With a Foreword by Larry Dossey
North Atlantic Books (2018)
Reviewed by Sky McCain
“We are the dream of the ancestors come to life”
“We dreamed you into the future”
The title and subtitle of this book accurately describe the contents. It is a book of instructions handed down from generation to generation of wise elders about how to live in harmony with each other and all Creation. These stories from their elders make up a set of sacred teachings that guide Native Americans in a way of life aimed at the restoration of the health and well-being of Mother Earth. They are sacred instructions. They emerged from indigenous wisdom and are the foundation of spirit-based change. This change was prophesied by several indigenous leaders, some ancient and some in modern times. Indigenous peoples from all across the Earth are saying that we are now living in a time of prophecy. This author feels that she and others of like mind have the responsibility of …dreaming the next seven generations into being.
Mitchell’s journey along the path of indigenous wisdom starts with a reminder that songs, stories and mythologies all speak about and help, through the aid of rituals, cement the foundational belief in the interrelatedness of all beings in the four main spheres of Earth including the sun and the moon. She also explains how we don’t need an intermediary between us and the Creator. There are true spiritual guides who are interested in helping us to access the inner teacher who is essential in our efforts to develop an inner sense of our personal truth and path. This truth was sparked by a vision she had where she saw her face reflected back to her from everyone she met. Thus, she realised that interconnectedness revealed an all encompassing wholeness, and oneness, with no separation from other beings.
Furthermore, the class of beings includes not only the whole surface of Earth but the sun and the moon. From the point of view of indigenous wisdom, interrelatedness is more than just a belief; it is a felt sense of love, respect, and reverence for Earth itself. Sacred Instructions is actually about how indigenous peoples, in this case, Native Americans, express this love and how it informs their behaviour towards each other, other-than-human beings and essentially their whole environment.
Mitchell writes about her heartfelt experience with views on indigenous rights, environmental justice, and spiritual change. These topics and several others are woven into her personal stories and, with the help of her ancestors and indigenous elders, reflect and enliven their wise teachings and connection to the Creator. Mitchell makes the most of her extensive learning by melding current social issues into an easily understood historical perspective. She weaves clarity into many complex issues diffused with darkness brought on by the shadow of a patriarchal, cynical and materialistic society.
In addition to her three primary themes, the book is packed with supporting topics written in a fast moving and personal manner that will hold your interest and perhaps serve as a reminder that the hinges are coming loose from the doors of our capitalistic/materialistic culture. These include examples of how to deal with conflict by establishing trust and the harmonisation of interests, learning to trust our inner teacher and finding that families are often our greatest teachers.
Mitchell speaks forcefully about the impact of colonialism on native peoples and points out that Colonialism has led us all to the brink of destruction. She explains how the pain of trauma can be transferred from one generation to the next which results in torment and despair. There is also group trauma which can turn into cognitive distortions. It is sometimes difficult to move on when one is reminded of past hostilities like the Inyan Ska (massacre at Whitestone Hill) in North Dakota. The Dakota Access pipeline was constructed through the gravesites. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, the founder of Standing Rock Sioux Camp tells the story passed down to her from her great grandmother Mary Big Moccasin.
There are also highly informative discussions about the factors that drive tyranny. These include conquest, domination and a hierarchical social structure rather than a cooperative one. I was especially impressed by how Mitchell includes examples and remedies for these harmful practices.
Our culture’s agreement that humans have an inherent right to thrive in our environment is inextricably connected to the responsibility to share and cooperate not only with other humans, but on a grand scale with the planet and all life. In other words, we don’t have an exclusive right to thrive.