Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 13: Soil Ingestion Research Project ~ Cold Lake First Nations (English Bay)

Day 13 (Monday, August 29th, 2011):

Oh my God, we only have 2 more full days left & then we all go back to our lives.  This experience has been the most amazing thing, I have learned so much, met new friends & family, my soul has been changed forever, & I have a deeper & heightened respect for our environment..I don’t mean “ours” as though we are separate being form the environment, but “ours” as we are “conjoined” to her.  What we do to her, we do to ourselves!

This Monday morning, during breakfast I promised everyone we would have blueberry pancakes on our last day here.  I told them they will be imported from Kehewin Cree Nation from the top of Moose Mountain (laughing).  I called Ken today to bring them for us because our researchers need more samples from other locations so they can have comparable results.  Ken promised he would bring the blueberries & also bring soil samples too from the gathering location.  Everyone was excited to eat blueberries & PANCAKES…we could finally have food with baking powder (lol, it’s amazing what we miss when we can’t have it).

After breakfast we got ready to head up north beside the CLFNS 149C reserve to do another day of gathering & hopefully hunt some rabbits and/or moose or deer.  So the 4 of us: Brian, Ryan, Angelle & I headed out.  This was such a nice day out but a little disappointing too.

As we drove towards the reserve, Brian tells me to slow down & watch for a small type like make shift road to the right of us.  When we get in there, he notices that industry has been in there & the road isn’t accessible because there is too much rocks now & we can’t see what is under the tall grass.  See what happens when seismic clearing is done, they sometimes plant “foreign” grass as their idea of “reclamation” to an area & it ends up affecting &/or changing the vegetation or natural landscape/environment for ever.  As a result, some plants die off, or are killed due to the introduction of an alien plant.  An excellent example, is the “domesticated cow (originally from Asia)”.  It’s a animal foreign to North America & ever since it’s introduction to our environment, our lands have been changed forever & many of our plants, roots, medicines, foods etc. have died & will never grow again in that area because where a cow goes, everything dies.

Maybe we will get rabbit today & we have our tobacco
ready, just incase, we do...tobacco is for offering!
 Well, this is what is happening to our lands.  We could only drive in about 50 meters & we had to walk the rest of the way in.  So we grabbed our backpacks, the guns, and our pails.  As we walked, it was so refreshing to walk on the moss again.  Walking throughout the bushes here is like walking on air because the moss is so thick that you want to just lay down & look up at the sky and sleep!  As we walked, we had a hard time finding enough berries to gather for tonight’s supper dessert.  We could only find a few berries here & there. As we walked we tried to be quiet too in hopes of seeing an animal for supper too…but our silence was in vain when our “Coordinator/Guide” Brian walked so far ahead of us that we lost him, so there was Angelle, calling for him.  Ryan & I started laughing & saying what great hunters we make, the animals could hear us coming a mile away (laughing). 

Seismic clearing all over the bush...
As we walked & walked looking for berries, Brain said, when he would come out here, there was always more than enough.  However, as we walked on the clearings made by the seismic projects, we could see other clearings along side ours.  If you looked in the bush from the sky, you would see mazes of cleared bush like a grid crisscrossing each other throughout the bush…no wonder we can’t find berries, they have been destroyed, berry patches have been disturbed.

Local CLFNS members shared a story about their experience… built a cabin on their traditional lands close to where we were walking, lived out in the bush for 5 years & one day seismic exploration started in the area they had lived off the land for 5 years & exploration workers blew the beavers dams, killed all the beaver, disturbed all the hunting area, set seismic charges meters from the cabin & in the end, was forced out of their cabin.

the cabin is across the way, to the right, camouflaged
by the trees
Later, we sat on a bank looking, across the water, at the abandoned cabin which had a perfect view of a once vibrant & alive beaver dam with flowing water.  We all sat there for a while & took it all in.  It was like a little piece of heaven, I could see why our story teller held this memory so dear to the heart, it was magnificent.  I just couldn’t get over it, I could feel the moss on my hands, as I sat there, & I could smell the clean crisp air full of relaxing aroma.  It was peaceful!  I tried to take a picture of the cabin but my camera didn’t do justice to what the naked eyes could see, you had to see it with your own eyes.  As I kept trying to capture the moment through my camera lens, I realized this tranquility wasn’t meant to be seen through a lens but only appreciated as a unique precious moment the 4 of us were to share together.

