The guests arrived with the southerly wind and landed ever so briefly to share, laugh, talk, philosophize and entertain us. We are all gathered to dissect the ‘education’ given to First Nation children in the western James Bay area. The conference will be especially of interest to teachers, young and old, who are in Fort Albany to interact for two days. Such a brief time but, we will make the most of it.
The theme of the gathering, selected by the Local Planning Committee, is “A Spirit Voice: Lessons from the Land.” The topic is relevant. The land is on our minds a lot. Just a week ago the women of Fort Albany organized a local “Land Conference” where they invited presentations on issues surrounding land. When you feel a tear creeping down the side of your cheek, you have heard a person speak from the heart.
READ JOSEPH AND AMANDA BOYDEN’S REPORT FROM THE GREAT MOON GATHERING AND THE REFLECTIONS OF SOME OF ITS PARTICIPANTS:
The women spoke of the land and cried. Some, for the first time, had the opportunity to go on the land with their family and broke down briefly as they shared with the audience: “I could feel a presence on the land; I felt peace, love and purity,” Leona said. “I felt I must ‘purify’ the way I live and change my weak habits.” The youth were more upfront when the question came to compromise and answered the question naively, from the heart and with emotion. “Compromise? There is no compromise for Mother Earth!” Corey said. “You cannot just tear up Mother Earth with machinery. We must take care of the land. On the Rafting Excursion, I saw the land for the first time and I saw the beauty, the animals, the birds, the clean water … I felt blessed. hat I saw I want my grandchildren to see and feel in their own time …”.
What we see during the preparations to develop the “Ring of Fire” is the destruction of purity, of fresh air, of peace. We will soon see dry land, harmful contaminants and invasive water species unfit to consume. Others will see monetary gain, but for how long? Where do we go after this?
“Resource extraction” is for the satisfaction of the “economy that needs to accelerate” and those that are in service to it. I hope we can eventually learn to eat money… but, it cannot give us peace.
The theme of the conference was timely and relevant. For me it was.
Edmund Metatawabin is the former chief of Fort Albany and the coordinator of this year’s Great Moon Gathering.