This poem was inspired by the interviews by Earl K. Pollon and S. S. Matheson conducted with native Sekanni peoples who were negatively effected by the flooding of their communal homelands by the building of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam. “This Was Our Valley” tells that story of injustice. 640 square miles of riverfront and hunting territory would be flooded to form Williston Lake. The Sekanni peoples were driven from their ancestral homeland and dispersed.
The Shopping Cart Injustice
People, place and spirit
All were our relations
Biopeds, quadrupeds, beings with wings and fins –
River language told us so.
Fishing rocks spoke the run
Where the riffles and the rapids talked.
Ancestors told living stories where
Running the river banks, the children played.
The land was a book written in forms.
We made our mark with love, community
Fishing weirs, aspen dugout canoes,
Hunting trails, camps and sacred sites.
Always traders, we traded furs with
White settlers when they arrived
On the rivers Parsnip, Finlay and Peace at
Finlay Forks, Fort Grahame, Fort McLeod.
We added pack trains, teams of pack horses
River freighters, flat bottom ‘longboats’
For supplies and for mail delivery.
It seemed we could live together.
Then one day a government agent said
That shopping carts were coming
They would flood our world
Water rising everywhere
Shopping carts fast to check out,
Shopping carts, electric this, electric that
Shopping carts, shopping carts.
Check out, check out, check out.
They would make our rivers into a lake
We would move or drown.
Our elders did not believe it.
That was the consultations!
Soon Saskatoon berries all under water
Next, the banks sloughed back to graveyards
Next cliffs crumbled, and banks fell into rising lake
Houses of the villages slipped and floated
Coffins, bones and bodies strewed the shore
Where tangled trees, debris and more
Eddied with flotsam in the wind.
We wept for our ancestors!
We weep for our children.
We had to flee the destruction
Caused by tree grinders, D-9 bull dozers
The dam construction.
Now they want to take more
Another dam for more shopping carts.
Please stop Site ‘C’. By Wally du Temple