MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 5TH – 7TH
TOTEM POLE JOURNEY ARRIVES AT ITS DESTINATION
At the end of the Journey, the Totem Pole will find it’s home in the city of Winnipeg in the Manitoba Province of Canada. Winnipeg is facing off with TransCanada over the Energy East pipeline, which will carry diluted bitumen (tar sand) from Alberta to Winnipeg then onto Quebec and New Brunswick. The length of the Energy East pipeline alone could impact up to as many as 52 First Nations communities. It poses serious risks to Anishinaabek Treaty 3 First Nations territory and run past Shoal Lake, the source of Winnipeg’s drinking water. Winnipeg is also home to the largest urban indigenous population in Canada and the second largest on the North American continent.
LOCATION: Thunderbird House, 715 Main St, Winnipeg, MB R3B 3N7, Canada
TIME: 4:00 pm: Walk with the Totem Pole to the Thunderbird House
TIME: 5:00 pm: Speakers Panel at the Thunderbird House
- Winona La Duke, Honor the Earth
- Rueben George, Tsleil-Waututh First Nation
- Serge Simon, Kanesatake Mohawk First Nation
- Dave Courchene Jr., Sagkeeng First Nation
- Melina Laboucan-Massimo
- Phil Lane, Jr.
- Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie
LOCATION: Fort Alexander, MB R0E 0P0, Canada
TIME: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm: Greet the Totem Pole at Turtle Lodge in Sagkeeng First Nation. Ceremony, pole raising, feast, and giveaway.
TIME: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm: Round Table Discussion at Turtle Lodge
CDC Interview with Master Carver Jewell James
Click image below to go to interview video:
Winnipeg: The Largest Turnout for Totem Journey 2016
By Richard Jehn, Journey Chronicler
I am thankful that we had a fairly quiet day on September 4th, only because we really pushed to get to Winnipeg on September 3rd. Technically, we didn’t quite make it since we were checking into the hotel after 2 am, but we came close. And it gave a little breathing room to the crew as we prepared for what became the largest event as far as attendance numbers since we started our journey.
The Forks in downtown Winnipeg is a sacred location where the Assiniboine River meets the Red River. It is also an exceedingly beautiful place with a striking venue. The guides on bicycles took the totem truck and our support van right into the center of the Forks, so we were positioned proximate to the action.
Two to three hundred people were on site when the speaking and ceremonies began at 4 pm, September 5th, but that number continuously increased as the event progressed and passersby joined the crowd, resulting in over 500 people for the procession up Main Street. The singing and pipe ceremony at the Forks were very powerful. It was hard for me to focus my attention owing to the dozens of people who crowded around the totem pole to look and ask questions.
When the ceremonies and speaking were finished at the Forks, the event organizers called for everyone to walk to the Thunderbird House, about 3 kilometers (we’re in Canada now!) north through the heart of downtown Winnipeg. The First Nations leaders were walking at the head of the parade, followed by the totem pole, the crowd, and a few vehicles that were part of the event.
I rode in the van with Kurt Russo following the parade, but we had a unique perspective of what was happening, and I knew my colleagues were getting phenomenal video footage and photographs of the parade as it progressed up Main Street north to Portage Avenue in downtown Winnipeg.
The intersection of Portage and Main is where the procession stopped with the totem pole in the center of the intersection and a round dance formed to circle it for 20 minutes or so, with much vocalization about the excitement of this happening. Oddly enough, that location approximates the geographic center of North America and the energy of the moment was off-scale.
On a personal note, I couldn’t have been more surprised to look out the right-side van window to see my daughter’s best friend watching the dance. I jumped out to introduce myself (I knew of her only from my daughter Rachel’s Facebook page) and talk with her for a few moments as we prepared to move on to Thunderbird House. I knew she was planning to be at this later event, so she joined with the procession moving north up Main Street.
Only a short while later, we arrived at Thunderbird House and everyone proceeded into the beautiful building north of downtown Winnipeg to settle down for some learning. The black snake in the procession made a striking part of the entire event, as did the chiefs at the head of the parade, some of whom were in full regalia.
As Kurt parked the car, the second odd thing happened, although I didn’t learn it was odd until the next day (see my post about tomorrow’s events). Another older fellow with long white hair and a flowing white beard named Isaac started trying to park his little car in a spot where I was standing to save the spot in case our van was unable to fit in a small space in which Kurt wanted to try parking. It turned out we did need the space I was saving, but Isaac and I had a cordial conversation about it before we both went inside.
I sat down at the back of the audience near the door because I was actually looking for Rachel who intended to arrive at this speaking event at about 6 pm (she had to work a little late). The speakers made a powerful reservoir of knowledge and wisdom: Winona LaDuke, Rueben George, Jewell James, Serge Simon, Dave Courchene, Jr., Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Phil Lane, Jr., and Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie. Clayton Thomas-Muller of 350.org and Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs also spoke enlightened words.
Rachel arrived in time to hear Jewell tell his story and speak of the purpose of our journey, and I insisted that we also stay long enough to hear Winona’s presentation. We were rewarded by her telling us what she said to the Enbridge executives during one of their meetings: “You have blurry vision. You have no plan for the future.”
