“The climate is changing fast,” said Lee Sprague an elder member of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawastomi Indians.
Native Americans traditionally used moons rather than Gregorian months.
“Instead of October, we say it’s the time of the Leaf Moon,” he said. But, because moons correspond to local conditions, Tribes in other areas might refer to the moon in October by a different name.
Native Americans depended on their moon calendars, but Sprague said, “Now, the moons are out of place.”
For example, when it gets too warm too quickly in the spring, fish like sturgeon that traditionally run in May might spawn a month early and, “that’s a different moon,” Sprague said.
The changing moon cycles are a sign of a changing climate, and Sprague said the Anishinaabe (Native Americans living in the Great Lakes region) understand the significance of these signs.
“People have to remember that this is not our first time. We adapted to the first ice age and to settler reservations, so adaptation to all kinds of climatic conditions is what we do,” Sprague said.
He said one of the cultural problems with the federal government’s reservation system is that it does not account for traditional Native practices.
“The federal government expects us to stay static and shelter in place — but that’s not how we survive the last ice age,” Sprague said.
In 1830, Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act which authorized the forcible removal of all Native Americas to reservations located west of the Mississippi River. According to the Library of Congress, the violent removal of Tribal members from their ancestral lands became known as The Trail of Tears.
Sprague believes the Anishinaabe can even handle the accelerated rate of today’s climate change because his ancestors adapt when they were forcibly moved from the Great Lakes region to the Central Plains of North America.
“They don’t have Maple Syrup or Sturgeon Moons in Kansas,” Sprague said. “My ancestors had six months to adapt to a completely different climate – or die.”
They adapted, because, “survive is what we do,” he said.
Angie Shine is a member of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Pottawatomi Indians in Battle Creek, MI and office manager for their environmental department.
“I look at the bigger picture on what needs to change in this world in order for things to get better with our climate,” Shine said.
And, the solution starts at the top she said.
“Instead of taking care of our planet, the mainstream government is a system that cares about nothing but money,” she said.
“If you look at the way we eat. How we consume things. All the plastics in the ocean. How we use transportation,” Shine said. “ALL of that, our entire lifestyle needs to change in order for our planet to get better — or we wipe ourselves off the planet.”
Shine said she understands how population growth has contributed to climate change, “because you’re constantly trying to provide for a lot of people.”
“I understand why,” she said. “But it needs to be done differently. The entire system has to change.” She’s hoping for a societal-awakening because, “This is about the continuation of the entire species.”
Sprague said surviving climate change will require all species to adapt very quickly. And Native Americans know the time is coming.
“The moons are already jumping around,” he said.