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VIVIAN DELGADO: Healthy self, healthy environments

Vivian Delgado

As the calm from the recent storms, fires and earthquakes in our country and neighboring countries settle, many of us are rethinking about the fragility of our homes and communities. We can’t help to wonder about those who were affected in the wake of their environmental tribulation. The media have stated that emergency assistance and somewhat limited aid has reached many victims, yet we still question what comes next. How do the victims rebuild their lives, their sense of security, their confidence in their bioregions, and at the same time deal with their human loss?

We must ask ourselves how much of the environmental disruptions are we willing to be responsible for. Maybe you are a person who is conscious of the energy you use; you feel remorse by the waste you see from overabundance, and pollution and contamination have become hurtful, common, household words. There are more vehicles on the road and less availability to gas. Gas prices continue to rise. You are aware that cancer has become a common and mostly incurable chronic disease, while the cost of living spins out of control. Although you can sense and feel the pain and suffering of those who are less fortunate, they have taught you how to make the connection between the lives around you. You see people moving further and further away from the natural laws that used to guide their relationship with the environment, and how to live in a healthy way.

In addition, a big segment of the lifespan of our youth are shorter, and yet many live their lives faster and faster. Due to frequent and somewhat random acts of violence and shootings, human behavior appears to becoming desensitized to acts of violence that are not in their immediate environment. All the while society has taken on a recreational Disney World approach to environmental phenomenon such as the eclipse, volcanoes and depleted mines by offering touristic entertainment via camping and guided bus tours to places that need to be avoided or at least approached with caution.

When is enough, enough? Where does it end and where do we go to find comfort and reason? Should and do we turn to answers that have survived the test of time?  

Let us at least consider the sacrifices our indigenous ancestors made so that their wisdom would pass down from one generation to the next. The ancestors knew that the knowledge they left behind was the greatest gift and benefit they could give to the succeeding generations. Their teachings were never meant to be for material or political gain, nor take on a competitive air or represent some type of entitlement. They were taught so that the indigenous people would always have the opportunity to pray freely, to have a safe and sound mental place to rest their minds. Including the freedom to express their indigenous knowledge inheritance and to cherish their land based identities with the freedom to exercise their identity. These teachings were never doctrines nor evangelized; they were a principal way of life to be embraced by indigenous people and others who respected the teachings and deeper meanings and connections with the Mother Earth.

They did teach the people that they were responsible for their environment and thus the original teachings also became known as natural laws because they were derived by the natural order of the earth and the universe. Enough is enough not because a human being declared it so but because the environments have become threatened in a way that the survival of all beings will become more and more difficult as society becomes more materialistic.

Keep those who have lost their homes, families and segments of their own lives in wake of natural disasters close to your heart and mind. They need the good will and thought of those around them to pick up not only the material pieces but the mental, emotional and spiritual pieces that keep one’s life in order.

Vivian Delgado is a professor of Native American studies at Bemidji State University.