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Learning Native Wisdom: What Traditional Cultures Teach Us about Subsistence, Sustainability, and Spirituality

by Gary Holthaus

Availablepaperback$35.00x 978-0-8131-4108-4
Availablecloth$70.00x 978-0-8131-2487-2
Culture of the Land
280 pages  Pubdate: 02/22/2013  6 x 9 x 1  

Many native North American cultures have origins that predate Confucius, who lived five hundred years before the birth of Christ. For generations the people of these traditions have thrived under conditions that many view as harsh if not hostile. Through their close association with nature, members of native communities have created complex systems for cooperating with one another and living within their environments. Learning Native Wisdom: What Traditional Cultures Teach Us about Subsistence, Sustainability, and Spirituality explains how to nurture a society by closely observing the traditions of various native cultures. Author Gary Holthaus explores the need to live sustainably, in harmony with the land, in order to preserve our cultures, communities, and humankind itself. Holthaus asserts that all cultures are subsistence cultures: urban or rural, all humans depend on the land and its provisions for survival. Humankind faces a convergence of forces: climate change, oil depletion, loss of water, loss of topsoil, and species die-off of proportions that exceed those of the past 65 million years. In Learning Native Wisdom, Holthaus shows that any path to sustainability includes elements of both subsistence and spirituality. The book offers a way to confront potential perils and create a better future.

Gary Holthaus is the author of several books, including From the Farm to the Table: What All Americans Need to Know about Agriculture and Wide Skies: Finding a Home in the West.

Perhaps the most profound and right-on-dead-center narrative I have read in a decade. These musings are uncannily brilliant in the way they refresh our sense of the already-hackneyed term sustainability. This book engages readers as if they are in active dialogue with a great mind and are being asked to think as deeply and passionately as the writer. -- Gary Paul Nabhab -- author of Where Our Food Comes From and founder of Renewing America’s Food Traditions

Holthaus offers a powerful case that we have ruptured the intimate bond between the health of humankind and the natural world, and that reconnecting the two may be one of our last chances for a viable future. -- Garrit Voggesser -- Senior Manager of the Tribal Lands Conservation Program, National Wildlife Federation

Learning Native Wisdom teaches that we are all 'native' to the earth. This wisdom is not exotic, primitive, or 'other' but is embedded in the ancient, practical daily lifeways passed down for millennia by all our ancestors--functional, sustainable (ethical), and broadly spiritual. Developed world societies are also subsistence cultures, at the moment locked into hunting and gathering the shirinking resource oil. With wisdom comes gratitude, manners, and care for creation. Holthaus quotes a farmer friend who says. 'No use talking about sustainable agriculture if you don't have a sustainable culture.' This book is just what we need. It is deeply informed by Gary Holthaus's many years of teaching and working in the Alaskan bush. -- Gary Snyder -- author of Mountains and Rivers Without End

Gary Holthaus shows us with infinite care how our desire for sustainability in many dimensions--agriculture, environment, economy, to name a few--can never be achieved without the support of a sustainable culture. Drawing on age-old wisdom, he argues that subsistence, sustainability, and spirituality must go hand in hand if we are to make our lives and our world healthy and whole. Without romanticizing traditional cultures, he uses their experiences to demonstrate that we humans at one time lived in this world in more sustainable ways and that, knowing this, we have the possibility to do so again. -- David D. Chrislip -- author of The Collaborative Leadership Fieldbook

Holthaus illuminates the sharp distinctions between the long-term view taken by Native peoples regarding the connection between nature and humans, and the ‘immediate return’ goals of the U.S. economy, exemplified by our ‘frantic hunt for the last barrel of oil.’ -- Deborah Donovan -- Booklist

Holthaus’s collection of essays is a pleasant immersion in the environmental philosophy of Native American (mainly Alaskan, in this case) ways of life and belief that contrast so vividly with the consumerist culture that permeates today’s world. -- Choice

"This is story-telling as learned from [Holthaus’s] Indian and Eskimo friends and mentors in Alaska, with a brilliance that is refreshing because it is rooted in experience. Anyone interested in sustainability will find this book engaging and different." -- Craig Gerlach -- Agricultural History

"For Holthaus, the 'spiritual task' is to learn to love the universe, including all the creation and the destruction, the health and the disease. Holthaus does a wonderful job of communicating this task throughout Learning Native Wisdom, as he describes how engagements in the continual effort of creating a sustainable culture require that humans learn to tell each other stories, learn to love the universe, learn to practice self-cultivation, and learn to participate in the relationship and reciprocity that entwine humans and the natural world." -- Worldviews: Environment Culture Religion

"[Holthaus] challenges [readers] to be mindful of their words, to shape them according to a larger vision of the sorts of persons they wish to be."--Agricultural Environment Ethics

“With the foundational stories of many spiritual belief systems and the work of certain spiritual leaders, Holthaus assesses how traditional and non-traditional spiritual belief systems might exist in contemporary culture.” --Hilary B. Booker, Department of Environmental Studies, Antioch University