Funding the “Faith is Peace” Walk

Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In peace and solidarity,
South Wind

PS – Contribute if you can, and please share our campaign widely!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

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Come Into The Circle: Comment By Maureen Stark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to the Elders and Grandmothers for asking.

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

Faith Is Peace June 23 Invitation-Poster


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Indigenous Spirituality is Precious: Faith Leaders Unite

Well dear readers, we’re on again for another peaceful walk. Let us walk in unity, as friends and believers of faith who care deeply about the spiritual and physical health of water and of all else which is good and peaceful in our circles. On June 23rd we will walk in the glow and light of all things held sacred by human beings the world over. Together, in solidarity with members of the region’s religious leaders and anyone else who wishes to join us, we will gather on Victoria Island (Booth Street entrance) at 10 a.m. on the morning of the 23rd. At precisely 11 a.m., Indigenous roots intertwined and locked as one with settler roots, shoulder to shoulder, we will march in prayer to the nation’s Parliament Buildings. Together, we will show the world that Indigenous spirituality is real and is as rich with the blessings of Creator as are all the other faiths practised by the citizenry who make up the population of Canada.

Rabbi Bulka said, “An attack on one faith is an attack on all faiths.” Let his words become the sacred chain, strong and unbreakable, which binds us as people of faith. Together, we must let it be known to the people of our communities that an attack on one faith’s sacred site is an attack on all our sacred sites. We all deserve a holy place to feast our dead, to pray for our sick and wounded, and to reassure those who have lost their way that to have faith can overcome all things destructive to one’s emotional and spiritual health. Please promote this walk far and wide!

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

Click here for event on FB
And click here for the website.

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Contaminated Soil Around Chaudière and Albert Islands

I vaguely recall a Fifth Estate (CBC) exposé (I think back in the 50’s) which related how First Nations workers, hired by a corporation to work with asbestos, became deathly ill a few years later. (Note: only “Indians” were hired). Cancer claimed many of them. I only remember that it was up north, possibly in Cree country. I wish I could remember more details about the show. Regardless, I do have a clear memory of First Nations men finding work in an asbestos-filled work environment here in Algonquin territory.

A First Nations friend called me up about 20 years ago. I was in-between jobs and he invited me to work with him “ridding asbestos” from the post office at the Alta Vista location. “The company prefers to hire Indians,” he told me. “And why is that?” I inquired of him. “The boss says we’re the best workers,” was his gleeful response.

One of my cousins (Nelson Bone) took the job. I did not! My cousin worked there for a bit, I’m not sure how long. Several months, I believe. A fact not in dispute is that my cousin died of brain cancer a few years later. Was the cancer which killed him brought on from the work he did in a contaminated worksite? No one knows for sure! It is indeed a fact that direct contact with asbestos will, over a period of time, cause cancer to take a deadly hold of a human being’s organs. So it is quite possible that Nelson is dead now because he took a job in a contaminated work environment.

It is also a well-known fact that the soil in and around Chaudière and Albert Islands is highly contaminated. Not with asbestos, but poison is poison! It will cost many millions of dollars to clean up the awful mess. The deadly agents soaking the soil on land destined, they say, to become a spectacular place of condos and commerce needs to be totally cleansed of them beforehand. The company (Windmill Developments) who is overseeing the work, I’m told, is hoping Ottawa tax payers will dish out over 60 million dollars (I’m serious) to help cover costs incurred by Windmill for the massive clean-up. Meanwhile, Windmill Developments is hiring Algonquin men to work at “preparing the land for construction.” I would pass on the offer!

Are the men being hired to work there aware of just how severely the land at their future workplace is contaminated? Poisons on the islands have been laying dormant for decades. The deadly contaminants presently filling the soil, will most certainly rise up after being disturbed by heavy machinery and become airborne. The men in and around the poisons will take the stuff into their lungs, day after day, month after month. What toll will the poison take on their health?

An investigation of some kind, some research by professionals, some science on it, whatever, something needs to occur at the site ASAP to guarantee an innocent Algonquin worker will not die years down the road because of him/her working in a contaminated work environment. People who want to better their lot in life with a job shouldn’t have to put their lives on the line to do it. If studies have been done, then let the results be revealed to the public. How is it possible to gauge the harmful effects which might occur to a human being after working with such poisons for extended periods of time? Please spell it out for us.

