Onkwehonwe Week In Review: July 27 2016

Tornado rips through Long Plain First Nation in Manitoba

More than 500 evacuees from a small reserve near Portage La Prairie in Southern Manitoba have left their tornado ravaged community to temporarily live in Winnipeg’s hotels while cleanup is underway. Houses were moved off of their foundations, cars were overturned and roofs ripped off of houses last Wednesday.

“We are in a state of emergency right now,” said Val Whitford, Special Projects Officer in Long Plain. “I really feel for the elders right now. It’s hot out here. Everyone is in a state of shock still.”  The Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF!) tornado touched down and travelled at least eight kilometres last week. The Enhanced Fujita Scale rates the intensity of tornados in North America based on the damage they cause, with an increasing intensity rated from one to five.  An EF! rating means that moderate damage was caused, with an average wind speed of 138/177 kilometres per hour.

Chief Dennis Meeches estimates that the total damages could be in the millions of dollars. Volunteers work around the clock to clean debris and repair buildings. Manitoba Hydro has 100 workers doing their best to restore electrical service to the community. Bruce Owen, Hydro spokesperson said the utility hopes to have service restored immediately but notes that workers still face challenges presented by trees made weak by the storm.

Long Plain community member Adam Woods says that his experience of the tornado was horrifying. “My house was just rocking. You look out the window and you see things twisting up in the sky. I can hear – it sounded like a freight train, like how they say on TV, how they say it sounds. It’s exactly how it sounds. It’s terrifying.”


Oren Lyons urges respect when using the MistRider, Niagara Falls newest tourist attraction

The ride has been called “phenomenal” with “spectacular views” of both the American and Horseshoe Falls, the MIstRider opened on July 20, 2016. It’s a zipline that crosses 2,200 feet over the Niagara Gorge, approaching speeds of 65 kilometres per hour.

Onondaga nation faithkeeper Oren Lyons is upholding his responsibility to remember and share stories that promote a healthy and respectful Haudenosaunee way of life by reminding people that Niagara Falls is a living monument and just how important it is to Indigenous cosmologies. Because it is the home of the Thunder Beings and is the birthplace of medicines, healing, recovery and communion, the priority should always be the essence of the Falls.

Lyons speaks of the Falls being “an absolute symbol of life.” To remind people of the historical importance of the place, Lyons retells the story of the Maid of the Mist. In ancient times, a young native woman fell asleep in a field and a snake entered her body as she slept and made her poisonous. Three times she married, three times her husbands died. “In her despair, she said, ‘Obviously, there is something wrong with me and the best thing is to get rid of myself,’” Lyons said.

She threw herself over Niagara Falls but the Thunder Beings rescued her from death and brought her into their sanctuary and caused the snake to be removed. The Thunder Beings showed her medicines, plants and taught her the mysteries of healing. They also gave her a choice. She could stay or she could go back as an ordinary person trained in the ways of medicine but without any memories of the spirits at the Falls.

There was only one thing. She must never pound or hammer anything. This action would bring lightening and would bring her back under the Falls. Eventually, Lyons said, the lightening happened while she was pounding cornmeal. “It’s an Indian story,” he said, “and Indian stories have different endings.”

With this story, Lyons hopes to remind us of the power of Niagara Falls. Not only for the historical importance but for the present day miracles, as well. The Great Lakes represents 1/5 of the surface fresh water on the entire planet. All of that comes together in Niagara Falls. To Lyons, fresh water is the ultimate healing medicine.

What Lyons is asking is that the wonder of the place, the miracles of water are never lost amid all the tourist attractions. “Human beings want to imprint on everything,” Lyons said, “We need to be respectful of those sacred places, not only here, but around the world.”

“The whole idea of healing comes from the falls, and that falls is what it is, regardless of what gets built around it,” Lyons said. “My hope is that people will always see it.”


Yurok Tribe will not serve salmon at annual festival for first time in 54 years

Chinook salmon is an integral part of a seasonal diet that has served the Yurok Tribe since time immemorial. The community is located on the banks of the Klamath River in Northern California.  This year, there has been a record low fish run.

“The shortage of fish for this year’s festival is largely due to poor water management practices. In 2014 and 2015, almost all of the juvenile Klamath River Chinook and Coho salmon died from deadly parasite known as Ceratonova Shasta, formerly called Ceratomyxa Shasta.”

According to a press release by the organizing committee, “The event is meant to be an opportunity to share Yurok culture celebrate the Klamath salmon and unite the whole community around a common cause. The festival is free and open to all. Salmon is a central part of the Yurok tribe’s culture and religion.

“The downturn in fish numbers has coincided with an increase in health issues, such as diabetes, among the tribal membership. Cancelling the salmon lunch is just one of the sacrifices that the tribe has had to make this year.”

Sharing the best quality salmon cooked the traditional way over an open fire is a point of pride for the Yurok people. Because of the shortage of fish this year, the Yurok Tribal Council decided against commercial fishing/


Husky Energy pipeline spills 250, 000 litres of crude oil into North Saskatchewan River

On Friday, North Battleford shut down it’s water intake plant because of a crude oil spill taking place upstream from the community. Although they still have a three-day supply of water, the town is urging community members to stock up on water by filling bathtubs and water jugs to prepare for the possible shut down.

Booms were set up to contain the oil spill but it has failed. Oil lifted overtop of the booms by high water levels and is headed toward North Battleford. The government has amped up skimming efforts and try and remove the oil.

According to a press release, “it is anticipated that a plume from an upstream oil spill will be reaching Prince Albert as early as Sunday, July 24.” Reservoirs would be filled to capacity. The city would be able to provide potable water for two days.

Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall, who ardently supports pipelines said that while an oil spill was not something anyone wanted to see, his support for the infrastructure continues. “The facts remain that if we’re not moving by pipeline, it’s going to move by rail. We know that rail is actually more susceptible to spills and these spills are often more intense,” he said at a premier’s meeting in Whitehorse, Yukon.


Rain in Iqaluit “just wont stop”

Except for two days, constant rainfall has besieged the city of Iqaluit since July 9, 2016. The rainfall has broken records this week. From Thursday afternoon to Friday morning, 72 millimetres of rain fell. The average month of July sees about 52 millimetres. “So you’ve had in one day what you see in one month,” said Environment Canada’s Senior Climatologist Dave Phillips. “It just keeps raining and won’t stop.” There isn’t any thunder, rather Phillips said the weather system is “stationary, it is sluggish, it’s slow moving.” Accompanied by a lot of heat and humidity, many of the residents are saying it’s like nothing they’ve ever seen before.

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