back to intros
So what is it youíre doing now? You can start with how do you do it or why do you do it or what do you do?
Well I guess what I, as I explained last night, I'm not doing it right now, well I'm not doing an activist thing right now, but I guess I am still doing it because I still have connections, my focus in the past year and a half, maybe 2 years, has shifted more to native rights because I see how bound those two are together, especially working on forestry issues in Saskatchewan Here itís the northern forest land, because the southern part of the province has been so desolated.
The prairie is lost.
The prairie is lost, I mean it's one of the most, I've heard that the Saskatchewan Prairie is may be the most altered ecosystems anywhere.
Like the amount of natural prairie land is minimal, there's hardly any any at all. It's not that you want to give up on it, you know, my focus is here and my love is, I have a very strong affinity with with forests, so, so I see the connection so strongly. I've come to a realization in this healing process that I've been going through, it was a realization that I came to and it was actually sparked by a question that Flo (Frank) gave me when we were having a real good one on one there. She said, you know, maybe a question that you need to figure out is why are you so driven, to make it right here, what is it that is driving you? And because I have a lot of strong personal connections to poor people and from that community. I just recently, my most recent involvement pretty much my only political action in the past year happened about a month and a half ago, friends of mine from Big River were stopped by police late at night. He and his family occupy a traditional, what is referred to as the Indian village over on De La Ronde Lake, because there's a couple of burial grounds there, and everyone in the area refers to it at the Indian village because everyone knows that it's a traditional, it's been a traditional camp site for as long as forever. Anyway, they were coming home from the nearest big city, Prince Albert, and taking the old man in to see a doctor because he had had a stroke fairly recently and they were going to see a doctor and get medication, like that. And it was around midnight, and, they had just gotten off of the highway onto the logging road that was about 15 miles from their home. Now these are people that live very traditionally. I live, this is pretty rustic, but compared to them, this is luxury. I mean these are folks that are living in old ramshackle log cabins, and with no running water, none of that, and they are choosing to that because they want to teach the children the old ways. The old lady, she was 64 she was still doing things in the traditional ways, and trying to bring the children up that way. So that it doesn't get lost. So that is just a little background there. So they're coming home midnight-ish, they went shopping there, they're about 2 and a half hours from the city and on the logging road hitting rocks, the mufflerís toast, so, Victor stops and gets out, checks to see what's going on. A car is coming. And it's hey! How can I help, out comes this RCMP. He had run ins before about native hunting rights and recognized these guys, obviously this guy recognized him and anyhow, he comes up, doesn't say, are you having trouble, I mean it's late at night, I think it might have even been raining, and immediately starts in with "do you have your registration and blah blah blah blah". As it turns out as it turns out, Victor had taken the plates off his truck and put them on the car because they don't have money, eh, so they haven't got the car licensed yet because they haven't got the money to do it, and so, the cop comes back from checking it out and you know, these are not the right plates and I'm seizing your car, I'm seizing your car. And in the car was his old mother his old dad who was paralyzed, his pregnant wife and his daughter. They had just destroyed his home. and you know, give us a break, you know, and the cop says, I don't give a damn, I don't give a damn who is sick. And so he says quickly, he said, I just want to get my family home. So Victor, you know he's got a little spirit here, so he takes the ticket out and he throws it on the ground, he says, I'm not taking it, I'm getting my dad home, he's sick and he's tired. And so he kind of walks away, actually he goes to take a pee and the cop yells to him, I'm going to sic my dogs on you! Cause he's got a dog, right? So Victor comes back, he turns around and starts coming back, by this time the cop has gone around the car and grabs him. So Victor tells him, well, the best thing I should do is just go limp. So he did that. So the cop then grabbed him by his hair and dragged him back and forth across the road, Victor's yelling, I mean, this is really, really painful. Meanwhile another cop car, basically a paddy wagon, he's called pulls up. And also meanwhile, his mom who is 64 years old, she gets out of the car and goes to help her son. And this other cop sees her, gets out of his car, he comes and he grabs her from behind and she struggles to get away from him and in the process of struggling she hits him, you know. She hits him, but he you know, grabs her and restrains her. And so then this cop, with Victor, he twists Victor's arms behind his back, handcuffs him really really tightly, then he grabs him by his hair again, handcuffed and drags him by his hair all the way to the paddy wagon. Then he comes back to the other cop who is restraining Victor's 64 year old mother and the two of them push her down on the ground, put her arms behind her back and handcuff her. Now I saw her four days later and she had, I could see from across the room, I mean, I need glasses to see well, I could see the marks on her arms. And I saw her maybe 2 weeks ago and she still doesn't have feeling in her one hand. And they kept saying can you loosen these, they're really tight, both of them, they both had them, Victor went to a doctor next day and he was, he was told he couldn't go to work because he had so much injury in his shoulders and his back and his neck from being dragged and also his glasses fell off, his glasses fell off and the cop deliberately stomped them and ground them into the ground.
