Opinion

2025 is the point of no return, indigenous elders warn

and overhead photograph of Canyon de Chelly National Monument during the day on Navajo Nation land
NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Now they come to gather for the coming disaster and destruction of the white man by his own hands, with his own progressive, advanced, technological devices, that only the American Indian can avert. Now the time is near. And it is only the Indian who knows the cure. It is only the Indian who can stop this plague. And this time the invisible will be visible. And the unheard will be heard. And we will be seen and we will be remembered.”

     —Doria Melliadis, Iroquois 

“The world ransacked to its utmost ends, and all its heights stripped and gathered of their flowers holds no more.”

      —Virginia Woolfe, “The Waves” 1931       

I once asked a remarkable Dine Navajo elder what he was working on. He answered we’re preparing for the next 500 years. Bewildered, I asked “Are we going to be here in 500 years?” He answered, “We will. I don’t know about you guys!” The Dine people live by a cosmology that honors the Earth. In the modern world, we have a marketplace that runs our world through machines. The two have nothing in common. Leon told me years ago that 2025 would be the point of no return for humanity. 2025. Not 2205. 2025. 

The vast majority of people who live in the Southwest never look under the hood of what the land is telling them. To have a home, drive to school, and make a living somehow seems to be enough. It is living only on the surface of things. They have rarely gone to listen to the roots of what makes this part of the world so remarkable. It is as if they are still running on the surface of America and its machine-made unreality. But what the elders have to say is a wisdom that antedates Western civilization. Its roots are much deeper and is based not on mere machinations and science but a whole cosmology we may last have had with the ancient Greeks. They have seen the changes and they are here and now. Most people live the American scream of rushing back and forth to work, buying, living, spending, consuming and maybe surviving. Barely. But the real genius of this part of the world are its Native people whose vision has always been as wide as the horizon. And what they have to say has foreshadowed what the dominant society will finally have to learn. 

This elder lived in Tahajiilee, on the way to the Arizona border. Being of Dine, Hopi and Apache ancestry his people have listened and watched the Earth for far longer than anyone in the technological society. Now we have to take heed. At the turn of the century, I had only an inkling of what Leon was saying. He had probably known about what we were doing to the climate and carbon cycle decades before James Hansen warned us of the atmospheric greenhouse gases. We have just had another Cop meeting in Glasgow and while most parties of 197 nations have agreed to a new environmental pact, industrial gases keep increasing. Humanity hasn’t learned anything from the pandemic and does not seem willing to change. Western Australia just reached 123 degrees a few days ago.  

One of Leon’s missions in his lifetime was to disseminate Navajo knowledge to physicists and scientists. Especially those who would listen, which was not easy. He knew that a way of life was coming to an end. He knew that this civilization was coming to a close. What he didn’t know, what I certainly could not fathom, was how accelerated the Earth changes were going to be. The great circle of life, the technological society started to break down has now grown into the shape of a square or rectangle. Square homes, offices, computers, cell phones, TV’s and lots of bureaucracy on squares or rectangles. The circle of life has literally been amputated. For Leon myth is the basis of understanding reality. The Greek Gods were not mere fiction. In the west we have forgotten how to honor Poseidon and the “gods.” Not abstract disembodied, religious gods but the telluric, geologic, elemental entities that cohere the world. The Kachinas for the Navajo are representations of the elements and the key concept of hozho – beauty. 

Hozho contains three layers…. Beauty that is at the center of the cosmos…how it endures and acts on the world, its sacred physical enduring way, beauty which can also mean emptiness, and also cosmic energy. The three layers of mind, spirit and the body have a mirror cosmology in Tibet Buddhism. Now that the elements have been separated from each other, world changes have begun to manifest. According to Leon, the winds of change started many years ago. Our science is top heavy and according to Leon has no informing presence…it separates, analyzes, dissolves, breaks down, fragments and has no vertical relation back to the source, which is the universe. It is why we still mine, subjugate and terrify the world with our machines. The continuous membrane of the sky informing Earth and the Earth informing the sky has been broken. Has anyone noticed the weather recently? It is why Roberta Blackgoat, the Navajo matriarch’s documentary of her life which won the Academy Award in 1985, was called “Broken Rainbow.” No coincidence. 

Now our society is trying to play catch up. Electric cars, fusion energy, wind power, solar energy. The search for rare earth elements like lithium needed to fuel a new civilization will in itself cause enormous damage. Catch-22 writ large. Leon explained that the universe is inside one shell and beyond that shell is another universe. Everything is connected. Western science has barely delved below the surface and in less than a hundred years we have brought the edifice of existence to its knees and we still think we are going to solve the problem with the very machines that got us here. Fabulous. 

