Genocide? Ask the Beothuk!

The Anishinabe (First Peoples) of past times looked with wounded hearts upon the destruction and death that the Residential Schools were bringing to their children and to their once powerful nations. The death toll of innocent children at the schools was so enormous that the name the Anishinabe gave to such structures was “Awakàzo kikinàmàdinàn`n abinòdjìnshag kà awi nibodjig” (Residential Schools: where the children go to die). Dr. Peter Bryce (1853-1932) recorded almost 40 years after the schools first began operating, that 50 to 75% of the schools’ population were ending up dead for a variety of reasons, mainly disease brought on by malnutrition. A high number of the children also succumbed to the elements which overcame them when attempting to run away from the horrors they were confronted with inside the school walls.

The children had been forcefully removed from their family and nations by order of Sir John A. MacDonald, representing Canada’s federal government. Dr. Bryce submitted his report but he may as well have used it as kindling in his stove for all the good it did. The government paid no heed!

The Indigenous children were indeed rounded up and yes, I believe taken into a torturous existence where the weaker ones slowly wasted away until death finally set them free of their pain. The children did not die from machete blows, nor were they stomped to death under the boot heels of an insane brute, bullets did not tear through their little hearts to kill them, but yet, they ended up just as dead as a human being who died during the Rwanda genocide.

Is ‘Genocide’ the proper word to describe what the Indigenous Peoples of this land have experienced? A lot of commentaries posted on varying media outlets across the country object to it. “If a people of an ethnicity different than that of the majority have not been rounded up, tortured and then killed, it is not genocide,” they declare. Experts on what defines genocide are being asked to express their opinions. Scholars and political leaders and even old military generals are being sought out for their views. Most of them are saying, “No, what happened to First Nations is not a genocide.”

We cannot ask individuals from the Beothuk First Nation for their views on genocide, they are no longer here to give it. The ancient, heart-moving songs the Beothuk sang at sunrise those many generations ago are no longer heard in this physical world. The Beothuk are all dead and gone. Their voices and customs, swept away like the leaves of a maple tree on a cold and windy autumn day.

Were they rounded up, tortured and then killed? I don’t know. I only know that the Beothuk would still be here, thriving and healthy, if their world had never been colonized. The Algonquin Nation, from which I am a member, almost ended up as the Beothuk did. In the year 1900 by the federal government’s own count, there were less than 1,500 Algonquins left on the face of this planet. Were we rounded up, tortured and then killed? I don’t know. All I know is that we would be far greater today as a People than the powerful force we were when we had the miserable misfortune to cross paths with Samuel de Champlain. With him, came colonization and with colonization, came death in untold numbers for the Algonquin Anishinabe. Our numbers today are only a small fraction of what they were at the time of contact.

A short while ago I worked for a few years as an advisor at parole hearings involving offenders of Indigenous bloodlines. One day, after a hearing had come to its conclusion (parole denied), I overheard the two parole board members involved in the hearing expressing their feelings on the Indigenous Peoples of this land. (They were not aware that I could hear them.) “I feel sorry for the Inuit,” said one to his colleague. “They have nothing going for them.” “I hear what you are saying,” replied his fellow parole board member. “The First Nations don’t have much going for them either. You know, at the time of contact with the Europeans, the First Nations were pretty much throwing rocks at each other or butchering each other with stone axes.”

The words left me stunned. It was difficult for me to emotionally absorb what I had just heard. I instantly had a harshly worded talk with the two parole board members. As unbelievable as it seems, this is the actual view of a man Canada has placed in her trust, to make an impartial and just decision as to whether yea or nay, an Indigenous offender gets paroled. I don’t think it’s possible for the parole board members I speak of here to do so.

At worst, racism was at play in the view they shared. At best, a superiority complex was doing the talking. The world view of Indigenous People these parole board members have is no doubt also that of millions of other Canadians. I’m certain that according to their (racist Canadians) train of thought, a great favour was done for the First Peoples when the colonization of our territories by Europeans occurred. They believe, in their heart of hearts that their presence on our lands saved us from a wretched existence. To the hardcore of the racist settler communities, we, the Indigenous Peoples, are inferior and as such, not worthy of being treated with respect and dignity.

