I found that interesting. It's something that I tend to think of like green movement as just leave no trace,

Darcia Narvaez (10:06):

Right. So this is a, again, the indigenous perspective, you can see it among native American philosophers and scientists that when they talk about relating to the natural world, it says a partner again. And Robin Wall Kimmerer, I think her book braiding Sweetgrass is really marvelous and she's a great writer. And she talks about trying to integrate Western science with indigenous science and talks about a an experiment. One of her students did were where they had three beds of sweet grass and one they treated the like the indigenous one. They treated like the Western way in one they left loan. The one that was treated like the Western way is to just grab what you wanted as you wanted it and pull Willy nilly. The indigenous way of treating the bedded of sweet grass was to ask the plant for permission. May I take you, may I have some of you?


Darcia Narvaez (11:08):

And if the plant resisted, that was a no, and you went on to a different plant. And the, the bed that thrived was the indigenously the treated bed of sweet grass. So that's the perspective is that if you leave things alone, they're not going to thrive. It's a partnership. Again, just like with a baby, you leave a baby only you say, Oh, they need to be the romantic view. You leave them alone to know that their own spirit will grow on their own. No, they need that interaction. They need to be called forth. They need to be respected and feel that you care for them. And that's the way the natural world is too in this view.


Amber Cazzell (11:50):

Yeah. I also want to dive in to the piece you had mentioned about being afraid of animalistic nature versus embracing it. Especially because as you're speaking, it sounds kind of ironic, right? Like it sounds like if traditionally if Western cultures traditionally are, are afraid of animalistic nature, the way that you characterize it often makes them sound more animalistic. Do you think that that's unfair?


Darcia Narvaez (12:19):

I'm, I'm unclear on what you mean.


Amber Cazzell (12:21):

Well, just that I'm taking what you want when you want it. Like the sweet grass example that sounds more animalistic in the ways that I tend to think of religions characterizing being animalistic than being in this cooperation and partnership. And so I think it's interesting that it kind of seems like that backfires in a way to be afraid of that nature.


Darcia Narvaez (12:50):

Yeah. So what, what I argue in the 2014 neurobiology book is that the reason I speculate, the reason that the Western wisdom traditions are so afraid of their animal nature is because they've undermined baby development for so long that they think babies are just these wild animals. Oh, that's because you left them alone to cry for heaven's sakes. Or you denied them breast milk when they were asking for it or they, they didn't get the evolve nest. And babies are different from kids. They need to have their needs met right away. Because there their brain is growing what thousands of synapses a second. And when you deny it their needs, you are then causing stress, which a repeated will be toxic and melt things that are supposed to be growing or not grow. And so I think that's what's happened is the West, with his undermining of baby development in particular and child development generally have then created these people that are really dysregulated because they forgot what babies need and think it's better to deny them and somehow coerce them into being something else. Yeah. And so then they end up rationalizing it and making up all these theories about it.


Amber Cazzell (14:03):

Yeah. So it sounds like, it sounds like you're saying that it's potentially a product of just a vicious cycle with a species atypical nest.


Darcia Narvaez (14:12):

That's right. And we're blinded by our present experience. We, the tyranny of, of the present. That's, we assume it's normal and that we're kind of because of the, the cultural metaphors that are deeply rooted in our subconscious, of progress, you know, and humans are better than everything else, then humans should be dominating. And all that kind of those metaphors are then keep us thinking, well, this is progress. There's no other way it could be. Right. And all sorts of really romantic ideas about and forgetting, forgetting our past. You know, I found after I wrote my book, my 2014 book, I found Paul Shepherd his work, and he has a book, which I also recommend coming home to the Pleistocene. And he's, he wrote for decades about the importance of paying attention to our past, which is 99% of our history was outside of, of civilization. And he Oh, he has just marvelous, marvelous writing. If I had read his stuff, I wouldn't have needed to re write my book probably, although I relate it more directly to morality.


