Wabanaki People Invite Solidarity in the Face of Threats to Their Land and Water, Long-standing alliance of Eastern indigenous peoples asks non-natives

Wabanaki People Invite Solidarity in the Face of Threats to Their Land and Water, Long-standing alliance of Eastern indigenous peoples asks non-natives to join them by Tracy Glynn, August 31, 2012, Halifax Media Coop
Alma Brooks, a familiar face in the movement against shale gas, wants non-natives to join the Wabanaki Confederacy Conference at the riverfront at St. Mary’s First Nation on September 1st and 2nd. … The Wabanaki Confederacy, including the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot peoples, have been gathering in council in Wabanaki territory long before European settlers arrived. Wabanaki means people of the dawn or dawnland people. Wabanaki territory covers the Atlantic provinces, southern parts of Quebec and stretches down into the states of Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Brooks, a member of the Maliseet Grand Council and St. Mary’s First Nation, says, “We will talk about the obligations found in our peace and friendship treaties. The land and water in New Brunswick has never been ceded by our people. The time has long passed for us, natives and non-natives, to get to know each other. It’s been over 600 years. We need to protect Aboriginal title to land and water. The process of decolonization needs to begin and it will be a long process. This is just the beginning.”

Brooks fondly recalls many special moments in shale gas resistance in the past year: the water ceremony on the Maliseet’s old burial grounds along the banks of the Wulustuk in July 2011, the blockade in Stanley that stopped the transport of seismic vibrators exploring for shale gas in August 2011, the numerous rallies and marches in Moncton and Fredericton and the erection of the teepee on the N.B. Legislature lawn last November.

“We need to take another look at our land and water and how they are the building blocks of life. We all depend on the land and water. Right now they’re at risk. The Sisson mine does not have the consent of the people just like SWN Resources does not have the consent of the people to frack. We demand free, prior, informed consent.” Brooks’ story of fighting for the Wulustuk River, known as the Saint John River, features prominently in the soon-to-be-released film, Take Me to the River. The film explores the personal stories of people fighting to save seven endangered rivers across Canada. “My people used to drink from the river and now you can’t even swim in it. The river is poisoned and so is the fish,” says Brooks.

The repressive apparatus of the capitalist Canadian state including the police, military and the courts have been used to crush movements across the country that attempt to assert indigenous sovereignty. Many indigenous leaders have gone to jail and faced fines for defending their territories from mining exploration like former Ardoch Algonquin Chief Robert Lovelace and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug Chief Donny Morris. According to Pat Paul, editor of Wulustuk Times from Tobique, “Supreme Court decisions rendered during the past few years state that full consultation and Aboriginal consent and agreement must be conducted and reached well before any resources can be harvested and removed from native territories.”

For Alma Brooks, the survival of all of us depends on beginning the process of decolonization by stopping shale gas exploration and the Sisson tungsten and molybdenum mine on Wabanaki territory.

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