We've just arrived back from Kauai, Hawaii and feel so filled with gratitude, deep experiential learnings, new ways of being and an enthusiasm for action that is difficult to put into words, but we’ll do our best.
We'll start with why we were in Kauai, and who we mean by ‘we’. 'We' are Miriam and Rebecca, who hold TreeSisters Business Partnerships and Pathways & Alliances. Between the 27th and 31st of January, following an invitation by The Fountain and Hawaiian Grandmother Tutu Manulele, TreeSisters were in Kauai for Creator's Lab. The Fountain had invited a select number of close partners with the intention to co-create a global economic system of care for all life through ancestral wisdom to live in harmony and balance with the Earth. We were deeply honoured and grateful to participate on behalf of TreeSisters and strengthen our allyship with The Fountain and members of the Mother Earth Delegation. Everyone present was there for the planet and the unknown possibility of this collective group.
Each day began and ended in a ceremony honouring Grandfather Fire. On the second day, Grandmother Tutu led us in a multicultural Ocean Ceremony alongside Milo Yellow Hair of the Oglala Sioux Nation and Mindahi Bastida of the Otomi-Toltec Nations. The group sang in the new day's dawn and offered prayers to the ocean. Words cannot describe the immense privilege of being part of these ceremonies and receiving powerful transmissions on Original Principles from the elders and native Hawaiians.
Hawaiian Kumus (teachers) educated the group about the denigration the native Hawaiian Peoples have experienced due to colonisation. This ranged from prohibiting the use of their native language to acts of violence and oppression against them. Witnessing the incredible richness of their culture maintained through these individuals was a gift. A particular highlight was a Kumu Hula (Hula teacher) and two young dancers who explained and demonstrated how Hula dancing can embody stories and preserve the language. We also participated in a ceremony with Awa (or Kava), a sacred medicinal plant known as the food of the gods.
The Kogaba People (known as the Kogi) from Colombia shared stories about the creation of the trees. We also heard about the coca leaf, known as "little daughter", and how governments are burning these plantations and "younger brother" (people of the modern world) are misusing this sacred plant. The deep hurt this brought powerfully demonstrates how they recognise trees as relatives and deeply honour their life, something sorely missing in Western society.
We received powerful decolonisation training from Alexis Bunten from the Mother Earth Delegation. Alexis shared the importance of cultural sensitivity, understanding intergenerational trauma, the need for healing, good allyship, and the art of apology and repair. With permission from her ancestors and teachers, Nany Zepeda Sanic held a beautiful cacao ceremony as we sat in a circle around Grandfather Fire, reminding us of the importance of knowing where our cocoa beans are derived.
We had a conversation about carbon markets and heard perspectives from the Elders. Their message was clear, and the TreeSisters team was affirmed on the direction of our carbon position and not monetising nature. The carbon market is money-motivated and allows extraction and pollution to continue. Western nations have been conditioned with a coloniser mindset to extract, take and think only of themselves. This mindset is being used to solve the problems it has created. It pushes forward market-based 'solutions,’ insulated from understanding how they might impact Indigenous peoples, Earth, and our home.
The importance of bridging ancestral wisdom with science was also central in our conversations. It is imperative to shift from head to heart, recognise and respect our interrelatedness with all of life, and acknowledge there are several ways to gain understanding beyond the scientific method. Original Peoples hold deep ancestral wisdom and ecological knowledge. They show us a different way to be in relationship with lands, animals and one another that Western cultures have pulled away from. This is why 80% of the Earth's remaining biodiversity is within lands inhabited by Original Peoples. We learned it is not just about knowledge; it is about the spirit to keep this sacred connection with Earth and all its inhabitants. Importantly, we also heard that the Original Principles do not belong to Original Peoples –they are in all of us. The Elders emphasised the importance of centring ourselves with stillness and ceremony so that we can begin to listen once more. By connecting to Mother Earth, each one of us can bring forward the wisdom within us. Learning to look deeply into nature is much needed for the evolution of humanity.
We were reminded by Milo Yellow Hair and Mindahi that change begins within our ears and that we are responsible for celebrating creation and being alive. Collectively we need a change of mind, heart, attitude and understanding. We were encouraged to take the time to dream and stay joyful, to sing and dance as we travel along a journey that can sometimes be arduous. We were told we must live no slower or faster than the rhythms set by nature. Mindahi of the Otomi-Toltec Nations asked, "Being sustainable for what? You can't be sustainable of what's already broken. The water is polluted, so is the food, the Earth. We are all already suffering." He said we must return to respect for life and love as an action, acknowledge that we are surrounded by love and give thanks for that. He also shared a path to reconnect by recognising ourselves as human beings collaborating for good living. This was not to have fun living the good life but to take responsibility for the impacts of life, learning to take care of each other, make relations and see all as family and community.
We intend to allow the learnings from Original Principles and the Elders to germinate and move us toward powerful actions. Still, as we reflect and attempt to give a taste of what an incredibly life-altering and awe-inspiring opportunity this was, we will leave you with the words of Grandmother Jyoti, who says, we go slow, so we can go fast. She advised us that "The Western mind wants to figure it out. The Elders are saying, be still.” She encouraged us to listen to what we heard and embody it in ourselves and our organisations. In doing so, we can have a more integrated, wholesome approach that aims to let go of western arrogance and seeks to bridge scientific and business practices with Original Principles derived from the ancestral wisdom of cultures that have and are living in harmony with Earth.
A note from TreeSisters. TreeSisters recognise that aviation and air travel are significant contributors to climate change. We will always attempt to limit our travel where possible and, only if deemed necessary, utilise more environmentally friendly options like coach or train. This was not possible for this trip where key alliances were being strengthened and those present were immersed in the direct teachings and rituals of native Hawaiian, Lakota Sioux, and Olteni-Toltec elders and wisdom keepers in a way that can only be done face to face, and heart to heart.