Victoria’s Healing Walk – thanks to the RAVEN supporters!!

Victoria’s healing walk raised $1579.35 for RAVEN and close to 300 people participated. We were thrilled at people’s response.  Included in this amount is $130.00 which RAVEN supporter/volunteer Terry Dance-Bennink raised at an open forum on Enbridge in Sooke on June 19th. 

Several RAVEN representatives attended including current directors Jessica Van der Veen and Kathryn Harwood, plus past-director Lynn Hunter.   Jessica did a great job at explaining the recent court victories – especially the June 28th Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous declaration of Aboriginal title for the Tsilhqot’in Nation. 

Says Jessica:  People responded passionately to the brief description of the Beaver Lake Case and of the Tsilhqoti’in decision.  I read Jack Woodward’s quote describing the logic of the case to protect the environment in order to preserve guaranteed rights in the Constitution.  People applauded his brilliant argument.  They were inspired by this and by the distinction between ‘consultation’ and ‘consent’!

We at RAVEN are inspired that so many people locally came out in support of these important issues.  And thank you to all who donated!! 

Terry’s blog column for the Times-Colonist follows here:

Inspired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a broad alliance of faith communities took to Victoria’s streets last Saturday to lift up the healing of the tar-sands through ritual, prayer and reflection.

It was a spiritual walk, not a protest march, but a prophetic act nonetheless – a historic moment for our faith communities.

We did more than simply apologize to First Nations for the actions of our ancestors. We walked and prayed with them in solidarity, at the same moment as hundreds of First Nations walked through the toxic tailing lakes in Fort McMurray.  We put our bodies on the line.  We said YES to our prophets’ call for justice.

I felt like I was on a 1960s civil rights march! But I was nervous. Our planning team had never done something like this before. Would people respect the spiritual nature of this walk? Would the 2 ½ hour walk be too much for our elders? Would the rain hold off?  Would our sound system work?

“Breathe in peace….breathe out love,” we chanted and I calmed down.  Miraculously, more than 250 of us “con-spired” as a Unitarian chaplain led us in the chant.  Buddhists, Catholics, United Church members, Quakers, Unitarians, Esquimalt Baha’i, Anglicans, members of Sierra Club BC, Dogwood Initiative, and many other “non-affiliated” folks walked slowly and meditatively, despite the periodic drizzle.

We began our walk on the traditional lands of the Lekwungen People. A group of young meditators from UVIC welcomed us as they sat peacefully by the water’s edge, reminding us that we heal ourselves by healing the earth and vice versa.

To our delight, a group of people from many nations walked all the way from Mill Bay to join us, carrying water from Shawnigan Lake, the Malahat, Highlands and Thetis Lake.  And young people from Tofino, organizers of a weekly silent sit around Vancouver’s Stanley Park, also took part.

The four elements – water, air, fire and earth – inspired our rituals, which were framed by Ojibway writer, Richard Wagamese’s teachings.  United Church minister, Leanne Benoit, blessed the water at the start of our walk and a child poured the water back into the ocean.  Unitarian chaplain, Kjerstin Mackie, celebrated air and our interconnectedness at the Legislature as we breathed in and out in respectful silence.

Ted Mousseau, a Buddhist teacher, ignited fire at Pioneer Park and led us in a chant of atonement. And Linda Mulhall helped us meditate on the healing energy of earth at our closing ceremony.  

Cars honked their horns as we carried the beautiful banner and signs created by artist Diane White, sang our chants, drummed to a heartbeat, and handed out flyers to interested pedestrians.

We streamed into First Met at 3:30 pm, without a single traffic incident, and gratefully drank cold water and ate the fresh fruit prepared by walk organizers.

Two First Nations elders and the Mill Bay group led our closing ceremony with a haunting song, and reminded us that Vancouver Island has its own polluted water in need of healing.

I shared the story of my tarsands river pilgrimage last fall and what I learned from brave Cree-Chipewyan elders and Dr. John O’Connor. I returned a changed woman, shocked to my core by the devastation of the land and wildlife, and the filthy, contaminated water that is killing First Nations people. 

The tarsands are out of sight, out of mind for many people, but not those in the church that day, who responded generously in support of RAVEN, the fundraising arm for many First Nations legal challenges. 

“We can’t sit back and let First Nations be bled to death financially,” I said. “We can’t leave it up to First Nations alone to defend our precious earth. We can’t let our racist, colonial history repeat itself.”  And we didn’t – we raised $1,579.35!  And that’s just a start.

We cheered Jessica van der Veen, a RAVEN board member, who cited the recent landmark victory by the Tsilhqot’in First Nation, supported by RAVEN, as an example of what can be done.

It’s an exciting time to be alive, as Joanna Macy says, because we CAN make a difference. We can…

• Dig deep into our wallets to support First Nations legal challenges,
• Stop the expansion of pipelines and tankers by organizing for a people’s vote across BC,
• Walk and cycle more
• Divest our savings from companies like Enbridge & Kinder Morgan
• Visit the T’Sou-ke First Nation and be inspired by their solar energy initiatives
• Pray for all those suffering from the effects of our dependency on fossil fuels

Prayer is powerful and so is our commitment to a peaceful non-violent movement for eco-justice and democracy. It’s what we do best as spirit-led faith communities.

Terry Dance-Bennink is a member of Esquimalt United and a Buddhist sangha, and is a Dogwood Initiative organizer.

Posted by Admin Monday Jun 30, 2014 11:41
Categories: ACFN, Beaver Lake Cree, Climate Change, Environment , RAVEN General

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