Tina Fontaine and Colton Boushie – They Still Walk Our Streets

I recently helped out at a trauma recovery workshop in Maniwaki, QC facilitated by Dennis Windigo. The Anishinabe (the First People) participating in the program had wisely recognized that a healing and caring hand in the form of the workshop was being extended towards them and they had come to the site to grasp it.

Upon entering the workshop hall I was immediately taken with those beautiful faces of Indigenous women who would add nothing more to a life of purpose than to bring peace, love and honour into their homes via the presence of family members. And I noted too, the handsome Algonquin men walking by, nodding a “kwey” to them with a raised coffee-held hand. As always, the impoverished Anishinabe from any and all isolated reserves of this land bring with them, wherever they go, a shy exterior, and also in tow, their unique wit and charm, staples you might say, which have seen them through much heartache and untold miseries, stretching back to the times of their long-dead ancestors. The Algonquin Anishinabe whose bloodlines are dear to my heart are no different.

TinaI scanned the room to see if any of the workshop participants were known to me. I instantly recognized Tina Fontaine and Colton Boushie. Pretty little Tina, all 72 lbs. of her, and Colton, wearing his ever-present smile that only a friendly, gentle and compassionate man can possibly possess, were among the crowd. Tina and Colton, in the crowd? Indeed they were! I know that Tina and Colton are now being celebrated and feasted in the Great Land of Souls by all their relations, but we have to understand that mirror images of them are still here. Many thousands of Tinas and Coltons still walk our streets, their past traumas dragging behind them like a cross the size of Canada. They call out to us for help but who among us stands to remove the cross from their shoulders? They (Tina and Colton) are living on our reserves and in the country’s cities and towns. I’m sure you’ve seen them. Tina could even be your daughter, Colton could be your son.

ColtonIf trauma has been brought into the lives of your children, then do something to help them, damn it, before it’s too late! Indigenous young people living with trauma or who have fallen victim to the power of brain-damaging drugs need the help and support of loved ones to assist them in finding that elusive, reassuring light youngsters so desperately need when a merciless, conquering darkness descends into their lives. They need our help – NOW! Too many Tinas and Coltons have already died. We, the mature people of our First Nations communities, have neglected and disrespected the young people around us for far too long. Let us do all we can to assure that the song of life of our youngsters will ring in the valleys and hills of this country long into the winter of their years. Let their song be a long one and also one of great joy.

We need to access our healing and sharing circles again as our people did before colonizers arrived. We need more and more quality time with our children and grandchildren. The lines of communication, between parent and child, regardless of age, must be open 24/7 and must be free of anger or rage. We’ve got a lot of catching up and making up to do but our hearts are big and strong and we’ll do it.

Tina, dead in the springtime of her life. Colton, dead in the early summer of his time. It isn’t fair. It isn’t just. Something good needs to come of it all. Anyone who waits for Canada’s justice system or a police service or politicians to lay the medicine which would remove anguish and hopelessness from the minds of our young people at our feet is in for a big disappointment. As difficult as it might be to believe, the fact is that a great number of Canadians don’t care if true healing ever occurs for the Indigenous Peoples of this land. The emotional and spiritual health of our young people is “OUR” responsibility. The wounds inflicted onto the hearts of our homeland’s Tinas and Coltons by Canada’s steel-toed boots are wounds only a loving mom, dad, grandma or granddad can bring healing to.

If we fail our young people yet again, then we will surely find ourselves someday on a raft of shame, bouncing aimlessly on a rough and turbulent sea made of the tears of Indigenous Peoples, those of the past, of the present and of the future. We cannot allow this to happen.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont)

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Announcement: Spirituality is Unity Walk, June 22

Dear Friends of Akikodjiwan,

With hopeful hearts, we ask that you join us on another peaceful walk in support of faith and spirituality. The bloodline, the sacred circle of life, yours and ours, calls on us to walk together in the aura of Creator’s love for the betterment of water and all which need it to live.

