Forty two years ago some tenth grade classmates with Mrs. Frances, our amazing and world traveled journalism teacher, picked up trash along the highway on the reservation where I grew up. This was the First Earth Day, April 22, 1970. We had an entire day of "walking in beauty", singing the song of Mother Earth. Mrs. Frances was inspirational (always) and taught us about honoring the earth. Most of the kids in that class were Native American...I remember them really getting into it and I feeling a strong resonance to her teachings. We were remembering the ancestors and how the earth replenishes us, gives us everything we need to live; we were remembering how to walk in balance and not see Her as a resource, but as a sacred body which nourishes us and cares for us. Our high school year book was dedicated to Earth Day...the inside pages spoke of Henry David Thoreau's famous words, "Simplify, Simplify, Simplify". These words are speaking again to me today.
By that time in the history of our aboriginal peoples of the Americas, the reservations were wrought with American government handouts, pay backs for the confiscation of the Indian's ancestral homelands and the grief of genocide that had taken place less than one hundred years before; alcoholism and drug abuse, fighting among each other and the whites (like me) who squatted on their new, fenced in lands; and poverty, to say the least. A culture was quickly dying before our young eyes as the elders chanted their way to their graves taking with them the last of the old ways.
Earth Day is still celebrated! And, I read the news today, forty two years later--any news and any day and E V E RY W H E R E and I see that the takers are taking more. It seems to be the mantra of the day not prayers of gratitude. How did we become this way with the awareness we had 42 years ago? HOW do we end this greed which leads to more consumption, more pollution, more drilling, more nuclear waste, more poverty, more hunger, more haves and have nots, more infrastructure, more desecration, more genocide, more sprawl, more cultures dying, more cancer, more more more?
Earth Day reminds me of this time I had with Mrs. Frances -- a time of renewed hope for some semblance of harmony and balance in the world; perhaps a new beginning for all of us; and a moment in a day to remember and give thanks to what is really important, our connection to Mother Earth and Her agreement to care for Her children. Is enough really enough? I feel it's time to give back, plant a tree, clean out the ditches, renew our spirits through sacred activism...a prayer of gratitude and a vow to consume less; another small act of peace to have peace in the world.
Have a Blessed and Sacred Earth Day. Deanna Jenne'