Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Elizabeth Penashue prepares for final walk denied visit to muskrat falls

From the Eagle Watch
February 12, 2014

Elizabeth Penashue is an Innu Elder and long-time Activist.

In the 2009 film below, the narrator tells that Elizabeth Penashue was
imprisoned on 5 occasions for her activism in defense of Nitassinan. I was
one of over 125 people arrested with her in Ottawa at DND in protest of
NATO's low level flights over Innu land. It wasn't enuf.

Now, her homeland is to be flooded for yet another energy development
project. When will it stop? When will Humans wake up? This is so very sad.

You can go to her blog to make a donation for her one last walk through
Nutshimit.  You can also send a message to the Premier to stop the

Elizabeth Penashue prepares for final walk, denied visit to Muskrat Falls
By: Justin Brake | February 12, 2014

The Innu elder and activist will lead one last walk through nutshimit, by
snowshoe and toboggan, as a symbol of “Innu dedication to protecting the
land, the children and the Innu way of life”

Elizabeth Penashue. Photo:

Next week Tshaukuesh (Elizabeth) Penashue will embark on her annual
three-week trek into the Labrador wilderness for the last time.

The respected Innu elder and indigenous rights activist has also requested
permission from provincial energy crown corporation Nalcor to visit
Muskrat Falls, a place she says the Innu have hunted for thousands of
years. On Tuesday CBC Radio Labrador reported Nalcor had denied Penashue’s

Last spring Penashue was set to make her last three-week trip through
nutshimit (the country), but her husband Francis fell ill and the couple’s
annual journey was cancelled. Francis, a former chief of Sheshatshiu Innu
First Nation and Tshaukuesh’s husband of 50 years, succumbed to his
illness in September, spending his final hours in a tent outside the
hospital in Happy Valley-Goose Bay surrounded by his family.

“Every time when I do something – canoe trip, and walk – he always support
me,” Penashue recalled during a recent phone interview with The
Independent. “I was leader but he was always behind to help me a lot.”

Penashue says this year her son Jack will help with the walk, and that
Feb. 17 will mark her final departure into nutshimit as part of the annual

“I want to say goodbye. This is my last walk and I want to see last time,”
she said. “Me and my husband when we walk, he never walk,” she continued,
remembering her walks with Francis. “I walk with the people, but he helped
me (and) support me lots. He took all my stuff on the skidoo: tent, the
stove, food, everything.”

Though the walk will take Penashue, her son and others into the Mealy
Mountains to Enipeshakimau (Pants Lake), the visit to Muskrat Falls was a
top priority. Another of her sons, former Innu leader and Conservative
Labrador MP Peter Penashue, was a key player in the project moving
forward, but Tshaukuesh has steadfastly opposed the controversial megadam
for several years because it will flood and destroy Innu ancestral lands.
Last November Nalcor reported that over 40,000 Innu artifacts dating back
2,000 to 3,500 years had been excavated at the site.

“I really, really want to talk about Muskrat Falls (for a) long time, but
I had a lot of problems,” Penashue told The Independent. “My husband
passed away; I was so sad, thinking ‘what are we gonna do?’ I never, never
thought I would be old lady and old man, and one of them are gonna be
gone. And then I try (to) stay young, my husband then passed away. I still
miss (him) a lot.

“Then I said I feel a little bit better, and I better say something about
Muskrat Falls,” she continued. “And then I better go in the bush, in the
country, maybe (be) more happy, more strong.”

Penashue said before her husband passed away he was “very worried” about
the fate of Muskrat Falls. “He was very worried because Francis, when he
was young, this river, Churchill River, always we went in the bush in the
country, sometimes we went together, Francis’ parents and my parents, to
this river.”

Mista-Shipu to the Innu and Grand River to the Inuit, Inuit-Metis and
settlers who identify as Labradorians, Labrador’s biggest river was
renamed Hamilton River in 1821, after former Newfoundland Governor Sir
Charles Hamilton. Then, in 1965, again without the consent of locals, Joey
Smallwood renamed the river after British Prime Minister Winston

In Sept. 2012 Lake Melville MHA and Progressive Conservative backbencher
Keith Russell told CBC that local resistance to the project was misguided.
“[Y]ou have people talking about Mother Earth and sacred waters and, you
know, spirits flowing through these rivers. And that’s all well and good,”
he said. “But people have to understand too that there is a need for this
development.” Russell also dismissed claims the trail leading to Muskrat
Falls is sacred ground as “mumbo jumbo,” though he later apologized for
his remarks.

    The people, thousands and thousands of years they hunt in Churchill
River. Now … I’m so sad, it hurts. It just broke my heart.  –
Elizabeth Penashue

The Nunatsiavut government has expressed concern that increased
methylmercury levels in the water will poison the fish, seals and other
marine animals the Inuit living in the Lake Melville settlement area
downstream from Muskrat Falls depend on as a form of sustenance.

Members of the NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) have also vehemently
opposed the project. A total of 10 people, including NCC President and
former Labrador MP Todd Russell and several elders, have been arrested for
breaking an injunction during various acts of civil disobedience opposing
the damming of Muskrat Falls. They have yet to be charged, but their next
court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 17, the same day Penashue will set
out on her walk.

Penashue doesn’t talk about the differences of opinion within her family
or community, or the politics of Muskrat Falls. To the 69-year-old, who
was born in the country near Churchill Falls, the most important thing is
preserving nutshimit, of which Muskrat Falls is a significant part for the
Innu, Inuit and Inuit-Metis. Like most of the world’s indigenous
populations, the Innu’s unhindered access and connection to the land and
water are fundamental to the preservation of their culture.

“It’s very important; there’s a lot of stories (of Muskrat Falls),”
Penashue explained. “I remember when I was young, maybe nine or 10 years
old, I was very, very happy when my parents go in the country, hunting.
And everybody happy, the children very happy, and when my dad go hunting
brought some caribou meat, porcupine, beaver, all kinds of stuff, and I
was very, very happy and I helped my mom when she cleaned the animals.

“The people, thousands and thousands of years they hunt in Churchill
River. Now, just broke my heart when I see in the paper. … I’m so sad, it
hurts. It just broke my heart. And when I see the (news)paper in the post
office and I open (it), very sad what happened.”

To find out how you can join Penashue on her final three-week walk through
nutshimit, or to donate money or supplies to the effort, visit her blog at

In 2009 filmmaker Andrew Mudge joined Penashue on her walk. The result is
the short documentary ‘Meshkanu’:

Meshkanu: The Long Walk of Elizabeth Penashue from Black Kettle Films on

- See more at:

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