Later today, the 4th Annual Healing Walk will take place near Fort McMurray in Alberta in Canada.
The Walk will see First Nations and Metis communities join together with environmental activists in a gathering focused on healing the environment and people who are suffering from tar sands expansion.
The gathering – which hundreds of people are expected to attend – will call on the Alberta and Canadian governments to stop what the organisers argue is the reckless expansion of the tar sands.
For years the First Nations communities that live in the Athabasca River region have had to breathe dirty air from tar sands extraction. They can no longer drink the local water. They have watched their land get destroyed, and the wildlife they have traditionally harvested become scare.
The fish they once harvested with abundance have deformities, and their medicinal plants are fast disappearing along with a rapidly changing landscape all around them.
“The land is sick here. The people are sick from polluted air, water and food,” argues Jesse Cardinal, a co-organiser from the Keepers of the Athabasca, who started the Healing Walks.
Today and tomorrow, the protest banners will be left at home and the focus will be on experiencing the pollution first hand, and attempting to heal the tar sands wounds.
The First Nations will be joined by prominent activists such as author Naomi Klein, environmentalist Bill McKibben and economist Winona Laduke.
“This is a sacred walk because it invites us all to begin a process of healing – healing the land from violence, healing ourselves from our dependence on an economy based on that violence, and healing our deeply imperilled democracy,” Klein told the Guardian.
The main 8-mile (14-km) walk will take place tomorrow after a series of workshops today. One of those organising the event is Clayton Thomas-Muller, a coordinator with the Idle No More movement.
Writing earlier this week, he said the idea is not to “have a protest, but instead to engage in a meaningful ceremonial action to pray for the healing of Mother Earth, which has been so damaged by the tar sands industry.”
He argues that, even if you cannot get there in person, you can join in by “walking side by side with us, or by holding an event or ceremony in your home territory in solidarity.”
In addition to the 500 expected to turn up, over 7,000 people have sent invitations to the Canadian Minister for Natural Resources Joe Oliver and Premiere of Alberta Allison Redford.
There are no prizes for guessing that they will not be joining the healing, or even walking in solidarity…