INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY: “We are here for the water” Anishinaabe Water Walk against EnergyEast

25 August 2015
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY: “We are here for the water” Anishinaabe Water Walk against EnergyEast

by Madeleine Sutherland

Sutherland is a biochemistry student at Smith College and completing a Praxis internship with CPT’s Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team.

From 2-7 August, over forty members from surrounding Anishinaabe communities walked along 125 km of TransCanada’s proposed Energy East bitumen pipeline route.  Allies, including three members of CPT, came to walk and offer support wherever needed.  This direct action, organized by the Grassroots Indigenous Water Defence (GIWD), included children, mothers and grandmothers who all came to protect clean water for the generations to come.

The proposed Energy East Pipeline would transport heavy bitumen (tarsands oil) 4600 km from Alberta and Saskatchewan to Eastern Canada, repurposing a 40 year-old natural gas pipeline.  A similar pipeline ruptured in the Kalamazoo River in 2010 with the spill stretching for thirty-eight miles. Serious environmental concerns regarding pipeline safety have been heightened by the recent leakage of 5 million litres of bitumen from the Nexen Energy pipeline south of Fort McMurray, AB.

Walkers emphasized that they came to protect the water for all the generations to come. Chrissy Swain of Grassy Narrows First Nation said, “It's my responsibility also as an Anishinaabe woman to protect that water for my children so that they can have life too.” Doreen Skead, an elder on the Walk, similarly responded, "I committed myself to walking because I am a mother, grandmother and I will be a great grandmother. I decided that I would do this walk to make people aware that our water is scarce, getting polluted and destroyed.”

Many young people and children came to walk as well, showing resilience and a strong commitment to this important work.  Alexa Lesperance of Naotkamegwanning First Nation and Youth Facilitator (NYSHN), remarked that the Water Walk is an extension of rights of passage that involve giving young people roles and responsibilities.  Edmund Jack, walker and founding member of Grassy Narrows Youth Organization, pointed out, “All people across Turtle Island, from all walks of life need to realize that our water is at risk from industry like this pipeline.”

 On this Walk, CPTers strengthened connections and made new friendships as well. As a press release from the Water Walk emphasized, supporting indigenous voices is one of the best ways to reverse Canada’s backward environmental policies. Indeed, it is through ongoing support of Indigenous peoples’ sovereignty over their land and the growing opposition to Energy East in Treaty 3 territory that, together, we can protect water essential for future generations.

For a video/audio/pictorial account of the walk on Storify, check out Water Walk : Anishinaabe Resistance Against Energy East