in British Columbia - 1998
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The first days of WaterWalk - by Karin Roberts
by Karen Roberts
May 8-10, 1998
The night before the start of the WaterWalk, Eloise and friends slept on the beach of Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. At sunrise, Eloise awoke and initiated a ceremony which included chanting, prayers and rituals. Her daughter, Emma, spoke sacred words and withdrew ocean water from the Pacific Ocean which was blended with water from the Slocan Valley. This was the initial 'weaving of the waters' which will be the theme of the WaterWalk.
The Waterwalk started at Mile 0 and continued to the Parliament Buildings where 25 people joined Eloise in a ceremony at the fountain in the back. The walking stick that Nicholas, her eldest son, made for her was passed around the circle as a talking stick. Each person spoke from the heart about water and its significance to their lives. Many shared stories of the way in which they are doing their part to protect this precious life-sustaining element. Emma spoke of her desire to be able to jump into the lake and swim with her friends whenever she wanted. Eloise spoke last and many of us were moved to tears by her passionate and inspirational words. "This is a people's movement. We are all leaders and responsible for protecting the last of our resources. This is the last call and we must act now!"
The WaterWalk continued in Vancouver the next day. The ceremony in Vanier Park was attended by 15 individuals, each of whom spoke with Eloise. The water collected from the Georgia Straight was woven with the water already in Eloise's bottle. Water from two other sources was presented to Eloise: a small bottle of water from the Ganges River in India and another from Starhawk's Waters of the World, Baffin Island and Hawaii. Eloise poured a few drops of each bottle into her hands and then into her blue glass water bottle. Next, she poured a few drops from her bottle into the Straight. The talking stick was again passed and beautiful words of support and concern were spoken.
Eloise continued the WaterWalk that day, walking along the Granville Street bridge to Hastings and then east on Hastings out to Port Moody. Those who walked with her were invited to carry the water. Anyone wishing to carry the water is welcome to do so and need only ask. Eloise believes that we can all participate in transporting the water to Ottawa.
Eloise will be receiving a human rights award in early June and hopes that for the time she is in Victoria, the WaterWalk will continue without her. Also watch for the article in Reader's Digest about Eloise's experience in Cambodia.
by Sandra Blaikie
May 8-10, 1998
Eloise is doing it again. She is putting her mind, body and spirit on the line for love of this planet and of the people of this planet. She did it in Cambodia.
She did it for the watersheds of her beloved Slocan Valley when she stood on the New Denver Flats Blockade and fasted in prison for 55 days.
Now she is walking for water - for all water. She is trying to wake the conscience of her fellow Canadians as to how unsustainable lifestyles and corporate greed are destroying water quality "from sea to sea".
On Friday, May 8th, Eloise Charet began her 5 month walk from Victoria to Ottawa. She is dedicating her walk to "the love of water".
Eloise's walk began with a sunrise ceremony at `Mile 0' of the Trans-Canada Highway. She collected water from the Pacific Ocean and will add to it from all the bodies of water along the route. She hopes to deliver the `woven water' to the Prime Minister by Thanksgiving.
Later that day, about 25 people joined her in a circle behind the Parliament Buildings. The walking stick her son made for her became a talking stick and Eloise asked each person in the circle to share their feelings and thoughts about water. Each person tapped into their own appreciation for water and for all the plants and animals that depend on water. A very poetic young woman praised all the ways the water appears and moves on earth. A Green Party politician thanked Eloise for honouring the water. He declared that we must all honour the water if we are ever to take good care of this precious resource.
In a Mother's Day Ceremony at the oceanside in Vanier Park, Eloise called on all mothers to walk for water and "leave a living legacy for future generations". One young man shared his appreciation for water in his native Kenya where only 1/7 of the land gets enough rainfall to grow food.
A handful of supporters and Eloise's daughter, Emma, accompanied her on the first three days of the WaterWalk. I was honoured to be among them.
When I asked Eloise the purpose of the Walk, she told me: "It's about each one of us taking responsibility for our water because the government is not acting responsibly. To walk for water is to get something moving, to get power moving - the power of love - so life will go on. I am doing this for the love of water, children, animals, plants. When you think holistically, you can't separate anything. I am not doing this for myself. I feel compassion for all life. If I had one year to live, this is exactly what I would wish to be doing."
I never heard Eloise use the word `pilgrimage', but Peace Pilgrim's definition is an apt description of Eloise's actions. She is "on foot", walking in boots donated by Mountain Equipment Coop. Walking on the firm ground of faith - faith in the kindness of the human heart. She is walking also on the knowledge of the kindness of nature's heart.
Eloise is walking "prayerfully". She is praying by oceanside and riverside. She is praying for the water. She is praying for the life blood of our Mother Planet. She is praying for the blood in human hearts to warm, to feel love for this beautiful earth, to feel moved to act before all the resources are gone, before all the old growth forests, clean water, fresh air, ozone filtered sunshine are gone forever. To the best of her ability, she is setting out once again to walk the path of service.
Eloise has put out a call to "all kindhearted persons who believe in pure water". She sees herself as "just an ordinary person" who cares about the planet. She is confident that she will meet others of like mind on the road.
