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Spirit of the Buffalo: An Interview with Geraldine McManus from the Frontlines of Resistance to the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline

Introduction

The Spirit of the Buffalo Facebook Page states the following:

“Indigenous resistance to Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline expansion set up a prayer camp in Treaty 1 territory near Gretna, Manitoba, meters away from the Canadian/United States border. Spirit of the Buffalo Camp was established by lighting a sacred fire and conducting a sunrise ceremony, and is situated along the route for the Line 3 pipeline.

Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline “replacement” project is the corporation’s largest project in history. Enbridge is marketing the project as a necessary “replacement” of an older pipeline, but the new pipeline will be nearly double the current capacity, making this project a significant expansion. Enbridge also plans to leave most of the older pipeline to decay in the ground.

Spirit of the Buffalo camp demands that Enbridge stop building the pipeline because it does not have free, prior and informed consent of all Indigenous peoples along the route, and is a direct violation of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples Rights. The camp also demands that Enbridge remove the current Line 3 pipeline instead of leaving it to decay in the ground.

The camp also calls for an end to tar sands expansion and infrastructure that will lock humanity into future carbon emissions the planet cannot afford in the face of climate change.

This land defense effort joins several other Indigenous-led camps across the colonial border in Minnesota along the Line 3 route, such as the Turtle Island camp, and Honour the Earth – the latter being led by renowned Anishnaabeg land defender, author, and speaker, Winona LaDuke. The camp stands in solidarity with White Earth, Winona LaDuke’s home reserve, where Line 3 threatens the rice fields that are unique in the world and that have sustained the community for thousands of years.

“We have to have faith that as human beings we can – and will – do the right thing” says Geraldine McManus, the Dakota two-spirit organizer who lit the sacred fire at the Spirit of the Buffalo camp this morning. McManus was also one of the many organizers at Standing Rock.

“Everyone is welcome to join if they come in a good way. If you cannot be here in person, support us in prayer.”

Working in solidarity with the Indigenous-led camp are Manitobans from different backgrounds, such allies from nearby Mennonite communities and the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition.

In 2016, despite his promises to the contrary, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Program.

In late June of this year, Minnesota regulators approved Enbridge’s Line 3, amidst widespread opposition from Indigenous nations, climate activists, and community members across the state. With this decision, it is once again clear that we cannot rely on colonial governments and regulators to make the right choices when it comes to protecting our rights to safe water, land, and climate. It is up to us to stand up to governments and corporations in defense of these rights, in solidarity with those on the frontlines of this project.

Line 3 is a new oil pipeline — with a predicted price tag of $8.2 billion — set to be built along the route of a smaller, existing pipeline operated by the Calgary-based oil and gas giant Enbridge. It runs from the Alberta oil sands, across the prairies and through southern Manitoba, ending at the shores of Lake Superior in northwestern Wisconsin. The new pipeline has been billed as a replacement for the existing, aging infrastructure, but in reality is a massive expansion that will nearly double the capacity from what Enbridge says is a low of 390,000 barrels of crude oil per day to 760,000 barrels a day.

This pipeline means expansion of the tar sands. Full stop. It locks us into use of fossil fuels for 50+ years. It threatens our climate, water, land, and communities. It violates Indigenous rights, and is widely opposed by many Nations along the route.

It is clear that our governments have taken the side of industry, prioritizing pipeline profits over people. We must not take their approvals as a final answer. We must demand a rapid transition off of fossil fuels. It is not only the safety and well-being of us as individuals, but the health of the planet and the lives of future generations that are at stake.

Now front line land defenders are leading the way to defend their ancestral lands and waters, in peaceful resistance to this project. They are calling on all people on Treaty 1 territory and across this country, to take action by joining the resistance, donating, sharing the message, and supporting their efforts in whatever way possible. Come protect with us in prayer on the Line.”

Background

Enbridge is not only the largest energy infrastructure company operating on Turtle Island, but its pipeline network is also the biggest in the world.

Line 3’s 1991 spill of 1.7 million gallons of oil in Grand Rapids, MN, remains the U.S.’ largest inland oil spill to date. And the current Line 3 expansion is Enbridge’s largest project ever, seeking to bring double the tar sands oil – the dirtiest in the world – to American consumers.

The Alberta tar sands contain an estimated 170 billion barrels of oil, 12 percent of global reserves. Fully tapping into the tar sands would release a staggering 240 billion tons of carbon, increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere by an estimated 120 parts per million (ppm). In the words of Climate Scientist James Hansen this would be “game over for the climate.”

On the impact of Line 3, Marty Cobenais of the nearby Red Lake Band of the Ojibwe Nation, and the Indigenous Environmental Network, warns that Mother Earth is being pushed to her breaking point:

We all feel very connected to Mother Earth, what we call her,” Cobenais said. “Turtle Island, North America. What this is doing is putting scars on her. We’re trained that we’re supposed to take care of our Mother Earth… She’s at a breaking point right now. If we don’t take care of her now, we don’t know how long we’ll have her anymore.”

