Over two and half years ago, the North Saskatchewan River was threatened by a spill of 200,000 to 250,000 litres of heavy oil. Husky Energy scrambled to clean up, “the city was able to reopen its river intake in September 2016, more than two months later” (The Star Phoenix).
This situation hit close to home (I live 240KM north of Prince Albert), and īkoskonikowān (it woke me up) at the very real possibility of the many sākahikana (lakes) and sīpiya (rivers) getting contaminated near where we lived, mistahi sākahikanihk– (La Ronge).
I was paddling in my father-in law’s canoe with my future wife at the time, when I closely looked at the pristine waters of mōso-sākahikanisīsihk (Hall Lake), my home community, and realized what a tragedy it would be if this beautiful lake became ravaged with oil. I could not imagine such an event. There have been many oils spills in this country, but it is also the development of oil that ravages the environment.
My personal reliance on oil is high. I used it for fuel and for the plastic products I buy and use. The biggest use for me, is the very device I am using to write this blog for all to see, mamahtāwi-āpacihcikan (computer). It is the way I make a living. I have lived on the land as a child but even then, we needed oil products to survive. There is no going back for many of us.
I don’t know what to think about what I would do without oil products. According to Natural Resources Canada, “Canadians consumed 108 billion litres of refined petroleum products in 2017,” so I cannot be the only one that is torn between the economy and the environment. Both are important and I hope there can be a reasonable balance someday. I hate to say it, but I am on the fence about the whole thing. I like using oil-based products and my livelihood depends on it. I love the environment and I hope it can stay that way forever. It’s hard to say how I will feel in the future.
I understand what the “water protectors” are doing and I applaud them for making the personal sacrifice for the future generations of First Nations people. nipiy kanākatāpahtācik, is the closest I can come up with for “water protectors,” maybe there is a better word, but I cannot find one. Their situation is very close to home and very real. It has become a tense situation and they are pulling out all the stops to do what they can. kicawāsimisinowak (our children) are the future and I hope someday they do not ask why, I did not do more to protect the earth.
kinipīminaw – Our Water
pimiy – oil, gas
īkoskonikowān – it woke me up
mistahi sākahikanihk – La Ronge
mōso-sākahikanisīsihk – Hall Lake
mamahtāwi-āpacihcikan – computer
nipiy kanākatāpahtācik – water protectors
kicawāsimisinowak – our children
askiy – the earth, land or soil
Sources in no particular order: