River Dialogue

Dawn on Victoria Island, June 2015. ©juliecomber.comI have a confession.

 

I talk with rivers.

 

 

 

 

Mostly with the Kichi Sipi (Ottawa River) because I live near Britannia Beach and watch the sunsets there, and travel from the west end of Ottawa by bus or bike to downtown. A lot of songs and poems have come to me while I watch the river along the Ottawa Parkway. More recently, I started doing a kind of meditation, especially if I’m on the bus. I ask the River if she has anything to say to me. Is there anything she needs from me? What is my responsibility to her? A river in New Zealand, Whanganui, was just granted legal personhood. So let’s get talking!

It has been an interesting process. One of the recurring messages to me is “drop your ego.” Pretty good advice to a member of a species notorious for hubris. I don’t know if I’m connecting with the spirit of Kichi Sipi or with my own intuition or if this is fantasy, but there is something compelling and I feel I need to share what I’ve been hearing from the River.

Here’s the most recent river poem, that came during the bus ride to a meeting about Akikodjiwan (Chaudière Falls, on the Kichi Sipi in unceded Algonquin territory ) on the morning of 13 September 2015. I asked the River for guidance about this meeting, and how to interact with the people at the meeting in a good way.

Kichi Sipi, what do you say?

look beyond egos
including your own
 
the forces of the false gods of capitalism
are constantly seducing you away
from me
from all other beings on this planet
and into an anthropocentric thrall of technology
 
You ARE a child of the Universe
no less than the trees and the stars
but no MORE than the trees and the stars
no more than any other species on this planet
your species has gained powers undreamed of before you evolved
you need to grow up and wield these powers responsibly
you ARE subject to the same laws of the Universe as everyone else
the same limits of energy and resources this one mother earth can provide
 
you need to connect with your heart
people don’t see me
even when they do see me, stand in me, swim in me
still, some don’t connect to me
don’t truly love me
they are somewhere else
 

but the heart connects even if your brain is deceived
your heart knows me and the light in everyone

connect. drink the water. you are the water.
and so you are Love.

*******************

Let me know what you think. Do you talk with rivers? If folks are interested, I’m happy to post more of these river dialogues.
Shine,
Julie.

Opportunity to Honour Sacred Chaudière Falls and Nearby Lands

Do you love waterfalls? I know I do! I love being near falls and rapids. Recently, I feel I understand better why I love waterfalls. Of course they are beautiful and powerful and sound amazing. But Elders in Ottawa and in Guyana have taught me that waterfalls and rapids, the places where waters roar, are the places where Spirits gather. Here in Ottawa, we have a very special waterfall that has been mostly hidden from view by industrial development: Chaudière Falls. Now there is a proposal to redevelop the area, which offers an opportunity to make wise decisions about the future of this sacred area.

Background

For thousands of years, the ancestors of the Algonquin people prayed and offered tobacco at “The Kettle of Boiling Waters”, the mighty Chaudière Falls. But over the past 200 years, the islands and shores nearby were developed for industry. The Ottawa River’s flow was dammed up to operate paper mills and power stations. This place of Spiritual Power was harnessed to yield Hydroelectric Power.

Though in a weakened state, you can still feel the Spiritual Power of the Falls. And late Algonquin Elder William Commanda had an inspiring Vision, a Plan for the area, that would restore it as a spiritual place. A place for peoples to converge and learn about Indigenous Peoples. A place where people can heal.

Turning this Vision into Reality has so far been a slow process. But now there is an opportunity – if we all get engaged and work together!

Current Situation

Windmill Development Group recently signed an “Agreement of Purchase and Sale” for Domtar’s property, which includes Chaudière Island and part of downtown Gatineau. Chaudière Island is right next to Chaudière Falls, and was part of Commanda’s overall Vision for the area. Windmill Development Group also has a Vision for the area, expressed by co-founder Jonathan Westeinde: “Our vision is to create Canada’s most sustainable mixed-use community right here in the nation’s capital.”

Are these two Visions for this area competing or compatible? Let us take a look by going through the four main aspects of Grandfather Commanda’s Vision:

Elder William Commanda's Vision for the Chaudière area1. Free the Chaudière Falls. I think that is a separate process, and could happen regardless of Windmill’s proposed development. What do you think?

2. Create a City Park and Historic Interpretive Centre. For me, this is the point of potential conflict, because the Park and Historic Interpretive Centre were envisioned to be on Chaudière Island. I feel this is a very different use of the land than Windmill’s proposal to build a sustainable mixed-used community (with residential and commercial areas) on Chaudière Island. The only remaining condition of the “Agreement of Purchase and Sale” is that the area be rezoned for “a mixed-use community-scale development”. Personally, I think the area should be rezoned as “Sacred”!

