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You Are Invited! The Service Hours Cabaret (7:30 p.m., Saturday, September 15, 2018)

Tama will be co-hosting and co-emceeing this evening of celebration for the federal court ruling in favour of indigenous consent on development projects that effect their territories.  We’ve seen how effective court decisions combined with on-the-ground resistance can be.  All proceeds from this event will go toward First Nation’s legal costs as they continue their defence of land and water.

The People vs. Kinder Morgan! An evening of music (folk, protest, solidarity, classical, indigenous), stories of resistance, and Earnest Ice Cream with 100% proceeds going to support Raven Trust’s Pull Together Campaign to raise funds for the First Nations court challenge of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Featuring: Fraser Union, SongTree, Chris Lok, Johanna Hauser, Stephen Tanner, Abigail, Stoo Born & Don Burton… and more….

What’s not to love? The evening is being organized and hosted by Tama Ward and Johanna Hauser to meet the requirements of their court-ordered service hours after their arrest in March at the gates of Kinder Morgan.

Entrance is by donation. Come with a plan to give generously, however that looks in relation to your own means (All donations are tax-deductable. Cheques can be made out to Raven Trust).

This is an all-ages friendly evening without alcohol. Plenty of door prizes, ice-cream, home-baked cookies, hot and cold beverages. An open house format – come and go as you like. 

For more details contact Tama at 604-803-1195 or tamaleighward@gmail.com

Not able to come but want to make a donation all the same? Go to https://fundraise.raventrust.com/team/182098

Statement Made to Judge Affleck of the Supreme Court of British Columbia Three Months After My Arrest at the Gates of Kinder Morgan for Protesting the Tripling of the Trans Mountain Pipeline

Your Honour, I want to tell you about the day in March that I stood at the gates outside of Kinder Morgan attempting, as the evidence has accurately established, to block access to the construction of a pipeline that I oppose. 

The police records and the Crown’s argument tell one side of the story. I’m grateful for your willingness to hear the other.

To be honest I had rather heroic ideas about my actions. I have a 15 year-old son, Oliver, and a 17 year-old daughter, Abigail, and they had become discouraged about their future. It seemed that every day on the news there was another development (You know the headlines): the collapse of the bee population worldwide, the demise of the Great Barrier Reef, the breaking up of the polar ice caps, extreme weather destroying homes and neighbourhoods, the anticipated extinction of orangutangs within the next 10 years. And so on.

There are many things a parent can endure, as I’m sure you can appreciate your Honour, but watching your kids lose hope is not one of them.

So, simply put, rather than sit passively by I decided I would do something to empower them  to reclaim their future. I had read recently that the civil disobedience toolkit has been lost to a whole generation in the west where hard-won liberties are now so taken for granted we naively presume right will prevail.  So I set out the morning of March 24 to demonstrate non-violent protest in action (though, truth be told, I hardly knew what I was doing myself.)   

Yet isn’t it the way with life: just when you think you are way out in the lead you discover that there are others with a knowledge and experience base who have been there long (sometimes centuries!)  before you ever appeared on the scene.

We were a big group that day (50 or 60 I believe). It was biting cold and then it started to snow: huge flakes, the size of saucers (you’ve probably seen the footage). The snow caked on our heads and soaked through our clothes to the bone. No one had come dressed for snow.

And that’s when a man by the name of Stacey, a self-identified Anishinaabe ally of the Tsleil Waututh, began walking back and forth in front of us in his toque and grey sweats and work boots, like an unlikely commander of a legion. And he started to play his drum for us and sing us the resistance songs of his people.  And when our teeth began to chatter he told us jokes and laughed with us. And when we could no longer feel our fingers and toes he walked among us passing out warm soup and bread.

And the day dragged on and as our spirits began to flag, an indigenous woman, whom I believe you have met, stood up on a ledge just to the right front of where I was. She needed a cane to balance her frail frame which was wracked by a lifetime of hardship that I’m sure I can’t begin to comprehend.  Yet with her free hand she held up an eagle feather high into the air above us.  I can’t tell you what she meant by this gesture but I can tell you how I experienced it: as an act of protection, as though to care for us and give us the strength we would need for the stand we were taking.

And when the police arrived, they positioned themselves in a line in front of us to begin their arrests. It was at this point that an indigenous man wearing a felt bowler hat stepped out from the crowd of supporters. I learned later that he is an artist and activist who goes by the name Ostwelve. And he planted himself eye-to-eye in front of each of the officers in turn and urged them to re-consider their options:  “History doesn’t have to unfold like this.” I overheard him implore. “None of us, not me, not you, has to follow the script life has handed us.”

As the hours passed I was worried about my daughter who had come to support me and as far as I knew was standing by herself lost in the crowd in the snow and the cold.  And I asked for news on her and word came back to me that she had been invited by the Tseleil Waututh youth leader, Cedar George to join a group of indigenous youth for a special youth-focused ceremony in the shelter and warmth of the Watch House.

And I thought “Who ARE these people?”   From what I know of the historic record all we’ve ever done is swindled, robed, bribed, and used whatever means available to us to take their land out from under them.

In the days following my arrest it became my quest to find an answer to this question. I went to the Tsleil Waututh camp by the Watch House on the soccer field to find out.

If you haven’t already done so I hope you get the chance to visit the Watch House, Your Honour.  I think you’ll be surprised as I was surprised to discover that this protest-based surveillance camp, before it is anything else, is a place for spiritual grounding.

The first thing you’ll be  invited to do on entering the camp is to offer prayer at the Sacred Fire. It’s an act that starts you down the road of reaffirming your connection to the Creator and to all living things (animate and inanimate alike). And the more time you spend at the camp the more you will remember what it means to put human relationships before personal acquisition and the health of the earth before material comforts.

I won’t take any more of your time, Judge Affleck.  My account has come full circle.  I crossed the injunction line not to bring discredit to the court but to bring hope to Abigail and Oliver. 

I believe we found the hope we were looking for though not as we expected.  It comes from the knowledge that at the forefront of the struggle there are indigenous leaders, not only here in our city, but across our country and around the world who understand  that caring for the earth is a sacred duty and comes at a great cost.

Regardless of the penalty you have assigned me today, my actions will have cost me little more than a sliver of my white privilege. In contrast the cost to the leaders I met on the mountain that day is incalculable. They have laid everything on the line for the sake of the struggle.  They are the true heroes.  It has  been an honour to stand with them.

Post script:  I pleaded guilty on June 26, 2018 and was sentenced to 25 hours community service.  The standoff on the mountain continues.  Click here to volunteer at the Watch House. 

Sign above the dish pit at the camp on Burnaby Mountain.

Outpost Spirituality

Ever felt of two minds when it comes to your religious adherence?  Perhaps you recognize the limitations of your faith tradition on one hand yet can’t imagine your life without it on the other?  Or maybe you are on that roller coaster of certainty one day and complete doubt the next (and the feelings of guilt for “lack of faith” or indecision that goes with it)?  If this describes you then you are not alone and outpost spirituality might be a fit.

I’ve adopted “faith in the outposts” as a type of metaphor for my own spiritual location at this point in life. Here, let me explain what I mean….

As a kid I loved to read stories about people who lived in the outposts. Some were soldiers or scientists, others exiles or missionaries or explorers.  In order to survive these outpost dwellers had to negotiate the remote landscapes they found themselves in. They had to learn what was over the next horizon and where to take cover during a storm. They had to learn the norms of local culture and how to navigate in foreign languages. They had to learn what crops survive in unfamiliar soil and how water distributes itself across the land.  In short, they had to step well out of their comfort zones and take risks that were both exhilarating and terrifying.

Yet equally fascinating to my childhood imagination were the homes that these outliers built for themselves in the seeming “middle of nowhere”.  Whether their abode was a canvas tent or a log cabin or a bamboo hut these interior worlds provided much more than shelter.  They were “homes away from home” – havens containing elements of a cultural heartland faraway: a bedside table with a well-worn book of familiar prayers, a china mug from the family collection, a knotted rug made by a pioneering ancestor kept beneath a foot stool, a fiddle above the door and all the associated dance floor tunes, a book of dog-eared poetry at the hearth, a cherished painting by a favourite artist above the kitchen sink.

To my young heart, the familiar furnishings of these interior spaces made the world safe again. They provided an all-important grounding point for engaging the unknown beyond. A place to leave from and come back to.

Without these “landing pads” the world beyond would overwhelm or dissolve into some form of chaos.

Living deep inside the known and the unknown is where I find myself with regard to my own (Christian) tradition. This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my tradition or hold it in disregard.  Quite the opposite.  It does mean that I’ve journeyed with it out onto horizons of the human spirit that lie beyond the comfort zone of my own religious boundary lines.

As the world shrinks and the collective human imagination grows I feel compelled to take risks engaging emerging contours that are equal parts terrifying and exhilarating :

  • A growing practise of mediation and mindfulness cutting across religious and even secular lines with implications for collective consciousness and human intuition.
  • A trend toward slowing life down and living with smaller footprints as a counter movement to the frenzied materialism and resource-guzzling lifestyles many of us take for granted.
  • A profound softening on the part of the scientific community toward the importance of imagination and story and art in developing new paradigms.
  • An increasing interest in and recovery of indigenous wisdom and earth-based spirituality.
  • Implications for justice and compassion with the proliferation of social media, especially in a world where greed (mine included) can so easily seem like the trump card
  • The network of personal friendships and business connections in real time due to technological advances no longer bounded by geographical limitations
  • A growing awareness around the globe of the vulnerability of the one home that all humans regardless of race or creed share in common: planet earth.

These emerging spiritual horizons don’t seem to be religion specific.  They appeal to the human spirit as a whole.

I cherish my Christian tradition (I’m Protestant by birth, Catholic by choice).  It’s my starting point. It’s what I know. It’s how I pray.

I’ve seen a lot of spiritual seekers suddenly abandon the faith moorings that have nurtured them for a lifetime.  I understand their departure. Many are frustrated with the limitations and exclusions they were raised on. Yet with no home-away-from-home many give up and loose their way altogether. For many it’s only a matter of time before they get lost on a frontier that in the end overwhelms them.

So I’m going to take my lead from the outpost-dwellers of my childhood books. I’m not going to head out into the frontier without a cabin to come home to.  Inside this simple abode are going to be elements of all the things in the tradition that I value and love:  hymns about the love of Jesus, ancient prayers of the church,  the stories of the Bible and of the heroics of the saints, weekly eucharist, the practice of confession, and the adopted family with whom I share this tradition.

IMG_0126For now this interior world is a critical place for me to leave from and to come home to. I would lose my way without it.

Yet at the same time I’m not going to hunker down here. I’m going to venture out and explore the unfamiliar landscape I find myself in. I’m not going to assume that my starting point is the only starting point or the best starting point. I will allow for other practises that nurture the human spirit no matter how different it may be from my own.

And who knows?  In the end the points of connection and overlap may be far more significant than I had previously imagined.

Are you an outpost-dweller?  If so I’d love to hear from you.  What are your discoveries? Cautions? Fears and hopes?

 

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