While the United Nations has been holding a climate change summit in Paris (November 30 to December 11), several indigenous leaders from Turtle Island (what you might call North America) voiced their frustration with the destruction that has brought us to this point.
"We cannot live on the Moon or Mars," they wrote plainly, "so people must change their behavior."
Here in what we now call South Florida, thousands of indigenous people were murdered or forced westward in the 1800s during three Seminole Wars. White men stopped fighting only when they felt they had completely decimated the local population, with a mere 200 or so natives remaining scattered on tree islands in the Everglades. Because of subsequent environmental destruction, those who remained eventually were forced to modernize. Some went on to form the Seminole Tribe and sought federal recognition (which brought certain protections and negotiating power) from the U.S. government in 1957. Some instead formed the alternative Miccosukee Tribe, which was federally recognized in 1962. But a few holdouts never joined either tribe.
In English, this group calls itself the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation Aboriginal Peoples (sometimes called the "independents" ) and insists that an agreement from the 1840s and signed by President James Polk has never been superseded and so remains in effect, and thus about 5 million acres — essentially, all of Southwest Florida, including Everglades National Park — rightly belongs to them. They scoff at the notion that the U.S. government should have any role in defining them. ("Newcomers separate themselves by imaginary lines," the group once wrote, seemingly bewildered at such a dumb concept.)
Still, because this group is not "federally recognized," it often gets ignored politically.
Too bad, because they have some beautiful and important things to say. Every so often, when circumstances have dictated, they have composed and released powerful letters — often multipage screeds, written meticulously because the leaders still speak their native Mikasuki language and always fear that their words will never be accurately translated and always taken out of context. They have spoken out against the National Park Service disturbing burial grounds and the state's celebration of Europeans coming to America.
Now, spiritual leader Bobby C. Billie is one of four signatories to a statement to the United Nations on climate change. Others include Sioux chief Arvol Looking Horse; Leland Grass, a Dine’ traditionalist; and Faith Spotted Eagle of the Ihanktonwan Dakota Oyate. (Billie is skeptical of reporters and did not respond to a request for comment through a rep.)
They implore world leaders – and every individual – to heed these leaders and create a new, sustainable path forward. Though it doesn't offer specifics, it is quite powerful in its simplicity and urgency.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to New Times Broward-Palm Beach's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling South Florida's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Here is the letter:
Indigenous Elders And Medicine Peoples Council Statement United Nations Convention on Climate Change COP21 Paris, FranceNovember 30, 2015 - December 11, 2015
This statement reflects the wisdom of the Spiritual People of the Earth, of the four directions, working in unity to restore peace, harmony and balance for our collective future and for all living beings. This statement is written in black and white with a foreign language that is not our own and does not convey the full depth of our concerns.
All Creation has a right to live and survive on this Sacred Earth and raise their Families where the Creator placed them to be.
The Creator created the People of the Earth out of the Land and gave us a Way of Life. This Sacred Way of Life has been passed down generation-to-generation since the beginning of the Creation of Life. The sanctity of this Way of Life has been violated and abused by people who are living without regard for the well being of Mother Earth and our collective future.
We, the Original Caretakers of Mother Earth, have no choice but to follow and uphold the Natural Law, which sustains the continuity of Life. We recognize our umbilical connection to Mother Earth and understand that she is the source of life, not a resource to be exploited. We speak on behalf of all Creation today, to communicate an urgent message that man has gone too far, placing us in the state of survival.
There is no more time for discussion on preventing “Climate Change”. That opportunity has passed. “Climate Change” is here. The Air is not the same anymore. The Water is not the same anymore. The Earth is not the same anymore. The Clouds are not the same anymore. The Rain is not the same anymore. The Trees, the Plants, the Animals, Birds, Fish, Insects and all the others are not the same anymore. All that is Sacred in Life is vanishing because of our actions. The truth is we have moved beyond climate change to survival.
We’ve entered the state of survival because of the magnitude of the desecration, damage, and destruction to the Creator’s Sacred Creation.
The COP21 Climate Summit in Paris, France is being held to contemplate strategies to prevent more than two degrees Celsius of warming. Though this is important, it is not nearly enough. To truly heal Mother Earth and ensure our survival, we must recognize that the entire natural system is one life system rather than fragmented parts. Our concern is with the acceleration of the cumulative and compounding devastation that is being wrought by the actions of people around the world. Modern living and all that it encompasses does not respect the Sacredness of Life and has ruptured the sacred seal around the Earth. This has contributed to extreme weather patterns and the melting of the Ice – the sacred cooling system of Mother Earth. Man-made creations of vehicles, trains, railroads, airplanes, bullets, guns, weapons, spaceships, building of high rise towers, shopping malls, pipelines, roads, slaughtering of animals for recreation, the genetic alteration and pollution of our food and water sources, introduction of invasive species, drilling and digging deep into Mother Earth, and into the mountains for oil, gas, gold, silver, minerals, precious stones, coal and uranium, and all the others. Changing whole ecosystems forever by draining wetlands, changing the course of rivers, clear cutting of forests, damming rivers and flooding lands to cool nuclear reactors and natural gas plants, damming rivers for hydroelectric power, using rivers and lakes for dumping toxic chemicals and sewage, polluting the Earth and Oceans with toxic chemicals and waste and piling up and burying garbage has contaminated and polluted our Earth. All these actions and more created Climate Change.
