Book encourages readers to adopt an indigenous worldview
Portland Seminary at George Fox University professor Dr. Randy Woodley always knew he was a Cherokee descendent. But, as both sides of his family had assimilated into mainstream western culture, it wasn't until his 20s that Woodley truly learned what it means to be indigenous.
"I needed to be taught," he said.
And now, Woodley is teaching readers what it means, too.
His newest book, "Becoming Rooted: One Hundred Days of Reconnecting with Sacred Earth," hit bookshelves in January. In it is a collection of Woodley's life experiences and indigenous wisdom passed down to him, regimented into short, daily chapters. At the end of each chapter is a different exercise inviting people to connect with nature.
Intentionally written for the general population, "Becoming Rooted" encourages readers to move away "from a more western, competitive, individualistic world view that's not very compatible with the Earth, to a more cooperative, relational, less extractive kind of relationship with the earth," Woodley said.
This is what being indigenous means — to live sustainably with the land around us, he added.
"We're all indigenous from somewhere," Woodley said. "It's just a matter of time and place. That's how we all came to be, was learning to live on the land."
"We think indigenous people around the world have the answers we need for sustaining our privilege to be on this planet. This (book) was a way to get it out to everybody."
"Becoming Rooted" is divided into 10 sections with 10 chapters in each section. Each section is thematic and imparts different types of wisdom.
"Part of it is just to get people to think about their relationship to the Earth," Woodley said. "Part of it is to think about how the American Dream has sort of been an indigenous nightmare, part of it is getting us to think about future generations and part of it is to think about indigenous people."
The overarching theme, however, "is how do we relate better to the earth?" he said.
The world is experiencing a climate crisis, he insisted. For Yamhill County, that means topsoil erosion due to chemical spraying and depleting water supply from overwatering.
"Every farmer wants to see the next generation doing the same thing (continuing to farm), but they won't be able to unless we begin to guard it (the Earth) and use it in a better way …," Woodley said.
To fully appreciate "Becoming Rooted," Woodley advised reading one chapter every morning, reflecting on it throughout the day and then glancing over it again later in the afternoon.
"Internalize one bite at a time," he said.
So far, "Becoming Rooted" has received a positive reception.
After its Jan. 4 publication, Woodley launched a 100-day reading challenge on his Facebook page, encouraging customers to read along with him. Many people have since shared their experiences engaging with the content.
"I don't think most authors get that kind of feedback right away, and so it's been really encouraging that the book is actually doing what I want it to do," Woodley said.
Additionally, Christian and Jewish organizations have turned "Becoming Rooted" into devotionals and study material for followers of their faiths.
Despite this, "I would say it's a spiritual book, not a religious book," Woodley said, literature that will resonate with everyone, regardless of demographics.
Woodley is the director of Portland Seminary's Intercultural and Indigenous Studies Department and a distinguished professor of faith and culture.
Woodley lived in Newberg for 12 to 13 years and all three of his children graduated from Newberg High School. He now resides on a nonprofit farm called Eloheh Farm and Seeds that he operates with his wife, Edith, who is part of the Shoshone tribe. Eloheh is located just north of Yamhill about 25 minutes away from Newberg.
They also run the Eloheh Indigenous Center for Earth Justice on the same property, a learning center they hope to eventually open to the public a few days a week.
"Because we're Native American, we sort of see the fallacy in trying to maintain this western worldview … (that has lead us) on a path of destruction," Woodley said. "We've poked the proverbial bear. We're sort of racing against the timeline to the kind of life that we want here on Earth and the kind of life that our creator imagines us having and that we would all like to have, which is one built on harmony and trying to live with the Earth instead of just live on or take from the earth."
In addition to "Becoming Rooted," Woodley has written eight other books, many of them while living in Newberg. Several can be found at Chapters Books and Coffee.
If nothing else, Woodley said he hopes the book will foster a desire in readers to help co-sustain the Earth, because "what we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves," Woodley said. "We just need to learn to become better relatives."
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