Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water: Observations by Joseph M. Marshall III

Every culture and society on earth regards the four basic elements of life as earth, wind four elements joseph marshall iii(air), fire, and water. Of late worldwide events involving each and every one of those elements have occurred and are occurring.

Within the past two years the earth has moved, in Haiti, Chili, New Zealand and Japan, and volcanoes have erupted as well. This past spring the southern United States has recorded the highest tornado activity in decades; and who can forget Hurricane Katrina? Fires of natural and man-made causes have been burning for months, again in the United States. And of course there are the floods on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Now scientists are telling us that the oceans are degenerating much faster than previously predicted–thanks to pollution, over-fishing, hypoxia, acidification, and warming. All of these events have and are and will be causing extreme hardship and extracting a heavy toll in human life and billions of dollars in damage to infrastructure. Recent disasters have immediate and long-term social and economic impact–lost homes, lost jobs, and ruined businesses. We cannot help but feel compassion for those who have been injured, or lost a loved one, and/or a home, and are suddenly facing an uncertain future. And perhaps many of us even harbor a certain among of anger at Mother Nature and wonder why such things happen.

The fact of the matter is earthquakes, wind storms, fires, and floods are part of the fabric of life on our planet. Therefore they have been part of human existence for as long as we have been on the planet, and now and again we humans find ourselves in the path of disaster. But I think the odds of someone being in the way somewhere are significantly increased by the number of us there are–at least five billion and counting–and how our populations are distributed. Someone is bound to be in the way.

earth joseph marshall iiiYet I think there is another factor. It is as if the earth is trying to get our attention; that is, mankind’s attention. I think the earth is reminding us that its power is far greater than anything we can generate. I know this: if we went toe-to-toe with Grandmother Earth, we would lose. But I also know this: that is not what our earth is about.

Our earth–Grandmother Earth–is a conglomeration of realities. She behaves in certain ways and always has, and it is up to us to understand those ways and be smart enough to go along with them, and sometimes even to get out of the way (like not putting a town on a known flood plain). To understand those ways is to respect our earth. It is, after all, the only one we have.

So, as one citizen of the earth, I hope and pray that enough of us can and do respect our planet, and teach our children and grandchildren to do the same. Enough of us to counter act those who continue to disregard the delicate balance of the natural environment, and those who plain don’t care.

Respecting our earth will not prevent earthquakes, wind storms, fire, or floods. But it may lead to us understanding our place in the terrible and wondrous conglomeration that is life on this beautiful planet. Hopefully (before it’s too late) we can learn how we can fit in better, and care for her a heck of a lot better than we have up to this point.

joseph marshall iiiJoseph was born and raised on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Because he grew up in a traditional native household with his maternal grandparents, his first language is Lakota. While there, he also learned the ancient traditions of oral storytelling and primitive Lakota archery.

Joseph has published numerous award-winning books, including The Journey of Crazy Horse and Walking with Grandfather. He has also been a contributing author to four publications and has written several screenplays. He has been involved in television and movies for decades, with appearances in several television documentaries and a Dreamworks and Turner Network Television (TNT) mini-series. One of Joseph’s most treasured experiences was his work as one of the founders of the Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. In 2000, Joseph became a fellow in the Sundance Institute States. For more information on Joseph and his work, visit his website at:

To listen to Joseph’s interview on A Call to Consciousness radio click here.

Return to Community Blog Home

This entry was posted in Earth, Indigenous Wisdom, Nature and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water: Observations by Joseph M. Marshall III

  1. gail whitfield says:


  2. Leslie A Kebschull says:

    When I was in Graduate School a couple years ago I wrote a paper about our interconnectedness to the earth and how we are such a part of her that we cannot leave. Even when we fly, when we go to space, we have to take elements of the earth with us in order to survive. If more people realized how tied we are to this beautiful planet and that when we make her sick, we make ourselves sick, we would treat her with greater respect. Everything we do to her effects us directly. When we try to “fix” her by getting rid of what we consider “negative” (bugs, animals, etc.) we create an imbalance and things die and then inevitably WE die. Life is created with all of the proper checks and balances. We just need to honor nature and allow it to be and all would fall into grace and divine order.

  3. Angela Marchen says:

    Well said, Leslie. How beautiful the idea that even when we fly we take elements of the earth with us in order to survive. BTW, Walking with Grandfather changed my life! Great to run into Joseph Marshall’s writings again here.

  4. Leslie A Kebschull says:

    Thank you, Angela. 🙂

Leave a Reply to Leslie A Kebschull Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *