Bob Nesbitt, Friend and Founder of Grassroots Festival

Bob Nesbitt
born April 26, 1939 
passed away February 27, 2021

Bob Nesbitt had an honourable heart. And he kept it well through the doing of good deeds and service to his community. He was a man who understood fully, what it is to be a human being never allowing the fact that his skin was white to interfere in how he lived his life. Bob Nesbitt’s eyes searched only for what was good in the hearts of all people he met. There was no mountain he couldn’t climb, such was his energy, such was his spirit. A friend called on Sunday afternoon to let me know that Bob had died. But people like Bob Nesbitt do not die. They live on and on, led into eternity by the hand of all the world’s tomorrows to become a legend and as the old saying goes, “A legend never dies.”

I met with Bob several times at North River Road Park for egg salad sandwiches and homemade cookies, in the months before cancer gained on him to the point where he said to me, “I’m in a lot of pain. The thought of not being in pain anymore brings a smile to my face. Do you know what I mean, Albert?” I replied that yes, I did know what he meant. Bob didn’t fear death. A good man with an unburdened conscience never does!

As an Algonquin man and as a human being I can say that the day I crossed paths with Bob was a blessed one in my life. He was the type of man who truly wanted to leave this world better, not just for his family and friends but for everyone. In Bob’s eyes the citizens of Ontario and all of Canada were deserving of being treated with respect and dignity.

Bob was a former carpenter and forester. His love of trees, their beauty and grandeur, their wisdom, were things always by his side. Bob understood the forest. To him, there was no better place to be. The waterways, the trails, the canoe, a campfire, time with his adoring wife Susan, wit, humour, conversation, a hearty laugh, these things meant so much to Bob. I see him now, in my mind’s eye. He is there again in a forest, far, far away from cancer. He is pain free, he is smiling.

Bob Nesbitt founded the ‘Ottawa Grassroots Festival’. It was important to Bob that an Algonquin open the Fest with welcoming words and a prayer. A friendship began. The Festival will carry on. Bob will always be there in spirit. He was an earth shaker, a rare one indeed. Ottawa has lost a community builder. Who will fill Bob Nesbitt’s boots? It won’t be easy. Whoever takes up the challenge, my advice, call Bob by your side and you’ll be fine. Bob Nesbitt won’t let you down.

Keep the Circle strong,

South Wind (Albert Dumont)

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An Algonquin Perspective to the Algonquin Land Claim

I have a vague recollection of a biblical story from my tender years. It went something like this.

A young man had come into an inheritance, a substantial amount of gold. He took it and left the family home, heading straight for the high life. He wasn’t wise with the wealth he had inherited. He partied hearty, foolishly spending his money as if it would be everlasting. In a short while he was penniless. In rags, dirty and starving he returned to his former home and family, begging for forgiveness. The young man’s family welcomed him back into their loving circle. The fatted calf was slain, a great feast was prepared to celebrate the homecoming of the ‘Prodigal Son’.

The family’s decision to welcome a member of their bloodline, a close family member, back into their midst was a wise and proper one. The story being told today by the Algonquins of Ontario is much different than that of the Prodigal Son. The story the AOO tell, speaks of a large, proud family living in a grand house. One day, a distant cousin, ten times removed shows up on their doorstep. “Kwey, kwey,” he shouts into the house. “It’s me! I’m here! Step aside, I’m taking over your home.” The AOO would have you believe that their story makes every bit of sense. But to many, like perhaps 99% of status Algonquins, the story they tell makes absolutely no sense at all. REAL Algonquins ask, “Who the hell is this long lost cousin? What gives him the right to take over negotiations on our land claim?”

I recall very clearly back in the 1970’s that in Pontiac County a group calling themselves ‘The Indian Alliance’ suddenly showing up. They lobbied for housing and other benefits for citizens of Indigenous bloodline. A lot of people in the Pontiac saw an opportunity and signed on as an ‘Indian’. In short order subsidized housing became available to them. It was pretty crazy! Hardly 10 years before the Indian Alliance appeared, the Dumont family (my family) was on their own as ‘Indians’ in the Pontiac. But with the creation of the Indian Alliance and the promise of something in it for them, people who had shouted at the Dumont family to ”Go back where you came from, you damn Indians” or “Monje Savage” or “Fuckin’ Redskins” were all of a sudden identifying as Indians. None of them were identifying as ‘Algonquin’, only as Indians (this is an important fact, keep reading). Today, those former Indians are referring to themselves as ‘Off Reserve Algonquins’. I expect that they’ll be making a push to be recognized as legitimate voters in our land claim in the near future.

The experience of the Dumont Family in Pontiac County is more likely than not to be also that of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn. People who cussed down ‘Reserve Indians’ back in the 50’s and 60’s are now claiming to be Algonquins. Not only are they claiming to be Algonquins but they expect to have voting rights when Algonquins eventually decide what will be proper compensation for our unceded territory.

On the matter of blood quantum and how and why it matters on the topic of the Algonquin land claim, my feelings are this: The Algonquins who endured the oppression of the Indian Act and have become known as ‘Status Indians’ should decide on what blood quantum is acceptable to those who hope to have a vote on our land claim. If your blood quantum is at a level deemed to be too low by the Algonquin Nation, then step back. You do not have a right to a vote.

The AOO tell us that they “lived as Algonquins”. Let them agree then that investigators randomly choose 500 from the 1000’s of them claiming today to be ‘Real Algonquins’. If they are indeed REAL Algonquins, they won’t mind to be scrutinized so as to prove their claim of blood quantum and/or Algonquin ancestry. I know that in Pontiac County, members of the Indian Alliance did not ID as ‘Algonquin’. I recall a lot of them saying, “My grandma told us that her grandma was an Indian” (could have been Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk etc. etc.). Such a revelation should not give a person voting rights in our land claim. An Algonquin Chief recently stated, “The AOO are Michelle Latimer times five thousand.” The land claim cannot be partially settled as the AOO would do in Ontario. A land claim can only be settled in its entirety. The Michelle Latimer types do not have voting rights.

I end by saying that those people of my long ago memories who claimed ‘Indian’ bloodline will never become the Prodigal Son, to be welcomed with open arms as members of the Algonquin Nation. The Indian Act, for all of its destructive measures, clearly defines what an ‘Indian’ is. We do not need the Crown to tell us who we are and we’ll never let go of our right to say who it is that we bring into our community as a strong and contributing member.

Check out the song ‘Where Were You When’, one of my heroes sang. The words are as follows:

WHERE WERE YOU WHEN

Where were you when we needed you our friend
Where were you when we needed you to bend
Now you claim to be part Sioux or Cherokee
But where were you when we came close to the end?
When our land was being stolen, you just stood by
When we were being massacred, you didn’t even cry
When they put us on reservations, you didn’t lose any sleep
When we were starving half to death, you had enough to eat.
Where were you when we needed you our friend
Where were you when we needed you to bend
Now you claim to be part Sioux or Cherokee
But where were you when we came close to the end?
When we had no voice, you never said a word
When we cried out to you, you never even heard
When our freedom was bein’ denied, you never questioned why
And when we needed help, somehow the well was always dry
And, where were you when we needed you our friend
Where were you when we needed you to bend
Now you claim to be part Sioux or Cherokee
But where were you when we came close to the end?
Where were you when we needed you our friend
Where were you when we needed you to bend
Now you claim to be part Sioux or Cherokee
But where were you when we came close to the end?

Floyd Red Crow Westerman

Keep the Circle Strong,

South Wind (Albert Dumont)

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Letter to Mayor Watson re: Algonquins of Ontario

Dear Mayor Watson and Council Members,

‘Respect Every Algonquin Life’ (REAL) is something human rights activists stand to defend on the traditional lands of the Algonquin Anishinabeg.

