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Summer Solstice 2001 gathering led by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader of the Sioux nation on the Hill of Uisneach, Co. Westmeath 2001 Michael O'Callaghan

Arvol Looking Horse

Chief Arvol Looking Horse arriving at Uisneach. 2001 Global Vision


The Irish megalithic monuments were built, according to our ancient mythology, by the Tuatha Dé Danann (People of the Goddess Danu), the Indigenous People who lived on this island and probably along the whole Atlantic coast of Europe in the middle and late stone age, before the bronze age Indo-European migration and the arrival of the Celts.

Since the International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples (1994 -2003) was declared by the United Nations. it behoves us to honour our Indigenous ancestors by conserving their extraordinary artistic legacy for future generations.

On June 21, Summer Solstice 2001, the spiritual leader of the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota people (otherwise known as the Great Sioux Nation), came to Ireland with an entourage of other Native Americans representing the Hopi, Pueblo and Cree people, to celebrate World Peace and Prayer Day and to ask people aroud the world to celebrate Mid Summer's Day by visiting the local sacred sites in their area. Some 300 people gathered at Uisneach (see photos above and left).

Indigenous Peoples are relevant to us today because of their spiritual traditions of respect for nature. To them, as to the People of the Goddess Danu, nature was not a commodity to be bought and sold, but a numinous environment immanent with the presence of the sacred. The river Boyne is named after their Goddess Bóann: imagine how the people would have felt touching or drinking her water. As Chief Seattle (Shokomish) put it in his famous speech of 1854:

The Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land.

The Great Chief also sends us words of friendship and good will. This is kind of him, since we know he has little need of our friendship in return. But we will consider your offer. For we know that if we do not sell, the white man may come with guns and take the land.

How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of this Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man.

The white man's dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful Earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse and the great eagle are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man- all belong to the same family.

So when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy the land, he asks much of us.

The red man has always retreated before the advancing white man, as the mist of the mountain runs before the morning sun. We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next... the Earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father's graves behind, and he does not care. He kidnaps the Earth from his children...His appetite will devour the Earth and leave behind only a desert.

The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath- the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench...The air is precious to us, the air shares its spirit with the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh.

This we know: The Earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the Earth. This we know.

Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.

Even the white man cannot be exempt from the common destiny. One thing we know, which the white man may one day discover – our god is the same god. You may think that you own him as you wish to own the land but you cannot. This Earth is precious to the great spirit, and to harm the Earth is to heap contempt on its creator. The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and one night you will suffocate in your own waste.

Your destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man is vanished from this Earth, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, the shores and forests will still hold the spirits of my people. For they love this Earth as the newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. So if we sell you our land, love it as we've loved it. Care for it as we've cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you take it. And with all your strength, with all your mind, with all your heart, preserve it for your children, and love it... as the Great Spirit loves us all."

Because Indigenous Peoples, like the Druid Amergin in his incantation, saw our fellow non-human creatures as sentient beings, their relationship to nature was by and large, ecologically sustainable. One of the laws enshrined in the Constitutution of the Native American Iroquois Confederacy was not to harm nature in any way that would have consequences for the seventh generation. There were practical reasons for this: any society whose consumption of resources oversteps the carrying capacity of the ecosystem on which its survival depends soon gets into trouble, and solves the problem by appropriating the natural resources of its neighbours. As Clive Ponting observed in his book "A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilisations", apart from the extinction of a few species of megafauna like the wooly mammoth and the sabre-toothed tiger, most Indigenous Peoples remained ecologically sustainable until the appearance of the first cities which eventually exhausted the locally available resources and needed to expand their territories just to survive. In Ireland, most of the landscape remained wooded until the 16h century, when England ran out of the forests to which it was now addicted for shipbuilding timber, construction, firewood, and charcoal for steel smelting. Its conquest of Ireland soon decimated the priveaval oak forests.


I am the wind on the ocean
I am the rolling wave
I am the murmur of the billows
I am the bull of seven battles
I am the falcon on the rock
I am the dewdrop in the Sun
I am the lovely flower
I am the wild boar
I am the salmon in the pool
I am the lake in the plain
I am the power of art
I am the point of a lance in battle
I am the God who creates the fire in the head.

Who casts the light
into the gathering on the mountain?
Who announces the ages of the moon?
Who points to the Sun?

The Irish ballad Cillcaish, written in the early 1800's, laments: "Cad a dhéanamaíd feasta gan adhmad? Tá doire na gcoilte ar lár!" (What shall we do henceforth without wood? The last of the forest is laid low!) Now that the Earth's tropical rainforests and last surviving stands old growth woodland disappear before our eyes, the perils of short-term thinking are becoming visible in the form of climate change, widespread species extinction and an uncertain future for Humankind.

Another Indigenous People recognised for their long-term view of time – as well as for their astronomical accomplishments – are the Maya, who flourished for two millennia and whose descendants still survive in Guatemala and the neighbouring part of Central America. They invented the concept of "zero" centuries before it was independently formulated in India, measured the solar year with an error of only 17.28 seconds, and created a calendar which goes for thousands of years. While most of their monuments are designed as astronomical observatories, much of their science was lost when all but four of their entire library of thousands of books was burned by the Franciscan friars after the Spanish conquest in 1727.

Rigoberta Menchú Tum is the Mayan human rights leader, Nobel Peace Laureate, and official spokesperson for the International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples. She made the following remarks in her Global Vision interview filmed after the 1993 Spring Equinox Earth Day ceremony at the United Nations:

Nobel Peace Laureate
Rigoberta Menchú Tum

"Indigenous people are not some myth from the past, a myth that survives only in legends and in ruins! You should find out what indigenous people can contribute toward a global vision, a vision of nature, of development, of community based on the oral transmission of our ancestors' knowledge from generation to generation. You should also look at the way we think about nature. Around the world, indigenous peoples have played an important role in many struggles and accomplishments. But their names are never mentioned, their contributions have been ignored. Others have given new names to these concerns which indigenous peoples have always cared about.

We indigenous peoples have nothing against the innovations of technology and science when they are shown to be appropriate. But we are against such innovations if they are applied in opposition to the values which indigenous people protect, which are those of life, nature, and historical memory. No people can flourish who do not know their own past. The past is a good foundation for the present, and an inspiration for the future."

Ireland's heritage of megalithic monuments is a global treasure, left to us by the Indigenous People who inhabited Western Europe five and six millennia ago. It is indeed an inspiration for the future.

Please email your comments to Michael O'Callaghan at or contact him at this address.


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Updated 2 August 2001
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