Today we honor Unci Maka (Mother Earth) through the celebration of Earth Day. Regardless of your current age, the most astonishing discoveries about the universe and our place within it have been made in your lifetime. With our newest telescopes, we have peered deep into our universe and into the past.
One poignant conclusion to take note of is that despite all of these discoveries, we have not found any place like Earth. Our neighbor Mars offers little in terms of life quality if we were to migrate our species there.
We are increasingly forced to realize and accept that we may never find another planet as profoundly unique as the one we already have.
The Universe is made up of dynamic, ever-changing natural forces and nature will always possess unfathomable mysteries. Consider that Earth has endless miles of stunning beaches, mountains, forests, countless species of plants and animals, and all of the natural delights we may know not of. We spend most of our lives longing to travel and witness firsthand these marvels of our planet.
However, given our current trajectory, these places may not have much to offer by the time many of us retire and begin checking off our bucket lists. Many of the plants and animals will have gone extinct, the coral reefs will be bleached, and the forests removed.
To address these issues, we must honor the teachings handed down to us by our elders and follow their compassion for harvesting wisdom through direct experience with the planet. Our ancestors taught us that humans have a responsibility for maintaining a relationship with our relatives and the planet that is harmonious and reciprocal. We cannot forever exercise dominion over nature for our own personal gain. Indigenous people have always held a deep connection to our planet and have therefore followed this wisdom well. What we can focus on now is how to reverse what has occurred.
Because we are all one with Mother Earth, healing the planet begins with healing ourselves. We must request and receive the knowledge that our elders hold and preserve this priceless wisdom. We will honor nature through daily spiritual practices which will rejuvenate and protect us. We will treat our bodies and minds with the upmost care because living physically, mentally, and spiritually healthier lifestyles will be inherently better for our planet.
We have endured many hardships in the past two years. Let us accept and address our individual traumas and begin the path to recovery. Let this healing radiate outward to our immediate family, to our tribe, to our extended American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) family, and beyond to the entire planet.
We are planet Earth, and we are loved.
Tyler Rust (Oglala Lakota) will graduate in 2022 with a PhD in Earth System Science and Statistics from the State University of New York (SUNY) – Binghamton. Read in Winds of Change Spring 2021 about Tyler’s academic success and worldly interests.