This climate story starts before time was told by clocks or watches.
This climate story started with the movement of stars through the sky, the sun and moon dancing around the horizon. In many ways, this story fell from the stars, delivered by grandfathers of an ancient past. This story is a love story, one of a love so strong that it is held in the breath of rocks, the roots of maple and cottonwood trees, the magical and violent waters of Gichigami and the collective fortitude of Pte oyate. Sadly, only few people know this love today…
Anpetu Luta Hoksila, Red Day’s Boy, was born from ceremonies of both beauty and violence. Traditional stories told by elders acknowledge his spirit was dreamt and brought from the stars. These same elders admit that he, along with other Wakanyeja, were chosen by ancestors to grace the earth at a moment of desperation. A moment where all of existence in this physical realm hung in the balance of ticking clocks. Of course, only those closest to earth, dependent on her, would recognize the desperation of this moment. Humans, we were the last to know, preoccupied with the illusion of superiority marked by skin-color, governed by greed. Much of humanity sought to steal, injure, imprison and even murder those who thought or believed different than them. Land was the dictate for these beliefs and, as such, Land was treated in much the similar way, a tool to be exploited at the mercy of the colonizers. Land gave of herself, her womb. Land gave her blood, her organs and other tissues until she cried out in agony for colonizers to stop the brutal assault on her body, the assault on the the beings that she nourished and loved, and those two-leggeds that cared for her.
Tasked with the solution to the problem of colonialism/colonizers, and its destructive consequences to Land, Anpetu Luta Hoksila and the other Wakanyeja, were raised according to the most loving of ways. Unbeknownst to them, these ways were called upon to decolonize and return the Land to a healthy and balanced place, a place of safety, a place of love. Not unwittingly, the colonizers knew of these Wakanyeja, the power of these beliefs, traditions and ceremonies. Insidiously, and systematically, the colonizers introduced poison to Land, the waters, to the bodies and finally, to the minds of the Wakanyeja, injuring the critical relationship between them, one another and Land. Many Wakanyeja were unable to recover, some turned into colonizers themselves. Only few have lived to tell this story and continue to fight in the name of those that were lost, never found and have yet to recover. Fortunately, they remember the old ways that were taught to them, those that are left. They also remember the poisons that were stored in cans, boxes, spread on blankets, and put in the water and Land. They remember the Land that was stolen, brutalized, and destroyed. They remember. They remember.
Today, Anpetu Luta Hoksila and the Wakanyeja find power in the ceremony of their love, grief, loss and relationship to the Land and the Stars. The power of those ancestors that gave of themselves, made prayers for the Land and sacrificed in the name of this Love, resides in their hearts. Land knows these ways, it knows this story. See, Land and Wakanyeja are one in the same. The beliefs and love that bind them, are also the beliefs and love that make them inseparable, and recognize them in a state of oneness. Land still cries in agony, because the colonizers have never stopped. Yet, Anpetu Luta Hoksila and Wakanyeja sing healing songs to her, speaking love and asking blessings from the stars. They know, as long as they coexist, and share in this relationship of love and ceremony, Land and Wakayeja will heal together.
Kyle Hill is Assistant Professor at the University of North Dakota, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dept. of Indigenous Health and Associate Faculty at Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for American Indian Health. He is a member of Climate Generation’s Window into COP26 Delegation this November. His primary area of research is Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledges, cultural engagement and how these practices are critical for both, health equity within Indigenous communities and adaptation/mitigation of climate change. Learn more about Kyle and subscribe to follow his experience at COP26.