Eloise chose to walk along Hastings Street in Vancouver for a main portion of the Mother's Day WaterWalk. She said she was hoping to find some of the women she'd met in prison last summer. Instead, she found a middle-aged man who appeared to have been suffering greatly. He walked up to Eloise and asked her what the TransCanada Waterwalk was all about. He looked happier and lighter when she explained it to him. When she was finished, he thanked her very kindly, flashed her a huge, almost toothless smile and waved her on.
Eloise is on her way to becoming a legend in her time. Reader's Digest is publishing one story of Eloise and her sister in Cambodia in the June 1998 issue. On June 4th, she will receive an award from the Vancouver Island Human Rights Coalition presented to her by the Attorney General at the Government House in Victoria. She invites others to carry the water for the time she is away.
Her words to us are "Come on, Canada. Lets WaterWalk. This is not an organization. This is a movement to empower the ordinary person." Speaking as an ordinary person, I do feel empowered in her presence. Her walk will touch many hearts and minds before she reaches Ottawa.
by Eloise Dolly Charet
May 21, 1998
I was in Savona and stopped to have my meal of the day. Usually I'm vegetarian but I had fish and chips and this older man came to talk to me about WaterWalk and he started eating my fish and chips because he was so hungry. I ended up sharing my meal and gave him $5.00. At first he wouldn't take it. I told him it was my birthday and would bring me good karma. I had worn the wrong socks that day and my blisters had blisters. I decided to call Colleen Seymour and Tommy Nez to pick me up just to have a warm and comfortable place for the night. They told me they would meet me at the bottom of the hill in an hour, so I started to climb that darn hill and I had already done my daily quota of 'killermeters' and I just kept climbing higher and higher. I thought it was just around the next corner, because your mind starts playing tricks on you, but it never seemed to end. Finally I made it to the top and was getting ready to go down hill when this red truck pulled up on the other side of the road and started calling out my name. It was David and Tree , two men who both ran for mayor last year in Victoria. I was so suprised to see them. They helped take off my basket and we talked. Then, all of a sudden, Colleen and Tommy showed up on the other side. As they waved to me, an eagle came and flew over all of us. I felt like I was coming home.
Our stopover in Kamloops was enlightening and endarkening. Tommy, a Navajo symbol of priesthood from the oldest tradional Church of North America, blessed the water, the journey, myself, Tree and David. Colleen participated, and we wove the waterfall on her property. It was a very sacred moment for all of us. Their love for pure water, the cause and ourselves opened our hearts as pilgrims on the road of life.
On the downside, people were sick all around. Twenty-four caribou died drinking the water downstream in the spring. I spoke at a school, and cleaned vomit off the floor. One woman told me her son swam in the Lake and by nightfall he was in respiratory distress. They said there was a virus in the Lake. Ruth Madsen ended up in the hospital as she unknowingly was running behind a spray truck on the streets of Kamloops. The water was like poison and [drinkable water is] quite costly in bottles.
We went to the First Nations "Save The Cohoe" celebration, finding out that one of the largest runs in the world counted six fish, one female only.
As we passed through the reserve, people came out of their houses and talked to us about the conditions of their drinking water, saying it makes you sick. So much visible truth and yet so little done about it.
I spoke to Dotty about Jack Ross [from Argenta, B.C.] coming down to Ruth Madsen's house in Kamloops as he would be interested in our upcoming walk from the Kamloops Correctional Centre, where he was imprisoned last summer [after being arrested at Perry Ridge]. Dotty was concerned about Jack's health. I responded with: "Just give that man a cause." And to prove it, he came straight from Nelson without going home to Argenta to pack his clothes. The next morning as he began his walk, he said he felt like a drip going down the road.
by Eloise Charet
In Sorrento, we were greeted by David, a reverend from the Anglican church, and his daughter Crystal. They generously fed and put us all up [and] introduced me as a modern day prophet to elderly people on a retreat.
We picked up Frank, a born-again Christian [who] collected bottle cans to stay alive. We sang gospel songs and walked for 10 km. The next day he was working at the Sorrento Center. We looked at Frank and said;" You've come home, Brother".
Such a beautiful jewel and yet so polluted by houseboats. The largest concentration in the world. Deana, daughter Natalia and Vera Gottlieb filled us in on their concerns over the environment, especially on APEC and MAI.
We were well received by the Press.
by Eloise Charet
The family [of] Francis and Clara Maltby greeted us in the pristine surroundings of Revelstoke. We were accomodated in two rooms at the Regent Hotel.
As we sat for dinner, the mayor came by with a loaf of homemade bread. Francis said this is a miracle. I talked to him [the mayor] for twenty minutes about the Dam Dams, [and] that buying bottled water at the foot of Glaciers is a sin. When I talked about corporations, he left in the middle of a sentence with a very firm handshake.
The Winlaw people who performed the dance of the Phoenix Rising livened up the downtown area.
