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  • Writer's pictureRifke Hill

5 Environmentally Friendly Nuggets of Wisdom Passed Down From Our Tribal Ancestors

Updated: Mar 1, 2022

ancestral knowledge

The dawn of modern society has gifted us with so much: less hunger and disease, less war, widespread education, world travel, and endless reams of information, accessible to nearly everyone. At the same time, people across the world are wondering if we’ve lost a spark of something precious in the process.

Being a realist, I’ll never truly want things to revert to the way they were in our tribal stages. I’m an introvert, who loves the privacy and cleanliness of my home, and the comforts of soft beds, warm showers, and music at the touch of a button. But part of moving forward as a society and even a species is the ability to look at our past, and learn vital lessons. There are core elements of tribal living that, when woven into the fabric of a modern lifestyle, can bring health and a sense of peace which are missed in their absence and can profoundly benefit the environment.

Here are our top five ways to take the best from the lifestyles of our ancestors, and integrate them into our current lives.

Build community.

Being in a close-knit community was essential when dangers were commonplace, travel was tough, and the physical requirements of raising a family were bone-achingly demanding. Today, being a part of a community is still a way to safeguard your mental and physical well-being. Make friends with people of all ages who share some common goals and ideals with you, and genuinely care. Arrange frequent gatherings where everyone gets together. Be involved in each other’s lives, and care for each other.

Grow your own food.

There’s something deeply calming about being in touch with where your food comes from. The sights, fragrances, and flavors of a table laden with fare your own hands grew is a satisfaction everyone should taste. And organic farming – the sort you do in your backyard – doesn’t just benefit the environment: organically grown food is excellent for your health. Vegetable gardens have been a vital life source for tribal cultures throughout the ages, and every household should get to enjoy one too.

Look after your health.

Before the miracles of modern medicine, people had to make an effort to stay in good health. Certainly, I’m pretty relieved that I can take my kids to a doctor when I’m concerned about them, but there is timeless value in eating foods that instill vitality and generate energy. Tend to your diet, eat simply, and savor fresh, whole foods wherever possible. Learn the art of self-medication with herbs, fruits, and other household items for everyday health complaints.

Get rid of the temporary.

A thousand years ago, every utensil was precious, made with care and much hard work by a local artisan, or your grandparent. Waste management wasn’t a thing, because there was very little trash, and recycling an object wherever possible went without saying. Today, in a world that is filling up with tons and tons of trash, we could learn a priceless lesson from tribal living. Do your part by getting rid of plastic and replacing it with eco-friendly products. Swap plastic crockery and containers for tin and glass, use fabric bags at the grocery store and invest in a bamboo toothbrush for each family member. Hire a local artisan to create toys out of wood, fabric, and metal for your kids, or do it yourself. The best eco-friendly toys also encourage nature play – swings, wooden boats, an outdoor playhouse, garden tool set – because spending time in nature encourages creativity, patience, and health in your children.

Pass on wisdom.

Our ancestors wove the lessons they had learned into fascinating, larger-than-life tales which they told in the sleepy evening hours, by the light of a flickering fire. Find ways to pass your wisdom – whether it’s the advice given to you by your grandparents, instilled in you by the culture you were raised in or taught you by the hard knocks of life – on to the next generation. The future well-being of human society depends on us being able to learn from, and sometimes improve on our past.

Written By Rifke Hill


About the Author

Rifke Hill was raised on the sort of farm your grandparents told tales about – milking cows, gathering eggs, hoeing the soil, and building fires to heat water. She now spends part of her time copywriting online as a freelancer. The rest of it is spent nurturing and teaching her four energetic children, growing vegetables, baking bread, reading voraciously, having coffee with the neighbors, and enjoying the sunny slopes of the smallholding where she lives, in the Garden Route, South Africa.

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