After 2,000 km journey, totem pole reaches Winnipeg to highlight pipeline fight
Published Monday, September 5, 2016 8:27PM EDT
After a two week journey of more than 2,000 kilometres, an intricately carved totem pole was paraded through the streets of Winnipeg on Monday to highlight a shared fight among indigenous environmental groups against fossil fuels.
“We’re over the moon,” Clayton Thomas-Muller, a Manitoban First Nations environmental activist, told CTV Winnipeg.
“This totem pole has been all about unifying indigenous peoples [and] grassroots struggles to defend our climate, to defend the sacredness of water, to take all of these brightly burning regional fires and make them into one big social movement.”
Carved from a single western red cedar log for over five months in Washington state’s Lummi Nation, the 7-metre tall, 1,360 kilogram totem pole features a bald eagle with a moon on its chest hovering above a wolf, a bear, four white buffalo and a medicine man.
“We try to draw attention to things that are important to our native people,” carver Jewell James of the Lummi Nation told CTV Winnipeg.
“All of us have a common interest in protecting the quality of air, water and land.”
James has carved more than a hundred totem poles in his lifetime. The Lummi Nation has gifted them to other activist First Nations communities across the continent.
“We believe that if you have a spiritual gift, or any type of gift, that you share it with the people – that way you earn the right spiritually to retain that gift,” James said.
“We dream in symbols and so we kind of hope that it awakens what we call the spiritual umbilical cord to the Earth.”
The totem pole will be permanently erected in a ceremony on Tuesday at the Sagkeeng First Nation in Fort Alexander, Man., 120 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, to underscore the community’s opposition to the proposed Energy East pipeline, which aims to transport oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in eastern Canada.
The totem pole will be symbolically placed in the proposed pipeline’s path.
“Everyone has a shared concern about water being contaminated by rupturing pipelines,” Thomas-Muller added.
“For us, this is about peace, this is about unity, this about invoking the sacred cosmology of our people to build one of the largest social movements in history.”
With files from CTV Winnipeg