First and foremost I want to state that when speaking on or writing about this issue we must always acknowledge how the creation, maintenance, and upholding of our park system is directly related to the ongoing genocide of Indigenous people and nations.
This specific action – “Defend Our Parks” – came about when in March 2020 the United Conservative Party government of Alberta announced a plan to close or partially close 20 parks, and remove a further 164 sites from our parks system. Despite what the government says, this opens those lands up to a variety of activities, including ones that would be wholly detrimental to their standing as natural areas (oil & gas development among them).
The government has since walked back this decision.
A BIT OF A BRAIN DUMP
This feels like a ridiculous thing to be concerned about when people are literally dying from racism and climate change, but I think it’s connected. And I am worried that a lot of the people and organizations who are advocating to “defend our parks” aren’t doing a good job connecting this issue to the bigger issues. In fact, many of them don’t even mention it. How does this connect to larger issues of fascism, capitalism, and white supremacy? These are systems that we live within whether we like it or not.
The Defend AB Parks campaign was successful for now, but what comes next? How do we keep the momentum of this campaign? This activism is unique and powerful because it cuts across party lines, especially in Alberta where so much of our (white settler) identity is tied up in our natural areas. Ranching and other agricultural pursuits, hunting and fishing, outdoor sports, these are all connected back to defending our parks and natural areas.
The government backed down on their original plan to delist 184 parks, but what will stop them from trying this again? They have already moved on to opening up some very sensitive areas in the southern foothills to new coal leases. Again, passing along profit to a small amount of companies to detriment of our long-term health and wellbeing. The connection between all levels of our government and private capital makes me sick. Once I saw behind the curtain (so-to-speak) I see this everywhere. This isn’t conspiracy minded nonsense, as many folks in power would have you believe. This is just how it is under our current system. It makes actions like Defend AB Parks all the more important for rallying a variety of folks to one cause. While it’s single-mindedness also misses the bigger picture and doesn’t allow for longevity, and movement building.
I believe in protecting our natural areas, but I also believe in Land Back. I believe in maintaining “green” spaces in the interest of halting climate change, but I also know that Indigenous peoples have managed our green spaces for millennium and that we white settlers are kidding ourselves when we call these places “untamed wilderness”.
This is such a huge, complex, topic. And I am absolutely not the person to break it down for you. I just want you to know that I am also confused and I am just trying to do my best. For my neighbours and for our existence on this planet. Cause y’all, the Earth itself is a lot older than us. She will change and get through this, and keep on keeping on. All this stuff we are doing to her in the name of capitalism, and consumerism, we are the ones at risk from the consequences. Our days are numbered and each of us will not face this burden equally. And that’s what really makes me so mad.
And so I turn my activism inward, and I turn it to my community, and I try to make a difference where I can.
- Get a “Defend Alberta Parks” lawn sign
- Adopt a park or log a visit at I Use Alberta Parks
- Sign this petition
- Come hiking with me! “On Saturdays We Hike” is a thing I accidentally started on Instagram and IRL in August 2020. A lot of the parks, recreation areas, and natural areas that were on the chopping block aren’t close to Edmonton, but in the summer I am going to try and hit up the ones that are.
- Learn about UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and how it relates to land use, and free, prior and informed consent.
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action.
Land acknowledgements are the VERY LEAST we can do as settlers when posting pictures on social media, and hosting events (online or in person). This is not tokenism, this is the bare minimum. I really like this land acknowledgment, and I learned a lot on this site about how and why to craft a land acknowledgement. Learn about the Indigenous folks who call your part of the world home at Native Land.
FURTHER READING AND RESOURCES
READ: I initially wrote about this issue here: Defend Our Parks. There are more “Further Reading” links posted there.
SUPPORT: CPAWS has been doing a lot of work around this topic, and I encourage you to explore their site.
LISTEN: Daveberta episode 55 (June 1 2020). CN for Indigenous erasure