–by Crystal Lameman and Eriel Deranger (Oct 08, 2015)
Eriel Deranger [ED]: Without land, water, and culture, we are nothing.
The river systems are the life, and … grandmother Moon, grandfather Sun— everything is alive. When you’re raised with that relationship, that the foxes are your cousins and the eagles are your brothers, you start to have a totally different relationship and interaction with everything around you. And so much of humanity has lost that. But indigenous people have retained it somehow.
If you kill the land, the waterways, the air and culture of those people, you essentially kill those people. And that, in fact, is the definition of genocide.
Our culture was only there by a thread. Many of our people were totally oppressed and broken through residential schools. My parents were a part of that. … We lost a whole generation of our culture and identity. But there are still these little beacons of hope that escaped those forms of oppression, and they’re the ones that are guiding us back to those places that we come from.
Crystal Lameman [CL]: We’re doing our best with what we are given to break free of those cyclical abuses that have plagued our people: assimilation, segregation, oppression, residential schools. And then from there came the drug and alcohol addictions. … But we’re still in the evolution of learning a whole different way. It’s learning, and also breaking.
ED: The revolutionary leader Louis Riel, gave this prophecy in 1885 : “My people will sleep for one hundred years. And when they awake it will be the artists who give them back their spirit.” One hundred years have passed and the awakening has begun.
CL: We’re involved in a revolution—an evolution—of the world’s indigenous people. Everywhere, indigenous people are waking up.
We’re bringing back ceremonies that haven’t been [performed] in years. It’s happening everywhere, not just in my community.
ED: Now our people are being educated. Now our people are starting to understand our rights. Now we’re starting to have the confidence to assert those rights—and it’s really only been in the last decade.
Indigenous people worldwide are in a process of decolonization, and reaffirming themselves as part of society. And that’s what this indigenous uprising is all about.
CL: Knowing where you come from is an important step for all of us, indigenous or not. Every culture honors its connection with the land in a different way. Celebrating this connection, in whatever tradition you’re a part of, is one way to avoid the tendency to appropriate indigenous traditions.
Every single person is indigenous. They all come from somewhere. And all these people need to go and reclaim their roots because everybody has roots from somewhere. … So let those guide you, and at least know about them. So you at least have a feeling of “I belong somewhere. I have people somewhere. I have ancestors somewhere. I have a history somewhere.”
Where does your history end? You? How far back can you go? What can you tell me about your people? People always ask me that, but you?
So where are your roots? I know where mine are. They’re up there—in what is now known as northern Alberta. I know where I come from. And we all need to start doing that if we’re all going to somehow get past these atrocities that have happened. It’s not only us that has to heal. […]
This is no longer an Indian problem. If you breathe air, and you drink water, this is about you.
ED: Indigenous people are in the process of finding themselves as well. A lot of people are in that process of decolonization—but you can also be a part of it. There’s lots of non-indigenous people that are participating. It’s about experiencing the land firsthand. Experiential learning. […]
It’s not like every native person has all the answers to the world. But we’re really paying attention. Find those that do have that. Who are the traditional knowledge holders? There might be traditional knowledge holders in your own family; they exist everywhere in many different communities.
– Crystal Lameman from Beaver Lake Cree First Nation and Eriel Deranger of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. Excerpt from the interview in YES! Magazine: Indigenous Women On What’s At Stake In The Tar-Sands.