Women and Our Mother Earth
May 28, 2019
We are connected to her. We are life giving as she is. We are protective, as she is. We are in danger, as she is. We are surviving the impossible, as she is.
In the past 100 years, the temperature has risen .7 degrees Celsius. In the past 50 years, in the Canadian Arctic, it has risen 2-3 degrees. We know that rockets emit chlorine gas into the atmosphere, destroying ozone, and that over 500,000 pieces of debris are orbiting around the Earth. The air in our cities and around factories is increasingly polluted. Large industry is 50% to blame, along with car emissions, all fossil fuels, wood smoke - and we all breath in the results. In Canada, lung and heart disease from air pollution are increasing. Each year there are about 21,000 premature deaths, 92,000 emergency hospital visits, 620,000 visits to doctors. Despite living in a wild and unpopulated country, too many of us cannot breathe.
She cannot speak. She cannot breathe. She is gagged, silent, imprisoned, rendered unconscious, tortured, brought to the brink of death. Her words are disbelieved. Her mother’s words are mocked. Her grandmother’s words are dismissed. She tries to speak again. She is raped and murdered. Her sisters carry on her stories. Nothing can silence us. The beauty of our sisters catches our breath. What we know propels our voices. Our voices become stronger and more determined with every story we hear. It becomes impossible to silence us. We are unstoppable. This is the time for our visionary instruction to take hold.
My beloved earth is choking, gasping, spitting out hurricanes and tornadoes, and still able to send delicate breezes, wind whispering through the trees, “I love you, I love you”, and we sing back to her, “We love you, we love you. We are here to take care of you”.
This past year forest fires raged across the western half of Canada. There are fires every year, but this year dry, rainless winds pushed fire over drought stricken land. When storms did come, lightning struck tinder-dry trees. Thousands of people were evacuated to safety. Smoke was in the air from Manitoba through to the west coast. It was impossible to see across a one mile wide lake. Almost four million hectares of forests burned this summer.
My sister’s face was burned with acid. Her spirit was not broken. She knows that she is loved. My sister had gasoline poured over her. She was outspoken. She has been murdered. Our mother was tossed on a funeral pyre. We grab her back to safety. Her years as a wise old crone are respected and welcome. We bring her gifts in thanks for all she is. We mourn the loss of those we could not save.
My beloved earth is scarred by flames, but some wild seeds have survived. She knows how to push through these scars the most exquisite little ferns and baby trees. She survives this devastating moment. We celebrate her ability to survive.
In Canada, we have what are known as the Five Great Lakes, holding 20% of the world’s drinkable water. Our country spans from the Atlantic Ocean, to the Arctic Ocean, to the Pacific Ocean. We have 2 million lakes, and our rivers carry 7% of the world’s renewable water. When I was a young girl, we would camp every summer, and drink from the lakes. In 1978, 2739 litres of toxic coolant leaked from a nuclear plant into the Winnipeg River. A second leak happened in 1980. In 1992 “heavy water” (radioactive waste), 23 trillion becquerels (units of radioactivity) were spilled into Lake Ontario. In 1994,185 tonnes of nuclear waste spilled into Lake Ontario. Tritium was found in the drinking water in Toronto, one of our largest cities. In the news this month is that an oil pipeline was built in 1953 under the great lakes, and that it is now past its expiration date.
In our North, icebergs are melting. Ocean currents carry toxic chemicals everywhere. The marine animals are sick and dying. Glaciers have always lived along the spine of the Rocky Mountains of Canada, from north to south. They have been watched and documented for 50 years. This summer, as I travelled through these mountains, so many of the glaciers I have walked on, now gone. The ice-packed peaks with pure river water flowing down the sides are now rare, most unprotected now, bare grey rock, reflecting heat.
And now, deep sonar blasts are being set off in the Arctic Ocean, to map the ocean floor. The whales go deaf, and die. There is pressure to send another pipeline into the Atlantic Ocean, right to the nursery of our Beluga whales.
Then there are the mines. More than 20 minerals are mined, including uranium, nickel, silver, copper, lead, graphite, gold and diamond. Mines are everywhere through the north. The selenium and arsenic tailings from the silver and gold mines are forbidden to be released “unless permitted”. In 2014 mine waste leaked into Polly Lake, which emptied into the rivers. The Government has studied these situations, and determined that low levels of radiation do not contribute to cancer. It was estimated that in 2014, 191,300 Canadians would be diagnosed with cancer and 76,600 would die from it. The Government believed that it had “contained the problem”. That they are “in discussion with local communities”. One quarter of Indigenous Peoples’ communities in Canada do not have drinkable water. The government claims to be “helping them with their problems”. Over the last 5 years, more than 1 billion dollars promised, was withheld by the Federal Government. People are boiling water. People are getting sick.