This is a guy with a point to make.
Yah. So I couldn't not get involved, eh! So I wrote an article, well first of all, I wrote the account in detail, took it in to the local newspaper and said this, you know, I mean I cleared it with them that I was doing this, and so I took it in but I knew the woman, but she didn't want to she said I need to check with the higher ups because there could be some kind of lawsuit here. So she checked out with the Prince Albert paper and they wanted to print it too because they thought it should be published, but, the lawyer advised them to cancel it. They could be sued for it. So they said if you wrote something more general.... 2 native men, actually, they died, 2 native men were taken by police and dumped outside of the city in the middle of winter last year, and a third one who was too, but he managed to get back. So, I thought well, okay, I'll do something more general, so I did, I wrote a more general article, I interviewed a real good friend of mine about you know, what's it like to be a native and youíre pulled over by the police and uh.. Yah, so I wrote this article. We put that in the paper and then Don came out and I got Don Kossick, and a friend, a mutual friend of ours who is a lawyer who lawyered for this blockade that I've mentioned a few times, he couldn't take on a case, but he said he would advise them. So they came up, Don and him came up and we all went to the village there and I got a friend of mine to translate because the old people only speak Cree. And so, we helped them, he wrote up for them a legal, a legal, a formal complaint and so, blah, blah, blah. And then Don interviewed me, he had the radio show, and I read the article. I mean, I figured that's okay. I did that, so then I pulled back. At any rate, to get back to the question that I was saying Flo put to me, Why, why, why do you do this, like what is it? So I didn't think much about it and then one morning I was outside cutting my grass with my tractor, and the realization came to me about what that was about and what it was, it's not only driving me I guess, would be the word, pushing me to advocate for native rights but also probably for the environmental work that I've done, the political work. I came to this understanding of this intense yearning that I have to know how to be human in the same way that a tree is a tree to be a human being the way a tree is a tree, the way a coyote is a coyote, the way a deer is a deer, the way a bear is a bear. To live life in balance and harmony in my relationships, to not make a mess. Nobody else does, nobody else does. To learn, I would like to know how to do that, like how to walk, how to be a natural human being, how to be in nature, how to be like that. And for me, those who are closest to doing that, I mean there is so much dysfunctionality within the native community, there's no argument about that, because of what has been done. But, they're closer to this than anybody else I know, you know. As I said that slide show that we've put together about life here 100 years ago. It was such a jolt to me to realize that those people were living like that, hey? They knew how to do it. They knew how to do that. And so, those who I know now are fairly recent descendents of those people and there are still traces, like I have a really close friend. I mean, he's been influenced because he's been brought up in this society, but there's still dep down traces of that way there. And it just pains me to think of us losing that because it's our last opportunity to make that direct connection. I mean you can read the history books, but there's something different about being around and to be around those old people, like these. Just to be in their presence, I mean I can't even hardly talk to them because they mostly speak Cree, but just being in their presence. Something happens, something touches you because they still have that and to to lose that, to, me is like AAARGH!
And how does that translate into anger?
Into anger? Well anger
Describe your experience as an activist, there's a lot of anger, isnít there?
Yah. Anger involved.
Yah there is a lot of anger. That's what liverís all about, did you know that? Liver is where we hold our anger.
Hmm. I just wanted to pass that own, and liver, my liver is in need of care, too, I told somebody I have a, I'm in love with my liver, I'm really trying to take good care of my liver. How does it translate into anger? Well, I'm angry that we are so blind and maybe that has to do with my eyes. But we are so blind that we don't see what we are destroying there. I'm angry that for such unimportant, what to my mind, for such unimportant goals as amassing stuff, the superduper highways so you can get somewhere faster, you know, all this stuff, eh? We're destroying the Earth. I mean, you can learn from that, not only from the native peoples, but we can also learn from all our relations, all the other species, we can watch how they do it, watch how they get along, watch their ways. I learn from that and it's getting destroyed and that's my anger. In the healing work that I'm doing I've been instructed, advised, okay, yah, but what about you yourself, and so I guess that anger is there. Iím angry at my inability to live that way, that I'm still attached to stuff, eh. I mean much less than most people, I mean my life out here is very very simple, very very simple. And I don't consume much, and I'm most of the things that I buy are second hand you know, or by trade, or as much as I possibly can. You know I'm doing the best that I can but I'm still well aware, well aware, that I still live, in comparison to probably most people in the world, I mean, I am incredibly affluent. I mean compared to most people here I don't, but, I'm kind of at the bottom of the rung there, but, overall...
Could you talk a little bit about the Birch Lake community and how it came to be, and the Pelican Cafť?
Yah, I think I could a little bit.
I want to get the story, so that people can hear.
Well, we bought this land in Ď73 and Milo and I we lived in St. Catherine's Ontario at that time. I had wanted for a number of years, I knew I wasn't an urban person, I lived in cities 7 years of my life and I'm 54 and so.
Where was that?
Saskatoon and Regina, two universities. I was aspiring to be a junior high school teacher, went for 2 years and realized I couldn't take part in that pressure. And then, I tried to figure out how can I get out of town. Because I didn't want to be in the city, I didn't want to be in an urban environment. It felt very crazy to me and I wanted to be close to the land. Then we found other people, other friends, old friends from when I was in Ontario. We were talking about getting out, and are you interested, so we ended up then agreeing that we would try to find land together. They wanted to find land here.My Aunt is a real-estate agent, so that's how we found this place, and I moved here in Ď74. And I thought at that point, we had dreams of building a building, and living together in a house, after about 3 months it became very clear that that wasn't going to work, that our visions weren't' aligned close enough. And then it even got to the point of subdividing, there was a big feud over that, oh, there was a faction of us that didn't want to end up divided. We wanted to keep it whole and not have this, but we were outnumbered by those of us that didn't want to do that. And we spent a whole pile of money and then we needed to be a legal entity, a prodctive coop.
So that was really the structure that was set up here,
Yah, the structure. Now we're taking more like a nonproductive coop would be much more appropriate because we're not producing anything. So, we did that, I think there were 7 of us at the beginning and then we all started having children and I think as it progressed on there was 13 adults at our peak, there was 13 adults and their children here. And I'm not exactly sure what year it was. Well we started having, there was a lot of stuff that I don't really want to get into, at one point we started having problems. There was Oriole and her ex-partner who had passed away a few years back and their family and myself and our children, we started spending more time there. And eating together, eh?
Has music always been a part of it?
Music has been a great part of it and also often, like we were quite connected to a community in Saskatoon, so we have some very deep attachment to the community there. So a lot of people from there would come here, yah, at times we'd be feeding like, 25 or 30 people. And you know, in the summer time it was, and a lot of people sort of feel quite a bit of ownership in that way, of the community, so that's kind of held out, that's what's happening. And we also intentionally, our two families were wanting to create something other than nuclear family, both ourselves with our kids, sort of an experiment of learning how to share. It's not easy for our North American societies are not taught that way to learn how to share and learn how to be open, and share responsibility. So we would buy both quantities of you know, organic rice together and learn how to do that, try to learn how to trust each other and how to how to be... It was very intentional,
The little things were the hardest,
Yah, exactly. The little things were the hardest so I think we were quite successful actually, quite successful and in many ways, but there were of course problems, we get burnt out, by the end of the summer, we would end up with all of our yearís food supply gone...
The rice and beans are gone, eh?
And we weren't very good, we realized we weren't very good at organizing, you know, of making use of volunteers, because people would have been willing to do stuff, but we didn't have that skill of knowing how to organize it so that we wouldn't get burnt out, and so that our wood supply wouldn't be gone. You know, we could have been hauling wood in the summer time, people would have been glad to do it. So we kind of you know, made an attempt to turn that around. Then, the larger group, people who didn't take part in the talking stage, they wanted to take a part in this. We decided it would be kind of good to have some kind of cost recovery. Flo actually came and spent a weekend with us helping us, doing a sort of CED focus with us, took us through a process so that we could make some kind of a community plan. In the process of that we made a brochure, and we want to build up a place that's better for all of us, and you know, people were really into it. We needed money. So we did, we raised money, people would come, our friends would come, they'd donate, and didn't mind doing it because they were folks with jobs and they had money and were very grateful to have this place to come to. But then it started. Now itís, well what to do with the money? And that's sort of what seems to have triggered all this mmmmmmm that we're in now.
Changed the flavor of things.
Changed the flavor of things. It's money involved and then people want to start having the control. That's part of the coop, they wanted to have a say in whatís what and how it should be done and, we need more structure and like that, eh?
Everybody's got an opinion.
Yah. And so there thatís sort of what, in a real nut shell, is my perspective on what,
In this time, you haven't just been focused inward, though, on this community, Birch Lake, you've been focused on issues all over North America, certainly,
Yah, that's right,
And in Canada, tell me some of the things you've been involved with.
The Birch Lake community really has informed all my other work. What's going on here has sort of been the microcosm, has kind of been the place where I can, it's sort of the proving ground, eh? Sort of the testing ground, in a way, and that's what we've been trying to create here is an alternative, an alternative way of society, an alternative way to be with each other, an alternative way to deal with problems, to try to... and what I learn here I take out in my work out there. And they they inform each other and we've talked about that. So there your question was.
Tell me about that other work.