In order to learn more about the Spirit of the Buffalo camp and provide you with a detailed, first-hand account of its history, importance, and how you can help out, Branch Out interviewed the camp’s Founder & Leader Geraldine McManus. We thank her deeply from the bottom of our hearts for taking the time to talk with us, especially as her entire camp was burned down in an arson attack hardly a week before publication.

Interview with Geraldine McManus: Transcript

Geraldine:

My name is Geraldine McManus and I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. All my relatives come from the Long Plains. I’m Dakota, Two-Spirit Woman.

Yahya:

What motivated you to start the Spirit of the Buffalo camp?

Geraldine:

Well, I was in Standing Rock and people kept messaging me saying, you know, “Come down to Line 3” and blah blah blah. I finally came back from New Mexico – cause after Standing Rock I went to New Mexico to do some healing – and one of my relatives got sick, and I had to come back to Canada.

So I came back, and people were messaging me to come to meetings, this and that, about Line 3. I said “Okay,” so I came back. And I said, “Well where’s Line 3 and where’s the camp and what not?” And they said “Well we were kind of hoping that you’d start it.” Here I thought I was coming home to camp on Line 3, but there was no camp, they wanted me to start it. So, I said okay, and I was just driving around.

Well we were kind of hoping that you’d start it.

I actually forgot my skirt at one of the meetings in New Birtle – and that’s a town about 10 minutes away from Gretna – so I went there to get my skirt I had forgotten at the dinner the night before, and this fellow started talking to me. And I started talking to him and I said, “Well, you know what, I’m going to go out for a ride.”

We were talking about how there was another person was out there, and they wanted to set up a camp in this guy’s yard. And I said, “Well, that didn’t make sense to me, because it was like five miles away from Line 3.” And I said, “Well, why would you start a camp like five miles away from the line?” And this fellow said, “Yeah, that’s what I thought.” So, I said, “Well, I said I’m going to go for a drive.”

I drove, drove all over. I went driving around by Gretna and looking around and I found this one road. And I was kinda like drawn to this one road, and I didn’t know where that road actually led to.

So, I went back to New Birtle and I got this guy and I said, “Hey, can you help me with this one road I found? I don’t know what’s over there. Do you have a map of the rural municipalities?” and all that. He said, “Yeah.” So, it got late so we said let’s just stay the night we’ll have a fire, we’ll trap and get at it in the morning. I said, “Okay.”

So, we sat around and talked about a bunch of stuff, me and that fellow and then he went and brought me this rural municipality map and I can see on that map that they were square there. I’d seen where the lines are going and stuff, and at the time we didn’t know what the square was or what everything meant on that map, because it’s just a municipality map. So there’s not really any indication of what’s what. I mean, you get the idea a square is a farm, you know what I mean?

I feel like I’m getting called down this road. I want to just go and check it out.

So anyway, I said to this guy, “Can you take me up that road I found, because for some reason I feel like I’m getting called down this road. I want to just go and check it out.” So he says, “Okay.”

So he takes me up to the end of that little road, the field road, and I’m sitting there and I heard – I felt – Ancestors say to me, “This is the place, you need to come here.” And, so, I said to the fella next to me, “Okay, this is good enough. Let’s turn around and go back. I got my message. I know what I should be doing.” And so the guy took me back.

I didn’t want to go up there in my white van, so I got this guy to take me up in a little car that was recognized by the people in that area, right. I didn’t want to be driving down private roads or nothing in my van yet, so I went back with that guy and I said, “Yeah. That’s the spot. That’s where I need to be.” So I went back, and I planned out my thoughts and stuff.

Then two days later I went to a meeting and I let people know, “If you really want to do something, we need to start doing something. Here in Manitoba we really need to do something, and I got a plan. If people would come with me, that would be great.”

Some people got together and said, “Okay what’s your plan?” And I told a few people we were going out, and people were scared. And even at the meeting, this fella said, “What if we’re scared?” And I said, “That’s okay to be scared, good for you for being honest.” And then the next day there was another meeting.

So I went to that meeting as well and announced to everybody, “Okay, you guys that’s it. Today’s the day, this is the fourth day now that I thought about it – doin’ this – because it made all the sense in the world that we had to go there and pray.”

Tonight’s the night, we got to go in tonight. We’re going in tonight.

And so I said, “Look, people,” on that Tuesday. “Tonight’s the night, we got to go in tonight. We’re going in tonight. Everybody who wants to go and set up camp on Line 3 meet tonight. We’re goin’ in it after midnight. It will take us a couple hours to get out there and set up like that and whatnot. This would be perfect.”

Everybody was all kind of gung ho. I think about 15, 16 people agreed and said,” “Okay, let’s go do a Geraldine.” And then one of them got up and said “Uh, can we postpone it till tomorrow?” I said, “No, we’ve been postponing this long enough.”

So I took everybody out to Gretna and we went up the back road. So we didn’t know that gun range was there. We knew there was a farm there, but we didn’t know that gun range was there, you couldn’t see it from where we were. Because we went up the back roads and we just set up and got a fire started. I started the sacred fire right away. We said prayers and we set up right away – everything.

And then everybody, you know – some people stayed with me, some people left right away. And so I ended up just being there alone by I think by the end of the first week, I think probably, yeah. Second week I was alone for a bit and then some other people came I was alone for a little bit again, but for the most part I was pretty well alone.

