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.

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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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Thanksgiving 2018

Poster for 27 October 2018Kwey Dear Readers,

Just a couple of things. I’ll be at Iskotew Lodge on October 11. Also, I humbly request that you do your best to attend the panel discussion Reconciliation: Re-Membering Creator’s First Sacred Pipe on October 27th. See the poster and note that this event is a fundraiser for the Free The Falls group.

I have a lot to be thankful for. Each and every dawn, for many years now, I offer a prayer of gratitude to Creator for all the blessings we find around us no matter where we turn: water, fire, the land, the wind, and all other sacredness which give us life. I am grateful for the love of my children and grandchildren. I hold in my heart a special place for human rights activists and for all my dearest friends and confidants. I am grateful to elders such as Gray Fawn (Jane Ann Chartrand) and Lame Buffalo (Bobby Woods). I am grateful that I do not live in a country where an outrageous individual like Donald Trump can become its president.

Have you ever watched the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”? Jimmy Stewart and his family and friends represent to me, who it is that Americans wish to become. Mr. Potter, the ruthless, vicious businessman is who Trump hopes the people of the United States will become. The choice: a ‘wonderful’ life or one which leaves you with no chance for spiritual reward after you leave this worldly life.

Thanksgiving is my dearest feasting time! I live with chronic pain which seems to get worse and worse as the seasons roll along. I will never cry into a pillow because of it nor will I condemn Creator for the agony I endure. All I can say is that I am grateful to have a life. I am not in a wheelchair (not yet anyway). I will never let pain or anything else stop me from contributing to the emotional and spiritual wellness of my family, community, and nation.

All the best,
South Wind (Albert Dumont)

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In the Dream: Strawberry Teachings

In the dream, I find myself standing alone, in a field of tall grass, close to a rough, jagged wall made of spruce, white birch and maple trees. I say to them, “Soon, I will come to you to commence my journey leading to where my ancestors wait to greet me. I ask now that you prepare a peaceful trail for me. O I beg thee, place blackberries and blueberries along the outer fringes of the pathway, so that I can feast on them when hunger overcomes me. Allow me, also, to easily find on the road before me, a soft place where I can rest and dwell on how I will be received in the sacred spirit land. Let the space around me be filled with the songs of those birds I looked upon as winged blessings of this world I will soon be leaving.”

I am now in the winter of my time and hope the winter of my life will be a long one. All the same, I realize the necessity for being ready for that day when the drumming of my heart will forevermore fall silent.

I recently appeared in a video made at the Kitigan Zibi burial ground. You can watch it, below. Enjoy!

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont)

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Reflections On The Spirituality Is Unity Walk

Spirituality is Unity Walk

Spirituality is Unity Walk reaches Parliament Hill.
Photo: Dr. Peter Stockdale

Over 200 good and compassionate people walked in spiritual solidarity with Jane Chartrand (Algonquin, Pikwakanagan) and I, Albert Dumont (Algonquin, Kitigan Zibi), on Friday, June 22, 2018. The walk was a special event. I truly believe that the blossoms of reconciliation have a chance of blooming once again at sacred Akikodjiwan because of it. Together, and alive like a moving, pulsing circle, people of non-indigenous bloodlines who trust in faith, spirituality and religion stood with Algonquins to defend the right Indigenous spirituality has to exist.

The sky was blue, Grandfather Sun shone down and touched human skin with his warmth and magnificent energy. The breeze was gentle and at Victoria Island, the birds were singing as we began our walk to Parliament Hill. Gifted orators, clergy from churches and mosques and other guests brought their powerful messages of peace and harmony into the Anishinabe circle. We stood as one, around the drum. June 22nd was a good day to be alive and to be an activist.

I am a man of faith. I believe in a caring, loving and honourable Creator. The spiritual confidence I have in the circle and in the things of my sacred bundle is something I have in common with all my relations who came before me at a time long ago, when only the First Peoples lived on these resource-rich lands.

The ‘Spirituality is Unity’ walk of June 22 was one the Algonquins and their true supporters planned for many months. It was hoped by its organizers that the walk would be supported by many of the people of Indigenous bloodlines who live and thrive on the traditional lands of the Algonquin Anishinabe but whose home communities are from both neighbouring or far away nations. We also called on the region’s faith leaders to walk alongside of us in solidarity with our cause of defending the ancient sacred place of water and rock, beloved by the late Algonquin elder, William Commanda.

A couple of years ago, a troubled young man went into the night and painted swastikas on churches, mosques and temples. The faith leaders of the region at that time gathered in front of cameras and in one voice, condemned the desecration of their holy places. “An attack on one faith,” declared Rabbi Reuven Bulka, “is an attack on all faiths.” And with that the faith leaders promised to do everything possible in protecting all houses of worship from further assaults.

