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On Friday night I attend a talk by Andrea Smith who spoke about the racism that exists in North America around the Violence against Native Women and the struggle of indigenous peoples.

Andrea Smith is a Cherokee feminist and anti-violence activist who is the the  co-founder for INCITE! An aloquint speaker i found that I was really drawn into the points that she made around systemic racism that exists in our North American culture around peoples of colour.

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Adelaide Museum (Aboroginal Man)During much of my time in OZ I’ve felt a draw towards the dessert and although the hike didn’t completely go through I still managed to head out to the most previous spiritual land for the aboriginal people of this country Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Previous to my departure I spent many nights infront of a nice fire at the hostel I was at having a yarn (chat) with touristy people about the politics of climbing Uluru. I knew that this was pretty sacred land for them and they ask that people respect that and I tried (and convinced several) to not go through with the climb.

Kings CanyonWhile on my tour I experienced some really amazing scenery. I can’t begin to describe it nor can I post pictures because the indigenous people of this country ask that we don’t. When we arrived at Uluru I felt an amazing feeling come over me (even though things were rushed with the tour that I booked I still felt a connection there). Our tour guide gave some pretty good stories about the history of these people and why this place is special, sacred, and unique to them.

I think one of the most precious quotes that I read in the booklet they give you upon arriving at the park was along the lines of the following (sorry I have to paraphrase because it’s packed in my overstuffed bag that I’m hitchin to Perth with tomorrow).

So many people come to this land to climb Uluru. But they should look at the rock, look inside, and see that there is more there than just something to climb.

While walking around Uluru I sat down for about 20 minutes and looked inside the the walls of this spiritual place only to find myself looking inside myself. Looking at the aboriginal people. Understanding that something as sacred as this should be respected.

But then why don’t they just stop people from climbing it then? Well after petition the United Nations to get Australia to hand over the native title to this land they were finally granted the land that they should have owned in the first place. The catch is that the UN put a stipulation that the aboriginal people in the nation around Uluru had to lease the land back to Australia for another 99 years. So effectively they don’t really have much say other than to “encourage” and “beg” people to respect them.

It’s a sad state really. But frankly I’m kinda happy I walked around the base because I saw more than most. I saw what the aboriginal people wanted me to see and experience. Along the path I found some pretty special things with regards to the direction my life is taking. I found some truth and feel good about follow my heart in trying to figure out what’s next on this journey in life for me. On a side note one guy on our tour climbed to the top only to feel like crap later for doing so. I felt bad for him as I’m sure he doesn’t want to carry that around for the rest of his life (then again maybe he can use that to his advantage heh).

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First nite at the Dreaming Festival

This last weekend I left the beloved Permaforest Trust (I’ll post more reflections on all that later) after doing two weeks there and learning a great deal from that experience and headed off with Sophie & other crew from the trust to the Dreaming Festival. For those that don’t know the Dreaming Festival is a gathering of all the aboriginal people from around Australia to celebrate the culture & arts of their people. So I spent four solid days taking in some amazing things including some pretty special theatre pieces, movies, and stories about what has happened to these people.

Much of the healing of this country is currently happening now. It’s humbling to know that frankly while healing they are still embracing the government and people that put them in this situation. I really felt an amazing connection, spirit, and intensity at this festival (that had about 3000 people attending which was really nice cause everyone was super cruisy, friendly, kind, and great). These people have been through a great deal in their time and to see them still striving to keep their cultures alive and strong makes me feel good inside. Makes me want to help them out. Makes me respect them. And makes me want to grow with all of that. Respect them and myself too.

In the process of being around such intense feelings (movies/theatre/songs about what has happened to them in the last 100 years) it created a great sense of emotional connection. I was happy to be a part of that. It also caused a great deal of introspective digging on my part too. It felt good to look back at myself in the last 10 years and think of where I’ve gotten to. How proud I am of how I continue to grow and just need to be conscious (as we all do) of what we are doing in the world, to the earth, to ourselves, in our communities, how we relate to others, what community means, and just being present in the moment.

I probably should have broken the Lake Cowal episode into two points but I didn’t cause I was trying to deal with it I suppose.

There was still some points that I wanted to get off my mind but that last post turned more into some epic novel of sorts.

What bothers me in this day in age is that we are really focussed as countries (Canada/Australia) on trying to solve other countries problems like Iraq/Iran/[insert country here] and not spending much time dealing with our own internal problems. Why is it acceptable to ignore the rights of indigenous people here in Australia or even in Canada? Why is it that New Zealand seems to show the most respect (as far as I can tell) with regards to the development of relationships between the government and the Maori people. I mean Canada prides itself in being a peacekeeping country and goes around to other countries trying to ensure that there is less bloodshed, things can get resolved, etc. Yet like Australia or own country does very little to properly deal with the First Nations/Indigenous peoples land claims or at the very least demands for respect of sacred burial grounds. It upsets me that we would treat people that way.

I spent some time up in KohuKohu and apparently they were expanding the road up there when a worker cutting down a tree came across some bones that fell out of the tree stump. All the work was haulted, elders were called in to figure out how big the burial grounds were/bless things, and further discussions were done to figure out the next course of action. It means that everyone was equal at the bargaining table and that they figure out a solution together because they wanted to show respect for peoples that have been there long before New Zealanders settled. I don’t think that type of negotiation is that hard! Frankly, you’d have a lot less people protesting or having to occupy sacred grounds to prevent golf course expansions. Seriously folks don’t you think there is some compremise. We should be resolving these issues so that the children (your children) don’t have the carry the weight that we have all been carrying from the mistreatment of these people.

