Final Tar Sands Healing Walk Under Way In Fort McMurray, Alberta

by: Obert Madondo | Published Sat. Jun 28, 2014

Hundreds of First Nations and non-Aboriginal peoples from all over Turtle Island are currently participating in the fifth and “final” tar sands healing walk under way in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

In its 5th year now, the 14-kilometre spiritual walk raises awareness about Indigenous treaty rights and the impact of the Canadian tar sands and pipelines on local Aboriginal communities. Participants, led by indigenous elders, will “walk for the last time past a Syncrude upgrader, past tailings ponds and heavy haul trucks.”

Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Melina Laboucan-Massimo of the Lubicon Cree First Nation are two of the founding organizers of the Healing Walk. They recently wrote in this blog post on CBC News Aboriginal:

For the fifth year straight, we will smell the crude oil and toxic plumes, especially if the wind pushes back south. Some walkers, as in past years, will be forced to stop walking due to breathing difficulties or bloody noses. We will walk at ground zero of the oilands, surrounded by vast oilsands mines.

Just to the north of our walk, one of the newest mines, Imperial Oil’s Kearl mine, will be the size of Washington DC when it’s completed.

On foot it starts to hit you, the size and the smell grabs at your core and leaves an indelible impact. The walk is 14 kilometres and coming around the corner at the start of the walk, seeing the massive tailings pond, the trucks lined up along the road, tears start streaming as you realize just how massive and unsustainable oilsands really are. It happens to a lot of us, this shared experience.

This year is the last healing walk, not because the oilsands will stop expanding tomorrow, but because our original goal has been achieved. First Nation communities, once isolated and at times fearful to talk about oilsands and their impacts, are no longer alone.

The Tar Sands Healing Walk — a space and place for communities to come and share their concerns about oilsands development — has been crucial to creating First Nations solidarity in communities throughout Alberta, and also the rest of Canada and the United States, where First Nations are uniting because of their shared experiences living near oilsands extraction, pipelines and refineries.

The Healing Walk began as a one-day ceremony and a walk but has now grown into a two-day event with workshops and speakers.

Chief Allan Adam, the chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, and Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, gave opening remarks before the Healing Walk began this morning.

On this Facebook Page, the organizers explain that “the Healing Walk was born out of a need to heal.” That it’s “an acknowledgement of the people and other living beings, the water, the land and the air, that is suffering due to our unhealthy energy addictions.”

Past participants include Wab Kinew, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben and Tantoo Cardinal.

For more information about the Tar Sands Healing Walk please for to www.healingwalk.org or visit the Tar Sands Healing Walk on Facebook.

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad 

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Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based independent journalist and progressive political blogger. He's the publisher and editor of The Canadian Progressive.