Keepers of the Water: Day 1

posted by Brant Ran

Water is life–that’s the resounding message from the third annual Keepers of the Water Gathering here in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta.

More than 400 crowd into the community hall for the opening plenary. Elected leaders from eight First Nations stretching across Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories welcome us in turn at the front. Translators relay the chiefs’ blessings into five languages from a bank of radio broadcasting booths in the back.

Each of them shares a unique threat to water in their region–tar sands, mining, pulp mills and others–but the unity between them is clear.  Booming expansion of tar sands and other industrial projects in the far North are robbing native communities of their health and culture.

During the next two days, I’m here to learn more about what’s going on in the communities of the McKenzie River Basin, offer the support of Rainforest Action Network, and share the results of both with you. So stay tuned, ask lots of questions, and give us your feedback on how a scrappy bunch of rabble-rousers like us can make a difference in one of the biggest industrial projects in the world.