The 54-minute documentary, Living in the Time of Dying, produced by Michael Shaw, offers four viewpoints on the current and future state of the Earth. The prognosis, not surprisingly, is bad. Three of the people who share their opinions are educated professionals who offer a bleak picture of what is ahead for animals, glaciers, trees, and people. The fourth commentator is Stan Rushworth, a Cherokee elder who is also an honorary member of the Chiricahua Apache tribe.
Rushworth points out that indigenous people have a lot of experience mourning the loss of the Earth as they know it. “This is something Native people have been dealing with ever since the colonists came,” Rushworth says. “And I see people leapfrogging over the genocide. They want the ancient wisdom, but they don’t know what that is. It has to do with a relationship with the land, the universe, community that is really alien.”
The grief that indigenous people in North and South America feel for what has been taken from them did not end in colonial times. It has been ongoing for hundreds of years as their children have been mistreated in boarding schools, their land stolen and desecrated by mining and industry, their cultures and languages stripped away.
Americans of African descent have also mourned the Earth. The Earth they lost was their homeland from which they were forcibly snatched. Their grief and outrage, too, have been constantly provoked. Hundreds of years after they were traded and sold like cargo, they have experienced prejudiced and dehumanizing attitudes and behavior from the white descendants of colonists.
The United States, Canada, and the countries of Central and South America, are wounded places, because our culture, economy, religion, and education have been built on the diminishment of other human beings. As we face climate change, we must begin to listen to the people who have already mourned the loss of the Earth and may be able to offer guidance.