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As A Human Being

Selected Speeches from the 4th Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk

by Matt Hanson

Cleo Reece of Fort McMurray First Nation speaks at Crane Lake Park
Cleo Reece of Fort McMurray First Nation speaks at Crane Lake Park
Dene Chief Bill Erasmus, the final speaker to incite the Healing Walk
Dene Chief Bill Erasmus, the final speaker to incite the Healing Walk

 

Indian Lake Campground – Keynotes

 

“On the eve of the NEB hearings for the Enbridge pipeline, when our National Minister of Natural Resources put an open letter to Canadians [in the Globe and Mail], calling anyone who opposed these pipelines a terrorist. Essentially saying that if you express concerns then you are acting against Canada’s national interests, that you are an enemy. Dissuading the public from public debate…What we’re seeing is an attempt to silence discussion about what is happening here…this debate that’s been happening on the Senate floor, where they were considering redefining the definition of terrorism in Canada to include environmentalism. They had named Forest Ethics, an organization that is here, an organization I co-founded, and Greenpeace who I used to work for, as examples of why this definition should be changed…They are lashing out because we are being effective…As the financial community likes to say in all those articles in the newspaper, they consider right now Tar Sands expansion land-blocked, because they can’t get the pipelines through.

We have seen attacks this year, despite all the budget cuts to environmental services, the firing of 300, or over 300 now, people from Environment Canada, the shutting down of Canada’s environmental lakes initiatives, many important research stations like our atmospheric research station that climate scientists around the world have depended upon on that research, gone with the budget cuts, the shutting down of the National Round Table on Environment and Economy because for over six years they were producing reports saying of course Canada can have a strong economy, and an even stronger economy through clean energy and low carbon development. They are attacking our scientists and in fact muzzling them, scientists who work for Environment Canada now can’t release their own reports. They can’t speak to media without going through enormous policy hoops and having someone from the Prime Minister’s office beside them. So silenced that the internationally recognized journal of Nature this year, in an editorial, said ‘It’s time for Canada to set their scientists free.’

But all of those attacks are nothing compared to what people here [in Fort McMurray] are going through. And compared to what the families of the over 300,000 people who have died this year due to climate change are going through. The millions fleeing floods and droughts…Climate pollution from the Tar Sands has doubled in the last decade, and is currently projected to double again in the next ten years. It’s the primary reason why Canada’s emissions are rising instead of falling…The emissions from the Tar Sands are more than the combined emissions of 85 countries.

We can not afford to safely expand the Tar Sands, we can’t afford to burn that oil…there are essentially no effective regulations to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, to reduce emissions. The extent of the destruction of the boreal forests, that the last caribou herds are disappearing, the rare cancers downstream…It’s not a tragedy, a tragedy is a problem that doesn’t have a solution. A problem that has a solution, that’s not being acted upon is not a tragedy, it’s a scandal. It’s a scandal that we have no regulations for the most toxic chemicals coming from this development, napthenic acids. It is a scandal that we put 300 million liters of toxic sludge a day into these unlined pits. And it’s a scandal that eleven million liters a day we know are leaking into the groundwater, into these wild rivers. It’s a scandal that this year 70 environmental laws were gutted in Canada…We no longer protect fish habitat…we no longer protect water…over 3,000 environmental assessments for major industrial projects in Canada have been cancelled…part of why we are here today to protect the water is to say that we require it, we will ban together and force our government to require it…From the seven pipeline spills in the last five weeks, we know that oil corrodes, and what we’re just beginning to learn is that it’s not just corroding our pipelines, oil in Canada is corroding our democracy, it’s polluting our public discourse…millions of dollars of propaganda…multi-million public relations efforts by the industries, by the government. They want us to think they are fixing it. They want us to think that we don’t have a choice. That this kind of scale and pace of development is necessary, but it’s simply not true…We have a choice whether or not we subsidize the oil industry in Canada, 1.2 billion dollars a year right now.

These are the most profitable companies on the planet, Shell made a billion dollars last month…taxpayer’s money, what if that money went into clean energy…our laws, our economic policies are being held hostage to big oil and I’m here to say that it stops now…we’re saying we have to leave most of it in the ground…We don’t need to make a killing to support our families, we need to make a living…we need jobs that we can all be proud of, that our children and our grandchildren can be proud of, we need families that are not torn apart…Healing Walk is trending nationally as a hashtag…in this fight, we have the tiger by the tail, one of the only places in the world where the fossil fuel industry is under threat.

