Tag Archives: violence

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)

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

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.