Amber Cazzell (15:27):

Well, awesome. So why, like, I know this is like a, a complicated question. I don't know how much thinking you've done on this, but do you have any ideas as to why Western ethics started to move away from indigenous wisdom?


Darcia Narvaez (15:45):

Well, there are that Paul Shepherd talks about this, so he, he goes back in time and, and starts with the Hebrews who were the first to move away from the earth and, and instigated a historical view of linear progress. They wanted to be detached from place and kind of split nature and personalities, nature and humans. And they then adopted a God that's above the earth, right? Separate from the earth instead of gods of nature and cyclical kind of ways of being the mythic mind, all sorts of things. So it's rather complicated. But I think it started back then and for me he does, he doesn't particularly say this, but other people have said it, that once people started to move away from being outside and started domesticating animals and cultivating plants, they start to lose their partnership orientation and Navi and Nurit Bird-David.


Darcia Narvaez (16:48):

Bird-David is an anthropologist, have written about the Nayaka in India who were Hunter gatherers when they first studied them. And then over the decades when the Westerners in the Western ways of being civilization's way of being came in and pushed them into cultivating plants and domesticating animals, they moved away from this partnership orientation of treating all these other beings as persons to treating the ones they were cultivating as objects. So there's something about experience that really matters back to embodied morality. So if you've never had that experience of being a partner with whoever it is, a tree, a plant, an animal, a person, you're not going to build that into your worldview. Worldview I think is really established in those first three years. It's really hard to shift.


Amber Cazzell (17:40):

Yeah. So now fast forwarding, I another section of the book that I thought was really interesting where the parts where you talked about kind of the collision of Native Americans with their wisdom interacting with Spaniards for the first time. And I just thought that was really fascinating. And so I want to make space for that on this podcast to just talk a bit about how these two people groups interpreted one another and made sense of their ethics.


Darcia Narvaez (18:20):

Yeah. Well, Frederick Turner and Kirkpatrick Sale have written books that look at this the encounters between the Europeans and the native Americans and how the Europeans came with this already cultivated a suspicion of nature and wanting domination essentially. And there's, Oh, a lot of other factors, but they come in and they don't see the paradise before them. Meaning when they came, you could smell blossoms miles off the coasts of North America. You could hear the birds are a millions, billions of birds that just would fly. You could just pluck one out of the air even according to the reports. And it was, but what happened is when the English came, for example, they just were went through and cut down all these forests, these trees that were as wide as a village church with no sense of any sacredness.


Darcia Narvaez (19:22):

It's just things to use that we can use. And then they would just cut down huge trees to burn them, get them out of the way. It's just so alien to the natives who had been there living with these in partnership with these other entities. So, Mmm. The encounters, there're number of quotes that people have of made of native Americans, that they look in the eyes of these conquistadores or these explorers, they would just come down and Mo common Moe things down a with Willy nilly and move on. And they, they would look in their eyes and they, they say there were soulless and Jack Forbes has this book forgetting the title at the moment, but he talks about what to go, which is a native American term for a cannibalism of other peoples life of other people, other living things. And what a co then is this virus that's very infectious and this gold fever essentially. And that's what you could see in many of the Europeans that came over just wanting to take, take, take. Yeah.


Amber Cazzell (20:37):

And what about from the other perspective? I mean, how did, how did Europeans interpret native American lifestyles and practices?


Darcia Narvaez (20:46):

Yeah. they thought that in English or would want to have a, you know, contract or a treaty and try to find the leader to sign this paper, which of course the, the other people couldn't read, but and they would look for a leader. But in a small band, a Hunter gather and other kinds of societies with like that they're leaderless. There's no leader. You live cooperatively and you know, egalitarian and a leader might come up for a day for something from some activity, but there's no regular leader. So they were very frustrated that they couldn't get anything done. And then they would have somebody sign something with an X or whatever, and then that would, they would just assume that's the leader. They just took it that way and took everything. But the English also thought they were Indian, the so-called Indian givers.


