The bottom line is survival: Survival of our Indigenous Peoples, mankind and our planet.
The equilibrium of the Earth is precariously out of balance. The increasing incidence of natural catastrophe and the effects of climate change are no accident; they are undeniable messages from the Earth that she grows weary of the unrelenting abuse. Soon she may become no longer tolerant and perhaps “she will give the world the ultimate disaster with a great convulsive shudder” (Gayle High Pines, Akwesasne Notes, early 1970’s). Some say such words are unnecessarily alarming, but we all agree that the condition of our planet is not in a good way and it grows worse each passing day.
With the millions of penetrations of the Earth’s skin with drillings, the gouging out of her insides and resultant contamination, the health of the Earth is waning. The rampant fires, the persistent drought and crazy weather conditions are signs not to be ignored. The irresponsible dumping of garbage across the land and oceans and the burning of trash only make it worse. The pollution in the atmosphere and in the waters of the world have put the air we breathe and the water we drink in jeopardy.
The protective ozone is thinning, the arctic ice sheets are melting at an alarming rate which is increasing the ocean levels that will eventually put all coast lines under water, the great cities along with them. All natural life is being displaced; whole species are dead or are dying off. The food supply for humankind is threatened because of chemical contamination and insane genetic engineering. With the exponential increase of the world population, one wonders when the supply will no longer be able to meet the need. Already there are parts of the world where whole populations don’t have enough water and food.
Indigenous Peoples view the Earth as a living entity, a breathing being with feelings. It isn’t some romantic notion that we have regarded the Earth as our Earth Mother since the beginning of our existence. As keepers of knowledge of the original intent, Indigenous Peoples are gravely concerned with the health of our Earth Mother. Mankind with his exploitative technology is giving her great disrespect and great hurt, physical and otherwise.
These unfortunate realities that we live with are the reasons why the environmentalists, the grassroot advocates/activists do and say as we do. We want to live, we want our Earth to be healthy, we are in favor of a continuum of life on this Earth. After all we have children, grandchildren and expect that there will be generations to come after we are gone. We demand that there be a serious and deliberate change to slow down and hopefully avert these inevitabilities.
It is our great dilemma that as Native Nations rich in natural resources, we participate in the exploiting of those resources for jobs and revenues. By our participation and allowing the unchecked exploitation of our lands, resources and people, we are willing contributors to this unfortunate condition of our world. It is necessary that we recognize our dilemma, reassess our condition and our priorities for the sake of our children, for the sake of life.
Duane “Chili” Yazzie has served the people of Shiprock and the Navajo Nation in various capacities for 38 years, including two four-year terms on the Navajo Nation Council, four years on the executive staff of Navajo Chairman Peterson Zah, and currently serving as the Shiprock Chapter President. He served on the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, as well as the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission.