I want to tell him to be careful because the light rain we had this morning has made the compact snow slippery but he beats me to it.
“Watch your step,” he says to me as we descend, having passed the first piece of sitting machinery and veer to the left towards the water.
He is over 60 years old and I realize, that with over 40 years of guiding experience, I’m not the one to tell him to be careful of anything. He navigates the path to the water swiftly and quicker than I expected. Quicker than me. I feel like a child again trying to keep up.
“Rabbits all through here,” he says, waving his hand to his right at the tracks that weave themselves around the willows.
“Are all those yellow things canoes?”
“No, they’re buoys,” I answer him.
I turn my head back towards where they are continuing to build the bridge. We stand just upstream from them but live in a separate world with different teachings, knowledge, and beliefs. It is strange to watch their machines, hear the beeping and the pounding, and know that the animals and birds that we see and hear are so close to losing everything they’ve ever known. The cougar that lives just west of our camp. The wolf that swam across river, leaving wet footprints from where we collect water. The moose we see bedding in the snow. The grouse that scatter when we walk by. The rabbits that criss and cross all through out. The weasel who has made our camp his home and routinely nibbles through boxes because he is sneaky like that. The eagle that swooped over head the morning before that I’m sure lives on the East side of the Moberly, just a few hundred yards from where BC Hydro decimated the forest. There is life all around us, and this is the side of the line we stand on.
Their side is empty. It is barren. There is no life there, there is only a need for money and a desire for conquest and finished projects.
My younger cousin tells me she is upset because people are just saying the Indians are holding out for more money. We see what money has to offer every day, and I can tell you that we want none of it. It’s funny though… the Indians want more money. When the Rocky Mountain Fort Camp has a lot of campers and visitors who are non-Indigenous people. We are all saying no.
A farmer paddles across the Peace River the week before, in the winter, in a canoe. Oh yeah, the Peace River no longer freezes due to the two dams that are already in place upstream. He comes in and stays the night but has to make sure he leaves the next day because he has cows to take care of. When he departs, he says he’s decided to go two hours down river and head out from there back into town and make his way back to his cows.
These are the people that stand with us on this side of the line. This is Northern Resistance.
I was asked in an interview last week what my message to the young people of today would be and I said that my message would be for people to connect with land. To walk into the forest and listen to the wind as it dances through the branches, listen to the water sing beneath the ice, touch bark, snow, blade of grass…and know that it is all alive. If you do not connect with something how will you know it’s importance? If you do not see the relationships between everything, how will you know what your role is supposed to be?
When we pray or sit in circle, or as I was taught before I enter a sweat lodge, we say “All My Relations”. This does not mean, all of those who are humans that are tied to us by blood. It does not mean, all humans. It means everything living thing, from the crow, to the Grandfather Rocks, to Grandmother moon, to the rivers, lakes, and oceans that sustain us and all living things. We are a part of a web of life that is connected to all things and we have forgotten where we stand in this web. When we stand on this side of the line it is because we stand for All of Our Relations, recognizing that this is a part of our role and duty.
The land speaks…it is not just us “Indians” who know it, but it is the farmers, ranchers, hunters, fisherman, and people who connect with the land who know it as well. If you do not listen, and continue to ignore the signs…the land will revolt. The earth does not have to tolerate a child who continually abuses it, and she won’t. It was a warm day today, and it’s been warm for well over a week. It has only gotten below -25 degrees Celsius for a short period of time and there is barely any snow on the ground. Although we are grateful to not be freezing our asses off out here and at the fire at the front where we stand to protect the Peace River Valley, it is eerie that the weather has been like this. Northern winters are not supposed to be kind and forgiving, but the harshness of them is necessary. We Northerners know that. These small things, is when the land is talking and telling you something.
It’s saying, “stop taking.”
We are stealing from our children with each excess project, with each fracking job, with the steam rolling of climate conscious actions, with this very dam. We are stealing from our children.
I wonder if she knows that is exactly what we are afraid of. That we, as human beings, are moving past the point of no return.