I learned stuff this past weekend at the Arboretum Festival’s UNCEDED OTTAWA Panel (on 22 August), but I can’t wrap my head around where some of it makes any sense.
This territory, the never surrendered ancestral lands of the Algonquin Nation, continues to be raped and pillaged. What can we do about it? Apparently nothing! This is what I was told at the Arboretum Festival. Asinabka (Chaudière & Albert Islands), a site sacred to the Algonquins for thousands of years is now ‘private land’ and the ‘owner’ of it can ‘do with it what he pleases.’ How can our sacred space be privately owned by anyone other than Algonquins if it’s never been given up? Can someone please explain this to me in a language I understand? The owners of our sacred site (white business men with millions of dollars) I was told, don’t need the support of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan or the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO; whoever they are) but just the same, they point to Pikwakanagan and AOO as offering blessings to them and their development plans. It is the AOO members who will undoubtedly line up for any forthcoming benefits when the time comes. Promises the developer has made to chiefs and community leaders were thrown around by some panel speakers like confetti at an old-time wedding. Someone asked, “Are the Algonquins taking the developer at his word that he’ll keep the promises or will a contract be drawn up?” The answer was a bit fuzzy. Maybe someone with better hearing than I picked it up. Let me know.
When I had the opportunity to speak during the panel discussions, I asked why the return of Asinabka to the Algonquin Nation was not entered as a demand in the Ontario land claims by whomever is negotiating on behalf of our people. I asked why, if the Chief of Pikwakanagan is so concerned for jobs, mentorship and training of young Algonquins, did his negotiator not demand these things for them in a land claim settlement. Canadians are fed up with hearing us say that Canada’s Parliament Buildings stand on stolen land (what an embarrassment it is for righteous Canadians to hear this). They want the land claim settled a.s.a.p. and we, the Algonquins are holding all the cards! It appears that an unqualified negotiator has convinced some of our leadership otherwise. The negotiator, so it seems to me, has convinced the Algonquins that it is us who need to bend over backwards for the Feds and be happy with whatever crumbs are offered to us for our resource-rich lands.
It wasn’t made clear by anyone on the two panels how or when the mentoring, training, jobs, etc. for Algonquins would occur or how the labour boards in Québec could ever be convinced to allow workers without proper certification into their job sites. Work on the Ontario side – the islands – won’t happen anytime soon (never, I hope!). But work on the shore of the Québec side will start soon. Québec workers with the proper certification aren’t going to just say to the Algonquin workers, “You want my bread and butter? Sure! Enjoy!”
It wasn’t made clear how many jobs would actually be forthcoming for Algonquin workers. There are many young Algonquin workers hoping to get employment out of this. AOO (whoever they are) members will certainly be applying for, what amount of jobs is that again? Is it 10 jobs? Is it 50 jobs? Somebody please tell me!
Not much was made clear. Only one thing was made clear as glass by the panel participants and that is (I hate repeating this) Windmill Development Group doesn’t need the blessing from any Algonquin community. “It is private land, Windmill can do with it what it wants.” The words ring in my ears yet! I’m frustrated. I left the festival feeling like I just had my nose rubbed in the caca spilling from the almighty dollar’s rear-end. I don’t like it!
We need more information. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Demand answers! Somebody on the panel mentioned that we are at the time of the 7th Fire. The crossroads await our steps. Let’s choose the right one!
I learned too, at the panel, that there are varying reasons why people are in opposition to condos being built on a sacred site. Some stand against it because they see it as the greed and tyranny connected to capitalism going too far. Some people on board with us are environmentalists who want a pristine and safe space in the city where families can go for meditation and relaxation and to learn about cultures not their own. There are other reasons as well as the one I stand with, which is protecting the spiritual beliefs passed on to me by my Algonquin forbearers. I welcome all good people as supporters to this cause. I’m glad they’re there, God bless them for taking the time out of their busy lives to stand with us. The folks who are OK with condos being built on a sacred site have non-Algonquin supporters, too. Not all of their supporters though, are from the grassroots community, most are from the elite of the corporate world (Windmill Development Group and its affiliates). Some thought should be given to this by the Algonquins.
The so-called almighty dollar will fail at some point in the future, spirituality and its benefits will hold strong into and beyond the end of time. Let us as one, at least accept that this is true.
Spirituality is what it is for human beings. The trust we have in it is ours to benefit from. If we recognize that our spirituality is a cure for addiction and dysfunction, then let us stand in a circle and wish the best of everything there for our future generations. Like the roots of the trees of the forest reaching under the earth for the support of those of the neighbouring trees, we shall intertwine the dreams and hopes of our children with the decisions we make today. With spirituality as its base, we will not fail them. Let us be confident that Creator will weigh our actions of this life as we enter into a new beginning after death stops the drumming of our hearts in this domain for the final time.