EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED - New blog series currently being published by  National Geographic NewsWatch

Eli Ens, the co-director of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Tribal Parks, embraces his people’s Ha’huulthii — traditional territory — from the top of the Wah-nah-jus (Lone Cone Mountain) at the western edge of the Meares Island Tribal Park. The Tribal Parks are land and sea designations within Tla-o-qui-aht territory, managed by and for the Tla-o-qui-aht people to better harmonize environmental and human wellbeing.

Photograph by Gleb Raygorodetsky

EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED - New blog series currently being published by National Geographic NewsWatch

Eli Ens, the co-director of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Tribal Parks, embraces his people’s Ha’huulthii — traditional territory — from the top of the Wah-nah-jus (Lone Cone Mountain) at the western edge of the Meares Island Tribal Park. The Tribal Parks are land and sea designations within Tla-o-qui-aht territory, managed by and for the Tla-o-qui-aht people to better harmonize environmental and human wellbeing.

Photograph by Gleb Raygorodetsky

Of Reindeer and Salmon @ Sevettijärvi, Lappi, Finland

Traditional Territory of Skolt Sami.

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2014 for Land is Life

Lake Baringo, Kenya.
TItus Lepariyio - an Ilchamus traditional diviner and seer.

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

Lake Baringo, Kenya.

TItus Lepariyio - an Ilchamus traditional diviner and seer.

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

Ilchamus fishermen of Lake Baringo, Kenya.

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

Wah-nah-jus Hilth-hoo-iss, or Meares Island Tribal Park.
Tla-o-qui-aht Ha’huulthii

Cory Charlie, a Tribal Parks Guardian, and two of his part-time summer Tla-o-qui-aht assistants— a symbol for Tla-o-qui-aht Sea Serpent emblazoned on the back of their Tribal Park uniforms – are on their way to the Big Tree Trail on Meares Island Tribal Park.

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

Tiičswina, We Survived!
Tin-Wis Hotel, Tofino, Tla-o-qui-aht Ha’huulthii

I was standing with Joe Martin, a Tla-o-qui-aht Master Canoe Carver, on the soft straw-colored sand of the Mackenzie Beach in front of the Tla-o-qui-aht owned and operated Tin-Wis Resort on the outskirts of Tofino. Until it was shut down and reclaimed by Tla-o-qui-aht Band Council, this was a site of one of several Indian Residential Schools operating in the area. For decades these government-funded and church-run institutions pursued the agenda of forced integration of various Nuu-chah-nulth groups from around Vancouver Island.

Throughout Canada, under the banner of assimilation of First Nations into the mainstream Canadian society, the Government made every effort to “kill the Indian in the child,” by forcefully separating children as young as two years old from their families for up to 15 years, forbidding the use of their native tongues, and punishing them for any signs of using traditional practices. The mental, and often sexual, abuses throughout the Canadian Residential School System amounted to the cultural genocide, the fact that the Canadian Government acknowledged only in 2008.

For years, there’s been little to remind anybody of the tragic chapter in the history of the Nation and Tla-o-qui-aht people. The only two buildings remaining from the original sprawling residential school complex have been remodeled into a hotel conference center and a maintenance shop. But this past spring, to celebrate the survivors of residential schools, Tla-o-qui-aht people raised a striking totem pole right in front of the Tin-Wis hotel. They called it Tiičswina, We Survived! The pole is a pyramid of crest animals from all Tla-o-qui-aht groups affected by the residential schools tragedy, from the tiniest mouse to the imposing bear. Joe Martin was the lead carver of the project. Joe David, one of Tla-o-qui-aht renowned carvers, created the totem pole’s top crest of the Sun, with the rest of the crests carved by Joe, his brother Carl, and several other artists.

“To us, the Tla–o-qui-aht people, our totem poles are our constitution,” explained Joe putting his hand on the muzzle of the lower crest, a bear-being embracing a salmon with its front paws. “It represents our rights and responsibilities based on the Natural Law, reflected in our understanding of the world where everything is connected – Hishuk Ish Tsawalk. The top crest of the totem pole in our tradition always features the Sun or the Moon. This is the first natural law and it is about respect — self-respect and respect for other people and beings. This teaching first comes down to us when we are still inside the womb of our mothers and our elders and parents speak to us then, and continue doing it throughout our lives.

“The second law is a fundamental part of each totem pole in our tradition. That is the Wolf, which is responsible for upholding the Natural Law, and is seen as one of the most important crests. Then, the two serpents have several meanings. It is the lightning in the sky as well as a mythical sea serpent. It also represents our teaching about being aware of everything around us. It reminds us of all the creatures that fly and walk in the world, and the laws of nature we all live and die under. This includes the concept Quu-us, which means, “Real live human beings”. As Quu-us, we are a link between past and future ancestors, and have inherited all of the medicines that sustain life both physically and spiritually. So, we are responsible for passing our inherited medicines onto future ancestors, and we are accountable to them and all living beings through the laws of nature and our communities’ living in accordance with the Natural Law. These teachings about our gratitude amd responsibility to our past and future ancestors.”

Stepping back from the totem pole to peer upwards at the Sun crest rising above the residential school site, now a popular hotel, Joe concluded, “All of this was taught to our people throughout our traditional education, called Ha-ho-pa from the moment we were conceived. This was the thread that connected us to our past and future ancestors.The residential schools did us real damage and it will take generations to recover what’s been lost.”

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

Kuku Nyngkal Bubu
To welcome visitors to their territory (Upper Annan River, south of Cooktown, Queensland, Australia)  the Kuku Nyungkal people carry out a smoking ceremony using branches of Jujubala (ironwood). The smoking/warming ceremony ensures that the visitors will be welcomed by their country (bubu) and it is safe for them to visit. 

