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In June 2014, I travelled to Chipewyan territory (Fort McMurray) along
with the company of three strangers, to be a part of the Tar Sands Healing Walk - a 14-kilometre spiritual walk with the Indigenous Peoples of the Athabasca Region through the lands damaged by oilsands extraction. I also volunteered as a tender during the walk.
At a rest stop, I checked on elders sitting on the back of a platformed truck
and offered water and paper fans to help cope with the scorching sun. (I learnt from someone that previous years were met with strong winds and dust, so we were considered fortunate this year.)
She was the fourth person on the row of people that I gave water to.
Beside her, the fifth, was her daughter and beside her daughter, the sixth, was her grand-daughter, as she introduced to me. The look of weariness and worry on her eyes that I had spotted earlier dissolved into a smile that felt accepting, synonymous with the experience that I always felt with grandmothers.
"Can I get you anything? How do you feel?" were the words I wanted to
"How's your heart?" was what I blurted instead.
"Oh, It's good, it's good", she said with a laugh.
Grandmothers always seem to have a knack to be resilient with their
words. You hear the words but you feel the tone. The decrease in the air coming through the second "it's good", fading into a silent nod that changed the meaning of her smile.
She said to me that her family was there to walk for the recovery of her
baby great-granddaughter who was in the hospital fighting cancer. The water that they had been drinking tasted of methane. I know. I drank it myself.
This series of photos document what I saw and experienced during the
final Healing Walk in 2014. I dedicate this series to the elder I met, her daughter, her granddaughter and great-grandchild. I never got all their names nor contact nor photo. There are so many stories like this. In this year of 2019, many Indigenous nations are fighting corporate and government projects that threaten their lives and culture.
Consider donating or contributing to Indigenous efforts to stop destruction by
companies and the government. Here are some links on efforts that are ongoing.
Protect the Inlet
Article: Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation fights Syncrude expansions (2019)
*If you would suggest links, please email me at email@example.com.
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