First all-Indigenous Greenpeace delegation stands up against Big Oil

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The first all-Indigenous delegation in Greenpeace history is aboard the ship My Esperanza, sailing along the western coast of Canada. The goal is to connect communities who are opposing pipelines and supertankers from invading coastal communities due to Arctic oil drilling.

Shell is preparing to send its fleet of oil drilling and support vessels to the Alaskan Arctic to begin exploratory drilling July 1 2015.

The My Esperanza Mission is a response to a pipeline breakage that occurred in California on Tuesday, May 19 2015, spilling 79,500 litres of crude oil into the ocean. The fear is that a similar spill could occur along the pristine coast as Canada severely lags behind the U.S in oil spill response time. The Canadian Coast Guard took four hours to respond to the English Bay oil spill on April 9 2015, spilling 2,700 litres, while our American counterparts were able to respond immediately.

"The only way to efficiently safeguard our coasts is to say no to pipelines and supertankers, regardless of where the oil comes from, tar sands or the Arctic. For our coast and sacred waters, they mean exactly the same," states Audrey Siegl of the Musqueam First Nation whose traditional territories include the city of Vancouver.

My Esperanza started its journey in North Vancouver on Tuesday, May 19 setting sail for Haida Gwaii and will end their journey Thursday, May 28 in Victoria. Esperanza is the Spanish word for hope.

On board the ship is filmmaker and cinematographer Micheal Auger, a member of the Sakaw Iywinoywak (Woodland Cree) people of northern Alberta.

Micheal Auger shared why he joined this mission with Erica Commanda from MUSKRAT Magazine.

What do you hope to accomplish by joining the Greenpeace delegation on My Esperanza?

My goal is to add my voice and energy to the growing chorus of people worldwide, especially Indigenous peoples to say: enough is enough. The greed and lust for material wealth and power of a few (shareholders and executives) at the devastating cost of many must stop. It's up to each and every one of us alive today to add our voices and energy to bring the insanity that is Shell Oil drilling in the arctic and the tar sands of Alberta to a stop.

Clean renewable energy is available to all of us here and now. It is so blatantly obvious that those who are behind these extreme oil projects are what Ihwiynowahk (Cree) people call "Wihtagouh," a term used to describe a person who has lost their minds, souls and their humanity to destroy and eat everything in their path -- including other people.

I am adding my voice and energy to say: no more.

 

How does the mission connect to your practice as a cinematographer and artist?

As an Indigenous filmmaker I have developed a skill set that I am proud of to bring to work with Greenpeace. I am gathering as much footage as I can of our delegation of Indigenous participants, the outspoken people we are meeting along the way and the My Esperanza crew so that our message can reach people from all corners of Mother Earth. What effects the Arctic affects every other environment and all people of Mother Earth. What befalls the Earth befalls us all.

 

What has stuck with you the most -- after having been part of this mission?

Early this morning, we just reached Haida Gwaii. There was no other better way I could have been introduced to this place. I woke up to the magnificent beauty of Haida Gwaii in our anchored boat on the bay. The only way it could've been better is if I got to share it with my family and loved ones. This part of Mother Earth is spectacular beyond words. When I spoke before our Haida hosts I was shaking because the power, majesty and warmth of the day was just so incredible. Up until now just being here and seeing this place has been the highlight. Yesterday we saw many dolphins and whales which was incredible in its own right. The boat ride here was great the whole way.

 

If you had one thing to say to Shell and Big Oil what would it be?

I say to the people who work for Shell and Big Oil: give yourself permission to feel your heart and soul once more. Allow yourself to be true to what your heart and soul are constantly urging you to feel and do. Realize that it is fear that has ruled your life -- especially fear of death. This is what makes them disregard everyone and everything else, an anger that says that 'since I have to die I am going to take and horde as much as I can while I am here and I don't care what anyone else says, needs or does.'

We have a ceremony to heal the "Wihtagouh." There are actually many ways to restore the connection of a lost one back to the natural laws that were given to us as human beings. Just spending time in a natural environment will begin the process. Even if one does not believe in a Creator, science is catching up and showing that living in harmony with Mother Earth is what will save us all in the end.

Hiy hiy.
Sharp Arrow Red Eagle Man
Micheal Auger

Micheal Auger is a member of the 'Sakaw Iywinoywak' (Woodland Cree) people of northern Alberta. He is the youngest son of the Late Rose Auger, who blazed a trail for Micheal and the rest of his family and community by working tirelessly with the American Indian Movement to bring awareness to what was happening to Indigenous people of Turtle Island as well as the devastation to the land and sea everywhere on the planet. Micheal is the onboard videographer who will be documenting stories alongside the other delegates.

"Today I am proud to carry on the important work of showing courage and pride of who we are and that we are truly people of the Earth. We are people who understand that we are all children of Creator and Mother Earth. We understand that what befalls the planet befalls us. We understand and lived true egalitarianism and sustainability. As a species on this incredible planet we can easily find our way to all living in true balance and harmony without the use of fossil fuels." -- Micheal Auger

Indigenous delegates on board the ship are:

Taylor George-Hollis, Squamish First Nation
Audrey Siegl, Musqueam First Nation
Candace Campo, Shíshálh Nation
Victor Thompson, Haida Gwaii Nation
Robert Holler, Anishnabe
Micheal Auger, Sakaw Iywinoywak (Woodland Cree)

Born in Toronto to an Algonquin mother and Ojibwe father, Erica Commanda grew up on the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan reservation located in Golden Lake, Ontario. From there she moved across Canada living in Ottawa, Vancouver and recently returning to Toronto. Erica spent the last 8 years in the hospitality industry mastering the art of listening to stories while slinging and spilling drinks with a couple of stints volunteering in provincial election campaigns. Serving drinks no longer satisfies her quest for stories and change so she ventured out to discover and master her own knack for storytelling and writing. Erica is now enrolled into Journalism at George Brown College in Toronto and continues to perfect her new craft as Staff Writer trainee at MUSKRAT Magazine and The Xtra Mile.

This piece originally appeared on MUSKRAT Magazine and is reprinted with permission.

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