I dare say, this is why many Indigenous women and girls end up dead or missing. And this is why it will continue until the day arrives when most Canadians will come to appreciate, respect and honour the women and girls of an Indigenous bloodline.

A genocide? Yes, it did occur and is still being practiced to a degree in Canada and I doubt it will stop anytime soon. I know that those of you reading this who say there was no genocide perpetrated against the Indigenous Peoples of this land, would see it differently if the atrocities mentioned here had befallen their family line. Even the loudest cracks of thunder in a lightning-lit sky, would not be enough to drown out their mournful chant, “genocide, genocide, there was a genocide.”

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont).

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Card Sale!

Kwey everyone,

I am presently making a big push to sell the remaining stocks of greeting cards I created a long while ago. There are 15 different cards in my collection. Poems of mine are found in 14 of the cards (only 1 is blank). The verses in the cards touch on numerous topics. They range from words of love and affection to a child of your bloodline and move forward to words of support for a loved one, hoping to find the strength to begin a life of sobriety. I am selling the cards for $10 per package (plus shipping cost). If you are interested, $10 gives you all 15 cards, a $45 value! Two examples of the poetry and artwork in the cards are as follows:

When I look at you

when I look at youWhen I look at you
I see a strong woman
Wise beyond her years

I see you dance with pride
And graceful movement
That quells my spirit’s fears

I see you bathe in the fragrance
Of the sweetgrass, the cedar and the sage
Earnest purifications of your being
To prevent an inner rage

I see you shun temptation
When the drum reaches to your ears
When I look at you
I see a strong woman
Wise beyond her years

Truest Friend

truest-friendIf your wish
Was to be a turtle
Then I would wish to be your shell
For already
I stand to protect you
Like a shield
That heartache could never bend

And if your wish
Was to be an eagle
Then I would wish to be the wind
That carries you to the highest peaks
Of peace and serenity
For I am
Your truest friend

 

I believe that this collection of cards will someday become a sought-after collector’s item. What do you say? Please click here to place your order (via PayPal) or send an email.

All the best,
South Wind (Albert Dumont).

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Spring

It is spring! In forest dwellings, many a new heart will begin to drum before the Strawberry Moon (the first moon of summer) signals to this wondrous season of countless blessings that her time of service to Creator has finally come to its end. The hearts of bear cubs, deer fawns, wolf and coyote pups and those of a wide variety of birds will sing an ancient song and, together, will contribute to the spiritual greatness of spring. The land will stir and gently send forth her plea for all life of the forest to obey the instructions given to them by Creator. Over the course of its time the maple sap will flow, the rooster partridge will stand on a drumming log and send his energy into the welcoming forest, flowers will decorate the pathway, and great flocks of geese will blacken the sky.

Spring – there is no other time of the year more special! The first thunder strikes will fully awaken a re-energized and refreshed landscape. It is a powerful occurrence! The hiker in the forest at springtime can taste the season when a deep breath is taken into human lungs. Spring is a time of ceremony and prayer. To fast deep in the forest and contemplate life is such a natural thing for a human being to want to do. We should never take for granted what Creator has placed before us.

In the past, a human being might be drawn to go onto the land after the snow had melted away to partake in a ritual of thanksgiving for having been born with a human heart. One would stand, ankle-deep, in spring, river or lake water, a short length of cedar branch in hand. The cedar would be dunked into the water and then sprinkled onto the top of the individual’s head. “I awaken my mind to the blessings of Creator,” the human being would say. “May my thoughts be pure and peaceful, may I have the ability to give good counsel to my children, may my mind always possess the ability to reject hatred.” On it would go, and the mind was awakened to goodness and emotional health.

Next, water would be sprinkled over the eyes, words acknowledging the beauty of Creator’s domain would be spoken. The sunrises and sunsets, the colour of birds and flowers, beauty in the face of a loved one, all was acknowledged. The entire body of the human being was awakened in the way the life in the forest too awakes with the touch of water after its time of rest and sleep has come and gone.

Each season brings with it a rich healing energy. It will serve us well if we believe in it.

All the best,
South Wind (Albert Dumont).

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The Massacre of Muslims in New Zealand

I hear the news of the massacre and I immediately wonder if Creator gave the People a ceremony they could perform to honour human beings violently slain while in the midst of their time of prayer. I know of none!