It might well be true that some members of the leadership at Pikwàkanagàn recognize the ‘Algonquins of Ontario’ (AOO) organization as a legitimate body holding the right to determine how the Algonquin land claim settlement finally plays out. The politicians of the City of Ottawa, of Queen’s Park and the Feds might also agree with this outlook, failing somehow to see the nonsense in it. Why not, it serves Federal and Provincial politicians well to do so! But the fact that Algonquin territory is Algonquin territory no matter what side of the Ottawa River it is on is a fact impossible to dispute. Therefore, all parties involved must accept that the Algonquins on the Québec side of the river have a Creator-given right to be at any negotiation table where things of interest to their future generations are at stake. It’s Algonquin land, our spiritual DNA is in all things of our territory. We never surrendered it to anyone, including people who are presently pointing to an Algonquin ancestor from many, many generations ago, as a bulldozer pushing away Status Algonquins from land claim negotiations.

If at the end all else fails, let the Supreme Court of Canada decide if the Algonquins from Québec Reserves have a say in the Algonquin land claim, yes or no! I have faith in the wisdom, the intelligence and the fairness Supreme Court judges are capable of to say who does and who does not have a right to be heard on the issue of the Algonquin land claim. Negotiations for a settlement should no longer move forward without a strong REAL Algonquin presence being at the centre of the negotiation circle. Some of my Algonquin friends who defend Algonquin rights are peaceful in their protests but denying them their right to be heard on this matter, would be testing their limitations to a dangerous zone.

The tactic being used by ‘white negotiators’ in the land claim settlement is disgusting beyond imagination. They dare to ignore REAL Algonquins, preferring to negotiate with people having absolutely no right to speak for us. If such a tactic to resolve a land claim is successful here on Algonquin territory, a precedent will be set. The morbidly ridiculous manoeuvre being tested now on Algonquin land, if successful, will bring forth others, just as determined as the AOO is to silence true voices. Expect an organization calling themselves the ‘Algonquins of Québec’ to rise up! They’ll be ‘recognized’ by the Province of Québec and the Feds, and as is the case in Ontario, in a few years, the ‘Algonquins of Québec’ will be at the negotiation table in greater numbers than REAL Algonquins and we’ll end up only as mere observers in our own land claim (that’s what’s happening now in Ontario). Land claims across Canada will be settled ‘on the cheap’ by a pasal of wannabees, all because we allowed it to happen here.

I heard the CBC interview with Lynn Clouthier (AOO, Ottawa Negotiation Representative). Ms. Clouthier, after describing generations of AOO members (excluding Pikwàkanagàn) living in the Valley, stated, “We (AOO) lived as Algonquins with other Algonquins.” If this is true then where are the AOO’s Algonquin language speakers? Who among them were birchbark canoe builders? What are the stories passed on to them by their keepers of Indigenous Knowledge? If they exist, then I want to know who it was who taught them and how much the cost was? What evidence can the AOO produce that they were ‘living as Algonquins’ prior to the 1970’s?

People like Ms. Clouthier never felt the full extent of the poisonous bite the monster called the ‘Indian Act’ sunk into the hearts and spirits of ‘Status’ Algonquins. I ask, did her parents experience the ‘Pass System’? Were her parents forced to wait until 1960 to vote in a federal election? Did her parents or brothers and sisters attend Residential School or Day School? If the answer is no, then how dare they demand to be front and centre at the negotiating table on our land claim. At best, Ms. Clouthier might be accurate in describing herself as ‘Métis’, but she crosses the line when seeing herself as a human being having voting rights with the Algonquin land claim.

A REAL Algonquin would never ignore, forget nor dishonour their Brothers and Sisters from Reserves in our territory when it comes to land claim negotiations. Only desperate phoney imposters would do such a thing. The land claim cannot be settled in part (Ontario). It can only be settled in its entirety. Our lands in Ontario were given to the Algonquins by Creator at the same time as were those on the Québec side of the Ottawa River. It is the Ottawa River watershed! It is us!

