STJ#1073, The Earth Is Our Mother

Use with care, use with care, use with care.

This song is listed as being generally Native American – which is likely all that the STJ commission could find at the time. A link to the source material, Songs for Earthlings, is now dead.

However, I did a search for the lyrics and discovered that one musician/environmental educator, Hawk Hurst, identified this as being from the Hupa tribe of northern California. There are additional verses in the version he’s printed, including two to grandparents,  and planets and animals showing up too.

The Earth is our Mother, we must take care of her;
The Earth is our Mother, we must take care of her.

Chorus:
heyyunga hoyunga, heyyung yung;
heyyunga hoyunga, heyyung yung

Her sacred ground we walk upon with every step we take;
Her sacred ground we walk upon with every step we take;

Chorus

The Earth is our Mother, she will take care of us;
The Earth is our Mother, she will take care of us;

Chorus

The Sky is our Father, we will take care of him;
the Sky is our Father, we will take care of him.

Chorus

The Sea is our Sister, we will take care of her;
the Sea is our Sister, we will take care of her.

Chorus

The Forest is our Brother, we will take care of him;
the Forest is our Brother, we will take care of him.

Chorus

And I say use with care because the last thing we need to do in our congregations is use this without acknowledging the culture from which it comes. I’ve talked several times throughout this practice about cultural appropriation and the use of music from cultures that are not our own; it’s a danger to just use pieces like this as spectacles – something we drag out once a year – just as it’s a danger to use them without acknowledgement or change the meaning or intent. We do a disservice to these rich cultures that have already been badly treated, and we throw mud in the eye of our first principle. So just… use with care.

Musically, I’m neither here nor there with it. I don’t love this piece, nor do I hate it. It honestly just doesn’t speak to me, despite my high pagan days. I think even then I wasn’t attracted to the native American traditions – I leaned toward the Germanic and Celtic (not surprising, since I’m German and English).  It’s easy to learn and can probably be done in sort of a round style, with the chorus being the second part of the round.

A programming note: tomorrow is the last day of Hymn by Hymn.

I know, right? How did that happen? It seems simultaneously like it was just yesterday and a hundred years ago that I started this spiritual practice. We’ll celebrate our last hymn tomorrow, and I’ll have a wrap up on Thursday, with a preview of what’s next.

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Image – ubiquitous view of the coastline of northern California.

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