Nelson Bird column

Spring is finally here. I suppose we’ve been pretty fortunate considering the less-than-normal amount of snow we’ve received. It’s also a time when the garbage and trash left over from the winter begins to re-appear. As I walk down city streets and alleys, it becomes evident that many people still choose to throw garbage and recycling in their back yards and in public places. It is unsightly, to say the least.

A co-worker asked me a question the other day about the environment and how First Nation people are way ahead in keeping the earth clean. I thought about it, and it had me wondering how true that was. In my travels over the years, I estimate that I’ve visited nearly every reserve in Saskatchewan and have spent time in other Canadian communities. I’ve always made an effort to notice things like how a reserve will treat the environment; sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not.

One reserve I visited made it a common practice to throw garbage bags, old furniture, and used appliances directly into the ditches. Every kilometre of that reserve was littered with debris. There was even a couple of dead dogs lying on the side of the road right beside the school. It was disturbing to see this.

I don’t have answers as to why that happens, but when my co-worker asked how First Nations keep the environment clean, I was taken aback. I truly believe there are not enough resources on any Canadian First Nation to begin proper recycling programs nor are there sufficient funds for proper garbage disposal areas.

But at the same time, public education is important. Children can be taught the importance of keeping the earth clean and of course the lessons sink in more when they follow the positive example of parents, relatives, teachers and leaders.  A teacher from a school in southern Saskatchewan recently called me to tell me about the deplorable conditions of the school she worked at; stating that children were playing on piles of debris in the school yard and the interior of the school had not been properly clean in years. The lesson for the kids, she said, was that it is okay to disregard the place you live, work, and go to school.

But not all First Nations are like that. Many communities are doing everything they can to keep their environment safe and clean. Some have started recycling programs and I’ve even heard of an interesting incentive where the band office will reward individuals who keep their yards clean. They do it through a contest and the winner often receives a cheque. I like that idea.

I plan to clean up my yard over the next few weekends and I’ll be thinking about others doing the same because I truly believe that keeping the earth clean is a community effort.

Nelson Bird is a member of the Peepeekisis First Nation. The views shared are those of Nelson Bird and not those of CTV News. – See more at: http://treaty4news.com/2015/03/and-the-oscar-goes-to/#sthash.cvvbPt3I.dpuf

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