Aboriginal Indigenous Peoples have seen first-hand the impacts these destructive actions have had on our sacred places and the natural world. We have sent out messages to the people of this world warning that “this dark time” or “this day” would come if the people did not immediately stop their destructive activities and re-align themselves in harmony and balance with the Creator’s Natural Law. Our messages of prophecy fell on deaf ears and remained unseen by eyes blinded by money, greed and power.
Today, we lack leadership. We have misplaced our trust in governmental leaders and the leaders of industry. They failed us by trying to maintain their profits, economies and their power over the people. Their lack of action to adequately and seriously work to prevent “climate change” has brought us to the state of survival, threatening the collective future of All Life. Leaders meeting in Paris have a responsibility to create real solutions and do something right for the future of all life. We strongly urge all leaders to work and consult with us, the spiritual people of the Earth, to solve the world’s problems, without war. We, the Original Caretakers of Mother Earth, offer our spiritual insight, wisdom and vision to the global community to help guide the actions needed to overcome the current threats to all life and shift from the path of self-destruction to the path of peace, harmony and balance with All Creation.
The people of the world cannot continue to ignore Aboriginal Indigenous Peoples, the Natural System of Life, the Natural Law and our connection with All Life.
We cannot live on the Moon or Mars so people must change their behavior. We must sacrifice and move beyond our own comforts and pleasures. We must stop the damaging activities and begin working on healing the natural environment for the future of All Life. To date, the Sacred has been excluded from all discussions and decisions.
TO SURVIVE CLIMATE CHANGE AND SEE THE FUTURE WE MUST HEAL THE SACRED IN OURSELVES AND INCLUDE THE SACREDNESS OF ALL LIFE IN OUR DISCUSSIONS, DECISIONS AND ACTIONS.
We must heal the Sacredness within ourselves, within our families, within our communities and within our Nations. We must respect, follow and uphold the Creator’s Natural Law as a foundation for all decision-making, from this point forward. This begins with a deep respect and understanding of the human life cycle. To bring sacredness back into this cycle, human beings must bring forth life in a conscious way, honoring our sacred obligation to care for that life. With the creation of life comes a responsibility to ensure the care and survival of that life throughout the lifespan of the child. When we bring forth life haphazardly and without sacredness, with no concern for how that life will be sustained, we violate our sacred responsibility and bring imbalance to Mother Earth. We must restore our balance with Creation and respect the sacredness of our sexuality, and our ability to bring new life into this world.
World leaders in Paris must lead us away from the commodification of Mother Earth, which places our lives and our future on an unstable foundation based on money, greed and power. We must open our hearts to Love, Care and have Respect for one another and All Creation to create peace. No one can survive without clean Air, clean Water, and a clean Earth. We cannot breathe money, we cannot eat or drink money. The people of the world must recognize that man made laws have failed us and will continue to fail us, because those laws attempt to place profit and power over our sacred obligation to All Life and our shared future. Those seeking profit and power have created a business of war and destruction that now threatens the lives of billions around the world. It is time to address this spiritual illness and begin the process of healing, together.
Aboriginal Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples are not scientists, but we do have a connection to the source of Truth and Life, we have our “Prophecies“ and the “Signs” of disharmony. All of these sources of knowledge tell us clearly what will happen if we do not change our behavior. All of the things that are happening today are the very same things that were spoken of in the earlier days, the very things that the Creator warned would happen, if we failed to respect and follow His Natural Law. There are scientists and experts that know the scientific reality of what is going on. They know that life will vanish if we continue in the direction we are going. These scientist and experts must speak the truth to the people and not be controlled by those that provide their paychecks.
Neither world leaders nor modern institutions have the tools to adequately address climate change. Indigenous peoples must be included.
We are all responsible and we are all capable of creating a new path forward with new sources of energy that do not harm the people or the Earth. We are obligated to all take action now to protect what is left of the Sacredness of Water and Life. We can no longer wait for solutions from governmental and corporate leaders. We must all take action and responsibility to restore a healthy relationship with each other and Mother Earth. Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind. Did you think the Creator would create unnecessary people in a time of such terrible danger? Know that you yourself are essential to this World. Believe that! Understand both the blessing and the burden of that. You yourself are desperately needed to save the soul of this World. Do you think you were put here for something less?
Water is Life
We are the People of the Earth united under the Creator’s Law, with a sacred covenant to follow and uphold and a sacred responsibility to extend Life for all future generations. We are from various Nations and we are spiritually related. We will not be divided by any terminology that defines us as “recognized” or “unrecognized”, by the Government of the United States or any other body. We are expressing deep concern for our shared future and urge everyone to awaken spiritually and take action. It is critical that we come together with good minds and prayer as a global community of all faiths, to honor the Creator and the Creator’s Gift. We must work in unity to help Mother Earth heal so that she can bring back balance and harmony for all her children.
Representatives of the Council
**Chief Arvol Looking Horse
19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe
Spiritual Leader The Great Sioux Nation Peoples
Leland Grass, Dine’ Traditionalist
Bobby C. Billie
Clan Leader and Spiritual Leader Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation Aboriginal
Faith Spotted Eagle
Tunkan Inajin WinBrave Heart Society, Grandmother/Headswoman & Ihanktonwan Treaty Council Ihanktonwan Dakota from the Oceti Sakowin 7 Council Fires
**-ADDITIONAL SIGNATURES TO FOLLOW-
Here's video of Billie from March: