A Declaration for the Great Lakes

Natural laws determine the balance of life here on Earth. The Great Lakes watershed is not exempt from these laws: people are not exempt from these laws. If there is to be a meaningful future for the Great lakes, then people must understand and abide by these natural laws. To do otherwise is to participate in mass euthanasia – cultural suicide.

We who are indigenous to the Great lakes have acquired our rights to these natural laws. We call them instructions from our Mother, the earth. Our evolution is here, our stories are here, our beliefs are here, our cosmology is here; all are attached to maintenance of these natural laws. Despite changes in recent times, our rights still exist; they persist, and will continue to do so as long as we exist. These rights, stories, beliefs, are inalienable.

Not too long ago others came with other beliefs from another mother across the ocean. Their mother, long removed as a relative of Earth, wore a crown. These people gained power, influence, and advanced technology. This experience however, instead of making them wiser, removed them even further from the natural laws, from our Mother, the Earth. They used their power to gain dominance over all people and all things in the Great Lakes. Though indigenous people have suffered from this dominance, some of us were able to cling to and practice the instructions of our Mother. Today this called indigenous knowledge. We must use this knowledge, ceremonies, culture, and rights to lead the way back to balance. This is a truth and is as real as gravity and surely represents one of these natural laws. They did not invent gravity but in their way of thinking, their knowledge, they simply named it. Some of them are good at naming things – at finding facts. We must join their facts with our truth; if this can happen, we together can have a future.

Through the Seventh Generation Initiative our elders and their scientists have common ground -  the Earth is our Mother, is suffering from human degradation. This is affecting out children and perhaps will devastate future generations. With reality, things simply must change. As Anishnabeg we must join with our neighbors in turning this chemical assault around. If your neighbors and their governments won’t, then we must lead. Today we pray that we find the strength and wisdom to show the way. Today we begin the Seventh Generation Initiative save the Great Lakes – for now and for the future.

Our rights certainly flow from our Mother, the earth. That which we have left has even been acknowledged, named by them. Codified, as their lawyers say. The treaties, the legislation, the court rulings are not things that they gave us, but these simply affirm that which we’ve always had. It is this remaining portion of earth sovereignty that, because they have been acknowledged, will help lead the way to balance. And the only way to do this is to act, to find the will to assert that which we have,

Given the alternative of a progressively polluted Great Lakes there really is no choice. Any short-term loss of political favor, by no longer remaining silent, will be far out weighed and rewarded by the generations who will follow. If we act now, there will be future generations who will also cling to stories, beliefs, ceremonies, and rights. If we do what’s right now, long into the future, songs will be sung and ceremonies held to remember when these difficult dark nights now were changed into bright days.

One hundred fifty years from now – Seven Generations – a story will told how a long, long time ago at the turn of the second millennia, the Anishinabe and other indigenous people stepped forward to save the Great Lakes for future generations. Today using indigenous sovereignty, treat rights, ceremonies, knowledge, and beliefs, we must begin. We must work closely with these newer people who also wish a future doe their descendants. But we must not wait for their leaders nor must we any longer ask their permission. If their governments cannot go forward then we must embrace as our own any one who wishes to walk side by side; some will have facts we need; some already are our Mother’s children. As we continue to look for and pick up bundles we left along the wayside, others will help create new bundles for the journey ahead. For sure these steps will be difficult times filled with hardship. But unless we start now, the future simply will not exist. And, as their scientists report more and more facts, some of us are already dying. Let’s join together now, today and lead the way – the Anishinabe way. If, as the elders have told us, we are our grandparent’s dream, then we must begin today dreaming of our grandchildren.

Walt Bresette, 1948-1999