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Pat Paul déclare dans son article que: "Les autochtones dépendaient des rivières pour leur mobilité, leur sécurité et leur survie. C'était la rivière qui leur a toujours donné le moyen d'accès à tout ce dont ils avaient besoin..."

Il explique comment les rivières sont mortes ou mourantes suite à la course aux profits, à la mauvaise utilisation et à l'abus, ainsi que ce que l'on doit faire pour changer nos façons de faire."












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Rivers on Fire

by Pat Paul,
Elder, Tobique First Nation, N.B.
April 15, 2000

hrough the eyes of the Native people, the rivers, lakes, brooks, streams and/or any other natural water surfaces are not just ordinary bodies of water. They, in fact, are an organic part of our humanity. In their closeness to us, rivers truly represent a biological extension of our bodies, our homes, our communities, our families, our sources of food and life, our highways, our livelihoods, our shelters, and yes, they are even our private spiritual places. Rivers and other bodies of water, in fact, are not only our physical links with our friends and neighbors here and abroad, but are regarded as sacred elements of our being.

"The Woolustuk"
Aboriginal name for the Saint John River

(photo: Victoria County Record, Perth, NB)

For many thousands of years before the coming of the Europeans, Native people depended on rivers for their mobility, safety and survival. It was the river that always gave them the means to access anything they needed for survival. Rivers constantly gave them fresh protein and nourishment to make it through the toughest of winters. During summer seasons the rivers provided them resources, availing to them total abundance and natural places for ceremonies. It was also the rivers that provided them endless system of highways and the vital supply routes to any part of the continent. Rivers were the means to create business with other tribes and nations who would exchange and trade unique indigenous products inter-tribally. Rivers and Native people were synonymous; they were ONE.

It is universally recognized today that great damage has been done to most of our grand rivers around the world, and tragically, still more destruction is coming as industry takes precedence over the value of life. The once crystal-clear rivers that contained the clearest water, pure enough to drink, have now been turned into deadly cauldrons of raw sewage and toxic waste materials spewed from factories, plants and other industrial complexes along the industrial heartlands.

Industry has impacted heavily on the quality of life along these rivers, affecting all forms of life within, above and around their wasted shorelines. Massive wildlife slaughters and huge fish-kills have been reported and made into real legends of horror movies. Traditionally renowned communities that had long relied on particular ways of life and adhered to livelihoods handed down from their ancestors were suddenly torn apart. Lost forever, with the decline and demise of rivers.

Our rivers are either dead or are dying 
from man's greed, misuse and abuse.

There is no cool way to explain greed, except to say that it can either mess you up permanently, or will finally kill you morally and physically.

Generally speaking, misuse of a river is created from dumping exorbitant amounts, tons, of waste materials into rivers and not cleaning up while the waste matter builds up to eventually overpower the water's natural healing ability to clean itself. Equally destructive is the 'thermal shocking' of rivers by dumping super-heated "coolant" waters produced by nuclear generators. This very deadly act alone kills, disables and/or contaminates fish in wholesale proportions, which ultimately affects human consumers of fish products.

Victoria County Record)


Pat Paul


Abuse happens when huge man-made obstacles like hydro dams, waterfalls, dikes, waste disposal units, bridges and underground water channels for power generation are constructed in river environments. These projects, in turn, impair or destroy the natural flow of water and in effect obstruct or terminate the migratory routes of creatures in rivers. Yet another destructive feature of abuse comes from rerouting or creating reverse flow patterns of rivers such as that witnessed in the Churchill River Power Project in Western Canada, or the mega James Bay Power Project in northern Quebec. In-land seas or empty riverbeds can result from this type of abuse, which also has an overwhelming destructive impact on wildlife.

Another example of abuse is the outright and complete drying up of river beds from man's re-use, over-consumption, and over-use of river water as seen happening in the lower delta areas of the Colorado River in Southern California. That river literally dries up and disappears into thin air at a certain point on its way to the ocean.

For over a half-century now, we have also witnessed and heard of horror stories from around the globe of chemically charged rivers and petroleum-saturated river waters that have ignited and exploded upon contact of the slightest spark. Such an incident occurred on the Allegheny River in PA during the fifties. Industrially-driven nations responsible for creating these extremely volatile conditions have been known to disown their responsibilities directly, or deny exporting their industrial poisons hundreds of miles downstream to affect or destroy everything within, above and around the waterways en route.

Native people, having the innate responsibility of stewardship of the land and creatures on Earth, are truly hurt and grieved by these acts of greed, misuse and abuse by humankind. We relate to you that these things are continuing to happen at the peril and expense of tilting or destroying the natural ecological balance. Will we, as humans, ever realize or comprehend that tilting the balance of our ecosystem could forever alter life as we know it today? Or are we just too caught up in that "Greed" thing to ever change our ways?

Efforts have to be made to turn this industrial madness around. If each person made a conscious decision to put their personal efforts into saving only one river, we would all be a part of a huge movement that could ultimately benefit the whole world, and also enable us to pass down a very special gift to our Seventh Generation.
Nid layig!