Indigenous author and scholar Thomas King says, “don’t say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve heard it now.” When I think about King’s quotation, I think about the stories the land provides each and every human being on each and every day that we are on Mother Earth. Every morning, Grandfather Sun rises in the East and the birds sing in praise of the new day. Father Sky provides a beautiful contrast in brilliant blue, dim grays, or a mix of both as Grandfather Sun bounces off the gray and white clouds. Grandmother Moon sets our waters in line as we sleep. This is the story of land. Without Mother Earth, we—human beings—could not be in existence; without Grandfather Sun, there would be few plants and trees, which would upset the ecosystems of animals, birds, insects, fish, and soil. This interconnectedness of all in creation (or all my relations) is a harmonious story of love, respect, bravery, humility, truth, and wisdom, or the Seven Grandfather teachings. The symbiotic relationships that occur each and every day are paramount to existence on Mother Earth, especially for human beings. In many Indigenous cultures, human beings are considered the “two-leggeds,” but there are specific names for the people like “Inuit” in Inuktitut, or “Anishinaabe” in Algonkian languages, or “Onkwehonwe” is Haudenosaunee, for “original or first people.” The connection between human beings and all life on Mother Earth requires balance, synergy, interconnection, and interdependence. It is through centuries of being on and with the land that we have learned how to live with all in creation in a good way.
The good way or the red road or the balanced life (depending on which Indigenous culture you speak from), is about continuing to find balance with everything in creation, while constantly reflecting on your physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, and social balance at personal, family, community, and Nation levels. The land needs each person to be in balance in order to help their family, community, and Nation to be in balance, while also maintaining their interconnectedness with all in creation. Yes, that’s a lot to ask of any person, but it is necessary for Mother Earth and all our relations.
Mother Earth, the land which gives us everything we need for our survival, provides space for the plants, animals, fish, water, birds, trees, rocks, soil, insects, and human beings. Human beings have determined that they are at the top of the pyramid of life and that everything on Mother Earth is there for them, but humans have also decided they do not have to do anything for those other beings. Mother Earth provides the plants, animals, birds, and fish who give their lives to feed and clothe human beings, while the trees, plants, and soil provide us with shelter, warmth, and a way to grow some of our foods. The insects ensure that our plants are pollinated and assist with their growth. Water, a vital part of all life on Mother Earth, has been abundant and fresh for centuries for all beings in need of the life-giving substance.
However, as human beings have become “civilized” in a capitalist world, they see all in creation as commodities—including other human beings! Without human beings, plants, animals, fish, water, birds, trees, rocks, soil, and insects would survive. However, if any of our natural relations were not on Mother Earth, we would not survive as we need each and every one of them. We are dependent on them for our life, and yet all in creation do not need us at all. This delicate situation is acutely manifesting itself as researchers, journalists, and some politicians start to sound the alarm on the climate crisis and environmental degradation.
“Mother Earth, the land which gives us everything we need for our survival, provides space for the plants, animals, fish, water, birds, trees, rocks, soil, insects, and human beings.” –Angela Mashford-Pringle, Photo Credit: Alyssa Bardy, Chicory Wild Creative
Mother Earth needs human beings to help and to stop taking more than we need for the sake of making money and gaining privilege in an unequal system. This past year, the global pandemic has shown that when human beings are not out and about all over the globe, our relations—the plants, animals, trees, fish, birds, insects, and water—start to return to their balance. This is the story the land, Mother Earth, has been trying to tell us for decades. Human beings must balance themselves in their physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, and social aspects as individuals, in relation to their families, their communities, and Nations. Humans move toward this balance through awareness of their interdependence and interconnectedness with all in creation as a synergistic relationship that ebbs and flows day in and day out. Mother Earth, Father Sky, Grandfather Sun, and Grandmother Moon keep us moving forward with the air and light that we cherish and feel as a blessing. Seasonally, Mother Earth cleanses with a blanket of white snow in the northern parts of the globe and rains in the southern parts. The circles of life and connection, much like the days and nights, continue in their circular pattern.
I often tell students, go outside and make a tree friend! Take the time to find a tree, talk with it, get to know it like you know your parents or your siblings. Sit beside it and feel its life next to yours and think about how some human beings aren’t so kind to our tree siblings: Old growth forests are being cut down for the profit of very few humans at the detriment of the majority. Old growth forests are important as they provide much needed oxygen and wood that when harvested respectfully allows us to flourish. Old forests teach us to see their beauty in a demure way. Their kindness and comfort is all around us and begs us to pay attention to the birds perched high up in the branches and to the insects crawling or landing on its trunk. Even while underground, each tree reaches out for the next tree to “hold hands/roots,” and to talk in its own language. Yet, when I tell students to go outside and make a tree friend, it is like they have never even thought about the trees around them. How can that be? In Ontario, Canada, we have trees almost everywhere, but few human beings even notice their existence or how they help us in our daily lives. They are part of the circle of life and are interconnected to birds, plants, insects, animals, and especially human beings.
I’ve told you a story which you might remember. You might leave it here, or you might decide to act upon what I’ve said. But you can’t say you haven’t heard the story or what the story is trying to tell you: Mother Earth needs human beings to repair the damage we have caused to plants, trees, animals, birds, fish, insects, water, soil, and air—“all in creation, all my relations.” If we don’t look at Mother Earth and the bounty she is providing as a gift, we are going to lose the gift. So now you know this story of the land.