We went over to Rachel’s house then so we could eat and I could see Zaida Jade (15) and Louis Byrd (17 and a senior in high school!), my two younger grandchildren, and so we could have a lovely meal of spaghetti, mostly made with vegetables from Rachel’s garden. Although this turned out to be the only three hours I was able to spend with my smart, beautiful daughter whom I had not seen for three years, as she later wrote to me, “It is too bad but I never imagined having you here at all so I’m thankful for that, it was very cool! I look forward to reading what you write.”
Photos By Nancy Bleck, Journey Photographer
Raising the Totem Pole at Sagkeeng First Nation, Manitoba, Canada
By Richard Jehn, Journey Chronicler
On September 6th, we left early from Winnipeg to get to Turtle Lodge at Sagkeeng First Nation, about 100 kilometers northeast of Winnipeg. I later discovered we had an exciting ride, as Nancy Bleck, a Vancouver-based photographer, took us north at speeds as high as 160 kilometers-per-hour (that translates to about 100 mph). It was a very straight road much of the time once we were out of town,and her car rode so smoothly that I didn’t realize she was traveling so fast.
The result was that we arrived early enough to ask appropriate directions to the Turtle Lodge from staff at the health center, one of the few prominent buildings we found near the highway. Turtle Lodge is a beautiful hexagonal building set back from the highway and a little bit hidden. I asked and was instructed to speak with David Courchene who was sitting inside the building. Sometime after our initial conversation, I distinctly remember him asking me if the totem pole was being walked from Winnipeg, since Nancy and I did not arrive until 9:20 am, 20 minutes late.
And this is where the second coincidence occurred in the two days. Isaac arrived from Winnipeg shortly after we did, so we had another friendly conversation where I talked about my original connection with Jewell James and Kurt Russo in my role as the managing editor of a small Bellingham environmental newspaper, the Whatcom Watch. As we talked, I also told him that my daughter, Rachel, lived in Winnipeg and he was suitably astonished, telling me that he had shopped frequently at the consignment store that Rachel owned in the Wolseley neighborhood of Winnipeg.
I have refrained from saying much in my short posts about the magic of this entire journey, but it was an undercurrent of everything that transpired since leaving Bellingham on the morning of August 23rd. Even when tension was high, I could feel the current, the electricity of what was happening.
Finally at about 10:30, the totem pole came into the parking area at Turtle Lodge. After a few moments of discussion about where the totem should be parked, Doug James drove the truck up next to Turtle Lodge so photos could be made of the moment.
Immediately following the arrival of the totem and the rest of our party, we went inside and found places to sit down. Spiritual, sacred words were spoken and sacred songs accompanied these moving words. We heard words of deep thanks from David Courchene and Chief Derrick Henderson, as well as thanks from Grand Chief Derek Nepinak. Other Tribal Council members spoke, as did friends of the Tribe.
Following the morning’s proceedings, we ate a wonderful lunch prepared by Tribal members and prepared for the raising of the pole, best described in pictures.
1) The wings are attached to the Totem Pole, almost ready to be raised . . .
2) Moving skyward . . .
3) Almost there . . .
4) The Totem Pole is raised for the very first time!
Attending to the final details . . . it looks taller than 22 feet … oh, wait, 6.7 meters!
Following the raising of the pole and all the joy and fanfare that came with it, we once again went back inside Turtle Lodge for more words and a magnificent gift from the Sagkeeng First Nation to the Lummi Nation, its gesture of solidarity and determination in its fight against the Energy East pipeline. The carving that the Sagkeeng gifted to Jewell to carry back to Lummi Nation was of the seven teachings, Love, Respect, Courage, Honesty, Wisdom, Humility, and Truth.
After all the profound ceremony and ecstasy of the raising of the pole, the Creator gifted us with a beautiful sunset to end our deeply moving day.
We returned one more time to the northern Sagkeeng First Nation and Turtle Lodge to participate in a roundtable discussion of climate change, fossil fuels, and topics related to the destruction of Mother Earth. A contingent from the Algonquin Tribe came to describe their trials with authority in defending their Tribal lands from the continuous invasion of extractive industries. Jewell and Doug James again highlighted the purpose of the Lummi Totem Journey 2016, its objective to establish connections between indigenous peoples in their efforts to preserve Mother Earth for future generations. Jewell has repeatedly expressed this purpose as “One Heart, One Mind.”
And that brought our journey to a close. We started home from Fort Alexander, Manitoba, Canada at about 1 pm on September 7, arriving in Jamestown, North Dakota late that night, driving from Jamestown to Missoula, Montana the next day (857 miles!), and then arriving in Bellingham just before 7 pm on September 9, 2016. My heart is still pounding a little from that madmen’s drive!
Photos by Paul Anderson, Journey Photographer
From the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs . . .
Imbued with the prayers, thoughts, hopes and grief of thousands of people from across the North American continent, the Totem Pole now stands sentinel over the lands, waters and peoples of Winnipeg.
But really, with its brother and sister Totem Poles, they stand sentinel over all the Earth and all of Us.
A Statement has been made by thousands . . .
Photo by Nancy Bleck