Mother Earth

Appreciation  •  Introduction  •  Forum Schedule  •  Speakers  •  Going Green at the Museum  •  Resources


Everything in the world needs to know that it is appreciated.

It is true that plant beings are nourished by soil and air, but it is known too that their health and well being is encouraged by our words. Thus, do the Natural People speak to the plants, encouraging them to carry on in their plant ways, and for this reason, our grandparents walked among the Corn Sisters and talked to them, encouraging them to grow. It is a way that our spirits encourage the spirits of other beings of this World. Everything in the world is encouraged in this way.

The Natural World People say that this is the first duty of the People, that they show an appreciation and a high regard for one another. We can see that it is the natural way, just as the first thing people do upon meeting is to greet one another with a wish of good health. This is the way of a Natural People, in the greeting of other human beings, and it is their way to extend these greetings to the other beings of this world also.

The Real People come together to express an appreciation for the beings of the Universe, such as the feathered beings and the grass beings, and in this way they are participating in one aspect of the Life-Supportive process. And it is said that there are those who do not participate in this process, who do not have an appreciation of the other spirit beings of the world, who are not Natural People.

The Natural People are those who participate in the natural processes and the natural processes are nurturing ones. It is the way of a Natural People to nurture the Life-Supportive Processes of the World through the process of appreciation and greetings and thanksgiving.

—John Mohawk, All Children of Mother Earth, 1976

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Call to Consciousness on Climate Change

For more than half a century, American Indian elders have called attention to humankind’s impacts upon our Mother Earth. Elders of many Native cultures subscribe to the concept that our decisions today must take into consideration their effects upon future generations. The climate change dilemma represents an important challenge to the global community to incorporate into its practices and policies not only the prevailing evidence offered by science, but also wisdom and knowledge regarding the interrelatedness of all life on Earth.

American Indians are among the most ardent observers of the natural world. From the Inuit of the Arctic region, to the Hopi and Navajo of the American Southwest, to the Mapuche of southern Chile, there is growing Native testimony about the effects of climate change.

Across North America, tribes are responding to climate change with initiatives of their own, particularly programs that reduce communities’ carbon footprints by switching to alternative energy systems. From the Native Homelands Climate Change Workshop held in 1998 to the Tribal Lands Climate Conference in 2006 and ongoing initiatives today, tribal leaders and organizations have been working actively to develop responses and solutions to impending climate change.

In the quest to understand the impacts of human activity, scientists are increasingly teaming up with Native sources of cultural and empirical knowledge of environment and habitat. While scientific study often takes many years to analyze and decipher, Native peoples’ ongoing, long-established observation of natural patterns and changes are of high value for their continuity and currency. Now these voices are joining with those of non-Native scientists, policy makers, and business leaders.

The museum is working to concentrate attention on this subject in national American cultural and scientific life, to raise awareness that actions taken today will shape the course of the future. Climate change is an issue not only of science and policy, but of culture and worldview. We aim to encourage unity of thought and consciousness bridging Native elders, climate scientists, federal government representatives, private-sector interests, and tribes with global warming initiatives.

Preserving the health of the Mother Earth is our generation’s gravest responsibility. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, as an institution of living cultures, is committed to elevating human understanding about global climate change through education, cultural performances, and civic engagement programs. We are delighted to continue our Mother Earth—Indian Summer Showcase this year with programs that feature the ancient messages of living American Indian cultures, overviews of the state of the science, and reports on important responses to climate change by Native communities. It is time to regain that integrated understanding of the world that for millennia has characterized Native traditions.

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Forum schedule: Call to Consciousness on Climate Change

