A conversation with Jessica Hutchings, a Maori researcher and apothecary, about indigenous knowledge, letting go of old mindsets, our relationship with nature and the deities of our landscapes. A deep dive in the New Zealand food system, indigenous ways to connect with soil and the food web, sound of plants, vibration of nature and much more.
LISTEN TO THE CONVERSATION ON:
This episode is part of the Regenerative Mind series, supported by our friends at Stray who are exploring systemic investing with awe and wonder as well as our friends at Mustardseed Trust, who are enabling a transition to a care economy that fosters regenerative food systems.
WHAT COMES TO JESSICA’S MIND WHEN SHE HEARS THE PHRASE ‘REGENERATIVE MIND’
Jessica thinks of an interconnected Maori universe:
”I see rhythms and patterns and circles, reoccurring and self-regenerating. And then the other thing that came up for me is this beautiful phrase that we have in our culture to describe a mighty worldview. And it was talked about by one of our elders as the interconnected, woven Maori universe. So that’s the connections between the soils and the stars. So, when you talk about the regenerative mind, I think all that’s interconnected, woven, mighty universe. It’s our indigenous world […] and it’s our role as organic growers or indigenous growers to make those connections between soils and stuff.” – Jessica Hutchings
”The other thing that springs to mind, to be honest, is that the term has been really colonized and co-opted in so many spaces, and so for indigenous peoples and Aotearoa. In New Zealand, we often don’t see ourselves in those types of frameworks, like regenerative agriculture or organic, because we have other ways of describing and communicating them.” – Jessica Hutchings
ON LANGUAGE AND SOUNDS THAT PLANTS MAKE
Jessica discusses the importance of sound in indigenous cultures, connecting it to regenerative agriculture and the divine senses of indigenous peoples. She highlights the universal resonance of sound across cultures and languages, emphasising its connection to the universe and the divine.
Sound was the beginning of life, it goes beyond the linear sounds of language to universal sounds. These are the sounds that plants make. There an indigenous biosensors scientist using probes in soil and connecting clips onto plants to listen to the sound of the soil and the plants. As we would expect, healing plants carry soft healing sounds. By connecting with plants and the soil in this way, it shifts our relationship.
”It makes me think about sound. In our culture, sound was the beginning of life. And so the notion of sound is very much tied up in regenerative agriculture, sound and vibration, other ways of coming to know that when we talk about language, it’s not just a spoken word. For us, as indigenous peoples, it’s about connecting them with all of our divine indigenous senses so that we can make sense of things. So, we talked about, we reached into the notion of language to try and understand and make meaning of concepts and ideas and the reimagining of these new worlds…” – Jessica Hutchings
”I think one of the things that we need to connect with is the actual notion of sound, in the resonance and the vibration that’s created within sound. And so, our indigenous language, like many other indigenous languages, is about vibration. Our vowel sounds have a resonance to our natural landscapes, or our divine landscapes, our godly landscapes…” – Jessica Hutchings
”It’s all about sound. The first thing that came out of the darkness for us in our culture was that vibration and that sound, and that’s really similar to many other indigenous cultures. […] Sound has a resonance universally across the planet. And we don’t necessarily need to be in our own languages and cultures to be able to find that connection.” – Jessica Hutchings
”We’ve been doing some work recently with the indigenous biosensors’ scientists, who have a device where we can put probes into the soil and connect clips to the leaves of plants to be able to hear and to connect with the sound of our soil and our plants. […] We can actually hear what the sound of our native plant sounds like, or the sound of our traditional medicine plant sounds like. And they sound, from a healing perspective, how you would imagine that they would sound. I think of some of our beautiful healing plants that are used a lot by our people, have healing tones and healing qualities, and they’re gentle, gently rhythmic, and they’re smooth in their intonation…” – Jessica Hutchings
ON REGEN AG COOPTING INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE
The regenerative agriculture movement needs to be connected with the source— to reconnect to its origins and to indigenous people’s knowledge and relationships with nature. Indigenous knowledge is passed down through generations through oral traditions, so in the traditional academic literature and written sense, it can be easy to not give credit where it is due.