Let the “Spirituality is Unity” walk become your individual statement, declaring that you will not stand idly by while foolish, visionless politicians and greedy developers ready themselves to destroy an ancient sacred place located in the heart of Algonquin Anishinabe territory. The Spirituality is Unity walk will occur on the traditional lands of the Algonquin Anishinabeg, beginning at 10:30 am on Victoria Island and ending on Parliament Hill at approx. 1 pm. The date is June 22, 2018, the Friday marking the beginning of the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival at Vincent Massey Park.

This Walk welcomes the presence of children. It is for them after all, that we are doing this. If possible, bring your children, bring your grandchildren. Never forget that the grandchildren of your grandchildren will be the true beneficiaries of the actions we take today in protecting the water, the wind, the atmosphere and all the life of the forests, so that these things will be strong and energetic in the days of the distant future.

Our dying planet does not cry out for more condos to be constructed for the wealthy people of the land to live in. Mother Earth demands that prayer and ceremonies commence afresh at our sacred sites. Never in the history of mankind has there been a stronger need for the spiritual beliefs of all faiths to ignite, as one, a healing fire in the centre of the sacred circle.

Elders and Spiritual Leaders at last year's Faith is Peace walk. Photo: Dr. Peter Stockdale

Elders and Spiritual Leaders at last year’s Faith is Peace walk. Photo: Dr. Peter Stockdale

The Spirituality is Unity walk is necessary. Something needs to be done to prove to Creator that not all of us have lost our minds. No one wants war, least of all a nuclear one. Drug epidemics are killing our children as well as those of the non-native community. Newspaper stories are telling us that human clones can now begin to be produced. It’s insanity! The politicians will only wake up to the seriousness of it all when the faith leaders with one voice tell them “Enough!” We all need water to live! Even the politicians cannot live without it. Why don’t they get it? Do the politicians not hope for health and wellness for their descendants?

This call to action is brought forward by Albert Dumont (South Wind) and Jane Chartrand (Grey Fawn).

Expect more info about this walk in the near future.

All my relations,
South Wind
PS – Click here for photos of last year’s Faith Is Peace walk!

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An Acre of Time: Algonquin Presence in Ottawa

Over 20 years ago, Phil Jenkins wrote An Acre of Time. He extensively researched the history of the Lebreton Flats in Ottawa, near Akikodjiwan (Chaudière). Below is a quote from the book regarding the continued presence of the Anishinabe/Algonquin people in the National Capital region. This originally appeared as a comment on January 15th on my blog post, Algonquin Land. It is posted here with Jenkins’ permission.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

Excerpt from “An Acre of Time”

Acre-of-TimeConstant Penency was born in or around 1786. He fought in the War of 1812 with the British and then returned to the ways of the game hunter, spending his summers at the Lake of Two Mountains and his winters with his family upstream on the banks of the river. He was the father of at least four boys, two of whom died and left him young children to care for. The hunting grounds of Constant Penency had provided his ancestors with deer, beaver and fish for many generations.

Because of a petition Constant made to the British department of Indian Affairs in the February of 1830, when he was 44, we know where those hunting grounds were. In the document Constant says,

“That after several years the hunt has more and more diminished with the destruction and the distancing of the beaver and of game. The only means of subsistence of the supplicant whose hunting grounds, situated to the South of the Ottawa at the top of the Rideau, are almost all ruined by the incursions that were made and the numerous settlements that now run along them.”

The expanse of Constant’s family territory can only be guessed at, but the average Algonquin grounds was 100 square miles, or an area ten miles by ten. The “incursions” that Constant mentioned in his petition were the first stirrings of settlement, stirrings that would divide, sub-divide and eventually become Bytown, then Ottawa, the capital city of the British invasion. Constant and his family were to be replaced, in six generations, by half a million people.

Within a couple of months of his petition, Constant got a form letter. It was a fancy-looking document dressed up as a certificate, flourishes and filigreed edges, designed to impress the receiver. It came from Sir James Kempt who was, as it said at the top of the paper, “Captain General and Governor-in-Chief in and over the provinces of Lower and Upper Canada,” as well as of other glories. Sir James wanted Constant to know that he was “reposing especial trust and confidence in your courage and good conduct, and in your zealous and faithful attachment to His Britannic Majesty King George.”

Four years after Constant, together with a Nippissing chief, went to visit James Hughes, an Indian Affairs agent in Montreal. Hughes later reported the meeting to his employers, giving his take on what the two chiefs had on their minds. An edited version of his letter reads,

“Old Constant Pinaisais [French spelling] was here a few days ago. He brought a map made a few years past. These lands on the borders of the Ottawa are now almost all settled.
They however have marked out a lot above the Grand Calumet Portage some distance above the last settlements. They would wish to have a township or a seignorie given to them there, before these lands are granted.

It is on the south side [of the river]. There is an island before it which they would also like to have, to make hay thereon and place their cattle in summer. They say they have no encouragement to work on pieces of land that are in manner only lent to them, whereas were they masters of a certain tract that they could call their own, they would be happy and industrious. They would have it in their power to make better hunts – find more deer and catch plenty of fish.

The history of the British theft of the Algonquin way of living is right there in those few words. No-one goes through life without feeling great change, but Constant Penency found himself pushed over the edge of an era. He was born a free hunter’s son, and by the age of 50 he was asking men born in another world for the right to relinquish any claim on his birthland, and to become a sharecropper and part-time trapper far away from their incursions.

 

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Traditional Land, Creator’s Greatest Gift

Each and every Indigenous Nation of Turtle Island was blessed with land and water, set aside especially for them, by Creator. All people of the Indigenous Nations are physically and spiritually aware of where their own “traditional” lands are found. I know well the sacred circles within the lands of the Algonquin Anishinabeg. Our traditional lands are vast, beautiful and resource-rich and they include the land on which the City of Ottawa is built.

The traditional lands of the Algonquin were fully intact and provided well for us before contact with Europeans. My ancestors knew what their duties and responsibilities were to the land and waters Creator had given to them. Each territory contained laws instructing the People to heap praise on the gifts Creator had given them. No one objected. All members of the Nation gladly did so.

The style of the canoes they built and the markings carved onto them were unique to the territory of the People living there. Things they wore on their heads and feet, the shape of their snowshoe, the design and artwork of their moccasins or mittens, were that of the Nation. Their very own copyright, you might say!

Each Nation had their own version of what defined the death rites of their people. And they were fully aware that birthing ceremonies, customs related to marriage, water rituals, and so on, were those only of their Nation and that the said ceremonies differed in small or big ways to those of their neighbours to the east, south, west or north of their territory. The attire worn by our people at grand gatherings attended by People of other Nations, coming from near and far, was decorated with symbols which clearly told a stranger details of a person’s spiritual beliefs and the Nation from whence they came.

Victoria Island, near sacred Akikodjiwan. ©juliecomber.com

Victoria Island, near sacred Akikodjiwan. ©juliecomber.com

The breath of our Creator inspired all of our traditions. The teachings of the trees, berries and flowers varied from one Nation to the next. Most certainly, all carried the word of a good message. The stories of the Nation, to teach the young, came to the storyteller through dreams and visions provided to him/her by the spirit of the land. Their traditional land. A most amazing muse, to be sure. The fish, animals and game birds of the territory responded to the drum of the hunter or harvester and the prey of the waters and of the field gave up their lives so the human being could live. The land was sacred. The People loved the land and its waters with the same passion as they loved the pureness in the hearts of their blood relatives at birth. It was so, and so it should continue to be.

When Jason Arbour claims that a few names on a census from the 1870’s “proves” a reserve existed in Hull, Quebec, he proves only that the opposite is true. On a reserve of the 1870’s the Indian agent would have taken a head count of who was born and who had died on the reserve over the course of a year. The Indian Agent collected and gave these details to the Department of Indian Affairs. Census takers did not record the “Indians.” Census takers counted the inhabitants of the towns and cities of the country.

I want to see photographs of the people Arbour claims “have no voice”. Surely, they occasionally came into contact with a camera. I want to see any documented plea (there must have been many) the chief of this reserve made to the federal government detailing any injustices they were experiencing on or near their “reserve”. I want a journal kept by a missionary priest which states his experience with the reserve to be produced. All priests working with Indigenous People kept journals. I want proof of when this reserve was founded and the exact date when it was extinguished.

