The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway by Arno Kopecky

At a point, I got myself out of sync on the reading selections for the Aboriginal Pride with 12CSI reading list.  It all began at the reading of Clearing the Plains.  I haven’t reviewed this book yet because, honestly, I still have a chapter to go. (Intense)  This one should be required reading for every post secondary student…but, more on that another time!

Regardless, I attended the book clubs for those few months, as I am always so grateful for the fact that such excellent conversations occur and I learn so much.

The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway by Arno Kopecky did not seem, by its title, to be anything I would ever consider picking up to read and yet, upon the recommendation by a book club member, I did.  While Arno Kopecky is not an Indigenous author, the book was suggested for its connection to numerous Indigenous activists, elders, fishermen and various people impacted by development and encroachment around the Northern Gateway.  This author introduced me to many of the issues surrounding the history and planning for transportation of product in a highly pristine and essential part of Canada.  One might argue that the narrative might be skewed, given that the writer is speaking from a non-indigenous voice, however, I feel that my personal journey addressing the Calls to Action involves a lot of discernment and listening..to many voices.  I have been living in a sort of fog all of these years, where it comes to this discourse.

45. We call upon the Government of Canada, on behalf of
all Canadians, to jointly develop with Aboriginal peoples
a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to be issued by
the Crown. The proclamation would build on the Royal
Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara of 1764,
and reaffirm the nation-to-nation relationship between
Aboriginal peoples and the Crown. The proclamation
would include, but not be limited to, the following
commitments:

i. Repudiate concepts used to justify European
sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples such
as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.
ii. Adopt and implement the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as
the framework for reconciliation.
iii. Renew or establish Treaty relationships based on
principles of mutual recognition, mutual respect,
and shared responsibility for maintaining those
relationships into the future.
iv. Reconcile Aboriginal and Crown constitutional
and legal orders to ensure that Aboriginal peoples
are full partners in Confederation, including the
recognition and integration of Indigenous laws and
legal traditions in negotiation and implementation
processes involving Treaties, land claims, and other
constructive agreements.

47. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and
municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to
justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples
and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra
nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies,
and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such
concepts.

This book is built for the adventurer and for the person who has a big appreciation for wild parts of Canada that, despite the challenges in favour of development, industry and encroachment, remains one of the few places that exemplify that particular MAGIC that comes with WILD.

My preamble…then, I’ll carry on about the book.  This next paragraph is from my gut…a simple formulation of my own feelings.  Yes.  I drive a car.  Yes. I purchase packaged items.  Don’t throw tomatoes.

The Canadian government has demonstrated tremendous determination to create/grow an economy built on the back of energy.  There is no way that Canadians see ‘everything that goes on’, given the vast and oft-isolated topographical regions of this country, our home.  What we don’t see, can’t bother us.  And yet, living in these far off places, our indigenous brothers and sisters are well-aware of the tapping out of resources, the destruction and the economic hardship resulting from the abandonment of industry as it becomes obsolete or sucked dry.  There are witnesses.

Documentation to some of this…check out Alan MacLean’s photos at this site.  Let’s just take a bit of a look at Alberta.

I’m just going to let you sit with those images.  I’ve been sitting with them, and all I have to say is that things are way out of control and so much about it has to do with economics and employment.  ‘Corporate’ Canada wants YOU!

Enough of a side-lined rant!

The book is a good one…it moves very quickly.  It isn’t a struggle and it is certainly not dark or apocalyptic.  Arno Kopecky and photographer Ilja Herb, take the reader on a magical journey (I felt like I was there) aboard a small sailing boat…well, is forty-one feet, small?  It seems small to me.  Neither of them had prior experience sailing.  So, one aspect of the book is the story of negotiating this boat through British Columbia’s central coast.  So, firstly, this would be considered an adventure book as in this part of our country, the inland passages are linked together by a dramatic network of fjords, islands and lush forested land masses interspersed with inlets.  I was enamoured by the descriptions of place throughout and feel as though I was introduced to the Great Bear Rainforest in a very honest way.

Second to this, I enjoyed the many personal narratives by the people and accounts about the people who, in several cases, gave these men safe harbour, assisted in repairs and often contributed to the content of the book through interviews.  Several participants have committed their lives to the protection of this land and water, knowing full well that this is likely the last great wilderness on earth.  The writer seemed naive at times, meeting such wise and dedicated individuals.

Third, I grew in my knowledge about the history and planning of Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway.  My knowledge now exceeds what I’ve picked up over news stories these last many years.  The book was generous in terms of presenting several different perspectives, as well.  I learned that the weather through this region is unpredictable and that the waters to be negotiated are prone to storms and crazy conditions.  It doesn’t take much for Canadians to realize the risk that such conditions pose to wildlife and environment.

The book was beautiful in its rich description of the land, the wildlife, the people and the waters.  I highly recommend this read.  As a result of this reading, I send out unlimited positive wishes regarding our human reliance on non-renewable energy sources and the almost obsessive willingness we have to challenge the delicate eco-systems of our nation, in order to continue down the same path, rather than pour that same energy into alternative solutions.

