Three Protestors’ Choice Presages a Planet’s Fate

(Posted March 28 as One Woman’s Choice Presages a Planet’s Fate)

This is the story of Idle No More hunger strikers Jeannette Pilot,  Chief Theresa Spence, and Grand Elder Raymond Robinson, each of whom concluded prolonged hunger- and/or thirst-strikes as directed by Spirit, with the realization that their  lives and voices would have a greater impact than their deaths.  Their protests speak for every nation and people – from Canada to Arkansas, to Brazil, Peru and Ecuador, Nigeria and Australia – whose land and water are stolen and desecrated and poisoned for the sake of oil.

Jeannette Pilot is almost certainly dying as I write…and her choice to lay down her life for the Land and her People has haunted me now for weeks. Not only for the tragedy of her death, but also its implications for the world.

Jeannette Pilot

The story broke quietly, and has had no follow-ups: only Idle No More initially ran the news that Mme. Pilot had chosen to move from her 2-1/2 month hunger strike into also declining fluids, in an effort to force the Harper administration to cease its assaults on Canadian land, water, and Indigenous  sovereignty.

Describing herself simply as an Innu woman from Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam, Mme. Pilot declared herself

ready to go to the end so that the rights of the First Nations are recognized, and to fight alongside the IDLE NO MORE movement for the people and the future generations. I demand that Harper’s Conservative government stop its modification of certain laws and its imposition of others without first consulting the people who will be affected by them.

She went on to list a series of draconian laws that sweep away environmental protections (such as the Navigation Protection Act, which under the guise of “removing red tape” also removes protections from any waterway that is not navigable – i.e., protecting navigation but opening the land and water to exploitation) while whittling away the sovereign rights of Indigenous peoples on the land (such as the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, which aims to impose non-Native social and property-ownership concepts on DSCN0020Traditional Native communities on the reserves).

View of the Labradorian boreal forest, 2006

She closed her statement with a heart-wrenching account of the desecration being wreaked upon the boreal forest following the wholesale removal of environmental protections:

…I demand a moratorium on the massive deforestation of the boreal forest in Nitassinan and the province of Québec. The state of the forests, the pace of deforestation, and the carelessness of the band councils and the government call to mind the tragedies in Malaysia or the Amazon. To satisfy the companies’ insatiable thirst, the government is still issuing logging permits. These permits could endanger fragile ecosystems and threaten indigenous peoples’ traditional lifestyles. Because, as Innu, we must preserve the link between Pappassik and Atik, we condemn the fact that the government of Québec, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the federal government of Canada are threatening our age-old relationship with Atik by making Labrador a forbidden area, forbidding us from hunting caribou on that territory.

Make no mistake: she is describing ecocide and genocide. No other terms can be used. And Mme. Pilot, in laying down her life for the sake of the land and her people’s right to practice their ancient traditions on the land, is sounding a wake-up call – even though her statement has generated only a small acknowledgement in Parliament, as opposed to the storm of reposts throughout the blogosphere.

Water on Earth: the large drop represents all of Earth’s water; the small drop shows all fresh water; the tiny spot below it indicates the fresh water available for use.

But it is the powerful statement contained in the way she has chosen to die that haunts me: thirst.

Of all the elements on this planet today, none is under greater attack than water. Only 3% of all the water on Earth is fresh and usable by humans; of that, only 0.007% is available for use.  Of that, the vast majority is used for energy, agriculture and industry.

The entire process of producing fossil fuel energy, from extracting fuel to generating power, demands massive use of water. Of that water, little or none emerges in any useable condition ; most is irredeemably toxic and must be disposed of in some way – often poisoning available groundwater.

Before the new legislation, Canada’s Navigable Waters Protection Act covered more than 2 million lakes and over 8,500 rivers across the country. The new law, C-45, covers only 97 lakes and 62 rivers, leaving Canada’s share of the world’s fresh water wide open to the massive depletion required for energy production, whether through Tar Sands extraction, fracking, or uranium mining.

