A Review of
Becoming Rooted: One Hundred Days of Reconnecting with the Sacred Earth
Randy S. Woodley
Hardback: Broadleaf Books, 2022
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Reviewed by Marilyn Matevia
“We are all indigenous to some place. We are all from somewhere.” Several times in the introduction to his lovely devotional, Becoming Rooted: One Hundred Days of Reconnecting with the Sacred Earth, author Randy Woodley returns to this truth, inviting the reader to let the idea sink deep into your being, to let it become part of your identity. Indigeneity matters, he says; over the centuries, indigenous peoples have worked out their relationships with their fellow creatures and the habitats that sustain them all. Embracing these values will help uprooted, transplanted, disconnected readers re-establish harmony and balance on Earth, and become better “Earth relatives.”
Becoming Rooted is a gentle and ingenious guide to this process – offering one hundred simple, elegant meditations and observations, each followed by a reflection question or action, that coax the Western reader into a new way of thinking and being in the world. The daily meditations are grouped into nine sections or themes that guide the transformation. The first four sections describe the indigenous worldview Woodley calls “the harmony way”. The fifth and sixth sections contrast it with the human-centered, individualistic “American dream,” which Woodley describes as an “indigenous nightmare”. The final sections show the reader how to embody and enact the values and priorities of the harmony way.
“Among Native Americans, the harmony way is less like a philosophy and more like a whole way of being and doing life. To European and Western people, a philosophy is something that one can adopt at any point in life. A philosophy can simply be believed or espoused. But the harmony way is a way of living and being, with very tangible expressions. Living out the harmony way requires not just a belief but also actions that align with and participate in the local ecosystem and the whole universe” (63).
I’m choosing my words carefully as I describe this little book, lest I impose a more rigid outline than Woodley intended. In his meditation for day 84, Woodley notes that the Western worldview is characterized by “a fixation on categorizing and defining knowledge!” And from one day’s meditation to the next, the short pieces are not necessarily intended to connect in a linear, logical way. But the winding path through the meditations becomes clear, leading the reader away from a hyper-individualistic, blinkered, human-centered mindset toward one that understands the self in ecological terms– a member of the vast Community of Creation – and equally important, toward a mindset that treats the other members as family.
Woodley is the ideal guide for this journey. A Cherokee descendant recognized by the Keetoowah band, Woodley shares in the book’s introduction that he was “not raised much around Native American culture” and began more intentionally learning and practicing indigenous lifeways in his twenties. Today, he is recognized as a Wisdom Keeper, and with his wife Edith (Eastern Shoshone), founded the Eloheh Indigenous Center for Earth Justice*, to teach sustainability and regenerative agriculture grounded in traditional indigenous knowledge. Woodley is a former pastor, and a theologian who outlined an indigenous creation theology in his 2012 book, Shalom and the Community of Creation. “I really believe,” he writes, “that the harmony way, in all its many (indigenous) forms, contains the original instructions for all people everywhere” (219).
The conventional Western worldview is more than an “indigenous nightmare.” It has, arguably, led to catastrophic climate change, global habitat destruction, mass extinction, and fatal disparities in social and economic justice. As we desperately try to slow or reverse these effects, Woodley’s project in Becoming Rooted is, ultimately, life-saving work.
*The Cherokee word eloheh means “harmony.”
Marilyn Matevia is pastor of Celebration Lutheran Church in Chardon, Ohio, and a remote adjunct instructor at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary.