Echo of the Earth

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021/Winter 2022 issue of Canadian Wilderness

She raised us all equal
But the ego of some
Left us divided
Divided the nations, divided the Earth
Divided to conquer

It was the beginning of the end of the ancient world
That world that I dream of
That I hope one day to live in
Perhaps in another life, on another planet
Where I could be that which I truly am

I am tired of surviving against the current
Caught between the rapids of life and the endless portages to other challenges

River my sister
I talk to her about everything I feel
As if she had the power to soothe my suffering
Swimming in her waters at times calm at times turbulent
Each time I feel myself restored as if rocked in the waters of my mother’s womb

I dive in and observe her depths
Sometimes I am afraid
Sometimes I want to transform into a fish and float inside her

I have been told
That water carries our memories, the memories of older civilizations
I like to believe that is why she pulls me in
She calls me to immerse myself in her, to remember our life in harmony

Sometimes I cry out underwater with all my strength hoping she will hear my call of distress
Sometimes I sit down beside her and sing her a prayer
To tell her how grateful I am that she is present in my existence
And that she allows this life to flow

It is in the wildness of nature that I find myself
Trying to escape the reality that hurts too much
Haunted by the traces of abuse in the past…still very much present
In this society that wants to change me into something I am not

I pray to the great spirit to give me strength to continue on this road
I pray to my ancestors to guide each of my steps toward the path that is my destiny
So as to perpetuate this nomadic way of life
And reopen the passage of ancestral paths

For our survival and that of future generations.

Remnants of life in Nitassinan. Author Uapukun Mestokosho-McKenzie standing alongside the Magpie River. Photos: Uapukun Mestokosho-McKenzie

Mother Earth is here for us all

For many years, we have been working to protect Nitassinan, our ancestral homeland, and Muteshekau shipu, the Magpie River. We have attributed rights to it and have even recognized it as a “legal person” – a first in Canada. This river is known internationally for its rapids and whitewater, but she is far more than that.

Where there is water, there is life. Water is what brings us together on this planet Earth. It moves around the Earth like a great river that flows and continues its eternal cycle to sustain life.

Protecting the Earth is a matter of survival; protecting the Earth is, quite simply, respecting Life. We need her, even if she would probably be better off without us.

The Earth must be given time to regenerate, to recover from all the destruction she has suffered. Some dams that prevent the water from flowing and accomplishing the purpose for which it exists should probably be dismantled. We must come together, unite and go out to occupy this magnificent territory, in order to
restore the connection to Nitassinan.

We need to decolonize… deconstruct the structures of a failed system… that have conditioned us to want always more and more, when we already have everything we need right here.

I come from a generation that has suffered the intergenerational traumas of colonialism, residential schools, systemic racism, cultural genocide, all the injustices of this world and our connection with the Earth that they tried to destroy.

I have long dreamed of this moment when my voice would be heard, for it is also the voice of my ancestors, and that of the Earth.

Uapukun Mestokosho-McKenzie
Innu of Ekuanitshit