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Anti-Poverty Community Organizing and Learning (APCOL)

Spotlight on Nina Wilson

Excerpts from a keynote speech at the Push Back! Move Forward! APCOL/TCDI conference on October 19, 2013  by Nina Wilson, Nakota, Dakota, Plains Cree from the Kahkewistahaw First Nation in South Eastern Saskatchewan in the Crooked Lake Agency of Treaty 4 Territory. Nina Wilson is one of the co-founders of Idle No More.

Listen to the full speech (55:44 min)

Transcription by Katheryne Schulz. Cree translation by Brenda Wastasecoot.

(In Cree) My name is Tornado Thunderbird Woman. I'm a pitiful person and I don't know anything, and I work for the Creator of all good things. I acknowledge the spirit world, the helpers of all nations, and the children here and unborn. All we can do is try hard.

 (In English) I introduce myself to you in my languages and I just wished for a good day for all of us… I come from southeastern Saskatchewan and I’m an accidental activist. I didn’t intend on becoming who I am now. I didn’t dream that I would be part of something so beautiful and something so big and so amazing. I never dreamt that would happen for me or for all of us.
I thank the First People that this territory truly belongs to. I want to remind people that this land was taken... I’m asking you all to think about those people who are displaced. And not just displaced from the territories that they were put in around Toronto but about the spatial dispossession that is happening right here in Toronto.
Before Idle No More I was already very concerned about things because I grew up in a territory where you could walk around and you could eat the food that grew wild and natural there, you could scoop water up in your hand and drink it.
(As I grew older) I came home often and I saw signage: Beware of the water. Do not drink the water. Boil the water not once or twice but three times. When you turn the tap on, the water comes out of the tap in chunks. That was very distressing to me because I always enjoyed that freedom to be safe. Water is a right, we all have a right to it. It doesn’t matter what class we are, what colour we are, what race we belong to, we need water. Water is life. Water is the medicine. If we do not have water, we are in big trouble.
(As Idle No More actvists) our first plan was to educate people on things that were detrimental to water and detrimental to land such as fracking…What we did try to do because we are treaty, there’s a court case called Sundown versus Canada. And Sundown was a gentleman from Holbema and he was a Cree trapper and he put a cabin in the path of a pipeline and that ceased everything. Everything just stopped because he had that treaty right. We were going to start a project called the Sundown project and we were going to put cabins in the path of all these pipelines and we were going to slow it down enough to tell all the people what they were really in for until someone presented us with Bill C-45…and we found out that that what Bill C45 did was remove that right to have say over who and what comes into our territory. Bill C45 is now coming into effect. You can see its effects in places like Elsipogtog in New Brunswick.
You may be wondering what this has to do with Toronto. This is a lot about the communities out there like Elsipogtog, like my community and other First Nations communities. These bills that have been passed will affect those communities because (the communities) are being municipalised and they can be sold. Our people can take chunks of them and they can sell them. What do poor people do when they have nothing? What’s going to happen to those poor people once they sell? They are coming to Toronto because there is no more reserve.
I don’t know if you are aware of what’s happening in New Brunswick, but there’s some big things happening there. (Yesterday) the police and the military invaded Elsipogtog at about 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning, crawling in like a sniper routine, rifles and guns ablazing. It was crazy. They were shooting rubber bullets. I don’t know if you know what rubber bullets are but if I shot you with a rubber bullet you would feel it.
So I think this is why Idle No More came about. We all need water. In Elsipogtog, what the battle is about is that there is a Texas company there and they are frackers. Fracking can cause tremors and earthquakes. In Elsibogtog and the surrounding area there is a nuclear waste dump site. Nuclear waste dump sites have containers that have walls that are ten feet thick. Walls that are proven to leak. Nuclear waste will kill you. Fracking will disrupt those containers and those containers will burst and they will harm thousands of people. This is the frightening thing about fracking in that area. Not only that but our own natural gas and oil down below are flammable. They are pouring chemicals into the earth and we don’t even know what they are. If they start an inferno underground where are we going to go? All the oil and all the gas is all connected. Just like our underground waterways, they are all connected. So if the water in these communities is contaminated then where are they going to get water from? If the water in Toronto is contaminated, where are you going to get water from?
The water wars are beginning. People around the world don’t have water. Fracking takes immense amounts of water. So does a lot of open pit mining.
I’m sorry to take up a lot of time to educate about a lot of the environmental issues but that’s big part of what we are about, saving and protecting the earth. We all need a home to live in. Yes, we need jobs but we need to think of new ways to get those jobs. Because the kinds of economic opportunities that the government is spouting are so great, they are not so great. There are countries that are green, they are taking the alternatives. Why are we not doing that? Why is that not happening here?
This is what Idle No More is about. It’s about getting people mobilized. It’s about getting people empowered and getting them moving. Moving, action is love. That’s what real love is. If you are quiet that silence can literally kill you.
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