Emma Pullman reflects on Tar Sands Healing Walk
Read this July 9 report from last weekend’s Tar Sands Healing Walk in Alberta by Emma Pullman in the Huffington Post.
Some fifteen years ago, at a Peace Gathering, an elder shared a prophecy. A baby boy would be born in a teepee on a buffalo robe, his birth signalling that now is the time to act.
Last Thursday, on the eve of the 4th Annual Healing Walk in Fort McMurray, Alberta, a young woman went into labour. Her contractions came closer together. Grandmothers and mothers gathered to pray. And, at the stroke of midnight, inside a teepee, a healthy boy was born on a buffalo robe.
The baby was born on the Healing Walk grounds amidst the tents of the over 400 First Nations, settlers, workers, children and families who came together from across the world to pray for the healing of the land and people. The elders say the old prophecy is now coming true.
The following morning, another profound omen came from the skies: rain. Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation describes the importance of rain in her culture: “Rain’s a blessing. Rain is water, and that’s our mother cleansing herself. Just as we cleanse ourselves when we cry, she cleanses herself through the rain.”
Together, we set off on a 14-kilometre walk past tailings lakes, so-called “reclaimed” land and plants. In the words of Clayton Thomas-Muller, a prominent First Nations activist and coordinator of the Sovereignty Summer, the Healing Walk is “a meaningful ceremonial action to pray for the healing of Mother Earth, which has been so damaged by the tar sands industry.”
The walk was grueling. Many of us endured sore throats, headaches and stinging eyes from the pollution. We felt pain in our feet and pain in our hearts at the destruction of the land and the pain of those who have lived on this land since time immemorial.
During our 14-kilometre walk around the Syncrude Loop, the smell of sweetgrass mixed with the stench of the tailings lakes. Propane-powered cannons designed to scare birds from landing on toxic tailings lakes fired, interrupted by the sound of drums beating in unison. Voices in song and prayer rose above the sound of industry. Trucks drove past us down the highway and honked their horns in support. We were witnesses to the destruction of the land and were were a part of its healing.
We stopped to pray to the four directions. At one, the sobs of an elder echoed across the barren landscape. She sobbed for the destruction of her land. Her emotion was so raw that it brought me and many others to tears. I realized how imminent this fight is, that the fight against the tar sands is a not only a climate fight, it is a fight for the land, the water, and for the beings who can’t speak for themselves. It is a fight for human rights and for Treaty rights, and against the loss of culture.