As of 2016, this… A look at the status of Northern Gateway and other major Canadian pipeline projects

January 2018…of course….lost revenue. 

What comes of all of it is that we need to challenge our thinking.  My readers are either extremely right on this issue OR extremely left…I think that the important thing is that we discern the various implications and decide what is most important to us.  This book revealed to me the physical nature of the rugged coastline, the past issues surrounding the use of oil tankers in even more benign waters…and the high potential for an ecological disaster.

My peeps, as captured by Michelle Robinson.  I love this lady…and I love her archive of photographs!  We were visited that night by APTN National News.

Strong Voices: Stories of Struggle & Strength Living with HIV

Of Advent, Christmas and January, I can say that there are very few remnants; three empty festive cookie containers on the dining room table…a scented candle in one of the bathrooms and the front yard Nativity that is awaiting a bit of a snow melt before it is dragged back to its retirement next to the studio in the back yard.  Except for these things, what remains are the memories of reading voraciously through extreme cold and looking out on to a very snowy landscape.  Max spent a lot of time on the red couch, leaving the house to do his business, quickly, in the back yard.  If we walked, it was in short spurts and then back under throws, beside the Christmas tree.

Max on Red Couch 2

I continue to partake in the Chapters and Chat Book Club led by Aboriginal Pride with 12CSI‘s Michelle Robinson, once a month.  December saw me completing my first full year with the club, as it was my intention through Canada 150, to become more aware through reading Indigenous authors and expanding my knowledge of the calls to action in a process of Truth and Reconciliation.  Needless to say, this community of readers has become so important to me that I will continue through 2018.

Graciously donated to us at November’s Chapters and Chat, we read Strong Voices: Stories of Struggle & Strength Living with HIV, a short read in graphic novel format published by HIV Community Link.   I think that this book would serve as an excellent educational tool and it certainly brought to light the personal struggle of a representational sampling of four members of the Indigenous community, with HIV.

Strong Voices

Images supplied by HIV Community Link: Prevention + Support + Advocacy and used with their permission.

Strong Voices

The contributors to the project were…

The stories shared in this project are the real-life experiences
of four Aboriginal people from the Prairies. We honour the strength,
courage, honesty and love that our Storytellers Michelle, Krista,
Aaron and Bill have offered to this project and the community.

Special thanks to Cultural Resource Adrian Wolfleg for his wisdom, patience
and kindness. This project would not be possible without his participation.

artists:
Grant Smith – Michelle’s Story
Lydia Prince – Krista’s Story
Tank Standing Buffalo – Aaron’s Story
Keegan Starlight – Bill’s Story
Writer: Adrian Wolfleg
Creative Editor: Cherri Lowhorn
Design & Layout: Kathryn Valentine
Project Coordination: Andrea Carter
The Strong Voices Program is a project of HIV Community Link.
HIV Community Link’s mission is to reduce the harm associated with
HIV and hepatitis C for all individuals and communities that we serve.

To begin with, the reader experiences a most a beautiful prayer (atsimoihkan), followed by an elegant description of the Medicine Wheel.  I think to discuss healing or to discuss struggle in this context, such a beautiful prayer and description are essential and I treasured them both.  As the reader is familiarized with the east, south, west and north of the wheel, the graphic novel naturally transitions into four separate personal narratives.

There is much pain captured in such a brief book, as four brave people share their experiences of contracting and living with HIV in a society that has been built upon colonial footings…so, to negotiate through the existing system further isolates, distresses and challenges members of various Indigenous communities.  This book opens up guidance as it conveys these stories through a strong format.  First, the link is given between the story and the Medicine Wheel’s direction…second, the story is told through art and the graphic novel (approachable and reader-friendly) for such intense and sad remembrances and third, a narrator’s connection with the person and the story.  For example…of Michelle’s story, the narrator writes, in part,…

Michelle’s decision to learn more about living with HIV and the physical effects are in
line with the teachings of the Physical Aspect of the Medicine Wheel: getting to know
yourself and how to help your body’s natural healing processes.

Michelle shares that she grounds herself through Aboriginal teachings and ceremonies
like the Sweat Lodge: “I’ve found my traditions and culture. I smudge and pray every day and I participate in a Sweat Lodge ceremony whenever I can”. Michelle says it brought her back to her senses so she can live life to its fullest. She looks forward to watching her grandchildren grow up.

I think that reading this book allowed us to take pause and think about how all of the societal pressures have contributed to the prevalence of HIV and other STIs in our Indigenous populations.  We need to contemplate how/where we can contribute to the solutions.  This book is a terrific resource, to begin.

From Aids Calgary…this…

The goal of this book is to bring awareness of HIV to the Aboriginal communities, where HIV is currently considered an epidemic. Due to social determinants and stigma, Aboriginal people are often diagnosed with HIV at a younger age and at later stages (with an AIDS diagnosis for example). Since 25% of Canadians who have HIV do not know it, our goal is to promote testing and harm reduction approaches while building awareness and support for those affected by HIV.

