The Last Battle – by Chris Hedges

Due to WordPress’ ongoing snafu condition, I was unable to access the following in the usual way so I cannot use the “Reblog” button. Instead I’ve copied the article and pasted it here, in its entirety, with proper credits and links, I hope.  And how would I title this article if I had written it? How about the very first line from Canada’s national anthem?

“Oh Canada, our home and native land…”  …and while you are reading I’ll go and throw up.

DEEP GREEN: ‘Recovery of the Sacred’, The Last Battle – By Chris Hedges

by The Smoking Man

Source –

“…The Cree have been under relentless assault since the arrival of the European colonialists in the 1500s. Now the 500 inhabitants of the Cree reserve, where many live in small, boxy prefabricated houses, are victims of a new iteration of colonial exploitation, one centered on the extraction of oil from the vast Alberta tar sands. This atrocity presages the destruction of the ecosystem on which they depend for life. If the Cree do not stop the exploiters this time, they, along with the exploiters, will die”

The Last Battle – By Chris Hedges

THE BEAVER LAKE CREE NATION, Treaty No. 6 Area, Canada. I am driving down a rutted dirt road with Eric Lameman, a member of the Cree nation.

“Over there,” he says, pointing out where he was born in a tent 61 years ago.

We stop the car and look toward a wooded grove.

“That’s the mass grave,” he says softly, indicating a clearing where dozens of Cree who died in a smallpox epidemic over a century ago are buried.

The Cree have been under relentless assault since the arrival of the European colonialists in the 1500s. Now the 500 inhabitants of the Cree reserve, where many live in small, boxy prefabricated houses, are victims of a new iteration of colonial exploitation, one centered on the extraction of oil from the vast Alberta tar sands. This atrocity presages the destruction of the ecosystem on which they depend for life. If the Cree do not stop the exploiters this time, they, along with the exploiters, will die.

The reserve is surrounded by the tar sands, one of the largest concentrations of crude oil in the world. The sands produce 98% of Canada’s oil and are the United States’ largest source of imported oil. This oil, among the dirtiest fossil fuels on earth, is a leading cause of atmospheric pollution, releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide. The production and consumption of one barrel of tar sands crude oil release 17% more carbon dioxide than production and consumption of a standard barrel of oil.

Tar sands oil is a thick, mucky, clay-like substance that is infused with a hydrocarbon called bitumen. The oil around Beaver Lake is extracted by a process known as steam-assisted gravity drainage, which occurs under the earth and is similar to fracking. Farther north, extraction is done by strip-mining the remote boreal forest of Alberta, 2 million acres of which have already been destroyed. The destruction of vast forests, sold to timber companies, and the scraping away of the topsoil have left behind poisoned wastelands. This industrial operation, perhaps the largest such project in the world, is rapidly accelerating the release of the carbon emissions that will, if left unchecked, soon render the planet uninhabitable for humans. The oil is transported thousands of miles to refineries as far away as Houston through pipelines and in tractor-trailer trucks or railroad cars. More than a hundred climate scientists have called for a moratorium on the extraction of tar sands oil. Former NASA scientist James Hansen has warned that if the tar sands oil is fully exploited, it will be “game over for the planet.” He has also called for the CEOs of fossil fuel companies to be tried for high crimes against humanity.

It is hard, until you come here, to grasp the scale of the tar sands exploitation. Surrounding Beaver Lake are well over 35,000 oil and natural gas wells and thousands of miles of pipelines, access roads and seismic lines. (The region also contains the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, which has appropriated huge tracts of traditional territory from the native inhabitants to test weapons.) Giant processing plants, along with gargantuan extraction machines, including bucket wheelers that are over half a mile long and draglines that are several stories high, ravage hundreds of thousands of acres. These stygian centers of death belch sulfurous fumes, nonstop, and send fiery flares into the murky sky. The air has a metallic taste. Outside the processing centers, there are vast toxic lakes known as tailings ponds, filled with billions of gallons of water and chemicals related to the oil extraction, including mercury and other heavy metals, carcinogenic hydrocarbons, arsenic and strychnine. The sludge from the tailings ponds is leaching into the Athabasca River, which flows into the Mackenzie, the largest river system in Canada. Nothing here, by the end, will support life. The migrating birds that alight at the tailings ponds die in huge numbers. So many birds have been killed that the Canadian government has ordered extraction companies to use noise cannons at some of the sites to scare away arriving flocks. Around these hellish lakes, there is a steady boom-boom-boom from the explosive devices.