Darcia Narvaez (21:38):

So there's one report where a Explorer comes with his backpack or whatever he's carrying and the natives take it and then they all take, everything is spread around all the, all the, his things that were in the bag. And anthropologists report this around the world too that they come with their suitcase or their bag of clothes and then immediately people just take it all. And then the pink dress is being worn by this woman one day and then another woman another day because it's all about sharing. Everything is shared and Nobody has possessions. And that's so contrary to the property orientation of the Western world in the last few hundred years.


Amber Cazzell (22:19):

That's interesting. So I, I recently recorded a podcast with Oliver, Scott Curry, and he was saying that like, one of the big one of the big pieces that seems to be missing from like moral foundations theory in some of these, these other theories of morality is that it seems to be fairly universal that like prior basically that priority dictates ownership in some way. Ownership might be a little bit too strong, but this idea that if you had something first that you have more rights to it. And he was saying that was kind of evolutionarily just like found universally. So would you disagree with that or maybe there's some nuance in there?


Darcia Narvaez (23:16):

Well, I'm trying to think of all the accounts I've read. Mmm. I'm not sure. If I think of a small band Hunter gatherers, they okay. And other societies where giving is always constant. Yeah. There is no priority. And, and in some of these more subtle societies, you have to give things away or something's wrong with you so you can something for a while, but then you have to give it away. And so the anthropologists are advised, you know, you got that from blah blah blah you should be giving it away now. Yeah. So I don't know, the rules are, I don't think you can call it so black and white like that. I would I'd be more inclined to say that it's normal to be sharing everything. I mean, animals will come in and scavenge dead bodies and that's just normal. The flies come in. The other animals, they all, it's all about us. We all share and everyone, you know, you give and take and give and take and give and take.


Amber Cazzell (24:17):

Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, I think even the idea of, of turn taking might itself play into that, right? Because if you're taking turns that implies that somebody had priority. So if they're passing around the pink dress from one day to the next day, I suppose in a way that could be getting out that already.


Darcia Narvaez (24:39):

Well I think you have to be careful. The priority thing assumes a linear view of history or of experience, but that's not what most of the world, how things are perceived. It's dynamic and everything's interplayed and lots of non manifest things are happening that know shaman can tune into. And maybe you, and you're in a trance and I mean there's just so it's so much more complicated than just the simple materialistic, linear way of looking at things that we have.


Amber Cazzell (25:10):

Yeah. Interesting. Can you say more on that? Cause I'm still having a hard time wrapping my mind around it.


Darcia Narvaez (25:17):

Well, Hmm. Let's see. I, I don't know if I have enough to say it very well in my own words. So just because I'm still trying to translate all this for everybody. Yeah. I'm learning. And you know how it does, it takes a little while to, you know, make it put into my own words. So


Amber Cazzell (25:42):

No problem. And it's a pretty abstract question anyway, but I think, yeah,


Darcia Narvaez (25:45):

But I do have a quote.


Amber Cazzell (25:47):

Okay.


Darcia Narvaez (25:47):

This is from the book coming home to the Pleistocene by Paul Shepherd, he quotes John Cobb jr a theologian talks about the mythic mind. The mythic mind does not recognize a separateness of subject and object, but instead sees a flow of subjective and objective contributions bound together where there's no clear consciousness of subject as subject or object as object.


Amber Cazzell (26:14):

Yeah. So that, and that was another thing that I do feel like I was struck by was just, it seems like this, it seems like indigenous wisdom is very, it comes from a very relational ontology and it makes it difficult for, for people like me who have been so trained in, in sort of this abstractionist mindset, it becomes difficult to keep that in mind as I'm learning about and reading about this, this tradition.