That other work? Well, mostly it was focused on forestry issues and native rights issues and then I got involved with Don (Kossick), it was Don and myself and few other people, we put together, got involved in all this project, it was the CIDA head, CIDA is the Canadian International Development Agency, the Canadian environmental effort got together with CIDA and put together this program of 20 projects between Canadian environmental groups and environmental groups in othre places. Now I never know what word I like to use, I mean there's just words like developing countries, third world, I don't like any of them, to me they're the ones we should be looking to for guidance, but, anyway, those kind of countries. So we, through being the stopping off place for delegations going up to the blockade and back, we made connection with native peoples. Anyways, the long and the short of it was, we made the connection with this, with the Bri-bri people from Costa Rica, they are first nations people from there, and a group that is sworn to protect the environment and the cultural heritage, they saw that link real strongly and we thought it would be a real joining point, how intertwined protecting culture is with protecting the environment. Native culture, and the environment are totally mixed, and if we can protect the culture then the environment will be protected. So, we did get a project funded, we got funded by CIDA. But we had a northern component and a southern component, and Don was sort of one of our key links, he sort of accompanied that project, has accompanied that project all the way along. My focus here is mostly on the northern end of things and an area over by Big River, at a place called Nestlin Lake, so we called it the Nestlin Lake project. Weyerhauser is the logging company there. Nestlin Lake is a beautiful little lake, and there's a campground there that one of the people in this project is the manager of, and Weyerhauser has their lease all around that lake and there were people around that area who wanted to set up camps and businesses, catering to travelers. This Indian village is near there, so the traditional areas for native trappers is there, it was their traditional area where they you know, did whatever they do gathered berries, did gathering, hunting, fishing, that kind of stuff. The Weyerhauser wanted to come in and log right up to that lake which would have totally impacted on all these traditional activities, plus it's sort of a, it was an area that was near and dear to the hearts of many people in this area. So what we were trying to do, what the project was about was doing a study of that area. We focused a lot on mapping, doing map surveys, we interviewed old timers, we interviewed native people in the area, and brought them in, too. What our whole thought was to do a compilation of land in the area, the existing land uses in the area, and then show the government, okay, this area, there's all this going on here, so you need to intervene here in terms of Weyerhauser. My role a lot was, I have a, maybe will have, still do have, a skill in dealing with government people and industry people. I was able to get support of the director of forestry to support the project, even with interface with heads of Weyerhauser and appeal to their people, maybe to try to allow this to happen. It was such a struggle, such a struggle, and the big struggle, the major struggle, the major obstacle to this happening was not getting support of the local community, not because they didn't support the idea, they did, but they all worked for Weyerhauser so they were scared, they were scared to stand up, even though they'd come through the office, you know.. [whispering] we can't give you support because my son, or my neighbor, or like that, eh? So that's what I say when I look back and I think I really thought I could do it, not I but we, I really thought we could do it, we could do it, and I'm foolish not to think that that was a possibility, but people were too scared, people were just too scared, it's a company town, it's been a company town for years,
In a company world,
In a company world.
And the irony of it was that there was a man that worked, that worked for Weyerhauser and he ... he told me afterwards, he said you know, Joys, if you could have got, if people would have got off their asses and supported you, he said, Weyerhauser would have backed off, he said, you were so close, you were so close that they would have backed off, if people would have, if people would have had the courage
Made enough stink
Yah, if people would have had the courage then Weyerhauser would have backed off and there wouldn't have been clercutting. But people weren't like that, they were scared. Yah. Yah we had so much support, we had governmental support, there was a number of foresters within the government branch, good people, really good people, that are right on. They wanted to do studies, wanting to come up and do this place, we'd started doing workshops with people with training them to do this land use planning, we had that kind of lined up. It was, we had people from the department, the government was going to give us a donation to give workshops to people so that people would have skills to go out and do,
Sounds like a great technology in some ways
Oh it was great! It was it was! Yes. Yes. And then, learning how to do it, and getting people involved, local people involved, and we wanted to get youth involved, too, that was another, was getting youth involved, and learning how to do interviews, learning how to go out and do biological assessments, it would be wonderful. You know the training, the potential was wonderful, but we couldn't get the support, we couldn't get the support of the local people. I was also involved in three other, there was like managers, Weyerhauser had set up what they called co-management boards or advisory committees, they set those up as soon as we started doing this project. And so I was going to those meetings. The next northern area which was Dory Lake, there was a really strong group of people there, that involved, there were first nations, Metis, Canadian Parks and Wilderness association, that's another group we should talk about if we get into it. There was a really strong element of people sitting on that board. They were really strong, they had a very strong front, in terms of local strength, they were really doing it, So I was going to these committees as well as here, I was going to the local advisory council, I was siting on that for a time, I was also sitting in the provincial forest advisory council. So I had it pretty well covered, and then what happens just before this whole scenario, the government made these deals, came up with this study, it's not even a study, this study that they did, well I guess it kind of was a study, but, anyway, they came up with the idea that we were cutting too litle. So they decided to go with the cuts and require the companies to double cut and also take out areas from that. How the forest land is allocated here is that it's all publicly owned, but then these.
The logging companies,
These logging companies. So they had decided that they would remove some of the area that Weyerhauser was allocated, they would remove about a third of the are from their land to give to local native communities, which sounds really good, eh? Because there's been hew and cry in the north there. Northern Saskatchewan is the highest density of poverty in all of Canada, like its, it's terrible, there's nothing up there. So, in my, in their great wisdom, the government decided to take this area away from the bigger to give to the smaller, to the local communities so they could work. Which sounds pretty good except that they had to partner with these big companies. And have to do it, so what's happening around that is that now these local native communities are being pushed into these sort of white elephant projects, the building of huge mills and saw mills, native forestry is going to get wiped out, talking to, I mean, talking to even some of the industry foresters, the government, kind of, you know, the scientists are saying, where are they going to get the wood, it's just not there. So they doubled the cuts, so they pushed the large companies to cut twice as much, because they're saying oh you're not totally utilizing your resource there, so pushing them to cut twice as much, shrunk their size down, and then pushing northern communities to give the same scenario. So that's sort of what happened there, so. At that point, my body said, NO more!!!
Time for a pause!
You can't do this anymore! So that's why I bailed out. That's where, it was kind of rough, and yah, yah, it's sad, it's sad that that happens. The part that is kind of encouraging, like Oriole now, she's, we started up our own little tree planting company here and Oriole has been taking that one over, and now she's gotten herself tangled up in dealing with this horseshit, getting these little contracts, and she's constructing this more local company now and doing these regeneration surveys and going out, checking out how trees are, you know, how the forest is doing, going into the clear cuts and seeing what happens in 10-15, 20 years down the line and you know, is it growing back, I mean it's not what it was, it's not natural forest, it's tree plantage, but at least you know, it's covered up, there's stuff growing there, so that's encouraging, I'm grateful it hasn't turned into, you know, just bare land. It's not what it was, there's a bruise in the ground and trees are growing and cut back, but, and the wilderness experience has been damaged, the Earth has been desecrated and the native peoples have been desecrated, their communities, their communities have been, well, it's cultural genocide, exactly, and it's happening.
Why, when you first got involved in social change, in social justice, what motivated you, what sparked you?
I think it would be in education, it would be in the teaching area, like when I was teaching school. the second year that I taught, I took a pre school approach, and that radicalized me and I saw what was happening in the education, and that would have been back in 68, 69, I guess? So I guess education was the first area that I started, I started to see all wasn't well, institutionalized life had huge costs many injustices, huge costs on the human spirit.
I'm very interested in what you think it will take or would take or should take to advance organizing activity.
That's a very good question, a question I've been asking for a long time.
I don't know, I don't know what the answer to that question is really, I mean, money is always an issue, It's the truth of the matter, it really holds things back, I know a lot of times I felt held back because I didn't have enough gas to put in my car or couldn't pay my phone bill, and I know that's happened to a number of people.
It's reality. Spirit, that's another thing that comes to mind, you know, there used to be that space for spirit, eh. Like I found the most effective work I did, the most effective, like I did a lot of stuff... You know, I always found that the most mmmm, you know, the most oomph, of anything that I did usually had to do with music, you know. It wouldnít be unusual, like at a meeting, pushing my way in, like hey I'd like you to let me, you know, this is part of my presentation, and playing a song would help much more impact or bigger.
Can you think of a time when that happened, a specific story?
Yah. Well there's one. One was a good one. I'll give you a copy of. I went to a hearing, it was a hearing on the expansion of some uranium mining endeavors, and I went in there and asked if I could have space, and because I had been asked a previous one, the person who was heading up the panel, he was a university prof in Regina, and he really liked my presentation the time before and so he made room for me to do that. So, I played that song, and Yah, it was very effective. The chorus of the song is we do not need uranium power, we do not need uranium mines, we need to use the power of the sun... and well the panel ..... The industry officials that were lined up on their side of the room, they were after I had done the song, the chair of the panel said, well! and they were just stunned,
They didn't have a song?
They kind of conferred together and then said, we really liked the music, but we didn't much care for the words, we didn't agree with the words. That was what it was or something like that. But they were kind of stuck, they didn't have much to say. So that felt really good, and it really broke through the spirits of everybody,
Of everybody in the hall
And there was an energy shift happened there, that people were much more confident in their presentations. So that felt very good, you know it's such a simple thing to do, you just get up and sing a song, eh? And, yah. I mean I didn't do a whole lot, I mean I felt kind of bad in a way because all of these people had done so much research work on their presentations, I mean, I didn't feel bad, I mean I was really glad I could do it, but it seemed like you know, I didn't do a whole lot of research, it isn't really an area that I could really focus on, I happened to be in town and a friend asked me if I'd come. But I was very glad to be able to do that. And so,
Just another question that I've been asking people, what are the magic moments, when it worked, what did it feel like, tell a story about,
There's another story that I would tell. This was at a meeting, it was at a provincial advisory council meeting and there showed up there this fellow who had been involved in a, well, maybe I'll tell you a little about this story. Back at the time of the blockade, I was so frustrated, I was pretty new to all of this,
Tell me again where was the blockade?