By the second month – well, by the first month – I was just pretty well alone, not a lot of people coming out. People were coming and going and checking on me and stuff. But I was pretty well alone out there. I was just out there by myself.

“Block these lines on both sides. Don’t let anybody near on top of these lines.”

We set up the camp, the sacred fire just on the other side of the line. And then I was shown through prayer, like through my prayers out there. I just kept getting shown stuff, the ancestors showing me to block both sides of those lines. With something, I didn’t know what – they just said, “Block these lines on both sides. Don’t let anybody near on top of these lines.”

This is what I keep being shown through prayers. They’re showing me pictures too, these little pictures and I’m telling people “You know what, you guys, I’m out here and to be honest, I’m being shown stuff. There’s a reason why we have to be here.” I said “I don’t know the entirety of what’s going on.” But people didn’t want to be there because there was no action, it was about prayer and we holdin’ space.

It’s about connecting to the land, connecting to Spirit and the Spirit of this land that we’re on.

So you see, it’s very difficult for people to understand what holding space and being prayerful is really about. It’s about being patient. It’s about searching inside yourself. It’s about connecting to the land, connecting to Spirit and the Spirit of this land that we’re on.

And that’s what I did. No matter what anybody said. Everyone kept asking me, “You should leave, you should go home, you should do this.” Everyone had all kinds of advice for me.

But I remember a thing my auntie said, and my auntie is a pure blood and she’s direct descendant of Sitting Bull. Her grandfather is Sitting Bull, and her other grandfather was hanged with the Dakota 38 Hanging. So her words mean more to me than anything.

“Why do you listen to us humans when we are all so fallible? If the ancestors are talking to you, you listen to them.”

She said to me one day, “My girl, do you hear those ancestors?” I said, “Yes, Auntie.” She said, “Do you believe the things that they show you and tell you?” I said “Yes, Auntie.” She says, “Then why do you listen to us humans when we are all so fallible? If the ancestors are talking to you, you listen to them. Don’t listen to these humans down here. No one will ever give you advice as well as the ancestors.”

So, if, they’re talking to me they’re talking for a reason, and telling us to be there. And whether it’s me or us or anyone else, they’re saying block those lines. Why? I don’t why, why sit on top of them, why pray there I could not tell you exactly why that is. But I listen to what my ancestors say, I believe they have me there for a reason.

And as it turns out, as all the time kept passing, more, things kept getting shown to me. More, more, and more people started opening their eyes up about the injustice that we are doing to the environment

And we were gonna leave – I think we were going to leave in October. I had a fire break out, you know. I was talking with sisters of mine. We thought maybe that was a bit of a sign.

Spirit of the Buffalo Tipi. Photo: Brittany Mielnichuk

And so I was going to leave, and we had had a Tipi on top of the line and a minor tent, and I had wood and all this stuff that I had out there. And these people came eight o’clock in the morning – my allies from Gretna – and they just started all packing me up.

I wasn’t even awake. And they’re packing up everything! My stuff is still in the tipi and these people are pulling down my tipi and my belongings are still in them. I get up and I’m like, “What the heck, Whoa Whoa Whoa, everyone slow down here!”

And they said, “Well, we thought you said you were leaving Geraldine, we just came here to help you.” And I’m like, “Whoa. At least let me get up and have a cup of coffee before you tear my camp down, people.”

It was like people wanted me to leave, and then – so they tore my camp. Everyone took everything – hauled everything away. I’m sitting there in my van all alone on the Prairie again.

Around the corner comes the RCMP. He said “Hey I hear you’re leaving?” I said, “Holy – man, that was fast! They just went around the corner, around the field with the tipi and you’re here already. How fast did you hear, is somebody calling you? Because how is it that you can hear when they just left here, I just watched them go around the corner and you came up around the other side?” Some strange stuff!

All of a sudden a plane – the Enbridge plane – is flying over my camp.

All of a sudden a plane – the Enbridge plane – is flying over my camp. All of the sudden there’s bikers on quads trying to run me down, playin’ around, and they get to the center where I had my Tipi and they’re looking up and down the lines and they’re noddin’ their heads. They take off down the back road, the way my friends came went out with the tipi. All of the sudden those guys – after I get done watching them with some binoculars – they load those quads onto some trucks and they’re all sitting on the other side of the mile road.

Then all of the sudden another white truck – of course, the white truck. And this is Enbridge, because I know the Enbridge trucks already. They come barreling down the road and that guy comes barreling up towards me at the camp and I’m sitting in my bed on the other side of the line. So I jump out of my bed and I got a friend on the phone and I said, “Hey buddy. Now there’s a guy in a white truck coming up towards me.”

“They said I wasn’t doing anything, why are all of them concerned about me leaving all of a sudden? They can’t even wait for me to get off the line. They’re all just coming and running.”

So my friend says to me, “Keep me on the phone, because I don’t want you to be alone with whoever this next person is.” Cause I’ve been telling my friend the whole day now everything that’s going on about the RCMP, about the plane flying over me, Enbridge on their quads, there was this white Enbridge truck now. And I’m like, “They said I wasn’t doing anything, why are all of them concerned about me leaving all of a sudden? They can’t even wait for me to get off the line. They’re all just coming and running.”