Beyond the content, I mentioned in the Chapters and Chat circle that I felt myself reading as an English language arts teacher, in part, while reading this book.  I thought that it needed yet one more edit.  But…I’m starting to really question my hang up on some of my reading; about syntax, proper grammar and spelling.  (I’d love to hear from other English language arts teachers on this.) I’m wondering about ‘voice’ and whether I’m reading from a ‘settler’s’ point of view…I’m really thinking about what it means to be an Indigenous author in a mostly colonial world.  I’m wondering about the place of Indigenous authors in CanLit…I’m questioning fair representation of ALL Canadian voices.

These questions surfaced while reading a recent book by Gitz Crazyboy, when all of a sudden, I was hearing his voice as I tracked the written word and had stopped ‘reading’.  I don’t think that makes any sense and I’m laughing at this place in my own writing, but leaving it all as it is.  At that point in Gitz’s book, I put my pencil down.  I will talk about that process more when I review Secret of the Stars.

The book talk was, as always, very inspiring as we passed the listening stone around the circle.  That evening, we attempted to tape our book talk, so I think we forgot to take a group photograph of the session, a tradition that I’ve grown to look forward to.  The people in the circle are becoming dear and treasured friends for the difficult and lively conversations we have.

Thank you, Michelle for the snacks and the hot tea.  Thank you to Aboriginal Pride with 12CSI!

John Moors (1876 – 1918) Recent Connections

This is a very brief post that serves only to express gratitude for the recent and generous connections I have made related to my Great Grandfather John Moors (1876 – 1918).  What a wonderful thing it is to have cousins discover my writings and research and to respond!  These Paternal relations include Charlene, Jacqueline and now, James. Thank you, for your connection. For about 15 years, I’ve been fanatically engaged in research on both my mother and father’s sides of the family.

Some would ask, “Why does it matter?…or… “What does it all mean, anyway?”…but, there is something innate within me that wants to know who my people are.  It is a weakness.

Long-story-short, I have always looked for a photograph of my Dad’s Grandfather, in uniform.  Every Remembrance Day, I was disappointed that I had only the image of his wedding day.    He died and is buried in Etaples, France.  He was lying in General Canada Hospital #51, when during the night, a bombing raid orchestrated by the Germans, decimated most of  the location and killed John Moors. I’ve thought that he should be remembered. Don’t get me wrong.  I was happy about having the wedding photograph…but, imagine my excitement when, randomly, Charlene sent a photograph over the internet from her home to mine…and to, in a flash, have my Great Grandfather’s visage appear face-to-face with me on a screen in 2018.  GAHHHHH!

Enough said…first, our family’s single archive up until now…my Great Grandmother Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors in the center front and my Great Grandfather John Moors back right.

wedding jpg best copy of Great Grandfather John Moors

I took this photograph of a photograph that my Auntie Eleanor had hanging in her home.  When it comes to gathering family history, I’m not super fussy about archival quality of images.  It’s a simple blessing to have  moments of history sustained and easily available to as many family members as is possible and as quickly as possible.  I think I’ve written about this before…that ‘in the day’ how would family members even include one another in these histories?  We are sooo blessed!

Here he is!  My Great Grandfather!  What a handsome man!  My father said he had striking red hair, much like my own Grandfather Moors did and now, my own beautiful daughter.

John Moors Great Grandfather

I’m hoping that Betty Silver’s daughter has an opportunity to see this as I know that she was on the look out for the very same image, saying (as other relations remembered) that a large framed photograph of John in uniform hung in the family dining room.

Second to this, Charlene shared what looks like a younger image of this John.

John Moors Great Grandfather 2

He looked dapper.  I try to imagine as I look at this image, that here is captured the 13 year old who came by ship, on his own…a British Home Child who worked very hard on at least three farm placements including Elora and two outside of Guelph.  This was likely taken during his Hamilton days.

And finally, a family photograph including my own Grandfather John Moors, his young brother Robert (Bob), his sister, Grace and his mother, Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors.  Mary Eleanor had striking dark eyes and hair…I see a lot of my father in her.  This would have been taken some time after the passing of their father and husband John Moors.

Grandfather John Moors

And finally, something that I just received tonight…icing on the cake!  My first cousin once-removed, James, has provided photographs of front and back of John’s military medal.  I’m so grateful that unlike so many families, this object has been cared for and cherished so that now, so many years later, all can enjoy.  Blessings on my family for their generous work.  My cousin, Teddy Witbeck, has been doing a remarkable job working on our family tree on Family Search.  As we continue to piece together our history, his work can be accessed.  Trust me, you will have a great head start that way!

Love you all.

John Moors back side medalJohn Moors medal front

I’ve written away and had much support attaining John’s military record…this medal assignment was included there.

John Moors (17)