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Alice Suggashie – still fighting despite her lack of hope

February 9, 2010

One of the reasons I embarked on this journey of “hope-hunting” was to see if I could find some way to re-ignite the passion and activism I once felt in my younger and more idealistic days.  Days when I truly believed that the world could change if only enough people were educated on how to fix our problems.  Throughout my  journey I’ve met more people who have oodles hope than those who lack it – and you would imagine that this would have buoyed my soul and  helped me believe that our lot is worth the fight.  It certainly has accomplished that to a certain extent, however  ironically it has also made me wonder if we’re truly more doomed that I had originally thought.  This may sound bizarre, but if I’m on a sinking ship, I’d rather be with a bunch of people who are as scared of drowning as I am and who are frantically trying to find a way to stop the ship from sinking, rather than being with a bunch of people who continue to dance on the deck because they have faith that everything is going to be okay.  I guess ironically I feel that somehow hope lies with those of us who really  have none – provided we’re able to motivate ourselves to act despite our hopelessness and our paralyzing fear of failure.

Alice Suggashie is exactly this type of person – one who sees the bleak realities of our current situation and who has little hope for our survival, but one who also seems to face each day as an opportunity to try to make things a little bit better.  Alice is a remarkable person, who has overcome some incredibly difficult circumstances that life has dealt her, and who has emerged to be a helper and an immense resource person for the people of her community.   Alice lives in the remote First Nations community of Poplar Hill, Ontario.  She is a trained Community Health Representative (CHR), and regularly goes far above and beyond her call of duty to help those in need in her community.  Throughout her life she has seen immense changes to her land, her environment, and her people.

Alice recalls fondly the days when her people hunted, fished, and trapped off the land.  The days when diabetes was a word that no one had ever heard of.  The days when the water was clean, and the fish were healthy.  The days when Elders healed people through traditional medicines, and the current dependence on “white-man’s medicine” was unfathomable.

Today, Alice laments these changes she sees locally, and sees them mirrored globally on a larger scale.  She believes that people will always take the easier path even when it is less healthy or less sustainable.  In Poplar Hill that might mean skidooing to the trapline instead of the healthier option of walking,  and in the outside world it might mean continuing to consume and pollute unsustainably to facilitate our ever faster-paced lives.  All in all, she sees the end result being the same – continued global warming, continued deforestation, continued obesity and health problems, and continued armed conflicts.   “It’s too late to change now, because people are already used to their lifestyles”, says Alice.

In fact, Alice has noticed such dramatic changes in her environment and in her community over the past 2 generations, that she feels we are a mere 30-40 years away from self-destruction.  “There are already icebergs floating around and melting.  Who knows, North America could be underwater soon”.

I am intrigued to know how Alice is able to continue to get up in the morning and continue to give of herself so generously, given her belief that we are doomed to self-destruct in this generation.  To this she explains that though she doesn’t believe there is hope overall for humankind, she still feels she must have some hope for her grandchildren.  She must try to teach them the balance between the past and the future, and show them how to make the world even a little bit better.  “Tomorrow’s a fresh new day. You’ve gotta think positive”

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 12, 2010 4:19 pm

    I have read a couple of your posts and they are all newsworthy and illuminating – preserve the good work. Thank you for the useful thoughts.

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