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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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The crewSo after leaving my beautiful friends in Townsville I headed to Alice Springs on a 26 hour bus ride into the dessert. The country out here is so amazing and can you believe it there is a really old mountain range out in the dessert that people can hike. I was to meet my friend Angela and her friend Soph on the hike on June 20th, but upon arriving I couldn’t find them anywhere. After reading the log book (where you write down your route) I realized that they had left a day earlier. Oh shit! I decided that I’d do the 30 KM to the next water source to see if I couldn’t catch them (they had already been on the Larapinta Trail for 1 week).

Ghost gumThere is something about hiking in the dessert that is beautiful, challenging, and pretty spectacular. Not to mention the fact that I’m out there experiencing mountain ranges that are so old, so worn down, and so different from the young Rocky Mountains. I love that history out here .. the history that Australia gives through it’s scenery.

I jetted off at 11 AM on an estimated 10 hour hike and arrived pretty late in the evening with a bit of a sore leg. I think I evidentially did a disservice to my leg during the hike by hiking 30 KM (oh Shano when will you learn). Regardless, in the pitch black as I was nearing the campsite I could see a huge fire and they could see my head torch. I arrived at the fire and said hello and sat down to take a break. Suddenly I heard a “Shane! Is that you!” only to realize that Angela had arrived with Soph at that location that very day! Yipee!

Sacred Chasm

Unfortunately, for me that is, my leg problems only seemed to get worse and after climbing into a chasm with the two of them the next day we all realized it wasn’t smart for me to continue the hike for the remaining time (mostly because the following three days were meant to be for experienced hikers and are pretty hardcore). So that night we slept in the chasm having a huge feast of lental dahl, rice, and quinoa together.

The following day I got up and took the 4WD track to meet them at the next destination which was Birthday watering hole (thankfully the road was quite flat for the most part. After hanging out there for a while in the sun, writing letters, watching butterflies, and all the rest Soph and Angela arrived. Just before we had decided to make dinner a German man arrived and was driving his 4WD back into Alice so I snagged a ride from him back to the hostel. Twas sad to leave them but honestly was the smartest thing I probably could have done.

The track was filled with worn down mountain side which formed the most amazing looking shapes. It’s interesting from a natural development perspective of earth how things change and develop. How an old mountain range like this one can really become so worn down through time and yet still look so freakin amazing! The chasm that I went into (left) during the tour that I had to take to get to the start of the hike was completely smooth (like granite smooth) and I felt a strong sense of energy there. I pretty much wanted to sit in there for a good two hours but we had to go so I was happy I got to visit it at least once.

I was also happy enough to see some dingos, one snake (apparently when you see them in the winter they are super aggressive and it ran right past Angela — oh shit), beautiful butterflies (one quite large one that kept trying to land on my water bottle because it must have smelt some sugar I had on it), chasms, gorges, and beautiful birds. Wow… I can see why the aboriginals feel that this land is sacred and special. I do too. Oh and let’s not forget the methods to keep yourself warm during freezing cold nights (just like the rockies) with me in my new tent (yeah) and beautiful sunrise and sunsets. I’m still in awe!

Sending out love to those working through things, those finding themselves, those feeling love, and those that I haven’t talked to in a while. Don’t worry I still think about you!

Love

Shane

Pictures below coming later ..

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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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