The Strange Garden of Eden Story

Op-Ed by Neenah Payne

We don’t live in the physical world as much as we live in our mental map of the world. Our worldview is shaped by our Foundational Stories that tell us who we are and our relationship to the Earth. The radically different results of the West’s Foundational Story of Adam and Eve’s eviction from the Garden of Eden and Skywoman Falling, the Foundational Story of much of Native America, has been demonstrated in the Americas for the last 500 years.

As Apple tells us, it’s time now to “Think Different”. That is critical if we want to avoid the Sixth Mass Extinction. Steve Jobs chose the image of taking a bite out of the forbidden apple because it speaks so deeply to the Western mind. He invited us eat of the Forbidden Fruit from the Tree of Knowledge which the West’s Foundational Story says was such a great sin that God cast humanity out of the Garden of Eden forever.

Importance of Foundational Stories

Mapping a New Geography of Hope With Native America shows that our Foundational Stories shape our minds and our relationship to the Earth. The Foundational Story of the West is the story of the Garden of Eden. In that story, Eve is guilty of a sin so great (eating from the Tree of Knowledge) that God not only banished her, but Adam and all humanity forever from the Garden of Eden. According to that harsh story, we are now therefore all born in “original sin” because of Eve’s unforgiveable transgression of wanting to know more. Most people might agree that this story does not reflect a just or loving God. It also helps explain the West’s alienation from and war on Mother Earth, our only home.

Professor Robin Wall Kimmerer explains that Skywoman Falling is the Foundational Story for Native America. Professor Kimmerer lives in Syracuse, New York where she is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment. She holds a BS in Botany from SUNY ESF, an MS and PhD in Botany from the University of Wisconsin and is the author of numerous scientific papers on plant ecology, bryophyte ecology, traditional knowledge, and restoration ecology.

As a writer and a scientist, Professor Kimmerer’s interests include not only restoration of ecological communities, but restoration of our relationships to land. She lives on an old farm in upstate New York, tending gardens both cultivated and wild.

Robin Kimmerer is a professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation ) ”People of the Place of the Fire” and speaks some of the Potawatomi language which is a member of the Algonquin family. The Citizen Potawatomi Nation is the federally-recognized government and represents over 37,000 tribal members. It acts under a ratified Constitution and includes executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The Potawatomi are located in the western Great Lakes region, upper Mississippi River, and Great Plains.

Professor Kimmerer is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants and Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. Wikipedia says:

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants received the 2014 Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award. By 2021, over 500,000 copies had been sold worldwide…. In 2022 Dr. Kimmerer was awarded the Macarthur “genius” award.

The book has been a word-of-mouth best seller and hit the New York Times Best Seller List. It is the most beautiful and most life-changing and inspiring book I’ve ever read.

Eve and Skywoman Falling

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants appropriately begins with the story of Skywoman Falling because it is the orientation for the Native American worldview. It shows humanity welcomed by, embraced by, and rescued by the animals and plants of the Earth. The book contrasts that story with the Garden of Eden story and says:

On one side of the world were people whose relationship with the living world was shaped by Skywoman, who created a garden for the well-being of all. On the other side was another woman with a garden and a tree. But for tasting its fruit, she was banished from the garden and the gates clanged shut behind her. That mother of women was made to wander in the wilderness and earn her bread by the sweat of her brow, not by filling her mouth with the sweet juicy fruits that bend the branches low. In order to eat, she was instructed to subdue the wilderness into which she was cast.

Same species, same earth, different stories. Like Creation stories everywhere, cosmologies are a source of identity and orientation to the world. They tell us who we are. We are inevitably shaped by them no matter how distant they may be from our consciousness. One story leads to the generous embrace of the living world, the other to banishment. One woman is our ancestral gardener, a cocreator of the good green world that would be the home of her descendants. The other was an exile, just passing through an alien world on a rough road to her real home in heaven.

