I want to wish everyone a fabulous mother earth day to all my relatives who live on Turtle Island. I am glad the dominant society and other countries observe this special day but within Indian country we celebrate and give thanks to mother every day starting with our morning prayers. It is interesting to note that at many gatherings across the country the famous speech from Chief Sealth(Seattle) is cited. The version most people hear was written by a non-Indian. It contains some of the thoughts of Chief Sealth but it is quite a bit different from what he intended to say.
Tribes are at the forefront of the movement to protect mother earth. This was recently demonstrated by all the Tribal group, especially those in the upper Midwes,t who fought so valiantly to stop the Xcel pipeline from being approved by Congress. Tribes developed a coalition with ranchers, environmentalists and others committed to social justice to accomplish this great feat. Tribal communities were well aware of the potential devasting impacts the pipeline would have brought to their communities threatening the water supply and quality of the Oglala Aquifier. What is most amazing is that some of the Tribes that were most active in this effort are some of the poorest communities in the United States. There has always been a sacred bond that Indigenous people have with the land and that still holds true today.
Some of the most innovative nonrenewal projects are on Tribal land including large windpower projects, solar energy and the use of geothermal energy. Some Tribes have started eco tourism businesses to make others more aware of the natural and cultural resources our Tribal lands have
Other Tribes through their Natural Resources and Environmental Quality departments have been the leaders in their region on rebuilding the natural habitat and restoring the land and rivers. Recently the Lower Elwha Tribe was successful in getting a dam removed from the Lower Elwha River and allowing the salmon to return. As Edward Abbey, the famous environmentalist stated years ago, we should leave the building of dams to the beavers. Cour D’Alene Lake in northern Idaho was declared a Superfund cleanup site due to the mining companies polluting it with tons of toxic chemicals. Although the Lake is a traditional area for the Cour D’Alene Tribe, it is mainly owned by non-Indians now. Nevertheless the Tribe has taken the lead on cleaning up the lake.
I want to give a big wopila(thanks) to tribal leaders like Tom Goldtooth, who is the director of the Environmental Indigenous Network. He and his organization have worked tirelessly to make the environment a priority for Tribes to focus on. Tom is also my brother in that we participated in ceremonies in South Dakota years ago. Also, Winona LaDuke is one of our strongest voices on protecting mother earth. She continues to be a leader for her Anishinable Tribe in Minnesota and from speaking on why the earth is so sacred to our people at gatherings across the country and the world.
Dr. Jeffery Sachs, who is acknowledged as one of the leading experts on future trends for the environment has stated that 2015 is a tipping point for the planet. If the world does not take some major action this year to reverse the harmful effects of polluting our land, air and water we will see devastating impacts in the near future. I believe in our prophecies which talk about going through a winter time where we will face many challenges but eventually we will see a better world where we can all learn to respect the environment and live in harmony with mother earth.