A Blackfoot activist, famous for fighting environmental injustice, is now battling a terminal illness in a Calgary hospice.
“I have Stage 4 cancer in the abdomen,” said Milton Born With A Tooth in a telephone interview.
“My outlook right now is dire.”
Born With A Tooth spent his life advocating for Indigenous rights but rose to prominence in 1990 after trying to divert the Oldman River in southern Alberta back to its natural course.
The Blackfoot never consented to a dam on the waterway and Born With A Tooth led the Lonefighter Society to stop it.
They were met by dozens of police officers who, at trial, said Born With A Tooth shot at them. He spent 4 ½ years in prison.
His niece Nicole Eshkakogan said her uncle, who was released from prison in 1995, penned a statement about the end of his life.
“Now that people are starting to find out what’s wrong with me I want to be able to get ahead of the information so they hear it from the horse’s mouth,” he told APTN News from palliative care.
“I have a real battle on my hands now.”
While Born With A Tooth was behind bars, his nation secured a judgment in their favour from the Supreme Court of Canada in 1991.
The federal and provincial governments paid compensation of $64 million and promised to consult on anything to do with the river in the future.
“We have been warning the newcomers since they came that whatever they took from the earth they should put back,” Born With A Tooth said in A Warrior’s Message – a powerful video posted to YouTube in February 2018.
“We have watched them put nothing back. So we giggle a little bit that now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Well, climate change and global warming. Now we should be concerned.’”
When asked where he got the plan to divert the river, Born With A Tooth told InterContinentalCry: “I got it from the beaver. If he can do it without money and a weapon, then I could do it too.”
The activist put his body on the line, but now his body is wearing out.
“I did have an effect – my life. I was part of the news one time,” he told APTN. “Now I go second by second.”
He said he needs to focus his energy on his health now.
“Next week – I can’t think that far,” he added.
In the video, Born With A Tooth explained what it means to be a warrior and apply that traditional knowledge to modern environmental debate.
“We want to explain what the beaver has been telling us. We want to explain what the bears have been telling us…the eagle, the hawks, the hummingbirds,” he said.
“We have observed nature from the beginning. But we don’t want to be just patronized. That’s not what we want. We want the freedom to be able to sit down and be part of the solution.”
But, sadly, his part is coming to an end.
“Because nature – my boss – is unforgiving to the water, to the beaver, to the birds, and to us,” he said.