I urge the authentic Algonquin Chiefs (from status communities) to request ‘Fifth Estate’  type investigators to look into the activities of the AOO leadership to discover where, what and why their organization was founded. A lot of corrupt, criminal and deceitful actions involving politicians, developers, business people and perhaps even Indigenous leaders will no doubt be uncovered. I urge the Real Chiefs to acquire the best of legal representation to sue the AOO leadership for interfering with a land claim process through the use of false representation. They (AOO) call themselves ‘Algonquins’ but are coming across more like pirates and pillagers. The Province of Ontario and the Federal Government are also liable for recognizing the AOO as legitimate representatives in our land claim. I urge all REAL Algonquins to contact their Chief and Band Councils and demand action on this extremely critical matter. We need now, more than ever before to get an iron grip on our identity as Algonquins. If we allow the AOO to continue in destroying us as a People, we fail our next generation to a degree that will bring shame to our ancestors and because of it, we will forever be the laughing stocks of all Turtle Island for allowing it to happen.

To the people who, outside of Pikwàkanagàn, call themselves ‘Algonquin’ I say this, “If this is what rocks your boat, then do it. There are people in Germany who each summer, build teepees and sing powwow songs while dancing in buckskins. Do what you want as long as you steer clear of our land claim. You don’t have any business in it.”

Mayor Watson said, “It is not the role of Ottawa City Council to judicate internal disputes between Algonquin communities.” He’s probably right. However, if Ottawa City Council is serious about reconciliation, they would not throw their support into one or the other of conflicting camps for the simple reason that by doing so, it chances enraging the other body. An ally or friend does not take such a chance! Ottawa City Council should stay out of this particular matter until the Algonquins (all Algonquins) are at peace with the problem before us. If Ottawa City Council moves ahead in support of Tewin, then they make it known to all that they stand with those who would erase the rights of the Algonquin Anishinabeg. A trust that can never be repaired will be broken because of a bad decision made by an Ottawa City Council with Jim Watson as Mayor. I ask Ottawa City Council that in regards to Tewin, stay out of it. Do not support it!

Albert Dumont
Algonquin, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg


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My First Pipe

28 years ago I participated in my first ever 4-day, 4-night fasting ceremony. I travelled a long way for it, right up to Thunder Bay, Ontario. There was a spiritual twitch deep inside my soul at the time, telling me how important it was that I discover the healing benefits of the fasting ceremony. I would have travelled clear across the country to experience it if I had to.

Upon arrival to the ceremonial site I saw that a sacred fire had already been ignited but also observed that not enough wood was on hand to keep the fire burning for the duration of the fasting time. The fasters were told by the elder’s helper, before he departed the ceremonial site that a truck would be bringing wood soon, assuring the fire would continue to be well fed. The next day with no sign of more wood being delivered to the site, I took it upon myself to draw dried branches from the forest to the circle of the sacred fire. It was good that I did so because the truck delivering wood didn’t arrive until the morning of the fourth day of the fast. There were over twenty people taking part in the fasting ceremony but to my recollection, no one else helped me in bringing wood to the fire. I had laboured without food or water for two days and at the end, I was so exhausted and drained of energy that I was on the verge of physical collapse.

When the elder (Walter Linklater) arrived to complete the fast with a purification lodge ceremony, he approached me and said, “before your return to Ottawa, stop by my house.” When I did so he presented me with a chunk of red pipe stone. It was his way of expressing his gratitude to the person who had kept the fire going.

Years later (1996) I met and befriended Bobby Woods (Lame Buffalo) who was an internationally recognized elder. Bobby, out of respect for me (so he said), carved the piece of pipe stone into a pipe bowl. This was not something I requested he do, it was something he offered. Then in about 2002, another elder (Curtis Hopkins) directed that it would be fitting for me to carve my own pipe stem. By coincidence, my friend Arnold Saulteaux had just presented me with a short piece of dry tamarack. I carved the tamarack into a stem and turned it over to an Algonquin friend (Solomon Wawatie) who slowly burnt a hole through it in a traditional fashion. I was instructed by yet another elder (Raymond Ballantyne) to place the pipe ‘on the land’ for 4 days and nights, allowing the pipe to get acquainted with ‘All Our Relations’ before it would be raised in ceremony.

So, very solemnly, I did as elder Ballantyne instructed. On the dawn of the first day, I placed the pipe on the branches of a spruce tree in Gatineau Park. As it turned out it was in the dead of winter that I did so. The days passed with thoughts of the pipe constantly on my mind. Before dawn of the fourth day I made my way to the spruce tree in the bitter cold, to retrieve the pipe. Around me, the trees cracked loudly, their sap not being able to withstand the freezing temperature without protest. The oxygen in the frozen snow crunched and squished as it was forced out of its bed by the weight of my steps. The wind I breathed into my body froze my lungs only to emerge from my mouth as puffs of white fog which disappeared quickly into the clear motionless dawn. A perfect day, a perfect season, a perfect time to begin a spiritual journey I thought as I lifted the pipe from the embrace of the spruce. The pipe is in my sacred bundle. I light it in ceremony for my family, community and nation. It gives me strength and guides my deeds and actions.

Keep the Circle Strong,

South Wind (Albert Dumont)

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Logo Creation

Kwey to all,

I recently received a call from Child Welfare League of Canada who inquired if I was aware of an artist who could develop a logo for a group, consisting of several organizations who work for the emotional and physical wellbeing of Indigenous families. I asked if I could give the logo design a whirl. They agreed!

The design I created came easy for me. It features a family of five, sitting in the security and comfort of their own fire. The people around the fire are not recognizable as First Nations, Inuit or Métis but are whoever you wish them to be. Other details are attached to the design. I hope you like it. My client did and it is now officially on their letterhead. I must admit, I’m kinda proud!

South Wind (Albert Dumont)

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Desecration of Sacred Items by Ottawa Police Service

Here are two letters, one from Kyrstin Dumont and myself, the other one from Pikwakanagan Chief Wendy Jocko:

Dear Chief Sloly, Mayor Jim Watson, City Manager Kanellakos, OC Transpo General Manager John Manconi, and Councillor Diane Deans,

We write to make you aware that we strongly condemn the actions taken by the Ottawa Police Service on Saturday at 3:30 am against a group of peaceful Indigenous, Black, and allied protesters. A promise had been made to the protesters that a meeting would occur (10 am) with the City politicians and other individuals who, if things went as hoped for (by all involved), could have persuaded the protesters to remove themselves from their camp. Instead of a meeting, a betrayal took place. No dialogue, just arrests by a massive group of police, assisted by OC Transpo and City employees and vehicles.

What is extremely disheartening to us is the fact that sacred objects at the protest camp were seized by City employees and the police. Only some of these items were returned. Those that were returned were piled outside of 29 Hurdman, mixed in with garbage and filth, and volunteers had to sift through everything for two hours during a snowstorm to recover them. These items included a sacred grandfather drum, medicines and hand drum. 

Why did you not bring in an elder/spiritual advisor or knowledge keeper to receive the sacred items when the officers discovered them at the site? Why did the police liaisons appear to have no knowledge of Indigenous people or culture or protest? The items could then have been respectfully cared for by an Elder until the objects could be returned safe and sound to the person entrusted to protect them at the protest camp. Our sacred items are held in the highest respect possible by our People. No one has a right to touch them unless permission to do so has been granted by the person from whose sacred bundle the items came from. Even in a maximum security prison, guards have no right to put their hands on the spiritual medicines such as sweetgrass and cedar kept in the cell of an offender for the sake of healing. These sacred items are removed from the cell of an Indigenous inmate by Elders on contract with Correctional Services Canada before a search occurs. Your police officers have once again crossed a line. Forgiveness for doing so will not come easy.

We want to know if you have at the Police Service, a person knowledgeable with our Indigenous spiritual beliefs. An Indigenous spiritual advisor should have been consulted before the camp was attacked. Why did this not occur?

Signed:
Albert Dumont
Kyrstin Dumont

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Virtual Book Launch – Grandpa’s Wisdom – An Algonquin Reflection on West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease

Kwey dear friends,

Many of you are probably aware that I have recently released a new book for young readers. The book is already available for purchase on my website: http://albertdumont.com/books/grandpas-wisdom-an-algonquin-reflection-on-west-nile-virus-and-lyme-disease/. You can view a copy on the Ottawa Public Health website: https://www.ottawapublichealth.ca/en/public-health-topics/resources/Documents/WNV-Lyme-Story-Book.pdf

“Grandpa’s Wisdom – An Algonquin Reflection on West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease” tells the story of Mahìngan, a young Algonquin boy who reaches out to his Mishòmis (grandpa) for guidance after knowledge of West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease come to his attention at school. Grandpa and Mahìngan spend a day together at the elder’s hunting cabin where the youngster’s fear of the insect carrying sickness is greatly diminished through the power of the old man’s teachings. Mishòmis also offers Mahìngan teachings on the value of insects and their role in nature’s life cycle. The story promotes culture, identity and why common sense should be present in all we do.