The water in much of northern Alberta is no longer safe for human consumption. Drinking water has to be trucked in for the Beaver Lake reserve.

Streams of buses ferry workers, almost all of them men, up and down the roads, night and day. Tens of thousands from across Canada have come to work in the tar sands operations. Many live in Fort McMurray, about 180 miles from Beaver Lake, and work punishing 12-hour shifts for three weeks at a time before having a week off.

The Cree, the Dene and other tribes that live amid the environmental carnage and whose ancestral lands have been appropriated by the government to extract the tar sands oil suffer astronomical rates of respiratory and other illnesses. Cancer rates are 30% higher than in the rest of Alberta, according to the Alberta Cancer Board, which was disbanded soon after releasing this information in 2008.

When he was a child, Eric Lameman was taken from his parents by the government, a common practice a few decades ago, and sent to an Indian boarding school where beatings were routine, speaking Cree or any of the other indigenous languages was forbidden and native religious and cultural practices were outlawed. He says the forced severance from his family and his community, along with the banning of his traditions, was psychologically devastating. He remembers his father and other Cree elders on the reserve performing religious rituals in secret. He would sneak to the woods to watch them as, risking arrest, they clung to their beliefs and spiritual practices.

Lameman defied the efforts to wipe out his identity and his culture, which he nurtured in spite of the attempts to eradicate them. And he says it is only his Cree roots that keep him whole and make it possible for him to endure. He suffered extreme poverty. He also had periods of addiction and even episodes of violence. It is hard to avoid personal disintegration when the dominant culture seeks to eradicate your being. Canada’s indigenous people represent 4 percent of the population, but they make up more than a quarter of the inmates in the nation’s federal prisons. Lameman’s wife left him and their young children. She died from alcoholism on the streets of Calgary. He worked as a heavy machine operator in the tar sands. He quit when he realized the land he was despoiling would never recover and he began to get sick. He survives now on welfare.

We are back in his small house, seated in the tiny kitchen. His daughter Crystal Lameman, an internationally known indigenous rights activist, heats juniper in an iron skillet until fumes of the pungent herb drift upward. We cup our hands and pull the smoke into our nostrils. The Cree and others say “smudging” cleanses negative energy, helps bring clarity and vision, and centers those exposed to the scent. We sit quietly.

The more the Cree recover their traditions to defy the capitalist mantra of hoarding, profit, exploitation, self-promotion and commodification of human beings and the earth, the more their life has an intrinsic value rather than a monetary value. This recovery is the antidote to despair. It grounds the Cree spiritually. It permits transcendence. It at once estranges them from reality and brings them closer to it. Resistance is not only about challenging the extraction companies in court, as the Cree have done in trying to block the tar sands industry and the pipelines from their traditional land; it is about holding fast to another orientation to reality, one that we all must adopt if we are to survive as a species. It is about the recovery of the sacred. The white exploiters seek not only to steal the land and natural resources and commit genocide against indigenous communities but to wipe out this competing ethic.

“I need my people,” Eric Lameman says. “I need the ones that know our history, our language, our spiritual practices and our culture. I rely on them to pass it on to me so I can pass it on.”

The exploiters have sought to corrupt the Cree and bastardize their traditions. Extraction companies have paid off some tribal leaders to support pipelines or surrender tribal territory to oil development. The companies use the quislings to mount propaganda campaigns in favor of extraction, to divide and weaken indigenous communities and to attempt to discredit leaders such as Crystal. The federal government last year staged a Cree religious ceremony, complete with honor songs and drums, to bless the Trans Mountain Expansion Project and Canada’s $4.5 billion purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline, developments that mean death for the Cree people.

“This is what they call reconciliation,” Eric says bitterly.

“It’s cultural appropriation,” Crystal says. “ ‘Reconciliation’ is a bullshit word. Reconciling with whom? Reconciling what? Reconciling us with the current colonial systems of exploitation? Until they dismantle the structures of exploitation there can be no reconciliation.”
The man camps of tens of thousands of tar sands workers fuel the prostitution industry. Indigenous girls and women, living in squalor and poverty, are lured by the seemingly easy and fast money. Their sexual degradation soon leads to addictions to blunt the pain. This too is a legacy of colonialism. Canada began as a military and commercial outpost of Britain. The Hudson’s Bay Company did not permit European women to immigrate to Canada. Brothels, populated by prostituted indigenous girls and women, were established alongside the military forts and trading posts. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police issued a report in 2015 that found that indigenous, or First Nations, women, who constitute 4.3% of Canada’s female population, are four times more likely to go missing or be murdered than other Canadian women. They are 16% of female murder victims and are the objects of 11% of missing person’s cases involving women.

“I was on a panel in Vancouver,” Crystal Lameman says. “I used the word ‘prostitution.’ A trans person got up and told me to use the term ‘sex work,’ saying it was a choice. Impoverished and vulnerable indigenous girls and women do not choose to be prostitutes. They are forced into that world. Girls are conditioned for this from familial disintegration and sexual abuse. … Sexual abuse, a common experience for girls in residential schools and the foster care system, is another one of the legacies of colonialism.”
The infusion of workers with disposable incomes has also seen an explosion in drugs in northern Alberta such as crack cocaine and crystal meth, and with the drugs has come a rash of suicides among the native population. Suicide and non-suicidal intentional self-injuries are the leading causes of death for First Nations people under the age of 44 in Canada. Young indigenous males are 10 times more likely to kill themselves than other Canadians. Young indigenous females are 21 times more likely to commit suicide. Beaver Lake has not been spared, losing seven people to suicide in a 12-month period in 2014 and 2015. All of them were under the age of 44, and all were drug addicts or alcoholics.

“There are two roads into Fort McMurray,” Crystal says. “There’s Highway 63 and Highway 881, which runs through here. This is one of the stops for the drugs. The traffickers say, ‘Well, there’s a little town, we’ll stop there and drop drugs there too. A lot of the drug runners are from small towns, from these communities. It is a quick way to make money.”

“Our community used to be safe,” she says. “We left the doors unlocked, even when we slept. We would leave our vehicles running. Nobody worried.”

“It’s dangerous now,” she goes on, speaking of the rash of robberies by addicts. She adds, “You can’t get into altercations. It’s the drugs. They affect people’s mental health. People live in fear.”

The resurrection of the old ceremonial practices such as the annual sun dance, along with the traditional medicine camp, harvesting camps and sweat lodges, is about another way of being, one that honors the interconnectedness of all living beings, including the earth on which we depend for life.

“We are seeing the effects,” Crystal says. “Our cultural practices and language embody a belief system that is the opposite of capitalism and globalization, the lust for money and material wealth.”

“I used to think globally,” she says. “I was in D.C. on the front lines. I was in the climate march in New York. I was everywhere. I traveled internationally. I was at every rally. But I wasn’t here, at home, doing the real work. It’s easier being out there, instead of being in our community. Yes, there is this big black cloud, but there is also another, beautiful side. The women in the community are bringing the ceremonies back. The more we return to the land, the closer we are to achieving holistic wellness. My community is not in despair. We are doing our diligence to be well again. I think about my dad. My dad was one of those people he’s talking about [when he says] ‘I had friends that I can’t trust now because they’re not well because of the drugs.’ My dad was one of those in despair. But he has come back to us and to himself.”

Chris Hedges, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

12 thoughts on “The Last Battle – by Chris Hedges

  1. jim-

    This is sickening. Thank you for sharing this. I get the feeling it’s too late to turn around. This is only the Cree in your post, but an epidemic wherever money is to be made. So sorry dear.

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      I was raised in that northern country and even as a child I sensed the “discomfort” extant in that land. But now this exploitation and environmental degradation is a global sickness and I agree with you that basically it is too late to turn around – not that it could not be done, but the will has been sapped by the propaganda. It’s like religion: facts do not matter anymore, if they ever did. What matters is that the System promises and the sheeple believe.

  2. rawgod

    Reconciliation is measured by the only value white men know–money! It is not possible to repay First Nations people for all the indignities and intentional acts of attempted genocide committed against them. Dignity and respect are the only true values that can be given them, but those are not available in a white man’s world. Arable land, total self-government, and social acceptance would do more for the people to whom North and South America really belong, along with other lands elsewhere that were stolen from their indigenous peoples. This, as we know, will never happen. White people own things, where First Nations people used to share them. It was not possible to own anything, everything belonged to whatever life was living on it at a given time. How could a sharing culture understand ownership? White men took the best of everything, and gave back beads, rotting food, and blankets laced with deadly diseases. How do you value that?

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Rawgod, you end your comment with a terrible rhetorical question which has no answer. No, what has been done to the people of the world by a small and small-minded greedy and bigoted segment of the population, namely Europeans, has poisoned the entire planet. Even China has fallen under the sway of predatory capitalism and it is not an autonomous nation (or empire) at all but another worshiper of Mammon. Even if these money worshipers were to stop overnight, this world no longer possesses the resource to “make the Earth great again.” It’s been eaten, digested and excreted as poison over the whole earth. There is no antidote for that poison, all claims to the contrary. {Sorry if my comment is kind of lame, I’m beyond tired but I wanted to respond regardless. Thanks for commenting on what has to be a very difficult and personal subject for you.}

  3. rawgod

    Being half red and half white, I am caught in the middle–if I allow myself to be. And even though I was brought up white, discovering later that I had anccestors native to this land explained a lot about me. I have no allegiance to my European blood, that blood was bred with hatred. My native blood however was bred in knowing that all live shares a commonality. Yes, capitalism and christianity have spread across the planet, but it has not yet been able to claim total victory. We who fight those white religions will never give up.
    Funny thought which I cannot believe I never had before: My blood is red and white, but so too are my blood cells. The white ones try to maintain my life, but it is the red cells which give me life.

  4. Hyperion

    An excellent article in pulling back the curtain on one blight of countless blights. The voracious appetite of capitalism and technology makes it much easier to consume more of our natural resources in shorter time. The human cost is rarely part of the analysis for profit making. It would be hard for one to say they don’t know or don’t believe that self destruction is our only outcome if things don’t change. We’re all hoping it will happen on somebody else’s watch. Hope is not a strategy or course of action.

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      “Hope is not a strategy or course of action.” Priceless! When I was under the influence of those I have called ‘the Teachers’ I was counseled to give up three “really big virtues,” namely faith, hope and love. They explained how these things cause hubris, mental laziness and dangerous traps. Instead the concept of compassion was deeply explained to me, along with the necessity of becoming and remaining detached. I was reminded to keep YLea’s famous quote always in mind: “When none of it matters it will all be yours.” What at first seemed a blatant contradiction proved to be quite true, perhaps too true, for eventually I began to ask myself if I really liked “having it all” because what that meant in actual fact was I had to take personal responsibility for everything I interacted with and affected by my thoughts, words, acts. It took time to realize that taking responsibility was for “being there” and not for being the actual cause of whatever I encountered. I may have put some of that awareness in the words of the Cydroid “YBA5” when she challenges Antierra’s despairing moment… Anyway, what I have found to be the real strategy and course of action for me was to force myself to choose, once and for all time, whether to continue the Earthian path, or to declare myself as an avatar of compassion. I don’t know what made me choose the latter but nothing could ever even tempt me to look back.