Native Rights Drawing

[I’m warning you this is going to be a loooooooooooooooooong post. Lots of stuff happened this weekend that I am trying hard to deal with]

Save Lake CowalAs some of you might know (or not know) this weekend I headed to Lake Cowal to support a 5 year running protest against Barrick Gold (gold mining company from Canada tragically) who has been exploiting the land at Lake Cowal in several ways.

My time at the camp during the three days was beautiful once we finally got there as it was spent with beautiful people from all over Australia and the world! These included a few different family of fun kids, indigenous people, and others from around Australia and the world. Tragically, Maurice, Andrew, & I received a few (read: 20 I believe was the last count) flat tires on our ride out to the site and finally gave up and had to call in backup vehicle support to come get us.

“Our Aboriginal People are being denied access to our sacred ground. Protestors from around the world are here to support our claim for access to our ancient lands. Australian Aboriginal Peoples have the oldest continuing living culture in the world. We Wiradjuri People are also being denied the right of spiritual and religious freedom under s.116 of the Australian Constitution,” Mr Williams said.

“Barrick is desecrating our sacred site and Dreaming Place and denying us access to our traditional lands. The company has moved or destroyed more than 10 000 artefacts including marked trees, damaging the integrity of the area forever.”

“Despite Barrick’s assertion that we are misleading people, what we are doing is our ancient cultural duty to protect our sacred Country for the generations to come. We are also raising awareness of the dangers of cyanide leach gold mining and the mine’s excessive use of precious water in the middle of the worst drought on record. The fullest dams, in the very parched countryside between Condobolin and the mine, are the toxic tailings ponds west of the open cut pit, which extends into the lakebed.”

I went there to help represent the indigenous people of this country (read: each area that is occupied by a different indigenous country in Australia is called a country here..which I love) .

The actions of the day were quite successful in bringing awareness to the fact that this issue is still taking place. I spent my day performing native dances, doing a sit outside the gates, and supporting other protesters who were entering the mines. Oh and at one point I became the food man bringing food around to people that I had stocked up before we left our camp. It would have been nice to see more people out there but I still think we had an impact (have a look at this rad video of the Tranny Minors that performed). I saw some really fuckin brave people out there getting arrested for what they believe in. It was kinda unfortunate I couldn’t have participated more although I feel my actions were useful too.

But really folks did you realize that cyanide is waste product in the processing of gold. It’s tragic that on such a special lake we would want to introduce a poison that will threaten many different species of birds. Especially, when this lake is recognized as a special place recognized as being one of Australia’s Important Wetlands. Alright so what can I do? Write a letter (pre-made and handcrafted right here!) to these folks here and make sure that your investments are contributing to this destruction. Barricks doesn’t care that they have depleted loads of the water on this lake already even during a massive drought or that indigenous people of this area don’t agree with the settlement made.

[Warning: This bit is quite long and more about the traumatic experience that happened to me while there…I’m still trying to deal with it all actually]

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“There are trees on the coast stripped of bark, stark silver white, and without the bark one can see how the very wood is twisted so the dead tree seems to be like a corkscrew rooted in the earth. There are those who think that only people have emotions like pride, fear and joy, but those who know will tell you all things are alive, perhaps not in the same way we are alive, but each in its own way, as it should be, for we are not all the same. And though different from us in shape and lifespan, different in Time and Knowing, yet are trees alive. And rocks and water. And all know emotion.” Daughters of Copper Women by Anne Cameron

This book has been a great reminder of the importance of cherishing nature, remembering the hardships that natives have had to live through because of colonialism, and how much I respect indigenous people in the world. They have a good understanding of the world, earth, and cherish it more than most of us do. Why? Because it’s completely engraned in their culture to do so!

Warm thoughts,

Shane

So yesterday I headed out to the “One Dead Indian” screening for the Calgary International Film festival. I was lucky enough to get a free pass to any movie I wanted to see there from a guy who ordered a coffee at Good Earth cafe where I work. It’s a pretty sweet tip considering the tickets are worth $15+. The movie is based on a book about a peaceful protest that some aboriginal people took part in Ipperwash Provincial Park near Sarnia, Ontario by the Stony Point Natives. It was old land that the Canadian government had taken from the natives in order to build a military base during war times. They were told that once the war had ended they would be able to return to the land and live there again. Tragically, it had been turned into a provincial park and the original natives land owners were told it was no longer there land. The story is about a peaceful protest that turns completely wrong as one Stony Point Native is shot and killed during a police invasion.

I highly recommend this movie/book.

I think that our treatment of North American natives is disgusting and something that I’m ashamed to admit that I’m Canadian because of this fact. I think that all to often we find it easier to to things that would compromise their rights then try and negotiate a resolution that would be adequate and fair to these people. They lived here longer than us so to the politicians I say “remove thy head from thy ass”.

Yesterday was the first time I think I felt a little alone. I spent the entire movie crying and really needed some comfort afterwards. Lindsay (who I went with) and I went out for dinner afterwards which was really rad! But I still felt like it was oen of those nights I would have loved to just cuddle with someone. Yah I was a little upset.