Tag Archives: Indigenous

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.

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

Can a candle reach you?

Canada’s Shame: 582 Indigenous women and girls have been reported missing or murdered since 1980. That estimate is low. We each have the responsibility to demand justice, and to work for change. One small thing you can do: Tell Prime Minister Stephen Harper what you think.

Is this message compelling and coherent to you? Can it blaze through the cacophony of messages competing for your attention? In this age of information overload, anyone can share their voice, but we are each competing for your mindshare. For your willingness to pay attention to the message.

These were the questions I asked myself on October 3rd, in an earlier version of this post. I was doing my small part to promote the 7th Annual Families of Sisters in Spirit National Vigil, held on October 4th, 2012, on Parliament Hill (Unceded Algonquin Territory).

In Canada, Indigenous women are at a greater risk of violence than non-Indigenous women (as you can see in the above image, courtesy Amnesty International). Families of Sisters in Spirit (FSIS) is a volunteer, grassroots, non-profit organization led by families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Their annual Vigil gives the families of these loved and lost women and girls the chance to speak, to be heard, on the Hill. It is an opportunity for everyone to listen, to be there is solidarity, and to show that the epidemic of violence against Indigenous women and girls is unacceptable and must stop.

In the mainstream media, “if it bleeds, it leads”, so most of us have heard the sensationalized versions of some of the murdered women’s stories.

But when do we hear about the inspiring work of FSIS, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), Amnesty International, KAIROS, and others, to demand justice and change? NWAC started the original Sisters in Spirit Vigil in 2005 based on Bridget Tolley (co-founder of FSIS)’s idea. Since then, more and more Vigils are held in solidarity with the FSIS Vigil on the Hill. Mainstream media coverage of the Vigils has been scant in past years. On the morning of October 3rd, NWAC issued a press release calling on local and national media to cover the October 4th Vigils.

This year, more families than ever from across Canada made the trip to be there on the Hill, thanks to FSIS. It was that much more important to show them that people do care.

I’m unknown. I don’t have big money to amplify my message. I don’t have a platform. I don’t have a job that pays me to craft compelling messages, or the personal resources to grant me the time to craft these messages.

But a flame burns inside me to draw attention to issues I feel are neglected. Despite my day job, I write songs. I can’t help it. And against the odds, despite the fatigue, despite wondering if it is a wise use of my energy, I try to create works of art that may shine brightly enough, despite the humble origins, to reach you.

So friends and I made a video to encourage people to attend the Oct 4th Vigil, and to draw attention to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women. It was launched on September 14th, 100 views on the first day.

But no comments, and only a few likes. It was like dropping a pebble into a still pond, with barely a ripple.

Then it picked up again. It did not go viral, but had a respectable 540 views as of 3pm the day before the Vigil.

Myself and many others sent emails, posted on FB, and tweeted the night before and the morning of the Vigil. But mostly there was nothing more for us allies to do but see if the energy, effort, and all those messages would actually translate into people attending.

Suddenly, it was 6pm, time for the Vigil.

And it was well attended. And beautiful. And heartbreaking. And honoured our Stolen Sisters.

At dusk, I wondered what the Vigil looked like from the perspective of the Families. So I climbed the Parliament Hill steps to get behind them. As Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo said that all the supporters present were like Medicine for the families of the missing and murdered women, I could see and feel this was true. I saw hundreds of people indeed Filling the Hill, with Love and Light.

The Families’ view of the crowd’s Love & Light at the Families of Sisters in Spirit Vigil, October 4th, 2012. Photo: ©juliecomber.com

Let’s make this blog post interactive! What do you think of the video (below)? How effective do you think it was compared to the Poster and FB Event to encourage attendance at the Vigil? What about compared to partnering with the Take Back the Night (the 34th annual Ottawa March started right after the Vigil)? This is a shifting game of weighing the effort and money it takes to create a promotional message against how effective it is. A low budget but carefully done video is like a candle to illuminate a neglected issue. How do we coax that candle’s flame to catch, to blaze the message out and achieve positive change?

Keep Shining,

Julie.

 

 

Falling Feathers: Pick Them Up and Fly Again

As the feather falls, my heart falls. The pain and sorrow of Algonquin Grandmother Louise Wawatie and her brother Joseph, in a video of them just released from prison, radiates off the screen. They were imprisoned for 8 days, and the Land they stood up for has been logged in the meantime.

While I suppose it is fitting they were released on International Day for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the fact they were arrested at all and held for so long is proof Canada has a long way to go when it comes to respecting Indigenous Rights.

