Sheema Khan: April and George, how can Canadians help aboriginal peoples preserve their way of life, with respect to the proposed pipelines?
George Stanley: My first advice is to recognize and understand that the first peoples of Turtle Island have wisdom to offer. We did not surrender with treaties the land, water, animals, plants and berries we live off. And yet today, we are not allowed to touch those. We cannot hunt or drink waters, let alone take our medicines in our medicine patches. And I believe the Canadian government is wrongfully doing this purposely. Our elders have come and gone, but what they have given us to pass on from generation to generation is very sacred. And that is why today we still exist.
April Churchill: The difficulty is that everyone’s lives are so full, it is difficult to think about matters that don’t seem to directly affect one’s self. Bad things happen when good people do nothing, yet the good people of Canada live in a world of stress and trying to deal with one’s own life and problems. Media coverage has left the general population believing that first nations are “radical” and “adversarial” people. Canada has changed its language from “in the interest of Canadians” to “in the interest of national security.” We are not an adversarial people. We work closely with the province of British Columbia to manage the lands of Haida Gwaii – just the other day, there was an announcement by the province and the Haida Nation jointly making a determination for the annual allowable cut in Haida Gwaii’s forest. See haidanation.ca to see that we work with others.
In some media, people who oppose the Northern Gateway project have been characterized as being against jobs, while those who support it are for jobs. We are not against jobs or development; in fact, we have just established a corporation that makes respectful use of Haida Gwaii and her gifts in shellfish farming, timber harvest, renewable energy and eco-tourism. But all of this depends on healthy ecosystems. One spill from an oil tanker could destroy that. The economic burden of the Indian Act and deliberate removal of the Haida and other aboriginal people from Canada’s economy has resulted in terrible social and health problems that all taxpayers are burdened with. Just as we are returning to our rightful place in the economy and regaining our ability to lead productive lives, we find ourselves playing defence yet again.
Everyone has influence on at least 200 people. People who do not live on the coast have no idea what this project will do to us or understand why all of B.C., including all the communities of Haida Gwaii, oppose this project. Social media work to send short messages. We really believe that our position is for the well-being of Canada and her people and, in fact, all of the Earth and its people. Our principles of sustainability, balance, care and respect are needed now more than they have ever been. We have a story of the hummingbird who was caught in a forest fire. While all the others were escaping, the little hummingbird kept flying in and out of the fire, dropping a small droplet of water each time. When asked what he was doing, he said, “I am doing what I can.” That is all that each of us can do. One drop – one letter – one e-mail – one prayer – we just all need to do what we can.
Peter Stockland: That is so well and beautifully said, April. Thank you so much. I am going to try to use the hummingbird test from now on.
Sheema Khan: It has been very enlightening. I would recommend that we have, in the future, at least one spiritual perspective from the aboriginal community. They are a vital part of our nation, our history and our future. We need to hear their voices on all issues – not just the environment.
April Churchill: The Haida are part of the aboriginal community in Canada. But, remember, we are individual nations of people and none of us can speak on behalf of all aboriginal people – only to that which we know.
There is enough for everyone, and I believe that all of our spiritual understandings include taking care of each other and that the poor are given for our well-being and are our responsibility. Thank you for including me in the conversation.
Guy Nicholson: Thank you all for joining us for this discussion.