A “census” containing names of people identifying themselves as “Iroquois” or “Indian” does not impress me. I want to see a band list. Am I asking for too much? Today, there are thousands of Inuit living in Algonquin territory. The Inuit living here are recorded now on a census. Does this mean to say that in a couple of generations from now the Inuit will claim this Anishinabe land as “their traditional” territory? No, it does not. If they did so, they would be looked upon in a strange way. People would know that their claim was false.

I need Jason Arbour to tell me who the chiefs were of the band he says his ancestry came from. Creating a reserve is no small thing to undertake. My home community of Kitigan Zibi can produce hundreds of documents related to how the reserve was lobbied for, who did so, who among the white people objected to it and, finally, why the reserve was eventually given the green light. Can Mr. Arbour produce such documentation?

Much research was done by the federal government to establish beyond question the perimeters of Algonquin territory so that a land claim could be put in motion which might produce a fair settlement. Boxes and boxes of documents proving Algonquin title to our land (yes, even Ottawa) exist. Jason Arbour, the self-identified Algonquin, rejects it all. “It’s Mohawk land,” he roars. But only people who despise the Algonquin believe him.

By claiming a part of the “Great River of the Algonquin” as territory belonging to an Indigenous Nation whose traditional lands are far, far away from here, Arbour attempts to erase us from history. To him, the Algonquin are a fantasy nation created by the early white settlers. I guess they did so to create confusion and discord in these modern times. Or it could be that Jason has been playing a bad joke on us all these many years. The joke has become stale. Let’s move on.

I do not wish any ill will on this man, the product of settler stock, who wishes to destroy the Algonquin People. My only hope for him is that whatever it is Mr. Arbour wishes for me, let it come down on him twice as much. If it is love and blessings he wants for me, then goodness and healing are surely on their way for him. Again I say, I wish no ill will upon him. I pray for healing and wellness for all people living within the perimeters of Algonquin territory, especially the Ottawa region of it where my children and my grandchildren live.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

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Algonquin Land, Always and Forever, Ours to Defend

He is a burly, desperate man, the product of settler stock who self-identifies as having both Algonquin and Mohawk blood, yet offers no proof that this is true. No Indigenous community recognizes him as a friend or ally. No Indigenous nation cares to count him among their membership. If he has support at all, it is with people of the settler community, united in their hatred of the Algonquins of this vast, beautiful territory.

Jason Arbour has approached me in a threatening manner twice in recent years. He did so on Parliament Hill (2014), when he found me among the people, who, like me, had gone there to honour the Omushkegowuk Walkers who had walked 1,600 km in freezing winter temperatures (all the way from Attawapiskat) to bring word of the plight of their people to Canada’s politicians. Arbour wasn’t on the Hill that day to stand in solidarity with young Anishinabe activists. As always, he was there with his own agenda in tow. He angrily confronted me below the Peace Tower for my decision to not allow his wild rantings about Ottawa “being Mohawk territory” on my website. I told him to his face what I thought of his nonsense and he walked away after he noticed our exchange was attracting the attention of folks around us.

Akikodjiwan before the dam. Our sacred falls do not need lights and glitz. They need to be set free.Two years later on Victoria Island, Arbour was once again making a nuisance of himself with his outrageous claims at a “Decolonial picnic.” This time (after forcing the microphone from a speaker’s hand), he began shouting into it that “Victoria Island is Mohawk territory”. He took great offence when I objected and began moving towards me (we were standing approximately 30 ft. apart) taking wide, furious steps, screaming over and over again as he did so, “you’re a liar, you’re a liar”. He looked to me like he had become completely unhinged. His eyes were wild and menacing. I thought for sure he was going to assault me as soon as he got close enough to me, and I prepared myself to deal with his blows. Thankfully, he veered away from me when he was about 10 ft. away and left our otherwise peaceful gathering without creating more havoc. I believe it is only a matter of time before Jason Arbour totally loses his grip on reality and, out of control, will attempt to beat up on me.

