What can we learn from the tailings pond disaster in British Columbia?

Let’s start off with the facts. 10 billion litres of water. 4.5 million cubic metres of metal-laden fine sand, which by the way is very toxic to the environment. A company who was given 5 warnings in the past 5 years, and evaded each one of them. What else? Let’s see, we also have at least one First Nation who signed an agreement with this company to allow them access onto their traditional territory in exchange for what? You guessed it! Money! Sound familiar?

We see this in many First Nations communities across Canada. We have lost entire generations of our people due to colonialism, residential schools, alcohol, drugs, suicide, depression etc. We are in an era now where we are starting to acknowledge and see just how much of an impact all of this has had on us as a people. Our grandparents feared sending us to school because of what they learned from the residential school system. It got so bad that at one point it was acceptable to not have an education, to drop out of school because look at what the ‘schools’ did to our grandparents, aunties and uncles: it destroyed their souls, their very existence and self-worth.

But the time has come. We need to awaken ourselves and each other. Some of us are still in this proverbial slumber: still numb from the pain and anguish of what these schools did to our people. Yes, they knocked us down but one thing the Creator gave us is our minds and our legs. We need to pick ourselves up and stand again on our own two feet and the only way to do that is by using our minds in a good way and educating ourselves. This is a far different world than what our ancestors lived in. Things have changed drastically and not necessarily for the betterment of mankind.

We live in a fast world where everyone’s in a rush to get somewhere, often times in a rush to go nowhere. People don’t have time to talk to each other face-to-face: we have internet, Facebook, Twitter, email and text messaging. Everyone wants to make a quick buck. No one has time to sit at the dinner table and have a good family meal; we have fast food restaurants so that we don’t have to cook. Fast food usually means unhealthy food. All around us, our people are dying from heart disease, diabetes and cancers.

But the scariest of all is money and what it does to our people. First Nations communities all across Canada have some form of economic development department that is based on a colonial mentality: secure as much money as you can, than you can decide who gets it and how it will be spent. Money alone has divided many of our people. Many global industries such as mining, oil sands, and foreign ‘green energy’ companies are quick to prey on these humble first nations communities who are all struggling with their own problems. Addictions, suicide, and depression run rampant and phenomenally high on any first nation. And until we can get a grasp on that situation, how do we expect to take care of our Mother the Earth?

Yeah sure the money sounds great, but it won’t last forever and we should never even consider trading in our precious Mother and any of her parts for a piece of paper. That is the ultimate show of disrespect. We need to stop thinking like the colonizers and start using our own minds. We are Indigenous people, we have the capability of finding sustainable long lasting solutions of not only how to live on this planet but how to live with this planet. All that the Creator has laid out for us is ours to borrow while we are here. We have absolutely no right, no entitlement to think for a second that we can put a price on this land or its resources.

If oil sands make oil and oil fuels cars, heats homes, makes plastic, cell phones and computers then we need to start thinking about alternate means of transportation that don’t rely on oil for fuel. We need to find ways to heat our homes that don’t require oil for fuel. We need to stop buying plastic and stay away from cell phones and computers. As true Land Protectors of this great gift we call Mother Earth, we need to start educating ourselves a little better and start putting our minds together as one, and find solutions because once we destroy this earth, that’s it. There are no second chances.

If we have children and grandchildren and truly love them, then we need to start thinking about their future and their children’s futures as well because that is the message our ancestors made sure was passed on to us. Let’s not break that message or that promise. Let’s stop looking down on each other and stop working against each other. We all breathe the same air. It’s time to think critically about the detrimental contributions we, as ogwehoweh people, are making in the destruction of this planet.

Let’s learn a valuable lesson from the horrific tailings pond spill in B.C. last week. Everything on this planet works in-sync with everything else. What affects one will affect us all. We shouldn’t think for a second that what happened in B.C. will not affect us here on Six Nations. Owejade, our Mother Earth, is what we need to start protecting, not just Six Nations lands interest. We need to open our minds and look at the destruction that is going on all around us. The time is now.

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