This was north of Meadow Lake, at Wiggens bay and the native peoples of the area were blockading the local company from hauling logs out of the area, and it just seemed like, it was nothing moving over there. And so, I got this idea to, if we could have a gathering of people at a rural society and invite the various parties. Well I , what happened, the minister of environment resource management I had made a good connection with him, he kind of, we clicked, eh? He had just gotten in, he was a really good man, as time went on he got quite corrupted, but at the beginning he was coming from a pretty good place and so, what I did was I invited the head of the forestry branch, of the environmental protection branch, of the government, the head of Forestry Canada, and then the top forester from the logging company and then a bunch of my environmental friends and small businesses operators. I tried to get first nations people to come but I got, well, I got 1 person to come, but most of them didn't want to come because they didn't want to sit down at a big table. And then a friend who was with them, who had done work with the Rocky mountain institute, that format, I don't know if you're familiar with their stuff, but that format of working on community economic development, it was a real nice form. So I talked them into coming and we went to this place called Shakeenah retreat center, a nice little place outside of the Saskatchewan River, beautiful, beautiful spot, and very nice facility. We potlucked, so we all chipped in to pay for the facility, everyone brought food along, we cooked together, the government people, the industry people, the hippies, you know, all washed dishes together, we all had shifts, that we would clean up and we would do that, and we spent a weekend there together and then used this rocky mountain institute profile that my friend coached me on. There was about 20, 21 of us, and it was just astounding, I remember at one point because I was doing the facilitating, kind of, everybody was divided up into these small groups, looking at these questions, these really hard questions and how can we get, the focus was, how can we care for the forest and the communities, how can we do that in a good way that's good for everybody.
And everybody is everybody in the world, not just one somebody,
Everybody, everybody, yah. It was phenomenal, just phenomenal!. But it happened, because of this minister, he instructedthem, "do what she wants".
We're doing this.
Do what she wants. And the logging company couldn't do anything else, I mean, they had to, because it's public. So it was an amazing, an amazing thing. Anyway there was one Weyerhauser guy that showed up at this meeting, this provincial council meeting and I hadn't seen him since like... So during the course of the discussion, I can't remember what the course of the discussion was exactly, but I brought up about the whole idea, the concept of corporate ethics. We had this coffee break and he came over and he just, he was kind of you know, taken aback, he said, you know, I felt kind of insulted by what you said. He said, are you implying that Weyerhauser doesn't have ethics? And I said well, do you really want to talk about this? Yah, because you say that, are you really wanting me to answer this question and he said yah. I said, okay, but I want you to remember, you asked, you asked me, so I started listing all the ways that included, and one of the things I included was talking about how people were bullied and people were intimidated and wouldn't come out. I said you know I think that most people are at least happy and satisfied at least in their own personal ethics, but not the ethics of the company and that's a hard dilemma for people, I mean that's not fair, that's unethical that people can not, can not come forward, can not do that because they are fearful for their jobs. So, so I went through all of it and you know, I gave him all my reasons, and at the end of it he was just kind of he was just sitting there, and he said, you know, it's really good to see you again, and at the end of the meeting he came over and he shook my hand, he just kept saying over and over again, it's so good to see you again, it's just so good to see you again. And sincerely, you know, just kind of... cause it was in a very big place,
In a very important way,
So those are the, those are the shining, and there's a number of situations like that. When this happened, actually, when I got this diagnosis, I got a phone call a couple weeks later from a person, from the person who was the minister of environment. The last time I'd talked to him had been, maybe a year and half, he had moved to a different ministry by the that time. And the last time we had talked, we had yelled at each other, made quarrel, kind of. He called me up to say that he had just heard, that I had a health situation, that's the way he put it, he said, I hope you realize how much impact you had on people in the government, he said, how much impact on industry leaders, he said, if it weren't for you... and that really touched me because he knew that, because the last time I had talked to him we had had, more of a, you know, we were both not really liking what each other was doing, we weren't agreed, we weren't agreed. Yah. So I was quite touched, quite touched by that.
You were saying last night that you thought you might find a way back in to activism issues,
Yah maybe, I don't know, I really don't know. I really don't know if I will. I see what I was doing was... well for one thing I think I took it as far as I could take it, type thing, you know, I already, even before this health issue came up I'd already, you know, once the government doubled the cut, it felt like, you know, well, obviously this road isn't working anymore and I have to figure out another angle here if I'm going to continue doing this. Cause this, well, this is
The road is petered out, there's real swamp.