3) Build a Peace Building Meeting Site; and 4) Build an Indigenous Centre. Both the Peace Building Meeting Site and Indigenous Centre were envisioned to be on Asinabka (Victoria Island). Asinabka is not part of Windmill’s proposal for the area, and could still go ahead regardless of what happens with Chaudière Island.

Quick recap: Windmill’s redevelopment sounds great and green, but would be on sacred land next to the sacred Chaudière Falls. What impact would the redevelopment have on achieving the Grandfather Commanda’s Vision for the area? What are Algonquin leaders, elders an community members saying? In my humble opinion, this project requires genuine, fair, and thorough consultation with Algonquin communities. It means really listening to what Algonquins want for their Land and Water. And then supporting their decision. Below are a few Algonquin views that I know of, please add more in your comments on this blog!

Some Algonquin Views

Windmill Development held a Public Consultation on 11 December 2013. Claudette Commanda, Elder William Commanda’s granddaughter, opened the Consultation event and spoke powerfully about her Grandfather’s Vision for the area. I have not been able to find any quotes in the media about what she said. Here’s what I recall. She told Windmill Development: “Now you know who we are. You know how to reach us.” And invited Windmill to meaningfully consult with the Algonquin Community about the proposed redevelopment.

Kitigan Zibi Algonquin Chief Gilbert Whiteduck stated in the Citizen that “I don’t believe this project should go forward without the indigenous centre. It should be the jewel in the crown” of any redevelopment of the area. Chief Whiteduck also said he and his community members are concerned about the future of Chaudière Falls, and “we will ensure to the best of our ability that our voice is heard.”

Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont just released a blog post about the sacredness of Chaudière Falls. One of his key concerns is that no matter what happens with the Windmill proposal, people need to have better access to the Falls to perform Ceremony, to pray, and to offer tobacco.

What You Can Do

This is the time to seize the opportunity to reclaim the Chaudière lands and waters that have languished under the toxic weight of Industry. It is a time to honour the spiritual power and importance of the Chaudière Falls and adjacent lands. It is time for everyone to express our views, hopes, and Dreams for this sacred place, right in Canada’s Capital. Will Canada’s Capital also be Canada’s Heart? It is a time to listen deeply and then act in solidarity with what the Algonquin community wants for the area.

Windmill developments is inviting feedback about their proposed redevelopment, called (for now) “The Isles/Les Îles”, until 31 December. Rodney Wilts from Windmill Developments (rodney@windmilldevelopments.com) responded to my question about whether there would be future opportunities for input after 31 December: “Regarding additional opportunities for input, we see community consultation as an ongoing process. Much of our ongoing consultation is happening now with direct meetings with groups such as Ecology Ottawa, the Ottawa Riverkeeper, Heritage Canada, Just Food, the Algonquins etc. Our next full public meeting will be sometime in the spring.” Do send in your views now (see below). And please stay tuned!

Keep Shining,
Julie.

Please send your feedback to Windmill Development Group about the proposed “The Isles” redevelopment of areas near Chaudière Falls to Rodney Wilts at: rodney@windmilldevelopments.com
Or snail mail comments (postmarked Dec 31):
Attn: Sheena Whitten
PACE Public Affairs & Community Engagement
Suite 201, 145 Spruce Street
Ottawa ON K1R 6P1 

PS – I would like to share a lovely note Judith Matheson posted on FB about sending in feedback to Windmill:

“Please emphasize the importance of honouring the history, the sacred and the spiritual significance of Chaudière Falls not just to the Algonquin people but to the deep spiritual needs of these times to remember the wisdom of our own ancient ancestors. Who lived in harmony and connection with nature and the Earth. If you wish contact Rodney Wilts of the Windmill Development Group as they welcome constructive feed back. Suggest he check out http://albertdumont.com/the-kettle-of-boiling-waters-chaudiere-falls-algonquin-territory/ and express how what you read made you personally feel around the significance of how this project is done and its affect on our world.

View of Parliament Hill from AsinabkaPlease share this info on Facebook and via e-mail as the old year ends and the new era begins. This project is not just about us. It is about our future generations and how we can play a role in helping Windmill and our own society relate to and in some way also experience by reading and being reminded of the true history, spirituality and sacredness of this area, as shared by Elder Albert Dumont. To relate to and ourselves connect with a deeper understanding of what he is talking about is what we have all lost. In nature the great healer we must strive to create deep spiritual understanding that all original peoples keep hoping we will remember.