We are crying. We are crying in pain. We are crying in terror. We are crying in frustration. We are crying from what is being done to our sisters, our mothers, our daughters. We are crying for every woman and girl searching desperately for safe water. We are crying for every beating, every rape, every murder. We wail, we scream, we cry oceans of tears that heal us from all we have survived, from all we have witnessed, from all we feel for every girl and every woman being tortured this very day. How loudly must we wail, how unbearably full of pain, how deep an ocean of tears must be shed before we are strong enough, believed enough, respected enough, to be able to dry our eyes, knowing that every one of us is finally safe and free.
My beloved earth, her tears, her gentle rains, her downpours, her torrents become flash floods. She rages as she must, wrestling with the violence being done to her, calling this state of emergency, still finding ways to move her water to cleanse and to heal. We cry for her, we cry with her, we bathe in her, we drink deeply.
Canada is one of the largest countries, and one of the least populated. Most of us live as far south as we can be, the warmest we can get, to survive our cold winters. Indigenous, Aboriginal, First Nations Peoples live throughout this land. All along the south, and spread out throughout the north. Holding onto traditional lands. Land that in the beginning was not owned, that was and remains, home. The land now has vast areas shorn of its trees. The Federal Government continues to erode protections for forests and waterways with wording sleights of hand. “Navigable Waters Protection Act renamed “Navigation Protection Act”. Illegal seizure of land promised to Indigenous Communities. Mining has left areas destroyed, carcinogenic waste buried in shallow, leaking graves.
The oil sands in Alberta have left a glaring ugly wound in the earth. Spills have largely been recorded by indigenous peoples living nearby. In 1980, 54,000 barrels of oil spilled. The Government Regulator stated that nothing had flowed into the water. In July 2015, 5000 metres of emulsion (bitumen and sand waste) leaked into an area the size of two football fields. There is an attempt to scrape up the gooey mess.
Farmers have been forced off land. Small farms rendered impossible financially, as land is bought by GMO companies, pressuring farmers to take the “modern” road. The western prairies have been largely taken over by GMO Canola crops. Tonnes of carcinogenic chemicals poured on the earth yearly. Pesticides and herbicides. Butterflies disappearing. Bees losing their memory and dying, unable to find their ways home. Seeds infertile, or having to be bought exclusively from companies who believe in modifying, patenting, owning seed. No longer natural. Free of labelling. No chance to track the effect of these poisons. Land previously farmed with variety, now barren.
Her baby is born stillborn, her baby girl is killed at birth, her baby is taken away at birth, she dies trying to give birth. She is alive but barely. Her body is being beaten, her bones broken, her skin cut, her delicate insides, source of all life, ravaged, torn apart, raped, used up in cruel, incomprehensible selfishness, not one time, but over and over, every day, by one man, by many men at once. She, her body has been stolen, is held captive to this daily torture. We are trying to find her. We will not stop, we will not be satisfied until every one of us is free.
My beloved earth is being ravaged for the greed of wealth, with no care, no second thought for how this feels to her. Her wounds are as real as ours. We lovingly place our hands on her ground, wrap our arms around her trees, whisper, cry out, sing to her that we will never stop protecting her.
In November 2012, a protest movement began. Five women, four First Nations Women, one non-native ally. They created “Idle No More”. Ongoing, at the core of this movement, is leadership by Indigenous Women, outside of the First Nation Chiefs, recognized as leaders across Canada, but on the whole, largely men who, as these Idle No More women leaders have explained, do not hold the same vision. Idle No More was formed due to the abuses of Indigenous rights, especially the illegal takeovers of indigenous lands, first by treaties now being contested as tricks, also by companies while the Government looked the other way. The Canadian Government continues to attempt to remove protections of these wild and protected lands. In 2003 Indigenous Grandmothers began to walk around each of the Great Lakes to protect and heal these lakes. Idle No More has formed chapters across Canada. Barricades have been set up across roads and bridges to stop the pipelines east, west and south. Thousands have joined in, refusing entry to oil companies, and demonstrating in front of the Federal Government Buildings. These five women have been joined by many other women, and by many men, respectful of the leadership of these women. A Council of Women has formed to protect Turtle Island, the name of this land before it was called Canada and USA. The goal of Idle No More is to love and protect the land in traditional Indigenous ways. A group of Cree youth walked 990 miles,1600 kilometres from the far north, to a demonstration in front of the Government Buildings, in support of Idle No More.
We have an election soon. Four parties, three men, one woman. The woman is the leader of the Green Party. There has been a refusal to have a debate on “women’s issues”. The concept is ridiculed publicly. We have not been granted a debate on “women’s issues” for 30 years.This woman is refused a seat at some of the major debates, with the excuse that her party is not large enough.
Idle No More continues to grow. And we women continue to speak out more strongly. We find each other. We are aware of each others’ voices, of each others’ abilities to believe that what we envision is possible, and essential. We are coming together through worldpulse.com, through wecaninternational.com, through a strong unbreakable web that we are carefully and lovingly weaving together. We need our air, to continue to conspire. We need our fire to focus our righteous rage. We cry healing tears with each other. Our spirits are uniting to save our precious earth, for each other, and for all who will be the seventh generation.