As the Harper government prepares to consume Canada’s wealth of water for energy production, and poison what is left — echoing what is being done wholesale by governmental fiat and international trade in the U.S., South America, and elsewhere around the globe —  Jeannette Pilot’s terminal water fast presages the thirst that we will all experience if we do not act to stop our equally suicidal destruction of Earth’s water supply in our greedy and obsolete quest for fossil fuel energy.
Update: 4/6/13 – Jeannette Pilot/Shanet Pilouss was the second of the First Nations peoples of Canada to undertake a hunger strike to the end, demanding that the Harper government alter its ecocidal/genocidal course against the land, water and indigenous peoples of the half-continent his administration rules. She was the first to stat a thirst strike…and halted her strike at a promise of support  from the Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL ), and  Chief Georges-Ernest Grégoire and the Board of Uashat mak mani Utenam.

I just learned with grief that another First Nations elder is hunger- and thirst-striking to protest the Harper government’s juggernaut-like overrunning of Indigenous rights. Grand Elder Raymond Robinson, who first began fasting with Chief Theresa Spence, is edging nearer to death while the most government officials can seem to say is “We hope he stops” – while completely ignoring the message  that he, Jeannette Pilot, and Chief Spence have been risking their lives to send.

To quote the Cree proverb: “Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money”.

Nor can we drink it. Nor can we breathe it.

Let me close with the words of Indigenous  peoples from around the world on the scarcity and sacredness of water.


Calling Upon Our Mother – An Urgent Letter (reblogging)

If the plight of the Earth speaks to you – if the action of Idle No More speaks to you – if you walk the Red Road or care for those who do – please take the time to read this and add your prayers on January 19. This is an action that anyone can take, of any race, creed, or persuasion.

A letter from Terrance Nelson to
Chief Wallace Fox of the Onion Lake Cree Nation

Chief Fox,

Many people have no understanding of how strong a spiritual person you are. When the UN Special Rapporteur came to your community, he had tears rolling down his cheeks as he listened to the children of Onion Lake singing in Cree. At another time, I also witnessed the Onion Lake students singing and for me even though I have Sundanced and am Midewiwin it was still one of the most powerful spiritual ceremonies I have ever witnessed.  I was told that the Special Rapporteur explained his tears. He said, that at the United Nations many indigenous people come there and cry about the problems they face. He felt overwhelmed by the pain of indigenous people. Hearing the children of Onion Lake singing as loud as their little voices could in their own language lifted his spirit so much, that here finally was a powerful sign that our people will not only survive but they will excel beyond expectations. It made him cry with joy.

For over a year now, Dakota Elder Albert Taylor has been asking me to use our power. He has been telling me that we need to lift the pipe. He kept saying, we need to ask for help. He says, “we still have power”. On Saturday January 19th 2013 at the RCMP Station on Portage Ave in Winnipeg, at noon Winnipeg time, the Elders will ask for spiritual help. Albert Taylor asked that my older brother Charles lift the pipe while Elder Taylor will sing.


Idle No More: A White Man Speaks

Powerful words on Idle No More from a non-Native writer and a human-rights perspective: “What other religious and non-religious whites would do well to remember that it doesn’t matter whether there is or isn’t a God. All that matters is that all human beings have certain inalienable human rights, and when the rights of even one human being are denied, it means that a statement has been made: All people are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

Idle No More: About Those Indians (reblogging)

Why does Idle No More matter not only to Native Americans but also to non-Natives? Elyse Bruce gives a powerful answer.

This morning, I was shocked to see some of my Facebook friends posting racist comments about the Idle No More movement.   Yes, shocked, as in “a severe offense to one’s sense of propriety or decency; an outrage.”

What in the world could anyone have said that would evoke such an emotion?

The comment was that “those Indians need to shut up.”

My friend Solomon Cyr, Executive Assistant to Chief and Council at George Gordon First Nation, was told the other night that First Nations peoples and their supporters should all be put in jail for protesting and being part of such things as the Highway #1 Peaceful Slow Down Barricade happening today in Regina, Saskatchewan.  Oddly enough, the organizers involved the local RCMP as well as the Ministry of Highways to ensure that the demonstration is successful and within the confines of the law.  That’s certainly law-abiding and not worthy of incarceration.

So many have the mistaken belief that the ONLY thing that matters with the Idle No More movement are First Nation rights, and that Indigenous peoples are just whining and carrying on for no good reason.  The Idle No More movement is so much more than just First Nations rights, but it certainly begins with First Nation rights, and there are most certainly a number of good reasons as to why people around the world should involve themselves in this movement.

The Idle No More movement has two goals: Indigenous sovereignty (Nation to Nation relationship) and protection of the land and water (Social and Environmental Sustainability).

