Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Indians and Oil

Like oil and water? Apparently not for some. Many first nations are involved in the oil and gas industry. For years we have heard of some of the oil-rich first nations in Alberta and last year, Fort Nelson First Nation in the northeastern part of BC actually bought part of their very own oil rig. That's Minister Neufeld (energy), Premier Campbell and former Chief Liz Logan looking all happy in the picture. Well, this Indigenous man finds it all very distressing and disgusting.

I was reminded of the issue again at the recent 74th annual Native Brotherhood of British Columbia convention in Campbell River. A Tsimshian sister (who is also Chair of Ocean Industries BC) talked of the inevitability of offshore oil and gas development. Talk of inevitability and pragmatic acceptance of reality is what is truly accelerating the extinction of Indigenous people in these lands. Think about it. What are we really becoming? If not diabetics, alcoholics, drug addicts, gambling addicts, we are consumers, fitting in, becoming more equal with the settler society. The majority of our people have lost much of their Indigenous identity and not only are we not indignant about it any more, many embrace the non-Indigenous way of life and call it progress.

I have referred to the original testimony at the 1975 Berger Inquiry, of Fort Good Hope Chief Frank T'Seleie in a previous post. I won't quote him again, but encourage you to click on this link, hit the play button and listen yourself. Man, it still inspires me, even though I know he eventually sold out and now supports the current MacKenzie Valley Pipeline Initiative. Perhaps that is how it goes. Young grow older and become realistic. With so much pressure from the dominant settler society, perhaps people just give up. They forget who they are. They set aside not only their Indigenous ways of life but also their Indigenous values and principles.

Young Indigenous woman, young Indigenous man, will that happen to you?

With all the passion, respect and energy I can muster, I encourage you to remember. I encourage you to hold on to your dreams, your humanity and your Indigenous identity. If you lost it or never had it, go find it. It will save you. It will save this planet. Yes, it is counter-intuitive in this modern, consumer-mad society to look past the money and the jobs and the education. It is hard, and your own people will think you are crazy, but remember the young, and remember the old, the radicals still among us. Gather strength on the land, on the sea. Communicate with your ancestors and join the battle.

Make no mistake, those who would destroy your homes, lands, waters and way of life are powerful adversaries. According to Fortune magazine, of the most profitable companies on the planet, ExxonMobile ranked number 1, Royal Dutch/Shell Group number 2, and British Petroleum number 5. According to www.endgame.org, year 2000 revenues for ExxonMobile were $210,392,000,000; Royal Dutch/Shell Group were $149,146,000,000 and; British Petroleum were $148,062,000,000. These are among the largest corporations on the planet, larger than most countries. How much influence do you think they can afford to buy?

As long as we continue to define power in terms of money and neo-liberal politics we will lose. While I don't know many people who advocate for return to "500 years ago" and a complete return to the land, we cannot ignore the importance of a distinct Indigenous way of life and our connection to the land and water. By abandoning our way of life as much as we have, we have facilitated the destruction of our territories and identity. Losing our connection to the land completely is a death sentence for our nations. Perhaps it is impractical to call for a 100% return of and to the land, but I urge you to dream. Re-learn to think with an Indigenous mind and feel with an Indigenous heart and act now.

One of the most basic and fundamental Nuu-chah-nulth principles is embodied in the phrase, "Hish'ukish Tsa'walk" (Everything is one/connected). A full comprehension of this principle teaches us that we cannot support unsustainable development. We cannot support an industry that would threaten our watersheds with complete devastation. We cannont gladly shake the hands of corporations who use proxy governments (US, UK etc.) to wage wars all over the world, killing other Indigenous people. We cannot make the best of an inevitable corporate imposition by selling ourselves for a few jobs and money. We cannot accept this inevitability.

It is our responsibility to resist completely, not politely weigh the pros and cons. The Zapatistas have taught us that there is dignity in resistance. Sometimes you just have to say no. Enough is enough. Ya Basta!

Some links on resistance to oil and gas:

Arctic Indigenous Youth Alliance
Oil Free Coast
Living Oceans Society
David Suzuki Foundation

Monday, December 12, 2005

Upside Down: a brief book review

A couple of months ago on my mundane site I mentioned I was reading a few books. One of them was Eduardo Galeano's Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World. A few books managed to jump the queue but I finally did get back to my list and finished Galeano's eloquent and tongue-in-cheek diatribe against imperialism, and the many false assumptions about north and south and rich and poor. I recommend this to anyone interested in justice and our responsibilities to each other, the animals and the environment that we are a part of, world-wide.

Sometime shortly after my sister started taking university psychology courses she announced, "depressed people see the world more clearly." Not the greatest thing to remember, and I assure you I have many more fond memories of my childhood years with my sister, but that comment has stood the test of time. Now, I don't believe it as an excuse to be bummed out all the time but I do believe it is important for us to have an accurate understanding of what's going on out there, in our backyards and all over the world.

The picture Galeano paints is not of his imagination but of the world he sees, as a formerly-exiled journalist and citizen who is still crazy enough to believe in truth, liberty and justice. The book is arranged as a faux-study plan with chapter headings such as "The Teaching of Fear," "Lessons for Resisting Useless Vices," and "Crash Course on Incommunications." Galeano's style is subtle yet shocking. He deftly exposes not conspiracy theories but open horrors perpetrated in the name of God, democracy, the free-market and order.

Different than his previous history-focussed works, Upside Down sheds light on current and recent issues. He touches on the hypocrisy of the politicians of the north, the cowardice of the politicians of the south, neo-liberal globalization, mass media control, crime, poverty, war and environmental devastation. The world is at once ugly and beautiful, desolate and hopeful. Paradox is not lost on Galeano and he manages to capture the beauty and humanity of the poor and disenfranchised.

With awareness comes responsibility and was I ever thankful for the last two chapters that discussed previous attempts at bringing about justice, lessons to be learned and hope for the future. Galeano writes, "In the language of Castile (Spanish), when we want to say we have hope, we say we shelter hope. A lovely expression, a challenge: to shelter her so she won't die of the cold in the bitter climate of these times."