Walking With Grizzly Bear, Fern, Turtle, and Dragonfly

Day 2 of the Intuitive Inter-species Communication Symposium

Bowie Yin Sum Kung
8 min readMay 11, 2023

Respecting indigenous peoples and knowledge systems

Today’s sessions were all about giving space to indigenous peoples and their wisdom and knowledges. We started the morning with Elder Joe Copper Jack sharing his work using the Land and Peoples Relationship Model, a collaborative planning and mediation knowledge tool based on indigenous knowledge.

He is the grandson of Chief Jim Boss (Kishwoot) of the Ta’an Mun (Headwaters People) of Lake Lebarge, Yukon, and of Copper Jack of Chitina, Alaska, ‘Indigenous Knowledge Holder and Land Relationship Planner’, and creator of the Land and Peoples Relationship Model.

This Model ‘actively invites plants, non-human animals and other beings of the land to have a seat at the land management table’. He brought No Voice perspectives to our attention, who are ‘those with no voice’, and included them in all discussions, conversations, and decisions made at roundtables.

No Voice had a seat in the Zoom room throughout the day. Photo of today’s panel discussion: respectful engagement with indigenous knowledges and intuitive inter-species communication. (Photo taken and shared with permission from the panelists)

Elder Copper Jack reminded us the importance of weaving together worldviews, instead of solely relying on colonialist, Western, mainstream perspectives. He used the stream banks tree metaphor to illustrate that although different knowledge systems and worldviews may not meet or bridge, they could still collaborate side-by-side, ‘without one trying to dominate the others’.

Image of the Stream Banks metaphor from https://www.respectcareshare.ca/model

Elder Copper Jack also reminded us to listen to understand and not to respond; to feel as much as to think, and not to be so rigid in our ways.

Talking Circle

The afternoon was a talking/sharing circle, sharing emotions, and being aware of our own voice versus those with no voice. Each person in the talking/sharing circle would receive and then pass on a talking stick or piece.

The questions that weaved together the talking circle were: What is needed to live into a multi-species culture? How do we engage together (humans and other beings)? What is required of us?

Talking Circle by Leah Dorion. (Leah Dorion Gallery 2006 — ‘Leah’s paintings honour the spiritual strength of Aboriginal women and the sacred feminine.’)

Without paraphrasing and interpreting the speakers, I will share a few quotes, not the full sharing, but snippets that stood out to me from each person.

Copper Jack: ‘…for humans to know our place in nature. We should be open to understand, to accept what is, accept that we all have common needs no matter who we are. We all need clean water to drink; we all need clean air to breathe; we need healthy food to eat; we need a safe place to be in; and this safe place applies to all of us and our relatives, all of the no voice… What is our role and responsibility in our living space?’

Joseph Naytowhow: ‘One has to want to learn before [one] undertakes what it means to be involved in the multi-species network… We don’t need to go far and wide to discover something that’s already right in our backyard. People are traveling all over for teachings. Teachings have always been right here. They’re very powerful, humble, earth-centric.’

Teachings can be found right in our backyard. Photo by Nick Wright on Unsplash

Gail Simmons: ‘Kindness. It is so simple, it is so free, it is so easy to do. The repercussions are immeasurable. Change. Happiness and harmony is the result when we find out how to navigate change. Respect differences. Be open to these ways of knowing. Patience. Willingness to change and adjust. The path is different and uncomfortable and unfamiliar to our brain and body. Time. Things just happen because “it was time”… Accept, respect, embrace. Be kind.’

MJ Barrett: ‘There were some key things to my own transformation. … to learn to name old stories that was keeping me stuck in my knowing and being, keeping me from stepping out, from speaking my truth in some ways. One of my key inner journey questions that I continue to ask is: “Is this actually the case or is it just a story that I’m just holding in some way in my mind, body, and spirit?” …then, releasing the story. It happens through conversation, community, with kindred spirits, and different healing practices… After that, cultivate habits to grow new stories, so that they don’t languish.’

Kari Lesick: ‘I’m a fourth generation settler of Polish-Ukranian descent. I feel great passion and responsbility to the traditional people of these lands. To me, it’s about patience and building trust. Listening. Create safety… Being able to show up in a sacred way and gentle way, with open ears and open heart.’

