Honoring Our Relationship with Mother Nature
Last updated: November 16, 2022, at 11:39 a.m. PT
Originally published: November 15, 2022, at 11:39 a.m. PT
A Special Indigenous & Native Peoples’ Heritage Month Message from our President & CEO
“In every Indigenous community I’ve been in, they absolutely do want community infrastructure, and they do want development, but they want it on their own terms. They want to be able to use their national resources and their assets in a way that protects and sustains them. Our territories are our wealth, the major assets we have. And Indigenous people use and steward this property so that they can achieve and maintain a livelihood, and achieve and maintain that same livelihood for future generations.” ―Rebecca Adamson (founder of First Nations Development Institute and the founder of First Peoples Worldwide)
November is Indigenous and Native Peoples’ Heritage Month. In honor of their contributions to our world and community, the Y is celebrating the original caretakers of our land, and we remain committed to responsibly stewarding our generational relationship with our environment.
There are many things we can learn from our Indigenous and Native Peoples, who are our neighbors and friends, including their history of continuous, intentional care to preserve our natural environment for generations to come. The Pacific Northwest is one of the most dazzling places to live, with beloved mountains that locals say hello to as an old friend when they are out on a clear day and trees that create tunnels of green.
As responsible stewards of these lands, we must ask ourselves what can we do to preserve them? As we learn alongside each other this month, we recognize that the Indigenous and Native Peoples are not a monolith (there are 29 federally recognized Native tribes and bands in Washington alone). Each tribe has its own unique culture, history, and tribal government and customs, all of whom we can learn from as a community.
Let’s start with our current relationship with our environment. Often, we focus on how people destroy nature, that we are the antithesis of what nature needs to thrive. And we have certainly done our damage, often fueled by monetary gain and systemic discrimination. But that doesn’t have to be our story. We can take lessons learned from Indigenous Peoples and positively impact nature around us. If we are intentional and thoughtful in our actions, we can ensure that Mother Nature sustains us all, especially those who are furthest from enjoying her fruits.
A little further north of us, in British Columbia, Indigenous people cultivated forest gardens that have allowed the land, animals, and humans to all flourish together for more than 150 years. These forest gardens were filled with fruit trees, and berry bushes within a region mainly home to hemlock and cedar forests. These gardens were able to help sustain food and plants that supported not only humans but also the ecosystem of that area despite the lack of continual cultivation.
A similar practice lives on today in our areas with organizations like CityFruit. CityFruit works in the community with local Seattleites to address the waste from the excess fruit from trees within the city. The community works together to harvest and equitably distribute fresh produce throughout the city to food banks, meal programs, and Fruit-for-All Farmstands.
These are just a few ways to show our love for our magnificent Pacific Northwest – nature, humans, and creatures alike. We can always do more. We encourage you to read more about our relationship with the earth from Native and Indigenous Peoples in relation to the world we live in now.
Read more about environmentalism and ecology rooted in Native and Indigenous practices with this list of reads from the Seattle Public Library.
The smoke season has started to become a standard PNW season. Learn more about controlled burns as wildfire prevention.
Check out our compiled list of resources curated by the Indigenous & Native Peoples’ Employee Resource Network.
In community and gratitude,
Loria B. Yeadon
President & CEO, YMCA of Greater Seattle