I hear the news and I immediately ask myself, what kind of man would go into a house of worship with the intention of spilling the blood of innocent human beings, the young, the old, the pure and sin-free? Where can I find a wisdom keeper who can provide me with a sensible answer?

I hear the news and I immediately become aware that it is quite possible that a man with similar ideology as the killer in New Zealand could be living in my city, Ottawa. A man who harbours a deadly hatred for the Muslim religion and possibly, prepares now, to strike at a mosque here in Algonquin Anishinabe territory? If it is so, what can I do now to stop him?

Ancient Pine. Photo by Julie Comber, 2012.I hear the news and I immediately retrieve tobacco from my bundle to place at the roots of old pine trees, making a solemn request of them for healing to at least begin now. Not just for my Muslim friends but for all of us who are now heartsick because of the senseless attack which took place in New Zealand. Imagine a pine tree, old and grand. It has many strong and vibrant branches. Let us see the trunk of the tree as representative of Creator and the branches attached to it as the beliefs of people who honour all things Creator placed before us. Do not all the branches have a right to attach themselves to the trunk? Who would dare attempt to remove one of the branches from the tree? If the devil exists, then it is surely the devil and only the devil who would wish to do so.

I ask myself, who or what was it that created the mind frame of the New Zealand killer? I try to weep for those who died but somehow I cannot. Why is it that a river of tears does not run from my eyes, mourning for the innocent people who died only because of their choice of religion? Tears are not what is needed at this time. Action! Action is the answer.

Together, all people of faith, must gather in the sacred circle to condemn violence and hatred. As former US President Obama once said, “An attack on one faith is an attack on all faiths.”

As far as I am concerned, anyone who hates to the point that they see the murder of those they despise solely because of their religious beliefs as a legitimate reason for slaughter, gives up the right to call themselves a human being. Such a creature no longer has a human heart pounding in its chest. What was once a heart has become nothing more than a pump pushing blood into the body of a wild and mindless beast unknown to Creator.

Nothing of Creator’s touch would do such a thing as was done in New Zealand! Let us pray, using our own words and at our own place of worship, wherever that might be, to end hatred once and for all.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont)

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Thinking about Willie Dunn

In recent years, I have not allowed a day of my life to take flight and then swiftly disappear into the twilight of yesteryear without giving a thought to family and friends who have passed away. Not long ago, they lived. Like all of us they were once comforted by the heartbeat of their mothers. And when in their tender years, like all children, they laughed and played in the sunlight. And knew, from the untold sorrows of their times, what it is that pushes tears from the eyes of a human being.

I was well acquainted with Willie Dunn. I wish I could tell you that I had a close and endearing relationship with him but I cannot. I am confident all the same that Willie Dunn respected me. I certainly respected and admired him. Willie supported my work as an activist and was especially fond of the poetry I wrote. He was an extraordinary man who died way before his time. Willie contributed greatly to First Nations identity and purpose. He was a good man who was taken for granted by far too many.

People like Willie are like that tree you are familiar with. The one on the hill perhaps, near a highway you often find yourself travelling on. It is a marker telling you where you are landed or something of tremendous beauty. It portrays strength and emotional wellness. People like Willie are like a rare bird of song. We hear them sing when we prepare a site for ceremony. We hear their song when our hearts ache with worry. The song cleanses us and we are reassured by it that in the end, all will go well.

I recently rediscovered a music video Willie Dunn performed back in 1994. Here’s the link, check it out! Children of the World:

I’m so ready for spring. The winter was difficult, too much snow, too much freezing rain, too much severe cold. My skin longs to feel the hot sun pressing against it. I can hardly wait to feel the soft spongy earth cleansing and reinvigorating my bare feet. One morning soon, I hope to awaken to the song of a robin, to look out the window and declare “Behold the Spring.”

All the best,
South Wind (Albert Dumont)
PS – Here is my Tribute to Willie Dunn.

