The Gustavian Weekly

Speaker shares Native American point-of-view | The Gustavian Weekly

By Elsa Beise - Staff Writer | April 26, 2019 | News

Francis Bettelyoun, an expert in biological, environmental and Indigenous history, spoke to the Gustavus community about climate change, as well as what we can do to help, on Tuesday, April 23, 2019.

Bettelyoun is the coordinator of the University of Minnesota’s Native American Medicine Gardens, which helps to introduce the community to efficient, natural, and local ways to garden and grow foods using the Earth and its natural resources in a respectful way.

Bettelyoun has been the coordinator for these progressive gardens since 2005 and is also a Community Outreach specialist.

Bettelyoun is a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. He focuses on ways that nature and medicine can come together using natural resources that are given to us through our own planet.

Bettelyoun is a major advocate of choosing food products that are homegrown and locally sourced, especially when it comes to helping to reverse climate change.

Climate change is a topic that Bettelyoun takes a strong view on. He believes in the reversal of this change in our environment instead of merely adapting to it and being a bystander in this process.

His talk, titled “Paradigm: Mushrooms, Colored Cotton and a Lakota Garden: An Indigenous View of Reversing Climate Change,” focused on the importance of doing what we can to make small changes, thus playing a role in the prevention and preservation of our world and its health.

Bettelyoun is a public speaker and is trained in using these speeches to start real conversations and spark action amongst communities across Minnesota.

He promotes the idea of returning to the connection with plants and animals that the Indigenous system emphasizes so greatly. This system offers an efficient and respectful approach to using natural resources as a way to help our own lives, as well as prevent climate change and negative actions towards the Earth.

Junior Yasmine Dismuke was the co-chair of the event and is a member of The Diversity Leadership Council. She was inspired and moved by Bettelyoun’s messages regarding what we can do to stop climate change and take better care of the Earth.

“[He] wanted us to stop using plastic and learn how to grow our own food. He says it’s our responsibility to the Earth. He told us that this is not our land but it’s not his either, meaning no one should own this land. He was completely transparent on how damaging it was to see how this earth is being treated as an indigenous person. He left with telling us to begin to think of each other as relatives and help each other,” Dismuke said.

Bettelyoun also touched on the long-term effects that sexual abuse has on children and the challenges of living with a mental illness. Using his personal story as a basis, he looks at what one can do in terms of healing.

He has also worked with an organization, Buffalo Star People, who help families and members of communities find wellbeing in all aspects of their lives.

When planning this event, Dismuke hoped that the talk would shed light on the importance of not being bystanders to climate change and recognizing Indigenous voices in this process.

“I hoped that the attendees really understand that the land we live on is not ours then begin to take steps to take care of it. I wanted them to understand that this world is perishing and we are just letting it happen. I wanted indigenous voices to be truly heard and considered, it’s what they deserve,” Dismuke said.

She also was excited to hear the truth of the matter, something that Bettelyoun does not shy away from.

“I was excited about the speaker because he states the truth as it is. I was excited to hear what he had to teach us about this land that we are on at Gustavus and steps to reverse the damage we’ve done,” Dismuke said.

Bettelyoun, in addition to all of his other work previously mentioned, is currently working on a project through Backyard Phenology, a Grand Challenges Research grant project at the University of Minnesota, that collects data about plants in relation to climate change.

In addition to this study, which is on its second year, Bettelyoun created a curriculum for UMN students to learn more about these topics, with the help of professional educators.

The Diversity Leadership Council planned and sponsored this event for the Gustavus community. It is an annual project the council works on, picking topics that revolve around social justice.

“The purpose of this event is to bring awareness of the effects of climate change in an indigenous perspective and how we can begin to take steps to reverse it,” Dismuke said.