We are in the right fight at the right moment in history…We are living the turning point…The last two years, we have seen more advances in clean energy, in renewable energy and technology, than the last twenty years. The last two years were the first two years in human history where new investment in electricity generation for renewable energy, for wind, for solar exceeded new investment for electricity in oil, coal, and nuclear combined! …There is no question that we have the capacity to make the changes that we need to make…[during Clayoquot Sound] good organizing was about how many people we got around our kitchen tables, and now you are all connected to thousands in seconds, the world can and will change entirely in our lifetimes…what we have in this movement is people who are concerned about water, about climate change, about sovereignty and reconciliation, about tanker traffic and spills, about their coastal economies…Minister Oliver and Prime Minster Harper, you are now facing the perfect storm.

From Nebraska to Brussels, from Fort Mac to Washington D.C., from Prince Rupert to Kalamazoo, we are taking a lesson a lesson from nature and we are building a diverse web, and we are stronger with that diversity. It is not an easy road ahead…no one knows what to expect in the Climate Era…today and tomorrow on this Healing Walk, we know who holds it, and it’s us.”

Tzeporah Berman - Environmental Activist and author of  "This Crazy Time"

 

“…pace yourselves…it’s not going to get fixed in one fiscal year or a couple quarters, it’s going to take a long time to work this stuff out, it didn’t get messed up overnight…colonialism’s been pretty aggressive and now we’re at this extreme level…we’ve got to feed these people that consume a third of the world’s resources, that requires pretty much constant intervention into other peoples’ territories, whether they’re Dene, Anishnaabe, Cree, or whether they’re in Venezuela…constant intervention into other peoples’ territories to keep up this level of entitlement…constant violations of peoples’ human rights, so we have to be the people that say no.

We have to be the people that say that’s pretty much enough…people count on us to do the right thing, people count on us to be the people that stop them from blowing off the tops of more mountains, from genetically engineering everything in the world, peeling back the earth’s surface to stuff it in a pipeline, people count on us to be the ones that say we’re going to stop drinking the Kool-Aid…when I went into that town of Fort McMurray, you know what it reminds me of, it reminds me of going into the town that’s the ecological equivalent of Auschwitz…the town that’s sitting right next to Auschwitz and saying, “hey, we’re good here, you can get a $35 steak, you can get an $18 hamburger and it’s okay,” there’s something just psychotically wrong with all that…there’s a lot of Kool-Aid been drank, and we need to quit…we need to understand that being an activist, you know I don’t even like that term, you know I’m a person that has a little bit of common sense and wants to drink water…we need to be really clear and take back the terrain…just because they say it’s true, that you need the oil, that you need the jobs, that the economy needs to grow this way, does not mean it’s true, if you lie and lie and lie it doesn’t make it true, we need to be really good about taking back that terrain.

So I think about that a lot because I’m really aggravated by the amount of time I have to spend writing stupid ideas, you know I’m a pretty good corn grower, I’d rather do that…this is from our area Nisquabik…what those people always told is me is that some things are supposed to stay in the ground, there is a reason they’re in the ground. Just because it’s there, whether it’s oil, whether it’s copper, whether it’s iron ore, or whatever it’s whatever it is, don’t mean it’s ours, some things are supposed to stay with Mother Earth…sometimes you just have to tell your kid that just no is no, so what if you want it, you can’t have it. That is like growing up, as a society, to be the people that say, no…that is a lesson that we’ve all got to learn, and we’ve all got to teach ourselves that, relearn it…we as indigenous communities, I spend most of my time at work in our own communities, because we get caught in the trap, we were really happy about twenty years ago they got the last bit of electrocution in our villages, and then they pulled all those wood stones and put in propane, I was like that’s the dumbest thing we ever did, because we used to have a local wood economy…I always say I don’t need a shrink I got a woodpile…that’s an economy that employs my local people and I’m not depended on someone else.

Our tribe now got to be these people that drank this Kool-Aid to think that our economy is caught up in their economy, but it’s not just tribal people, it’s everybody…we need to be the people that deconstruct their paradigm…the longer you fight them the more expensive their projects are, remember that, and they don’t like that…sometimes, you know, they pull out…remember this, Washington Public Power Supply, five nuclear power plants…you know what happened to that company, they went bankrupt. If you fight them long enough, some of these guys are going to lose their bucks…I’m not naïve, I know that we’re fighting the largest oil companies on Earth, and I know that the longer you fight them the more expensive their projects are, the better we are for our Mother Earth…I don’t want to squander my energy entirely on being reactive, on being reactive to their craziness, be clear on where we are going, because we know where we are going, it is the place that we were instructed, as indigenous people we know exactly where we are supposed to be, and the rest of the people, be connected with who you are, because we all know where we’re supposed to be, we’re supposed to be the people that live with the rest of our relatives whether they have wings, or fins, or roots, or fur, or hands, or paws, that’s how you get to be a righteous human being…in order to do that you’ve got to live well.