That what we do to the Earth is reflective of what we are doing to ourselves. It is time we work together towards bringing back the harmony and flow of nature and this project has extraordinary potential and possibilities for Canadians to do just that.”

#TarFree613 Song & Video Project!

I was minding my own business, diligently doing data analysis, when a Song came along. And one thing lead to another. And now its a project I hope you can help with!

Like many people in Ottawa, I first heard about the risk of the Tar Sands coming to Canada’s capital from an Ecology Ottawa email on 25 June:

“It has just been reported that TransCanada Corp is hoping to build a massive $5 billion pipeline that will transport 850,000 barrels a day of tar sands oil through the south end of the City of Ottawa and across the Rideau River. The plan is to retrofit a natural gas pipeline into a pipeline that will carry crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands to the East Coast of Canada and they want to run the pipeline through our city!” – Ecology Ottawa

This is a Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Idea. Go to http://tarfree613.ca to see why.

While sitting in Ecology Ottawa’s first public forum about the pipeline on 15 July, I was already writing a song. Then it was announced the twitter hashtag for this campaign is #TarFree613. I thought, “That’s a great song title!”

A few days later while making curry for Kevin Guerette and Rebecca Lantz, we jammed on the #TarFree613 Song. In walked Fedor Ilitchev, who just happens to make videos. Kevin just happens to be a music producer and gifted guitarist. Rebecca just happens to be awesome. We realized in that one kitchen, we had all the ingredients for an awesome project: to record the song and make a music video that will support Ecology Ottawa and other fabulous organizations with their public outreach about the proposed pipeline. Well, all the ingredients except one: cash. So a week later, we shot the live demo of the song for this Indiegogo funding campaign: http://igg.me/at/tarfree613song/x/1011401

The lyrics and demo video are below! NO to the Energy East Pipeline is YES to the future WE define!

Keep Shining (& Stay Tar Free),
Julie
UPDATES: We got our funding! And released the track. See below! 

#TarFree613 Lyrics – Vela, August 2013

Open my email
And what do I see?
Energy East is
Heading towards 613

BC stopped the pipelines
Heading out West
Big Oil’s new target
Is the East Coast instead

I don’t know about you, but me
I just wanna be TarFree
Its our chance to stop the flow
Raise our voices, and here we go!

Chorus: TarFree613! TarFree613! TarFree613! TarFree! X2

No to this Pipeline
No to all Pipelines
Dec-Line 9
Step away form the fault lines
We don’t have time
For this crazy climate Crime x2

Chorus: TarFree613! TarFree613! TarFree613! TarFree! X2

1.Cuz’ we don’t want
Tar Sands kills
and Pipelines spills
2. We don’t want
A Canadian Mordor
And all of its horror
3. We don’t want
Dead wildlife
And Indigenous strife
4. We don’t want
Corporate greed
And manufactured need
5. We don’t want
Fossil fuel addiction
And all its afflictions
6. We don’t want
Toxic leaks
And poisoned creeks
7.We don’t want
Climate Chaos
That will surely slay us
8. And we don’t want…

Bridge: More things, more bling, more rings, more cha-ching X2

Cuz’ what we want is blue skies above
And what we want is endless fierce love
And what we want is clean energy
And what we want is a green economy
And what we want is sustainability
And what we want is reciprocity
And what we want is Ecojustice for all
And what we want is to answer the call

And we get what we want….
TarFree!


Video Credits: #TarFree613, by Vela (Julie Comber) Aug 2013. Guitar composition by Kevin Guerette. Performed by Vela, Kevin, & Rebecca Lantz. Video by Fedor Ilitchev.

We released the track on 10 October!

Raspberry Placebo

I gently pick each raspberry with gratitude and with the Intention that the berry will be Medicine. A delicious, natural, side-effect free Medicine for me and anyone else who consumes the raspberries.

I’m taking Dr. Lissa Rankin’s “Take Back Your Health” teleclass, which allows students to go deeper into the Six Steps to Heal Yourself described in Lissa’s bestselling Mind Over Medicine. In the first call of the teleclass, Lissa talked about the placebo-effect. Most of us have heard of placebos, but few of us realize just how exciting the placebo effect is! Its not just something Big Pharma needs to control in their Gold Standard double-blind placebo controlled trials. Its something YOU can harness to potentially avoid Big Pharma’s drugs!

