The fifth and final Tar Sands Healing Walk took place on June 28 in Fort McMurray, Canada. Hundreds of people joined First Nations leaders in a prayer-filled walk around the refineries and “land reclamation” projects operated by the oil company Syncrude.
“This isn’t protest or a rally,” organizer Crystal Lameman told the participants in the walk. “This is a spiritual gathering with prayers and ceremony in order to help bring all of us to an understanding about how bad this is and why it has to stop. The best way to stop it is at the source. So we need to start here.”
The Healing Walk gathering took place from June 27 to 29, with workshops and traditional ceremonies leading up to Saturday’s walk. A lot of discussion this year centered on the Canadian Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling, announced the day before the gathering, which granted aboriginal title to the Tsilhqot’in Nation. The decision may set a precedent for other First Nations, allowing them better footing in their fight against tar sands pipelines and other forms of industrial development.
In this final year of the Tar Sands Healing Walk, organizers were quick to point out that their fight is not yet won. Far from it, as tar sands extraction is ramping up in Canada.
Yet, just within the last five years, awareness about the issue has spread at a tremendous pace. And this year’s Healing Walk drew participants from all over world, including, for the first time, a Gulf Coast delegation from Houston, Texas, and Mobile, Ala., where tar sands refining and storage is set to take place this year.
“We wanted to come see the source of what will be coming to our area and learn what can be done to stop it,” said Mae Jones, who came with the Alabama delegation. “We are honored to be part of the walk this year.”
The organizers of the Healing Walk also said that, although this is the last year of the event, upcoming projects are being planned that will be just as important.
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