And so I ran towards that white truck coming at me and he stops and he starts backing up. Because he can’t turn around on that road, because it was too skinny, so I chased him, he had to drive all the way backwards down that road. And I just kept chasing them, chasing them, staring at them, saying buzz off Enbridge, but he finally got to the end of the road and he just booked it away from me. And so I went walking back to the camp and I’m talking to my friend, I said, “I don’t know what the hell is going on here. As soon as that Tipi came down, everyone swarmed me.”

So I said, “I think we all gotta regroup. I think I need to stay here. I don’t think I should leave. I don’t know why they’re doing this to me, but I’m not going anywhere now.” So I stayed.

So then my friend comes up with the idea. I said, “Well, how am I going to survive the winter? I can’t survive in a Tipi. The wind keeps blowing it over because I’m high up on the Prairie.” And then my friend said, “Okay.” And so a buddy of mine, her partners from Six Nations, he says, “I’m going to come build you a good place. It’ll keep you warm all winter.” And I knew what he was talking about.

I showed up one day – I went out for coffee, came back, and there was all the wood he just came with a trailer of wood and there was a big truck there. So we all got together and got pictures of it on my site and we just started building a Wigwam. My buddy said, “You know what, this will keep you alive during the winter. If you really want to stay here and guard these lines Geraldine we’re going to help you. We want you to stay alive, you could die.” I said okay.

We built this big Wigwam and fixed it up. It was beautiful I’m tellin’ ya, and I lived there all winter. Got through the winter, got through the next summer again. And then decided this winter, my friends and stuff didn’t want me to go out there – and my family – because of the last winter. Because I just about died twice alone out there, because I had carbon monoxide poisoning comin’ through, and then I had to survive out there in the blizzard in my van, and keeping it running. I mean I did a really good job.

If I had one more person stayin’ with me it would have been no problem, but when you’re by yourself…

I stayed alive. I kept it going, you know what? I mean if I had one more person stayin’ with me it would have been no problem, but when you’re by yourself and trying to keep a wooden stove fueled constantly it gets tough after a while because you can only sleep every two hours, because your fire dies and if your fire dies, your wigwam gets cold, you get cold and then you try to restart the fire while it melts. And it melts ice around the wood stack, so that when you try to light the secondary fire it just builds up in carbon monoxide, because it’s all melted up top – iced up on top. And I can’t get up on top, because I just couldn’t at the time. I’m sure I could have, but I didn’t think about it.

But anyways, like I said, that’s why it’s always good to have partners. When you try to do something and it’s entirely up to you to figure absolutely everything out – everything running and functioning appropriately to survive – it gets a little tough. But I did it, nonetheless I did it – pulled it all off.

And the secondary winter, my son and my relatives weren’t too keen on me being out there again. My cousin rented an apartment and she said “You know what? I really like it if you would stay in town this winter. Because you know what, it’s not worth it,” she said. And a lot of my family and relatives.

I mean, you know, everybody you know out there in Facebook land are like, “Yeah, yeah, go for it Geraldine.” You know what, nobody else there knows what it’s like to do what I do. And my family knows, they know. And they said “Geraldine, you know, you put your ass out there for everyone, to help people’s water, to educate everybody. And you know what, we don’t want you to die this way. Come on in, stay in and stay safe.” And I came in and I stayed in the city with relatives and my son and stuff.

People want to see physical, they wanna see you getting tied down to machines… but if you’re just sittin’ there prayerfully…

I said, “You know what? I was planning this since last year. We have to create a funding source for the camp because I can’t rely on donations. Because I’m not fighting a real fight as anyone can SEE.” You know, people want to see physical, they wanna see you getting tied down to machines, they want to see you crawlin’ into pipelines and they want to see you climbin’ this doing that and jeopardizing your life and then they’ll send you donation money and whatnot, right? But if you’re just sittin’ there prayerfully, ehhhh after a while people go, well, you know, she’s just sittin’ there and prayin’, right?

So you know what? I barely survived, barely made it through. I thought, you know what, if I’m going to survive out here, I need an income. I need a source of income to keep me going, to buy us things for the camp and whatnot. So, what I’ve been trying to do actually for 32 years, to start my screen printing company. Because I have a trademark clothing line in Canada that I wanted to get selling, but I haven’t been doing any of that.

I put off my whole entire life for years and years to do all this work and I’m like, well, you know what? I got a trademark clothing line. I have got skills and business skills that I could utilize to create an income for my camp without having to rely on anyone. So I don’t have to one day have anyone come in my space “Well we supplied and we helped you and we did this.”

No, I love everybody. I love everybody, donations, and everybody’s help, but at some point in my life I know that’s not going to be enough and I have to apply myself and have to support myself. I have to feed myself so that I can be a proud Dakota woman and not look back at this as,  “Well, if it wasn’t for the rest of society having to fund me so I could do the work I really enjoy doing.”

You know, I don’t want to feel that. Dakota people, what people don’t understand – we’ve always been self-sufficient, we’re very, very proud people. We are still not signed on to treaties, we still supply our own people, we sent our own people to universities so that we could know what the white people know, so we would know how to survive in this world. There is a lot of things people don’t understand about Indigenous, and we don’t jump onto our high horses and shout that out because that’s not the kind of people we are. We just don’t go running around crying about everything.

