Synthesis/Regeneration 5   (Winter 1993)

500+ Years of Learning

The European Legacy

by Thomas Sullivan, Coordinator, Native American Indian Cultural Awareness Program, Syracuse, New York

It is not so much the man, Christopher Columbus, that American Indians object to as much as his legacy and others like him who have ventured to the Americas to dominate, control, and conquer everything and everyone in their path of destruction and greed. American Indians believe that, in the beginning, when the world was created, it was instructed by the Creator that all life would flow from the earth's bounty. So it was natural for the American Indian to call her "Mother." Their duty was to care for Mother Earth and they were given a special ability to use reason in the performance of their duty and to see that all things were kept in balance.

This message has been kept alive in the songs, dances, and traditions of the Native American Indian for thousands of years.

Over the last five hundred years, since the coming of that first European, Christopher Columbus, we have seen a different philosophy concerning Mother Earth emerge. On account of different value systems, clashes began. Since that time, there has been a legacy of death and destruction of Mother Earth and all her precious life forms. Now, as a prime example, we are going after the last bodies of fresh water in the world, having polluted so many of our lakes and rivers. Of all the water in the world, less than one percent is drinkable. Yet, we are about to go into James Bay in Canada and destroy the ecosystem that the Cree Indians have tried to protect and keep in balance for thousands of years.

To bring that legacy even closer to home, we only have to look in our own backyard. Take, for example, Onondaga Lake. The city of Syracuse was built with its natural resource, salt. We then thanked the Lake by using it as our sewer. It is now considered the most polluted lake in North America. The lake is not dead, but very symbolic of the condition of the world today. This lake, like the rain forests, the mountains, and the waterways, are very special and sacred to Indian people and for five hundred years we have been begging the Europeans to please take only what you need and forget about your greed. But alas, our voices have fallen on deaf ears.

So, with one last plea, the American Indian cries out like a voice in the wilderness, Take care of Mother Earth and all her precious life forms so that our children and our childrens' children may enjoy the fruits of her bounty.

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