Darcia Narvaez (26:51):

And you know, you know, that abstracting and the focus on thinking has been criticized all over the world of the West. People come in and they just think with their heads and they, and you know, people are in Bali for example, like you, you heart feel, you heart think and to the heart mind is key. And if you're, you're not a well raised person unless you have a good heart mind that's sensitive and fluid even and pays attention to all sorts of complexities and interactive aspects of the situation. And yet the West comes in with one idea, one, you know, abstracted theory and William Easterly in his book, white man's burden. And the tyranny of experts, both books discusses how so much damage has been done by that kind of thinking and such a waste of billions of dollars around the world because the West comes in and thinks that knows because it's sat in its office and thought about it, it comes up with an answer, right. And then messes everything up essentially.


Amber Cazzell (27:59):

Yeah. Yeah. And then I also wanted to go back to like part of, so I think, I think one of the things that continues to surprise me is that there is a very dismissive attitude toward indigenous wisdom. Like even even today, even as people are trying to be


Amber Cazzell (28:25):

Be a bit more conscious of, of like judging other cultures and being too ethnocentric. But I still think that there's a lot of dismissiveness toward indigenous societies and ethics as just like less educated or something. And there was in your book, here it is, I'm going to quote you quoting someone here. It's on page 93 and it's in your chapter about becoming and being human. And F it says, a philanthropist friend of the Indians said of the native in the 19th century, we need to awaken in him wants in his dull savagery. He must be touched by the wings of the divine angel of discontent, discontent with the teepee and the starving nations of the Indian camp. And winter is needed to get the Indian out of the blanket and into trousers and trousers with a pocket in them and with a pocket that aches to be filled with dollars. And that quote just, it's shocking. I mean that's, it shocks me. I think it's disturbing. And at the same time I'm kind of questioning whether a whole lot has changed.


Darcia Narvaez (29:49):

You mean since the environmental movement?


Amber Cazzell (29:51):

Yeah, just in general. I still feel like there's sort of this dismissive, dismissive kind of hand waving over talking about, about indigenous societies and ethics in general. Like, and as Testament to that, that there's so little scholarship that's been done on it, but there's a ton of scholarship that's been done on Eastern ethics and ethics that emerged out of the enlightenment era in Europe and things.


Darcia Narvaez (30:21):

Right. Well, I yeah, I think it's the, again, the root metaphors are, are strangling us here. The root metaphors of progress, individualism, separation, superiority to nature. The only way to know something is with an experiment. Positivism there's so many of those root metaphors that we can't actually conceive of any other way to be. And so, and, and part of it is we don't have the capacities because we haven't developed those capacities. The receptive intelligence, the awareness that everything's alive around us. People just don't feel it right. In part because those things were pruned away because they were not developed when they, when they were in their early years or they were suppressed over and over in childhood that they ended up dismissing them. Yeah. But I try to remind my students now to reconnect, help them reconnect to nature, and that's part of their assignment.


Darcia Narvaez (31:22):

I give them a bunch of ideas for how to do that and then they are to journal and do it all semester. So that's using things like a, a sit spot, a place you go back to over and over and watch the changes and you, because you're a regular presence there, the animals get used to you. And so they'll show up. And so a sit spot wandering paying attention to your senses. Sensory expansion. I have students who, you know, they, I took a class outside one time in the spring and asked them to close their eyes and pay attention to what they heard. And one of them said, gee, I never knew we had birds on campus. Yeah. I mean they've been there all year, but they're walking around, you know, not paying attention or they've got earbuds or something. So we've, we've pushed people on purpose in a way away from nature because we got so scared of it cause we didn't understand it anymore. And then we blame nature. It's scary. It's dangerous cause we don't know how to handle it. We don't know how to interact in a, in a respectful way.


Amber Cazzell (32:28):

Yeah. So, I mean, it sounds like that was already starting to get at some practical kind of tips for how to rediscover and apply our human needs. What else do you think would be helpful on a personal level for rediscovering and implementing indigenous wisdom?


