© Submitted photo
When I was growing up, my mom had a picture of a beautiful Indigenous woman wrapped in a Navajo-patterned blanket, overlooking a cliff. Below her image was a Cree prophecy: “Only after the last tree has been cut down, only after the last river has been poisoned, only after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.” My mother has always hung this picture near the dining room table. I’ve always suspected this was an unintentional act on her behalf, perhaps subconsciously placed where we dined because of the word “eaten.”
Yet even at a young age, the picture left a deep impression on me, and I understood the repercussions of taking more than you needed. The impact of repeatedly seeing this prophecy hanging on my wall as I ate left me monumentally grateful for each meal, but with a growing sense of despair for what would come in the future.
So far, the prophecy has been eerily true. But in our case, we might not have to wait for three separate instances of destruction. Our lust for oil creates endless possibilities for rampant destruction, which might just be the catalyst for well-rounded pollution, leaving nothing pure in its wake.
I have trouble understanding how sucking the life out of tar sands through surface mining or in situ extraction, or fracking deep within the earth, for the mere possibility of oil or gas is worth all the damage it could cause the water, land, air, animals and people in the surrounding areas. And building a pipeline near the already shady oil sands for the transportation of crude oil is one more risky venture.
These moves aren’t “job opportunities.” They’re senseless, desperate acts at last call. Flirting with danger, as time drives the pressure, panic sets in. Drunk on dollar signs, our vision is compromised. Promises are made before the ugly lights turn on. It is only then that we come to realize how badly we short-changed ourselves.
We are at last call, folks.
When I see protestors, who often prefer to be called “protectors,” like those in Rexton, N.B., last week, I wonder why people judge and condemn these efforts. Why shouldn’t those concerned have a say in what happens to the land and water surrounding them?
Then I see photos and video footage in mainstream media that make First Nations people look belligerent and rowdy and I understand how people could be so jaded. Focusing on the “Indian problem” is a popular tactic to distract people from the real issues at stake.
What isn’t often shown in the media are those who join Aboriginal people at protests, from differing backgrounds, like Acadians, Anglophones and various organizations and groups. Clearly environmental concerns weigh on more than Aboriginal people.
Why aren’t even more people concerned?
There is a popular photo I’ve seen floating around the Internet which beautifully sums up the divide between environmentalists and corporations. It is of Winona LaDuke, an American Indian activist. It reads, “Someone needs to explain to me why wanting clean drinking water makes you an activist, and why proposing to destroy water with chemical warfare doesn’t make a corporation a terrorist.”
I would like someday for my future grandchildren to have the same Cree prophecy in their dining rooms, to keep them conscious and focused on what really matters, to always think of those who will come after us and monitor their footsteps accordingly. But that’s hard to do when only a few people see how dependent we are on Mother Nature, and would willingly jeopardize her health and welfare (and ultimately ours as well) for a few measly bucks.