Friday, June 13—Elmer and Mary Louise Rasmuson Theater

Noon Welcome & Opening Remarks
Tim Johnson (Mohawk), associate director for museum programs, National Museum of the American Indian
12:10 p.m. Opening Prayer
Rico Newman (Piscataway–Conoy Indians)
12:30 p.m. Introductions and Framing Statement
José Barreiro (Taino), assistant director for research, Department of Museum Programs, National Museum of the American Indian
12:45 p.m. Original Instructions: A Call to Consciousness
Oren Lyons (Onondaga), Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan Onondaga, Haudenosaunee Grand Council of Chiefs; emeritus SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and director of Native American Studies within the Department of American Studies, State University of New York at Buffalo.
1:30 p.m. Scale of the Climate Problem and the Road Ahead
Anthony Socci, senior science and communication fellow, Policy Office of the American Meteorological Society's policy office in Washington, D.C.
2:10 p.m. Commitment to Solutions: Partnerships from Indian Country
Daniel Wildcat (Yuchi member of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma), director of the Haskell Environmental Research Studies (HERS) Center, and director of the American Indian Studies Program, Haskell Indian Nations University
2:50 p.m. Air Quality in the Four Corners Region of the U.S.
Nasbah Ben (Navajo), graduate student at the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, University of Kansas
3:25 p.m. Environmental Justice
Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabekwe [Ojibwe], enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg), rural development economist, executive director of Honor the Earth, a national Native American Foundation, and the White Earth Land Recovery Project on the White Earth Reservation
4:10 p.m. Moderated Panel Discussion with Presenters
José Barreiro, moderator     
4:55 p.m. Closing Comments and Remarks
Tim Johnson
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Tim Johnson (Mohawk)
As associate director for museum programs at NMAI, Tim Johnson manages a department that encompasses all aspects of the visitor experience, from exhibitions, education, publications, symposia, and lectures to cultural and performing arts programs.

Previously, Johnson served as executive editor of Indian Country Today, where, over the course of six years, he led the remodeling of the publication into the nation’s leading American Indian newspaper, noted for its original reporting, analysis, and commentary on matters of American Indian policy and its steadfast defense of American Indian economic interests.

Rico Newman (Piscataway–Conoy Indians)
Rico Newman is an Elder’s Council member of the Choptico Band of Piscataway–Conoy Indians, located in southern Maryland. He has been appointed by the Tribal Band Chairpersons to represent the tribe on major issues to the public and the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs. He is also active in the tribe’s language revitalization program and in teaching Piscataway–Conoy traditional arts. Newman works in NMAI’s Cultural Resources Center as a cultural information specialist.

José Barreiro (Taino)
José Barreiro serves as NMAI’s assistant director for research. A scholar of American Indian policy and the contemporary Native experience, Barreiro is a pioneering figure in Native American journalism and publishing. He helped establish the American Indian Program at Cornell University, serving as associate director and editor-in-chief of Akwe:kon Press and the journal Native Americas throughout the 1980s and ’90s. In 2000 he joined the staff of Indian Country Today as senior editor. He continues to serve as a member of the editorial board of Kacike: The Journal of Caribbean Amerindian History and Anthropology.

Barreiro’s publications include Native American Expressive Culture (1994), a special edition of the Akwe:kon Journal produced for the opening of NMAI’s George Gustav Heye Center in New York; the novel The Indian Chronicles (1993); and such scholarly books as View from the Shore: American Indian Perspectives on the Quincentenary (1990); Indian Roots of American Democracy (1992); Chiapas: Challenging History (1994); Panchito: Cacique de Montaña (2001); and, most recently, America Is Indian Country (2005), which he edited with Tim Johnson. A member of the Taino Nation of the Antilles, Barreiro received his Ph.D. in American Studies from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Oren Lyons (Onondaga)
Oren Lyons was born in 1930 and raised in the traditional lifeways of the Haudenosaunee on the Seneca and Onondaga reservations in northern New York State. After serving in the army, Lyons graduated in 1958 from the Syracuse University College of Fine Arts. He then pursued a career in commercial art in New York City. A noted American Indian artist, he has exhibited his paintings widely.

Since returning to western New York in 1970 and joining the faculty of SUNY Buffalo, Chief Lyons has been a leading advocate for American Indian causes. Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation, and a member of the Council of Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee, he is respected internationally as an eloquent spokesperson. In 1982, he helped to establish the Working Group on Indigenous Populations within the United Nations and has taken part in meetings of the U.N. Human Rights Commission. He also serves on the executive committee of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival, and is a principal figure in the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders, grassroots leadership council of the major Indian nations of North America.

Chief Lyons has authored or edited numerous books including Native People Address the United Nations (1994); Voice of Indigenous Peoples (1992); and Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations, and the U.S. Constitution (1992).