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Akikodjiwan: A Poem

Akikodjiwan
© Albert Dumont

With the skin
On the soles of our feet
We gently touch, the sacred surface
Of Akikodjiwan

The spirit of the island
Rises from the rock, like a bird
Soaring into the blood of our hearts

We raise our hands into the sky
The stars descend, to caress our palms
We open our eyes
And search the universe, at peace
Looking upon the face
Of the Great Mystery

We listen to the Kichi Zibi
Of the Algonquin Anishinabe
She has followed the path
Created for her by Mino Manido
Guiding her to sacred Akikodjiwan
Where the mighty voice of water
Reminds all Peoples that without water
All life of this world would perish

The moon illuminates the island
She speaks to us
Of her love for water
The fire we kindle hears her message
His flames rising ever higher
Our circle dances, the rapids sing

The smoke of burning sage
Carries our chanting song
To the eternal home
Of our grandmothers and grandfathers

The waters of the Falls
Swallow our humble offerings of tobacco
We call upon the Good Spirit
To bless
All the Peoples of our Nations

“Let us always be kind
To one another” we say
“And honour all things
Creator provides to humankind
So our children can live joyful lives”

We stand with kindness in our hearts
On a sacred island
Where the circle is always strong
Where our instructions as human beings
Rise, encircled in the mist of Akikodjiwan
They call loudly, wanting to be reclaimed
To assure the survival
Of all their relations.

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The Spiritual Caress of the Winter Season

I was recently blessed with a life-altering and dreamlike experience. Truly spiritually refreshing! I want to tell you about it.

It was on a sunlit winter’s day, which followed a period of heavy snow and freezing temperatures. I had attached a pair of snowshoes onto my insulated boots and set out into the forest behind my home. My purpose was to offer words of a prayer and to place tobacco on the land for a loved one who is presently going through a rough time. The trail was physically demanding and not long after I entered the domain of sleeping trees I began breathing heavily and the rhythm of my heart intensified. My store-bought snowshoes failed to support my weight and I sunk into the deep freshly fallen snow with each step I took forward.

The forest was definitely in the midst of its winter slumber. Not a sound could be physically heard in the vicinity of my snowbound trek. Heavy coats of snow covered the branches of spruce and balsam trees, forcing the softwood trees to point downwards at the season’s many layers of snow, one packed upon the other since the first which settled in mid-November last year. The tall white pine trees, too, were snow-laden but the strength of their branches held up and withstood the weight pressing onto them.

I only travelled a kilometre before feeling that I needed a rest and sat on the remnants of an old poplar tree, fallen many years ago. As I rested I took in the beauty and peacefulness of my surroundings. I marvelled at what the season had to offer in the way of teachings, engulfed with spiritual wisdom. Suddenly, the sky clouded over and snow began to fall. The flakes at first were large but sparse. I removed my beaver skin mitts from my hands and raised my bare palms towards the sky. Snowflakes gently alit onto my skin, melting on contact. I began to pray, requesting healing and peace from the season.

Snow in a forestVery quickly then, the snow began to fall in torrents. My turned-up hands tingled and vibrated under the touch of the season. A big wind flew in. It travelled like a giant serpent through the dips, gullies and hills close to my circle. It was as if I was on the outside perimeter of a language unknown to me, spoken by the season but understood clearly by all life in a forest. The branches of the trees waved and swayed wildly, giving the appearance of long-haired dancers, draped in robes covered in fringes and ribbons. The leaves of a nearby oak tree rattled and shook, but most of them refused to loosen from their branches. The powerful wind cleansed the branches of the spruce, balsam and pine trees of the piles of snow clinging to them.

The sky became a swirling, mighty river made of chunks of snow, fiercely swallowing up all things in its path. My still turned-up palms felt like thousands of gentle tiny beings etched a spiritual dance into them. A caress I felt straight through to my heart and spirit. I laughed and prayed simultaneously, never have I ever felt such a remarkable sensation in my entire life. It was a blessing, granted me by the season of winter. It didn’t last long. All of five minutes later, it was over.

I continued in prayer, my tobacco was placed down and I returned to my home to ponder further the experience given me by the season, the snow and the wind.

All the best,
South Wind (Albert Dumont)

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Book Launch: Sitting by the Rapids

After a fine day of sunshine and joy, the evening of Wednesday, December 12, 2018, will be especially memorable to me for many years to come. It will forever mark the time when I launched my poetry book Sitting by the Rapids (Kegedonce Press) at Christ Church Cathedral’s Great Hall.

