This July 5-6, the fourth annual Healing Walk will take place in Fort McMurray, Alberta. People will come together from coast to coast to join First Nations and Metis in a gathering focused on healing the environment and supporting people suffering from tar sands expansion. The ceremony will bear witness to the environmental impact the development of tar sands has had on local communities and participating in a spiritual healing walk led by First Nations elders.
Several women from the Nobel Women’s Initiative’s “Breaking Ground: Women, Oil, and Climate Change” delegation last October 2012, stressed the devastating impact of the tar sands on First Nations communities, and, particularly, their identity. These developments, as Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Lakes Cree First Nation notes, often force you to “decide between your morals, values, who you are as an indigenous person” and “feeding your family.”
As Elder Celina explained, “We’re trying to heal people by bringing back culture…healing walks, pipe ceremonies, bringing back traditions.” Everyone is encouraged to participate in the walk, with protest signs and organizational banners left behind--highlighting the emphasis on reflection.
This year, the walk is sponsored by Keepers of the Athabasca, a collection of First Nations, Metis, Inuit, environmental groups, and local citizens coming together to protect water, land and air for Athabasca River community. The local environment has already been subject to air pollution, land destruction, and water contamination to the point where it is no longer drinkable.
Last year, the walk was conducted through the 14-km “epicentre” of the Alberta tar sands. A delegation of 250 people bore witness to the immense industrial devastation and participated in prayer ceremonies. The delegation consisted not only of local residents, but concerned citizens from as far away as the United Kingdom and the United States.
Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein to join Canada’s tar sands ‘healing walk’, The Guardian, July 1, 2013.
I will be walking across the tar sands: Not as protest, but as a path to healing, The Global and Mail, June 21, 2013.
In solidarity with the healing walk: women’s voices on the oil sands, pipelines, and climate change, Nobel Women’s Initiative Video.
Ethical Waters: Healing Walk in the Tar Sands Grows Year by Year, Rabble, August 8, 2012.
Breaking Ground: Women, Oil and Climate Change, Nobel Women’s Initiative.