      1. Hyperion

        This is very interesting in that it tracks a lot wih my own growing desire to disconnect from the hooks of daily life, the rat race so to speak. In particular is your comment regarding love. I saw love in all its forms as necessary to human mental health, the regenerating force that bound us realizing a more powerful force repels us into darkness. Love is a weak binding force and so it takes other binding forces to keep humans in a balanced state of cooperation. The whole Agony of Ecstasy story is about how love is also a path to great pain and suffering to which many will submit to it willingly. But, in reading your comment, I see relinquishing the weak force of love for the stronger binding force of compassion to which a well honed empathy seems also important could be a way of freeing one or many from the duality of love. I believe this is kin to what many asian cultures practice. Love is a rare commodity fir them but empathy and compassion for their own kind is quite powerful. In opposition, they can be exceptionally cruel without any regret or guilt. Most marriages between asians are strategic moves and can often be for less than noble reasons. But they are able to make the union work as a partnership as long as there are the many subtle submissions to the strengths of the partner. This is too generalized to cover the millions of variations on the theme but it serves to show my thoughts on the subject of love versus compassion. Like I said, I have long standing entrenched views, but nothng pleases me more than to have others help me see those views from new angles helping me refine my existence to a more efficient and effective mind-body-spirit entity in balance with my social and natural world. You are indeed a rare counsel of wisdom and truth in a raging sea of misinformation and false norms. As your grasshopper, I hope my incessant buzzing doesn’t bug you to much. Feel free to tell me to bug off if I give you migraines. For me, it is a great pleasure to explore the physical and aether universe with an experienced traveller.

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        Thanks for that comment, Hype. Quote (hopefully not altogether out of context!) “I see relinquishing the weak force of love for the stronger binding force of compassion to which a well honed empathy seems also important could be a way of freeing one or many from the duality of love. I believe this is kin to what many asian cultures practice. Love is a rare commodity fir them but empathy and compassion for their own kind is quite powerful.”
        You have travelled and experienced the world as I have not so I should defer to your view here. But if I may comment, nevertheless, let me say this (and I am relying on my Teachings and past lives remembrances for this), that empathy, perhaps can go in two directions, of good or evil and be fine with either. Compassion however, to me, is a whole different and “new” kettle of fish: compassion, if it is to be labeled thus, cannot, ever, travel the path of evil. A compassionate person could not, ever, cause evil to shadow another person, no matter the inducement. Compassion is stronger than any belief system; any traditional way of life. It shatters the walls people like to hide behind to justify their evil, or non-acts. Anything that makes room for the tolerance or infliction of any evil upon another can never be compassion. It can be called that, but the saying of it does not make it so. In my current awareness every “non compassionate” thought or act creates automatic guilt within my mind. Compassion is, how can I say that: awareness with full knowledge. There is no hiding, no escape, no self justification.
        All over this world people act in the name of love, of tradition, of some sort of belief system and through these they justify doing evil. There is no compassion in any of that because compassion can only work through detachment (from all belief systems) and through self empowerment. When I “feel” guilt within for failing my compassionate nature the greatest curse of all is that I have no one and nothing to go to for justification or forgiveness: I’m stuck with my recidivist tendencies until I work through it myself: acknowledge, repent, accept the consequences of failure in proper humility, then climb the ladder again while fixing the broken rungs. This is not an easy path, or easy way, hence why it is quite unpopular.

      3. Hyperion

        Beautifully said Sha’Tara. I think I’ll copy this comment to a permanent file and read it often to help center my Revenant soul. The veils across my internal vision are many but you have managed to help me lift enough of them to see more clearly the true nature of compassion. True, what you say about following the more difficult path of true and pure compassion. I call it a noble path and it is the most challenging and least traveled path of all. I am too burdened with the sins of my past to ever feel worthy of it, but my spirit has never willfully turned away from compassion for others even those who tried with all their being to eliminate me from the living. They were, after all, following their own beliefs and were no more or no less evil than I was. I won the contest, but can never celebrate that accomplishment. Compassion and detachment as you teach it would do me a world of good in this last phase of this life. Hopefully, it will remain with me in the next cycle.

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