Tag Archives: coast salish art

Am I Anti-Pipeline?

It gets frustrating when I hear people make statements about others being ‘pro-pipeline’ or ‘anti-pipeline’, as it’s not that cut and dry.  Many that argue for the expansion of pipelines often justify themselves by asking if you enjoy your heated home or your car, or they ask if you use plastic.

Of course we have benefited from pipelines and have lived and progressed in many ways with the heavy use of fossil fuels.  My father helped put in roads and pipelines in the north of Canada. The oil industry provides an income to my nephew and many of my childhood friend’s families, as I grew up in Alberta.

Pipelines are not going away overnight, and every so-called ‘anti-pipeline person’ knows that. However we have to start making a change, and like any other revolution through time, the change will come, one step at a time. Personal choices are key. How we live, what we purchase, what we eat, all affect the whole. We must stop new pipelines to come into balance and make that turn for a greener tomorrow – to begin the reversal from what has wrecked havoc on our environment.

Sure we’ve seemingly benefited by the use of fossil fuel, but it was at a cost to our environment. Today more and more are divesting and directing their money away from fossil fuels. My brother’s company is pioneering in this movement.

Pipeline in the 1950s, Manitoba, Canada (Photo from the Whachell family album)
Pipeline in the 1950s, Manitoba, Canada (Photo from the Whachell family album)

We have the know-how to go-green through alternate means, and keep fossil fuels in the ground. However we are creatures of habit,  who like to cling to the old ways, and ridicule those who take a stand toward change. We are being egged on to remain complacent by those attempting to debunk new ideas, as a financial loss is at stake (for some). In a world where social media has us inhaling ideas like breathing air, we must be mindful.

Here’s one case in point: The Wall Street Journal, known to be a highly respected publication has a recent article titled, “What the Dakota Access Pipeline Is Really About” where the writer, Kevin Cramer goes on to say that First Nations were consulted; that it’s not about protecting water; etc, etc.

Yet, look at what Wikipedia tells us about the ‘writer.’ I was shocked to find this: [Cramer has been described by Reuters as “one of America’s most ardent drilling advocates.”  Cramer supports an increase in oil and gas drilling on public lands and supports cutting taxes for energy producers. He is opposed to what he characterizes as overreach by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In May 2016, Donald Trump asked Cramer to draft his campaign’s energy policy.  He wrote Trump’s energy plan, which focuses heavily on promoting fossil fuels and weakening environmental regulation. The plan also vows to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and repeal U.S. regulations aims at controlling the carbon emissions which cause climate change. Cramer was “one of a handful of early Trump endorsers” among House Republicans.”]

Yet the Wall Street Journal just let’s Cramer have his way with us…

I encourage everyone to watch the free documentary  on National Geographic channel called Before the Flood by Leonardo DiCaprio. American actor DiCaprio admits in the film that he’s likely been one of the worst abusers of personal use of fossil fuels. Many will just stop right here, because I’ve even mentioned his name. That’s where we go wrong. We get so narrow-minded and hear one thing that is negative about someone (often from a ‘debunker’), and we check them off our credibility list.

First Nations people paddle in front of Kinder Morgan on Burrard Inlet during the Salish Sea Gathering in 2015. (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
First Nations people paddle in front of Kinder Morgan on Burrard Inlet during the Salish Sea Gathering in 2015 hosted by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Traditional unceded Coast Salish territory. (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

Another person I am tired of hearing be bashed is David Suzuki. Suzuki said, “By deciding in favour of the fossil fuel industry, the federal government is rejecting climate science and ignoring overwhelming community and First Nations opposition.” This man has given his life to educate us about the preciousness and intricacies of our planet, our bodies and our minds, yet people say he has a ‘hidden agenda’. Really? For what? If the man is exposing those that exploit our world’s greatest assets, don’t you think those that are gaining monetarily will attempt to make him look bad anyway they can, and at any cost?

What irks me most about pipelines like the Dakota Access, and Kinder Morgan is that the very few rich, get richer at the expense of the land, and the people that enjoy or live on that land, in particular the First Nations people. It only takes one (1) spill to ruin an environment, possibly forever.

I am opposed to Kinder Morgan for those same reasons, and because of the expected increase to tanker traffic in an area we hope our future generations can enjoy as much as we do.  I personally paddle in that inlet and see firsthand the marvels of nature on land, and in and on the ocean. I also work closely with my local wild salmon sustainability program, and I want my grandchildren to see these amazing fresh and ocean water fish return into our streams like we do today.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs said in a recent letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “You cannot truly believe that the Kinder Morgan sevenfold increase in tanker traffic is not a real risk to the B.C. coast, to everything that Coast Salish Peoples hold dear, including the fishing and tourism industries, to the orcas, shell-fish harvesting and the dynamic life systems in the ocean and on land…”

Burrard Inlet is enjoyed by the public. People kayak, canoe, row, and dragon boat along the waterway. This is my dragon boat team, the Nothin' Dragon Masters. (Photo: Erica McCarthur))
Burrard Inlet is enjoyed by the public. People kayak, canoe, row, and dragon boat along the waterway. This is my dragon boat team, the Nothin’ Dragon Masters. (Photo: Erica McCarthur))

It’s upsetting and just plain wrong that First Nations people of the affected areas are not being consulted in these big pipeline deals and are lied to by our government.