The other thing I brought up here, which I happen to always carry around, is my corn. My father, he passed away about twenty years ago, he’s a pretty simple guy. He was from our reservations. He used to say to me, Winona, you’re a really smart young woman, but I don’t want to hear your philosophy if you can’t grow corn…I grow corn…it’s like us, corn is all different…this is a corn that’s called a Manitoba White Flint…our Anishnaabe people…we’re the northernmost corn growers in the world. Corn is very smart, it can grow almost anywhere…I know bush food is hard up here because of what is going on in the environment, but I also know that we were the people that knew how to grow everything and we didn’t import stuff from tens of thousands of miles away…So in my community, which is a kind of simple community up in northern Minnesota, we spend a lot of our time trying to deconstruct our relationship with this dysfunctional, fossil-fuel intensive society.

Because the only thing I know is that you could talk about it, or you could do it. And while we’re fighting these guys you got to be doing it, because if you keep your addiction at that same level they still got that bulldozed, and you need those jobs to pay those bills for shit you’re importing from everywhere else…it’s not going to last, you can’t build an economy based on that…there’s some things that are just wrong, there are some things that are okay, but it’s relationship…most of our work is in trying to stop the pipelines…Enbridge pipeline, boy do they feel entitled or what…it’s the same water, and our Mother needs us…we want to be those people who do the right thing for our Mother…we have a prophecy that talks about this time as the time of the Seventh Fire, Anishinaabe people. And in that time they say there are two paths, two paths…and it’s our choice upon which path to embark, one miikanan [path] is well worn but it’s scorched. The other path, they say, is not well worn but it’s green, and it’s our choice, it’s our choice. That’s what our people said about 800-900 years ago…that’s exactly where we are…we need our spiritual help, doing the right thing is the best shot we have. I want to thank you all and wish you all the best.

Winona Laduke – Honor the Earth 

 

 

Crane Lake Park – Media Panel

 

“We no longer trust Canada. So, we no longer recognize the fact that you are holding this land in trust…I am labeled by government officials and by industry that I am an eco-activist. I am not an eco-activist. I am a user of the land. Environmentalists like to see the beauty of the landscape. I was brought up in the bush. I utilized and survived off the land. You may go out into the bush and look at the scenery, I go out in the bush and harvest the meat, and harvest the fish and whatever else I have to eat there for my family, that’s the difference between you and I, and that’s the difference that’s being desecrated in our homelands, because our people still live off the bush and still survive off the bush, and we can’t allow this to be desecrated because of the corporate greed that has continued to happen in our backyard.

I know for a fact that sometimes I say that I stand here today to be a hypocrite, because we’re signing agreements with industry. We are forced to sign these agreements. We have no other alternatives because of the existing agreements that are in place, and have been approved…say “enough is enough” and stand alongside with the First Nations people and say that we could stand in solidarity. We could become a unified Canada and become a stronger place in this civilized world, as they call it, because we are no longer savages in our homeland and we were never savages.

We will continue to press on with this agenda to slow the development down…I know a lot of First Nations leadership are scared to speak out against development because they don’t have the economics in their community…I pray that one day they [industry and government] will stop the destruction and help clean up this mess, if the Obama administration thinks that they are going to pass the Keystone and Canada’s going to pass the Northern Gateway, why don’t they start spending that money on the old infrastructure that’s in place right now and prove to us that they’re going to clean up this mess by starting to replace the old pipelines instead of creating new ones. Because we can not allow the breakage of these pipelines…one a week, that means that the old pipelines are decaying…If we want to develop, well let’s start developing in the right way, do it in a sustainable way that’s going to be there for years to come…We’ve got to stop this Harper government from continuing on…Thank you for listening…”

Chief Allan Adam - Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

 

“The Tar Sands overburden everything that they touch, we can not handle this level of development. The people can’t handle it. They’re getting sick. First Nations people of Fort Chipewyan have been telling us this for years, and they don’t do the research so that they can’t find out the truth, so that we don’t know the truth…This walk today is so important because it is light reasserting itself and saying: we are not overburden, we are more important than money, we are more important than profit…to First Nations folks…thank you…Thank you for raising the alarm.