So now what, you know? So that had already become clear to me, that I can't do what I did before, I think sort of the role that I assumed there or shaped there was sort of as a conscience, like one Weyerhauser guy said to me not long ago, he said, Joys, you're just always so idealistic, you're always talking about the ideal, it isn't the real world, and I said to him you know, his name is Brian, and I said, Brian, you know, I mean it's not that I'm naÔve, I mean, I've been around the block here, but it's the role I play, somebody has to hold that up. It's not that I believe that we're going to get there, I know, I know, but somebody has to, I feel, somebody has to keep that right there in front of us all the time, saying this is how it should be. Now I tell you I didn't have that language at the time, but if we're going to be human in the way a tree is a tree or you know, we have to hold that up there, I think, and that's my role is to do that. And I still believe that that maybe is a role that I still could play, but, it wouldn't be in such self destructive ways. Ways that were so self destructive to me, spreading myself too thin going to all these, I was going to sort of major meetings four times a month, at least four times a month and then this whole, other stuff in between, I mean, I have my family, I have my life to try and fit in there and I have this community, and it wasn't like that was the only thing in my life and then trying to make a living, it was too much. I mean, I was so overextended, I mean, when I look back at it, how? So I see that as a pretty common thread running through the lives of a lot of activists is getting themselves spread too thin, with too little returning. Not enough regeneration, to regenerate themselves, you know, the energy that they have. I think we need to be really activists, I mean, really, really, but it's really important that HOW we do stuff is as important as what we do. And part of that how we do stuff is care taking of self. I read something recently around activists and ill health that there's a lot of activists get you know, health problems, or cancer or like that, that it hits us, and part of the reason that this person, who was sort of, sort of energetic healing, she talked about her thoughts about what happens with environmental activists is that we take on the pain of the earth, we take on that destructiveness and then your body reacts. And I really found that when I started, when I said to you that I thought has an emotional basis, when I started looking into my own landscape, what I see there is, on a very personal level in my past, my personal history, a destructiveness against women, a destructiveness against mother and grandmother at a very nurturing level. My grandmother died of breast cancer when I was, ten days old, and because well, part of the contribution to that was mistreatment by her by my grandfather, so you know, kind of transferring that into the mother, the baby, her nurturing abilities being desecrated. You know, it's kind of a big leap, but it really rang true for me when that realization came to me that there was a definite connection between that, and then when I heard this, this healing energy worker, this healer talking about that, her observation of that, and people who do environmental work, very often in their body that desecration of the earth and it plays out then. So I think when you ask about what could be done to help activists be more effective and healthier, I think maybe offering some kind of learning around that connection, raising awareness of the connection between caretaking ourselves and caretaking of the earth, and see how those things fall into play. And that how we do the work is just as important as what we do and how much we get done, but how well we take care of ourselves and how we're doing it, if we aren't taking care of ourselves then it's not really a very good reflection on how we can take care, like how can we take care of the earth if we're not taking care of ourselves?
What is it that you have found to be regenerating? Where is the regeneration, where do you get your batteries recharged, when you do?
When I do work. I get my batteries recharged, I get it from the earth, I have a, my spirituality is pretty earth based, so I get really charged by being in nature, that's one of the ways. I get really recharged by gathering with this extended community, We've had wonderful, I don't know if Don talked about that, but we've organized wonderful gatherings, gatherings of the clan.
Who is your circle? You're talking about this community caring community in Saskatchewan, who is in this circle?
Yes, there's a big one. You see, how would I say that, like for me, there's the native community, I've got real strong connections with the native community. So they're a, a source of regeneration for me, too. And then there's a group in, there's people in Saskatoon like Don at the community outreach center, and people connected with that, I've worked on a bit of work with them. But the community, the actual community, it's hard to say, it's harder to find a... Flo, Flo was trying to get a handle, cause she's moved here, she has only been here in Saskatchewan For the last our or five years, she's just learning about this, this crazy community here, too, but, there's sort of a focus point, every year there's a festival. Where our project was, called the Nes Creek music festival, and that is the heart of our, that is the core of our project. And this festival happens every year. Where it really started was we used to have a gathering called Timberlost, where we would get together and go out into this area near Big River. It was native land, or it had been, it wasn't any more it was under Weyerhausers's lease and we would go there and we would have to walk in. And we'd just camp there, it was very, like we'd have to carry everything in, and we just camped there together and just have fun together, you know, we'd make music and we'd cook together. We'd talk about forestry issues, but it was a family gathering, and one of the big focuses was to try and leave the place so that you couldn't tell that we were there. You know, learn to be light, to get together and be light. And then, then it got to be we decided it would be nice to have it be more public, and more people be able to come so then we had it at a lake, Nes Creek Lake the first year, but it wasn't big enough, it was such a success that we kind of overran the campground. It was obvious we...