a blasting charge left behind, the seismic
workers aren't supposed to leave
garbage behind, they use these to blast
underground to test to see what resources
are underground.  In the mean time, they
also disturb underground water tables
& streams etc.
We started to walk along the bank of the river & we found a patch of berries to gather samples & just enough for us to have a snack.  The mint we did find was small & far between.  I suspect, if beavers return, the mint will glow again.  I will come back next year & check again, I do plan to return to this area, after all it’s an area my ancestors gathered for hundreds of years & I am going to keep than tradition alive.  I feel so blessed & thankful to Brian for sharing all so many stories of our ancestors, I will keep them close to my heart.

It was getting time for lunch, so we started to head back to the truck (we left our lunch there) & as we walked we followed the seismic clearings only to be reminded of the devastation; however, we periodically found time to keep our focus on the beauty of where we were like stopping to admire a few squirrels in the trees, lay on the moss and look up at the sky through the trees, & I even got down on the ground and tried to see the view of a rabbit…

I guess that’s how we all deal with all that is happening to our traditional ways, we try to keep on going & keep focused on the beauty or what’s truly important.  It don’t mean we stop & let it happen, we just need to keep reminding ourselves of what we are protecting. 

My view laying on the moss, the camera
doesn't do justice ~ Heaven!
I was sharing this with Ken, over the phone tonight, once I got back to camp & he was saying that’s why it’s so important for us to take the time to spend time with nature & get back to our roots…it’s who we are, it’s where we come from…he is so right!  I heard an Elder say that earlier this week too, we loose ourselves when we disconnect & it’s so important for us, as Aboriginal” people to reconnect so we can gain direction for our future!  I feel this is the same for all human beings, we all need to reconnect & be WITH nature & not separate from it.  Maybe this is the missing link to all this Global Warming and/or Environmental Problems…hmmm something to look at…

Look at me, I’m short of saying we are Avatars (lol)…hey, but they are sure on to something there, or are we?  There sure is something familiar about that movie, for sure!

So, we returned to the truck & retrieved our lunches, it’s hot out, so we find a little corner of shade & have share our lunch under the trees alongside a stream of water…I anxiously continue to listen to Brian’s stories he learned from his grandparents of our people coming out here gathering, hunting, camping etc..& I make a commitment to return next summer.  There is something remarkable about being in a place you know your ancestors stepped, lived etc. ~ it just grounds you!

Enjoying lunch under the trees ...ahhhhhh
After our relaxing lunch, we got back into the truck to head back to base camp but not before we make our last stop to the abandoned cabin we saw across the water hours before.  We not only wanted to see it but we wanted to walk through it ~ I guess this was our way of bringing to life the stories told to us about this cabin, it’s creation, it’s purpose, & how it affected lives…

What an amazing day, we returned back to base camp in the afternoon & were greeted by our usual local visitors & their humor.  It was an enjoyable evening around the camp fire with the last of our mint tea.  We told more stories & today was a day to tease our Muskrat Warrior because a few days before he told us a story about how, when he was younger, he told a friend that “his mother was hot”.  We all stated to laugh & gave our heads a shake in disbelief, then Graham, our 25 yr old researcher, looks at him & says in a matter-of-fact tone, “now that’s just wrong”!  We just burst out laughing harder because our Muskrat Warrior just couldn’t see the “wrongness”…well our Muskrat Warrior would get his medicine back tonight…here goes:

We are sitting around the ritualistic camp fire sharing laughs, stories etc.. & our Muskrat Warrior is going on about how he was just being honest & straight forward again with our Pakan, one evening, & Pakan got angry with him.  We teased him a little, saying things like, “geez, how come you keep getting into fights, like the bottle picking incident (lol) ha ha ha!  So, to throw a wrench in the pot & get our Warrior going,  I told him, “well Ryan thinks your sister is hot” (to get a reaction out of him) & he goes silent & looks at Ryan like he’s not sure if he should jump him!  Everyone bursts out laughing uncontrollably…our Muskrat Warrior realizes he’s been had & joins in the laughter.  He looks at Ryan & says, “boy, your lucky, you had me going there, I thought I’d have to fight you” (laughing).

Humor is such a great release & stress reliever after an emotional day…let’s see what tomorrow has to offer...grateful for each day

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