Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 14: Soil Ingestion Research Project ~ Cold Lake First Nations (English Bay)

Day 14 (Tuesday, August 30, 2011):

Well, today is the last day for gathering and collecting data.  I'm kind of grieving this day today & at the same time trying to embed every moment of this experience in my head, heart, & spirit.  I think we all (our whole camp) is feeling a little sentimental today, we get our moments of silence but what I hear in the silence is all of knowing we will miss each other and this experience.  On the other hand, many of us are ready to go home and back to our lives outside of this little family camp we created.  Don't get me wrong, being ready to go home, doesn't mean we want this to end.  I know for me, I always loved the feeling of tranquility in the camp, there is something here that we just don't get from our everyday lives...

I woke this morning and had a hard time getting to sleep last night, I was a little anxious about the bear that was close to my camp the other day.  It felt strange, that "fear" I felt last night, I haven't felt that way the whole time I was here, even all those times we just missed a bear in the bushes.  Anyways, I did a little prayer and left it up to the Creator to watch over me & besides, I don't think a bear thinks I'm that tasty anyways (laughing).  So, I went to bed with that thought and told the bear spirit to let me sleep in peace tonight as I drifted off into dreamland.

When we all woke, we had our usual good mornings and Muskrat Warrior's usual "Good Morning Princess" (lol).  I always get a kick out of that, he says it with such enthusiasm and makes us all laugh.  We had breakfast and we didn't really have anything planned for the day like hunting and/or gathering.  I guess part of that was because today would be the last day we would give our "Famous Samples" to be sent to "That Big City of Ottawa".  I never thought, I'd be anxious to get that part of this research done with...I think we all are (hee, hee).

Most of us, not me, slowly packed our things.  Angelle helped her dad to start packing the kitchen area but only enough so we could have our last meal tomorrow.  Angelle & I planned a great breakfast for all of us & we know it's going to be awesome because it's something we all had been missing the whole time we were here...YOU'LL have to read tomorrows journal to see what it is...

An abandoned camp we saw days before hidden in the bushes
away from the road, such beauty to be disrespected
by humans
As the others packed their camp area, Muskrat Warrior left to his dad's sweat lodge to get it prepared.  I helped Graham pack the samples he couldn't send by plane last week.  The research group finally figured out how they were going to get out samples to Ottawa because this was the first time any of them did this type of research that entailed them shipping it out of Alberta.  So we packed all the samples, I won't get into details, but there were two extra large sized deep freezers full of our samples and all the other samples.  We packed them is coolers and secured them properly according to the Dangerous Goods Transportation Law and headed to Staples in Cold Lake.  Graham was so glad he didn't have to drive all the way to Edmonton, this time, we just had to get to Cold Lake.  So I went with him, as our "Indigenous Sample Escort" (hee, hee) to say good-bye and wish our samples well.  The lady at Staples was quite nice and very interested in what we were doing.  As we left our precious cargo in her hands, I thought maybe I should turn around and send a letter with it, that said something like this...Dear Prime Minister Harper,  We as First Nations people of this land want you to honor our Treaties and our sacred connections to our Traditional Lands and we EXPECT, this is not a polite request, but EXPECT you to do everything you can to protect our Mother ~ Earth....etcetra etcetra...& as a gift, here is our ......

Like I said, it was a thought!

Graham & I returned back to the camp feeling accomplished.  Later on he was getting ready to do some air samples with the special machine Dr. Blais (Jules) had ordered days earlier.  The part for the air testing machine was in & he asked if I would be willing to take him to some Oil Plants to test the air for certain types of chemicals that have proven to cause cancer.  Sureeee, I was more than willing, I have never been that close to the Oil Plants before and only heard pieces of information from family who worked in the Oil Industry.  I was also anxious to see if these certain chemicals were in the air near these plants.  If they were, then that would be a major issue and immediate action would have to take place.  I guess these chemicals are not permitted and industry can get into a lot of trouble if these chemicals are present because I found out during this study many people who work in this field have health related issues, if not immediately, but years later.  However, governments and agencies directly linked to industry are always denying it.  It's all about the Mitty $$$$$$$!  However, one thing for sure today, is...if these certain chemicals, we are testing for, are in the air ~ more than our samples will hit the fan!

This sign is just a hop skip & a jump from homes, cabins &
a pristine lake Brian advised us not to eat the berries we
picked near there

Graham & I got in their rental truck & headed out to a few places.  One location I took him to was in one of Imperial Esso's  area north of Ethal Lake.  We stopped to get some more soil samples too from an area I had gathered days earlier and was uncertain if I took enough samples before.  As we drove along, I stuck the reader out the truck window and stayed focused on seeing if their were any indicators of chemicals in the air.  Well, there was nothing, we were relieved but just by looking at the vegetation, I knew there was something in the air or soil that was making the plants look sickly.  All we knew, is those certain cancer causing chemicals weren't here or there wasn't enough, in the air, to read.

We continued on to the major Esso Plant and as we drove and got closer to the Plants, I started to get a headache and feel nauseous.  Graham, said it could be a result of all the oil activity here with the Plants and Wells.  He said Jules, gets that way too because he is sensitive to air pollution.  I told him I'm like that too, ever since I did a whole body cleansing, I am hyper sensitive to pollutants in the air.  That's also why I am highly allergic is cigarette second hand smoke.  It's a good thing that my body won't tolerate pollutants but it can be annoying at times.  However, I could use this hyper sensitivity to my advantage & be a walking pollution monitor (hee hee)!

Then, we got right next to one of the big Esso Plants, now I was sick and could smell a gross odor that was strong.  As I could smell it, I felt so sad for the animals and I told Graham I felt bad for them, that they have to live with this and I wondered what it did to the animals and their offspring or how it affected their reproduction cycles...

We were parked right of the plant getting close ups, these
are one of many sites, it's a maze of pipelines throughout
That's one reason why Graham said we had to check for those certain chemicals but we had no such luck, the machine wasn't picking up anything.  Between all the traffic at the site, & there is a lot of activity, we didn't get anything.  It was good though, that we couldn't pick up any of those cancer causing chemicals (that's doesn't mean they weren't there) but I do know for sure there are other kinds of bad chemicals present.  It would take different type of machines to test the kinds of chemicals in the air & we didn't have them but all I knew for sure was I Was Physically Sick.  I just couldn't understand how people work in this atmosphere, let alone, the animals live in it.

We ended our tour by seeing the Plant closer, seeing the open flames above the plant, and we headed back to camp.  By the time we got to camp, which was a 30-40 min drive, I was feeling better but I was even more curious to find out the results of all our tests, samples, and research in the past 14 days.  We wouldn't know those results until next summer when the research team returns.  We were all assured we will get copies and the results will be public knowledge.  I will definitely use this experience in my elementary teaching classroom once I complete my degree this year & graduate, this following June from the University of Alberta with the license to "corrupt children" (hee, hee) ~ in a good way, of course!.

Back at camp, we had our last supper and sat around the camp fire and Graham shared with us how much he enjoyed being with us and thanked us for all our support by being part of this research project.  I told Graham, that we all will be expecting a plane fare to his graduation when he gets his Masters Degree...he just laughed and the teasing began...

It was nice, we sat for a while around the camp fire enjoying each others company, one last time, like this, a moment in time, we would never have again!  We definately made this experience more than a research project, everyone of us put our hearts and souls into it & because of that, it was more than a project...we created a family!

Like I said earlier... there is something here that we just don't get from our everyday lives...it's that spiritual connection to our Mother ~ Earth.  It feels familiar because the closest connection I can describe that is almost similar is the unconditional strong connection a mother feels with her child as she breastfeeds her baby.  It's not only a physical connection but a spiritual, emotional and mental connection.  If you are still confused by what I mean, take a child you love with all your heart, hold him or her is your arms, empty your mind and heart from the outside world,  and open your heart up to only feel unconditional love for that child...now you understand!  This is the feeling I get when I am with our Mother ~ Earth, as I spent time with her, she clothed me in love & left me with a feeling of tranquility and peace!  

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