Honoring Our Connection to the Land on Earth Day

April 22 is Earth Day, a day of environmental awareness and activism across the world. Earth Day began as a protest in 1970 against the industrial progression of the world and the increasingly adverse impact on the environment and wildlife population. It was a critical moment for environmental awareness. That same year, the Nixon administration instituted the Environmental Protection Agency, and cornerstone protection such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act were enacted.

This Earth Day, we recognize how much the environment means to all of us, and especially Native Americans. Many Native people maintain their relationship with the Earth as best they can, whether it’s helping their communities protect the land and water or restoring their relationship to the Earth that was lost over time. PWNA assists tribal communities by focusing on sustainability, recognizing the land and water of Mother Earth are part of the solution.

Remote reservations often experience higher levels of malnutrition and obesity akin to some developing countries, resulting from a lack of affordable food, healthy food and sustainable food sources. PWNA supports sustainability projects on the reservations, such as Project Grow and community gardens, that address food insecurity, favor Mother Earth and its inhabitants, and honor our connection to the land. For garden projects in communities across South Dakota and Montana, for example, PWNA provides seeds, tools and gardening training to plant and harvest fruits, vegetables and even honey.

There are plenty of resources for starting your own community garden, including Native Food Systems, and the SDSU Extension Office that has tons of information on planting, maintaining and harvesting a wide variety of crops and plants.

Our relationship with the Earth is a fragile one that seems to be slipping away from us into a place from which it may never recover. By promoting more projects such as community gardens, we encourage self-reliance, keep our traditions alive and reduce the harmful footprint on our Earth and eco-system.

It is my hope that more communities will embrace Earth Day and learn how to protect the environment. By caring for Mother Earth, we ensure that we, and future generations, can live off the land. 

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