I learned A LOT reading Downstream: Reimagining Water. I graduated from University almost thirteen years ago with a Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Sociology/Social Cultural Anthropology. I used to devour as much information as I could about history, people, cultures, environment, and had a keen interest in Indigenous people, particularly Canadian Native people. I myself am part Mi’qmaw, and love learning more about our history, traditions, and our part in saving the environment – including water. So when I was sent an advanced reader copy by Wilfrid Laurier University Press to read this new book, I felt a full-circle kind of moment – right place, right time. Know what I mean?
This anthology, compiled by Dorothy Christian and Rita Wong, discusses what water means to Indigenous people, how we relate to water, and suggests that one way for government to improve relations with native people is to use water as a bond.
Displacement and redirection of water with dams has devastated Indigenous peoples’ ability to thrive.We also have many First Nations communities under water advisories – which means their water is not safe to drink – and that is mainly due to pollution caused by companies, such as mining and oil companies.
The ocean is the primary life support system of our planet. Our small, harmful actions add up. Are we really paying attention? “Humbly approaching water together opens up new possibilities for democracy, peace, and relationship”. (page 12)
If you’re interested in watching documentaries with more information Christian and Wong have provided a list – a few they shared are Land of Oil and Water, H2Oil, For the Love of Water, and Downstream.
Here are the some of the important articles shared in Downstream anthology:
Planetary Distress Signals by Alanna Mitchell
“Humans are changing the basic chemistry of the global ocean”
Water by Lee Maracle
“We do not own the water, the water owns itself. We are responsible for ensuring that we do not damage the water.”
Interweaving Water: The Incremental Transformation of Sovereign Knowledge Into Collaborative Knowledge by Michael D. Blackstock
“Embracing humility will release the energy used to protect and rationalize current academic and political sovereignty and redirect it to the intensive next step: interweaving”
Water and Knowledge by Astrida Neimanis
– discusses Hydro-Logics
Excerpts from an extremely moving poem entitled “A Child’s Fable” by Baco Ohama was shared.
Water: The First Foundation of Life by Mona Polacca
– shares the story of the Hopi-Havasupai people of Southwest Arizona who were greatly impacted by uranium mining, and also talks about the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers.
From our Homelands to the Tar Sands by Melina Laboucan Massimo
“Only when the last tree has died
The last river been poisoned
And the last fish been caught
will we realize we cannot eat money” – Cree Proverb
Melina said, “What we see is an Indigenous way of life being overtaken by intensive oil and gas extraction. Where there once was self-sufficiency in the communities in the region because there was clean air, clean water, medicines, berries, and plants from the Boreal forest, we now see this changing with an increased dependency on social services because families are no longer able to sustain themselves in what was once a healthy environment.”
Keepers of the Water by Renée Elizabeth Bédard
– shares the story of the Water Walkers
Water Walk Pedagogy by Violet Caibaiosai
– shares her story of how her water walk impacted her
A Response to Pascua Lama, a poem by Cecilia Vicuña
Moving With Water by Alannah Young Leon and Denise Marie Nadeau
Bodies of Water by Seonagh Odhiambo Horne
I particularly enjoyed the discussion of dance choreography, breathing through motion, and the movement of water is air bodies as we move. Understanding this fluid movement will help us understand the movement of water on Earth.
Upstream by Cathy Stubington
Ice Receding by Basia Irland
– Eco art involves art that addresses environmental and sustainability issues
Tsunami Chant by Wang Ping
Listening to the Elders at the Keepers of the Water Gathering by Radha D’Souza Dene
Coastal Waters in Distress From Excessive Nutrients by Paul J. Harrison
– discusses our nitrogen footprint, and ways to reduce it
Bodies of Water by Janey Lew
Permeable Toronto by Janine Macleod
Saturate/Dissolve by Larissa Lai
Bring Me Back a poem by Janet Rogers
Some of the information shared in this anthology is heart breaking, and scary – but I am hopeful that if we can all work together and put the environment first we may be able to scale back the damage we’ve done to our beautiful earth.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about our connection to water, and would definitely recommend adding this to your school library.