There’s no better way to tell the oil industry we don’t need them than by walking. The excitement in camp was broadcast on the bullhorn “North Gate to greet the Canadian walkers.” Yesterday was sunny and I took a jog up Flag Road to find out the details. The youth walkers were cresting the hill from the South into camp coming down Highway 1806 and I thought walking to greet them would make sense. Toe warmers and boot chains would be needed for this story.
Youth Unity Journey for Sacred Waters came to us from Stanley Mission, Saskatchewan, Canada and the day I compared temperatures it was a full 20 degrees colder there than here. 825 miles to our North, these Woodland/Rocky Cree kids started out on foot 46 days ago in fur & snow boots, orange vests and face masks and carrying flags. 6 kids would walk the full route, the youngest of them, 13 years old.
“The journey really had a life of its own, no one could control it,” explained Rob Ballantyne, whose Indian name is Grey Wolfman. He refers to himself as the group’s wolf pack leader. I had hopped in his car a quarter mile up the road for a quick conversation as the walkers came into camp in front of him accompanied by a hundred or so of our people, one on horseback. Grey is the uncle of Charlene Charles, one of the walkers who insisted her uncle come to lead this trip. Grey was living in British Columbia so travel across his country was necessary to make this journey with the kids. Together through the car window we admired the buffalo in the snow who had come down the hill to greet the walking Canadians.
Another adult leader of the walk was Marge McKenzie, who had walked from a town in Ottawa to Stanley Mission after she found that out of Canada’s 1.4 million lakes, only 96 of them were environmentally protected. “A month before we left Stanley Mission a pipeline in Prince Albert leaked.” McKenzie spoke in the dome with the circle of walkers after their arrival. She spoke of the need for traditional values as all the females wore skirts for the journey, “We must respect our grandfathers.” Grey Wolfman agreed “Our people are sleeping, we gotta’ wake them to traditional values. Our people know civil disobedience–we have the eagle feather!”
Wolfman found that implementing talking circles with the group helped to keep their inspiration up, to keep going and to voice their concerns as they arose. At least one from the Americans, a group of walkers from our camp who came joined up at Four Bears, N.D., mentioned the beauty of this system of cleansing the mind as doubts arose in the group.
One member of the group sustained a frost bitten ear and finances were slim for items such as replacement gloves and boots. The obstacles were physical, emotional, and economic. Approaching the American border the group was down to its last $40.
Ricky Sanderson Jr. devised the walking plan from a vision he had after there were a couple suicides in his community—one 13 and the other a 14 year old. “I was suffering from sleep paralysis. We must start to think about our children, prepare for them, protect this water for them now. Our own Prime Minister turned his back on us. Thank you all for welcoming us.”
Ricky senior, his father added, “You can’t survive without water. You can’t survive without fish.” He also foreshadowed for me in a late night conversation at South West Hogan last night a fight to come, “We were looking at these pipelines and noticed where the oil sands are. It’s where the Churchill River begins where our water comes down from the glaciers.”