In the end, I have friends (and possibly family) that likely think I am naive and uneducated. Perhaps they are right.  I am no economist, scientist or marine biologist, and I don’t like labels. I know I lean more toward humanism and naturalism, “Pro-People” or “Pro-Planet.”

I am not simply, ‘anti-pipeline’ because it’s more than just about pipelines and profits, it’s about people and our planet.

[Focused Fashion: In this photo I am wearing my new Green Embassy sleeveless Organic Alpaca felted jacket made in Australia! This jacket is part of the “Empty Oceans Series” and 1/3 of its purchase goes towards Sea Shepherd Australia. Please support efforts to keep our oceans safe for seals, whales and dolphins.

About Robbin Whachell…

All Nations Festival celebrates an inclusive Coast Salish Territory

 

Creating our shared heritage and vision for the future 

I was very interested when I found out that an All Nations Festival was to take place in Coquitlam where I live, and only blocks from my home. I immediately went to Facebook to learn more.  The 3-day-long event was said to celebrate Coast Salish culture, art, and language from July 23rd through 25th in Kwikwetlem, (Coquitlam) which is part of the Coast Salish Territories. It also was to include the other cultures living in the area.

After living abroad for many years I am new to much of the indigenous territories and culture, and I learned that  the Coast Salish Territory includes a lot of the  Georgia Basin and Puget, and this huge drainage basin comprises of the coastal mainland and Vancouver Island from Campbell River and the Georgia Strait south through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Lower Fraser Valley, and the lowlands of Puget Sound. I’ve been volunteering with the Hoy -Scott Watershed Society in my area for the past year so all these land details are of great interest to me.

All-Nations-Festival
The event was hosted around beautiful Lafarge Lake in Coquitlem / Kwikwetlem (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

But back to my All Nations Festival experience… 2015 is the inaugural year, and the annual festival aims to celebrate a Coast Salish cultural resurgence by bringing together the performing and visual arts, music, food, sports and ideas honouring a shared future.

Hereditary Chief Phil Lane Jr. Ihanktonwan of the Dakota and Chickasaw Nation (who is a visitor to these lands and is seen in my feature image at the top) spoke about the Tsleil Waututh Nation “People of the Inlet” and how at one time there were 10,000 people in the area, before a series of small pox epidemics in the last century. He spoke about inclusion as he stood before the Persian group ready to perform at the event in front of artist Sonny Assu “Enjoy Coast Salish Territory” artwork. I captured a short clip of his remarks HERE.

The 3-day Festival program opened on Thursday July 23rd with the Kwikwetlem /kəˈlōkwēəm/ Colloquium hosted by Douglas College. I was unable to attend due to my work, but tuned in via livestream.   If you missed it, you can now watch the Colloquium here. The colloquium’s  aim was to share the work of professional Indigenous artists, academics and researchers in Coast Salish Territory through programming, education, outreach, and networking.  The discussions were very interesting.

George Leach put on an amazing show!
George Leach put on an amazing show at the Evergreen Cultural Centre (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

Thursday evening the entertainment kicked off with an intimate concert, which my daughter and I attended at Evergreen Cultural Centre,  with none other than the first aboriginal Lieutenant Governor of B.C., Steven Point, who performed a number of songs he’d written in his younger days. They were lighthearted and teleported us back to earlier days in Vancouver. Point opened for Juno award-winner George Leach,  a Stl’atl’imx and Kwikwetlem musician and actor.   We learned George is also a great-great grandson of Chief Kwekwetlem.  One concert goer said, “This may have been the best concert I have ever seen…I’ve got 5 words for George and his band’s performance: pure, smooth, honest, funny, and enjoyable…what an incredible voice and refreshing personality, some very heartfelt tributes were endearing as well!”

Friday the colloquium continued with a Coast Salish Leaders’ Roundtable on Shared Environmental Stewardship, and a keynote address was delivered by awarding-winning author, teacher and grandmother, Professor Lee Maracle, from the Sto:lo and Tsleil Waututh Nations.  Listen to her speak about her work and the festival on CBC radio HERE.  Each day the colloquium included plenary, breakout sessions, panel discussions, art exhibition, traditional foods, performances, and dialogue with leading Indigenous scholars, professional and community artists, and cultural leaders.