We do what we have to do when we have to do it and by golly gee, no matter how we gotta do it we get it done and we put our lives on the line. Many people put their lives on the line, and nowadays it seems that’s what we have to do.

We can’t just do this alone, we need to find ways to fund ourselves and to make ourselves self-sufficient

At the same time, we need to be creative, we need to be inventive, and we need to have some kind of economic basis because out there in the world, right. Look who we’re up against. They’re billionaires and millionaires. And here all of us environmental people, we’re all struggling, poor. We’re trying to do the good work for the rest of humanity and we can’t. We can’t just do this alone, we need to find ways to fund ourselves and to make ourselves self-sufficient, so if those donations don’t come in that month I’m not going to starve to death. You know what I mean?

Yahya:

Where did the name come from, was that also brought to you by the Ancestors?

Geraldine:

Yeah, it was whispered into my ear. I was driving down the highway, and it was whispered in my ear: Spirit of the Buffalo. Someone whispered in my ear “Spirit of the Bufallo,” and I don’t know why.  And as it turns out, the first Tipi I get brought out to me out there has a Buffalo on it.

It’s been one happenstance after another since I heard the name. And the funny thing about it, I’ve had Buffalos come into my life off and on, since in my twenties, through all different ways.  An old woman gave me a Buffalo tooth, and another lady saved this ring for me and it had a buffalo on it that I’ve been wearing forever, but just lost. Another woman gave me a bead bag with Buffalo hide.

Where am I sittin’? In the center of Turtle Island, where the Buffalo came to eat particular Buffalo grass that grew right exactly where my camp is.

All these years, all these things I kept wondering why I kept getting these Buffalo things and where am I sittin’? In the center of Turtle Island, where the Buffalo came to eat particular Buffalo grass that grew right exactly where my camp is. So, there’s a lot of things going on, moreso than what anybody can really imagine unless you’re actually there, like I am. And unless you’ve had all these happening things.

And another thing, I’m the only person who that white buffalo has come to and put his head down and gave me the hair off its head. I carry seven hairs. Those hairs come from the white buffalo called Blizzard. Blizzard is believed to be by the Dakota people the Prophecy Buffalo – that is, the White Buffalo Calf Woman – and if that’s the case, then I carry the Spirit of the White Buffalo Calf Woman in those hairs. Also, that would make the white buffalo two-spirit, because he’s a male buffalo, but has a female essence.

Once again, here’s another thing: I’m two-spirit. So also another: the road I’m sitting on – and this is a funny part – the farmer comes to me from the United States side and says, that’s not a road, it’s a dike. He says, “Canadian people put it up to be assholes,” and I’m laughin’ and I look at him, I say, “What’s the chances, a dyke is gonna sit on a dike?” So, it’s just one thing after another, and nobody gets all this stuff except me, because I know everything there is to know about what the hell is really going on, and I can’t explain to anybody except for how I’m explaining to you.

Something is going on. Sitting Bull’s grandchildren came out, his grandson, his granddaughter. His Grandson did a pipe ceremony for me out there and he walked away and said “There’s something about this place, Geraldine.” My auntie Ivy, Sittingbull’s Granddaughter, same thing. Another Elder from Ontario – same thing, came out there and said something. Elder came from Hollow Water – before they set up Hollow Water Camp – she said the same thing. She asked me all kinds of questions. Another Elder from Roseau River, they send word from there that is a special place where I’m at.

We ended up being in the exact heart of Turtle Island, and now I’m being shown to do more things out there that are really important.

So, we find out it’s exactly zero degrees where my camp is, zero degrees on Turtle Island. That means we ended up being in the exact heart of Turtle Island, and now I’m being shown to do more things out there that are really important, like sweat. They want me to build a sweat and another big wigwam over the sweat, the ancestors are showing me that we need to sweat and pray right at the heart to help bring balance to Turtle Island again for all the people and to unify the people. They want me to bring people from all over to sweat there, from ever nationality they want me to have people to sweat there and pray right at the heart of Turtle Island.

So what is going on, my dear? I couldn’t tell you, but something very spiritual. And I’m being told to do more stuff there yet.

I’m still just beginning. I haven’t even begun to be finished there yet, and so what do I have to deal with? What I have to deal with is: Are these people going to continue to burn my stuff to the ground, my church, my prayerful space, are they going to still to burn everything to the ground without any of them realizing how important this is. Not just to my people, but to all the people in that area, and to all the other people on Turtle Island.

The unity that we need is not just because it’s time for hate to end. It’s because if we don’t come together and help each other, the people that are doing what they’re doing to this land are going to succeed. And we will be left with nothing, and we will all die, and that it is not going to be good. We will all suffer the consequences of what our actions are right now.

Many people, I think, need to have more visions to see what it is that we can do to help one another, because right now we are allowing the government to control everything that we do

And we can either decide to learn to get along and help one another, and pray and hope that whatever comes out of those prayers… Because we say in our culture when you go into sweats, you go in there to see something, to see a vision, to have a vision. Many people, I think, need to have more visions to see what it is that we can do to help one another, because right now we are allowing the government to control everything that we do, because everyone is locked down. So there’s more to come, my dear, a lot more.