"It is our Occupational Health and Safety protocol," says Peter Wallace, a Kuku Yalanji Elder.

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

Kuku Nyngkal Bubu
To welcome visitors to their territory (Upper Annan River, south of Cooktown, Queensland, Australia) the Kuku Nyungkal people carry out a smoking ceremony using branches of Jujubala (ironwood). The smoking/warming ceremony ensures that the visitors will be welcomed by their country (bubu) and it is safe for them to visit.

"It is our Occupational Health and Safety protocol," says Peter Wallace, a Kuku Yalanji Elder.

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

Tla-o-qui-aht Ha’huulthii (Tlaoquihat First Nation Traditional Territory) 

Bull kelp at Echachis Island, Tla-o-qui-aht’s historic whaling camp.

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

Tla-o-qui-aht Ha’huulthii (Tlaoquihat First Nation Traditional Territory)

Bull kelp at Echachis Island, Tla-o-qui-aht’s historic whaling camp.

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

Tla-o-qui-aht Gold

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

Tla-o-qui-aht Gold

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

Tla-o-qui-aht Ha’huulthii (Tlaoquihat First Nation Traditional Territory) 

A new Healing the Earth story in development for the Conversations with the Earth - STAY TUNED!

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

Tla-o-qui-aht Ha’huulthii (Tlaoquihat First Nation Traditional Territory)

A new Healing the Earth story in development for the Conversations with the Earth - STAY TUNED!

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

Viewpoint, Ifugao, Philippines.

At 84, Mr. Tundagui Gayuma spends his days at one of several overlooks with a commanding view of the Banaue Rice Terraces. Donning his traditional garb of Tuwali people he inherited from his grandfather, he poses for photographs snapped by eager tourists. When he was younger, Mr. Gayuma used to work as a hired laborer on the rice terraces (his family didn’t have any rice fields of their own), but after he got very sick he could not do it any more. Now, if lucky, he can earn 200-300 pesos a day (~US $4.5-$6.8) to to buy some medicine for his achy joints.

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

Ukok Plateau, Golden Mountains of Altai World Heritage Site, Russia.

Maria Amanchina came to the Ukok Plateau to conduct a ceremony reaffirming her commitment to bring the remains of Princess Ukok back home from Novosibirsk Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences, so that the noblewoman could continue playing her vital role of keeping the Altai and its people in balance. 

For the rest of the story read the OurWorld 2.0 blog Maria and the Ukok Princess: Climate change and the fate of the Altai

© Gleb Raygorodetsky.

Ukok Plateau, Golden Mountains of Altai World Heritage Site, Russia.

Maria Amanchina came to the Ukok Plateau to conduct a ceremony reaffirming her commitment to bring the remains of Princess Ukok back home from Novosibirsk Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences, so that the noblewoman could continue playing her vital role of keeping the Altai and its people in balance.

For the rest of the story read the OurWorld 2.0 blog Maria and the Ukok Princess: Climate change and the fate of the Altai

© Gleb Raygorodetsky.

The Banaue Rice Terraces World Heritage Site, Ifugao, Philippines

A staircase to heaven for giants? A terrain straight out of Minecraft? The Banaue Rice Terraces are much more remarkable - a testament to the ingenuity and innovation rooted deeply in the traditional knowledge and practice of local people!

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

The Banaue Rice Terraces World Heritage Site, Ifugao, Philippines

A staircase to heaven for giants? A terrain straight out of Minecraft? The Banaue Rice Terraces are much more remarkable - a testament to the ingenuity and innovation rooted deeply in the traditional knowledge and practice of local people!

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2013 for Land is Life

Rautujärvi Lake, Finland. 

The land around Rautujärvi Lake, over 400 km above the Arctic Circle near the Norwegian and Russian borders, is home to the Skolt Sámi — reindeer herders and fishermen whose traditional ways are closely intertwined with the northern climate. 

The radiant disk of the Arctic sun hangs in the mid-September sky above northern Finland, like a ritual Sámi drum pinned to the wall inside a lavvu, a traditional Sámi dwelling. The sun’s reflection is floating gently on the still surface of Rautujärvi Lake, located over 400 km above the Arctic Circle near the Norwegian and Russian borders. Come November, according to traditional calendars created and refined over generations by the Sámi people to track seasonal cycles on their land, the sunlight would be bouncing off the ice and snow of Sápmi, as the Sámi call their land.

But the flows of air and water over this landscape are no longer in sync with the ancestral calendars, and the sun’s reflection may continue to float on the water for several weeks longer, disrupting Sámi traditional winter travel, fishing, hunting, and reindeer herding activities.

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2012

Rautujärvi Lake, Finland.

The land around Rautujärvi Lake, over 400 km above the Arctic Circle near the Norwegian and Russian borders, is home to the Skolt Sámi — reindeer herders and fishermen whose traditional ways are closely intertwined with the northern climate.

The radiant disk of the Arctic sun hangs in the mid-September sky above northern Finland, like a ritual Sámi drum pinned to the wall inside a lavvu, a traditional Sámi dwelling. The sun’s reflection is floating gently on the still surface of Rautujärvi Lake, located over 400 km above the Arctic Circle near the Norwegian and Russian borders. Come November, according to traditional calendars created and refined over generations by the Sámi people to track seasonal cycles on their land, the sunlight would be bouncing off the ice and snow of Sápmi, as the Sámi call their land.

But the flows of air and water over this landscape are no longer in sync with the ancestral calendars, and the sun’s reflection may continue to float on the water for several weeks longer, disrupting Sámi traditional winter travel, fishing, hunting, and reindeer herding activities.

© Gleb Raygorodetsky 2012