I know nothing of the deadly contaminants at Chaudière and Albert Islands or how quickly the health of a human being deteriorates after being around the stuff for months on end. All I know is that I will offer prayers for the Algonquins who will go there daily to “prepare the site for construction.” If any Algonquin worker becomes sick from doing the work, I hope his next of kin will be properly compensated by the politicians who are allowing this to happen.

The Islands are sacred. The contaminants in the soil there should be removed slowly. There is no rush. Even if it took several years to do it safely, then let it be so. Let the Islands be returned as a greenspace, a sacred space, a park for all Canadians to go to and wonder at the might of water. A place to stand in harmony with all the Peoples who make up the populations of Canada.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

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Akikodjiwan Lives, Now And Forever: A Call To Action

Is the soft, rich earth under our feet sacred? Indeed it is! So too are the circles of the sky, the sun and moon, also the wind our children take into their lungs and the waters which flow before a birthing occurs. All of these things are truly special in the eyes of the eagle.

Weak and unsure of life at the time my sobriety began, I searched aimlessly to find a healing place. At last, I found it where the waters fall over the ancient rock of a small, obscure river. Slowly but surely, the songs sent forth from the water at that sacred place, washed away from my aching spirit, all the filth my severe addiction had placed upon it over those many wasted years of my alcohol-fuelled life.

chutes_chaudieres_3E_0Some people teach us today that sacredness exists in many places, that Akikodjiwan (Chaudière Falls) is not necessary as a place of rejuvenation and healing. They point to places like the one where my sobriety began and say, “Healing occurs there, too.” To me, comparing the small falls where my recovery began to the spiritual grandness of Akikodjiwan is like the comparing of a single needle from the branch of a majestic pine to the wonder and greatness of the entire tree itself. Akikodjiwan stands alone as the one true leader of all healing places in Anishinabe Territory. Let there be no doubt or confusion about it!

If there are Algonquin chiefs who fail to understand this, it would not discourage me all that much. You see, the chiefs are responsible for their own spiritual journeys as I am for mine. The chiefs have no authority to interfere with the right Creator gave me to embrace a spirituality placed on Turtle Island since the time of our creation. No chief, nor politician, nor developer, nor any amount of money can take that right from me nor from anyone else. The right to freedom of religious expression cannot be toyed with. Even Canada’s Constitution protects it. Even the United Nations defends it. The chiefs who would block the Peoples of Turtle Island access to Akikodjiwan need to back off at least until all the voters they represent know full well what is spiritually at stake here.

As emotionally troubling as it is, there are human beings among us who believe that ‘spirit’ is no longer present at Akikodjiwan. (I’m serious.) Driven out they say, by industry and pollution. But the fact is and always will be that the so-called ‘Almighty Dollar’ itself will never possess the strength to chase the spirits of our ancestors from our most sacred site. Only the People can do so by rejecting the fact that we too are entitled to our own spiritual beliefs. When we no longer call out to them (the spirits at Akikodjiwan) during our time of need and when we find ourselves in a time of sorrow, the songs at Akikodjiwan will then only be heard by the animals of the field and by the birds of the sky, soaring over our once perfect homeland. The Almighty Dollar will finally have conquered the People and will rule over us brutally and ruthlessly, and without conscience. Our ways will be lost, existing only as shadows or caricatures of something which had served human beings so well in the past before the arrival of money and technology.

I give fair notice at this time: I intend to initiate a class action lawsuit, ASAP, against the NCC, Catherine McKenna, the Governor General of Canada and Justin Trudeau for their failure to do what is right and for their roles in continuing the genocide of the First Nations Peoples. If Akikodjiwan is further defiled by the erection of condos and by commerce upon it, the people and institutions named above will pay dearly for their part in allowing it to happen. This is my promise!

I call for a peaceful protest march to be organized in the near future, led by the city’s faith leaders. The faith leaders would take their place at the forefront of the protestors to prove their recent claim that “an attack on one faith is an attack on all faiths.”

