Living on the Red Road

Marcie Rendon is a contributor to Minnesota Women’s Press and author of plays, poetry, non-fiction, and fiction. (photo by Sarah Whiting)

I have been thinking, talking, and posting on social media about the climate emergency situation. 

I remember meeting Hopi elder Thomas Banyacya in the 1970s. He talked about the time coming when the earth would be in danger from the actions of humans. He told the prophecy of how all people would need to make a choice between two roads — a road that led to continued destruction of the earth, or a road where people would live in balance with the natural order. 

We are at that time, with the climate emergency, where we have to make that choice. As Native people we have always known how to live in balance with the natural world. Many of us in the urban area are less connected than our parents or grandparents, but our connection to that knowledge is not lost. 

Our ability to know how to inherently listen to nature and her beings is still intact — available to us if we remember to slow down, be quiet, and listen closely to the land, the wind, and the ancestors who want us to survive this coming time.

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One thing I think about a lot is how current urban lifestyle is designed to keep us separate from each other and to make us focus on our differences instead of our similarities. Banyacya and the Hopi Prophecy said that all people could learn from Native people — that as Native we had a responsibility to teach others, and to be a resource for others, if they wanted to learn how to walk on the road that is in balance with the natural order of the world.

The current situation for Native people in urban areas means that many of us live in poverty, or close to poverty, and we are fed messages daily that we will never have enough. This is the scarcity myth.

There is enough for everyone. There really is. It is about determining redistribution of the resources so that all will share to their need instead of to their want. This is something we have always known and valued as Native people — how to only take what we need from the environment around us.

Scarcity can make people afraid. Scared people can get mean. This is mostly what I talk about when I talk about climate change. I ask, “What are you afraid of? What are you afraid of losing? If you are faced with losing it, where would you lose your humanity?”

As Native people, in the face of all oppression, most of us have not lost our humanity. How do we commit to keeping our humanity in the face of the drastic changes that climate change may bring to our homelands?

If we are kind, if we  are genuine, we will keep our humanity — our humanness — in the face of drastic changes. We will fulfill the prophecy and be the leaders. We will be the people who will lead all others on the road that is in balance with the natural world.