G6B welcoming address by Reverend Dr. John Snow, Stony Nation Chief

Discussion on G8 decisions and how they will affect people is expected at the Group of Six Billion Peoples’ conference at the University of Calgary this week. Reverend Dr. John Snow, Stony Nation Chief, delivered opening remarks on these subjects on Fri., June 21.

"We the people live in a global village. We have one planet, one mother earth," Snow said. "Third-world countries are not represented here in the traditional lands in Kanaskis area, to make decisions that affect people the world over."

Snow used his time to express concern over the loss of traditional knowledge with regards to environmental stewardship in today’s industrial and commercial environment.

"How do you put into words a lifetime of learning from elders for an environmental assessment?" he asked. "In today’s fast-paced society, corporations want results yesterday. This cannot be done with traditional knowledge.

"We have seen drastic changes occur over the last 30 years. We have witnessed the exploitation and destruction of natural resources and our beautiful environment. We should be very concerned with the global state of the environment which includes six billion people."

Snow expressed consternation at the effects the G8 leaders’ financial decisions would have outside their own nations citing discord between commercial and environmental needs. He offered a unique view of the relationship between mankind and the environment.

"We Indian people are still very close to nature. The mountains are our temples and sanctuary. They are places of hope and vision."

Snow attributes the cause of many social issues to a world driven by finances. According to Snow, prior to modern contact with Europeans, indigenous society was based on effects on the earth and its inhabitants rather than on money.

"When my people governed this country, we were never in the red," he joked. "In those days, money was irrelevant, money was not our god. Money had nothing to do with our decisions for more than a thousand years. We had no money, no written laws, no jails. There were no poor people, no rich people, everybody lived in freedom. my people lived in a land of plenty, without money on this great island."

Snow also expressed concerns about the effects of European settlement on equality and human rights, a focus of the G6B.

"A great democracy existed here on this great island when the discoverers came here," he said. "There was always a sense of equality among all people, birds and animals and so on. We believed the creator made everything for a purpose, therefore we must take care of the creation and not destroy it."

Snow cautioned against over-harvesting natural resources, a lesson learned by his nomadic ancestors. He added that resources consumed presently are unavailable to future inhabitants.

"We should set aside special areas and let nature help us, let the greatest spirit be our guide, and let nature take care of them," he said. "If we do not, the wildlife will join us in the asphalt and concrete jungles of the cities. If we can preserve these areas, the G8 can continue to meet in pristine areas."

While Snow’s advocacy for the environment is global, he has specific local concerns, citing fees and restrictions on land use for traditional practices such as medicine-gathering and animal harvesting conducted sympathetically with nature.

"Who will speak for the trees, who will speak for the animals, birds and lands? Who will speak for nature, mother earth? The Indian people will pray and certainly will speak for them. They are in close harmony with nature and the earth."

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