Mother Earth

Abo­rig­i­nal ac­tress and ac­tivist Tan­too Car­di­nal on her Canada

ZOOMER Magazine - - CON­TENTS -

IGREW UP IN AN en­vi­ron­ment where our tra­di­tions, sto­ries, cer­e­monies – ev­ery­thing had gone un­der­ground. In my time, there was a lot of si­lence. But there were ideas and parts of sto­ries that would sur­face now and again. Once, when I was around five, the night sky turned red. It cre­ated a sense of awe, and out of that awe came frag­ments of sto­ries about what was com­ing in the world. There would be a time when the sky would change. There would come a time when the trees would change colour, the fish would turn belly-up, dy­ing in the thou­sands. There would be great wars.

As a child, I was al­ways aware that th­ese things were com­ing and, as I pro­gressed out into the world, away from my com­mu­nity to the city, I met peo­ple who knew more of the de­tails of th­ese sto­ries, so I kept learn­ing. As the min­ing in Fort McMur­ray pro­gressed, and the sto­ries be­gan seep­ing out about sick­ness, about what was hap­pen­ing to the an­i­mals and the land and the wa­ter, I screamed be­cause no­body was pay­ing at­ten­tion. But it’s like scream­ing through glass; peo­ple see your mouth is mov­ing but you can’t get through.

In or­der to do those things to the Earth – our sus­te­nance – you have to see the Earth as an ob­ject. You can­not see her as a liv­ing, breath­ing force that sus­tains us. Now, with the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion, we can say geno­cide. Maybe one day we will be able to say eco­cide. But my peo­ple have not been the ones to lis­ten to. There has been an at­tempt to snuff us out from the very be­gin­ning. Our wis­dom has been tram­pled on. Peo­ple are en­cour­aged to buy, to be ma­te­ri­al­is­tic, to get more and more and more.

I grew up in an en­vi­ron­ment where we had to fix any­thing that broke. Peo­ple were very cre­ative in mak­ing what they needed. We lived in a log house with kerosene lamps and can­dles. I had one foot in the old ways, where you didn’t de­pend on the store. We ate a lot of wild meat: moose, beaver, rab­bits, spruce hens. Peo­ple had gar­dens and pre­served food, canned veg­eta­bles and berries. Then there was a big psy­cho­log­i­cal bat­tle to get peo­ple off the land. Even trap­pers were en­cour­aged to give up their traplines be­cause it was “the way of the past.” When I go by plane to Fort McMur­ray, I can see why. There are pipe­lines and cut­lines; they needed every inch of that land we were on to do what they are do­ing.

No good can come from steal­ing. There’s been a theft of the wis­dom and love and life of my peo­ple and a theft from the wis­dom of women. I see Canada as a fledg­ling coun­try, a gath­er­ing of peo­ple say­ing, “We are smart, we’re the best in the world, we’re wise” … and ruth­less. Ab­so­lutely ruth­less. You need to rec­og­nize the en­zymes miss­ing – my peo­ple, my cul­ture, my ma­tri­lin­eal civ­i­liza­tion is miss­ing. That’s why Canada’s not healthy. And I can’t just put on a fancy dress and pre- tend it’s not hap­pen­ing. I can’t do it. There are too many peo­ple af­fected. My own life is af­fected by this blind­ness. It’s an ar­ro­gance and it comes from Man­i­fest Des­tiny. Where do you get off de­cid­ing your idea of civ­i­liza­tion is the great­est in ex­is­tence? What’s it go­ing to take for peo­ple to rec­og­nize that this is a great fal­lacy? Na­ture is slow, but Na­ture is the real power. “Na­ture bats last.” I think our peo­ple have a man­ual on what the cost of it all is go­ing to be. We have had our eco­nomic base ripped out from under us gen­er­a­tion af­ter gen­er­a­tion. So we know what that is. We’ve had our fam­i­lies de­stroyed, so we know what that is. We’ve had our com­mu­ni­ties de­stroyed. We know what that is. So, what­ever heart­break you think you face – it’s been had.

The in­dige­nous world is sup­posed to be the most im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship for this young leader, Trudeau. Well, you know what? It’s on the rocks. You’re just pre­tend­ing, you’re not lis­ten­ing. You have no idea what’s re­quired in this re­la­tion­ship. You don’t want to build the re­la­tion­ship in the home; you just want to keep on go­ing to the boys’ club. So, if you say that the in­dige­nous re­la­tion­ship is the most im­por­tant, then you’re not walk­ing your talk. You don’t even come home. You don’t even know what this re­la­tion­ship is about. It’s about the Earth. It’s about your mother. As an in­dige­nous peo­ple, we rep­re­sent the mother. This so­ci­ety has been spoiled by the fa­ther. —As told to Pa­tri­cia Pear­son

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