Thank you for fighting for all of us, for all of our safety…We’re here now. There’s not enough of us here, which means we have a great responsibility to carry this message far and wide, tell everybody what you saw today and bring more people back with us. Thank you.”

Naomi Klein - Award Winning Journalist, syndicated columnist and author of 'The Shock Doctrine: This Rise of Disaster Capitalism'

 

“It’s really great to know that we are not walking alone. The first year that we did this walk, four years ago, there was just few numbers, there was small numbers, but one thing that happened was an eagle flew over us, and we knew that we weren’t walking alone. And then the second year came and as we walked down this path, a bear came out of the bushes here and everyone waved, and we saw him, and we knew that we were not alone and so that’s why on all of your [Healing Walk] t-shirts you see the eagle and the bear, because they have been with us since the beginning…what we see here spans hundreds of square kilometers.

It spans north, it spans east, it spans south, and it goes west…a seven-hour drive we still see Tar Sands…two years ago when there was a massive oil spill…it was overwhelming to know that my family was breathing toxic chemicals, and I had very little power to do anything about it…It’s difficult for me how Mother Earth is being dug up, raped, pillaged, for the profit of few, for the last drop of oil.

Prophecies talked of a time when the blue skies and the waters were totally black and the green things will turn brown and die, animals and fish will disappear and birds will drop out of the sky, devastation will come as a result of greed and disrespect of Mother Earth, and my friends this time is upon us…It really aches my spirit. And some times I feel immense pain in my heart, and this past month in fact it’s literally made me sick, but I know that I’m not alone, and that’s why we are here today and that’s why we actually started this walk, to have others come and join us and walk in prayer and solidarity, to show our families, to show our communities and I think even to show ourselves that we don’t do this alone, that there are people across this country and there are people across the world who know and feel what is happening here is not okay…with many different backgrounds, with many different walks of life, with one purpose to stand in unity and prayer for the healing of Mother Earth, and also for each and every one of us, and also for all creation.” 

[Watch the rest of Melina Laboucan-Massimo’s speech in a special Healing Walk video HERE]

Melina Laboucan-Massimo – Lubicon Nation and Greenpeace Canada

 

“We just got word that this morning there was a unknown oil spill into the Athabasca river right near the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations reserve of Poplar Point, there is oil slicking on the Athabasca river right now, people from the community are taking pictures and sending them to the chief.

So we really need to be here today and stand in solidarity with one another, because this is why we are all here, to stop this type of stuff from happening. It’s absolutely imperative that we come together and we really pray for the healing of the land because that’s why we’re all here…Thank you for being here.”

Eriel Deranger – Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

 

“Just on Thursday in our community, in the Beaver Lake Cree Nation traditional hunting territory we actually got a report that there was a toxic Tar Sands emulsion leaking into one of the watersheds in our traditional hunting territory. We’ve been further notified that the clean up crew is out there. It’s not a pipeline spill, it’s an oil spill of some sort, using the CSS [Cyclic Steam Simulation] extraction process, and they are actually up to their knees in this emulsion.

So, our Mother is crying all across these lands…Creator, my God, I’m grateful for today…And I’m grateful for the Dene people whose territory we stand on…My uncle Al Lameman, the former retired chief of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, who headed the litigations back in ’08, along with current and former at that time band councilor, my aunt Germaine Anderson, these are leaders that exemplify what it means to be a true, ardent leader…industry people…they talk about reclamation of these sites that they have completely desecrated. The Sahara desert of what was once pristine boreal forest.

They’ll plant some trees. They’ll plant some seeds. They’ll give us back what was never theirs in the first place. Reclamation to me is taking back who I am…of this land, an Indigenous person reclaiming my indigenous ways of knowing and being, taking back my voice and saying, “No more”.

No more will you rape and pillage the land of my ancestors. The land that belongs not to them but to our future generations…Our old people, they don’t understand science. What they do understand is when our Mother talks to us. We have beings who work for her, her children, as we are her children and we listen to her as her children, and we heard our Mother when she served the Thunder and Water beings, causing mass floods all over Treaty 6, 7 and 8 territories, what is now known as Alberta.

And it’s not by chance that the majority of the floods are in Calgary, where every major oil company has their headquarters. Industry, wake up, you are being sent a message. That’s our Mother, she’s crying, because our water is the milk of our Mother, it is life, and we can not stand back and do nothing.

