Shopping Malls and Streets are“Bridle”, While Most Ancestral Lands are “Idle”
Defenders of Mother Earth-Peacefully Blockading the illegal logging.
My emotions are a roller coaster of a mess. I’m anxious, nervous, confused, angry, and depressed. Grandmother Louise Wawatie has had a massive stroke and is in hospital. Her brother Jacob, first informed the Facebook world last week. When I first heard of this news, I was devastated, and my first instinct was to drop everything that I was doing and rush to her side. It took just over a week to mobilize a few friends and a ride, and we headed out to see her.
Seeing Grandmother Louise unconscious and hooked up to all those machines was eerily reminiscent of years prior when my father had a massive seizure and was in the exact same condition. I never personally talked to any doctor, so I can’t comment on what exactly the prognosis is, but from what Jacob has posted about her on Facebook and from what I have personally seen, her condition can be said to be “serious but stable” (she has a tracheotomy, but is breathing on her own).
Grandmother Louise is not my blood relative, or even a clan relative, but I view her as an intricate part of my own family . I first heard of the Wawatie family last summer, when their community put out a call out to stop illegal logging from Resolute Forestry. I even had a dream that I was in that community, and was instructed to build a lodge on the logging road. When I asked what the dream had meant, a member from Poigan Lake asked an elder and informed me, that dreams are messages. Dreams can be visions. But if we don’t do anything to actualize our dreams than they are simply just dreams. From that time on, I had made plans that I would eventually go and see the Wawatie family.
During the fall time, near the end of October, my girlfriend and I headed set out to see the Wawatie family. Before we left, I texted Louise and Joseph Wawtie and told them of our intentions. Plans were made to head to Ottawa, and then to Minawake, meet up with someone there, who would then drive us out the the land where the Louise was. Our plans changed however when we got to Ottawa, it turned out Louise was driving down with her other brother Solomon to attend and elders gathering in Ottawa. She had instructed for us to stay in Ottawa, and that she would pick us up, and we would attend the gathering with her. After only a few minutes of driving she told me that I would be her helper, and ONLY her helper. I felt honoured to be asked to be that. (Apparently Elders have a habit of stealing each others helpers at their gatherings LOL)
I will not talk too much about the gathering as, I’m not sure if it is customary to share the things that go on at Elders Gatherings. But what I will share is that it was my first time being at one, it was my first time being asked to be a helper, and it was my first time being asked to watch over the sacred fire. I will also talk about the Grandmother/grandson relationship that Louise and I developed. She was everything that I had imagined her to be and more. If you haven’t seen the video of her and other Grandmothers standing up to the logging enforcement, then I suggest you do. Grandmother Louise, carries traditional knowledge, teachings and practices them in her everyday life. Her knowledge and insight of language, culture, ceremonies, teachings, etc, was more than that of anyone I had previously encountered. (I should note, that all of her family members that I had met, Joseph, Jacob and Solomon, all have their incredible skill set, but for now I will only mention Louise). I shared many stories with Grandmother Louise, and asked her advice on many things going on in my life. She answered openly and honestly to everything…just like a grandmother should. I listened to everything intently as a good grandchild should.
Grandmother Louise is very nurturing and loving. She talked gently and softly and spoke from the heart. To hear the things she had to say, and how she had an answer and insight for all life…was truly astonishing.
There is a fire that burns in Louise, a fire that is not prevalent in a lot of people. Her fire and zest for life is almost unmatched. I took warmth in that fire, and I allowed it to ignite a fire in me. She is the grandmother that I have never known.
The 5 days that I got to spend with her, are some of the most memorable days of my life. I felt special, I felt loved, I felt a part of something, I felt like her family, I felt like I belonged with her. I felt truly connected to something larger than myself. Somehow it was as if I had known her my whole life and that she had always been with me, much like the relationship I have with Mother Earth. Grandmother Louise in my opinion epitomizes Mother Earth in every regard. She can be just as fierce as a hurricane, or as gentle and nourishing as the summer rains.
As one person noted, seeing Grandmother Louise tied to machinery with tubes invading her body and in a very ill state of health, symbolized the state of Mother Earth and the seventh fire prophecy. It was as if she were a symbolic reflection; forcing me to recognize all the destruction we are imposing on Mother Earth. Bringing to light the results of what we have incurred onto our Mother, and the fragile state in which we have left our earth. It was heart breaking and despairing for this sight to be forced onto my eyes, as if I had finally come face to face with something that I knew was happening on a world-wide scale, all encompassed in one hospital bed.
One one hand, with a lot of prayers/time/healing/recovery, it is hopeful that Grandmother Louise can make a recovery. On the other hand, she is dealing with trauma to the brain, and a full recovery is doubtful. The state of Mother Earth is questionable. There are those that continue to fight for her survival and the survival of all life…but with the continued legislation that allows Tar-sands development, Keystone/Enbridge/Pacific oil pipelines, all types of mining, water displacement (dams, quarry facilities, etc.), logging, toxic waste dumping, carbon emissions, etc. Not to mention the entire uranium industry that allows, mining/processing/production of reactors, weapons and radioactive waste. Everyone seems to have forgotten that some nuclear reactors in Fukushima continue to melt down and release radioactive waste into every ecosystem on earth. (It has predicted that the nuclear waste being dumped into the Pacific Ocean will reach the shores of the West Coast some time this year.)
If one hunger strike could mobilize one million people world wide, what would one million land defenders look like? Instead of round dancing in shopping malls and intersections disrupting consumers and traffic, what if one million people returned to their traditional territories and round danced in front of industrial machinery? Not only would we be disrupting the environmental destruction for the duration we are out there….we would be making the spiritual connections to our lands, and quite possibly be utilizing them, the way that Grandmother Louise did, and as our ancestors had always intended.
While Idle No More has awakened a mass amount of people, those at the helm of the movement (i.e. idlenomore.ca) refuse to take any direct actions such blockades, suggesting they are too aggressive. Grandmother Louise, who carries many traditional values that members of Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp aspire to, would never suggest that blockades are “aggressive” but in fact necessary.
Since the start of Idle No More to the present date, nothing has changed terms of governmental policies or Treaty right violations. The legislation has not been retracted and environmental destruction continues, and we are collectively worse off because we have lost the leadership of a Grandmother and land defender. The only sure thing that has changed since Idle No More began is that Grandmother Louise, now lies in a hospital bed, fighting for her life.
If Idle No More has lost its urgency with the ending of Theresa Spence’s hunger strike, and a new figure head is needed, could Grandmother Louise be the solution? What the movement needs is the momentum it lost, and there is nothing more urgent than the health of Grandmother Louise. What if people were to rally behind Grandmother Louise, uniting their prayers for health, peace and respect for Mother Earth?
Grandmother Louise, your family needs you, we need you and Mother Earth needs you. All of us at Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp are praying for your complete recovery and the restoration of your health.
Chi Zaagin Ogitchidaa Kookum
Giibwanisi Oshkimaadziig Anishinabek