Wishing you well on this, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
Chief Seattle (Suquamish/Duwamish), whose words are cited by environmentalists worldwide, said in 1854: “Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon my people for centuries untold, and which to us appears changeless and eternal, may change.”
In his lifetime, Chief Seattle, witnessed extraordinary change. He was there when the first contact with a European explorer occurred. And decades later, as settlers poured into the Puget Sound region, he secured the sovereign territories we now call reservations.
He assured that we who are alive seven generations later would have the right to hunt and fish, and to visit the graves of our ancestors. On his gravesite here in Suquamish are embossed words from his famous speech.
“Our ancestors never forget this beautiful world that gave them being,” he said. “They still love its verdant valleys, its murmuring rivers, its magnificent mountains…and every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished.”
In 1970, the first Earth Day was launched by people who likewise treasured the natural world. Shortly after, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act were enacted, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created.
Today those accomplishments are under attack. EPA regulations that protect air, water, wetlands, and natural habitats are being weakened and dismantled.
The Suquamish Tribe has joined many other Tribes and organizations in the Northwest to fight this short-sighted and greed-driven deregulation. We oppose allowing polluters to make our seafood more toxic and permitting reckless development to block fish passage and destroy sensitive wetlands. This destruction is an affront to our treaty rights and the rights of all our people to protect our critical habitat.
“Today is fair. Tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds,” said Chief Seattle.
Today, as we shelter in place amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the days do indeed feel dark. Few of us imagined this was to come. And yet it was not hard to see that things were changing. Like the pandemic, which at first seemed a distant threat, the climate crisis is suddenly upon us, and it is endangering sea life and oceans along with shorelines, glaciers, food supplies, and forests.
“Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as they swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people,” Chief Seattle said.
On this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we should honor this land and celebrate its waters, and we should assess our way of life and its impacts on fragile ecosystems.
Together, we must push back against the President’s misguided deregulatory efforts, and renew the fight that was started 50 years ago with the same passion for life, and love for our lands and waters that got us this far.