Anthony Socci
Anthony Socci, Ph.D., is a senior science and communication fellow with the American Meteorological Society’s policy office in Washington, D.C. His interests include improving the communication of science via the mass media. He also hosts a public, monthly series on environmental science and policy issues on Capitol Hill and has co-hosted a series of workshops on improving the communication of science.

From 1994 to 2000, Socci served as associate executive director of the coordination office of the multiagency U.S. Global Change Research Program, where he was active in planning and coordinating the government’s nearly $2 billion annual investment in research on the causes and impacts of global- and regional-scale environmental changes. In this capacity, he routinely interacted with diverse interests, including the executive branch and congressional offices, on climate science.

From 2000 to 2005, Socci was a senior climate science advisor for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) office of atmospheric programs, with responsibility for strategic planning, advising, and communication of climate and climate-related science.

Dan Wildcat (Yuchi member of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma)
Daniel R. Wildcat is director of the Haskell Environmental Research Studies Center and of the American Indian Studies Program at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. In 1994 Wildcat helped form a partnership with the Hazardous Substance Research Center at Kansas State University to create the Haskell Environmental Research Studies Center as a nonprofit Native American initiative to facilitate technology transfer to tribal governments and Native communities, transfer of accurate environmental information to tribes, and research opportunities for tribal college faculty and students throughout the United States.

In 1996 Dr. Wildcat helped plan and organize an American Indian educational program to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Earth Day. As a part of the program, he moderated a live, nationally broadcast dialogue in Washington, D.C., between traditional American Indian elders and American Indian scientists and engineers about the way we must live if we are to ensure a healthy planet for our children. Wildcat also helped plan and design a four-part video series entitled All Things Are Connected: The Circle of Life (1997), which dealt with land, air, water, and biological issues related to environmental science and policy challenges facing Native nations. His recent activities have revolved around forming the American Indian and Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group, a network of individuals and organizations working on climate change issues.

Wildcat received B.A. and M.A. degrees in sociology from the University of Kansas and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He is the author or editor of several books, including Power and Place: Indian Education in America (2001), with Vine Deloria, Jr.; Destroying Dogma: Vine Deloria’s Legacy on Intellectual America (2006), with Steve Pavlik; and Red Alert: Saving the Earth with Indigenous Knowledge (forthcoming).

Nasbah Ben (Navajo)
Nasbah Ben is a proud member of the Diné Nation. She is of the Red Streak Running into the Charcoal Clan, born for the Mexican Clan; her maternal grandfather is the Bitter Water Clan and paternal grandfather is Big Water Clan. A graduate student in the Center for Indigenous Nations Studies at the University of Kansas, Ben has a B.S. in Environmental Sciences from Northern Arizona University. Her research encompasses air quality and climate change issues among indigenous populations. She is currently working for the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, assisting in the development of the American Indian and Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group.

Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabekwe [Ojibwe], enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg)
Winona LaDuke is a rural development economist who has spent many years working on energy policy and energy self-sufficiency issues in Native America. The author of five books, she is the executive director of Honor the Earth, a national Native American foundation, and founding director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.

LaDuke is a graduate of Harvard University, with graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in rural development from Antioch University. Twice a U.S. vice presidential candidate, serving as Ralph Nader’s running mate and representing the Green Party in 1996 and 2000, LaDuke lives and works on the White Earth Reservation.

Taking part in the Documentary Film Screening and Discussion, Saturday, June 14

Daphne Ross
Daphne Ross is new to filmmaking. Her participation as co-producer, writer, and editor of Waterbuster is her first time behind the camera. Ross grew up in New York City, graduated from Bard College with a B.A. in cultural anthropology, and then went on to earn an M.S. in environmental studies. Her professional career includes many years as an environmental educator and activist with non-profit organizations such as the Hudson River sloop Clearwater. She has taught marine ecology and environmental ethics to a variety of age groups on tall ships throughout the United States. It was over sailboats that she met the producer/director of Waterbuster, J. Carlos Peinado. While living together on a 35-foot sloop in Ventura, California, the two decided to collaborate on a documentary film about Peinado’s family and community on the Fort Berthold Reservation of North Dakota. She and Peinado now live in Santa Fe, wondering where the ocean is.

