Voices of the Athabasca
Interview with Jimmy Ochiese
Foothills Ojiway shaman

I will speak on the environment, and also about life that we have on earth and the connection we have on earth, and also the spirit that we have... all those things mean something here on earth - the truth of life.

As an individual I have to have respect and values in life. My children and grand-children, they are going to be the ones facing problems if we don't look after the spirit side of things. There is a human side of things, the life we have on earth, but also spirit.

First we need to understand ourselves - what are we made out of? How do we come to be who we are as human beings? First, I must remind myself how I should respect those mountains; the mountains are put there for a purpose, also the rock itself, and the wind that was put in those mountains. The Glaciers were put in the mountains, also the Thunderbird. The Thunderbird looks after the water. Water from mountains, to the glacier, to this land - all users of that water, all living things, even the plants and trees, everything has a spirit. The animals out there, we believe we are part of those animals, they sustain us here on earth, and work with us. Indian people in the past, they have lived off the land, and respect those values. Before we take anything, we give something back. So with the spirit of the water and the Keepers of the Water - we all have got to have spirit in order for people to grow, for us to have that connection so that we can work with the environment, so we can connect with all those seasons that we were given here on earth. God gave us this garden to look after, as we all know on the human side, if we don't look after the garden, it won't function - we have to look after it, give it water that it needs, and work with it.

I believe that when God created us, he put spirit in everything, including us. People have to look at how they come to be humans. Mothers are next to creation because they can create, kids are being born, same way as how they were at the beginning of time - through water. The woman carries the baby in the womb, that baby has to have that water in order for that baby to grow. The spirit in that water helps that baby to grow, which is the same for all life, for an animal or a human being. The oxygen has to be created, has to be within that baby in the womb, the oxygen is in the water, now that the baby is fully developed in nine months. It has to be nine months to connect with the stars and with the universe. This is why when Jesus was born, he had a connection with that star.

Snow is shaped like stars, we have to think about what is the purpose of this - it is the purpose of the spirit in the water. Every one of us has that connection - that water there, if we don't look after it in the mountains, if we don't respect it, downstream everything will be destroyed. We have to look at all the things, not only on that river or lake or even the creeks, but the whole environment. The trees are the biggest supporters of that water, they are ones that filter the whole universe, it is not only the lakes,the trees, the winter or rain, it is the whole environment. It has a holistic natural spirit of life. That is why everything is going to be affected if we don't look after the water. We have to clean up the problems in our back yard - the biggest problems that go into the rivers.

Downstream, all sorts of things happen - that sewer in the city or town, even the animals, if they are in the sewer lagoons will get out, but the people will be affected. To me the connection is not only with the human life, but is also with the spirit life. So we have to think of the spirit of the water, when we think about our children and grandchildren. The spirit is something that is in that water, that is going to purify the water in our bodies, but if we don't take care of it, support it to do its duty, then there is no energy, there is no spirit. Downstream, when it hits those great lakes, there will be floods, tornadoes, there will be changes, freezing winters, the weather will be back and forth, get really warm then freeze, and have major floods. Along the way a lot will occur from that, because the spirit is not as strong as it should be. The water, it is not to blame - it is how we look after ourselves and how we look after water. The water is not going to be pure if we don't look after it.

When I do my ceremonies, I pray to the water spirit. If we have a spirit, if we have a soul, so does the water. It connects with everything, it connects with the land, the animals and the natural herbs that give spirit a pure energy. Through this we became part of life.

I don't know if people will ever change. Listening to David Suzuki on the science of things, he was talking and asking people what happens with this water in Vancouver, in the lower inland. They will be flooded, but they keep on developing, even knowing they will be flooded. We will just wait to see if it will happen they say. You cannot tell people not to develop if they want to. Tell this kid not to touch the stove, but they touch it anyway. He will learn from it. That is how society looks at things. It has to do it the hard way, it has to do with money value, but not a spirit value.

I guess what I am trying to say is, this world has been functioning in that way, looking at one side of the value, that now we realize that something is happening here, not only us, but the whole world - and it has to do with the water. The big wave that came through, the animals had the sense that something was going to happen, but not the people. The animals knew they were going to be affected, the spirit is connected to them. Some people, who believe in their own spirit, they also had a sense that something was going to happen. The balance that once was, maybe will not ever be the same, the way that water talked back, the spirit will - the wind and the water - it will talk back and let us know.