Nobody will stop what I want to say. This woman is an activist who wants to protect the land. I know my Meskinu [path made for others to follow]. I understand why other people follow their own Meskinu. I have my own Meskinu. What I am doing for so many years is very important. The people think their job is important but this is my job and it’s important too. I feel like my Meskinu has been broken; that the children will not be able to find their way if I don’t keep trying to make my Meskinu clear. That’s why I keep talking about the land and what it means to me and other Innu.
I miss my canoe trip. This is the time of year I am usually on my canoe trip but I can’t go this year because my husband has health problems. I feel I’m still strong. I still walk and when I walk in the woods I think about the damage that is occurring at Muskrat Falls. I see the land so beautiful and I want it to stay that way. I think about my family and about the animals and it makes me sad to see what’s going on. They should think about the children and what will be left for them in a few years’ time. If you break everything, there will be nothing left to pass on to our children and grandchildren.
I’m going to talk about Muskrat Falls. When you just talk about something, nothing happens. The words are just gone like when you fill a balloon with air and it flies away. When you do something, it is something. In the 1980s, I remember protests on the Base [against low-level flying]. A lot of people worked together and they did something, they took action, and everybody saw what the people were doing. A lot of people understood then what Innu wanted because they saw what they were doing. We didn’t just talk, we did something.
Since they started Muskrat Falls, I’m very sad. I cry. My heart breaks many times. I go on the Churchill Road sometimes and I can’t believe what I saw at Gull Island. I was going to look for berries but you can’t go through there anymore; there’s lots of machines there, lots of bulldozers. I was so sad. I thought ‘look what happened. They have just started; what’s it going to be like in a couple more years? There will be more damage.’
I went to Cartwright Road many times to get water from a brook there, to get fresh water. After they started the Muskrat Falls project, I went to get water and I saw big trucks and machines and a gate and signs telling me not to come in. I heard we weren’t allowed to go in there, only workers. Why did they stop us going there? The workers can go in there but nobody else can go. Why did they do that? This is Innu land. They should let the elders go there and see the damage and see what they’re doing to our land. We want to go and see if there are any animals or birds there. Are they safe? This is Innu land and Innu river and Innu people were there many years hunting and using the land and river. Nobody stopped us. When I was young, I never saw anybody stop me or put up gates and say I can’t go on the land. We saw no damage; we saw lots of animals and the people knew they’d have a good hunt and happy times with their families; they thought ‘our children and grandchildren will have lots of fresh food to eat.’ My dad was happy to provide food for his family. Innu people never saw a big mess and felt they couldn’t go there. We never smelled gas; it was always nice and clean; we could pick berries and not worry that machines had been there and made a mess or left their poisons. When I started my canoe trips on the Miste shipu 13 years ago, I saw signs telling me not to eat the fish because of mercury in the water. I was afraid then.
Miste shipu is an important name. I don’t think people understand what Miste shipu means. It means it’s a human being and its voice is crying out ‘don’t kill me. I’m the water, don’t make me dirty. I don’t want to die. Hear my voice. Without water, you cannot live.’ We must listen to Miste shipu.
Dr. Elizabeth Penashue