”What that book did was that it returned our indigenous ways of connecting with soil, and our indigenous ways of understanding the microbes, and our indigenous ways of understanding the soil food web. And so these are really important concepts to bring into regenerative agriculture. But when you go and talk with regenerative agriculturalists about soil from our indigenous standpoint, people are very interested, but I can guarantee that within five minutes the conversation will turn to a Western scientific framework. And then what happens? Indigenous knowledge does get marginalised; they get positioned; there becomes an absolute truth to what we see down a microscope and how the microbes are behaving, as opposed to the intuitive knowing, the intergenerational knowing, and the intergenerational observational knowing that indigenous peoples have around the soil.” – Jessica Hutchings
”I think we need to fall in love again with the deities of our landscape, and we need to find our own connection with them. And that’s more important to me than having those as opposed biological conversations at this point in time, around soil.” – Jessica Hutchings
THE ONE THING JESSICA WOULD DO TO HELP DECISION-MAKERS AND INVESTORS IN FOOD AND AGRICULTURE DEVELOP A REGENERATIVE MINDSET
”Would be to come and sit with us as indigenous peoples in nature and to be in shared vibration so that we can move hearts first and minds will follow. So come and be with us in a heart space in our nature and our interconnected, woven, mighty universe that connects stars and soils together, and we can work together to shift our hearts and will move our minds and our practices they will follow.” – Jessica Hutchings
OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED
Emma and Jessica also talked about:
- Jessica’s journey. It was something Jessica was born with — and she believes we are all born with it — just hers has seemed to be preserved overtime. She received ‘instructions from her ancestors’, in particular her mother’s Indian side. Her grandfather had a strong sense of social justice, involved with Gandhi’s efforts to defy colonialism. Her grandfather also had a strong sense of localism, which shows up in Jessica’s bioregional local food system efforts today. Seeing and sometimes meeting leaders like Vandana Shiva and Moana Jackson who express right livelihood in their everyday and hold a vision for social justice and looking after the environment has also been influential.
- New Zealand food system is at a crisis point. The country produces enough food but most is exported, so the population faces great food insecurity. At the same time, the recent national government party shift further threatens the positive food system work underway led by indigenous peoples. Jessica believes Maori food growing knowledge is essential for creating thriving place-based food systems and suggests a path for change is for non-indigenous allies to build relationships with indigenous peoples and to flow resources towards indigenous science work which is under resourced.
- Letting go as an essential part. What do we need to let go of to really regenerate the mind? For Jessica, one example is letting go of a rigid idea of land ownership with her farm and create a trust, which breaks the traditional model of passing land down through the family. When we let go, we create space for true innovation to emerge.
- The real lever for regenerative farming. Jessica says it’s not the practices that need to change, it’s the mindset. How important is the mind/ mindset in evolving the current food and agriculture systems? Mindset is fundamental – but what is more fundamental is to connect with a state of consciousness that is expressing a sense of being with nature. Not just connecting with the wind, but the wind deity — the divine. In a soil sovereignty handbook Jessica recently developed, many people shared their relationship with the soil deity, showing this is an important aspect of indigenous ways to connect with soil and the food web. With the right mindset we can use our powers of intuitive knowing, of observational knowing.
- Suggested practices for listeners:
Take the naming away from things. What if we didn’t know the wind was the wind? Take a step back from the thoughts at how we think we’re supposed to be and enter a state of being. When we don’t have labels for things, we can experience them for what they are and embody a childlike innocence from which we can learn and discover.
Choose a place in nature (or even a tree in an urban environment) and go visit that place on a regular basis and develop close observational relationship with nature.
- On child-like innocence: Jessica says the older she gets the less she knows. Growing a deeper relationship with nature leaves us more and more humbled by how much we don’t know, how much we don’t understand nature’s intelligence.
- Maori Organics
- Māori Food & Soil Sovereignty with Dr Jessica Hutchings course
- Vandana Shiva
- Navdanya movement created by Vandana Shiva
- Jessica Hutching’s website
- Maori Deities
- A Maori Soil Sovereignty and Wellbeing Handbook
- Think Again by Adam Grant
- Laurence Tremblay – How mindset is everything when turning chocolate into a tool for good
- Giles Hutchins – How we can use the achiever mindset as a tool for crafting a regenerative world
- Lucio Usobiaga – Agriculture as an act of working with the magic of life
- Thomas Legrand and Luis Camargo – Shifting the narrative to capture food’s positive potential
- Calla Rose Ostrander – In our healing is our evolution as a society
Feedback, comments, suggestions? Reach me via Twitter @KoenvanSeijen, in the comments below or through Get in Touch on this website.
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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.