Shirley Cheechoo, Internationally Acclaimed Filmmaker and Artist.

Shirley Cheechoo, Internationally Acclaimed Filmmaker and Artist.

Lakeview Grade 8 Teacher Connie Freeman.

Lakeview Grade 8 Teacher Connie Freeman.

By Kelly Crawford

M’CHIGEENG FN – Participants in an Earth Day Teach-in were told to speak up about the importance of water.

“Use teachings every day to protect resources,” urged Josh Eshkawkogan, KTEI Elder in Residence. “We as people have to be vocal about the importance of water.”

The teach-in was presented by Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute on Earth Day, April 22nd.

Shkagamikwe G’basen Miginaa Wii Naadmaagaasad – “Mother Earth Needs Our Help!” –  was the focus for the event that opened a dialogue on the importance of our relationship with Mother Earth, myths and truths about fracking, and our spiritual connection to land.

Guest Speakers included Josh Eshkawkogan, Elder Gordon Waindubence (KTEI Traditional Knowledge Faculty Member), Art Jacko (UCCMM Lands and Resource Manager), Mike Wilton (President Algonquin Eco Watch Group), and Shirley Cheechoo, internationally-acclaimed filmmaker and artist. Over 70 participants came out to discuss the potentially devastating impacts of industry on Mother Earth.

“Let’s not frack around with it! Water is our most precious heritage,” said Mike Wilton, Algonquin ECO Watch Group.

 “The whole island is potential as far as fracking is concerned. Don’t let anyone tell you that Manitoulin Island is at no risk for fracking.” Wilton explained that fracking damages ground water. “If we damage the ground water, we have nothing.”

Lakeview Grade 8 Teacher Connie Freeman asked, “Is there a safe way to frack?” Wilton responded, “I don’t believe there is. I would have to be convinced of this …so in a word. No.”

Teach-In participant and Lakeview student Cassandra Bisson said: “The whole of Manitoulin Island is basically frackable. If we have knowledge we can share with our parents. If we know a lot about it we can do something about it.”

Shirley Cheechoo screened her film, “Pikutiskwaau” (Mother Earth) that inspired and connected participants. “I am so impressed. It is a message that needs to be heard,” commented Jeannette Corbiere Lavell.

Speaking to the crowd later, Cheechoo said: “If only we would love this earth like we love our mothers… healing would begin.” In the documentary Cree Elders share stories from their ancestors for future generations, and teaches that lessons should all come under the guidance of Mother Earth.