I am asking that you attend the virtual launch of my new book. Please be confident that it will be fun and entertaining. 

On November 29 at 7 pm I will speak to you about how the story came about and also reflect on the healing medicines we as human beings can access in any forest.

The book will be available for sale at the launch for anyone wanting to add my story to their book shelves.

Looking forward to talking to all of you on November 29.

All the best,

South Wind

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Autumn, a Time for Deep Thinking

partridge

It’s been a long time now since I stepped onto the leaf-covered forest floor of mid-fall to hunt partridge. Years ago, after the Whitefish Moon (September-October) appeared in the sky, I would begin to salivate in anticipation of feasting once more on soup made with fresh partridge or I’d drool like a hound at the thought of placing pieces of salt pork over a grouse laying in the centre of a bean-filled cast iron crock. Baked beans and partridge flesh can’t possibly taste better than they do after they have slowly cooked together in the same pot for 6 or 7 hours. Finding them on your dinner plate as part of the main course is an experience of fine dining (trapline eating, that is) Algonquins are often blessed to have.

The fall of the year, with its chilly gusts of wind sweeping crackling leaves through gullies and ravines, is a time for older individuals such as myself to ponder matters connected to end of life duties. The careful crafting demanded in the writing of a will is a fine example. Death will eventually claim us all. Be sensible and prepare a will! To me, there is nothing more emotionally uplifting than going for a long walk on an ancient bush road in the autumn time of the year to deal with the wrongs of my past and express words of contrition to those I’ve hurt. The bug season has come and gone when October rolls around, you are free to take in the energy of the forest and feel the caress of its spirit without being tormented by all manner of bloodthirsty flies. The song birds have pretty much all flown south by mid-October, leaving only chickadees and blue jays to delight us and bring smiles to our faces. Hardy birds are called upon by the Good Spirit to offer us teachings to help guide our way. The geese as an example, who remind us of their spring teaching that proper ‘communication and leadership’ is the medicine bringing wellness again after conflict has come into our lives. The partridge too, is regarded as a healer and as a bird who carries much in the way of spiritual substance. Their teachings are about courage found in the heart of oneself, respect for the environment and truth to our duty to the future generations. The partridge is often found in an area of the forest where poplars and birch trees grow. It is a bird that seems to prefer to walk from point A to point B. And though he is a bird whose plumage is the colour of the forest floor when covered with decaying leaves, a sharp eye (like mine) can find him as he walks along. The partridge becomes one with the rusty leaves he walks upon in the fall of the year but yet, as a hunter he didn’t have much of a chance when I was looking for game.

In the past, I could bag 3 or 4, sometimes as many as 5 while walking 10 kilometres on a bush road. But alas, my hunting days are behind me. I haven’t fired a gun at a bird in over 15 years and have no wish to do so ever again. The partridge I once hunted comes to me now in my dreams to deliver messages connected to my spiritual beliefs. When he does so, I pay attention. The partridge is a spirit helper of mine. I have faith in his wise councils and can tell you that the autumn time of year is when this little bird, hardly two pounds in weight, fills me with purpose and devotion to the present and to the future. Autumn, though it is not my birth season, I love it as much as if it were.

Keep the Circle Strong,

South Wind (Albert Dumont)

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Our Young Leaders, They Guide our Path

The springtime of your life begins with your first breath of life being taken as a helpless newborn baby and then travels onward to those relatively carefree preteen years of early childhood. And on the journey goes into those often rebellious, formative teenage years and with that the springtime of your life comes to a close. It is hoped by Creator that all of us will come to taste and savour the four seasons of life. Spring, for human beings is their time of discovery and the seeking out of life-altering experiences.