Cover of the book, Sitting by the Rapids, by Albert Dumont

Two of my closest friends were present to help with opening remarks. I was extremely moved when the Very Reverend Shane Parker spoke eloquently and passionately to an attentive audience about some facts he has come to know about my life. My longtime close friend and spiritual brother, Alex Akiwenzie (a Hereditary Chief), with drum in hand, sang a traditional song to honour the relationship between the Anglican Church and I. The Anglican Church asked me to be their first Algonquin Spiritual Teacher in Residence. I accepted this two-year appointment (see my latest newsletter). Together, Anglicans and I, will sit in the centre of the healing circle where sharing of knowledge and respect for each other’s spiritual beliefs will take place. I’m sure all will benefit!

The poems, quotations/worldviews I selected for reading from Sitting by the Rapids went beyond who and what Albert Dumont is all about. The folks at the Great Hall attending the launch got a pretty clear view of my soul and, hopefully, an understanding of who it is (Oshki Nodin) that all my relations spiritually know me by.

The first poems I shared, “Because of You” and “Because of Me” declare to me at least, why reconciliation is necessary. They speak also about what true remorse is and why only real contrition is acceptable. Acceptable not only to the victim of an outrage but also to Creator. This world, this grand world of song and tall grass and pine trees and moss-covered rocks will come to a final end some day for each and all of us. It makes sense to me that we prepare ourselves spiritually now for that time when the heart will make its final sound.

A human being can be such a magnificent creature! Let us reach out to hold the hand of our neighbours, regardless of who they are, regardless of the colour of their skin, regardless of their religious beliefs, and stand in solidarity with them as human beings who care whether or not we survive as inhabitants of glorious Mother Earth. This is what poetry in general often expresses, and what I hope to reveal in a big way with Sitting by the Rapids.

Copies can be purchased on my website via PayPal.

Give it a read and let me know what you think.

All the best,
South Wind (Albert Dumont)

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In Memory of Chief Harry St. Denis

I am sharing this letter I wrote about the sudden passing of Wolf Lake Algonquin’s Chief, Harry St. Denis, below.

Chief Harry St. Denis in 1998

Chief Harry St. Denis, photo from 1998 (via Algonquin Nation Tribal Council)

Dear Verna Polson and the People of Wolf Lake,

A great Algonquin Anishinabe Chief has died. Harry St. Denis talked the talk and walked the walk and he stood strong and straight, like a great oak tree. Chief St. Denis will not be easily replaced.

I only met Harry about a year ago (had heard of him for many years previous) but even in that short while I got to know him as a friend and ally. The chief and I talked one day about the fact that a big majority of people living in the unceded lands of the Algonquin Anishinabeg are not aware that Algonquin bands like Wolf Lake even exist. We asked ourselves, how do we turn that around? The conclusion, “make some noise.” The Algonquin people north of Kitigan Zibi have no choice but to take actions, however drastic, to let folks (especially politicians) living in the southern edges of their territory know that enough is enough. They must come to Ottawa, to fill its streets with people who will stand in solidarity with them. The human rights of Algonquins in the north are being abused. Their precious voices are being ignored. The time for action has arrived!

Chief St. Denis was not an Indian Act chief and he did not go about his duties to his community in the manner of a chief who has been politically whipped into towing the line of a federal political body. He was brave, intelligent and bowed to no man. What I liked best about Harry is that he believed in the right to freedom of religious expression. Reviving the original spiritual beliefs of his ancestral lands was something he supported. Akikodjiwan and what will become of it was something he was prepared to look into and then stand in solidarity with the camp holding principles more in line with his beliefs. Harry St. Denis was in support of returning the islands around Chaudière Falls as a place of peace and sacredness.

I want the Algonquins of Wolf Lake to know that they can count on me to help them “make noise” in Ottawa so that all people will know that they (Wolf Lake Algonquins) exist. Let me know how I can be of help.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont)

Note: Here is a collection of statements and media gathered to honour St. Denis.

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In Defence of Indigenous Spiritual Beliefs

UPDATE: The person involved spoke with me in person, and so I have decided to remove her name from this post. Thank you also for the support I have received, it warms my heart.

