In 1990 I took 3 months to circumnavigate Vancouver Island by kayak as a transition to my new life in Tofino. Coming around Estevan Point from the north, I caught my first glimpse of Flores Island, in Ahousaht First Nations territory. At that point I’d been paddling past horrendous clear cuts for over a month—most of the mountains on the west coast of Vancouver Island were logged bare during the 80s. Flores Island stuck out like a gem. There is something about seeing a landscape not dominated by industrial humans. It is so rare to see on Planet Earth at this point—it’s an incredibly healing sight.
The indigenous people of northern Europe are called Sami. They are known for herding reindeer on the tundra. What we learned while in Norway is that the coastal Sami culture centres on wild salmon, much like coastal Natives in what is now called British Columbia. These two species, with their predictable migration patterns, provided the protein on which a rich culture was founded—the Sami.
The Alta River in northern Norway is famous. The stretches downstream of Northern Europe’s biggest canyon teem with big salmon, and have been a mecca of sports fishing for many years. The reindeer herds also come to the banks of the headwaters to calve in the rich pastures.
A major dam on the Alta River?
Back in 1970, the Norwegian government announced plans to build a major hydroelectric dam on the Alta River. Questions about the reindeer, the wild salmon, or interference with Sami rights were not even considered. What became known as the Alta Controversy began as a conflict between the Sami and the Norwegian government. The Sami village of Masi was to be flooded, and people rightly feared extensive disruption of the environment. Eventually the resistance morphed into a People’s Movement which became a nationwide flashpoint for a growing awareness of the need to protect the environment and uphold indigenous rights.
John Rampanen is a member of Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations. He lives with his family on the land in Clayoquot Sound. They are currently visiting northern Alberta.
I come from a world away. Pristine waters cascade down scarred mountainsides into seemingly endless ocean waters. I am Nuu-chah-nulth. My people have forged a life on the bountiful western coast of Vancouver Island since time immemorial. Recent history has introduced a plethora of environmental concerns stemming from the over-exploitation of natural resources. Forestry, fishing, mining… these are the profanities uttered unto our land that have continuously caused audacious destruction to the land, waters, animals and peoples.
Today, I am in a foreign land. A visitor that has retraced the steps of my wife’s Cree lineage to the marshy woodlands of northern Alberta. My home is on the ocean-side but her roots run deep throughout this territory. Together we seek out knowledge and truth from a way of life that is nearly forgotten. As we walk upon this strange and altered land we pick up little bits and pieces of a world that was once full of life and beauty. A way of life that was once in tune with the surrounding environment. We quickly discover that these two worlds are not so different.
Our arrival in Northern Alberta is ushered in with torrential downpours of rain. A blessing for us, as it reminds us of home and the ocean, but in this far off land it is an omen and is met with fear and uncertainty by the locals. As the waters rise, so too does our consciousness. Tarsands development, profit before land and people, destruction of the lands and waters comes at an unexpected price. Earth Mother has a way of reminding us that we are not always in control. There are powers beyond our measure… powers that have the means to correct manmade mistakes… and that power has awoken.
naas-a-thluk “takes care of the day”
http://www.healingwalk.org. On July 5-6 people will come together from coast to coast to join First Nations and Metis in the Healing Walk, a gathering focused on healing the environment and the people who are suffering from tar sands expansion. #IdleNoMore #INM #SovSummer #HealingWalk