Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lower Churchill; More talks needed

This Letter to the Editor was published in the April 27,2009 issue of "The Labradorian."

Dear Editor,
My name is Elizabeth Penashue. I want to talk about the Mista Shipu (Churchill River).I don’t understand and I am confused about how the government will make another Dam. If they do we, the Innu, will loose so many things. Look what happened with the Upper Churchill. So many important things were lost, for example, the burial grounds. In the past when the Innu lived in the country they were far, far away. Women, men and children were buried in the country.

They also left important stuff in the country, like tents, canoes, traps and hunting supplies- all this stuff got lost when the land was flooded. What happened to the animals- not only the fish, the animals too? Many things were killed and damaged with Upper Churchill. They cut a lot of trees, and also when gas was spilled on the ground from the equipment – many things were damaged- the animals never smelled the gas before. What happened to them if they ate what the gas was on – did they die? What about where they lived before- the beaver houses- where did all of these kinds of animals move to when they flooded the land- how many animals died because of the Upper Churchill?

Sometimes when I go to Churchill Falls with my husband and my grandchildren I stop at the Brinco Bridge and explain to my grandchildren what happened. I am very sad when I step out on the bridge- I cry. I show my granddaughter – no water, what does that mean for the fish and the animals? I cry in my heart when I tell my children and grandchildren about it. I tell them we never saw that when we were young. There was a lot of water there.

My father told me about how they could see the mist from far, far away, and how it was used as a marker for them to find the place. Now we don’t see what my parents saw. My father was from Quebec and he always walked or used the canoe for travelling. It makes me sad to think about if this happened when he was alive and he might not be able to find his way because of so many changes-would he have to turn back because he is lost because of all of the changes. He would say where is that mountain, or where is that river or marsh that would help find their way. He would say – who changed everything?

My parent’s hearts would be broken. It was not explained to the people about Upper Churchill- nobody explained it to the Old people- they did not know that all of this would happen.We lost of the names of the places and they were so important to the Innu. I heard my mother on a tape recorder when she was interviewed one time. She was talking like if she was looking at a map- but she wasn’t –it was just from her memory of these places. They never thought these names would be changed- they thought the places would have the same names forever. Many babies were born in the country- I was born in a place called Kanekuanikau- it is in around Churchill Falls area- it is in the Country.

I would like to ask - why would you make another dam when so much damage was done with the first one? We don’t want to drink dirty water - like the animals they want clean water. So many things will be damaged- the trees, the water, the animals and the fish.The Innu have been hunting for thousands of years. What will happen?

I can’t believe they want to do this – it makes me very confused. What about that barge that is under the water in the river? How much damage has this caused? When the government says there will be jobs for the young Innu- it is hard for the older people to say anything bad about it – we might just think we should be lucky that the young people have the jobs- but jobs are not the answer to everything – more jobs/money can also cause more problems.

I will work hard to get the old people to sit down and talk together. We need to know and understand what is going on. We need to do that- and we all need to work together.

Elizabeth Penashue, Sheshatshiu, NL

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