Heroes

This beautiful river helps her people survive. Now it's threatened by an oil pipeline.

A leader from a First Nations people in Canada talks of the threat of an oil pipeline.

This beautiful river helps her people survive. Now it's threatened by an oil pipeline.
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Natural Resources Defense Council

Alma Brooks is Wolastoqiyik, known as "the people of the beautiful river."

What her people call the Wolastoq but what is also known as the Saint John River runs from Maine into Canada's New Brunswick province. The Wolastoqiyik are a First Nations people with a long history in the area.

"We are the Wolastoq. The Wolastoq is us," she says. "We get our identity from there."


Photo of Alma Brooks by Robert van Waarden via this video from Ricochet.

The river could soon be threatened by spills from a proposed oil pipeline.

The Energy East pipeline, backed by the energy company TransCanada, would carry oil across Canada. The pipeline could also encroach on the traditional lands of the Wolastoqiyik.

Need a primer on where we're talking about? Here's a map of the Saint John River:

The course of the Saint John River, in dark blue. Image via Papayoung.

According to Alma, this land should still be protected by the Peace and Friendship Treaties, signed in the 1700s.

“Unlike later treaties signed in other parts of Canada, the Peace and Friendship Treaties did not involve First Nations surrendering rights to the lands and resources they had traditionally used and occupied.“
Government of Canada website

The Wolastoqiyik are protective of their land because, as Alma says in an article by Ricochet:

"We have original treaties that were signed by our ancestors. ... Nowhere in those treaties have we ever surrendered or ceded our land."

These treaties specifically protect the resources of this land to be used as a source of their livelihood. If a pipe leaks, what will become of the river?

The solution Alma proposes is to build jobs that "sustain life and not destroy."

The pipeline won't do that. As Alma says, "it's not if there is a leak. It is when there is a leak."

Hear her tell story in this video:

Keep that oil in the ground, and both the Wolastoq watershed and its people will be sustained.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

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Photo courtesy of John Scully

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"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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