The next day we walked as a group with children for 10 km. Many cars honked and waved.
by Stephen Lones
May 30, 1998
Approximately 35 adults and children, mostly from the Slocan Valley, gathered at a Revelstoke park shortly after 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 30, 1998. Ten of the people present were members of the Bird Tribe, a collective of performers and water-consciousness awareness raisers who are based near Winlaw, in the middle section of the Slocan Valley. The Bird Tribe performers donned bird head masks with long beaks and large eyes, and joined the rest of the group in a ten block walk to the outdoor plaza in downtown Revelstoke. Local passerbys and residents didn't quite know what to make of this unusual parade, with water banners, costumed dancers, musicians and happy looking children, which was making its way along their streets on a quiet weekend afternoon.
The Bird Tribe performance at the plaza was quite fascinating as visual spectacle. The movements of the birds as they swooped and turned, sometimes individually and sometimes in unison, was almost hypnotic at times. Their fringed yellow capes gave a good illusion of feathers in flight, and the different bird heads expressed strong individual characters. During the performance, a narrator spoke of many things, including the beauty of the Slocan Valley and the dangers which it now faces as its creeks and river are threatened by careless logging practises.
After the performance, everybody formed a circle. The brickwork of the plaza is laid in concentric rings, with a central spot. Eloise's waterbottle was placed in the center. Its cobalt blue glass and spiral cedarbark wrapping blended nicely with the color of the brick, and seemed to form the center of a madala, encircled by the group holding hands. Once again, Eloise's walking stick became a talking stick as it was passed around in order that each person had the opportunity to speak what was in their heart or on their mind. Many people, as part of their speaking, thanked Eloise for what she was doing, which she appreciated very much.
During the next hour, the group slowly made its way to a small sandy beach on the shore of the Columbia River, not far from the city baseball field. Food was shared, and the braver children took a dip in the icy spring waters of the great river.
The gentle harmonic overtones of Tibetan tingsha bells stiking one another, and then the added harmony of two women softly chanting tones with Eloise at the water's edge brought the group into a deep silence. When the bells and vocal toning ended, several small birds could be heard chirping mightily as they flew around the area in seeming excitement.
Eloise spoke about the significance of the area. She explained that Revelstoke is a very special place, a place where several waters come together. It is underlain by one of the deepest faults in the earth's crust, and has a strong current of earth energy running through it. The Sinixt people, the ancient aboriginal mother tribe of the region, held this point on the Columbia River in high regard. Eloise also said it was a special time of the year as well, for the strong spring flow of the river was fertilizing the land that it passed through in an annual cycle of renewal.
In the half hour before the sun set, two older members of the group, one male and one female, performed the "weaving of the waters". Each one waded into the water and scooped a few drops of the Columbia River into the waterbottle. After the water was mixed with all the other waters in the bottle, a few drops were respectfully offered back to the river. Eloise said that on other occasions, she has had children conduct the "weaving of the waters", for it is important to involve everyone.
by Eloise Charet
June , 1998
It all seems very exciting and hectic, leaving the simplicity of the Road for the Big City. Everybody appeared very conservative. Our lieutenant governor gave an excellent speech on valuing human rights and at the same time presented a medal to the representative of the Attorney General who [had] sanctioned the arrest and incarceration of people standing up for the love of water.
I was thrilled and saddened at the same time. But I will try to hold to the symbolism of [it] instead of the reality.
phone message from Eloise Charet, with later revisions
June 14, 1998
After we hitchhiked to Revelstoke and hopped a train to Golden, we went to see the newspaper there and he had already received so much material that he didn't even have to speak to me.
The other interesting part about Golden that Kerry found out was the fact that here in the National Park they had realized that all the spraying they had done along the train tracks was so dangerous for the animals and everything so they decided to undo that and to take all the dirt from under the rails and dump it in Golden and right near their watershed. [So] instead of really solving it, our government is actually just dispersing it among the people who live in the country for their health.
We have been staying in Lake Louise for a couple of nights, but Kerry walked today and he had so many bubbles [blisters] on his foot that he's going to take a break and I'm going to do the last 30 k's to get into Banff by tonight. We're not too sure of the place where we're going to stay- we have several numbers.
Yesterday Dave Good came and picked me up to go to Cochrane for the opening ceremony of a water treatment plant and it was very interesting. I met the mayor and some very wonderful people that were quite interested in showing me that a lot of people realize how important it is to save the water. Their water treatment plant must have cost a fortune.
When I was there, they talked about a study that this man had done that within twenty years, by measuring the glaciers, that even though these people are not that far from the mountains where their watershed begins, the study concluded that in twenty years the water in the ice in the glaciers will almost be gone. And of course you know me, I just listen to people. You would have to talk to someone in Alberta to verify it. It's pretty scary.
While we were visiting the plant, a family man spoke of his concerns: his corporation used to bring their chemical waste to the Swan Hill dump but, due to their [Swan Hill's] mismanagement and fines, the prices are too high and so they [the family man's corporation] end up dumping everything down the drain in Calgary. He stated that most large businesses are doing it, even that the city knows, but turns a blind eye. [Then] I hear this government chant "Alberta Advantage", allowing business to thrive at the cost of poisoning the environment.