Bringing People and Land Together, Picturing Transformation

Picturing Transformation, Nexw-áyantsut Cover

by Jarrah Hodge

“When the Witness project came, it made my heart wake up. To be able to take care of the spirit of the land, we have to take care of the spirit within so that we can venture and bring it out into the world. To care for the feelings, care for the spirit: spirit of the trees; spirit of the animal; spirit of the water; spirit of the unknown creatures in our forest.” – Eugene Harry/Haykwílem, quoted in Picturing Transformation.

Between 1997 and 2007 the Utsám Witness project engaged 10,000 people in witnessing and ultimately, peacefully protecting a 50,000-hectare area of the Squamish Nation from logging. It started from a fortuitous collaboration between Squamish hereditary Chief Bill Williams, telálsemkin siyám, award-winning photographer Nancy Bleck, and the late mountaineer John Clarke. Clarke and Bleck had realized that protecting the area would require leadership from First Nations, and Williams realized the benefit of reconnecting people to the land – even people outside the Squamish Nation – to build a sense of collective responsibility.

According to the Squamish Nation Assertion of Aboriginal Title, “Being called to ‘witness’ in the Coast Salish tradition is a sacred honour.” “Witnesses” are meant to listen and watch and take the message back to their home communities. They also bear responsibility to recount the events if, at any time in their lives, there is concern over what took place.

The new book Picturing Transformation, Nexw-áyantsut helps those of us who were not involved in the original project nonetheless share in it, and Bleck’s photographs of the land, the water, the logging, and the people, are the most significant part of that. I found I couldn’t help feeling drawn in , spoken to, and asked to share in the responsibility to repair our broken relationships with land and First Nations communities. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Books, Can-Con Leave a comment

Nobel Women’s Initiative on Women, Oil and Climate Change

Nobel Women's Initiative Melina

Image & quote from Breaking Ground talks

by Jarrah Hodge

A couple of weeks ago I had the amazing honour, along with other members of the City of Vancouver’s Women’s Advisory Committee, to get to meet with the Nobel Women’s Initiative’s Breaking Ground delegation. Breaking Ground was an eight-day mission led by Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, who won the Peace Prize in 1997 for her work to ban landmines, designed to “hear firsthand the growing concerns of women living in communities impacted by oil sands development and along the proposed Gateway pipeline route.” The delegation also included climate scientist Marianne Douglas, singer Sarah Harmer, Chris Page of the Center for Environmental Health in San Francisco, and North Dakota Native leader Kandi Mossett.

On Day 1 they went up in a small plane to look at the tar sands from above:

As they traveled along the pipeline route they spoke with leaders of the Nadleh Wu’ten and Saik’uz Nations and a number of Indigenous women whose communities will be most directly impacted. As Kandi Mossett stated after the trip:

“We heard in Fort McKay, Alberta, that the community had to live for five months on bottled water because they couldn’t drink the water out of the taps. Children in that community are also experiencing breathing problems because of the pollution coming out of the stacks. What compounds this reality is that the harsh impacts—including contaminated water and air—will only become worse and spread as the oil sands development worsens climate change.”

Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics, Racism 1 Comment