A prayer from Dreamer’s Rock.
See with your heart, not with your mind.
We are all connected. We are one.
We envision hazard-free workplaces that prevent work-related injury, illness and death and promote the well-being of workers, their families, communities and the earth which sustains us all.
This is our hope for the world. It will be attained when we recognize the peril we face, the power we hold and the lifelong necessity of working together for our vision.
Wisdom comes in many forms and by many ways. The wisdom of indigenous people when compared to others is largely seen as intuitive. Often they know in their hearts what scientists take years to prove in their laboratories. Similarly, through experience on the job, workers have come to understand the hazards that threaten their health, and because plant gates or workplace doors are no barrier to many hazards, the health of their families and communities.
Solutions to these hazards are rooted in a concept long practiced by native people. Known as sustainable development and defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, this concept informs the pursuit for green jobs or jobs that do no harm to workers and environments. Today, workers and their unions are working alongside other social justice groups, community advocates, health and safety activists, environmentalists, native North Americans, enlightened entrepreneurs and governments to implement a green economy.
Their efforts though, aren’t limited by a single approach. Many of them are featured in this latest issue of At the Source
. The Workers Health and Safety Centre is proud to support these efforts. As a resource to workers and their representatives, we are there every step of the way towards our shared vision of what workplaces and communities can be. To help communicate this support and their vision statement the Workers Centre recently commissioned Mishibinijima, also known as James Simon, to paint artwork featured on our latest poster and on our web site’s home page. Worker activists and Workers Centre training service representatives have distributed the posters in workplaces and communities throughout the province. Of particular note they were used to support Day of Mourning and Earth Day presentations in the schools.
Working with Mishibinijima, an Ojibway artist from Wikwemikong, Ontario, has been a life-affirming experience. His art is not only beautiful — it is rich in meaning and truth.
To begin, our poster’s image represents on one level a geographical location, Dreamer’s Rock, a most sacred place on Manitoulin Island, where people of all walks come to visit, each seeking direction in their lives. In the native tradition this seeking is called a vision quest. Not so long ago, Dreamer’s Rock was desecrated by young people, who may not have been aware of its significance. Local natives reclaimed the spot — cleansing it and blessing it — much like we must reclaim our earth for future generations.
On another level though, when we see with our hearts, when we peel back the surface as Mishibinijima has, the Earth is very much alive. Here Dreamer’s Rock is Mother Earth. Depicted in tones of blue, she also becomes Grandmother Moon, purifying the Earth and thus caring for her egg, our future. That the land takes on a human form also reminds us the fate of our Earth is intricately tied to our fate as a species.
Eyes also dominate this powerful image. They too remind us that the Earth is a living entity, worthy of love and respect. But in native tradition these eyes also represent the presence of spirits lying just beneath the surface of the Earth, watching and waiting to help maintain the balance so necessary to our lives and nature.
Mother Earth’s or Grandmother Moon’s breasts represent nourishment for our future. These same mammary glands also represent the tree of life, letting us know there are many paths open to us, but encouraging us to choose with wisdom.
Images of the fish connect with the water surrounding Dreamer’s Rock. Together they symbolize basic life-sustaining forces. When they are harmed, we too are harmed. The tragedy of Walkerton, Ontario has told us this much.
Supporting the Mother’s left arm is the turtle shell. The shell, once rattled, and the talking stick rising from the Mother’s hair tell us it is time to talk about important issues like human and environmental health and the need for action.
Finally, the talking stick and the Mother’s earrings include Dream Catchers. According to the popular native legend, the Dream Catcher sifts bad dreams from good dreams, destroying the bad and supporting the good.
With the Dream Catcher, and their vision statement as a whole, the Workers Centre invites all to act as Dream Catchers for our workplaces, communities and collective well-being.
Together, we can create safer and healthier places in which to learn, live and work. We need only have the wisdom and courage to try.