Photo credit: Michael Seto 

The Turtle Island Solidarity Journey continues in 2018, from April 26 to May 6. A group of 10 people, including Indigenous and settler students and elders, will travel to Louisiana to witness first hand the impacts of climate change, engage in wetland restoration activities, and meet in solidarity with the Point-au-Chiens Tribe and the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Band of Isles de Jean Charles.  These two Indigenous communities are losing their land and their way of life due to the impacts of climate change (sea level rise and increasingly violent hurricanes), significantly contributed to by ongoing oil exploration and production in the region.  Sharing stories with each other, exchanging traditional knowledge, and finding unity in understandings of place, environment, and our interconnectedness to land, will all prove crucial to building solidarity and tackling critical issues of climate change and environmental racism. Follow along with us as we publish our posts from the field with Alternatives Journal throughout the journey.

Elders Theresa and Donald Dardar from the Point-au-Chiens Tribe will be guiding youth in traditional farming practices and the building of gardens.  We will also attempt to visit Isles de Jean Charles and the new land that has been secured for that community. Both tribes have applied to be recognized by the United States government in part to address the impacts of climate change to their land and way of life.  A student leader from our group, Emma Rain Smith, an Aniishnaabe artist from Walpole Island (Bkejwanong), will be providing a workshop on Indigenous beading to the group. The practice is an important means of relaying traditional stories.

Turtle Island Solidarity Journey

The Turtle Island Solidarity Journey is an act of reconciliation and solidarity between indigenous and non-indigenous people on Turtle Island. We deal with the issues of climate change, settler colonialism and environmental racism through confronting these issues head on, that is, by encountering the damage that settler colonialism and environmental degradation has inflicted on communities. The forum through which this reconciliation happens is journeying together, as we collectively explore cases of environmental racism against indigenous people and people of colour on Turtle Island. This way of doing reconciliation emphasizes the need for accountability; the sharing and exchange of indigenous knowledge, mentoring by indigenous elders, and developing leadership in youth.

In the spring of 2016, a group of indigenous and non-indigenous students and leaders led by Chief Myeengun Henry of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Haudenosaunee SeedkeeperTerrylynn Brant of Six Nations, Artist and student Emma Rain Smith, musician Alysha Brilla, videographer Michael Seto, and Dr. Stephen Svenson traveled to Louisiana to highlight the link between our dependence on oil, climate change, and the negative impacts on indigenous people and people of colour in Louisiana - environmental racism. We engaged in wetland restoration activities with Common Ground Relief, heard from locals about environmental racism in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans and visited 'cancer alley' between Louisiana and Baton Rouge. 

We met in solidarity with the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw band of Isles de Jean Charles, widely regarded as North America's first 'climate refugees'.  Joining us on that journey were the Perpetual Peace Project who honoured Chief Naquin and his people with their song ‘Ways of the Water’.  After a feast of crawfish at Chief Naquin’s house, Deputy Chief Boyo Billiot took us out to Isles de Jean Charles where we witnessed the impacts of oil development and climate change first hand. A storm came up and though we tried to make it out to the island, we had to turn back due to rising waters that threatened to sweep our vehicles off the road. 

Have a look at highlights of 2016's journey here!

Solidarity Journey 2018

We invite you to join us on this journey by liking our facebook page or following us on twitter @turtleislandsol. You can also participate in the journey by contributing to our gofundme page where there are lots of cool perks from Anishinaabe artist Emma Rain Smith and John “Smitty” Smith, author of Exiled in Paradise who rode out Hurricane Katrina in the Lower Ninth Ward.  All funds will go to indigenous people as honorariums and to the production of visual media. These media will feature notable community organizers and indigenous leaders we meet throughout our journey speaking out on issues of environmental racism, climate change, and colonialism and inspiring us to take action to create a better world.

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the WLU AUS (Arts Undergraduate Society), WLU Indigenous Initiatives and Services and St. Jerome's University.

Participants

Terrylynn Brant, Chief Myeengun Henry, Emma Rain Smith, Zaffia Laplante, Dr. Stephen Svenson, Emily Klich, Brent Bogdon, Alison Hope Harding, Rob St. Pierre, Michael Seto

Journey Elders and Leaders

Chief Myeengun Henry

Myeengun Henry is the elected chief of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, member of many boards, spiritual leader, ceremony conductor and practitioner of Traditional Medicine, teacher in the criminal and community justice program at Conestoga College and Elder at McMaster University. As the Aboriginal Services Manager at Conestoga College, Myeengun works to support original people's using language, ceremonies, healing and medicine. He is a graduate of Canadore College's Indigenous Wellness and Addictions Prevention and has worked as Director of Employment Services, Oshkebewis (Healers Program) and Street Patrol front-line worker for Anishnawbe Health Toronto. He is an active leader in the fight to protect our land, air and water. 

Terrylynn Brant, Six Nations of the Grand River

Terrylynn Brant, B.A., B.Ed., M.Sc., Mohawk Turtle Clan, traditional name Sera:sera, Haudenosaunee  Seedkeeper lives and works in her home community of Ohsweken, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.  For the past thirty years she has taught JK to Grade 8, been a vice principal, and taught NSL Mohawk language and Indigenous Science for the Native Teacher Education programs at Brock and Queen’s University. Sera:sera is a frequent lecturer at various universities and gatherings on a wide variety of topics, from Native Education and Dreaming to Traditional Gardening Practices and Lifestyles. She is a survivalist, and lives lightly on Mother Earth, raising 4 daughters completely off the grid on solar power for 25 years, tending bees, gardens, and her orchard. She has four grandchildren, and after passing her house on to one of her daughters, has embraced the gypsy lifestyle as a way of living more sustainably.  She has recently started Mohawk Seedkeeper Farm where settlers and Original Peoples will come together to engage in acts of reconciliation with the earth and with each other.

Emma Rain Smith, Walpole Island First Nation

Emma Rain Smith is an Anishnaabe artist from Walpole Island (Bkejwanong) First Nations. She studies Fine Arts with a Studio Major in the Honors Arts and Business at the University of Waterloo. She was the president of the Aboriginal Students Association at UW for two years. As an artist she toys with the theme of communication in her work, working with traditional oral stories to create visual representations of them. She uses traditional Indigenous beading techniques blended with contemporary design elements and technology. The process of beading is very time consuming, the labour of process art bringing a deeper level of meaning to the work.  Her work outside of art revolves around education where she works encourage her community and Indigenizing the education systems within Kitchener-Waterloo.

Stephen Svenson, PhD, Department of Sociology and Department of Global Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University 

Doc Svenson or “Sven,” is a precarious academic worker and community organizer in Kitchener-Waterloo active on issues of climate change, food sovereignty, and indigenous rights. He grew up on the traditional territory of the Splatsin people in the North Okanagan where he gained an appreciation and love for the land. He has previously written for Alternatives Journal about Those Brad Pitt Houses and has produced and directed several documentary films on environmental racism in the Lower Ninth Ward. Disaster Tours is currently in use in classrooms and service learning trips.  In his consulting work he has developed GIS applications for the analysis of Statistics Canada’s Canadian Travel Survey and has consulted for the Mi'gmaweiMawiomi Secretariat in the production of maps and software for depicting cultural histories and land claims. He has worked variously as a farmer, builder, jackaroo, freshwater fishing guide, outdoor instructor, and park ranger.  Dr. Svenson has been leading successful student trips to New Orleans and Louisiana for ten years, where students have engaged in rebuilding activities and more recently, wetland restoration and solidarity with First Peoples. Currently, he teaches sociology of youth, environmental sociology and whatever other scraps get thrown him.

 

Stephen Svenson, PhD, Department of Sociology, Department of Global Studies Wilfrid Laurier University

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