A placebo does not have to be prescribed by a doctor. The healing relationship you have with your doctor, acupuncturist, shaman, or Elder is very important to help any kind of healing strategy to work. And if a doctor lovingly gives you a sugar pill or saline injection, you’re probably off to the healing races! But you can also prescribe your very own placebo to yourself. For Lissa, this is Green Juice. And the more often you take the placebo, the better. The Green Juice is a good example, since Lissa drinks that 4-5 times a day.

In the first call, I was delighted to hear Dr. Anne Davin (Lissa’s co-pilot for the teleclass) speak on Indigenous ways of understanding health & dis-ease. I was so excited, I just had to call in and say so! I had the privilege to interview Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont about Lissa’s book (guest blog post here), and I deeply value Indigenous ways of understanding and healing illness. Albert was ideal to speak with about Lissa’s book because he is living proof we can heal ourselves! Whenever I get discouraged about my symptoms, I just remember that Albert recovered from a broken back, including healing his paralyzed arm that “experts” said he would never move again. With that example in mind, I know anything is possible!

Given the first teleclass talked about placebos, I thought it would be helpful to write a bit about a beautiful suggestion from Albert that I just tried out. Albert told me that according to his tradition, wild berries are very healing. They are Medicine. And a way to make them an even more potent Medicine is to pick the berries as a Ceremony, with the Intention that each berry will be Medicine.

add salt lamp goodness to those berries!If you like the idea of berries as your placebo, here’s what Albert suggested. Go find a patch of wild berries. If laying tobacco down or calling in the four directions is meaningful to you, go for it! And of course you can Pray and set your Intention before you start picking. Then as you pick each berry, stay with that Intention that the berry will be Medicine. Acknowledge everything around you, such as the birds, bugs, plants, and rocks you encounter while picking. Gratitude is the attitude. When you get home with your berry treasure, make jam or freeze them. You can freeze them individually on a cookie sheet, then put them in ziplock bags. Then you can savour a few berries whenever you need your placebo-hit. They are a frozen flavourful healthy alternative to a sugar pill you can take many times a day! And who needs an apple a day when you can have berries many times a day?

To make even more Marvellous Medicine for myself, I combined the raspberry picking with a Ceremony my brother and I do every year to honour the memory of Edna, our beautiful Guyanese nanny whose unconditional love is with us always. We make jam each year, adding a bit of the last year’s batch to the new year’s batch. And so we stay physically and spiritually connected to the last batch of jam she made for us in 2009.

As I sit and write this, I am savouring a few frozen berries. They remind me of that day picking, both under clouds and then under strong sun. They remind me of All My Relations with me then, that Albert told me to acknowledge. The trees, chokecherries, butterflies, flies, thorns, sun, clouds, breeze, and stones. The raspberries remind me of Edna’s unconditional love. Of Albert’s Ceremonies. Of Lissa’s advice. And each raspberry reminds me I will heal.

Keep Shining,
Julie.

Mind Over Medicine: Time to Renew My Prescription!

outside my wooden window. ©juliecomber.com
Beautiful Rupununi just outside my wooden window. ©juliecomber.com

I lay in bed crying, under my mosquito net, one infected knee so swollen and painful I could barely walk, my ear infections aching, small abscesses in my armpits and other places I won’t mention, my guts also feeling unmentionably icky, and covered in a dry irritated and irritating rash. Outside the closed wooden windows was sunlit savannah grass, red dirt trails, countless birds, and the nearby emerald rainforest. And my Rupununi friends. My tears were not due to the physical pain and discomfort, but my frustration of being sick, alone, inside, wondering when I would finally, really, live.

Today’s release of Dr. Lissa Rankin’s new book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself prompted me to revisit that dark time. Part of my intense frustration back then was I felt I “got it” about having the power to heal myself, and truly believed in my ability to heal. But I was still sick. Why?

It was October 2011, and I had hit rock bottom with my health. Again. Even in my beloved Guyana paradise. I was finishing up data collection for my PhD in beautiful North Rupununi communities full of beautiful Makushi Amerindian friends who were very concerned about my health. I had my laptop, and the generator happened to be on that day, and the slow satellite Internet was working. So one thing I could do in the dim indoor light was check my email. In sailed Lissa’s Newsletter. I had started following Lissa’s blog on OwnignPink.com because her posts about health really resonated with me. And then I got hooked on her “Inner Pilot Light” daily messages.

When I read the Newsletter about Lissa putting her one-on-one consults on sale, I managed to dig my credit card out of my packsack and paid up. I was an exhausted PhD Candidate out of funding, and not quite sure how I’d pay off my credit card purchase, and I didn’t care. My health was worth it. If I could have figured out on my own how to heal myself, I would have done it already. Time to get help.

