On Monday, Feb. 6 a panel of Indigenous land and water protectors spoke about the pipeline resistance north and south of the Medicine Line. The event took place in the Irving K. Barber Centre.
Speakers included Chase Iron Eyes, Russell Diabo, Tia Oros Peters, Clayton Thomas-Muller, Janice Billy, Kanahus Manuel and Melina Laboucan-Massimo.
Before the discussion of environmental well-being started, an Indigenous elder offered a blessing to the attendees.
Indian Tacos were served shortly after the blessing to fill the stomachs of those there to listen to the speakers’ cause.
The event began with a song and drum circle honouring the passing of Arthur Manuel, father of the speaker Kanahus Manuel. Manuel was a political leader and environmentalist belonging to the Secwepemc nation.
The event was hosted by Jeffrey McNeil-Seymour and sponsored by the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade (INET), and Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples.
Sustainability and communication were the main topics of discussion.
Chase Iron Eyes, a Native American activist and member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said that water and land protection is not only one community’s problem, but an issue that must be championed by humanity.
Iron Eyes stressed that we all must “share each other’s truths” by “getting woke and staying woke” to the continued damage we are risking to inflict on mother nature.
Renewable energy and the return to zero waste communities will be the narrative that will need to be adopted so we, as humans, can “stop the destruction and start the healing,” Laboucan-Massimo said.
Many personal stories and examples of environmental destruction were shared, like the oil spill that occurred in Little Buffalo, Alta. in 2011 near Peace River.
Speakers discussed the problems of the past, and among the speakers was Russell Diabo, who talked about Indigenous treaty issues between tribes and the Canadian government.
Thomas-Muller, another speaker at the event stated that all must contribute to “stop fossil fuel expansion” by promoting “intersectionality.” He reminded the attendees that social movement strategies work when grassroots people create change through togetherness and unity.
Peters contributed to Thomas-Muller’s proposals when she emphasized that we need to rely on our communities by supporting the front-line workers that are doing what is right.
The sense of responsibility to the younger generations was mentioned throughout most of the speeches.
These speakers emphasized that the Indigenous groups had fought long and hard for the protection of their lands and sacred water, and it is now time for the next generation to step up and lead the resistance.
Manuel mentioned, “each one, teach one”, meaning that as a community we can educate each other on the issues needing to be taught.
Among the attendees at the event was activist and award-winning author Naomi Klein, who spoke the next day, offering political commentary on contemporary environmental issues.
She offered advice to any youth wanting to get involved in land and water protection:
“Show up to important events to learn – follow and listen to knowledgeable indigenous leaders for guidance. It is important to be accountable to your community. Everyone makes mistakes, it is part of the journey. Be humble and be ready to learn,” she said.