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Keepers of the Earth: Continuing to stand up

This past weekend’s big news about the US Army Corps of Engineers turning down the Dakota Access Pipeline permit was a great victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, as well as for our local supporters, other Indigenous people and earth lovers everywhere.

Celebratory #NoDAPL articles, videos and individual posts were shared countlessly through social media outlets across Indian Country and beyond. Allied celebrities like Shailene Woodley, Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio also shared in our rejoice.

So now what? What comes next? Have we truly won our battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline?

We aren’t out of the woods just yet and with newly-elected and pro-DAPL president-elect Trump, this decision could potentially be reversed.

A pipeline will inevitably go through by an alternative route and pipelines in general are sadly something our governing bodies support (see Trudeau’s approval of not one, but two pipelines last week).

Despite this, something major happened here. An otherwise ‘insignificant’ Indigenous nation stood up against the further destruction of our Mother Earth, her water and their territorial lands. They gave it one hell of a fight and the whole world paused to watch, listen, and for some, participate.

The Standing Rock Sioux showed us what it means to stand up for our Mother in a dedicated and peaceful manner; inspiring a number of Kahnawa’kehró:non themselves to protest locally or make the trek down to Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Even the Mohawk Council took a formal stand against the DAPL.

Now that we’ve ‘won,’ or at least for the moment, we must ask ourselves how we will continue to stand up for Mother Earth.

Will you take bigger steps in your life to minimize your footprint on the earth? Will you sacrifice certain luxuries or comforts to be a greener Onkwehón:we? Will you educate and encourage your children, family, friends, colleagues to do the same?

We can share all the #NoDAPL media we want, send money, food or items in support, or even make the journey to North Dakota to be part of it all, but until we make real changes at home and in our community, we are still part of the bigger problem of the pollution and destruction of our planet.

Take a moment to examine your lifestyle and consider the ways you may be adding to our global environmental crisis. Here are three key areas to start with:

Your Vehicle: 

Are you one of the many local proud owners of a 4X4 Jeep, fancy SUV or shiny pickup truck? If you aren’t a family of six or more, or a construction/farm worker, consider downsizing to a smaller vehicle, or better yet, a hybrid or electrical vehicle that still dons your must-have bells and whistles.

Beyond saving on the price tag and at the pump, you’ll be cutting your fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions literally by the tons.

Your Consumption:

Mass-consumption is a major problem on our planet; especially in North America. We buy cheap, disposable, and on sale – and all too frequently – most of this finding its way into our colossal landfills as we can never have enough, or aren’t satisfied with what we have.

Try replacing your excessive shopping trips with outdoor activities, games and get-togethers with friends and loved ones. Experiences and memories are worth far more than the money you saved on that designer purse at the outlets.

Still need to shop? We all do, of course, but try aiming for ethical, fair-trade and environmentally-friendly brands and stores instead.

Some of my favourite brands do amazing things like support Indigenous artisans, plant 10 trees with every item purchased, give 1 percent of all profits back to the environment, and provide a child in a developing country with a pair of shoes.

Your Food: 

If you’re like most families from town, meat is a large part of your diet. Before you make that next trip down the meat aisle, think about your environmental impact as a meat eater.

Aside from being extremely inhumane, factory farming is one of the biggest culprits behind global warming and pollution, and a big factor in deforestation across the globe – beef more so than poultry or pork.

While you and your family may not be able to make the complete switch to being vegetarian (people who do not eat animals) or vegan (people who do not eat animals or animal by-products like dairy and eggs), you can certainly start off with just Meatless Mondays and see where that takes you.

These are just a few of the ways you can start to make real change for the betterment of the environment. The beginning of a lifestyle you can really be proud of as a Keeper of the Earth.

Continue standing up – and not just on Facebook or in times of crisis. Make the changes our planet, your children and our future generations need.

Continue standing for the reason behind #NoDAPL: our water, our earth, our life.

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Onawa has 10 years of experience working with youth and adults in the fields of education and career counselling. Since 2013, she has been working as an Employment & Training Counsellor with Tewatohnhi’saktha. Her skills and interests are multi-disciplinary; also working as the Art Integration Specialist for the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre’s Expansion & Renovation Project and as an environmental columnist for The Eastern Door. She is committed to the betterment of her community on many fronts: education, labour force, economic welfare, preservation of language and culture, and the environment, and aims to be part of the helping profession for many years to come.


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