A story of fear and land
I’ve felt fear in my heart the past few months regarding what has been happening between indigenous land defenders and armed RCMP in B.C. This fear has been slowly escalating to an anxiety that occasionally leaves me in tears. This feeling is compounded on the stresses of everyday winter life that I believe so many adults feel. I sometimes wonder how the average canadian feels about this country and the communities that surround them. I know that everyone has a complex narrative spanning many lives behind them but I wonder if this country gives them comfort and why. I am sure that many people view this country as a place of safety, security, and as well as a home, just as I am sure that others do not think about these types of things. I do know, though, that everyone I see has an immense need for the land they inhabit in some way or another and would feel hurt if they were asked to leave it.
The Wet’suwet’en have lived on and maintained their territory using their ways and customs as many indigenous communities have, since long before settlers arrived in their territory. They are incredible because they have survived the harsh effects of colonization like so many communities across Turtle Island. In 1997, the supreme court of canada ruled that the Wet’suwet’en people, as represented by their hereditary leaders, had not given up rights and title to 22,000 square kilometers of northern B.C. By their laws and by the laws of canada their land is theirs. All five clans of the Wet’suwet’en have unanimously opposed all pipeline proposals and have not provided free, prior, and informed consent to coastal gaslink/ transcanada to do work on Wet’suwet’en lands.
Todd Houseman(Acting 3, Edmonton, AB) in Burning Vision by Marie Clements, directed by Mike Payette and presented in December 2019 at the Monument-National
When I follow this story, I am reminded that this country's relationship to the land of my ancestors has been one of great turmoil. Today as I read the news I am reminded: that the ecosystem of the land my great-great-grandparents inhabited was destroyed by the over hunting of bison to meet the needs of settlers entering the territory, or how the lakes and rivers that fed the communities I am born of can no longer be drunk without treatment, or of the schools that my people were forced to attend because our customs and ways were deemed inappropriate, or the missing and murdered indigenous women, or the vast plains and forests my kin used to live in harmony with and how much things have changed in such a short amount of time. When I think of all these things, I feel a great weight, and I am only one person. I believe these feelings are felt by a great many people that carry the same anxiety that brings me to tears as this story is not mine alone.
Today, militarized police have been deployed to remove land protectors from Wet’suwet’en territory in a situation similar to the Oka crisis that happened 30 years ago here in quebec. They are being removed so an oil company can build a pipeline through their territory and they are being removed by the police of this country.
It feels awful, horrible, and embarrassing to be at the end of a long story that is beginning again right now and being able to look back at the pain suffered by my ancestors, pain I feel in my bones, and know that it has begun again for so many more to come. The history of this country has repeated itself.
How can this still be happening today? When I ask myself this question, my answer is one of great sorrow. One that makes me feel that myself and the community I belong to are uncared for. This feeling is crushing. It spirals into a depression and leaves me feeling low and broken.
I write this now because I feel helpless and I do not know what to do about the tremendous weight of the feelings that go along being a colonized person. These feelings have been felt around the world by so many others throughout human history time and time again, yet now with the use of the internet, which I use to cry out my woes as so many before me cried into silence throughout the history of colonization.
Todd Houseman (Acting 3, Edmonton, AB) Indra's Web, a creative collection piece by the graduating class of 2020 in Acting, Production Design and Technical Arts, and Set and Costume Design. In collaboration with directors Arianna Bardesono (Directing, 2007) and Zach Fraser, presentedat the Monument-National in October 2019
And yet even now as I write this, I feel my pain turn to anger and then to sadness and turn and turn in a fit of held energy. This energy is being built up to a point of breaking that I must use to create or be destroyed. I can only try to do my best by continuing to dedicate my work to fighting for what is right and to sharing with you something precious to me, my stories and my feelings. This sharing is something that so many indigenous artists before me have done, and so many before me were not allowed.
I think we artists have a responsibility to use our voices, bodies, minds, words, screams, laughter, movements, silence, tools, and images, as instruments of change, to remind as many people as we are able, that we are human beings, and we deserve to be fought for. I hope we can all reflect on this situation as a call to action that our voices are important and we have an opportunity to use them for good, because no one should feel how I feel when I hear the story of Wet'suwet'en.
Todd Houseman (Acting 3, Edmonton, AB) is a third-year student at the National Theatre School of Canada in the Acting program.
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