Say the Names...

Al Purdy wrote a wonderful poem called "Say the names say the names" which celebrates the names of Canadian rivers - Tulameen, Kleena Kleene, Similkameen, Nahanni, Kluane and on and on in a celebratory song.

Enbridge is planning to build a dual pipeline that will carry bitumen and condensate across hundreds of waterways between Edmonton and Kitimat. Some of these waterways are rivers like the Parsnip (or what's left of it), the Nechako, the Morice and others are smaller creeks whose names are often known only to the folks who live along their banks or who fish in their shadows or who bend to wash or drink as they cross paths.

I want to collect the names of these rivers and creeks, to collect your stories, your poems, your songs so we can collectively give voice to the land living under the line Enbridge plans to draw.

People have also sent me copies of their presentations to the community oral presentations. If you'd like to add your voice, email me ( your stories and I'll post them for you. The copyright remains with you.

All the best.
Sheila Peters

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Current

Such an apt  name for the CBC  radio show doing a piece on the Northern Gateway project just as the hearings are opening. After listening to the reasoned analysis, here's what I wrote to the show:

It was good to hear Gerald Amos this morning on your pipeline piece; at least one voice from BC's northwest. I was raised on the south coast and moved to Smithers, just downstream of the proposed pipeline route, over thirty years ago. It is finally dawning on me that part of the disconnect in the conversations about this project comes from a phenomenon that Mr. Harper, the Alberta and international oil industry, and many Canadians don't understand.


Except for that beleaguered pocket of extraction in BC's northeast, all of BC is connected by the salmon-bearing arteries of the Fraser, the Stikine, the Skeena, the Nass and all the smaller rivers running to the Pacific. Even the poor Columbia. Salmon feed us, our wolves, our bears and our forests all along the lengths of our rivers. They inhabit and enrich the rivers and surrounding ecosystems from beginning to end. We don't need "foreign" money to organize ourselves to fight this absurd project. We've been doing fighting this fight for decades in the northwest - and we'll keep doing it, no matter what comes out of the so-called hearings.

Holding up this project is not what we're about, Mr. Harper. Stopping it is our goal. And if anyone is being inconvenienced by this process, it's the people who live here and know there are other ways to live than by exporting jobs and endangering our rivers and coast. We all have better things to do, but right now, we don't have anything more important.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Other ways of speaking

The past few months have slipped by in a daze of writing and editing and reading (as well as lovely holiday visiting and winter snowshoe trips). As Monsieur Harper's environment and energy ministers try to tell us that increasing our carbon contributions to climate change by exporting jobs through a pipeline is somehow in the national interest, Petrochina (remember PetroCanada?) has just reeled in 100% ownership of a tar sands project, adding to its already substantial holdings in northern Alberta. Perhaps China will invest in Canadian refineries...which makes it in our national interest to block any projects that might facilitate the crude's export.

See what happens to words when you string them together to try to make sense of the world? It was something much more vital (in the true sense of the word) that brought me back here to re-engage. An old friend, Bill Metcalfe, who used to live on the banks of the Bulkley River and near Driftwood Creek (downstream of one of the proposed pipeline crossings) told his Facebook friends about Say the Names. (Thanks Bill.) Bill's son was born within a km of the river and we've taken all three of his children down to fish and swim in a welcoming eddy further down river, a beautiful place where Twobridge (or Reiseter) Creek flows into the Bulkley and eddies back upstream to form a safe, warm pool behind a large rock outcrop.

We've taken our own boys there many times, and as they grew, they've taken friends and special girls down the same trail to listen to the sounds of water and stone speaking to each other. I'm hoping this summer, we just might be able to take our first grandchild to that same spot and introduce him or her to the water.

But before then, we'll be making our presentations to the joint review panel as wends its unriverlike way across the north. And Creekstone Press will have published a print version of The Enpipe Line: 70,000+ km of collaborative poetry written in resistance to Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines.  Click here

Here's my contribution.

Some Rivers (291.6 km of poetry in a font one km tall)         

What is this obsession with carving
courses? Scouring and scraping, cliffs collapsing
and bridges washed out? All these crashing chords
and tragic denouements sinking into stinking tidal flats.
Something in the key of huge.
A quiet seepage—
too quiet, really, to be called a spring—
can unlock the earth’s heat.
The ice exhales and opens
a pool for this dipper
bobbing on a rock.
It dives in and finds a current
that’s warmer than the winter air.
                    There’s spirit in there somewhere,
                    and bouncing back, the bird
                    it dipsy doodles
                    on the slippery dance floor
                    tapping out some bebop riff
                    we all wish that we could follow.
                    Something in the key of home.

If you've never seen a dipper, watch An American Dipper in Paris.

Please keep sending creektalk and river song.