As a young man I came across a quote in a book, which I never forgot. Though it may have been a misquote or mistranslation, the idea expressed still makes sense to me. Two hundred years ago Chief Seattle apparently said to his people: “The white man is coming and you can’t stop him. The only thing you can do is remember what you have now, because in 200 years he is going to come on his knees asking for it.”
In my lifetime I believe I have seen Chief Seattle’s prophesy begin to play out. Western civilization, the industrial revolution, the religious-like ascendance of science and technology, the degeneration of traditional religions, the loss of spiritual connection, and the proliferation of centralized political systems hijacked by corporate agendas, have made a real mess of planet Earth, and of its human population. These interlocking systems have become irrational and unsustainable. I think they are in the process of a long collapse.
I see that the individuals and organizations who are truly evolutionary, who are creating new, sustainable, rational options for the future seem to be serious fans of the core values and teachings of the First Nations peoples of North America, and the aboriginal peoples of the world – the very people who have been so horribly disenfranchised, oppressed, and yet who still hold, deep in their collective blood, their DNA, a real and profound connection with the natural world, both physical and spiritual. Some of these world-changing innovators are, in fact, First Nations people.
When I was filming Ernie dancing in the great Kamloopa arbour, a stadium full of dancers, I did not think of a defeated people, a dying culture. I marvelled at the beauty there, and the incredible strength humming just under the surface. And when I stood over the drumming circle I found myself moved beyond words. I had to walk away. I had to sit alone for awhile. With the greatest of respect and sincere empathy for those who have suffered so much, I think a new story is also happening. I think Ernie Philip, Dancing Bear, is a measure of how possible it is.