Arbour does not claim Algonquin blood to stand in support of First Nations causes like most other people do. He does so maliciously, to create confusion, discontent and rage and, I believe, even violence. Jason Arbour would drive the Algonquin Anishinabe away, not only from the heart of their homeland (Ottawa) but also from the most sacred of our holy places (Akikodjiwan). His mission appears to be to gather enough support among the settler community so that the Algonquins will be run out of a territory they have been living in since time immemorial.

After their defeat of General Custer at the Little Big Horn, the Lakota Sioux fled to Saskatchewan and set up housekeeping on Assiniboine lands. Eventually, most of the Sioux returned to their traditional lands around the Black Hills of South Dakota. Some of the Sioux, however, remained in Canada. Even though they have been living in Saskatchewan since the 1800‘s, the Canadian Sioux have never attempted to claim Assiniboine land as their ‘traditional lands’ nor have they attempted to take over the sacred sites of their hosting nation. (The Sioux respect the Assiniboine too much to hurt them this way.) Let us keep in mind that it is NOT the Mohawk people who are claiming Ottawa as Mohawk territory. It is a man of European descent who is doing so. Arbour says he has proof that Ottawa is Mohawk territory. Let him produce it. He has failed in the courts. Only people who wish for and hope for the destruction of the Algonquin believe in him.

Let us be clear, like the sky on a bright summer night far from the city: anyone who defends Arbour or gives him a platform to spew his insanity is an enemy for the cause of Akikodjiwan. A grey area does not exist here. If you stand in defence of Akikodjiwan, then you are obliged to condemn Arbour and others like him who work to drive the Algonquin out.

The spirit of this sacred place of waterfalls and rapids knows well the circle of the Anishinabe. It sings in harmony with our songs. It vibrates within that sacred energy moving forth from our drums and rattles.

Unlike the ‘ancestors’ Jason Arbour speaks about whose oral traditions apparently began in the 1870’s, my Anishinabe oral traditions began many, many thousands of years ago. They tell of our sacred place where the Anishinabe have worshipped since Creator gave it to them after the ice of the Long Winter melted away.

Jason Arbour will never be able to prove that a Mohawk reserve ever existed in Hull, Quebec, because of the fact that there never was one. But even if there had been a Mohawk reserve in the region in the 1870’s it would not give the Mohawks the right today to call our Anishinabe homeland their ‘traditional territory’. Creator gave us these lands unto which to build our lodges so we would have a place to raise our families and we are grateful. The Algonquin Anishinabe will defend title to our territory to the very end.

Jason Arbour, a troubled but determined man of settler stock, has seemingly dedicated his life to destroying the Algonquin Anishinabe. He would be well advised to invest his time and energy elsewhere, for we will never allow him victory.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

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Lights and Glitz at Akikodjiwan

The circus has come to town! An experience not known for a hundred years with a “rock concert” feel to it, according to an organizer interviewed by CBC this Friday morning (October 6th). Lights, glitz, glamour, press the button and let the sideshow begin. For anyone hoping to see clowns at this circus, you won’t be disappointed. It’s all pretty sad.

Akikodjiwan before the dam. Our sacred falls do not need lights and glitz. They need to be set free.

Akikodjiwan before the dam. Our sacred falls do not need lights and glitz. They need to be set free.

As an Algonquin, I am greatly troubled by the spectacle taking place now at Akikodjiwan. The people who planned this outrage dare to tell us that what is occurring now at our ancient sacred space is in complete respect of Indigenous spirituality. I, for one, am truly sickened by what is taking place. I ask that all people who go to the dam at Chaudière Falls ask themselves why should such a profoundly beautiful and spiritual place like Akikodjiwan be turned over to a developer? And with that, be forever lost as greenspace, as a park and as a sacred site for the benefit of the generations now and tomorrow.

How foolish and spiritually lost we will prove ourselves to be as a society if we do not defend Akikodjiwan. Let’s use the freak show taking place at Chaudière Falls to our advantage. A golden opportunity to educate the public has landed at our feet.

