I started this update a couple weeks ago after returning from an IG Canadian tour….
I am finishing it from a Women’s Center in Georgia where my partner is giving birth. So naturally I am thinking about water and how we all grow and arrive in it, and then, throughout our lives, we depend on it.
When Emily and I were driving thru Saskatchewan, half an hour away from pulling into Saskatoon, I was thinking about the Tar Sands, as Alberta disappeared in the rearview mirror. The Tar Sands were due north of us, a couple hundred kilometers from our last stop in Edmonton-you’d hardly know about the environmental devastation
or the Indigenous lives and eco-systems torn apart. The oil money is in the city, just like in the U.S., it’s in the tall buildings of Calgary and Alberta, in the extravagance of the rich suburbs, the suffering lay just underneath our daily lives as we burn through gas, and burn through the miles in our Ford van. The main artery of a pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands pours out across Canada into the U.S., crossing arbitrary borders and geo-political lines, turning into veins and vessels of more pipelines picking up extra appendages along the way south, west and east- our very lifelines to consumption and comfort. Our energy, electricity, our studios, amps, our sound systems, our hotel rooms, our light switches, our jobs, our highways…our petroleum lives strangling, maiming, destroying and suffocating the hope of earth’s sustainability. I’ve read a lot about the Tar Sands, but I’ve never been there. The closest I’ve gotten to really gleaning the complexities is by reading an essay a friend of mine, Trish Weber wrote after going there to see for herself. She participated in a Healing Walk to stand in solidarity with the First Nations’ communities fighting for their very existence. The Tar Sands’ issue is a tangle of hardcore economics, the promise of employment, corporate profit and the massive environmental impact on a boreal forest that connects many lives, the ripple in the water we often hear about but don’t really understand.
Read it here: A Hobbit Goes to Mordor
I am thinking back to September, when Emily and I spent a week in the Midwestern U.S. with Winona LaDuke, playing 3 shows to benefit Honor the Earth – St. Paul, MN, Bayfield and Madison, WI. We were just below the great North Woods where taconite and mineral mining, fracking and pipelines plans abound, where the powers that be in Minnesota are trying to take the Gray Wolf off the endangered species list, so there’s one less thing to get in the way of the great extraction of the 21st century. Winona, Executive Director of Honor the Earth spoke at each show about the issues facing this area and how their effects go far beyond the region, connecting us all in the struggle. Mining corporations are moving into the Northern lakes in a new era of extreme mining – with huge impacts on water, wild rice and wolves. In turn, the new electric demands for mining operations are relying on coal, projected to come from the Northern Cheyenne homelands in Montana. Pipelines carrying Tar Sands oils are moving through the region and new proposals are being forwarded to double the movement of oil through the North Woods. Hear one of her talks here.
Up in Wisconsin, Honor the Earth is supporting activists from the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians who along with many allies, have a protest camp out in the woods in the Penokee Hills. They are protecting the headwaters of the Bad River Watershed, which flows into the Kakagon Sloughs where the tribe’s rice beds grow, and then flows into the Great Lake Superior. The Chairman of the Bad River Band, Mike Wiggins spoke in Madison and Bayfield about the issues facing his tribe they have established a legal defense fund to stop the permitting of the largest iron-ore, open-pit mine in the world slated for the headwaters of the Bad River, six miles from the reservation border in northern Wisconsin ceded territory. They are standing guard, standing up against the mining giants, as all Wisconsin Tribes have done throughout their present day history-facing one big machine after another, one corporation after another – same fight different day. They are fighting on the ground, in the government houses and in the courts.
Honor the Earth has been working with communities like these on the front lines for the past two decades. With your help, we raise money and leverage political support to help the Indigenous activists in these communities. Thanks to all the folks who came to the Midwest benefit shows and Honor events this past 6 months, we have raised over $45,000. And we had fun doing it! Here is our performance of Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee from the Madison show, with special guests Jennifer Kreisberg (Ulali) and Kelly Jackson. And here is my favorite moment of all the shows – when Keith Secola is joined by hoop dancer, Micco Sampson and pedal steel player Joe Savage for a transcendent moment.
At the end of October, I felt all the dots connecting. We had started our September tour in the States, supporting communities fighting pipelines and mines that weave a web across all of North America impacting ecosystems and people regardless of race, community, or nationality. We ended our October with a show on the last day our Canadian tour in the city of Moncton, New Brunswick- where warrior activists from the Mi’qmak community, have been engaged in a stand off with gas shale mining companies for months. They’ve been arrested, harassed, they have literally laid their bodies on the road to block the trucks coming in and out of their ancestral lands. They are protecting the land and water for all of us. After the IG show, they gathered around us and sang a Mi’qmak honor song heard from different territories, every one unique with its own intervals and voice, but all connected by the heartbeat of the drum. Water and air connect us too. And our consumption connects us, and hopefully compels us to look at whole picture here.