Canadians and First Nations people had no say in the changes the government made to the  Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and scrapping the Navigable Waters Protection Act.  The changes saw the elimination of the navigation protections for 90 cent of the waterways in Canada.  As of December 5, 2012 only 62 creek and rivers, and 97 lakes are protected (plus 3 oceans) instead of the 2.5 million protected rivers and lakes (and 3 oceans) it had the day before on December 4, 2012.

Interestingly enough, media reports have identified 87 of the still-protected 97 lakes as being within, or next to, ridings won by Conservatives in 2011. One of those still-protected lakes is Lake Rosseau, where Hollywood celebrities such as Tom Hanks and Goldie Hawn, business moguls and NHL stars such as former Detroit Red Wing Steve Yzerman, have cottages.  But as of today, I haven’t heard any of those people speak up in support of the Idle No More movement.

And to which  media reports am I referring?  For one, the Ottawa Citizen who published they had used ArcGIS  mapping software to determine which federal electoral districts the shorelines of each lake named in the budget bill overlapped.  The data was then combined with election results from 2011 to calculate breakdowns by MPs’ parties.

In other words, the Idle No More movement is important to so many more than just the Indigenous peoples of Canada.

Yes, my friends, the movement is also about the protections that have been removed on the environment. It’s about the relaxation of regulations that will now allow other countries to develop, purchase, and mine our resources, and to leave Canadian taxpayers with the cost of cleaning up after those countries when they pull up stakes and go back to their own countries.

A number of those mines are going to be run by companies from China operating under China’s pollution and environmental rules, not Canada’s pollution and environmental rules (which are far more strict).

The Idle No More movement is about everything that matters in this world and for that reason, it’s important to Canadians and people around the world to stand WITH the Idle No More movement and make their voices heard.

Elyse Bruce

UPDATE:  Additional information on 30 of the 47 longest rivers removed from the Navigable Waters Protection List available by clicking on this LINK.


Special Note to Readers and Visitors:  Be sure to read — and share on your social media — the next installment in this series of blog articles entitled, “Idle No More: I’ve Been Suspended.”  Thanks for all your support and comments!



United Nations Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Fact Sheet

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act

Navigable Waters Protection Act

Idle No More_About Those Indians_January 2013

Joining to Help Mend the Hoop

Ultimately this is more than a Canadian struggle. It is a global struggle to protect the Earth against the cannibalizing “extraction” of oil, gas and minerals by mega-corporations. The Elder peoples, the Indigenous nations of the world who hold the sacredness of the Earth at the heart of their culture, are leading the way, but ultimately the survival of life on this planet depends on all peoples of all nations and races following their lead.
I would like to offer an open invitation here: Do you feel called to participate in an energy circle supporting the work of Idle No More – the protection of the land, the water, the People and all beings, the honoring of treaties and the preservation of sacred sites – not only in Canada but also around the world?

538461_10151177571980592_223848733_nI was reading Starhawk’s Truth or Dare this morning, feeling vast blocks of “Aha” falling into place, when I came upon this paragraph, and stopped short…

The ethics of immanence are based on the recognition that all is interconnected. When the earth lives in us, as we in her, our sense of self expands until we can no longer believe in our isolation. When we practice magic – the art of seeing the connections that run deeper than the visible surface – we know that no act is out of context. If we participate in a native American sweat lodge, we are obligated to aid their struggles for land and treaty rights and their battles against forced relocation. We have sunk a spirit root into the living soil of their community. They have fed us. But to be fed without feeding, to take without contributing, is not a road to power-from-within. We cannot grow in strength through being parasites. If we adopt ritual trappings without concern for the daily realities of those we learn from, we become spiritual fungi. But power-from-within derives from integrity, from our recognition of the context of every act, from a consistency between what we say, believe, and do.

It was not a new idea – my husband had been a Pipe-carrier and Sundancer, and supporting his Lakota spiritual family had been an accepted part of our life. But since his death, as I have been seeking my own path as a non-Native woman living in modern-day suburbia, incorporating the teachings that he and I had practiced, the implications have rippled outward…

At the last Sundance we attended, there was a strong presence of the American Indian Movement, reclaiming the ritual for the Lakota people and winnowing out the non-Native Dancers….as they reached the completion of their four-year commitment, it was understood that they would participate in other, mixed Dances. As a clearly non-Native supporter, I was in a minority. I remember one AIM Dancer asking me, not as a challenge but very seriously, “Who are your grandmothers and grandfathers? Where are your sacred sites?”

