Earth Day 2020

We’re happy to share a letter in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day from Rulan Tangen, A Blade of Grass Fellow recognized for her dance practice combining interdisciplinary movement and indigenous artistic and ecological knowledge. From her home in the Ogaa Po’ogeh occupied Tewa territory known as Santa Fe, New Mexico, she sends some perspective and practices for commemorating Earth Day 2020.


The world has changed…I send my love to all of you who are amongst the sick, those who care for them, those who are at risk, those under financial stress, and those stressed with working at home while caring for children.

I reach out from the southwest to the northeast, with love for all the people of New York, who are standing tough, from here in the deserts and canyons we reflect back to you. The Navajo and Pueblo communities here are second only to NYC in Covid-19 cases per capita, but many without the infrastructure of even running water, let alone medical equipment. We are called, yet again, to be resilient after centuries of surviving germ warfare, the outlawing of gatherings, essential resources withheld, and pushed to stay inside a zone. The original people of the southwest know these threats well, for centuries, and have come through with continued songs and dances, with cultivation of food, with artwork that makes beauty of everyday functional items, with humbleness, simplicity, community. We can and must learn from these voices that have been silenced, histories largely invisibilized. We are all being brought down to the ground. This is the time for the great reimagining.

The one measure that some of us can take for protection is to shelter in place, which is counter intuitive to our natural human instinct to gather in times of trauma. Yet, the ritual of isolation has been present in every society, as a way to envision transformation (personal, communal, cosmological).

Even in an urban setting, the earth is presenting herself to be experienced, remembered, celebrated, respected. Indoors, from even a tiny apartment, see the striking colors at sunrise and sunset sending rays of light into your home, breathe in the scent of blossoms in trees, watch the cloud forms pass through the sky representing the carrying of water, hear the birds singing, and savor the taste of food on your plate—it is spring, in your inner imaginings and in the awakening earth. This is National Dance Week AND Earth Day, my two most essential life forces! I invite you to some practices to share in this, even in your isolation:

  • Breathe in, breathe out. You are now in reciprocity with the plant world, giving and receiving an exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Your arms can gather in as you inhale—receiving‚ and then stretch out with the exhale—giving back. Happy Earth Day.
  • Look around your room and out the window, this is the sacred place you have to care for. Find the beauty, find what makes it special and different from anywhere else. Look up on to find out the original land stewards of the place where you find your feet; these people are still here, and have kept this land, sky, and water alive since the beginning of time. You share this space now, how can you care for the space where you find yourself?
  • Stand up, push away from your zoom meetings as soon as you can get a break. Stretch forward, back, side, side, twist. Turn on a favorite tune that makes you smile and lift one foot and then the other like a walk, your body will follow. You can dance like nobody is watching—that’s it, that’s dancing—happy National Dance Week! I’ll share some of my favorite music with you:

Solidarity by AudioPharmacy featuring voice of Ras K Dee (Afro-Promo)

FUTURE DESCENDVNCE by Randy Boogie (aka Randy L. Barton, Navajo)

Four Directions Song by Ehren Kee Natay (Navajo)

  • Fill a cup with water, and drink. How lucky you are if that was easy to do! Water has been protecting us from sickness, as you drink, you can bring in love and gratitude for water, with this becoming the foundation for protecting and keeping water pure and accessible!
  • Articulate in words, sound or song specific appreciation for someone or something in your past. Same thing for something or someone in your present. Now, for something awesome you want to call into being for the future!

Dancing in solidarity with you,
Rulan of Dancing Earth

Editor’s note: Rulan was to be in New York City for the holiday with Dancing Earth Indigenous Contemporary Dance Creations, where she is the Founding Artistic Director, performing as part of the Car Free Earth Day celebration in Times Square. Now online, visit this link for an archive of talks, short films, and performances.

See more articles tagged:  
DecolonizationEnvironmentRulan TangenSustainability
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