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Beyond Re-Activism

How Tar Sands Healing Walk Moves People Forward

by Matt Hanson

Youth stands at the edge of reason (photo: Author)
Youth stands at the edge of reason (photo: Author)
Stop the Destruction, Start the Healing (photo: Author)
Stop the Destruction, Start the Healing (photo: Author)
Shift Your Paradigm (photo: Author)
Shift Your Paradigm (photo: Author)

            “The last two years were the first two years in human history where new investment in electricity generation for renewable energy, for wind, for solar exceeded new investment for electricity in oil, coal, and nuclear combined!” environmental activist Tzeporah Berman shouted to an encamped crowd at Indian Beach the night before the Tar Sands Healing Walk. Nonetheless, Canada’s most ‘successful’ CEOs and their entire staff – as with everyone dependent on the resource, that means everyone – continue scraping the bottom of the oil barrel. Currently fluctuating around 100 USD, recent rises in the price of oil have been due to the Syrian Civil War, as well as America’s depleting oil reserves, among other concerns.

The Tar Sands, what Greenpeace calls the ‘most destructive industrial project on Earth’ is the open vein of Canada’s economic addiction, leading to fracking on the largest Indian reserve (Kainai Nation) to drilling in the Amazon rainforest. “There are three or four places on planet Earth where there is enough carbon below the soil, that if it gets dug up and burned, then there is no chance that we’ll ever stabilize this planet’s climate, and this is one of them,” Bill McKibben, climate change scientist and founder of, said immediately prior to the beginning of the Healing Walk.

The 4th Annual Healing Walk, attended by about five hundred demonstrators, sent a clear message: local people matter, have voice and are strongly represented across the country and the world. The First Nations in and around the Tar Sands – the Athabasca Chipewyan, Cree and Dene peoples – are leading humankind by simply walking, in prayer to the Four Directions. The timeless spiritual wisdom of tradition, ceremony and community slowed industrial traffic as far as the eye could see on July 6 around the 14km Syncrude Tailings Loop.

 “If you breathe air and you drink water, this is about you,” Crystal Lameman, Treaty 6 activist of Beaver Lake Cree Nation, declared at the beginning of the Healing Walk at Crane Lake Park. The pragmatism of interdependence is not only springing from Western science itself (read The Tao of Physics, for example), but is being voiced by the First Peoples with greater potency. “I think what has to happen is a change in understanding. It’s not a matter of power, or of muscle or of energy,” the late philosopher Alan Watts said in the documentary, Zen.

Bad news is good news. People think as they please, or, more accurate to the West, as is pleasing. Regardless of labels, Oil Sands, or Tar Sands, industry gets the lip service. “I don’t want to squander my energy entirely on being reactive, on being reactive to their craziness. Be clear on where we are going,” LaDuke stressed with grounded intensity. “It’s our choice upon which path to embark. One miikanan [path] is well worn but it’s scorched. The other path, they say, is not well worn but it’s green, and it’s our choice. It’s our choice. That’s what our people said about 800-900 years ago.”

The ancient wisdom of the Anishinaabe prophecy for the time of the Seventh Fire, shared by Winona LaDuke at the 4th Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk, offers all a path, or miikana, to a future that is fresh and green, and very simply, to a future. Beyond pro- and anti-, beyond reaction, there is a beginning; a place, from where all people begin life renewed. In the name of Mother Earth, the Original Peoples along the Athabasca River, and every Healing Walker: All my relations.    


Related Posts:

The Great Canadian Scandal

Tales from the tar sands

As A Human Being


NOTE: This article was produced in partnership with and the Arusha Centre with the Calgary Working Group initiative to establish a new local of The Media Co-op in Calgary


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