Because just as honest and true leaders, like my uncle Al Lameman, my auntie Germaine Anderson, and so many other leaders like Chief Allan Adam, they say profound things, like when disaster strikes it’s not going to know race, color, or creed and that’s what pro-industry people are going to realize, that they can not eat money and they can not drink oil…So if you breathe air and you drink water, this is about you.

So, I stand here today with the 99%, reclaiming my voice for my children, because they have basic human rights to drink clean water and breathe clean air, and they have that opportunity just like every one of us…that’s our Mother, and it’s our responsibility to take care of her…We stand here today and we say, No More, we will no longer be economic hostages pacifying ourselves with money. What does solidarity look like? This is what solidarity looks like.”

Crystal Lameman – Beaver Lake Cree Nation

 

“I bring my greetings and welcome to all of you…We are all united here in the north in knowing what is going on with our environment…We have seen so many changes.

From the very first day we started four years ago, this is four years today, we were greeted here by the eagle and the bear, that is why we have them on our [Healing Walk] t-shirts and our symbol and these animals and the spirits of the animals of this land, the sky, the water, they are here with us today.

I wanted to say that even though we are who we are, we are First Nations people, some of us, like myself, we have white blood that runs in our veins. I no longer am ashamed of that because it was something that I went through when I was young but I see now that we are all part of the same Mother.

This is our Mother Earth, we have to look after her together, whatever race and culture you are, we have to stand together and work together on this, because if we don’t do this together, people are going to be left behind and they’re going to be suffering. So we can’t let that happen…Thank you.”

Cleo Reece – Fort McMurray First Nation

 

“The Harper government has absolutely no humanity…I believe that we are going to reach a defining point in this country…not only is this the most critical fight that we will ever experience in our lifetime, there’s no question, there’s absolutely no question that we are going to win this fight because the future of the planet, the very future of everything that you see, everything that we treasure depends on our ability and our willingness to come together in an unprecedented way to overcome any petty differences that we may have between various groups and to commit, to absolutely commit ourselves as grandparents, as parents, as aunts and uncles, as brothers and sisters, to this fight…this is not merely an indigenous issue, this is very much an issue that confronts humanity, it’s about human rights, it’s about all of us.

And what we need to do, is we have to stop Harper.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip – Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs 

 

“This is a very very famous spot. On my way here, I was reading Treaty 11, of which we are a part of, we are Treaty 8 and Treaty 11. It goes all the way to the Arctic coast. The treaty party stopped here the last time in 1921, and then they went further north to Fort Chipewyan, Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, and then down to McKenzie River.

So, Canada knows this place, and they knew at treaty time that oil was here. That’s the issue. It’s between Canada and our people. We still own the resources. And we can’t be afraid to say that.

The treaty that was endorsed as a peace and friendship instrument, an international one, the last treaty was between the Dene and King George V. That’s an international instrument and Canada has to abide by it. Okay so time is up.”

Bill Erasmus - Regional Chief of the Dene of North West Territories

 

 

Indian Lake Campground – Post-Walk Dinner Gathering

 

“Kinder Morgan wants to bring the pipeline through here all the way through B.C. to Burnaby and dig fifteen feet into our inlet and bring in mega-tankers bigger than the tallest Vancouver buildings…We are not bargaining, we are not going to the table and saying maybe or anything, we’re just saying flat-out no.

After I’ve seen the devastation today, and heard different stories, there’s no way we can back down…I’m willing to give my life for my inlet, for grandchildren and my great-grandchildren.

When I was younger they said their going to move the Indians off of our Tsleil Waututh land and they said we’re going to build the world’s biggest seaport. And my father, who is Chief Dan George, he said that’s the only time I’ll take up my gun, is if they try to move me. And I got very frightened because I thought my Dad is willing to die.

And now I’m in the same spot…I raise my hands in thanks to all of you for standing up for Mother Earth. Our Mother Earth is not mean and stingy, she’s kind and generous and tries to take good care of us…My father told me that when a mother is sick and she tries to breastfeed her baby, the baby will get sick too…I saw so much sickness today…People, if one person dies from this, that’s good enough reason for all of us to be here. But to get a whole group of people who are sick with cancer and infection, we have to stand up and say no, we have to, that’s our duty as a human being…I told my people we have to say no to these billionaires, we can’t let this happen…It’s time to warrior up I told them. I know I’m not just saying that to my people, I’m saying it all to you now.

Warrior up and keep up the fight…On Saturday July 27, we are going to have the Salish Sea Summer gathering.

Amy George – Tsleil Waututh Nation 

 

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