Louise and Joseph were arrested on charges of mischief and breaking an injunction forbidding them from protesting the clear-cut logging by Resolute Forestry Products near Lac Poigan. They both refused conditions of bail, asserting their sovereign rights over their unceded territory where Resolute continues to clear-cut. The sister and brother were held in Maniwaki, Quebec, until this morning when they appeared in court and were released. The video of Joseph explaining the conditions of his release means he can’t even go home, and of Louise dropping the feathers, were shot outside the courthouse.

Louise’s brother, Jacob (Mowegan) Wawatie explains that “the meaning of the feathers falling is: Who is going to stand up for the collective nation that walks upon Mother Earth? This Grandmother is calling to all Nations to stand for the future generations. It is for the world of the future and may the youth of this world voice their own destiny.”

While our hearts sink to see Elders treated with disrespect, and to see beautiful Land destroyed, this is a call to action, not to wallow in despair. The feathers must be picked up, and we must fly together to a future where we live in harmony with the rest of Creation, a future where we can each flourish.

Will you answer this call and stand up for future generations? One small but important step: share the video and Louise’s message, far and wide.

Keep Shining,

Julie

Note: see this post for more background, and a video illustrating why they sought to protect this Land.

Mamwi: will we come together for Nature?

In the bright Sunday sun in Strathcona park, Jacob (Mowegan) Wawatie draws maps of Algonquin territory, of his family’s territory, as rivers that branch off a main artery, just like the veins of a leaf branch from its stem. This is the land he is fighting to protect, for his family and for future generations.

Huddled in a circle on parched grass under the shade of huge Oak, we have just watched the video from the July 26 confrontation on the logging site near Poigan Lake, on unceded Algonquin land, on Jacob’s land. Mr. Dion (representing PF Resolute, a logging company from Montreal, Québec) and Sergeant St-Louis from the Sureté du Quebec, confronted the people protecting the wildlife and culture being destroyed and displaced by the company’s logging. Although the police officer claims to not take sides, it is clear in the video he is standing with the people from the PF Resolute company and mediating on their behalf, though paid by peoples’ taxes.

Eight minutes into the video, Jacob brings forward the baby hawk he found in one of the clear-cut areas: “This is the reason. How many nests have you knocked down this summer? Did you even consider that? How many other creatures have you dislodged from this territory? So what are we going to have to eat? What are we going to have to show to our children? This is why we were trying to do something about it. Its not because we are against the system. Its not because we are against your logging. We are trying to make you aware of this thing. To bring it into the consciousness of the Forestry Industry. And the government. And you that represent Justice [speaking to the Sergeant], supposedly. Now you understand our position. You see our goal. Our dream.”

Jacob told the loggers’ representative (who refused to go get his workers to see and hear Jacob in person) that they were not seeing these things, the terrible impact they are having on the Land. Insulated within their giant machines, or deafened by their chainsaws, they work on the land but are hardly more grounded in the land than the average corporate employee under fluorescent lights in a cubicle.

Jacob spoke to them, but his message in the video is for all of us who have lost our connection to the Land.

He and many others who still understand and thrive from the vitality only Nature can give are calling us to our true selves. To be human beings who are grounded in and grateful to the Land, grateful to all the other beings we share her with. Each animal and plant species is a unique expression of the energy that animates us all. Each species has a unique way of being in the world.

When we let ourselves see them, truly connect with them, feel what it might be like to be them, we open up the doors of our own perception. Can you imagine what it would be like to fly? To senses things through electricity? See through sound or with heat? Breathe water?

Will we truly SEE beyond our collective materialism and indifference? See the people and wildlife who are still connected to the Land? We may forget in our Cities, but we still depend on Nature for our life.

The baby hawk could not survive without her parents. She was named Mamwi for “Together”. Here is your chance to come together to defend this one part of the Land, part of the larger goal of shifting our relationship with Nature so that we can all flourish on this one precious Earth. Please share the video: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xsimtg_mamwi-unedited-uncut-version_news

Keep Shining,

Julie

UPDATE, 9 August: Louise and Joseph were released after 8 days of imprisonment.

2 August: Please SIGN & SHARE this petition to free Louise and Joseph Wawatie: http://www.avaaz.org/fr/petition/Free_Louise_and_Joseph_Wawatie_without_conditions/?cKQhPab

1 August 2012: Sureté de Québec arrested Elders who were standing for the Land. Grandmother Louise Wawatie and Joseph Wawatie were arrested this morning.

I will keep updating this blog post when we know ways you can support Jacob and everyone protecting the Land. Meanwhile, PLEASE SHARE the petition and the video, and you can see more shorter videos over several days at the Standoff here: http://www.youtube.com/user/CDurare. For Jacob’s speech alone, see http://youtu.be/r5TuHM9AE2w