Yahya:

Can you go into more detail about the recent arson attack, and if there have been other attacks that have happened to the camp before, or at least to that degree?

Geraldine:

Yeah, there’s been many, many, different kinds of little attacks, just before winter. And I think that was one of the reasons why, too, my family wanted me to come in. Because I was out and getting ready to bunker down for the winter, but somebody had gone into the wigwam again and they sat there and they tried to burn the inside, they smashed everything. They took all my stuff and just smashed it all over.

So, some of my relatives got scared and they said, “Look, Geraldine, you know what, they’re going to keep going back there and that person’s going to end up coming there when you’re there.” And I said, “Well, they always know when I’m here. They don’t come here when I’m here. They know when I’m gone. That’s when they come.”

But what my family feared is that they’re going to get so mad at me that they’re going to come there and hurt me. So again, I know, I said, “Well, whatever.” I wasn’t really too worried about it, but my son is really worried about me and my family. And so, you know, I’m like, okay, whatever.

So, there was attacks all throughout all the last summer. Before that they were attacking us with quads coming in, swearing, saying all kinds… even when kids were in the camp, you know, they’d come in swearing at us doing all kinds of things, going around shooting dirt at us. You know, doing donuts in front of the sacred fire. I even had them come drivin’ their frickin quads around the sacred fire. One guy just about drove right into it.

It’s been nonstop attacks out there.

And so yeah, it’s been nonstop attacks out there. I’ve had a lot of men come out and puff their chest up to me, try to intimidate me, argue with me, and I just stand right up to them and I just tell them: “You know what? Get out, get out of my camp, get off my land. This is my land here. I said, go back onto your land, mind your business. I said, “You know, I’m not doing anything to hurt anybody, except, pray. If you think prayer is hurtful, well, you know what that’s something you’re going to have to go pray at on your church, on your Sunday, go pray for that stuff on Sunday.” “Me here,” I said, “I pray every day.”

Yeah, nonstop. I had a university class out and I was doing a talk about environmentalism. And a fella came up the back road, started again, seen me, I had a class out there. So he started again. Big argument ensued. He accused me of all kinds of things. Of course. Very, very crazy.

One of his finest choices of conversation was: “Come on you guys, the white people gave you Indians guns to shoot the buffalo. We tried to help you all.” Well. And I’m like, Oh my God. I said, “Well thank you very much for that.”

So it has just been ongoing. And then people coming in and accusing me of shutting down the gun range, and causing people’s livelihoods to be in jeopardy. Apparently kids were starving because the gun range was down. Apparently, yeah, there was all kinds of stuff going on. I dunno, like I said just people kept coming at me with all kinds of stuff.

The RCMP guy was nice who came out and he set a lot of things straight. I told him what people were coming out and saying to me, and he kind of laughed at that and just said “I wouldn’t listen to any of them if I were you. Nobody is starving nobody is losing money, nobody is losing their business, all of this stuff is just silly- It’s just ridiculous”

So yeah, you know, I put up with a lot there. And then this last fire, I was out the day before checkin’ on the camp, because I’ve been getting the camp ready for us to go back there and get buildin’, and to do ceremony. And so I was out there that day, but when I got out there, I’d lost all my wood. They set it on fire. And I was already sick then, cause I had an ear infection that kind of got out of control, because I couldn’t go to the hospital or doctor. And then finally I found a clinic to go to.

Somebody burnt the whole thing down this time.

So, I was out there with a serious earache and standing in the wind – middle of the prairie. I’m trying to decide what to do, you know, like, should I start packing stuff? But I couldn’t, cause I was by myself. And so I came home and I was going to go back the next day. We actually came home just to tell people this is what happened and we’re gonna have to go clean up the camp. Just as I was getting ready to do that, I had a friend phone me and say “Weren’t you at the camp,” and I said “yeah I was yesterday,” and she said “well somebody burnt the whole thing down this time.”

And I’m like, “noooo.” She says, “yeah, Wigwam, everything’s gone.” And I thought – holy crap – this is $1,700 worth of wood. I’ve got about probably 40 feet long on both sides of the roads, stacked about five feet high, in two rows on each side – wood. So, I had wood like you would not believe. Some of these logs were the size of a tire, a car tire. That’s how big these logs were. I had a lot wood out there and it took a lot of us, a long time to get that wood out there and it cost a lot of money. I invested every bit of donation money we had left that year to get that wood. So, get this, that wood, was above the gas pipeline section part of where I am.

So, I was shocked that somebody would burn that was right up above the gas line. Whoever’d done this had a real big set of cojones, because they did first the wood and seeing that they didn’t start a fire, they came back the next day started the Wigwam.

What I’m interested in is looking at it as if it could be a racist thing, could be a hateful thing. But at the same time, around the same time out in BC, my sisters’ tiny houses got attacked. And if you look at the timeline, their attacks and my attacks were around the same fricking time.

Now, I mean, we’re not all a bunch of stupid folk, so of course we’re thinking, why did they attack us at the same time? Who attacked us at the same time? Is it Enbridge? Are they hiring settlers or people around these pipelines to come and harass us?