The book adds:

And then they met — the offspring of Skywoman and the children of Eve — and the land around us bears the scars of that meeting, the echoes of our stories. They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and I can only imagine the conversation between Eve and Skywoman: ‘Sister, you got the short end of the stick…’

The Skywoman story, shared by the original peoples throughout the Great Lakes, is a constant star in the constellation of teachings we call the Original Instructions. These are not “instructions” like commandments, though, or rules: rather, they are like a compass: they provide an orientation but not a map. The work of living is creating that map for yourself. How to follow the Original Instructions will be different for each of us and different for every era….The landscape has changed, but the story remains. And as I turn it over again and again, Skywoman seems to look me in the eye and ask, in return for this gift of a world on Turtle’s back, what will I give in return?…

For all of us, becoming Indigenous to a place means living as if your children’s future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depended on it…Most of my students have never heard the origin story of this land where they were born, but when I tell them, something begins to kindle behind their eyes. Can they, can we all, understand the Skywoman story not as an artifact from the past but as instructions for the future? Can a nation of immigrants once again follow her example to become native, to make a home?

Look at the legacy of poor Eve’s exile from Eden: the land shows the bruises of an abusive relationship. It’s not just the land that is broken, but more importantly, our relationship to land. As Gary Nabhan has written, we can’t meaningfully proceed with healing, with restoration, without  ‘re-story-ation’. In other worlds our relationship with land cannot heal until we hear its stories. But who will tell them?

In the Western tradition, there is a recognized hierarchy of being with, of course, the human being on top — the pinnacle of evolution, the darling of Creation — and the plants at the bottom. But in Native ways of knowing, human people are often referred to as ‘the younger brothers of Creation.’
We say that humans have the least experience with how to live and thus the most to learn — we must look to our teachers among the other species for guidance. Their wisdom is apparent in the way that they live. They teach us by example. They’ve been on the earth far longer than we have been, and have had time to figure things out.

They live both above and below ground, joining Skyworld with the earth. Plants know how to make food and medicine from light and water, and they give it away. I like to imagine that when Skywoman scattered her handful of seeds across Turtle Island, she was sowing sustenance for the body and also for the mind, emotion, and spirit: she was leaving us teachers. The plants can tell us her story; we need to learn to listen.

We’re Completely Alienated From Everything Else Alive

Read – Richard Powers: ‘We’re completely alienated from everything else alive’ – The Guardian

Science for Hire explains that the medical system is the third leading cause of death in America because of the massive corruption in our healthcare system and government. This is a reflection of the philosophy of “Greed is good” espoused in the 1987 Wall Street film. It is the philosophy that is destroying the planet and is founded in an alienated worldview hostile to the Earth and all life.

Re-Thinking The Garden of Eden Story

We are told that the Garden of Eden story describes the origin of humanity. However, it is a Biblical story that originated in Europe and is not even the Foundation Story of indigenous Europeans like the Sami who live in Scandinavia. Why We Celebrate Christmas The Indigenous Way  shows that the Sami live much like Native Americans. The Garden of Eden story is certainly not the Foundational Story of the original peoples of the Western Hemisphere.

Although mankind was born in Africa, Adam and Eve have until recently been depicted as North Europeans. Now, they are sometimes shown as Southern Europeans — but rarely as Africans. Yet, DNA Shows Europeans Were Dark Skinned 10,000 Years Ago.

Important Questions About The Garden of Eden Story

Even a little reflection raises key questions about the strange Garden of Eden story. We are asked to believe that a just and loving God banished Adam and Eve (and all humanity) from the Garden of Eden forever because Eve made ONE mistake by eating from the Tree of Knowledge.

Common sense raises the following questions about this very strange Foundational Story:

  1. Why did God put the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden if he didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat from it?
  2. Why wouldn’t God want Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge? He gave them brains, intelligence, and curiosity. Wouldn’t he want them to use those gifts? Wouldn’t God want humanity to seek to learn, to know more, to grow? Why would he want them to remain ignorant forever?
  3. Why would God punish Adam and Eve for one mistake? Wouldn’t a just and loving God be forgiving? Wouldn’t he give them a second chance? Why would he banish them from the Garden of Eden and consign them to hardship forever? More importantly, why would God punish all of humanity forever for one person’s “mistake”?
  4. Why are all we all born in “Original Sin” for a “mistake” Eve made 200,000 years ago?
  5. Why would a just and loving God have his only begotten son brutally murdered for Eve’s “sin” of wanting knowledge? How does his brutal death 2,000 years ago absolve us of our “sins”?

The Foundational Story of the West leaves Europeans and their descendants feeling sinful and rejected by a very judgmental and punitive God, and expelled from the Garden of Eden forever — exiles on planet Earth, alienated from the world. It is a negative story that was enforced for 600 years by the brutal Inquisition which reportedly murdered  6-9 million wise women healers and herbalists who were falsely accused of being “witches”

Lyla June – Mamwlad Official Video says:

This Beltane, we are forgiving the persecution of an estimated 6-9 million women as “witches” in Europe with the release of our new music video, “Mamwlad.”

