Recently, I attended the U.S. premier of the film Tipping Point: The Age of the Oil Sands, a documentary film about the real impact of the Alberta Tar Sands project on the First Nation peoples. This experience, along with the passage of the first ConocoPhillips megaloads through town, has created some real conflicts for me.
The film, shown at the Wilma, was introduced by two of the First Nation folks featured in the film who are making the world aware of the impacts on their land and way of life. In my experience working with Native Americans in Arizona and coming into contact with the Salish in Montana, I am continually reminded of the reverence they have for the land. For us white men, the land is to be bought and sold according to our desires; for the Native Americans, the land is filled with spirits and is a record of “those that went before.” The land is a living entity; in the presence of those that speak with such reverence, I am humbled.
When the megaloads passed through our area, I drove to Rock Creek to see “Lewis and Clark” parked at the interstate turnout. My first impression was that they weren’t as big as I thought they would be. In the context of the “interstate highway space” they were only a curiosity. And I recalled that the interstate system was originally put into place during the Eisenhower administration to support the “military industrial complex.” The capability to move oversize loads across the nation was intended to maintain our security. And then…. I envisioned the drums as giant suppositories moving along Highway 12 and I realized the “land-space” of Highway 12 had just experienced the equivalent of “passing a kidney stone.”
The landscape came alive for me as I was reminded of friends who have experienced the pain and suffering of passing kidney stones. Borrowing from James Wilson’s book, The Earth Shall Weep, A History of Native America, perhaps we should recall the words of John Hollow Horn, Oglala Lakota, 1932:
Some day the earth will weep, she will beg for her life, she will cry with tears of blood. You will make a choice, if you will help her or let her die, and when she dies, you too will die.