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Elizabeth Penashue: Development damaging Innu way of life

Don’t let writing letters to the editor become a dying art.
Don’t let writing letters to the editor become a dying art.

My name is Elizabeth Penashue. I am still concerned about Muskrat Falls. I do not think that it is just me that is concerned. A lot of the elders in my community are concerned.

Everything on the ground that is growing, animals that are living on the land and drinking the water, will be killed with the flooding and mercury poisoning. This is what happened when the Churchill Falls dam was put in and now with Muskrat Falls there is going to be more mercury poisoning.

It seems that the government does not think that there is anyone still hunting animals on the land or fishing in the waters.

This is not true. People from Sheshatshiu still hunt and fish. The Elders in Sheshatshiu want to teach the children our culture. 

When I am teaching children, I show them the water, the trees, and the animals. However, the government is still going ahead with the Muskrat Falls dam. How am I going to go in the woods with the children to teach them about our culture if so much of the land will be flooded or the animals and fish will have mercury poisoning? 

All the tools I use to teach the children will be gone. The children are going to ask me why I cannot teach them. How will I tell the children that we can no longer go to the country because there is no place left to go? 

I will be so sad trying to explain. I will be crying. The children are going to be sad as well, because there will be no place to go. How will I explain what happened to the children. How will my grandchildren carry on our traditions with their children?

How can I plan to use the land if the government does not stop ruining the environment? What are the older people going to use to teach the children? There are only a few people left in Sheshatshiu who are my age. We want to teach our culture to the children before we are all gone.

I want to teach my children in the same way that our parents taught us in the country. They taught me everything in our culture and I want to do the same thing and have these traditions pass down from generation to generation. Everything that they taught me is in my heart. Everything has been passed down to me from my ancestors, generation after generation. We need to maintain our traditions.

The Innu are people of the land and rivers. We will not be able to go on the land and rivers if they are contaminated. The Innu are working hard to try to stop what is happening. I know the Innu Nation has signed agreements with the government, but not everybody in Sheshatshiu is happy with this agreement.  

Sometimes it seems to me that the government does not realize what it has done to our land and rivers and it seems that  the government does not care, because the people in government who are making the decisions do not live off the land. The government is just interested in money and business and does not care our well-being.

We want to keep our life and culture. The elders in Sheshatshiu want to protect the land. I want to save the life on our land. I do not want everything to die. Before in Labrador, everything was clean. What has the government done in Voisey’s Bay, Muskrat Falls and Churchill Falls; the government is killing the land.

The elders in Sheshatshiu do not want to see Gull Island developed and the land destroyed. We have already seen the environmental problems that have come with Churchill Falls, Muskrat Falls, and Voisey’s Bay. If Gull Island is also damaged, what will be left for our people?

Elizabeth Penashue

Sheshatshiu, N.L.

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