****

Just got back home (Kitigan Zibi) after a 65 hour fast. For approximately 10 years my fasting ceremonies have been taking place within the perimeters of my home community. Before that time, I went to the Temagami area and also to Thunder Bay. I fast twice a year, once in the spring during the time of the Flower Moon (May), the other in autumn, during the time of the Moon of Falling Leaves (October). I have been doing so faithfully since five years after my sobriety began over 30 years ago. At the beginning I fasted for 4 days and nights, no food, no water. I never once quit. Spirit at the fasting circle has always been kind and generous to me. I have learned so much and I believe each ceremony has made me a better man of the Algonquin Nation. Part of my ceremony is and always will be for the revival of the original spiritual beliefs of this country. Indigenous spirituality is real. It is strong and beautiful and needs to be brought back to those of us who recognize it as something spiritually special that Creator gave solely to us, the original inhabitants of these magnificent and resource-rich lands. Spirituality? It is water! Try filling a glass with loonies and pouring them down your throat, it won’t quench your thirst.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, October 24, I left the serenity, solitude and healing of the fasting circle and arrived into my home feeling very much at peace with the world and spiritually well. Then a call comes in via my cell phone notifying me that a young Algonquin  woman is attacking me on Facebook. This person advocates for Windmill Development Group, the developer hell-bent on building condos on a sacred site located in the heart of Algonquin Anishinabe territory. The screenshot of some of her comments is below (with her name removed).

Screenshot of allegations about Albert Dumont on Facebook

At no surprise to myself, I discover that she does not recognize me as an “elder.” This is quite OK with me. I never set out in life hoping that people like her would embrace me as an “elder.” I don’t even like the word “elder.” To me, it is a word too closely connected to organized religion. I prefer to be known as a human rights activist, and to those who wish, as a spiritual advisor and helper. That being said, there are folks in my community of Kitigan Zibi (KZ) who do refer to me as an elder and I’m at peace with it. I’ve been asked a couple of times to help out as an elder with KZ’s Pow Wow. On one occasion I accepted. I’ve helped out at the school as an elder (after a tragic event had taken place) and was called in to help when the Restorative Justice program was revived. Obviously, there are many people in my home community who do regard me as an elder.

I do not know this person. All I know with 100% certainty is that I have not harmed her in any way. She has no call to attack me as she has. Her comments about me on Facebook were extremely hurtful. It was heartbreaking for me to feel under attack by a young Algonquin woman. If she wants, I’d be happy to sit with her and tell her the many reasons why I do not object to folks recognizing me as a spiritual advisor and she can tell me the reasons why she believes I am not. Whoever it was who put those hurtful words into her mouth tricked her. Why?

This young woman also attacked Jane Ann Chartrand on Facebook. Jane is an Anishinabe Kwe and grandmother beyond 70 years of age. Her comments about Jane are vile and shocking, and could be described as a violent attack on Jane’s character. (Whatever happened to ending violence against our women?) Do the ugly words cast at Jane Chartrand by Josée come from the teachings of her “elders”? Or are they the words of someone who is slowly heading to a place where souls are bought and bartered for? Young Anishinabe women attacking old Anishinabe citizens is not our way of life. When such nonsense becomes commonplace, it will mean that the Anishinabe Nation no longer exists.

I help out however I can to return Akikodjiwan (AKA Chaudière Falls and the nearby islands) to the People. It is a sacred place, and always was to the Algonquin Anishinabe of past times. I’ll continue to do what I can to preserve it and will do so without expecting monetary compensation for the countless hours I have invested in this very worthy and honourable cause. In my eyes the Free the Falls group are solid activists whom I welcome by my side in the struggle to save sacred Akikodjiwan. So what if many of them are white people! Has it become a sin to be a white activist? She blasted the Free the Falls activists for being “white,” yet the people at Windmill who want to build condos on our sacred site are, yeah, you guessed it, white people.

However all this plays out in the end, I will not hold any grudges nor condemn Algonquins who fought on the side of the developer for condos to be built on our sacred land. Their beliefs are what they are and I recognize their human right to defend them. I expect the other side to do likewise for me.

By the way, I don’t have a clue as to what an “Algonquin Practitioner” is.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont)

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