I had my phone-consult once I was back in Canada and my doctor had some labwork done beforehand. It was lovely to talk with Lissa, healing vibes just emanated from the phone. I had filled out a very thorough and holistic patient intake form, and Lissa had gone through my labwork, too. It was possible that I had mild hypothyroidism, but more interesting to Lissa was this PhD thang, because it was clearly the source of much of my stress.

“Do you really have to finish your PhD, Julie?” She asked.

Wow. This was a difficult and very important question. Of course I had asked myself this very same question many times before, but there was something about Lissa asking that made me go deeper and be more attentive to my answer. I had lots of reasons why I felt I should keep at it. I felt a sense of duty towards the communities in the Rupununi that I had worked with. I was so close to finishing, how could I stop now? And I felt that the PhD would help me achieve my Dreams.

“OK,” said Lissa, “since you are determined to finish, what if you absolutely knew that for the next four or six or twelve months that it takes you to write this Thesis, you’d have these symptoms you described. And as soon as you finish, you will heal. Would you still want to work on it until you finish?”

“Yes!”

The rest of the consult focused on what to do so I would be able to finish my PhD and still be happy and healthy. The final step was for me to write my own Prescription – and act on it! So that was my introduction to The Prescription, which you can now read all about in Mind Over Medicine.

As a recovering scientist (my first MSc is in genetics; Yes, folks, I know how to wield a pipette), I appreciate Lissa’s careful and thorough review of the scientific literature on our ability to heal ourselves. As someone with chronic allergic and digestive illnesses that I knew in my bones, in my soul, could not be fixed with a pill, I appreciate her message that yes, oh yes, we can heal. From almost anything.

In the third part of Mind Over Medicine, you learn how to write your own Diagnosis by answering a series of questions. These are the same questions I filled out in my patient intake form for my one-on-one with Lissa. Then, you write your Prescription. While your Prescription may include following your doctor’s conventional medical prescriptions, it will likely include holistic changes that will bring about the relaxation response, which will allow your body to heal. A key thing is to have unshakable belief you can heal, just like Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont had when he healed his paralyzed arm (Albert is a poster boy for self-healing!).

I dug up my Prescription from January 2012, and had things like “take one day off a week for my music and writing”, “eat more veggies and diversify the kinds of veggies by juicing”… and “commit to getting my Thesis deposited by 31 August 2012.”

Ouch. Its May 2013, and guess what I am still working on?!

While it does not make me particularly happy to own up to the fact I have not kept some key commitments to myself, perhaps my story may be helpful for others to hear. I still have nagging illnesses and fatigue, and I will write more in a future post about my ongoing conversations with my immune system (AKA my Inner Warrior) and my work to re-program my subconscious mind.

For now, three tips to get the maximum benefit from Lissa’s fabulous book:

  1. Once you write your Prescription, act on it!!!
  2. Make sure your Prescription is written down and posted where you can see it.
  3. Be honest with yourself if it is not working for you. If you are still sick, did you really follow your Prescription? If you did, does it need to be revised?

The next best thing to a consult with Lissa is her book. Whether you’re sick and know you can heal, or are healthy and want to stay that way, Mind Over Medicine is the best medicine! An now, I have my own Prescription to renew…

fire danceKeep Shining Bright,
Julie.

 

You can get Mind Over Medicine online, and it was launched in bookstores on 7 May. To learn more about Dr. Lissa Rankin and her work, go to http://lissarankin.com.

Do you have stories about self-healing? What do you think about our power to heal ourselves? Please share your comments!

Hungry For Our Landscapes

We humans are adapted for the sensory world Nature provides. The sun-dappled non-linear entanglements of a forest, the feel of the sun on our hands stroking tawny blades of savannah, the scents and sounds of a rainforest teeming with Life. Contrast this to the lines and rectangles and grey asphalt and mechanical noise and pollution-stench of many Cities. According to Lee Maracle and others, there is a connection between violence against the Land and violence against women. She argues we are hungry for the landscapes our Ancestors lived in, and when we cannot satiate this hunger in cityscapes, we act out. We inflict our maladapted rage on others.

102_0023I got the news on the Spring Equinox that Kokom Louise Wawatie had passed to the spirit world. This Wonder Woman Warrior had dedicated much of her life and irresistible energy to protecting Mother Earth, to fighting for these Landscapes that keep us humans sane. (This blog post is about one of Kokom’s recent campaigns.) As I sat on a OC Transpo bus barreling along the Parkway, watching the still wintry snow and tree-lined Ottawa River, the song “Hungry for Our Landscapes” came. The chorus and title are inspired by Lee Maracle’s talk at the fabulous “First Voices! First Women Speak! 2012 Gathering“. The bridge, that every People formed circles and had drums, is from Elder Albert Dumont. And the song is dedicated to Kokom Louise. May we carry her bright light in our hearts always. Migwech.

Hungry For Our Landscapes
by Vela, composed on Equinox 2013 (not recorded. yet.)

stick cracks under my bare foot
i feel the land under me
dreaming my way forward
how could i never hug a tree?

we walk on the Turtle’s back
connect to the Light above
sit grounded on Mother Earth
centered in seven directions of Love

chorus:
we are hungry for our Landscapes
for Earth, Water, Wind, and Sun
we are hungry for our Landscapes
beneath the Great Sky we are one

if you find someone in rage
if your friend is in despair
take them to the Forest
they’ll find their balance there

when i see a tree it calls me
every blade of grass knows my name
every berry an explosion of flavour
and the river sweeps away my pain

chorus:
we are hungry for our Landscapes
for Earth, Water, Wind, and Sun
we are hungry for our Landscapes
beneath the Great Sky we are one

bridge:
every People formed a circle
every People had a drum
every People honoured their Land
can you remember where you’re from?

honour the Land you walk on
ask guidance from those who know
whoever has tended this Land
they can teach you how to flow

chorus:
we are hungry for our Landscapes
for Earth, Water, Wind, and Sun
we are hungry for our Landscapes
beneath the Great Sky we are one

(other songs at http://juliecomber.bandcamp.com)

Sacred Fire: Song for Chief Spence

I had the honour of singing “Sacred Fire” to Chief Spence yesterday. I hope it gave her Spirit energy, and gave her yet more evidence of all the Love and Light being sent her way. I hope many songs will be written to honour her and the Elders fasting in solidarity with her, Raymond Robinson and Jean Sock.

IMG_20130109_104132At “Camp Spence”, I’ve had the privilege to spend time at the Sacred Fire getting to know the wonderful wise people there. I helped tend a Sacred Fire for the South March Highlands in 2011, so this Sacred Fire felt like a natural entry point to get to know the community on Victoria Island supporting Chief Spence. While praying at the Sacred Fire, I got the first stirrings of the song in honour of her, below.

I learned so much and will write more later, but for now would just like to mention that what Chief Spence is doing is more accurately called a ceremonial fast, not a hunger strike. I changed the lyrics of “Sacred Fire”, below, thanks to Thomas explaining this to me. Greg MacDougall also touches on this in his article about the meaning of Chief Spence’s fast.

I would also like to encourage everyone to pray for Chief Spence.  Pray that the meeting between Prime Minister Harper, the Governor General, and the Chiefs tomorrow truly is a baby step towards meaningful change. And whenever you can, counter the vile negative press and racist remarks about Chief Spence and about Indigenous peoples. Drown out the hate with Love!

Keep Shining,
Julie

Sacred Fire – 4 Jan 2013 (not recorded yet)

The brave warrior woman waits
In a Teepee on Sacred Land
The North wind outside so harsh and cold
But inside her strong heart brilliant to behold

Chief Spence is a new true Leader
While Harper is stuck in colonial ways
Personal attacks and negative press
Cannot dim her courage and goodness

warming fire at Camp Spence 9 Jan 2013 (pictures should not be taken of Sacred Fires)
warming fire at Camp Spence 9 Jan 2013 (pictures should not be taken of Sacred Fires)

Sacred Fire
Sacred fire burning bright
Sacred Fire
Sacred fire day and night

She gets physically weaker
But her spirit and heart grow strong
Her message is calling for Unity
Love is the answer, love is the answer!

Chief Spence, in ceremonial energy
harnessing ancient earth mother wisdom
The Creator wants us happy and grateful
Work with the Land, work with the Land!

Sacred Fire
Sacred fire burning bright
Sacred Fire
Sacred fire day and night

What if it was all up to you?
What if fasting was all you could do?

Would you sacrifice
roll the dice
pay the price
risk your life
for the ones who needed you?

Silver Frost at Camp Spence 9 Jan 2013Sacred fire on Victoria Island
You can hold that flame in your heart
The world is changing and shifting around us
With our hearts and souls connected, we can trust.

Sacred Fire
Fire burning in my heart
Sacred Fire
Fire burning in your heart
Sacred Fire
Fire burning in our hearts
Sacred Fire
Fire burning in one heart.

For Our Sisters: Release on Solstice, #IdleNoMore, and the Shift!

14 Feb 2012 Day of JusticeI’m delighted to release my first single on Solstice (Friday 21 December 2012).  For Our Sisters is an unflinching heart-felt call to compassion and action from a non-Indigenous, non-Family member Ally to encourage others to become Allies of missing and murdered Indigenous women and their families.

On this darkest shortest day of the year (complete with a blizzard here in Ottawa!), I hope this song will shed light on the issue of the disproportionate amount of violence Indigenous women and girls face. It is an auspicious day for the release, a day to set intentions. Such as to continually contribute to efforts to change our society so that no one is at risk of violence.

I also chose to deliver this labour of Love & Rage today so I could do one small thing, as a non-Indigenous Ally, in solidarity with #IdleNoMore and Chief Spence on the Day of Action. There were hundreds on the Hill!

And it happens to be the end of an Era, according to the Mayan Calendar (NOT the end of the World!). Many of us have felt there is a Shift happening, in our consciousness, in the energy, in the way we are relating to one another and to other species. I hope we are shifting towards a more compassionate, beautiful, and fair World, where everyone can flourish to their full potential. A World where violence against Indigenous women would no longer exist. Where violence against anyone would no longer exist.

The track is on BandCamp. Any profits from sales of the track will be donated to organizations working to end the violence against Indigenous women and girls. As the days grow longer again, let us keep shining more and more light on ending the violence.

Julie at Umi Show, Nov 2012. Photo Credit: Kevin J. Tikivik
Julie at Umi Show, Nov 2012. Photo Credit: Kevin J. Tikivik

Keep Shining,
Julie

PowerShift Our Vision to See Unseen Others: Moving Beyond Factory Farms

Before you read this, can you do me a favour? Please take a big, deep breath. Hold that precious air for a few seconds. OK, exhale. Ahhhh.

What you just did was one of the most intimate interactions you have with your environment, every moment, for all your days. Most of us don’t even notice, but breathing – air – is essential for your life. And every breath you take is only possible thanks to thousands of other species, the millions of other living beings on this Earth, who make oxygen and take toxins out of the air. You are inextricably entangled and interconnected with every other form of life on this one precious blue and green Mother Earth.

But this post is not about breathing. It is about another very intimate interaction that you (hopefully!) have every day with your environment.

Eating! And specifically, about eating non-human animals.

We all know: you are what you eat. And its true, every bit of you, the skin and nerves that allows you to feel when you touch a leaf or stroke a loved one’s cheek, your eyes that see this beautiful world, your ears that hear the birds and rain and traffic – all this is built from what you eat. So think about what else you absorb when you eat something. If there were pesticides sprayed on your apple, you ingest that. If the animal you eat died in pain and fear, her entire body was flooded with stress hormones. And you take that in and it becomes part of your body. If like most dairy cows in the Intensive Animal Production System, your milk came from a cow with mastitis, you get the pus, blood, and traces of the antibiotics she was treated with. And the growth hormones she was injected with. Sure, there are laws and regulations to minimize your exposure, but we cannot wave a magic wand and undo what has been done to the animals and plants we eat.

Yet many people from Developed countries are disconnected from where their food comes from.  Food purchasing decisions tend to be based on taste, cost, and a reductionist view of “nutrition” somehow gleaned from misleading and deceitfully labeled food. There is little sense of gratitude and wonder for the magic alchemy that is food when it is treated like just another commodity. On many aisles of the typical grocery store, it is an old, sterile, de-vitalized commodity. The plants and animals that this processed food was made from are erased, cartoon versions on the packaging replace the reality of flesh and bone and roots and leaves. When you buy food from the grocery store, you don’t need to look into the eyes of the animal you will kill to eat, or get dirt under your nails as you pull carrots out of the Earth.

But food is magical alchemy. The plants and animals and fungus are co-created by the four elements of earth, water, wind, and fire. Breathing connects you to the wind element, drinking water connects you to the water element, but it is food that grounds you in all four.  Food also connects us powerfully, compellingly, viscerally, to other species.

