TALKING STICK - 
TEACHINGS FROM PANDORA

 

Neytiri and Jake Sully - "Avatar" movie scene Twentieth Century Fox

Like so many millions of other people, we went out to see the movie "Avatar." We had heard all the hype and the negative comments ("Just another Pocahantas story") and decided to see for ourselves. I must admit, we were not prepared for the impact the movie would have on us!

When boiled down, this is indeed yet another story of first contact, and of the confrontation between "primitive" aboriginal beliefs in the spirit of the land, and the modern "enlightened" belief in exploitation of natural resources, regardless of cost. In this case, the story is placed in the future, and the aboriginals are the Na'vi, occupants of the planet Pandora. They are unmistakeably First Nations in flavour, with perhaps just a sprinkle of exotic African spices. Pandora is the unspoiled wilderness, with an underlying spirit called Eywa, with whom the Na'vi live in harmony and respect. Neytiri, daughter of a Na'vi chief, fills the role of Pocahontas, with Jake Sully filling in for John Smith. The conquerors are taken straight out of today's North American society, but with bigger machinery and weaponry. The conflict between two opposing beliefs begins, treachery and murder follow, and... well, if you haven't already seen the movie, I won't ruin it for you. Suffice it to say that it's just history revisited, with shinier technology.

On a smaller scale, we see the struggle of a wounded human warrior as he tries to understand the culture of the Na'vi. Over a period of months he comes to appreciate the spiritual aspects of the world around him, and to understand the value of those aspects. To me, Jake Sully represents the many people today who have realized that technology has failed to provide the paradise that it has promised for so long, and now look to spirit to fulfill that promise. He is Everyman in today's modern society, and I recognize him in myself. Like him, I have realized that there is more to life than materialism, and I am trying hard to grow beyond what society has programmed me to be: a consumer of things that do not need to be consumed.

The part of the movie that touched me the deepest was the way the link between the Na'vi and Eywa, and indeed all the spirits of the land, was portrayed. The Na'vi have a queue of neural fibres, often in the form of a braid, through which they can directly connect with many of the other beings that share their world, and even with the spirit of the planet itself. In one memorable scene, we see the Omaticaya clan gather together to pray for help from Eywa, and each and every one of them connects to each other and to Eywa through a connection between themselves and the earth. The sight of all these people, who believe much as I try to believe, all able to make such a profound connection network to everything around them, rocked my very soul. Why? Because I know that all of us, regardless of our ancestry, have the ability to make that very same connection! To me, the Na'vi queue is symbolic of the latent ability that we all are born with, but have chosen to give up in order to live in a world of things, rather than a world of spirit and meaning. To know that we have walked away from such a powerful and precious ability, and to know how much effort it takes to try to regain it, literally made me cry.

In truth, the story is simplistic and very polarized: here are the good guys and here are the bad guys, and there is very little gray area shown. However, I can hope that this movie will inspire people to reach out to our Mother Earth, and to the spirits that surround us, and make the attempt to become more than we are today.

There is one more impression that the movie left on me that I would like to share. In order to try to overcome the conquerors, it becomes obvious to the Omaticaya clan that ALL clans of the Na'vi must unite and work together. The call goes out, and differences are put aside to act for the common good. In our world, First Nations all across North America are threatened in many different ways by the so-called "dominant society." Unfortunately, my many brothers and sisters of different tribes and nations cannot seem to put aside their differences and present a united front. Imagine the power for change that could result if ALL First Nations, America-wide, could simply act as one. Imagine a final resolution of all the issues that stand between the two societies that share Turtle Island, so that we can finally close a pain-filled chapter in history and move forward.

Cry, my brothers and sisters, for what might be...

Msit No'kmaq!

 
Updated: 27 Mar 2016 Print Page