Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What Melvina said

As you can tell from the golden leaves of the trees lining the pier, this photo was taken last fall. It's a bit blurry, but sometimes seeing the world less clearly is a means of dealing with all the horrors that are inflicted on Mother Earth in the name of development. Also, seeing through a veil is the way a newborn sees. So, this is a baby-eye view of Thunder Bay harbour, much different than a satellite p.o.v. [I believe that's ice in our harbour in the image. Isle Royale was claimed by the Americans in their colonial mission; the prospect of mining glowed in the eyes of the early "founding" Fathers of ... progress? is that what it is?]

And it is for the babies and the future generations that the Mother Earth Water Walk women have taken up their mission to walk in relay teams around all the Great Lakes. To draw attention to protecting these powerful waters of healing and life for all times, for peoples and animals yet to be born. To draw attention to the fish, the birds, and all creatures whose existence depends on pure, clean water.

I went to listen to Melvina Flamand speak at the Lake Superior Gala. She said that her sister got a sacred calling from an Elder at a Sundance in Minnesota to do something about the pollution and abuse of the great waters. So, her sister asked the women around her, what can we do? That is how their walk around the lakes began. They started in Spring, which is the time of new beginnings. It was a 5 yr plan, but now it is 6 yrs. An Elder had a dream which caused them to cut across and take the ancestral route, so their next walk, beginning April 26, will cover the lower section of Lake Michigan that has yet to be completed.

The women started with Lake Superior, on April 26, 2003. Melvina said that it was snowy when they started. They fasted for 2 days and 2 nights to prepare. They gave prayers and thanks and offered tobacco to the water to take care of them on their way. It took them 35 days to walk around the lake. Sometimes they sang while they walked, sometimes they gave prayers, and, of course, sometimes they laughed. They carried a copper pail filled with water. To know the symbolism of the water, read the journal of the women's walk around Gitchee Gumee. You can see the copper pail that they carry in some of the photos.

Once, in the evening during a sharing circle, her sister asked, "Did you hear that?" The sound of talking came from the pail. When a woman picked up the pail, often tears came as the water spoke to them, healing them.

Interestingly, the women of ancient Finland also held copper sacred. My sister, Della, did a story performance last summer, A Summer Night's Dream, at the Finnish Labour Temple, of an old Finnish woman who carries a copper pot, from which fly 3 golden feathers.

But back to what Melvina said. She also said that her mind is troubled by the animals she saw killed by vehicles. She related a story about a baby moose circling around its dead mother at the side of the road. She is saddened to this day thinking of the animals that have been harmed. I remember driving back from Winnipeg a few years back and, between Kenora and Thunder Bay, the number of charismatic creatures that had been hit by vehicles--it was sickening. I felt nauseous, and fearful to see beyond the next hill. Most were moose, and most, if not all were hit by transports that just keep speeding by, transports full of cheap stuff from China, on their way from Vancouver to Thunder Bay. Like Melvina I can't erase the image of the moose bodies, the motionless hulks at the side of the road as cars and transports just continued on their way. Is this the progress we brought?

Treat the earth well: We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children.

- Ancient Native Proverb, cited on Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug band member (now incarcerated unjustly) Samuel McKay's blog

Melvina also reminded the listeners that Spring is the time to go to the mouth of the rivers, before you start your day. Time to go down to the waters and give thanks, but remember to bring tobacco and offer it to the water, to show your respect to the water spirits that take care of the fish and the birds. Always have your tobacco with you when being around water, she said.

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