Last night my friend had a showing of his documentary. It is about Mercury poisoning and the effects it has on the communities of Whitedog Reserve and Grassy Narrows Reserve in Ontario Canada. Tadashi was invited to the week long Indigenous Solidarity week at the University of Winnipeg.
A number of people were in the hall for the showing, it was a good turnout. Tadashi and his wife Sherri and their daughter Kia asked and answered questions after the showing. The documentary paints a sad picture of what poisons have done to both the environment and to people. The good thing that I saw was a picture of a people that are not giving up. Not giving up on their way of life. For the people of the Reserve the situation is critical. It is also simple, stop damaging the environment. The effects of clear cutting, watershed contamination was reviewed. The effect of a changing lifestyle and a clear difference in how people think of what the land is all about. I was pleased to see that people still have that connection to the land. To them it is part of who they are. It is part of the equation of what defines them.
On a sad note, there were not too many Indian people in the audience. There were your typical young Indian women and men. The young warriors if you will. A few old dogs as well. I wouldn't have gone if Tadashi hadn't invited me. I guess I would fall into that category of Indians that are apathetic. I wish not to be like that. It is so overwhelming the amount of things that you think about and wish are addressed. It gets so much, and you have so much drama in our own lives that we can't be bothered to help our brothers and sisters.
The audience was filled with activists, older liberal minded people, environmentalists and academics. I guess it's easy to let other people take up the battle cry for a cause. After the show we went for tea. I asked Tadashi "what's next?" He had hoped that his film could be a tool used by the communities to take up the cause of the mercury poisoning in their communities. I told him Indians and their agencies are mostly reactive. It's hard to be proactive and take up the cause unless something lights a fire. The film showed that the mercury poisoning affects are slow and build up over the years. They are dying slowly so they have no fire.
A team of Doctors from Japan came to the two Indian Reserves in 1975 and again in 2004. They did tests at the time and did tests again on the recent trip. The tests demonstrated increased affects of Mercury poisoning. The team from Japan had also been the team that took part in the Mecury poisoning cases in Minamata Japan. The disease Minamata was termed from that town and the incident of poisoning.
I do hope that the people of Grassy and Wabsimoong (Whitedog) can take some ownership of the documentary and use it to educate people and to awaken local and national leadership of the issue.
Side note: the US geological society released a report that most fish that were tested in the US had higher than accepted levels of mercury in their systems.