I had the privilege to be part of a Panel at PowerShift 2012 called “Starving Injustice, Hungry for Change: How Climate Change Impacts Food Systems + Pathways Toward Solutions” with Devlin Kuyek from GRAIN and Chris Bisson. My part of the Panel was about factory farms and climate change. We were thrilled with the audience’s questions and comments. There were fabulous Keynote speakers that evening, and I especially appreciated the wisdom of Indigenous Elders and speakers, like Annie St. George, Winona LaDuke, and Crystal Lameman, who highlighted our interconnectedness with other species. It was refreshing to have the importance and well-being of other species taken seriously. So often at these conferences, that take place inside, with no other species in sight except a few fake plants, those other voices are invisible, ignored, silenced.

On our panel, I zoomed in on one aspect of the industrial food system that makes a large contribution to climate change (18% of greenhouse gas emissions): intensive animal production, AKA factory farming.  The US Pew Commission report defines Industrial Animal Production as encompassing all aspects of breeding, feeding, raising, and processing animals or their products for human consumption. It notes, “producers rely on high-throughput production to grow thousands of animals of one species and for one purpose.” For example, layer hens (for eggs) vs. broiler chickens (for meat) and beef vs. dairy cattle.

My take home message from the panel: We must stop letting Big Corporations make their obscene profits based on the suffering of unseen others.

Who are theses Unseen Others? The miserable chickens, pigs, and cows who are imprisoned within those horrendous “farms” of course spring to mind. Seven hundred million animals are raised for food each year just in Canada. But think about what else you don’t see. Who was destroyed and displaced to clear the land to grow the monocultures of soy, corn, and wheat to feed those animals inside the farms? Land used by industrial agriculture doesn’t just “poof!” appear, like Atlantis, rising from the ocean. That land was a rainforest, or a savannah, or a prairie or a forest. It was a beautiful wild ecosystem full of a cornucopia of other species, full of life, full of productive, possibly very yummy, biodiversity.

Factory farms convert beautiful biodiversity into miserable monoculture for human consumption. It is important to see these unseen others consumed by humanity. An excellent way to get acquainted with them is the WSPA report “What’s on Your Plate? The Hidden Costs of Industrial Animal Agriculture in Canada“. The report, which I will highlight in a future post, details the hidden costs of factory farms to animal welfare, human health, and the environment.

It is also important to see the beautiful biodiversity that we do not want to destroy. The unseen others are not just the animals suffering in darkness and squalor. The unseen others are also flashing in the sunshine in the rainforest, glinting in cool waters, soaring on the wind, literally dazzling us. If we dare to look. By shutting down factory farms, we release the Land and the energy to be the landscapes we crave, the wild animals that inspire us.

If we hold the image of the future we want, a beautiful, kind, and abundant future, it will help us to take the individual and collective action to close down industrial animal production, which is so far beneath what we humans are capable of.

Future posts will explore those individual and collective actions to reduce factory farming. What are your ideas? Please share your comments!

Keep Shining,
Julie

Some links…

Rupununi Red Road: Intersection of Art + Research

Art came to find me in every aspect of my research in the Rupununi of Guyana. I studied the impact of Wildlife Clubs on the young members as well as on their communities. In my fieldwork, soaking in their exuberant drawings, songs, dances, and skits was a delightful way to understand the impact of the Clubs. My own artistic expression through songs and poetry was a way for me to cope with what I summarize as my experience with “blood, pus, pain, and death”, especially the death of 3-year-old Alianna.

Then when I returned to Ottawa to analyze my data, I made it into a ceremony: I’d smudge first, including hiawa resin I was given in Yupukari, transcribe, code, reflect on each interview, and then, as my reward, write two lines of song lyrics. These lines will be woven together as a Song based on all the interviews I did. It will be one part of the creative, engaging, and collaborative projects I’ll do to disseminate the research findings back to the communities I had the privilege to work with.

I spoke about this at uOttawa’s Creativity and Aesthetic Enrichment Symposium on Friday 26 Oct. And opened with one of my songs based on my time on the one red Road we all travel – and WAIT – on in the Rupununi. The last verse is wisdom from Elder Sydney Allicock of Surama about the imminent paving of this red dirt Road.

Rupununi Red Road

In the deep south of Guyana
Through rainforest and savannah
Winds the Red Road of destiny
Linking jewel-like communities

Strong happy people can shine
Work balanced with kari and mango wine
Its beautiful, so easy to be content
but change comes quickly with pavement

Chorus, 2x: Rupununi Red Road
Sun drenched dusty road
rain drenched washed out road
the toughest love you’ll know

They want to pave this red artery
But when we look back on history
Asphalt brings trade and medical care
But also trafficking and poaching, so beware

Will you decide with asphalt heat
or with cool rainforest Earth under your feet?
The Elders’ advice rings true
Use the road, don’t let road use you

Chorus, 2x