Anna Breytenbach: ‘… stepping outside of our human perspective; not by denying humanity, but by not letting it be the only lens. I saw bee struggling in the water and being a human, I had the means to do help her, so I grabbed a long stick and helped her out of the water. Now here’s a fork in the road, giving me the option to take a non-human reality. The human in me with well-intended decisions wants to move very fast to get her out as soon as possible. Operating from my human time frame, I might have made waves in the water and drown bee. Thinking to dry her wings quickly, [I could have] put her in the sun. For bee, it would have been too quick, too much of the shock. She needed a more gradual process. So I placed her in the shade, a windless place so she wouldn’t have to use energy to balance. I gave her space… I asked bush to offer a flower with pollen and nectar to help bee, and bush consented. Now, human would’ve used honey but I didn’t know the origin of the honey and it could’ve been toxic to bee. Over the next 10 minutes, bee resourced herself, took from that food, and flew away… [We need to have] imagined empathy, while not projecting our human views. Sink into the senses and perspectives of others.’

No Voice, Turtle: ‘We are the earth. We are born of her and we will be recycled into her mysterious substrate, in the loam, in the soils, the structure and fibre of life herself. Don’t get into othering process, where we make ourselves other than our kin... Remember to be in the flow. Notice where the flow is going, like in water. So that we may flow around obstacles. Where there’s strong resistance, adjust our posture, our inner posture, so that we may be ones to offer less resistance to the flow and to whatever happens around us.’

Turtle by Kris-Mikael Krister on Unsplash

Deb Matlock: ‘Have passion and grace for ourselves and each other. The wounds that surround multi-species communication for so many people are deep. People were burned at the stake [because they were] deeply connected to plants and animals… Across cultures, there are systemic and systematic severances of these rememberings. Yet, the world [is] so vividly full of wild connections and teachers around us of multiple species… How do we be in the space of authentic connection, move from our hearts, and hold grace and respect for those who know differently?’

Andrea Breen: ‘…I ask myself, “what is required of me?” For me, it’s the importance of multiple ways of knowing. [Intuitive inter-species communicators] are living in ways that is embodied, connected to intuition and experience. I need to keep going, honour and make good space for that… Thinking critically about power and how it operates. Having the privilege of being a human… [we have exercised] oppression against other humans and other beings on this planet.’ Andrea shares that she is reminded of Eve Tuck’s work.

Vanessa Wijngaarden: ‘We already live in a multi-species culture. The argument of separation is how these alternative points-of-view have been muffled… There have always been interactions, one connected body of knowledge, and people in connection with each other… Everything we built in academia has been built on indigenous knowledge. To say there is separation is to deny that deeper connection, putting it down, or making it invisible… We are a multi-species culture. When we deny that, it’s making it invisible. The question is, “what kind of multi-species culture do we want to have?”’

Viktoria Hinz: ‘It’s important to know where you’re coming from. The land where I grew up is there, connected to me, reminding me of pieces of myself; I felt more whole again. Remember the land where you grew up… For the past 8 years, I’ve been in Saskatoon. [On this land], there’s something else perceiving me. I felt known to a certain degree. I’ve built a relationship with a new place that I now consider a second home.”

Sydney Kuppenbender: ‘I reflect on how I’ve gotten to where I am today in this work: I don’t know how. The only explanation is that it was some kind of divine intervention… whatever you want to believe in. It made me think about how we move forward. I am naturely a highly intuitive person but also somebody who was trained not to think that way. I am also a highly anxious person… It’s an interesting combination… Moving into closer relation with our more-than-human kin, asking myself, “how can I be of service; where can I best be of service?”

No Voice, Grizzly Bear*: ‘Share space. Build trust and truth.’

No Voice, Fern*: ‘Walk carefully and walk with understanding. Listen to what you cannot hear.’

No Voice, Dragonfly*: ‘Have multiple perspectives. Be open to light, air. Embrace fun. Feel the connection and rhythm of Earth, and build safe habitats for all.’

*Quotes of Grizzly Bear, Fern, and Dragonfly are summaries from intuitive inter-species communicator participants.

Left: Grizzly Bear by Francesco. Centre: Fern by aleksandra. Right: Dragonfly by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash.

What is No Voice saying to you?

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Bowie Yin Sum Kung

I write about regenerative practices, climate and social justice, decolonial and alternative economies, economies that heal, and the wonders of nature.