This Tahltan Mom Shares Her Knowledge and Work Of Spiritual Ecology And Why Being A First Nations Creative Educator Is Impacting The World
We have been incredibly honored to connect with Kailea Frederick, a Tahltan woman who is dedicated to the practice of spiritual ecology and sharing that ethos with her community. As a First Nations writer and photographer, Kailea is deeply committed to creating and contributing to projects that are actively highlighting new stories of possibility and change.
Check out this incredible interview:
How do you define sustainability?
I rarely use the word sustainability, although I am aware that it is popular and accessible language for those associated with environmental and/or climate justice work. In 2013 while attending a Permaculture course our group was asked by the teacher to pause for a moment on the word “sustainability”. He wanted to highlight that the word “sustain” means to keep something in a point of stasis or in other words to stay in place. We were challenged to critically think about what it would mean to “sustain” many of the broken systems in practice today. After a moment he introduced us to the idea of regeneration. What would it mean to instead heal, and generate new energy into the land and systems that we are a part of? When I think about applying myself to any broken system, be it environmentally, socially, politically, I am asking myself, “What will it take to move beyond the fracture? What is the higher vision of healing that I am holding for this space and what do I need to apply in order to see this vision come into being?”
What does land equity/justice mean to you/your culture?
SOVEREIGNTY. Rightful status of independent power over land and a body politic. This stance has been hugely influenced by my upbringing in the occupied Hawaiian Kingdom that is presently known as the state of Hawai`i. When interacting with Native Peoples anywhere it’s essential to hold the understanding that there are thousands of Nations that make up the blanketed identity of Native American and/or Indigenous peoples. I have been taught that whoever’s land I am currently living on or visiting is who I must ask for guidance on what land equity and justice should look like in that context. This means trusting in their government structure and also the Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of that land.
Define "spiritual ecology" and how do you manifest this ideology in your work?
I define and work with Spiritual Ecology in a multitude of ways. For me, Spiritual Ecology has always been about centering those peoples who have kept intact practices of earth stewardship at the forefront of their culture. As a First Nations woman spaces that orient themselves around the tenants of Spiritual Ecology have become healing points of bridge building between myself and those who come from faith backgrounds historically responsible with colonizing through religious warfare. I cherish the relationships I have built and continue to build with those who are willing to be honest with how our ancestors may have been at odds with one another. Spiritual Ecology has become an important framework for me from which I can find new spaces for meeting. I have chosen to work in this field because I feel critically aware that during these divisive times we need to find creative ways to talk to those who we might consider different than ourselves.
Within academic spaces, Spiritual Ecology is the study of the intersection between ecology and religion. It is a field of thought that names the systemic cause of our multiple systems crisis as one that is oriented in a larger spiritual crisis. Because it has the capability to intersect with all types of faith traditions it has become a multi-faceted field capable of bringing together people from different spiritual backgrounds over the shared desire to be in right relationship with the earth.
As a life philosophy incorporating Spiritual Ecology values into lived daily practice is a quiet yet effective way to cultivate a tangible and powerful kinship with the earth and our other than human relatives. We need to fill our daily lives with nutritive practices if we are to commit towards building into a healthier world over the long arc of our lives. I am practicing when I shop, cook, clean and mother. I strongly believe that how I show up to my family and my home is a part of what builds my capacity to hold the many complexities and points of pain that is this world today.
My personal project, Earth Is `Ohana and those that I work with are currently all engaged within this field. Earth Is `Ohana is an immersive educational experience that provides an introduction to Spiritual Ecology through my perspective as a Native person. The aim of each class is to provide participants with the framework of Spiritual Ecology as a lens to reflect on the spaces that have raised them and their current community. My hope is to generate opportunities for everyone to become active stewards in the places they call home. I am currently authoring a guide book that will serve as a companion to the Earth Is `Ohana workshops. These writings are an in-depth exploration into the guiding questions that I hold; “How do we create lasting cultural change during these times of social, political and environmental instability?”and “How do we practice returning home to our landscapes in order to regenerate our relationship with the earth?”
Beyond Earth Is `Ohana I am a columnist with Loam Magazine and am currently a board member with Black Mountain Circle, an organization that creates events and uplifts the voices of those who work with Spiritual Ecology values. Black Mountain Circle is currently hosting a day-long Summit on, Spiritual Ecology in education and action. Lastly, I am in collaboration with the organizations Kairos Earth and Sacred Ground Initiative which both hold a vision for this field on a National level.
In my core, I believe Spiritual Ecology has the possibility to heal divides in society and our relationship with the earth. I feel fortunate to be in daily service of bringing my values to the forefront of my work.
What is your passion and what do you hope people will gain from following you on social media or supporting your projects?
I am passionate about being a mother and a quality family member to both my human and other than human family. I am having the most fun when developing holistic educational spaces. My project, Earth Is `Ohana means, “Earth Is Family”. Within the word `Ohana sits some of the most foundational lessons from my childhood on what it means to show up for myself and others as well a reminder to our kinship that we hold with the living earth. My corner of the internet is an ode to these interconnected pieces that form my identity. Through interacting with me online I want people to gain a sense of solidarity and warmth. I want those who engage with my projects to start to understand how the ecology of our earth is deeply woven into our families, communities and our sense of what it means to feel “at home”.
Most importantly, I want to be understood in my human-ness and celebrate others in theirs.
Does being a WOC/ Indigenous human influence your perception/perspective on life?
My identity and my politics are inseparable. Everyday my identity informs the way my family and I move through the world. I feel proud of the lineage that I am passing on to my child. Within our family lies stories of captivity, displacement and incredible strength. Quieting their voices and identities allowed my ancestors to survive and I inherited a sense of quietness that stems from the fear of being targeted. I challenge myself daily to live outside of this quietness in order to raise the voices of my ancestors. My relationship to how I harness and cherish my identity has direct impact on the identity of my child. For the first time in many generations on both sides of my lineage, I have the opportunity to proclaim sovereign rights over my body. My womb where I grew my child is my own sovereign nation and all of the ways in which my partner and I are raising him, from how we chose his name, to his first food, to where and how he will be educated will be a direct reflection of this truth. So yes, being a WOC influences all of my choices and perspectives daily.