It's hard to be light,
Yah, it wasn't big enough and so then we moved it, and now it's held on land that somebody owns actually, the manager of the campground that was involved in Timberlost. Anyway, so then that group, we have dances throughout the year as a support for this festival, as fundraisers for the festival. There's like 2, 300 people come, and they'll feel like part of the community, you know, and so it's this community, Birch Lake, and then there's another community around Big River, and then the community in Saskatoon, the people who, there's all sorts of different kinds of people, musicians, artists, people who are activists, you know, people who just work, there's all sorts of people, but we all we're all kind of alternative people, kind of hippies, I guess you might kind of say it like that. Attached to it is a journal, that comes out four times a year, it's kind of our newspaper, so art has a big role in that, music and art, theatre, that kind of thing. So there's a strong artists component to that. But then tree planting is another big segment, the whole tree planting crew the campground at Nes Creek lake also is a part of a big tree planting company. So, it's the tree planter bunch that are a part of it, bush people, and then there's the natives, the native connection, the Metis around Big River do a lot of set up for the festival. Then through the work that I've done, my connections with the native community are kind of drowning out, and Don as well, a lot of us, with native communities and so with their own connections. That's slow, that's very slow and there's so much more stress... so that's more, that's more tentative, that's very fragile, that connection yet, in terms of the whole community.
I'm done with my list of questions, but the, two things by way of ending, one is, is there anything you want to talk about?
I can't think of anything.
The other is this really is a conversation among organizers, and activists across Canada and the United States and Australia, do you have any questions or observations, or quandaries to pose for the other folks in this?
I guess what I would say, to me one of the big focuses of where more energy should be put is in that very last thing we talked about, is in strengthening that connection with the native communities. To me, that's what needs to be done more than anything else. Because that's where our model is. There's an amazing book that you should read, it's called, "Voices of the First Day". If you're going to Australia, you should read "Voices of the first day" by a man named Robert Lawlor. It talks about the aboriginals, and it's a beautiful book. I have a copy of it, but I lent it to somebody right now, but it's a stunning book. That is, to me, that is where our greatest strength would lie, if we could strengthen those connections with the native communities and also help them in their struggle in any way that we possibly can. If we don't do that we might as well forget it. I realize that's a strong statement but I believe it's true. And there's a couple reasons for that. One of the reasons is because of what I said before, is because these are the people on the planet who have the closest connections to living in harmony with the earth. That's one reason. And the other reason is that they do have some legal rights that the rest of us don't have, like at least here in Canada, the treaty rights. Even though it's hard, if we can support them in having their treaty rights and their aboriginal rights, if we could support them in having those honored... Even though I'm well aware of the dysfunctionality in these communities, I'm well aware of that, particularly amongst the leadership, I still believe that that's where the hope lies. Because at least we've got some legal basis, you know, whereas I don't, as a white person I don't have any, I don't have any claims. Whereas they do, even though it's not being honored and not being respected, but there's something to that. So, I guess I would say that. So in terms of other people I would be asking questions about what's your connection with the native community and what work are you doing in that direction, and how much do you know about aboriginal rights in your area and that.
Well we are, as I said, we are going to try and bring all the Canadian folks together at the Institute at Concordia next summer, and I think it's mid June.
And I would encourage you to go into aboriginal and native communities, as much as you possibly can.
Yah. We're going to have a number of opportunities both in the West and the East.
Yah, yah. Like I know that there's a couple people that I work with here that would be very good for you to talk to. Because you get a whole other story. Like I asked recently because I've been ill for a year, so I asked my friend, a good friend of mine the other day, I said, what's happening now, what's happening to you. And he just said, we're fighting to survive, we're fighting for our lives. We're fighting for our lives. And that's true, eh, and I said, well, I guess we all are, and he said, yah, I know, it's true, we all are, we all are fighting for our lives but it's more of a real day to day kind of thing, and I said... you know, you asked me what's happening right now, we're fighting for our lives. It's just that we have a bit more illusion than disillusion, we think we're better off then what we are? We're cushioned.
[Banjo (?) playing]
I think about this old man walking on the land,
He's looking for the roots (?) he's gathered since the time he was a boy,
Oh he stumbles through these trenches, that were left behind in war time
When the company came rolling through to take away the trees
And all the old ways of getting by
All the old ways of getting by
I remember when I was a child the world was filled with wonders
.the while in secret places, where the wild ones lived
Then one day the . that I was pushed to be,
Another cause within the whims of progress,.
Creating new ways, of getting by,
Such hard and strange ways of getting by,
And I wonder when we will remember
That there are much better ways to live
We can't just take we have to give
And I do hope that we'll soon remember
That we've lost the beauty in our ways of getting by,
Let there be beauty in our ways of getting by,
La, la, la, la,.
Now the old man reaches in his sack,
His fingers find the matted.
To heal the heart of yet another wagon burning bright (?)
. his memories back to the places where the old ones packed along
the knowledge, of the wisdom of this land,
And all the old ways of getting by,
All the old ways of getting by,
And if I. with all it's twisting sands (?)
Seek to understand the . of everything that comes my way,
. where I can see.
The other ones who live here with us
Go about their ways,
The very old ways of getting by,
The sure strong and clear ways of getting by
And I wonder when we'll remember that there are such better ways to live,
We have so very much to give,
And I do hope that we'll soon remember
That there must be beauty in our ways of getting by,
Let there be beauty in our ways of getting by
Oh, let there be beauty in our ways of getting by.
La, la, la...