Under The Northern Sky: They Told Us The Fires Were Coming

Canadian Ranger Hondy Atlookan from the Northern Ontario community of Fort Hope practices wildfire fighting techniques during a recent training exercise outside Thunder Bay as part of a new pilot project between the Canadian Armed Forces and the MNRF. MCpl Chris Vernon/photo
Canadian Ranger Hondy Atlookan from the Northern Ontario community of Fort Hope practices wildfire fighting techniques during a recent training exercise outside Thunder Bay as part of a new pilot project between the Canadian Armed Forces and the MNRF. MCpl Chris Vernon/photo

by Xavier Kataquapit

Well how about that? We have been through a deadly pandemic for more than 3 years that caused a lot of panic, much division, economic disaster, many people died and many more were affected by a runaway virus. We are still recovering from all of the pandemic reality and I have something called long Covid that has to do with inflammation resulting in all kinds of symptoms and the worst being arthritis. Covid is still around and killing people and making many sick. You would think that the experience with this pandemic would be enough for us to deal with yet here we are with our precious summer in northern Ontario having to stay inside our homes because of forest fire smoke. At one point the toxic smoke was blowing in from out of control forest fires burning in Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes and out west. What’s next … an all out nuclear war?

We have known for a long time that climate change was real and that all of the pollution we humans have been creating for more than a hundred years was going to cause tragic results for Mother Earth. Many Elders I have talked to over the years have been warning about how we have lost respect for our Mother Earth and that we have been polluting lakes, rivers, oceans and the land for the sake of making money. Many of our scientists have been warning us that if we did not cut back on the use of fossil fuels and polluting our planet that we would be paying the consequences.

A decade ago I remember chatting with people who argued that the problem with our climate change had to do with how things happen in cycles and that it was natural that our world was heating up, that air and water was being polluted and that the world would recover from this. They pointed out that there were some scientists putting forth these ideas. However on closer scrutiny it became obvious that these scientists and experts were working for the big oil and fossil fuel corporations. They had even hired public relations companies to push back on climate change that had been utilized by the tobacco industry in the past to argue that cigarettes and tobacco did not cause cancer. I am still angry about that as I have had family pass away due to illness brought on by smoking cigarettes.

The argument that this is a natural cycle of change and that the world will correct itself is also a misleading idea. Yes, the world will recover from all the pollution, poisons and contamination we have caused but what many advocates of this argument fail to leave out is that it will happen over the course of hundreds of thousands and millions of years. The more we pollute, the longer the world will take to heal itself and it will not happen any time soon.

How is it that we are so gullible to accept all the baloney big corporate interest and right wing governments push on us when it comes to our well being? Why is it that we accept without question the very wealthy billionaires and their government lap dogs who are willing to pollute our Mother Earth and turn our planet into a dangerous reality for future generations?

We are seeing in real time developing disasters in huge storms killing people and turning communities into wastelands. We are witnessing terrible flooding in many parts of the world that are changing coast lines and destroying towns and cities. In our own country we are watching historic wildfires burning huge tracts of our northern forests and endangering our lives with toxic smoke. The smoke this summer has been the worst I have ever seen in my life and the Elders I talk to say they have never seen such huge fires and smoke.

What will it take for us to really make the changes we have to do to stop our polluting ways and give our Mother Earth the chance to recover from our abuse and disrespect? The fires have been right here at our doorstep, people have had to be evacuated from their homes and communities and our Elders and children are dealing with breathing toxic smoke this summer. We need to get serious about fighting climate change and we can only do that by getting together and pushing back on all those industries that make money with businesses that pollute our air, our waters and are threatening our Mother Earth. We need to get serious about electing parties that can push back on the very wealthy, the industry polluters, resource developers and war mongers.

Somehow the left wing and middle of the road parties in this world have moved steps to the right on a wave of hate and misinformation and we have to be smart enough not to fall for their distractions. Future generations are counting on us.

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Under The Northern Sky is the title of a popular Aboriginal news column written by First Nation writer, Xavier Kataquapit, who is originally from Attawapiskat Ontario on the James Bay coast. He has been writing the column since 1997 and it is is published regularly in newspapers across Canada. In addition to working as a First Nation columnist, his writing has been featured on various Canadian radio broadcast programs. Xavier writes about his experiences as a First Nation Cree person. He has provided much insight into the James Bay Cree in regards to his people’s culture and traditions. As a Cree writer, his stories tell of the people on the land in the area of Attawapiskat First Nation were he was born and raised.