Mapping a New Geography of Hope With Native America explains that Professor Mattias Desmet, author of The Psychology of Totalitarianism, says the totalitarianism during the COVID era was fueled by loneliness. Professor Kimmerer shows that the West suffers from an existential loneliness based on its Foundational Story which alienates Westerners from the Earth. That leaves us lost on planet Earth– disconnected from animals, plants, rivers, and all of Creation.

For this reason, it is so important to learn now to follow “The Original Instructions” described further below so we can understand how to live harmoniously on Planet Earth.

Global Assault on Humanity and Planet Earth

Growing Calls To Repudiate “Doctrine of Discovery” shows that after Columbus stumbled on the Western Hemisphere, the Pope issued a Papal Bull in 1493 which encouraged Christians to kill the Saracens (Moors) in Africa. Yet, When Moors Rescued Europe From The Dark Ages shows that when the Moors ruled Spain from 711-1492, they brought Europe out of the Dark Ages. Without the Moors, Europe might still be in the Dark Ages and there would have been no Renaissance, Enlightenment, or Industrial Revolution. They would not have had the literacy or knowledge of maps, ships, or guns and ammunition to sail around the world and conquer other peoples.

Subsequent Papal Bulls are collectively called “The Doctrine of Discovery” and authorized the genocide of the Americas, the theft of the continents. It is the sole “legal” basis for Western ownership of the Americas. The US Supreme Court cited this doctrine as recently as 2005. Pope Francis has been asked to rescind the Doctrine and a growing number of churches have condemned it.

Importance of The Original Instructions

Putting Native America Back On The Map To Re-Discover Ourselves shows how the Native American Foundational Story of Skywoman Falling has led Indians to be caretakers of the planet. They see themselves as living in the Garden of Eden and responsible for protecting it for the next seven generations which they have done for thousands of years.

Native Americans Are a “Keystone Species”  explains that “The Original Instructions” which Native Americans have followed for thousands of years have turned them into a “keystone species” which benefits all other peoples, animals, plants, the rivers, lakes, oceans, etc.  Their Foundation Story and instructions created a veritable Garden of Eden in the Americas for thousands of year. In just 500 years, the West has managed to push Earth toward extinction. The two worldviews create radically different worlds.

One worldview creates a dying world headed for the Sixth Mass Extinction. The other worldview creates an abundant and thriving world. Which world do you choose to live in and bequeath to coming generations? If humanity wants to survive and thrive now, it must be wise enough to learn from these ancient peoples who know the way home. First Native American US Secretary of Interior shows that Americans may be beginning to take some steps in that direction now.

Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future

In the 2008 video Indigenous Native American Prophecy, actor Floyd Red Crow Westerman said Native Americans were told that they would see America come and go. He said, “In a sense, America is dying from within because they forgot the instructions on how to live on Earth”. He warned that people who do not know how to live spiritually on Earth likely will not make it. He explained that when Columbus came, that started the true First World War. By WWII, the indigenous population of the Americas had dropped from 60 million to 800,000! The Native American population in the US is currently 4.5 million.

November: Native American Heritage Month

Two Possible Futures for Humanity

Is the dark WEF globalist transhuman future dystopia inevitable?


Native America has a proven track record spanning millennia showing that its value system is the one most coherent with enhancing life on Earth. The West would be wise to take heed now as they are the only peoples on the planet who can provide the leadership the world needs now.

November is Native American Heritage Month — a good time to learn more about these ancient cultures whose guidance we need now to survive the Sixth Mass Extinction the Western worldview has brought on the planet.

For more information:

  1. Water Is Life Festival: September 4
  2. Native America’s Gifts To The World
  3. Native Americans Are a “Keystone Species”
  4. Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day?
  5. Why We Must Be Honest This Thanksgiving
  6. First Native American US Secretary of Interior
  7. Celebrating Native American Heritage Month
  8. 100 Year Anniversary of Santa Fe Indian Market
  9. Can Native America Transform The World Again?
  10. Native American Day: Learning The Way of Earth
  11. Growing Calls To Repudiate “Doctrine of Discovery”
  12. How Reconciliation With Native America Can Save Us

Neenah Payne writes for Activist Post and Natural Blaze

Top image: Seth Balthazar

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