On Thursday, March 17, The Uniter Speakers Series is hosting Water and Indigenous Women’s Wisdom, a partnership with the 6th annual Grass Routes Sustainability Festival. We invite you to join us for this free event at 6 p.m. at Convocation Hall in the University of Winnipeg.
We spoke with Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie (who came up with the idea for the event), Kevin Settee (who was involved with organizing the whole festival), as well as Freda Huson and Chickadee Richard (the guest speakers) about how this all came together, and about the importance of water, of ceremony and of indigenous women’s wisdom. Here’s what they have to say.
Chickadee Richard has been part of many environmental networks, but is currently fighting independently. Her main focus is protecting water, which she thinks is an inherent responsibility of indigenous women.
A strong voice for change, Richard has some things to say to the younger generations about getting involved in movements of change.
U: What does it feel like to be such a voice for change?
CR: Well, for me I think it’s being that good ancestor. I think one day my granddaughter will probably say, “What did you do, kookoo? When they came around trying to poison our waters, what did you do, Kookoo?” And for me, I’ll say, well, I protected the waters. I spoke against development and pipelines. I stood on the front lines. I went out in the rain. I’ll have many stories to share with her.
U: What advice do you have to younger generations who want to see change but who aren’t yet actively doing anything?
CR: You need to stand up and fight for what you believe. If you believe, you know, that your water is sacred, then fight for the sacredness of that water to continue to give us life. If you believe in the trees that give us our air, then stand for those trees.
Stand up against development. Not only in your own personal life, but out there, in your daily life, your work. Your school. Whatever it is. I think that you have to back up your words with action. People can talk and say, “I protect the environment. I believe in the environment.” Or, you know, “I want to be part of saving the Earth.” Then follow your words. Make sure that you’re doing something, be proactive.
I think the dialogue needs to happen between First Nations people and non-indigenous people, too. That has to come to the forefront and say that we’re not only doing this for ourselves. A lot of people don’t understand when we go out there. It’s like we’re mishaps or they look down on us and say, “Oh, look, a bunch of angry Indians.” No. We’re a bunch of loving Indians. We love the land. We love the water. We love our children. We love the future. Let’s change the words a bit. Instead of all these people calling us protesters, let’s say we’re defenders. We’re lovers of the land. We’re lovers of life.
U: How does it feel to see your children getting involved?
CR: For the most part, I’m proud. Part of me is sad because it’s another generation standing to industry and development. I hope it doesn’t go into the third generation with my grandchildren. To me, I’m glad they’re doing what they’re doing. They’re honouring the Earth, they’re honouring their waters. They’re honouring life. The way I see it, the defenders are probably the greatest role models of love because they’re loving the future, and they don’t even know who it is that’s in the future.
Published in Volume 70, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 10, 2016)