Comment nos perceptions culturelles des rivières influencent notre
impact sur les rivières
Dans son article, Mark Connell jette un coup d'oeil intéressant aux
communautés et aux sociétés,
et sur comment leurs perceptions des rivières peuvent et ont déjà eu des
impacts sur les rivières.
Il nous donne un aperçu des points de vue des peuples préhistoriques,
hiérarchiques, autochtones et européens concernant les rivières et il fait état de la manière que
leurs croyances, leurs modes
de vie et leurs points de vue ont affecté les rivières.
Mark déclare qu'il y a maintenant un "réveil des gens par rapport aux
rivières, à la terre et au monde en général...". Il ajoute que, "les arbres vont
redevenir des arbres, les montagnes vont redevenir des montagnes et les rivières vont
belles rivières animées par l'esprit de la vie."
could no more own a river than one could own the air or the earth."
Perceptions of Rivers,
Shape our Impact on Rivers
Sussex Society for Public Interest
July 5, 2000
when I was a young man, trees were trees, mountains were mountains and
rivers were rivers. When I grew up, trees were no longer trees,
mountains were no longer mountains and rivers were no longer
rivers. But when I became old, trees once again became trees,
mountains became mountains and rivers became rivers.
--- Zen poem
(photo credit: National Archives of Canada /
ID #10009 C-10345 )
Driving logs past the falls of the St.
In prehistorical times societies were thought to be organized as
groups of families or tribes which interacted with nature in a
continuum. They interacted with the planet as if there was no boundary
between themselves and other animate and inanimate beings. What we now
classify as objects and inanimate were perceived as animate. Hence
according to Nisga'a's legend Txeemsim, a supernatural being, places a
large mountain near Ishkheenickh River in the lower Nass valley to
protect Nisga'a fishing grounds from other tribes and catastrophic
events. According to Nisgaa'a oral history Txeemsim worked his magic up
and down the river. This cultural perception by the people of the lower
Nass Valley allowed them to live in relation to the river and the fish
runs it provided since their arrival in the valley. Because the river
was alive and vested in spirit, it and it's land was sacred, it was
honoured and maintained in that mindview.
Ten thousand years ago or more, rivers were channeled and utilized
for irrigation in the Euphrates, the cradle of civilization.
Agriculture, civilization and history were born there, empires were
built; peoples were enslaved in one manner or another to heirarchies
working to maintain the power of whichever potentate ruled. Rivers were
colonized by empires from the Indus to the Nile. They were utilized for
agriculture and for transport they were partially despiritualized in the
mindview of power over the land and its people.
Civilization along some of these rivers flourished only briefly as
salinised fields gradually became infertile, while others such as the
Nile (with its source thousands of miles south of Egypt's farmlands)
replenished its soils by annual deposits of alluvium, continued until
the building of the Aswan Dam in 1964.
One of the Hydroelectric Generators at Aswan High Dam
Here in New Brunswick, the Wulustukwiyik (Maliseet) had begun the practice of
agriculture along the Wulustuk River (Saint John River) before the arrival of Europeans.
This marked the extreme northeasterly extension of indigenous
agricultural practices and did not disrupt the land or it's local
dieties. The Mi’Kmaq did not practice agriculture on the rivers which
they inhabited in Nova Scotia and along the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Rivers
were perceived nonetheless by all of the Abenaki peoples, like the
Nisga'a, as beings to which their lives were deeply intertwined in which
ownership was an incomprehensible concept. One could no more own a river
than one could own the air or the earth.
European settlers brought different cultural perspectives inherited
from their empire building past. They brought marvelous iron tools,
powerful means of transportation, concepts of ownership of land and
water and a social organization which exploited people and resources
with an indifference to the people, landscape and its ecosystems. Rivers
were utilized as highways to access and extract timber and mineral
wealth. They became simply a means of access and they lost their deeper
spiritual context to the lives of the peoples inhabiting them.
Nonetheless, within the bizarre context of private property and private
or crown ownership of resources, pre-industrial European settlers
developed folk cultures along our rivers which achieved a balance within
the context of what the fishery or the forests could support.
(photo credit: Frederick Dally
National Archives of Canada
#10047 / C-65097)
An Indian salmon weir and dugout canoe
It was not until industrial times, from the early 1900's to the
present, that the holocaust of species depletion through
overexploitation based on increased technical ability to exploit natural
resources and an increasing alienation of our folk cultures from nature
took place. The culture of capitalism tended to treat all objects
animate or inanimate as commodities for exploitation and for making a
profit. The theories of Darwinism were manipulated to glorify
competition and dispel notions of harmony, co-operation or collaboration
in nature. Steamboats plied the rivers, log drives depleted the forests
and destroyed the river bottoms. The waters became bearers of disease
such as polio and typhoid. Pulp mills were built to meet the demand of
exploding urban populations. These industries polluted entire rivers,
estuaries and bays with chemical pollutants. Food industries later
contributed starch, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, biphenols which
mimicked hormones and disrupted living organisms producing cancer
epidemics among the unwitting population. Dams were built thus
destroying runs of salmon and rich bottomlands. Sewers from towns and
cities competed the despoiling of the once beloved rivers while
betraying the callous attitudes of a society driven and directed by a
profit motive...while making the populace spiritually and physically
complicit by luring them through its various media to embrace this
ubiquitous destruction as progressive civilization.
Recently over the past half century there is a reawakening of people
to the rivers, to the land and to the world as if it were once again a
living being to be revered and cared for as one would care for one's new
born child. It is the green movement which leads us anew down the rivers
in this new spirit and ..
Once again trees will become trees, mountains will become mountains
and rivers will become beautiful rivers invested with the spirit of