According to Anishinaabe teachings, at the time of Creation, human-kind was given a number of sacred and indispensable gifts from the Creator.
We were all given the sacred gift of life providing us the opportunity to live life to the fullest in a good way – mno-bimaadziwin. We were all given the sacred gift of water – our lifeblood – which nurtures us even before we are born. Our teachings tell us this beautiful, clean water is forever flowing to us directly from the Spirit World.
One of the most sacred gifts that was given to human-kind – intellect – was given for a specific purpose: so we can be environmentalists.
Let me explain.
God created heaven and earth in seven days. This is a Christian metaphor for millions and millions of years of evolution. Our teachings tell us that Creation is ongoing and will never complete. The Creator who we call G’zhemnidoo, will always be a creator. At one point, the Creator felt the need to create human-kind and place us on the physical Earth. To which there was a specific purpose and a specific instruction: To look after Earth and all her bounty. To speak for what needed speaking. To be stewards and caretakers of Mother Earth. This formed part of a sacred covenant between G’zhemnidoo and human-kind.
Sixty-five million years later, through many stages of mammalian and primate evolution – the hominid species emerged.
However, something made us different than other animals. We were able to adapt and survive with more than just basic instinct. We were able to work collectively. We were able to make and use tools. We were able to develop complex language and communication. This sacred gift of intellect was the means in which human-kind was to abide those sacred instructions to be stewards of Mother Earth.
From the time when were able to dance around a fire, or keep warm by wrapping ourselves in animal skins – it didn’t take much longer to become the most dominant species on the planet.
However, that same gift of intellect ultimately made us the greatest enemy of Mother Earth.
It began by using our abilities to wage war with one another. To hunt animals to extinction. To burn, cut down and develop entire forests. To live collectively in cities and eliminating our waste on the land and into the water. It has only be in the past two hundred years – which started by burning coal to create steam – that we’ve hurt our Mother in the most grievous way with little to no accountability and thought to long-term consequences.
We’ve celebrated the gift of intellect with progress, innovation and industrialization leading to unsustainability, pollution and climate change.
As citizens of the Earth, we need to return to our original instructions. We don’t need to turn in our car, go back to living in a wigwaam, dance around a fire or keep warm by wrapping ourselves in animal skins.
However, we do need to celebrate the gift of intellect with progress, innovation and industrialization of our sacred duty to be stewards of the Earth.
We must take our great minds – within our Nation and around the world – and use our intellect to achieve progress towards environmental sustainability. To find more innovative ways of protecting our Earth. To industrialize the protection of Mother Earth through corporate responsibility, significant reductions in carbon emissions and sensible and effective environmental legislation and regulations.
For the Anishinaabe, everyday should be Earth Day. An important part of our original instructions were to speak for what needed speaking. We need to be role models for the rest of society by taking our environmental responsibilities and sacred duty seriously.
We also need to take personal responsibility. Environmental activism begins with ourselves and in our homes.
Take water for example. Anishinaabe women teach us that protecting the water begins with protecting ourselves. Nourish your body with plenty of water beginning with that first drink to break your fast in the morning. Stop filling our bodies with chemicals and processed foods and nourish ourselves with organic and sustainably-harvested foods. Return to eating traditional foods that are harvested in a responsible way.
I don’t want to preach, but there are plenty of things that we call all do. Reduce, reuse and recycle. If your rez doesn’t have a recycling program – demand one. Develop your own recycling regimen. Buy products with less packaging. Reuse various household materials. Use less energy. Walk to the corner store instead of taking the truck.
To make a difference, all that is required is some personal motivation, some common sense and a little intellect.