A conference was held on the Standing Rock Reservation in mid-June titled “Natural Law and the New Green Deal.” This conference was attended by many grassroots people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Rosebud Sioux and the Oglala Sioux tribes and many others. Various tribal leaders and elders spoke and debated about the meaning of natural law and its importance to understanding the environmental challenges we see today; climate change and the results of fracking and gas and oil consumption.

As you may or may not know, any disruption to sacred sites regardless of where they are located is a threat to natural law and to the Indigenous people who do not view themselves as separate from their environments.

Some people may be hearing about the Green New Deal for the first time from reading this article, thus I would like to share what The Guardian newspaper had to say and in relation to U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY: One of its goals is “to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has introduced the Green New Deal for a national economic mobilization, a plan for the transition of the United States economy to become greenhouse neutral, and to save Mother Earth.

As a result of AOC’s platform, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe did write a resolution endorsing the Green New Deal and humbly encouraged all Indigenous nations to support the deal and to take necessary and culturally appropriate actions to save unci makah -- Mother Earth. In addition, the tribe is asking for all leaders to act upon the climate crisis facing the world and impacting Indigenous communities throughout the world.

For a good portion of our American population, what you need to know is not new. We know there continues to be a significant portion of the American population that suffers from declining life expectancy, now exasperated by flooding and droughts brought on by climate change. We have seen increased rates of cancer and other illnesses caused by exposure to pollution with a large number found in communities across the country where there has been and still is mining, drilling and the production of industrialized chemicals. Most people who live in these areas cannot afford to move to a safer environment.

Another area that deserves heightened attention is the amount of industrialized, processed, high carbohydrate foods that are consumed by people with limited resources. Some of the illnesses related to such diets are diabetes and cancer-related illnesses caused by diabetes. We know that fresh, natural food comes from the land and it is one of our only resources we have to combat our health illness and our human conditions. With healthcare services on the rise we need to re-think the costs of some illnesses that could be prevented, we need to be aware of the foods we put in our bodies and the water and other liquids we drink, especially contaminated water and drinks that are artificially colored and loaded with sugar.

One would think that the original people of this land would have adequate housing, after all, we are a modern people with needs similar to any other person living in this country. This is one of the reasons why the New Green Deal is calling for justice and equity, the suffering must end. Along these lines is access to transportation and education and the advantages and opportunities they bring. Favorable circumstances are needed in this country to build a strong foundation and to develop moral societies.

We have heard, debated, and continue to challenge the stagnation found in wages, the inability to move around to find work and attend school, the inequality with incomes where there continues to be a gender pay gap, wealth divide and the lack of opportunity for the workers to sit at the table where decisions are made regarding their future. It is obvious that the absence of the disenfranchised at the table ultimately creates a racial wealth divide.

We are all in our own stages in our life experience, some young, some middle-aged and some old. Our spectrum regarding health is also very broad as well as our standard of living, our beliefs, values, economies and politics. However, the laws of nature has its own intelligence that responds to our environments, both natural and man-made. We are all part of what we call “our world” regardless of our personal and collective diversities. We need to look for commonalities in all aspects of our lives and truly listen to what the other has to say. This basic skill is the beginning that could prevent a lot of hardship in the future.

Be present and be aware of all that is around you your future depends on it. “Change is the new future.”

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