Marilynn-Leigh Francis, Mi'kmaq Fisherwoman
Digby/Yarmouth, Acadia First Nation
This interview is part of the Faces of Offshore Resistance project highlighting a number of community activists fighting to protect their homes, coastal communities, fisheries, tourism, and cultural history from the harms of offshore drilling. All photo credit goes to Robert Van Waarden.
Robert Van Waarden: What are your thoughts on BP’s offshore drilling project?
Marilynn-Leigh Francis: I see BP as a threat; not on my pocket or our livelihoods. But it’s a matter of protecting Mother Earth and doing what’s right.
RVW: How does it make you feel?
MLF: This is our home, not a cash cow. When we say our DNA is from here, we’re not just saying that for effect. To have people come try to attack something that is your job and your entire existence to protect, it makes you feel pretty powerless.
Look what happened in Gulf of Mexico. Look what happened when they ignored the natives in the Dakotas. They don’t learn; it’s just about the money for them. But how we fish, we give thanks everyday. When we catch the really big lobsters, the old ones that people are excited to get, we put those back. Because our job is to protect Mother Earth.
They destroyed L’nuwa’kati, where I’m from, Turtle Island [North America]. It took them 100 years to destroy it. We’ve been here for 84 000 years! And it took them 100. We’re not trying to ruin your day, but we’re thinking 7 generations ahead. But how can we do that, if we allow offshore drilling to go ahead? They’re interfering with an entire people who depend on this the ocean for their survival.
RVW: How long have you been fishing?
MLF: This is my 21st year fishing, I started when I was about 14. I've always just fished out here. I got into it because of family, it’s our connection to the ocean.
RVW: Are you angry about offshore drilling?
MLF: Oh I’m angry, but as a native person, I’ve been so accustomed and groomed to this type of treatment that I’m not surprised. As an L’nu person in Canada, as someone who’s been at the short end of their stick, you tend to get used to the actions that they take.
We use laughter as medicine, as healing. Sometimes I sit back and I laugh, I can’t comprehend Western society or their thought process into anything, as a Native person. My Elder always told me to laugh, so that’s what I do. Mother Earth and us have been attacked for the same amount of time. So what do you do? You just keep it moving, that’s all you can do.
People don’t understand oil spills though, like they think we have a certain amount of time to clean it up. But the damage is done. I don’t know why offshore drilling is a thing, to be honest. I understand people are used to getting products made with it but there are other resources we can use to get the exact same thing. So why? To make big money? When did life have a price tag?
God forbid you should ask the original people what we want to do with this land. Why not go where people want offshore drilling, because we don’t want it here.
RVW: You heard about the Shell accident where they dropped pipe near the well head and almost hit the blowout preventer?
MLF: Yes, we heard about that, little bits and pieces. Accidents are going to happen again and again and again. They’re attacking the water. You can only do so much until the thing you’re attacking strikes back. And if they don’t understand that, we’re all in trouble.
But it’s like when we blocked the highway, the causeway to stop fracking at Lake Ainslie, those companies will keep going, find somewhere else. When you start dealing with the government's money, or messing with corporations’ finances, shit starts getting real. We’re at a point where everybody who is opposing these pipelines is in a life or death situation. I have learned this first hand. But we’ve grown used to feeling that way as native people, and now this includes everyone fighting these projects. It’s in our treaties, we’re here to protect everybody, not just us.
People just gotta wake up, it’s not rocket science. When it’s too late, they’ll all say, “If we only knew.” You do know, but people are telling you what you don’t want to hear.
You can take action to support the resistance to offshore drilling by: