Community meeting in a tribal village. Photo by Collin Key

No one truly owns any part of creation. Rather all creation belongs only to God. We may be assigned to care for parts of it, but only if we serve the needs of others, along with our own needs. (At Home in the Web of Life: A pastoral message on sustainable communities in Appalachia, 76)

Indigenous peoples around the world tend to have deep spiritual, cultural, social, and economic connections with their land and resources. Their traditions of collective land ownership and stewardship contrast with dominant models of individual ownership and privatization. Too often, development pushes communities such as the Birhor Tribal community off their lands, leaving indigenous peoples disenfranchised, disempowered, and dehumanized. Sister Joel references the Tribal community as “original dwellers on this earth”; environmental justice seeks to re-empower indigenous communities to restore their rights to occupy and coexist with their land.

How have you approached issues of indigenous land rights in the past? Have you fought alongside native communities, or have you been hesitant to engage? How does the issue of land rights connect to an enlightened spirituality – and how can you get involved in your community? Reflect on this, and then please pray with us:

Loving Creator, You have designed a world in which all have the capacity to flourish. Where human greed has disenfranchised, let me sow the seeds of justice. Where people fear losing their multitude to provide for the basic needs of all, may I be a voice of humility and hope in restoring what has been lost. Offer me a new perspective to learn from indigenous wisdom and empower indigenous communities in my country and world. Amen.