A swastika is what it is. It symbolizes cruelty, hatred, oppression and death. All righteous people emotionally and spiritually cringe at the sight of it. But in this world of dollars and gold, a swastika can come in many shapes and forms. The holy place of the Algonquin Anishinabe, perhaps known to you as Chaudière Falls and its islands, and known to the Anishinabe as Akikodjiwan, is under threat of being forever spiritually lost to us. And lost to everyone, too, as parkland and greenspace. A swastika in the shape of condos and buildings of commerce is being readied for placement at our ancient sacred site.

For the June 22, 2018 walk we called on the faith leaders who, only months ago, boldly stood in front of cameras condemning the desecration of their holy places to join us behind the words, “An attack on one faith is an attack on all faiths.”

Two of the prominent faith leaders we invited declined our invitation. The faith leaders we asked to attend the peaceful walk and to speak on behalf of their religion on Parliament Hill chose, in the end, to not support the ‘Spirituality is Unity’ walk. What does this tell us? What happened to “An attack on one faith”?!! Have these faith leaders been convinced by malicious forces that Indigenous spirituality is not a spirituality after all? Or have they decided, in all their spiritual wisdom, that Akikodjiwan is just not worth standing up for? Do they fear that supporting the walk would be offending a person they regard as a friend or offending a person of wealth?

These leaders need to understand that Indigenous spirituality was here in Algonquin Anishinabe territory for thousands of years before their religion or other faiths ever even arrived on our lands. If any faith or spirituality should be shielded and protected, tooth and claw, from desecration and harm in this country, it should be Indigenous spirituality. Any faith leader who doesn’t see it as such is spiritually warped.

The people of Canada and their governments outlawed Indigenous Spirituality in the past. Today we work to bring it back again in its purest ways, as it was long ago. The faith beliefs of immigrant religions are not greater than are the beliefs found in the circle of Indigenous Spirituality. The faith leaders who did not support the ‘Spirituality is Unity’ walk made a bad mistake (a great sin) in the eyes of Creator. But in this world of dollars and gold such mistakes are made far too often than they should be. And sorrowfully, they are sometimes made by people who should know better. Will they admit it? Time will tell.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont)

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Indigenous Spirituality: Let Us Rejoice That It Is Still Here

The small Christian church at Kitigan Zibi (Algonquin unceded territory, QC) is the pride of many residents of this Anishinabeg community, 135 km north of Ottawa on Highway 105. Many a wedding and baptism ceremony have occurred there over the passage of the church’s years on our reserve. My parents had their funeral masses held there. It was for them, in life, a sacred place.

Though I myself am not a Christian, I would do all possible to save the little church should anyone ever threaten her existence.

If someone, for example, entered our community and said, “I have been given authority by the government to remove this church from its very foundation, board by board, pew by pew. And upon the place where it once stood, I will build condos where only the very rich will live. To pacify you, I will create jobs for your community until the condos are built.”

I’m well aware that no one would dare support such a thing at Kitigan Zibi. If they tried, a great protest would arise. I would stand in solidarity with the people protesting the destruction of a sacred place, even to the point of risking the spilling of my own blood to save the church. I am not a Christian, but I stand behind Rabbi Bulka’s words, “An attack on one faith is an attack on all faiths.”

An ancient place of prayer and ceremony within the perimeters of the homeland of the Algonquin Anishinabe is under threat of being destroyed by a developer. There was a time in the past when “Akikodjiwan,” as it is called by Algonquins north of K.Z., or “Asinabka” as it was called by the late William Commanda, served the People so well that we were always spiritually at peace because of its existence. It is truly heart-wrenching and frightening to think that Akikodjiwan will become a place of condos and commerce if the developers, Windmill and Dream, get their way. Whatever your spiritual beliefs are, if you feel that Indigenous spirituality is worth preserving, we call on you to stand as one with us.

Algonquin Anishinabe, Sacred, Walk, Akikodjiwan

Remember that when only Indigenous spirituality existed here on our traditional lands, the People went, in an honourable and humble way, to places like Akikodjiwan. They requested guidance in their thoughts and healing for any negative deeds they perpetrated. There was no need for prisons at that time, nor were there the things of addictions to sink our People. There was no suicide epidemic! Our Indigenous spirituality was given to the First Peoples by Creator to honour and respect all life, especially that of water. It was beautiful and powerful. This is why our spirituality was outlawed by the colonizers who feared it and knew that with our spiritual beliefs intact, we as a people would never be controlled nor manipulated by anyone.

On June 22nd, at Victoria Island, let us meet and walk in peace and solidarity to Parliament Hill. Together, we will tell all Canadians that Akikodjiwan can and should become greenspace, parkland and a place of sacredness for all of us to benefit from.

Spirituality is Unity Walk - Profile Pic 2

Click here for more information about the walk.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind (Albert Dumont)
PS – Please promote the walk on FB and here is my latest Newsletter you can share.

 

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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 10:00 am on Victoria Island (Booth St. entrance) and ending on Parliament Hill at approx. 1 pm. The date is June 22, 2018, the Friday marking the second day 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).

Click here for more information about the walk.

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 Algonquin Anishinabe 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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