Darcia Narvaez (32:55):

Well, one of the biggest things I think is develop a sense of humility towards nature. And we really have an, and gratitude actually and Native Americans start all their meetings with gratitude towards the natural world, the four directions, the earth, mother earth, the sky, the sun, and they humble themselves before natural law, natural laws of the earth, and try to fit in rather than trying to alter them or deny them. Yeah. And the humility then is part of that, I think the humility that parents need towards their baby's built in needs and they're built in signals. But again, they ha they need practice. Now we've taught people not to pay attention to each other very much very well. And so parents need to learn to be responsive and a book that we just read in class, which really helps is brain-based parenting. And they talk about their pace model that to parents need to be playful, accepting, curious and empathic is a curious is a funny word.


Darcia Narvaez (34:06):

I think delighting in would be better, but they wanted to have a nice acronym, pace. And so that, so that we, we worked with kindergartners this semester to trying to get the, the my students too learn to be responsive after they've read all how important the nest they've all nest is w w what it develops in children and how children are so shapeable in those first six years. Then to come and interact with children. We learned folk song games and that's a, you know, like farmer in the Dells is one that everyone knows. We didn't do that one. We did other more fun ones. But we played them with the kindergarteners because when you want to regrow your sensitivities and your responsiveness, your empathy, your need to do something in the moment that it requires you to be responsive and folks on games do that. And so your right hemisphere grows when you have that kind of experience as what our neuroscientists tell us. So you can do that with art, music, dance, and we were doing it with the folk song games.


Amber Cazzell (35:11):

Very cool. And so what about like on a broader level and kind of pulling in this sustainability piece, what do you think are the practical kind of ways forward for healing the planet and society broadly?


Darcia Narvaez (35:31):

Well, I think people have to face what civilization really is. And I've been reading Urband Scout, he wrote a book rewild or die and he gives the definition of Mmm. Civilization from a dictionary perspective and then he gives his own definition. So here's the dictionary. What does the dictionary say? Civilization is an advanced state of intellectual cultural material development marked by progress in the arts and sciences, the excessive use of recordkeeping, including writing and the appearance of complex political and social institutions. Then we all say, yeah, that sounds right. This is his definition. Urban Scout. A catastrophe created when a human culture practices fulltime agriculture causing their populations to spiral into a cycle of exponential growth, social hierarchy, soil depletion and genocidal expansion that leads to an eventual collapse of ecosystems, biological diversity and culture. And we see that's happening right? Everything biocultural diversity everywhere disappearing.


Darcia Narvaez (36:46):

Oceans are so warm now and as acidic, there's hardly any oxygen left in hardly any life left in them. All these tipping points are happening right now and people talk about near-term human extinction. So it's really, really serious. And those people who look at all the data are saying, we have maybe five years at the most left for our species, which is really a horrible shock. Talk told my students that yesterday on our last class and they, and I said, I'm sorry, I'm telling you this, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, sorry. And they said, well, I'm glad you told us. I'd rather know. You know, it's like a cancer diagnosis. Do you want to know or not? Yeah, I want to know so I can prepare myself, you know, and do the things I really love to do. And so that's the recommendation. Do the things you love to do in terms of relationships and honor the, the relationships you have and nurture an awareness and connection to all the natural entities around you. Yeah. Mmm


Amber Cazzell (37:51):

And going back to those two definitions of civilization, I mean, do you think that there's any merit to the first definition? It seems to me like they both have, they're both, they both have elements that seem accurate to me.


Darcia Narvaez (38:08):

Right? Yeah. It's just that people tend to focus on the first one and ignore the second one, and then we have this crises, these crises now. Yeah.


Amber Cazzell (38:21):

So what are, what are sort of your next steps, I know you said that this is actually a new area of research for you. What are your future directions and continuing your work on, on indigenous wisdom?