Travis Tom (Swinomish)
Travis Tom, a junior at La Conner High School in La Conner, Washington, is Swinomish and Lummi and has lived on the Swinomish Reservation his entire life. After his older sister passed away four years ago, Tom started using drugs. He began working with Native Lens in 2004 as part of his plan to turn his life around. His first project was a public service announcement called Native Pride. Since then, he has played the main character and served as principal director of Fifteen and helped to write, narrate, interview subjects for, and shoot March Point. He enjoys all aspects of acting and filmmaking and hopes to continue doing both for the rest of his life.

Tracy Rector (Seminole)
Tracy Rector is earning her teacher certification and a Master’s Degree in Education from Antioch University’s First Peoples Program, specializing in Native American studies, traditional plant medicine, and documentary film. She hopes to bring traditional and contemporary education together in a foundation based in environmental stewardship, using film and nature as pathways for learning. In conjunction with the Seattle Art Museum, the Northwest Folklife Council has recognized her Teachings of the Tree People curriculum as a Gold Standard model. Rector is currently developing curriculum for IslandWood, an environmental education center. Rector’s documentary work has been featured at National Geographic’s All Roads Film Project and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. She is the co-founder of Longhouse Media/Native Lens and a proud mother of two boys.

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Going Green at the Museum
Committing to a softer footprint on Mother Earth

Little more than three years after opening in September 2004, the National Museum of the American Indian is now considered one of the greenest buildings on the National Mall. Staff and managers responsible for various aspects of the museum’s operations and maintenance have worked to make the building a safe and healthy environment for visitors and employees. Here are some of the ways in which NMAI is going green.

In 2006 NMAI became the first Smithsonian museum to start recycling in its interior public areas. Recycling for staff areas has been in effect since the 2004 opening.

The building management team has searched for and found products that are environmentally safe for our employees and visitors. NMAI’s custodial area was the first on the Mall to change to environmentally safe paper products, hand soap, waxes, strippers, and cleaning chemicals. Currently all paper products and hand soap used in NMAI’s restrooms are environmentally safe. About 85 percent of the chemicals used regularly for cleaning are green certified. In cases where green alternatives are not yet available or sufficiently effective, building management is researching new product developments.

For its brochures and printed materials, NMAI increasingly uses paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC certification involves principles and criteria to ensure that forests are managed in a responsible manner that makes them a truly renewable resource. These criteria also address legal issues, indigenous rights, labor rights, and environmental impacts to promote a wide range of environmental and social benefits.

NMAI’s renowned Mitsitam Cafe also pursues a healthy and environmentally friendly course. While the cafe is not wholly organic, the kitchen strives to use organic products or at least those that are all-natural. The cafe serves only grass-fed buffalo, hormone-free chicken, and cage-free eggs. Salmon, a regular part of the Pacific Northwest cuisine, is all wild-caught. All seafood served at the cafe is produced sustainably or in environmentally sound ways, avoiding overfished species or fish caught by methods that are wasteful or depleting.

The landscaping around the museum uses integrated pest control management, a series of techniques for controlling pests without chemicals. This process includes the annual release of thousands of ladybugs, a colorful public event.

Thanks to all these efforts, NMAI is on its way towards LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. The rating system for existing buildings includes credits in the areas of sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

LEED certification is prestigious, and it would be an honor to be LEED certified. But that is not the principal goal for those involved in making the museum on the National Mall an environmentally friendly place. The prize is to create a safe and healthy environment for the people who work here and, most especially, our many visitors. The commitment is to continually endeavor to lessen our footprint on Mother Earth.

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Worldwatch Institute: 10 Ways to Go Green and Save Green
The Sierra Club: 10 Ways to Go Green at Work 153 ways to go green

Advocacy Organizations
Natural Resources Defense Council
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Pew Research Center
Union of Concerned Scientists
The National Council for Science and the Environment
National Wildlife Federation
Worldwatch Institute
Nature Conservancy
Conservation International
World Wildlife Fund
Sierra Club

Native Environmental Research and Advocacy
International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management
Honor the Earth
Haskell Indian Nations University—American Indian Studies
Indigenous Environmental Network
Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force
Native American Environmental Protection Coalition
Amazon Conservation Team
Native American Fish and Wildlife Society
National Tribal Environmental Council

Federal Agencies Active in Climate Change Research
Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Geological Survey—American Indian/Alaska Native Liaison Office
U.S. Department of Energy
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Forest Service
Bureau of Land Management

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