Treaty 2 Territory – The first Earth Day Started on April 22, 1970. Senator Gaylord Nelson was a junior senator from Wisconsin who had long been concerned with how the environment was being “managed” in the United States. April 22 was chosen as Earth Day because it fell on a weekday between Spring Break and Final Exams to maximize college student participation. The idea was to start a movement – like the anti-war protest – that was infused with the energy of young people.
20 Million Americans (10% of the population) took to the streets to protest against the damage that had been done to the Earth. From this movement came the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency and passage of several environmental laws including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Clean Air Act and eventually the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
In 1990 the movement went global and paved the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Brazil. Earth Day 2000 focused on Global Warming and clean energy. In 2010 the challenge was combating the cynicism of climate change deniers.
The Earth Day movement has motivated many people worldwide to support Environmental causes. We certainly don’t wish to take away from this important vehicle for awareness of environmental issues in Western Society.
As Anishinaabek, the Creator granted us gifts and responsibilities at the time of creation. Of course, the gift of life to live to the fullest – mino-bimaadiziiwin. The gifts of the elements including water – our lifeblood.
The Creator also gave us intellect. Teachings about G’zhemanidoo tell us we were placed here as stewards of his beautiful creation Aki (Earth). Instead we have fallen to western society’s mindset by “innovating” ourselves into the unsustainable lifestyle of this modern society.
Let us get back to using the gift of intellect and humility for the purpose the Creator intended. We need to slow down and think about the impacts we all have on the Planet, on our four legged brothers and sisters, our winged brothers and sisters and ultimately each other.
The Anishinaabe People are not responsible for the massive machine that is Western Society and the environmental destruction this machine has caused. Given our teachings and history we are not the cause – but that does not diminish our responsibility. Spiritual advisors and Knowledge Keepers remind us of our responsibilities as Anishinaabe. They remind us to return to the land, so we can reconnect and assume our rightful responsibilities. The difference between Anishinaabek and western society is they believe they can control nature where we were taught how to live within nature.
The Creator gave us these gifts and the expectations for us to look after them. Across Turtle Island, we see our Indigenous brothers and sisters risk their lives and their safety speaking for our mother and assuming their rightful responsibilities to give her a voice. Our role today is to raise awareness and to pass these teachings on to our youth and prepare them to assume the responsibilities for Mother Earth while looking for a way to create balance.
Earth Day 2021 marked 51 years of activism, one has to ask the question, has she gotten healthier than she was 51 years ago? Caring and protected for our mother cannot be done through legislation and regulation, it has to come from the heart and a belief system that is based on our teachings of creation. That’s where the courage, strength and responsibility arises……….Miigwetch
Ron Missyabit, NW Circle Keeper
Shawn Gurke, Mapping/GIS Helper Helper
Last modified: May 2, 2021