Honoring the Kalispel Tribe: The Rev. Soeldner

Close of 2019 Winter Waters

The Rev. Thomas Soeldner

The following words were spoken to close Winter Waters 2019, after honoring the Kalispel Tribe with the Watershed Hero Award.

For centuries scientists, particularly physicists, have been looking for a “theory of everything,” a theory that will explain life in the universe in all its beauty and diversity. We do have elegant theories that deal with some things such a theory would have to cover, e.g. Newton’s law of gravity, Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the principle of “least action.” There is a certain perfection in our understanding at various levels of reality, but we are still a long way from that theory of everything. Every discovery we make usually makes for more questions than providing an answer.

Did you ever think that maybe we have the answer, a certain theory of everything, simply by looking around us at the miracle of life that is the natural world? Maybe if we did more honoring of the air and land and water that are the sources of both our lives and our heritage, we would put our finger on the only “theory of everything” that matters. Maybe we have the answer, and our challenge is to “ask the right questions,” … like how can we learn from the relationship with the earth and its creatures that is the heritage of our tribal sisters and brothers? … like how can we understand ourselves as a part of the natural world rather than apart from and over against it? … like how can we find our rightful and respectful place in this magnificent world of beauty and diversity?

This is what the Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP) are about; this is the foundation for all the environmental work we do from conservation to education to litigation to, as we say, “exploring, protecting and enjoying the planet.”

The Kalispel and other tribes of the Upper Columbia United Tribes (UCUT) are often our teachers, showing us the answers by helping us ask the right questions. We are grateful to them, and so we honor them.

And we invite you to continue walking with us, to support this vision and these efforts with your time and your resources; more of us need to be active in this work. This is critical work: learning to ask the right questions and recognizing the answer that is everywhere around us … if we have the eyes to see.

Thank you for your partnership, and for being with us tonight.