The faith leaders and the citizens of this region who understand the power of spirituality should visit the falls now with an open mind, a pulsing spirit and a heart ready for Creator’s touch. Let all who go there feel the energy and might of Akikodjiwan. Let the sacred waters of Creator’s gift reach into their souls. Let the whispers emerging from the rapids urge them onward to join the fight to save Akikodjiwan. At this desperate time of chaos and wanton hopelessness, our world needs this sacred site.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

Please sign House of Commons e-petition #1153. Tell the Government of Canada to stop any proposed development at Akikodjiwan.

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Thank You: Funding Faith is Peace

Awesome news!

The request I made for help in paying off costs incurred from the immensely successful June 23rd ‘Faith is Peace’ walk has now been surpassed. Thank you so very much for your generosity (cart wheels and high 5’s can now begin. Let’er go!) Any overrun of cash donated by you will go towards next year’s walk. It will be deposited into the Free The Falls group’s bank account, kept safe for next year. I hope this is OK with all of you.

The folks who generously contributed are:
Pamela Schreiner, Rachèle Prud’homme, Katy Tanguay, Barbara Dumont-Hill, Marie Myers Lloyd,Janyce Elser-Ethier, Marc Snelling, Nikolas Guttler, Susan Murdock, Sylvia Smith. Diana Douglas, Annie Smith-St. Georges and Robert St. Georges, Lise Leggate, Sharon Moon, Yvon Cyr, Rachel Langevin, Claudette Trudeau, Jeannette Fraser, and four anonymous donors.

I really want you to be fully aware that your generous gesture will not be forgotten by the Faith is Peace team and by the medicines of your faith and spirituality. If Akikodjiwan is eventually saved from destruction (I firmly believe it will be), your kind and wise heart will have played a vital role in its salvation. From the bottom of our hearts, the elders involved say to you, Kichi Migwech and God bless.

Sincerely,
South Wind

PS – Julie Comber also expresses her thanks to those who contributed to the earlier campaign: Arif Jinha, Janyce Elser-Ethier, Pamela Schreiner, Catharine Johannson, Anne-Marie Hogue, Maria-Helena Pacelli, Rebecca White Raven, and two anonymous donors.

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Funding the “Faith is Peace” Walk

Dear Readers,

Faith Leaders and Big Drum, 23 June 2017. Photo credit:  Dr. Peter Stockdale

Faith Leaders and Big Drum, 23 June 2017. Photo credit: Dr. Peter Stockdale

The “Faith is Peace” walk was for me “prayer in motion.” I think we can all agree on that! Each step taken, proclaimed to all spirit of Creator Land that all religions and faiths in the Ottawa Region now stand as one against hatred, against division and against any individual who defiles or desecrates any of our sacred sites. It was good to walk in peace and in love for all!

But as it is with all things good, there is always a little something of a drawback to deal with. Bills need to get paid. We were very fortunate to have the generous support of Maurice Switzer and Andrée Cazabon. Maurice emceed our event, travelling from North Bay to do so. He donated his time, energy and talent to our cause. Andrée did the trench work, out of the limelight, with grace and fortitude. What an amazing young woman and leader she is!

Shelley Steele from Heartspeak filmed the entire event and quickly released clips of faith leaders reading their statements. Migwech for her good work! For a playlist featuring all six videos, click here.

There are many others who donated their great gifts in communications and areas of administration. This walk would never have occurred if not for Judith Matheson, Maureen Stark, Debra Huron, Pamela Schreiner, Daniel Stringer, Peter Stockdale, Janyce Elser, Anne-Marie Hogue, and Ravinder Roberts-Dunsmoor. I believe the Freeing Chaudière Falls and its Islands (AKA Free the Falls) group deserves the biggest applause. This dedicated circle of precious human beings gave of their time, talents and even money (the group paid for the great sound system) to make our event one we will remember with enormous fondness far into the years to come.

There are other bills which must get paid, too. The Big Drum from Pikwakanagan and the travel expenses of elder Rose Wawatie and up and coming leader Shannon Chief. Costs for this amount to a total of $720.

Could we have had the success we did without the tireless Julie Comber looking after admin. and other concerns for us? I don’t think so. Julie was the Coordinator of the Faith is Peace organizing committee, and we want to give her an honorarium.

Grandmother Jane Chartrand and myself are requesting that folks “pass the hat,” so to speak, and pay these bills. We launched our GoFundMe campaign (click here for the link). Please contribute there for the costs of the walk. If funding is not forthcoming, it will mean that the elders involved will have no choice but to absorb these costs. Not fair!

We will keep you posted as to how the people respond. If donations surpass the amount needed for bills, the extra funds will go towards next year’s walk.

In peace and solidarity,
South Wind

PS – Contribute if you can, and please share our campaign widely! https://www.gofundme.com/funding-faith-is-peace

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Faith Is Peace: Walk To Save Akikodjiwan (June 23, 2017)

A special moment in my life took place this past Friday, when Algonquin elders took part in the ‘Faith is Peace’ walk (Victoria Island to Parliament Hill). What made this walk so profoundly joyful and memorable for me is the fact that many of the region’s faith leaders walked with us in support of our struggle for sacred Akikodjiwan (Chaudière and Albert Islands). Together we stood as one! Shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, Indigenous roots intertwined with settler roots, the walk became a moving, breathing statement to Canada. All present were in agreement, First Nations spirituality is a faith. And as a faith with its own unique foundation and creation story, the First Peoples’ places of worship must be protected. Shielding them from abuse must be done with the same force and vigour Canadians would put into motion to protect a synagogue, a temple, a mosque, a church or any house of worship in a free world, if it came under attack by people who had no respect for it. Are we not duty-bound by Canada’s constitution to do so? We all enjoy a ‘right’ enshrined in the constitution which guarantees freedom of religious expression. The First Nations are no longer excluded! So back off, NCC!

I see a faith leader as the sparkle of a firefly, offering the depressed and downtrodden of their community hopeful light, on even the darkest of nights. It was with enormous pride in my heart that I heard such faith leaders eloquently express their support for our cause, the saving of our sacred site Akikodjiwan. Words from Archbishop Prendergast, Rabbi Bulka, Imam Samy Metwally, the Very Reverend Shane Parker and many others gave us renewed hope that Akikodjiwan will be saved. The words of the faith leaders were spoken, written and recorded on film and will be posted online in the near future. It truly was a humbling time for me and one I’ll always remember.

Elders, faith leaders and representatives, 23 June 2017. Photo Credit: Dr. Peter Stockdale

Elders, faith leaders and representatives, 23 June 2017.
Photo Credit: Dr. Peter Stockdale

First Nations spirituality was outlawed until almost 1960. This terrible act of oppression was in my opinion, the worst of the many outrageous actions Canada took in her efforts to destroy the culture and identity of the First Nations at a time now referred to as ‘a dark chapter’ in Canada’s history. Today we often see media-produced photos or film footage of politicians partaking in a smudging ceremony. For most of the politicians who do so, it is nothing more than a photo op. Anyone who really respects these ceremonies would never vote yes, allowing a developer to defile, desecrate and destroy Akikodjiwan, a sacred site of the Anishinabe since time immemorial. Look around! Terrorism and catastrophes are taking place in all areas of the planet. The world does not need more condos! We need more sacred sites, not less of them. It is not too late, we can still save Akikodjiwan from destruction. The ‘Faith is Peace’ walk was all about that!

As difficult as it might be for the good people of this country to emotionally digest, the truth is that the First Peoples are still fighting every day against oppression. We fight to regain our languages, we fight for a share of the riches being removed from our territories each and every day so that our impoverished communities can grow an economy and build schools. But it is the struggle to revive our ancient spirituality which is of greatest concern for me and many, many more Algonquins and their supporters. Our spirituality was our way of life! Is it too much to ask to have it there once again for those of us who respect and honour it?

There wasn’t much media attention for the ‘Faith is Peace’ walk. Very strange, considering the fact that this rally was the first of its kind (where interfaith groups rallied to support Indigenous spirituality), so far as I am aware. It is extremely puzzling to the walk’s organizers as to why the media chose to stay away. In a free country, both sides with opposing views are heard. It is only fair and just that it is so. Then why is it that with Akikodjiwan, the only voice being heard is that of politicians and Algonquins who support the destruction of a sacred site? In Canada, money is power and in this case money dictates that Akikodjiwan will be lost to us. Not so fast! Let the people decide.