The springtime of my own life contains memories I should not have to be burdened with in my 70th year of life but still the past often returns to haunt me. ‘Racism’ is such an ugly thing to experience.

I recall very vividly at age 10 that the seeds of the dysfunction which came into full fruition in my early teen years, were sown in a poisonous soil farmed by people with hate-filled hearts. At 10, I had a clear appreciation of what defines ‘justice’. I saw it through the lens of an Algonquin child trying to find normalcy in a world where all people of the village I lived in, aside from my family, were all white people. Thank goodness that most of the people of the community were open-minded and accommodating but sadly, there were others too, who would have preferred that we had chosen to live elsewhere after my family left the  Algonquin reserve of Kitigan Zibi in 1956. Some of them shouted, “Go back where you came from, you damn Indians,” when my father was away at his worksite. In school, I quickly noticed that children of a different skin colour than mine seemed to be more entitled to being treated fairly than I was. The ‘strap’ stung my hands on far too many occasions where the white child guilty of misdeeds was only warned of it. I didn’t like being treated unfairly nor was I happy about the way history books portrayed my ancestors so I, at 10 years of age, rebelled with much fury. Let there be no doubt, for a while I was out of control! I had no ‘elder’ or spiritual advisor to turn to, I had no role model to guide my way. I learned at that time that the bite of racism sinks ever deeper into the soul when you are defenceless against it and that its wound can fester, following you even into the winter of your time.

Today, because I am acutely aware of the emotional upset which can occur for a human being, taking his/her first steps as a curious and adventure seeking teen, I take action when I can. I go into classrooms of 10, 11 and 12 year old students bringing teachings and stories with me I know will prepare these youngsters for their fast approaching teenage years. Our preteen young people need to be emotionally and spiritually equipped to say ‘no’ to things destructive to their health and wellbeing. They must be taught in a good way, that addictions to alcohol, drugs and other vices can begin in the life of a 14 or 15 year old.

There’s a story I tell them, a memory of mine from the summer of 1960 when I was 10 years old. The mischievous spirit alive in many boys of that age came to its fore on a day which found me bored silly. A trick, I thought, would break the boredom. I tied one end of a short piece of string to a bright red apple and tightly secured the other end of it to a branch of the small oak tree which stood perhaps 20 feet from the front door of my grandparents’ house in Maniwaki, Québec. My plan was that my grandparents would believe the apple had somehow, miraculously grown on their little oak tree while the hours of the night were passing by. The trick fooled my grandpa who actually believed upon seeing the apple on the branch of the oak that ‘God’ had placed it there as some kind of sacred sign for him alone. My grandmother though knew immediately that a trick was being played on them by a mischievous boy. I learned that it was impossible to fool my grandmother.

I tell the story of the apple and the oak tree to preteen children to make a point. Sure as there is life on the distant hills and sure as death will some day claim all of us, there will come a time when someone will try and fool a child after their teen years begin. If you are not ready for alcohol, drugs, cigarettes or activities against your morals and principles, “Please,” I tell kids, “don’t let anyone fool you into believing that you are ready.” I tell the children not to be like my grandpa who could be fooled into believing that an apple could grow on the branch of an oak tree. “Be like my grandma,” I say, “she could not be fooled.” Children learn from stories, especially Indigenous children, it’s our way, storytelling is embedded deep into our ancient culture.

I’m a person who very much appreciates that the memories of the family line, the good and the bad, should be carefully compiled and stored away. There is no doubt that these sacred family archives will be looked upon as the greatest of treasures to our generations not yet born. How I wish I could read journals, letters, poems and memories experienced and written by my grandparents who I knew and loved and even their grandparents whose faces I have never even seen and get to know them intimately by doing so. In my family no such records exist. My grandparents were not educated people. So far as I am aware, there are no letters written by them to their children, no recorded view, no poem telling of joys or heartache they saw and survived. I dearly wish there was!

