“Michigan in Books” reviews “Honor the Earth” by Phil Bellfy

Honor the Earth: Indigenous Response to Environmental Degradation in the Great Lakes edited by Phil Bellfy.
Review by Tom Powers, Michigan In Books
This book of updated essays grew out of an environmental conference at MSU on Earth Day, 2007. The essays, as the subtitle suggests, are responses by Native Americans to the miserable record of pollution, overconsumption of natural resources, and the all too evident triumph of greed over maintaining a livable environment in the Great Lakes and the world. Readers should not be put off by what appears, at first glance, to be a book intended for a scholarly audience. Yes, the format, extended bibliographies, and chapter headings such as, “Grassroots Indigenous Epistemologies: Native, Non-Governmental Organizations, and the Environment,” are a little off-putting. Don’t be.

Phil Bellfy

At the heart of most of the essays is the difference between Indigenous Peoples’ attitude to the earth and environment which is best summarized by living in balance with nature as opposed to modern society’s exploitation of the environment.  The essays address a wide range of environmental concerns and the writing is often sharp, critical and outraged. One essay I found especially interesting and biting was on overpopulation and how Japan is so overpopulated many of her people are “literally tumbling into the sea.” Yet they are worried that their declining birthrate means in the future they will have fewer workers to “produce,’ and thus ‘consume’ whatever it is that’s produced.” The author then goes on to say, “Think about it. I suggest that this attitude signifies nothing so much as stark, staring madness. It is insane: suicidally, homicidally, ecocidally, homicidally insane.”

The book is a deep dive into indigenous culture, beliefs, and their close relationship to nature and the environment. It is provocative, disturbing, and to the point. And the point is that humanity is “killing the natural world, and thus itself. It’s no more complicated than that.”
Honor the Earth: Indigenous Response to Environmental Degradation in the Great Lakes edited by Phil Bellfy. Ziibi Press, ISBN 978-1-61599-625-4, $24.95.

Honor the Earth

SKU 978-1-61599625-4
$22.95
Indigenous Response to Environmental Degradation in the Great Lakes, 2nd Ed.
In stock
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Product Details
UPC: 978-1-61599625-4
Brand: Modern History Press
Binding: Paperback
Edition: 2nd
Author: Phil Bellfy (Ed.)
Pages: 302
Publication Date: 01/01/2022

The Great Lakes Basin is under severe ecological threat from fracking, bursting pipelines, sulfide mining, abandonment of government environmental regulation, invasive species, warming and lowering of the lakes, etc. This book presents essays on Traditional Knowledge, Indigenous Responsibility, and how Indigenous people, governments, and NGOs are responding to the environmental degradation which threatens the Great Lakes. This volume grew out of a conference that was held on the campus of Michigan State University on Earth Day, 2007.

All of the essays have been updated and revised for this book. Among the presenters were Ward Churchill (author and activist), Joyce Tekahnawiiaks King (Director, Akwesasne Justice Department), Frank Ettawageshik, (Executive Director of the United Tribes of Michigan), Aaron Payment (Chair of the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians), and Dean Sayers (Chief of the Batchewana First Nation). Winona LaDuke (author, activist, twice Green Party VP candidate) also contributed to this volume.

Adapted from the Introduction by Dr. Phil Bellfy:

"The elements of the relationship that the Great Lakes' ancient peoples had with their environment, developed over the millennia, was based on respect for the natural landscape, pure and simple. The "original people" of this area not only maintained their lives, they thrived within the natural boundaries established by their relationship with the natural world. In today's vocabulary, it may be something as simple as an understanding that if human beings take care of the environment, the environment will take care of them. The entire relationship can be summarized as "harmony and balance, based on respect."
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