I watched “Dancing with Wolves” last night and it left me a bit sad. I know everyone thinks it’s hokey but it touches on a sore point for me; the idea of “Sacred places”. We don’t have any…We have areas that are protected, as long as it suits everyone. We have Haida Gwaii, as long as the oil tankers don’t ruin it or we don’t find something out there that we can sell. We have “green spaces” bequeathed in perpetuity, unless a developer needs them and they are traded for somewhere else less important. We have national parks, as long as we don’t mind them being logged, mined or pipelined, etc etc…
We don’t take the idea of what we have seriously enough. Jobs, money, building sites and the damned economy will all come and go, but once we destroy what we have it cannot be replaced.
The damage didn’t start last year, not even a hundred years ago. It started when we as immigrants started to “name” things. Sounds odd perhaps, but the minute you “name” somewhere you have in essence proclaimed ownership. It is no longer what it was; it is now somewhere that can be bought, sold, developed, exploited and bragged about or whatever. It is no longer simply “there”.
The names we gave to the towns and settlements surrounding those pristine and should have been untouched and sacred lands have served only to add barriers, limits and qualification to them. And the names we then gave to those now surrounded spaces were never “really” added to protect them, only to categorize them and to add them to our list of geographical assets. If you find that a bit difficult to believe then tell me why the first National Parks were immediately populated with the “Grand Railway” hotels, resorts for the rich and famous, built with covenants that precluded anyone else from building there? As we have continued to “progress”, the value of pristine land has now become less than irreplaceable, less than simply “sacred-forever-and therefore-by-definition- untouchable”, and is now reduced only to the status of precincts. Segregated areas retained only as a lip service for the tourism industry and as political game pieces.
Yes, perhaps the film is a bit hokey, but think about the US frontier as well as our own. They are both gone forever and with them any true respect we ever had for “the” land has also slowly vanished. I said “the” land here, because it never was and never will be “our” land. Until we come to realize that fact, all the David Suzuki’s and environmentalists in “the” land won’t make any difference.
The word “sacred” also conjures up religious connotations for many people. And perhaps that is another point that should be raised before it is too late. If the world is a gift from God, Gaia, Isis, Allah, the Green Man or whomever you believe in, then surely even to suggest that we do not inherently protect it, without even thinking about such choices, has to be one of the biggest cardinal sins we could ever commit? How could we ever assume that we have a higher need or some ethereal permission that makes it necessary to destroy something that our Gods have given us as a gift? Have we in fact now progressed to such a point that we now believe we know better than those Gods and that our need for jobs, money and “Lebensraum” supersede those of our own creators?
So run your pipelines over the mountains, mine in Strathcona, destroy the Haida Gwaii marine life, frac the prairies and the plains, make some money, make some jobs, name everywhere and cut down, dig up and mine everything….But, at the end of “your” film, where and what will be left for you to ride off into the sunset to?