If the walk was a success then it was made so by the many dedicated people who pitched in to make it so. A special Migwech to Algonquin elder Jane Ann Chartrand for her generous contribution to this cause and for her steadfast dedication to Akikodjiwan.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

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Come Into The Circle: Comment By Maureen Stark

Dear Readers,
I urge you to read, delight and share widely, a comment made on one of my blog posts by Maureen Stark. Her words are profound and truly from the heart and mind of a human being who appreciates what it is to be sensible in matters touching the human rights of an oppressed minority in her community.
God bless her for her spirit and courage,
South Wind
Comment by Maureen Stark on 17 June 2017

There has been quite a bit of discussion on this over the last 7 years. (Especially since the death of Grandfather William Commanda.) Today is a good day to act.

Usually the old nuggets of ‘not everyone agrees, not everyone opposes’ is pulled out to create the blatantly self-righteous cover for not entering into a deeper awareness and understanding of what is being requested and what is still being done locally to suppress Indigenous spirituality. The local political status quo has not changed at all when it comes to the local historical spiritual/religious abuse. It is still standing.

Most people, average Canadians, through personal lives that are too crowded with normal day to day obligations are collectively predisposed to continue to turn a politely blind eye to colonial religious privilege happening in our own city.

This is an unavoidable consequence we are all dealing with from the willfully created ignorance that was imposed on all of us by our historically racial legal and cultural social economic systems.

This ignorance is a fact that is not easy for us to look at, or to change. But, it is a fact and it is real and especially pernicious here in Ottawa.

Are we so afraid of simply being willing to say, we recognize and hold seriously our ability and responsibility to support the Algonquin right to restoration and recovery from 500 years of spiritual abuse.

Can we not say we recognize that Indigenous spiritual expression is indivisibly expressed through ceremonies which center on learning from and respecting the traditional rights of all life forms, land, air and water based.

Algonquin people have suffered locally due to the failures of interfaith compassion, interfaith respect. This is unceded territory. There is no agreement no treaty or legal status that has been surrendered by the Algonquin or the Mohawk for that matter. I can connect you with historians on this.

The right to practice Indigenous spirituality, here, where it was always practiced, which is THE inconvenient point to politicians and commercial lobbyists, in a location that is currently dormant from industrial use, is a real clash of rights..

People, Indigenous and Non-Indigenous alike who don’t care about restoring the historical traditional Indigenous Spirituality here don’t care about that clash.

The Indigenous spiritual relationship to the planet is not a concept that is shared by or contained in, our political system or monetary system.

Treating life, any life whether water or land or wind based as a commodity, is inhuman to Indigenous spirituality. That is why this is so hard. The potential for healing or harm is global.

Can we not at least say that we are willing to walk with and come into the circle with the Algonquin spiritual leaders about their spiritual rights?

By the way all are unanimous in their identification of the Chaudière and its Islands as the one most important historical site of peacebuilding ceremonies in this city.

We, and all faith leaders are being asked to support them in the restoration of their right to practice their spirituality in their traditional ways, according to their spiritual customs, which to them means particularly in this currently undeveloped traditional location?

Not all Christians, Jews. Hindus, Muslims or Buddhists agree on everything within their own communities.

I hope that doesn’t mean that we feel our own faith allows us to just sit idly by and allow that to be our excuse for silence in the face of this need for restoration support by this spiritual community.

There is a continuing and historically sophisticated policy of oppression preventing Algonquins who want to practice their spirituality in this traditional location.

If un-challenged legal interpretation systems will be permitted to dismiss the importance of practicing traditional ceremonies, in traditional locations simply because we, and most Canadians, don’t really understand what is being asked and offered.

I think we all know that our own faith often asks us to take a leap.

For me, my faith is saying I need to walk with the Algonquin Spiritual Grandmothers and Elders to discover what their faith is asking of us.

I’m simply inviting my ‘Church’ to do the same.

Thanks to the Elders and Grandmothers for asking.

Maureen Stark
Chair, Right Relations Committee
Ottawa Presbytery
United Church of Canada

Faith Is Peace June 23 Invitation-Poster

 

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