It was a walk of prayer and healing.
It was a walk to heal the land, a walk to heal ourselves and a walk to give the earth the strength to resist the damage that is being done to it.
Once a year for the past 5-years we have gathered.
The first year it was those most directly affected by the tar sands beast joined by a few allies. It was started as a way for the communities most directly impacted to speak in a way that respected their culture and traditions. It was not a protest but a walk of healing.
Each year afterwards the healing walk grew. The fifth healing walk brought people from all four coasts – from the Gulf to the Northwest Territories, from B.C. to New Brunswick. From all the pipeline fights (KXL, Northern Gateway, KinderMorgan, Line9, Energy East etc.) we came together in the belly of the tar sands to pray, heal and unite.
As tar sands destruction grows so do the movements against it. The routes of pipelines become maps of resistance. They show the Nations and communities to connect to, the struggles to unite, and places to come together. This year, the healing walk joined many of them - a walking tribute of the unity that has been built.
As we walked tears welled up in the eyes of so many. While many have read and studied about the destruction caused by the tar sands it’s another thing to see it for yourself, to be immersed in it, to have it surround your pores, and suffocate your senses. It’s a hard experience. Its difficult knowing the connection that many Indigenous peoples have with the land – that to hurt one means to maim the other, because culture, experiences and self are all intimately connected with the land. To know now many are afraid to even to drink the water or eat the fish is nothing short of devastating.
The thing that carries you through is the unity of the struggle. It is knowing that we are all in this together, that we come from many different paths, have different obstacles to overcome but our goal is the same - starting the healing and stopping the destruction.
This is the power of the healing walk.
As the walk moves into a new phase I cannot help but be thankful. Thankful for all the walk has taught me, for all the people it has connected, and for the walk being a place to raise the voices of those who have no choice but to battle the tar sands because they live the horrors of it every day.
As we leave the walk and return to our communities we must not lose the bonds that have been built, forget the miles walked, or the stories that have been shared. These are the glue that will hold us together for the battles will be long, our opponents big and heavily resourced and our timeline much too short but we have moved mountains before and we can and we will again. We will do it together, hand in hand, arm and arm in defense of land, water, climate and community.
Nation to nation, coast to coast, united, we will heal the land and stop the destruction.