I could only respond hesitantly – while my known genealogy was Italian and Lithuanian Catholic, digging back into our cultural history revealed Baltic paganism and the ritual healing Graeco-Roman trance-dance tradition of tarantelle. While both traditions had gone underground, pressured first by Catholicism and then (in Lithuania) by Communism, I knew that my ancestors most certainly knew how to relate to the Earth as a sentient being, knew how to connect with the conscious energy in each living being. I could still feel that knowledge in my bones…but how could I honor that knowledge and both sides of my cultural heritage?

This bone-level instinct was what drew me to the Native traditions of this land…the cellular awareness of a time when all the peoples of the world danced in relationship with the living Earth. And today I continue to teeter at the lip of the divide between Then and Now as a family dissident, an outlier seeking a place of balance between the Earth-centered practices of my husband’s spiritual family, my ancestors and the current-day Teachers who inspire me, and the modern, materialist, commercialized, mainstream practices of this culture.

As I watch friends on similar paths, I am realizing that this chasm is one that each of us face at some point if we embark on any sort of journey toward consciousness…there is the attraction to cosmic oneness, to a sacred physical world, to “magic” perhaps, or to altered consciousness and mystical or shamanic practices.

But in this culture of smorgasbord spirituality, there’s no moral imperative to connect with the actual present-day cultures at the source of those mind-altering practices….at least, not until one connects with a teacher of integrity.

Then the awareness comes – that the knowledge in which we’ve been dabbling givewiselyarose through centuries of arduous tradition…and that the people who still practice those traditions have been decimated by massacre, poverty and disease, bereft of their land and natural wealth, and very nearly bereft of their culture and spiritual traditions. And that to honor those traditions requires that, in some way, we give back.

The divide between the cultures in which all was (is) sacred, and those in which nothing is sacred, has never been described so heart-wrenchingly as in the words of Oglala Lakota holy man Black Elk following the massacre at Wounded Knee, 122 years ago yesterday:

My people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream… the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.

In a global sense, not only the hoop of the Lakota nation has been scattered, but the sacred hoop joining all nations in conscious Earth connection. The human and cultural genocide we have seen in North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia through recent centuries is a modern replay of the genocide that wiped out European indigenous traditions.

And the oppression continues……and with it the resistance.

Most immediate, of course, is the struggle of Idle No More, led by Chief Theresa Spence and supported by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people around the world as she hunger-strikes for a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to honor Canadian treaties with its Indigenous nations against the expropriation of the land and waterways for resource extraction. Now in the 20th day of her fast, she has received no response from Harper.

Ultimately this is more than a Canadian struggle. It is a global struggle to protect the Earth against the cannibalizing “extraction” of oil, gas and minerals by mega-corporations. The Elder peoples, the Indigenous nations of the world who have held the sacredness of the Earth at the heart of their culture for millennia, are leading the way, but ultimately the survival of life on this planet depends on all peoples of all nations and races following their lead.

All of us, waking up out of our separation from creation and cosmos and rejoining the family of consciously connected beings.

All of us, helping to mend the Hoop of all Nations.

I have been posting news of Idle No More on this blog and on Facebook…and I would like to offer an open invitation here:

Do you feel called to participate in an energy circle supporting the work of Idle No More – the protection of the land, the water, the People and all beings, and the preservation of sacred sites – not only in Canada but also around the world?

If this speaks to you, whatever your spiritual tradition, and you would like to join your  intention with others through prayer, meditation, energy work, drumming, or ceremony at a set time every week, please add your voice in the Comments below:

  • your name
  • the day of the week that would work best for you
  • the way in which you would like to participate, and if you’re willing to connect with others locally to do so
  • your general location (if you’re willing to connect with others locally)

There are many prophecies that address this time in human history…but the one that speaks to me most just now is this, from the Anishnabe tradition:


The Significance and Importance of Idle No More

Powerful, powerful essay on the ongoing oppression of Native peoples by North American governments, as shown most recently by the Harper administration’s non-response to Chief Theresa Spence’s ongoing hunger strike for her people.

Powerful, powerful essay on the ongoing oppression of Native peoples by North American governments, as shown most recently by the Harper administration’s non-response to Chief Theresa Spence’s ongoing hunger strike for her people.