"Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people, and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the earth - the unborn."
- Constitution of the Five Nations
Day 34 - Wednesday, July 26, 1995 - The walkers promenaded to the White House. Tom, Ned, Frank, led the way, along with Charlie Commando who has come down from Maniwaki, Quebec with his daughter Samantha to be part of our Sunbow walk. Charlie is another gifted singer and drummer.
Carrying an American flag and the Sunbow eagle staff, the walkers made their many drums resound with booming rhythm, and lifted up full-voiced chants that echoed off the buildings in downtown Washington.
With Grandfather Commanda, the walkers formed a circle in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. They offered a pipe, and talked again about our purpose. The walkers came to consensus that our Sunbow pilgrimage should remain a prayer walk only, not a march. No violence, drugs, alcohol, or illegal activities will be permitted; no one will do any heavy politicking in the name of the walk. All people will be accepted by the group; there will be no turning anyone away from the walk.
Late in the day when I checked in with Tom by phone he said that they had a good ceremony in the park across from the White House, but that they had the general feeling of being ignored by the city, regarded as amusing but inconsequential.
Tom was undiscouraged. He told me that one of the ways he looks at the walk is as a reconnaissance mission. "We are walking not only to pray but also to listen to Americans. There exists a white world and a black world. Suburbia seems to consist of hollow towns: people locked up in air-conditioned homes. Meanwhile, the city is brimming with people on the streets, visible and interacting. Inner-city people have been accessible to us and friendly, while people in suburbia have tended to shun or ignore us. Suburbanites often roll up their fancy car windows when they drive close to us,” Tom said, “as if they were afraid they might catch what we have got.”
Because it has been much on his mind, Tom launched into a passionate soliloquy concerning what he regards as three related issues: water, the re-shaping of the natural world for profit, and ongoing incursions into Indian Country.
By way of example Tom spoke specifically about a vast, convoluted scheme known as NAWAPA (The North American Water and Power Alliance).
In the early 1960s a group of corporate and government officials discerned a grand opportunity for monetary profit. They saw that water was severely limited in the West and Southwest of the United States. Just to the North, however, Canada was abundant in fresh water. Would it be feasible to bring Canada's water to the arid regions and thereby turn a natural resource into a profit-making commodity?
Thus began planning began for a massive diversion of the North American watershed. The NAWAPA project –- as it was called for many years -- set out a imposing scheme: build dams on virtually every major river in Alaska, British Columbia, and elsewhere, including the Yukon, Susitna, Tanana, Skeena, Peace, Churchill, MacKenzie and Fraser rivers. This so-called "excess" water would then be diverted via canals and pipelines into the 500-mile long natural depression known as the Rocky Mountain Trench that runs the length of British Columbia.
NAWAPA would then shunt the water south via several different paths. Most of the water would make the long journey south in canals dug along both sides of the Rocky Mountains -- one canal heading toward the Great Plains, the other into the deserts of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
Breathtaking in scope, NAWAPA was conceived as the largest engineering project in history of the world. Its components would constitute human-induced Earth Changes of the first order.
Such grandiose projects are at variance with foundational Native understandings of our relationship with nature. In the ancient traditions of North America, human beings are not regarded as overlords of nature, but rather part of nature – part of a Sacred Hoop of Creation that includes animals, plants, insects, mountains, sky, and waters. Our Earth is appreciated as a community to which we belong and in which we must cooperate, not a kingdom that we are to dominate and attempt to control. Control of nature is an illusion, not possible for humans. Cooperation, however, is altogether right, natural, and workable.
Eco-systems, including climate, are so complex that even entertaining the idea of a Big Fix, like NAWAPA, is dangerous, an act of hubris. Such grand schemes convey a false sense that we understand complex natural system when, in fact, we don't.
Still, NAWAPA seemed a golden opportunity to some few people. The plan picked up influential supporters early on. Then environmental, economic and political opposition mounted and the plan stalled. The plans, though, have never been completely shelved. NAWAPA remains on the table, or perhaps more accurately "under the table," it’s vast, earth-changing schemes clouded with new bureaucratic names, and new propaganda to make it sound like progress.
As Tom sees it, technocratic schemes like NAWAPA constitute a declaration of war upon the balance of nature, and upon indigenous peoples. They are but the extended arrogance of Manifest Destiny -- taking the land for profit without regard for the impact on people or the earth.
One intention of our Sunbow 5 Walk for the Earth, Tom said, is to bring to the people awareness that attempts to dominate nature almost always – in the end – lead to chaos and imbalance, while living in cooperative relationship with nature – as thousands of years of experience demonstrate -- makes it possible for us, our children, and our children’s children to have clean water, air, and food.
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 35 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire