A Healing Walk past toxic tailings ponds north of Fort McMurray

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Fort McMurray – Hundreds of First Nations, Metis elders, community members and other supporters took part in a “healing walk” through the tar Sands area on June 25.

The 13-kilometre walk on Highway 63 passed by the vast tar-sands operations of Syncrude and Suncor – once prime First Nation berry picking and hunting ground – to bring attention to the devastation of land and water and to show the real suffering that comes with tar- sands development. The walk was organized by Keepers of the Athabasca, a network of First Nation, Metis and settler communities along the Athabasca River and will include people whose lives are directly and adversely impacted by tar-sands operations.

“Watching the impacts on the land, the water, the air and on the people of this land, leaves us with a deep sense of hopelessness and despair,” said Alice Martin, Mikisew Cree First Nation Elder. “Our efforts to be a part of the decision-making process on what happens on our traditional territory have been totally ignored. Consequently, we have no choice but to focus on our Healing and to ask our Creator for help.”

The walk was not a protest, but a spiritual walk to offer prayers of peace and healing to Mother Earth so that she can resist the devastation caused by tar-sands development. Participants took to the highway to help heal what has been destroyed and to give each other the spiritual strength to carry on.

“We are witnessing the cultural genocide of our people. The places where we traditionally picked berries or gathered medicines are being destroyed. The fish and animals that are our traditional diet are being poisoned and members of our community are dying. Something needs to be done,” said Celine Harpe of Fort McKay First Nation. “Today we walk to offer our prayers to mother earth who has held us for all this time. We hope to help her stay strong and resist this tar sands industry.”

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