I think sometimes of my granddaughter Kyrstin, the oldest of my five grandchildren. She had academic learning difficulties and struggled as a student. By and by in the classroom and in the schoolyard, she was confronted with racism. Name calling from ignorant students and comments from teachers such as the one who said, while focusing his gaze upon my granddaughter, “We all know who got the lowest grade in the class,” after announcing to the students the name of the pupil who secured the highest grade of the test he had prepared for his class. Such statements weren’t helpful to her and had a negative impact on her self-esteem. Still, Kyrstin persevered, pushing forward as well as possible under the circumstances. Her ability to self-motivate and embrace the pride she has in her people has served her well. Kyrstin is recognized today as a community leader, having recently won the ‘June Girvan Youth In Service Award’.

She is a gifted speaker who is much sought after by groups and organizations for her perspectives on the health and wellbeing of citizens of her age group.

It is my hope that she will document her experiences for instalment into the family archives. She might have had problems with reading and writing as a grade school student but she shines today academically and has a special way with words. I am so very proud of her.

I close by making a heartfelt request. On September 30, Orange Shirt Day, I ask that you dedicate at least an hour of your time towards doing something you see as taking a stand against racism. The dreadful and shameful ‘Indian Act’ is on its way out. The Residential Schools no longer exist. It’s time to heal.

Keep the Circle Strong,

South Wind (Albert Dumont)

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Sir John A. Macdonald

We, the Anishinabe, search the lifeless eyes
Of the many portraits proudly painted for Canada
To honour a man Canadians believe
Was an emblem for ‘decency, righteousness and vision’
“A hero” they say, “a Nation Builder”
But the First Peoples look upon the face
Of Sir John A. Macdonald
And see the curse, responsible
For the deaths of thousands of our children

We see in Macdonald, a man, who saw
In the whiteness of his skin, a human being equal to God
Who believed his soul
Would never be in need of cleansing
And that the goodness offered daily on Turtle Island
By the ever-present Good Spirit, who teaches us
That no human being is greater than any other
Were teachings Macdonald accepted as only created for people
Lesser than men such as himself

We look at the evil Macdonald placed into the ‘Indian Act’
And other oppressive actions perpetrated by him, against us
And ask ourselves when in meditation, if the wailing spirits
Of the thousands of Indigenous children
Who died in Macdonald’s Residential Schools
Held sacred council with him in the eternal sky
Where true justice sears the soul of the guilty
After the scalding breath of death stopped forevermore
The beating of Macdonald’s spiritually hollow heart

With ceremonial tobacco by our side, we ask
Did Macdonald’s tears flow like the spring waters of the ‘Ottawa’
When the children who died in his Residential Schools
Recounted to him the last torturous hours of their lives
Away from culture, family and the unconditional love
Of a caring human being who could hold their hand
At the moment their last breath silently took them
Back to the peaceful waters of their ancestral lands

For thousands of years
Since our creation story was first told
We called ourselves ‘The First People’
‘The People’ and ‘The Human Beings’
But to Macdonald’s parliament we were only savages
Not worthy of receiving their respect and honour

Sir John A. Macdonald, a hero to the royals of Britain
Sir John A. Macdonald, who sacrificed his soul
So that the people of Canada
Would see him always as the greatest of all men
Where does he find himself today
What words of contrition does he relay
In that empty place, where for him
The darkness of a stormy night
Will never yield to a calm and re-assuring dawn

Oh but what if it had been you
The peoples of European ancestry
Who were the first human beings of Turtle Island
And here, you lived and thrived for thousands of years
Until one day, bronze-skinned people
Arrived on your welcoming and generous shores

Oh but what if the newcomers brought with them
To your tranquil and sacred lands
Ancient wars from their former homeland
And laid before you, countless pandemics of vile disease
And through the power of generations of your oppression
Could control even your very thoughts making you believe
That the light of God was for them, always present
Even guiding their cruel deeds against you

Imagine now that today, a dark-skinned man
Was being praised for destroying all that Creator gave to you
With bronze-skinned people believing he was a noble leader
Who built a great and fair nation where yours once stood
Would you join in singing an honour song in his memory
Or would you fight with all the strength of the sun
To pull his portraits and statues down

Albert Dumont ©

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