Monthly Archives: March 2012

Epilepsy awareness day

Tomorrow is Epilepsy awareness day, or “Purple day.” Why do I care? As a child I had unpredictable seizures until it was found that fevers were what induced them. This scared my parents to no end. We had to pick up our family and move from our small fishing town to a larger center so that I could get hospital care when I needed it. Fortunately the seizures stopped.

There is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to Epilepsy, I believe. It’s not something that needs to be feared. It just takes a little education.

Travelling Infinity has gone purple for today and tomorrow in support of Epilepsy awareness. How will you help spread the word?

Trapped on the Labrador Barrens.

I was thinking tonight, as I was trying desperately to fall asleep, about a skidoo trip that my Dad and I took when I was 14-15 years old. We took a three hour run to Red Bay, Labrador from St. Lewis. Our intention was to pick up my Aunt’s new skidoo, but we got a lot more then we bargained for.

I remember the ride up was really warm. The sun was particularly bright, the trees in the heavily wooded trails cast big shadows over the perfectly groomed snow. I was sitting on the back of my dad’s Skidoo, enjoying every minute.

We reached Red Bay perfectly, stopping only once along the way at half-way Cabin, which I believe was in a place called Eastern Brook.. which locals call “Easter Brook”. I remember having a raspberry flakie, and sharing a can of vienna saussages with my dad.

When we picked up my Aunt’s skidoo I remember it being quite beautiful. I loved the color, it was dark metallic blue. I wanted to drive it, Dad said no. I didn’t care much because it still meant I could drive one of the two skidoos by myself, and driving Dad’s was a big deal.

Before we left to go home, we took a trip ‘up along’ to Forteau and visited the Riff’s store. I remember nagging Dad until he bought me a pair of sneakers, they were Adidas, and called “Savage.” They were blue, grey, and had metallic piping. I was really proud of them.

When we got back to Red Bay and were ready to hit the trail, dad was hesitant. It looked a little overcast but nothing that probably wasn’t already cleared up on the other side, so we were off.

I remember feeling all powerful handeling my Dad’s skidoo all by myself. I remember the first 20 minutes being particularly hard, as I had to try and keep up with Dad as best I could. Eventually I got the hang of it, and I was tailing Dad like a race car driver. More then once I almost slid into his bumper bar.

The next thing I remember was the snow. It was falling so thick. And it just kept getting thicker, and thicker. And soon it was dark. I didn’t think the ride home would take that long, as often time seems to go faster when you’re returning from somewhere. But the night seemed to stretch on forever and I was getting scared.

We were at the point where Dad was going really slow, and being an experienced outdoorsman who operated the grooming equipment for that trail for many years, Dad looking lost made me very frightened.  I kept as close as I could, but oftentimes I could barely see his tail light. He stopped.

I remember driving up along side of him and seeing the look on his face. He was scared and I didn’t know how to react. Then we saw lights, there were more skidoos approaching. Something good was happening now, I thought.

There was a parade of them, I think maybe 4 or 5. It was a family and some friends from the Lodge Bay area, a family of Pye’s. They were driving from Red Bay as well with Komatiks’ full of groceries for their general store. We all proceeded ahead, together, in a row, and one by one we faced the challenges.

We drifted off trail I believe, either that or the trail had gotten so overpacked with snow it was unrecognizable. I recall a large hole full of tree boughs that every skidoo managed to get stuck in, and I was the last in line. I stopped before the big hole, dad on the other side unable to help me, waving me forward. What do I do? I thought. I put my skidoo in reverse. I pushed the button again to put her in forward gear. I gripped the handlebars as tight as I could, clenched my legs against the seat and gas tank, and hammered the throttle against the handle bar, and In and out of the hole I flew – the only one to not get stuck!

And then another incident. The man towing the komatik with the heaviest goods lost sight of where he was going momentarily and ended up skimming quickly down over a large embankment of snow, he jumped off his skidoo in fear of the komatik falling over on him. When he got up and looked back at his skidoo, the towbar that held the komatik to the back of the skidoo was bent like a very large U. It took him and my dad several tries with all of their might to shape it back somewhat to be able to tow it again.

Eventually we found a cabin. We all piled in, a very tight fit. Once the fire was lit everyone started to relax a little, but there was a lot of chatter as to what people back at home were thinking.. they couldn’t have known we found shelter. I remember going through my backpack and hauling out a flashlight, I put it on the table and people asked me why I packed one. When I woke up that morning before my trip something inside me told me to pack that flashlight, and I never questioned it. Little did I know people would be relying on it that night to keep watch outside, and run back and forth to the ‘bathroom’ with it.

One person slept on the floor by the woodstove. I slept up on the loft, still fully clothed in my skidoo gear. I peed my pants that night out of fear of going outside the cabin and running in to a Polar Bear. It was an irrational fear, but one I didn’t mind the wet pants over.

After dawn broke, the storm had ceased some. We got on our skidoos and started the voyage home again. One person, who was probably just a few years older then I was, kept tipping her skidoo and slowing down the crowd. Eventually she agreed to get on with me and leave her skidoo behind, but I think that was only because she had ran out of gas.

