Plan for the Best, but…

One of the activities that I look forward to every year at College of Menominee Nation (CMN) is Earth Day. Ever since I have been at the college, and many years before, Earth Day has been a chance for CMN to open its beautiful campus to community members of all ages so that we can celebrate the land, water, and air that we all love so dearly. Offices from all over the reservation come down and we welcome guests from grassroots organizations, state-level organizations, and others to come and join us. I have been a part of the planning committee for the last two years and it’s always amazing to watch this tremendous event come together.

This year, things are a little different.

With the campus closed and everyone who can be safely at home, there was just no way for this year’s Earth Day celebration to go on as it has normally. We were disappointed but of course it made perfect sense—the safety of the community always comes first.

But it also occurred to us that this could be a tremendous opportunity to approach things differently. The Earth Day committee is a diverse group of folks from different backgrounds, ages, and skill sets, and with our powers combined, we have managed to pull off some very difficult things in the past. We thought about the needs of the community and the conversations we wanted to have and moved on from there.

We worked out a plan to celebrate Earth Day anyway, but in a way that could be safely enjoyed from the home. We put together a plan with some of our partners and worked out a way to bring in more folks that we might not otherwise have reached out to, closing distances that for an in-person meeting would have been cost ineffective, if not impossible. We had to navigate new problems, learn new solutions, find ways to bring together our tradition with new innovations. We worked knowing fully well that no one was making us do this—this was something we wanted to do, for the community, for all of our communities. The brainstorming yielded a week of storytelling, upcycled art activities, a virtual escape room, a scavenger hunt, and a panel on renewable energy in Indian Country, all from the safety of home. We even filled 500 custom tote bags with activities and information, clad in gloves and masks, and working one at a time to let people in the community know we were still thinking of them.

While at the time of this writing, Earth Day is still to come, I am already proud of the work that we have done, of the spirit that nothing—not even a global pandemic—can keep our community from reaching out to one another, even when we’re apart.

Jasmine Neosh is a student at College of Menominee Nation.

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