Just a few of the Colloquium speakers
Just a few of the Colloquium speakers. Left to right: Charlene Aleck, Lee Maracle and Ronnie Dean Harris.

Pulling our best thread forward from our past, and taking it into the future – Lee Maracle, author, activist on the focus of the event to CBC radio.

Friday featured an evening of ideas and spoken word from one of the foremost experts in Coast Salish history and culture. More entertainment was provided on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evening at the outdoor festival  held by Lafarge Lake at Town Centre Park which also included engaging talks, a salmon and bison burger barbecue, kids corner, crafts and displays. Aside from sharing dialogue,  the outdoor locations provided the general public loads of activity, sights and sounds on stages, under tents, and by displays, which attracted many Coquitlam residents that just happened to be out for  a walk.

The backdrop of Lafarge lake and the mountains made for a beautiful venue, even with the intermittent cloudy weather. A heron flew over and in the late afternoon the Canada geese, who had been grazing on the adjacent lawns took flight over the tents into the evening sky.

I enjoyed the ‘Idea Tent’ featuring speakers from the festival’s steering committee and special guests. It was refreshing to hear about moving forward as a people who care about each other and our land, without a political party agenda attached. Topics included First Nations rights, pipelines, racism, reconciliation and more. One common idea was echoed through the weekend however, that being, that the Harper Government had to be outed at the next election.

Salish-Territory
Photos courtesy of the All Nations Festival

What I was most impressed with was that the First Nation’s speakers never excluded themselves from others, but rather spoke about the connectedness of humanity, no matter our origins, or religious beliefs. They kept hitting home that we had to work together to protect our environment for our future generations, and really if we don’t have that, what are we left with?  The event also included a  green energy fair featuring electric cars, solar panels and more.

One of my favourite features was a beautiful art piece showcased in the food tent  (see below) called ‘Our Painted Responsibilities’ coordinated by artist, Melanie Schambach along with Nati Garcia and Jen Castro.  Like this woman seen in my photo, people stood in awe to take it all in, as it represents so much, and it also encapsulated the spirit of the event. You can learn about the artwork in this video HERE.

I was told that “this mobile mural was an extension to the 2014 Totem Pole Journey, where a 20-foot-long totem pole carved by Lummi Indian Master Carver Jewell James travelled with his family 6,000 miles along proposed fossil fuel export routes to honor, unite and empower communities in the destructive path of coal and oil exports.”

"From the Columbia River Basin west to the Salish Sea and back east to the Alberta tar sands, the mural offered a space to listen, witness, and express. Youth, elders, activists, students, educators, researchers, healers, artists, indigenous and non-indigenous people, migrants, and impacted communities reflected through paint on our day-to-day connection with mother earth, and our shared responsibilities to protect her." (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
“From the Columbia River Basin west to the Salish Sea and back east to the Alberta tar sands, the mural offered a space to listen, witness, and express. Youth, elders, activists, students, educators, researchers, healers, artists, indigenous and non-indigenous people, migrants, and impacted communities reflected through paint on our day-to-day connection with mother earth, and our shared responsibilities to protect her.” Coordinating artist, Melanie Schambach (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

The All Nation’s event offered a lot over the three days! On top of the engaging dialogue and visual arts displays there  were performances by Doug and the Slugs; Bill Henderson, rapper and activist Ronnie Dean Harris (Ostwelve),  DJs including DJ Hedspin, Hip hop artists, Persian dancers, the Vashaan Ensemble, and many others. Add in sports with skateboarding, basketball 3-on-3s, ball hockey, volleyball, and the Coast Salish Lacrosse Challenge.

I certainly look forward to next year!

Check out the video below to see some of what was featured. If you would like to obtain more information,  become involved by exhibiting, performing, sponsoring or volunteering, learn more at: http://www.allnationsfest.com/

The 2015 All Nations Festival was hosted by Douglas College and the Kwikwetlem and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.  It was produced by Coquitlam School District Aboriginal Education, Coast Salish Cultural Network, and Tsleil-Waututh Nation; and supported by Kwikwetlem First Nation, Douglas College, City of Coquitlam, with additional support from Vancouver Indigenous Media Arts Festival, and various program partners. Steering Committee: Lee Maracle, Charlene Aleck, Gabriel George, Ronnie Dean Harris, Cease Wyss, Brandon Gabriel, Rueben George. Irwin Oostindie (ex-officio member).

Funding was provided by Canada Council, City of Coquitlam, Telus, Vancity, Coquitlam School District #43 Aboriginal Education, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and Aboriginal Sport BC, and community donations.

About the author: Robbin Whachell lives in Coquitlam, BC and is a volunteer for the local watershed society. In her spare time she likes to hike The Crunch and  explore her community by taking photos and sharing her thoughts on what she sees.