On the other side of the continent, the Algonquin people could go all day long without uttering a single noun. Because for them like many Native people existence is a verb. We in the West have made the world into a thing. It is how our capitalist system works. Private property, money, things. It is how Wall Street works, or doesn’t. It is a system that foreshadows non-life. In actuality, the world is a quantum field and everything is in motion and informs everything else. But our science, finance, education and health systems have separated existence into bits and pieces. The world is not a noun, it is a verb. Life emerged out of a fluid, interconnected flux. What was once coherent and interconnected is being pulled apart. The drugs, the depression, the alcoholism, suicides today – are at the root of our disembodied way of ordering the world. Our great malady is spiritual as well as physical.

Some are doing their best to hold the ship together. Reforestation schemes, tidal energy, wind turbines, mammoth air purifiers but we are, as a whole, using umbrellas to stave off tsunamis. If an administration comes around in 2024 and returns to the old ways of drilling and ignoring climate change there is zero chance civilization will be able to hold on. As globalization ebbs and supply chains are disrupted the old ways of managing things locally will make more and more sense. Our senile civilization is fast fading. I was told to stay away from the coasts because they will be drowned. Things will happen that will make the country unrecognizable. In mind, body and spirit. We have to change our behavior and our minds or we perish.  

2025 is the year another administration is set to come into play. 2025 is around the corner. Not that long ago, a very unsophisticated leader had the solar panels removed from the White House. Perhaps if he has listened to Earth, America could have had a chance. And by extension the rest of the world. 

The American way of strife exported worldwide, led the way to the landscape we now have. Environmentally, politically, socially we can’t go back to archaic ways of doing things. Taking away women’s rights to their own bodies, ignoring or being in denial of the real story of America which is one of slavery, conquest and racism, drilling for oil in areas of the world where oil should never be extracted, will only exacerbate the dualistic mind set we have created.  

When one takes a guide into Monument Valley, the most awe inspiring landscape in the lower 48, a Navajo guide might show a certain petroglyph that resemble robot-like creatures. Maybe it is just another coincidence or maybe the Anasazi people foresaw what our society would become, a robot. Dorothy Vitaliano of the U.S. Geological Survey in “Legends of the Earth, Their Geological Origins” wrote that, “the time has come to give credit to the powers of observation of long gone people.” Geology and myth used to be intertwined and it was not long ago that scientists came to ask elders of the Southwest what they knew about climate change, because their climate models did not have all the answers. Power, prestige, productivity and profit are running their course. We now know that human blood, the heart and arterial system will be severely afflicted and anemic in space flight. That’s because we don’t belong out there. It is here on Earth that the circle of life must be maintained. 

Lewis Mumford the great social historian forecast a new dark age like the one Rome fell under before the barbarian invasions. Now the barbarians are within the fortress America built. The tribes are gathering, violent unhappy tribes like the ones who ransacked the capital. In 2025 or even before they may break down the walls of democracy forever. It may not be too late to listen to the Native Americans the Dine Navajo or the Pueblo that the preeminent English historian Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) described, “There is one surviving people, the Pueblo Indians, whose way of life is the antithesis of modern mechanical man. The Pueblo people, like the rest of us, are concerned to secure the material subsistence, but they are not concerned to maximize either their collective, or their individual wealth. The non indigenous Americans or Europeans, and the Russians and the Japanese ought now to ask themselves which of these two ways of life is the happier and the better way: The Pueblo people’s or modern mechanized man’s? In the modern world, who is free? If mankind is to secure its survival on earth for as long as the earth’s surface is going to remain habitable, we shall have to reduce our material life to Pueblo like stability. We have to renounce our present objective of maximizing material wealth.” 

A Cherokee, Gerald Wilkinson, summed it up best, with words we had better heed before 2025 comes around, a very prophetic date indeed. “One thing Indian People now see is that the white man has no perspective on his own world. He doesn’t see that it is coming to an end. To see the end coming, you have to be able to step back, to not be a part of it, to see the whole cycle. Who will survive? People who are close to the earth, who are the custodians of the soil, who have learned from the earth, who have the earth’s wisdom, who have learned how to survive.  And when we talk about living in this time when the world is coming to an end, we have to see what kind of world is coming to an end. It’s a perversion of life that’s being ended; a cancer. Sometimes, to save the earth, some things – that are destroying the earth – have to be destroyed. That’s a natural process. That’s nothing you, nor I can do anything about. And maybe, through that, we will be able to create a new world, a world of human beings. There is another world. Another world is coming.”

“We have been despising indigenous people because they could still marvel at the sight of flowers, coming upon by themselves from the ground and green leaves growing from the brown branches of trees. They had no microscope to see the chromosomes and genes which we can see. You, our children, must try to see behind what we see, try as they did.”

     —Thor Heyerdahl

Learn more about Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson’s work at their website.

WT Trailer cut 4 from Lightningwood on Vimeo.