This year’s 4th Annual Healing Walk was an amazing success. It brought people together from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds to walk in prayer for the Healing of the land and its people. 

Protecting the Sacred One Step at a Time - Tar Sands Healing Walk 2013 from Zack Embree on Vimeo.

Many of those who came this year told me that it was their first time in the region. They came because they wanted to see first hand the impacts of the tar sands for themselves. Instead of looking at photos or hearing about it through social media or by word of mouth, they finally saw it with their own eyes. All senses really: you can’t help but experience the smell, the touch, the taste – they truly witnessed the destruction in real life.

For many of us that were born and raised here in Alberta, it has been a painful progression to see how the landscape has been drastically changing over the years. I can still recall going out on the land as a child in the horse and wagon with my kokum and mosum – my grandmother and grandfather and seeing the vast beautiful expanse that was our traditional territory. But this has changed over the years - there are now cut lines, roads through muskegs, huge power lines, and operation to operation there are gas flares with danger signs posted about poisonous gas or pipelines below our feet.

It is hard for many of us to see this happening to the land. My heart breaks along with the many who see this devastation on a daily basis.

This was the reason why we put together the Healing Walk since its creation 4 years ago. The Elders wanted to raise awareness about this issue but also wanted people to come together in prayer and healing.

2013 Healing Walk - The Walk

Photo credit: Ben Powless

We truly want healing for the land and we truly need healing for the hearts of the people. For the people here in Alberta that are experiencing the heartbreak of witnessing this destruction first hand, but also for the people in ‘power’ that are making the detrimental decisions that will affect so many of us in the long term.

Some days I have a deep sense of sorrow and find it is hard to feel things are changing – but on most days I know they are. In the past 6 years since I started researching and campaigning against this gigaproject in our backyards, I didn’t think we would see so many people start to care about what was happening in the tar sands over the past number of years. 

The most uplifting part for me during the Healing Walk was not only feeling and seeing the healing take place but also sensing passion igniting in people hearts. I think many people walked away changed that day – and I know many more will join us in our fight to create a new vision for the land, people and climate and work in solidarity with us here in Alberta.