It is a hate crime. No matter how you look at it, it’s a hate crime. They burnt down my place of prayer, my church, my wigwam, my lodge.

Is it Enbridge hiring people, or what’s going on? We’ll never really know. We’ll never know if this was a racist thing, you know, or a Enbridge, get the hell off our line thing. You know what I mean? I’m really, I’m really stumped as to what this is, although I know for one thing, it is a hate crime. No matter how you look at it, it’s a hate crime.

They burnt down my place of prayer, my church, my wigwam, my lodge. That makes it a hate crime because they knew me. They knew what I was doing in there. They know who I am. As far as I’m concerned when you burn someone’s property down, that’s a very hateful act. That’s a very serious act. That’s a very dangerous thing to do to a property, burn it down. It doesn’t matter where it is. And me being above four pipelines and a gas line, you would think that’s the last thing that they would do, was burn me down, but they did it.

So, I really don’t know what to say. I mean I really did feel very hated. I really felt alone, I did feel intimidated, I still do. Right now I worry – do I go and set up my next Sweat Lodge and my next Wigwam, how long is it going to take for them to burn that down now? How many more dollars of the donation money should I throw in the fire? I don’t know, I just don’t know. I can’t let them intimidate me. I cannot let them stop me from doing this work that I’m being shown to do. So, I’m in a hell of a place right now.

Yahya:

Well at that note, is there any way that anyone listening to this interview can help you materially, or otherwise?

Geraldine

Well, all we’re doing is we’re gathering funds together because it is very expensive to build a wigwam. You have to go out and find all the wood and of course you have to cut it down by hand, drag it out of the bush, load it on the truck. You have to clean all the twigs and everything off there so you can bend that wood nice, so there’s no trees to bust through your tarp. Then you have to wrap everything with tarps, the plastic, and the tarp alone. I have one tarp. Just one tarp I had on it was $700, and the other tarps inside are all $75 apiece because it’s insulated tarps inside.

I got a lot of people willing to build it, so all we’re doing is trying to gather the funds to get all that stuff organized like I did last time.

It’s just an incredible job, and the bigger you go the more time it takes. I got a lot of people willing to build it, so all we’re doing is trying to gather the funds to get all that stuff organized like I did last time. Right. We did last time and we did it pretty quick because people really hustled. We had to get it up before Winter, it was already October, so we had to get it up before we had a blizzard out here on the prairie. So, we hustled real well and we got it together.

I’m hoping that we can hustle again and get it together. And you know, even the bales and stuff, you know, you have to put bales around the wigwam in the winter, to keep out the cold from comin’ in, so the bales cost me too. I don’t remember what I paid for the bales – something like $300-$400 for the bales – to stack around the wigwam. So the bigger wigwam we build, the more bales we need.

So these are things that we’re looking at, right? Cause my buddy is saying that we should just build it bigger, right off the hop, build it really big and then that’s it and get that sweat lodge up there and we should all just start getting the sweat out there.

Once the Tree of Life is planted, that it will bring change to unify people and bring people together.

Although I have to prepare, because we need to plant the tree. And I don’t know if people understand this, but it’s been prophesized that when the tree of life is planted again that it will help with balance. Well, nobody really knew where that tree was going to be put, or where it was to be. But from my prayers and from what other people are telling me, the Tree of Life should be planted out there at 0 degrees, right at the center, right at the heart of Turtle Island. And once the Tree of Life is planted, that it will bring change to unify people and bring people together.

So, you know, how much of this people want to believe? That’s totally up to the individual. For myself, I believe in my ancestors and my elders that have passed away and prophesized many, many things. That’s who I am, I’m Dakota. That’s my job to believe in that prophecy and to work with those prophecies and for me to understand those things. And I do.

I believe whole-heartedly with all my life, with everything inside me, all of my being, I believe that if we do these things – what I’m being told in prayer – it’s going to bring something about, I just don’t know yet. I’m a pretty civil minded person, I don’t want no violence. I really detest violence, but you know what, don’t push me, don’t get in my face. Because you know what, I will protect myself and I will protect what I believe in.

I think the power of the people coming together out there then maybe we can make this work.

So, we gotta carry on out there, so let’s try to get this rebuilt, and we got a lot of people there, a lot of hands who are gonna come out. A lot of people really interested in building up this new wigwam and a new sweat lodge and I think the power of the people coming together out there then maybe we can make this work.

Yahya:

Is there a specific site that people can go to, which is gathering donations for you?

Geraldine:

Yeah. Go to Spirit of the Buffalo site and Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition. They take care of all my donations and funding. I never accept any money and stuff like that, personally. For the most part I tell people to send it to MEJC, and they take all the donations in and then I’ll take what I need, go get what I gotta get done. I do the same thing, I keep all my receipts and give MEJC the receipts for that and they keep a nice clean account of what’s going on with donation money, and where is it going, and how it’s getting put into the camp, and what not.

Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition is a wonderful organization in the city that helps Indigenous groups do all of these things that we need to do.

So that’s why I prefer all the money go out to Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition. And yeah, we can do real good things, and Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition is a wonderful organization in the city that helps Indigenous groups do all of these things that we need to do. So that’s where they can send their help to, and yeah, that would be great. And they’ll let me know what’s going on!

Yahya:

Wonderful. And I just have one more question. It’s kind of a two-part question, but what is your hope for the future of Turtle Island and the rest of the world, and is there anything else that you would like to put out there for the world to hear?

Geraldine:

Yeah, what we’re doing is when I went up to cold Lake Alberta, we met at the heart of the tar sands at the heart of the real horror. That’s kind of where a lot of this is coming from, right up in Alberta and Cold Lake Alberta.

I met up there with a Clan Grandmother and we did a lot of talkin’, and I think one of the real issues, or one of the things that our people are really looking at and it’s never been really done. I did the calling out of the Clan Grandmothers because, you know, the Clan Grandmothers of this land are the real title holders of the land. When you understand that, you will understand why it is important for the Clan Grandmothers to meet and to discuss these things. There are things that come up in our prayers that we want to share with our relatives out there.

But this is a meeting that must be just for the Clan Grandmothers and the women and the men who support the Clan Mothers and the Clan Grandmothers. These things are important on Turtle Island. If we are to get balance back on our Island, it is the women and the grandmothers who must meet and talk about these things. And there are things that me and Auntie have been shown through prayer that we can do to help.

If people could stop and think for one minute, think really hard, how important is it for the women of this land to be heard?

Now I know it’s very difficult for people to understand what that means, but the women know what that means. I know what that means, Grandmother that sits at the Head of the Turtle knows what that means. If people could stop and think for one minute, think really hard, how important is it for the women of this land to be heard? It’s very important, and we have a lot to say and we have a lot share, and I think the future of Turtle Island and the world depends and relies on the Clan Grandmothers coming together, not just here on Turtle Island. I’ve been contacted from Scotland and other areas.

Clan Grandmothers are rising up, they’re waiting for us here. You people around the world don’t realize how important the Clan Grandmothers are, to return back to that most important path of ours that we’ve all had, respecting the grandmothers and the women of this land. Because it is us who are connected to the Spirit of this land, to the Mother. We are very important to the world, the women, that’s why the women have always been kept down and kept down.

We who are connected to the land know what the right thing to do is.

People have to start thinking about what is really going on in this world. There’s a lot more than anybody understand is going on, but it’s going to come down. It’s coming down the pipeline so to speak. All of it is coming down the pipeline, and Indigenous people know about it. We’ve been trying to share and tell people about this for a very long time, sometime it’s not easy for us to explain it ourselves, but we do these things, these actions we hold around Turtle Island and the world, we do them because we know that it’s the right thing to do. We who are connected to the land know what the right thing to do is.

And it’s not just Indigenous people, there are many Caucasians and many other nationalities out there who feel the same. We are finally getting there to that point of consciousness, higher consciousness, and understanding that connection to this Earth that we all live on, coming down to that point, for the future depends and relies on us, who decide to open our heart and pray with this Earth to protect it. It’s time for us to hold people accountable who are destroying that, who don’t give a shit about humanity. So, we have a lot of work to do my dear, all of us do, I’m not the only one.

Yahya:

Thank you very much. Um, well, that was really great. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me, and I think that was everything unless you wanted to discuss anything more about Enbridge specifically, or the dangers of pipelines, I guess. I have that written down if you wanted to go into that a little, but if you think you’ve kind of covered that sufficiently that’s fine too.

Geraldine:

Well, I think for a lot of us talking about pipelines, it’s about changing our ways. We understand oil is still essential for humanity at this point, we aren’t going to stop it. But what we need to do is start moving into a better place with solutions that are healthier for our people, that are healthier for environment.  We’ve got to come up with these solutions because we are an intelligent species, an intelligent race. We can do better, we can do much better than what we’re doing, and I think that’s just the most important thing.

And Enbridge knows this. Enridge knows it, all these other oil companies know it, they are just trying to play this out for as much money as they can suck out of this. And they’re going to keep fracking as long as we allow them to, they’re going to keep destroying and hurting this Earth as long as we allow them to.

It’s about changing our ways… we need to… start moving into a better place with solutions that are healthier for our people, that are healthier for environment. 

So, it’s up to humanity to just say, “You know what? Enough is enough. We’re stronger than this, we’re smarter than this, we can do better than this. You know what? Let’s do better. Let’s just do better for all of us.”

And we all have to do that. And Enbridge and all these companies know damn well what we are talking about. They know darn well. They don’t have to pretend to be stupid, because they’re not. And neither are the environmental groups who are fighting all of these things, and trying to put balance back into this world for the betterment of humanity and the future. That’s what’s it all about. Enbridge knows this and so do all of the other oil companies know this.

You know I think one of the big things here, you know my posts, about my camp, one of my posts is saying that racism is well and alive in Gretna. And yes it is, yes it is alive and well. I guess you know what, I’m trying to not start any kind of race wars, you know what I mean. It’s so easy for this to get out of hand because you know I could really push the hatred if I wanted, that I’ve been subjected to out there. There’s been more hate than love I’ll tell you that. But I just really try to let that go and focus on the good people that came out there. The ones that made me feel good to be a human being and doing what I’m doing.

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