Native Youth Sexual Health Network fighting for safety of water
The Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN) is expressing support for the Grassroots Indigenous Water Defence, an initiative that is seeking to raise awareness and opposition to the Energy East Pipeline bringing tar sands bitumen across indigenous territories.
“We’re honored to join the Water Walk to provide body care and medicines to the walkers, grandmothers and Elders,” the group shared in an emailed statement. “We know that protecting and taking care of our, and each other’s bodies during these actions is just as important to land defense, so we learn ceremony and how to do this caretaking for generations to come. The land trauma that many people hold in their bodies (reproductive cancers, mental health issues, self harm) are an opportunity to help heal during land defense and resurge knowledge about medicines in our territories.”
“Water is the first environment our babies are born into, and is also in the first food they receive as breast milk,” the statement reads. “It is these vital connections between what goes on with the water, land, and air directly affects our bodies that we must continue to intersect and take action on, as a reproductive justice response to environmental violence happening around us.”
Alexa Lesperance, a Youth Facilitator with the Native Youth Sexual Health Network from the Naotkamegwanning First Nation said about the initiative, “Water is important in rites of passage, particularly the rites of passage of birth. This water walk is an extension of rites of passage, because most people here are parents and have their children here. A large part of rites of passage and transitioning is making sure that young people have roles and responsibilities. The Water Walk is a rites of passage because you are modelling for young people what it is like to defend the land and that’s a part of the life stage.”
One of the organizers for the walk, Judy Da Silva is a mother and a grandmother. She says that there is too much at risk to ignore the proposed pipeline. “The Anishinaabe Water Walk in our home territory is to bring awareness to people of the threats to this very precious life giving source,” said DaSilva. “The walk is meant to call attention to what is threatening the water—mercury in the English Wabigoon River near Grassy Narrows, new mining near Wabaskang, the proposed Goliath Gold Mine near Wabigoon, and TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline which is going through the process of consultations to push the oil through these lands. These are the kind of serious water issues people need to look at in Kenora and Treaty 3 if they want to keep the water pristine for future generations—we need to be good ancestors. ”