When I saw the tiny houses of Lodge Bay that day I couldn’t have been happier. The family that had been travelling with us had a relative who invited us in for tea. I went in with Dad, reluctantly, but I was itching to get home. As Dad took sip after agonizing sip of his tea, he finally said, “Let’s go home maid.”

When we got outside he told me I could drive my Aunts skidoo home, and I was in my glee! A brand new skidoo for me to break in. I felt like I ruled the world. After I got on, Dad motioned for me to go ahead, and I led the way home back to St. Lewis, proud as a peacock.

When I got in my warm, toasty house that afternoon my mom gave me the biggest hug I think I ever received. I was so glad to be back in my house, and thankful for the warm bath that followed. I remember eating a turkey and dressing sandwich and I chomped it down as fast as I could – I remembered I had new sneakers in my backpack!

I scurried to the room and hauled them out of my bag. They were freezing. I went to school after dinner wearing my new sneakers and people were asking me questions about what had happened. I told them bits and pieces, but being a youngster, unphased by danger, I was concerned only with how proud I felt about my new sneakers.

Even as a little kid I always loved snowmobiling. Looking pretty fierce I think! ha ha.

Uranium. Think about it.

After hearing the news today that the Nunatsiavut Government has lifted its ban on Uranium mining operations in Labrador I was left with a sour taste in my mouth and a swish-swashing in my stomach that was not due to the flu virus I’m carrying. The following text is an exerpt from a paper I wrote in 2010  regarding mining operations in Labrador.

Let your conscience be your guide.

There are many politics involved with mining for Uranium, and the biggest issue being the extreme environmental impact that it has. After careful research I discovered that in the process of extracting Uranium, the unfinished bi-product leaves a great deal of ‘tailings’. These tailings are usually left in the form of sludge in designated ponds or piles where they can be abandoned. (1)

This sludge can contain as much as 85% of initial radioactivity that comes from Uranium, and is essentially left on the earth’s surface to emit this radiation to the surrounding area. It is not possible to remove all of the uranium in ore form from the product once it comes from the ground; technology just hasn’t found a way to do that yet. (1)

This sludge also contains other harmful chemicals like arsenic and chemical agents that have been used for extraction. This sludge and tailings continuously decay over the year forming a new material called ‘radon-222’ which is known to cause lung cancer. (1)

Seepage from this sludge also forms a risk of ground and surface water contamination, and any resident in the area would get exposed to these hazardous substances if they drink this water. This toxic mixture also affects animals that drink it, and fish and aquatic species in the water. In my research I have found that there are recorded instances of contamination of local water supplies around Uranium mines in Brazil, Texas, Colorado, Australia, and Namibia among many others. Cleaning up these dumps can be just as expensive as the cost of the uranium that is extracted. (1)

One documented case that I found was at McCabe Lake in 1975. A 500,000 gallon radionuclide spill caused ten major lakes to become permanently contaminated with radioactive mining waste, a total of 165 million tons. The grounds where the Serpent River Natives hunted and fished were ruined.  Because of this spill, a town of over 25 thousand aboriginals was reduced to fewer then 100.

Aboriginal groups living near a proposed uranium mine site in northern Labrador are demanding more information about how the development will affect their communities. These uranium deposits are within the boundaries of land owned by the Labrador Inuit. The town manager of Makkovik says that there is a lot of plans that need to be worked through amongst the community before a mine can be located; nothing will be done until everyone can reach an agreement.  (15)

At a Nunatsiavut assembly in Hopedale, a bill calling for a three year moratorium on Uranium passed the first reading on March 5, 2008.

To further hit home the point that uranium mining effects our environment, Sheila Watt-Cloutier had this to say about the possibility of a Uranium Mine developing in her town of Frobisher Bay:

 We need to step back and ask ourselves what kind of society we are hoping to create here. Will we lose awareness of how sacred the land is, and our connection to it? And what will become of our hunters? Hunting is how Inuit men build character. How is character built in a mine? How do we train skilled hunters to adjust to menial work?”  (1)

References:

(1)Dowie, Mark. “Uranium Mining and the Inuit | Mark Dowie | Orion Magazine.” Orion Magazine – Nature / Culture / Place. Web. 28 Nov. 2010. <http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/4247/&gt;.

(15)”CBC News – Nfld. & Labrador – N.L. Aboriginals Seek More Information on Uranium Mine.” CBC.ca – Canadian News Sports Entertainment Kids Docs Radio TV. Web. 10 Nov. 2010. <http://www.cbc.ca/canada/newfoundland-labrador/story/2007/08/22/uranium-questions.html&gt;.

I feel sad to say that the Big Land may end up being the Big Landfill. I feel sad to say that my home, the place where I breathe in life, fresher and deeper then any other place on earth, might be subjected to great injustice yet again.

I am not anti-development, and I am not against people finding work, but I AM against the idea that companies can tear apart Labrador and construct a mine that will never last – but permanently…permanently damage the watershed, the animals, and yes, the people.

Uranium. Think about it.