I have four sisters, and they are a feisty, motley sort of crew. Among our ranks – us five feisty Somerville Sisters- we count medical office assistants and midnight chefs, burlesque performers, world travelers, internet oversharers (oh, hello there!), and then, then we have Hilary.
Hilary is the second youngest, the most brazen and wild. She is a lovely, witchy, transient, creature. She has always had a powerful voice – a few years ago she appointed herself the “Family Mouthpiece: Saying what everyone was thinking”.
She has used this voice for many myriads of things over the years – acting, singing, performing in slam poetry competitions. But for over a year now she has lent this powerful voice to a cause she feels deeply about. A cause that I feel deeply about.
The issues surrounding pipelines, fracking, energy use, the see-saw of corporate greed and responsibility vs. the unalterable fact that we are tearing up the very world we need to survive – these are not small things. They are not easily understood nor easily solved, and for most of us I think it is simpler to just absent ourselves from the conversation. We read the headlines and pass by the protests, we have some vague convictions about what is right and what is wrong but we plead ignorance or apathy – myself included.
It just seems too much. Too big. Too insurmountable.
If you want somewhere to begin, this is a good place. Last July, Hilary, alongside David Goldberg and Eli Hirtle, traveled to Northern British Columbia to film a short documentary on the efforts of grassroots Unis’to’ten people occupying unceded Native land in order to resist the sprawl of pipelines barreling through the province. She asked me to share it with you.
It is a short film, under 30 minutes, but a powerful one. Even Adam, more fond of shoot ’em up action thrillers with lots of spandex and cheesy one liners, turned to me mid-film and said, “This is really well done.”
I won’t say any more, I’ll let the video itself do the talking.
These issues, in my eyes, go beyond land claims, natural gas pipelines, or profit. They speak to a shared history of abuse, colonization, and mistreatment of people indigenous to Canada. It’s our dirty little secret. We like being known as the nice guys, up here with our toques and our maple syrup, apologizing for everything and always saying please.
Except when we stripped an entire culture of their language, their homes, and their families. Except when we took – often forcefully – what was not ours to ask for. Not ours to insist upon.
Canada operated residential schools from 1876 to 1996. Indigenous children were removed from their parents and taken to live at schools staffed by strangers who didn’t look like them, didn’t have the same history or culture or language. These children were punished for speaking their native tongues. They endured years of physical, psychological and sexual abuse.
Their cultures, and our country as a whole, are still reeling from the effects.
We, as many countries, have a shameful history. The Unist’ot’en people have managed to escape it in some small, but significant, ways. Their territory is unceded, meaning it has never been sold or appropriated by the Provincial or Federal governments. This grassroots group of Unist’ot’en people are asserting their ownership over the land in order to protect it, renew their old ways of life, and attempt to regain what so many have lost.
I think this story, and the film that tells it, is incredibly important to watch regardless of where you stand on the issue.
I am so proud of Hilary for lending her voice to such a worthwhile cause. I am proud of her as a big sister, and also as a Canadian.
For more information about the grassroots Unist’ot’en Action Camp, or to support their efforts, visit http://www.resistfilm.com/