Saturday, September 12, 2009

Canoe Trip 2009

I’m sorry I didn’t have time to write sooner about the canoe trip. My friend was away and not able to help me until now. I was very happy I made the canoe trip again this year. I am also very happy that this summer we had 11 canoes and 26 people—it was the first time this many canoes, this many people, a six month old baby and 2 small children came along. 12 Innu came on the trip (6 men, 4 women and 2 young boys). Everything went well and everyone was very happy. We didn’t have any problems.

This canoe trip is not just for fun; what I am doing every summer is very important. I want to protect the river, Mista-Shipu, and the animals. I’ve said many times that I don’t want to see what happened at Churchill Falls happen again. When that happened we lost so many Innu things—burial grounds and hunting things (canoes, tents and stoves)—everything was under water. We also lost all kinds of animals (not just the fish, all the animals that drink the water). How much more will be lost if the government builds a dam at Gull Island and Muskrat Falls? How can we know all the important Innu things that will be gone? This is why I go on the canoe trip every summer. I don’t want to see everything die—the trees, water, animals and grass. Every time when I go on the canoe trip I cry in my heart. The river is so beautiful and the animals are everywhere. I wonder how the government could want to make another dam. I think Innu people will be very sad if they see the trees, water and animals die. A long time ago the Innu people lived in the country and ate animals and fish. This is our life. When I look at Mista-Shipu I think about how the Innu have hunted and lived on this river for thousands of years. I wonder if the government has no heart to think about the people. I know the old people can’t hunt any more. The young ones need to be taught how to keep the Innu culture alive. After I am gone I want the young ones to know this.

I was very happy that more people came on the trip this year. I want to show people the river. I want to speak to them, to explain my concerns and help the people understand what I’m doing. On the canoe trip I had a big tent and sometimes we sat in the tent at night and I told them about how important the river is. Now, after the canoe trip, I think they understand this more. The people from away asked many questions and I tried to explain my thoughts.

When the river and trees die, Mother Earth is going to cry in her heart. Sometimes I am very angry when I think that I’ve been doing the canoe trip over 13 years. Does the government see what I’m doing? Do they know me? Every time I go on the canoe trip I always hope something will change. I work hard, volunteering, thinking something will change. I thought the government would see how important the river is. The trees and river are just like human beings. It’s like they talk to me, saying “I don’t want to die.” It’s the same with the animals. Everything in the water and under the ground, the grass, the beach, the mountains—everything is so beautiful!

This summer when I was on the canoe trip, something changed that I will never forget. Every other year I’ve gone on the canoe trip I saw animals—black bears, porcupine, beavers, geese, ducks. But this year I lost the animals! What happened to the animals? It’s like the animals said, “Soon we’re going to die, so we’re going to run away.” I have always seen at least 1 or 2 black bears and this year there were none. I feel the animals are sad. Maybe they stayed in the woods. Innu people have seen animals for years and they understand them, even though animals don’t talk. And when I came home to Sheshatshiu, I discovered I lost my berries too. Every year I pick berries for my family for the winter. Berries are like medicine, they grow from the ground. This summer the berries are gone. Several summers ago I lost the bakeapples (cloudberries), now the red berries and blueberries are gone. I don’t know what happened, but something has happened.

I question why the government only puts up two signs along the whole river saying not to eat the fish because of mercury contamination. If new people come maybe they won’t see the sign. Or if they do, they may only think they shouldn’t fish in that area, but farther down the river it would be okay. They need to know it’s not safe anywhere. They need signs all along the river.

Sometimes I don’t know what I should do. What if the government goes ahead with the dam? My heart feels deeply sad. Innu women do so many things to protect their culture, their people and their children. I wish the government would respect the women. Thank you.

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