The Last Healing Walk to occur in Fort McMurray

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Jesse Cardinal, Organizer of Healing Walk and Coordinator with Keepers of the Athabasca.

‘not abandoning spirituality, healing central to the event’

It has been decided that this will be the last healing walk that Keepers of the Athabasca and its allies will host in Fort McMurray.   The first healing walk occurred in 2010, when everything was moving fast, open pit mining was big, companies were continuing to move into the territory, in a way that proved too fast for anyone to keep up.  It was the ‘gold rush’ of the north.

The communities that have lived in this land long before a mine had ever been dug, or bitumen had even been discovered, were not prepared for what would become one of the largest industrial projects on the planet.

Many environmental groups were learning about the irreversible damage and massive environmental destruction that was occurring in the Fort Mc Murray area. They’d been rallying governments and companies, staging protests and marches, to raise awareness and slow down what was taking place.  After years of development and destruction, an idea was gifted – to take time, slow down and pray.

The organizers and environmental groups involved in the first healing walk were looking for a different way to connect the issues and mass environmental destruction to the people, land, air and living beings, and in a way that others might hear and understand, so as to create positive change.

Each year, the healing has grown, in numbers, in strength, in meaning and in hope.  Every year, there are more organizers involved who are focused on providing a healing walk that will speak to everyone who attends.  It is an event that has created a space where it is safe to share thoughts, tears, laughter, culture, prayer and hope.

From 2010 to today, we have witnessed the rapid expansion of Insitu/SAGD/CSS that now occupies much of the traditional territory in Northeast Alberta.  We have seen an oil spill occur in Cold Lake and still no one knows how to stop it.

As organizers, we realized our roles and responsibilities extend beyond Fort McMurray.  Others need our help.

In much discussion, prayer and guidance, the organizing team has decided to lend our time, energy and resources to other communities that are also in need.   This is not to forget, or move on from the issues in the Fort McMurray tar sands, but to reach out and connect with other impacted communities like Cold Lake, Beaver Lake, Peace River, Lubicon and more.

If some of you wonder, ‘are we being abandoned’ or ‘what next,’ the answer is no.

We are not abandoning the people who have become like family, people who look forward to the healing walk every year, who come to pray, cry, share, laugh and heal.

What we have been learning is that spirituality and healing are central to everything in life.  And for those of us working so hard, every day and night, we will continue honoring the need to create a peaceful way to express all of the emotions we are experiencing. As we see waters polluted, air polluted, land destroyed, living beings dying and people dying, we will continue to work and hope for a better future.  A future where we will have clean water, where there is harmony and Natural law is followed and respected.

So please come and join us at the 5th Tarsands Healing walk and share your ideas for the next part of this healing journey. It is not only ours, but yours too.

Hiy Hiy,

Jesse Cardinal

Coordinator Keepers of the Athabasca