Darcia Narvaez (38:35):

Well, I'd like to do at least a article, if not a book on indigenous ethics. I think that's, I've got, I've gathered a whole bunch of books and resources for that. And so I'd like to spend time doing that and then a evolved nest to do things for the wider public, to make them aware of these things. And happily the federal government is passing a paid family leave 12 weeks for federal workers in the next few days. I think it'll be signed. So that's a good news. Hopefully that'll help 12 weeks at least something for babies, although that's not enough for longterm breastfeeding. So anyway, so it's pointing to the things we can do now and pointing to what our ideal would be so people have something in mind and giving them a sense of the baseline of where we come from as a species, what we need to flourish, what we need, and to be compassionately moral instead of sell protectionately moral, which is what our president push us for, you know, us, us against them puts us in the wrong mindset, at least in terms of being cooperatively compassionate.


Amber Cazzell (39:59):

And do you think like, what do you think are some of the biggest roadblocks to people taking this seriously, this line of work? Seriously?


Darcia Narvaez (40:10):

Oh, you mean indigenous ethics?


Amber Cazzell (40:12):

Yeah, indigenous ethics and also just sustainability behaviors as it relates to indigenous ethics.


Darcia Narvaez (40:19):

Well, I think we've had to, because we didn't have the evolve nest. Most of us in our early life or even now, I think the nest lasts throughout our lives. We all need lots of social support and feel like people are responsive to us and we feel like we have a contribution to make that we're connected and we belong. We all need that throughout life. But especially in early life when our brain is being shaped, I think a lot of us didn't get what we needed. And so we locked down, we put ourselves, we lock up our hearts, we locked down ourselves and suppress ourselves. And so, and then we, we glom on to whatever identity seems right at the time when you need it. And then we stick to that and we don't think very well. We don't feel much and we don't act then.

Darcia Narvaez (41:08):

Well, we act for ourself mostly or for my group. And so we have to get people healing from that. Those are just natural responses to being under cared for. [inaudible] It's pretty widespread now and that makes it really hard to think very well feel and to be a creature of the earth. And so, Oh, lots of healing has to happen. And some people say everyone should meditate and get in touch with the one, the oneness of everything. It takes a lot of practice to do that. And I think other ways of inspiring people too to soften their hearts towards every, every entity would be helpful. So there's some, there's so much to do, I'm sure all the listeners. So if there are any listeners we'll have a way that they can help us move in a direction that's more of a partnership orientation than a domination of others and of ourselves even.


Amber Cazzell (42:12):

Yeah. And also like the domination stuff. This is also backtracking a bit, but I was also fascinated by some of the implications in your book about how economics and politics kind of comes into play in bolstering these ethical traditions. Have you done more any more thinking about, about economics and politics as it relates to indigenous wisdom since writing the book?


Darcia Narvaez (42:49):

What were you referring to or what were you,


Amber Cazzell (42:51):

So like there was one chapter by Barbara Alice man about the gift economy of Woodland matriarchies. And so that, that chapter got me thinking about it more. And also just in general, the, the contrast between like, it makes sense that Native Americans would see, would see these Spaniards coming in Europeans coming in and cutting everything down the way that they did because at the time Merchantilism was, was in its heyday and, and in a way these colonists were sent out to go, yeah. Like find, find physical capital that could be sent back to the empire. And so I'm just, it, it's interesting to me to also think about how economics and politics are at play in, in shaping these ethical traditions.


Darcia Narvaez (43:56):

Yeah. And I've been reading about the commons, and it was only in the last a thousand years or so that the public lands became privatized first starting in England and then spreading across Europe, which displaced all sorts of people, right. Made first a homelessness, a starvation. All the things we see today that are just, we think is normal. That started when the aristocracy decided that they wanted to control everything. And so you couldn't, could no longer go to the forest and pick mushrooms or strawberries or hunt an animal when you're hungry. Yeah. And you got thrown in debt in jail instead and, or in servitude or something. And just that, that Karl Polanyi, Karl Polanyi wrote about this, he called it the great transformation. It's the roots of our economics today. And it was all, all these things happened sort of at a similar time point where the doctrine of discovery was put together by the religious, the, the Rome Vatican and that wherever a Christian landed planted their flag, they could claim it for their own for the empire.


Darcia Narvaez (45:13):

And that, that kind of in a private property law, John Locke argued that it was really important to a private pro. Other people did too. And came up with the theorizing about that. And it's all happening at once where all of a sudden we switched our economy. It used to be gift economies everywhere. And even before capitalism was spread all over the place, the gift economies would be the way a community interacted so that you knew you'd lend something to somebody and then they'd lend you something. And you had all these ways of being connected through lending and borrowing. And and even in our small band hunter gather societies quite a number, a couple dozen anthropologists noted that I can't remember which societies they looked at, but this is in science journal a few years ago where they found that even a thousand miles away, these people had indebtedness relationships. And so if they got into a famine over here, they could go walk that thousand miles to get help from those others who had helped, they had helped before or something. And so our whole, the way nature works is a gift economy. People some animals take others you know, their waste becomes food for another animal and on and on. Yeah.


Amber Cazzell (46:34):

Yeah. It's interesting too, to even think about like the, the phrase tragedy of the commons. That was another thing that popped up for me was just thinking that's so interesting that they're there. There is no such tragedy if you're operating out of an indigenous framework.


Darcia Narvaez (46:55):

That's right. So that's just a, from the capitalistic, linear way of looking at things. Yeah.


Amber Cazzell (47:03):

Yeah. Fascinating. Well. All right. So any, any last words of wisdom or hope for us as we move forward as researchers?


Darcia Narvaez (47:15):

Well, I think my, cause I'm retiring at the end of the year on purpose. All right. Thank you. Can't wait. In part is because I've gotten discouraged with psychology, at least my exposure to it because it is so narrow and it's so unable to deal with the environment, sustainability, indigenous wisdom because it's got this positivistic streak, right? You got to have an experiment and to get published you got to do it this way or that way. And so you leave out most, most of human experience. And most of what reality's about is left out of science, psychological science, and I just can't take it anymore.


Amber Cazzell (48:01):

Yeah. Could you tell me more about that, what you mean by that? Cause I know that there were also chapters about conducting science as well.


Darcia Narvaez (48:10):

Yeah. So Greg Cajete wrote a book on, I think it's 2000 called native science. And I've used it in class. It's so wonderful because it talks about how native science, indigenous science is about coming to know the earth and living well with it, you know, with the natural world and it's not a domination or control or you know, prediction, those kinds of things that are so important in Western science is just not there. And he has a chapter in this book too on plants and how important they are. I think Western science has now shown us that indigenous sciences, right in terms of, you know, plants feel things, they have agency, you've got all this science coming out on plants now fish too, you know, and trees or mother trees help the whole forest and even trees that are different species, their roots are giving them food and they all this kinds of interactive things happening that now biological sciences at least showing us. And physics is of course telling us about quantum theory and everything's energy and interacting constantly anyway. Now this is all native science already. They just didn't have the Western lingo for it, but they had a sense of it all and they acted on it. So it's behaving in a way that's honoring all the life around us. And I think that's the the important part of indigenous science. I forgot your question now.


Amber Cazzell (49:48):

Oh, no, no, I, it was great. I was asking about just science from from an indigenous perspective and again, like it sounds like a lot of it centers around this relational ontology and not so much experimental control and things like this, but actually more naturalistic kind of science


Darcia Narvaez (50:14):

And observation. So then you, you have generations of observation of a landscape and you know, what those, what helps those plants thrive or not, or what the signals of the particular winds in that area mean. I mean, he's disrupted now of course with climate emergency, but but you learn and you, you learn mostly from observation and being, listening and attending. And I think that's part of what those capacities are, some that we've lost or under developed. Interesting.


Amber Cazzell (50:48):

All right. Well thank you so much Darcia. I appreciate your time again and talking about this. I know you're going to make a lot of people very happy cause like I said, you're, you have been requested back by multiple people, so thanks so much from me and them as well.


Darcia Narvaez (51:05):

Thanks so much for having me again.