De­fender de­fence

The Coast - - THIS WEEK - Charles W. and Les­ley H., Hal­i­fax

Our apolo­gies for the de­layed re­sponse, but we are writ­ing to re­spond to a let­ter to the ed­i­tor that you printed on Septem­ber 6, re­gard­ing a land and water cer­e­mony in Point Pleas­ant Park this sum­mer (“Set­tler non­sense,” Re­ply all, writer’s name with­held by re­quest). We were two of the or­ga­niz­ers of that cer­e­mony.

The let­ter writer ac­cused us of cul­tural in­sen­si­tiv­ity and of co-opt­ing Indige­nous po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism. We hope to add to the con­ver­sa­tion and to re­spond to the writer’s con­cerns by shar­ing our plan­ning process and goals. The cer­e­mony was con­ceived by the two of us. We both know Starhawk and knew that she was plan­ning to do some per­ma­cul­ture train­ing in Nova Sco­tia at that time. Although the let­ter writer de­scribed Starhawk as some­one with a his­tory of “com­ing in un­in­vited and lead­ing cer­e­monies that don’t feel quite right,” we see her very dif­fer­ently.

As well as be­ing an in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized eco-fem­i­nist and an ac­tivist who has been on the front lines of the so­cial jus­tice and en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ments for over 40 years, Starhawk is also one of the moth­ers of the neo-pa­gan move­ment, an eco-fem­i­nist, God­dess spir­i­tu­al­ity move­ment which ex­pe­ri­enced a re­vival in the 1970s. Neo-pa­gan­ism, or the women’s spir­i­tu­al­ity move­ment, was in­spired by an­cient, pre-Chris­tian Eu­ro­pean pa­gan tra­di­tions. There are cur­rently many off­shoots of this move­ment, and many peo­ple are af­fil­i­ated with this form of spir­i­tu­al­ity. Some peo­ple know it as Wicca; oth­ers call them­selves druids. In the Re­claim­ing move­ment which Starhawk co-founded, we call our­selves witches.

The witch hunts that took place from the 1500s to the 1800s in Europe were an at­tempt to ex­ter­mi­nate these re­li­gions, and amounted to a spir­i­tual geno­cide of indige­nous Eu­ro­pean re­li­gions by the Chris­tian church. This geno­cide mir­rored sim­i­lar at­tempts in other parts of the world. Given that Starhawk was com­ing, we wanted to plan a Re­claim­ing-style pa­gan rit­ual for lo­cal witches and neo-pa­gans. How­ever, we wanted to ac­knowl­edge that we would be do­ing cer­e­mony on un­ceded Mi’kmaq ter­ri­tory.

We hoped to cre­ate a link be­tween our neo-pa­gan set­tler com­mu­ni­ties and Mi’kmaq com­mu­ni­ties, be­cause of our many shared val­ues. We also wanted the rit­ual to en­cour­age set­tlers to be­come more in­volved in pro­tect­ing the Earth and water and to hon­our those who are in­volved in the en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ment and ac­tions ded­i­cated to our planet’s pro­tec­tion, both Indige­nous and set­tlers alike.

We be­gan our plan­ning by reach­ing out to the Indige­nous com­mu­nity and invit­ing a Mi’kmaq el­der to join us in the plan­ning. He did join us and was in­volved in the de­sign­ing of the rit­ual. We ex­tended the in­vi­ta­tion to other elders as well. We reached out to many groups, in­clud­ing the land de­fend­ers at the Treaty camp re­sist­ing the Al­ton Gas pipe­line, invit­ing them to help us to plan, or to join in this cer­e­mony for land and water. We be­gan our cer­e­mony with ask­ing per­mis­sion from a lo­cal el­der to hold a cer­e­mony on the land, and we of­fered him to­bacco. We also asked per­mis­sion from the land it­self and the spir­its who in­habit the space now.

Dur­ing the rit­ual there was an Anishin­abe water car­rier who lead a song for the wa­ters, and a Mi’kmaq woman who like­wise shared a Mi’kmaq water song. We sent funds raised by the cer­e­mony to the Treaty camp to sup­port their work. Though we would have liked more peo­ple from the Al­ton Gas re­sis­tance to have joined us, we did not feel it was re­quired that any of these groups come to our event for us to sup­port the work that they are do­ing. We re­spect that our form of cer­e­mony is not for ev­ery­one. This cer­e­mony was to pray for and spir­i­tu­ally sup­port ALL land de­fend­ers and water pro­tec­tors.

The writer of the let­ter made fac­tual er­rors re­gard­ing Starhawk, who has ded­i­cated her life to the fight for so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice. Should the writer wish, we would be happy to speak with them to dis­pel the mis­in­for­ma­tion they ap­pear to have about her. We would also be happy to talk with any­one who is con­cerned with how we or­ga­nized this cer­e­mony. You can reach us through The Coast by email­ing let­ters@the­coast.ca. We are open to hear­ing from any First Na­tions peo­ple who feel we have in any way of­fended them, their com­mu­ni­ties or their elders, and are open to learn­ing from them. We did not in­tend any harm, and meant only to re­spect and hon­our their work and to ac­knowl­edge that we were do­ing our form of cer­e­mony on their ter­ri­tory.

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