If a developer dared to give notice to the rabbi, the imam, the priest or minister, and informed them that their house of worship would be ripped down regardless of their protest and be replaced by condos, I would stand with the faith leaders in their opposition to such an outrage. I would donate time, energy and resources to protect their sacred place. I would do so, boldly and without fear of political repercussions. I expect the faith leaders of Ottawa and of the world to do the same for me. The original People will fight to return the faith and spirituality of our forbearers back again to assist us in our recovery as Anishinabeg nations.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

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DreamKEEPERS, Politicians, Chaudière Falls

I want all of you who took the time to send your most welcomed remarks congratulating me for receiving a citation (DreamKEEPERS Citation for Outstanding Leadership) to know how grateful I am that you did so.

A friend of mine told me long ago that a human being could do “a lifetime of good deeds and not receive even one eagle feather for doing so.” Such is the greatness of the respect and honour we have for the Creator’s messenger. The eagle feather should never be given to any person unless an action or actions connected to the promotion of health and well-being for all the goodness placed before us by Creator, lest the feather lose its power and what it symbolizes to us who treasure it as one of our most sacred objects.

The citation I received on January 16, 2017 was a proud moment for me to be sure. You can watch the whole DreamKEEPERS award ceremony at this link to RogersTV. My reception of the citation and speech is at approximately 32:00. I do not know who nominated me nor do I know who the committee members are who voted for me. I only know that I am truly humbled and will keep the moment I received the citation forever close to my heart.

citationIt feels pretty darn awesome to know that good-spirited people are ready to defend our constitutional right to freedom of spiritual expression. Any Canadian not prepared to do so should hide their face in shame. I heard faith leaders speak on Martin Luther King Day about how they united after synagogues, mosques and churches were attacked by vandals who wrote hateful graffiti and painted swastikas on their revered houses of worship. My heart went out to them, for no one knows more than the Indigenous Peoples what it feels like to have the sacred places, where our people have gone to pray since time immemorial, defiled and taken from us as an attempt to rob us of our own ancient spiritual beliefs. I speak now about the Chaudière Falls (Akikodjiwan).

The swastikas which were painted on the houses of worship in this city were removed, doing so did not take long. The physical evidence of hate may be gone from view but all sensible people are well aware that hate is still present and is ever lurking in the shadows. I stand in solidarity with faith leaders dedicated to defending their holy places from any further attacks hate mongers may try to bring upon them. I’ll do whatever I can as an activist to help. But I call on the faith leaders to do likewise for us.

Akikodjiwan, the most sacred site within the boundaries of Algonquin territory appears to be on the verge of destruction at the hands of Windmill Development/DreamCorp. Their claim is that Akikodjiwan is now privately owned. This is not true. Lindsay Lambert has researched it and has found evidence that proves most of our sacred site is still Crown Land (land stolen from the Algonquin Anishinabe at a time when we were rendered helpless through European oppression).

Akikodjiwan behind bars. Photo by Julie Comber.

Akikodjiwan behind bars. Photo by Julie Comber.

A great swastika in the form of the Domtar buildings now defiles our sacred site. The faith leaders, all of them, from one end of Canada to the other, up and around, over and under must stand as one with us. If they are true to the teachings of their holy books then they will demand that the people of their congregations assist us in the removal of the swastika now present at Akikodjiwan. If they are real in their claim of solidarity, then they will call on the politicians to have our sacred place returned to the People. If they do not, they prove to all people that the traditional spirituality of the Indigenous Peoples is worthless and is not recognized by the God who speaks to them through the words of their prophets. I challenge any faith leader to tell me why Akikodjiwan is not worth defending in their eyes.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

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DreamKEEPERS Citation

Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) said, “We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” Where did such inspiration come from? Dreams like MLK’s can only be dreamed by men and women who know what it feels like to be persecuted and oppressed, to live in extreme poverty and to have known the agony of seeing their fellow man hanging from the branch of a tree, only for being black.

MLK dared to tell the world of his dream, a “promised land” where bigotry and racism did not exist. And it cost him his life. His beautiful dream was looked upon as a nightmare to people with hate-filled hearts. One of them was prepared to load a rifle and use it in the hopes of stopping the dream from materializing.

I believe MLK’s dream speaks of the love he had for all the people of the US of A. He loved each and all of them, regardless of the colour of their skin or their cultural background. All were clearly visible to him in his dream. It was this powerful love he had for human beings which created the words of his grand oratory at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Today the love we have for freedom, for justice and for valour all grew mightier and filled the nooks and crevices in all corners of our hearts with pride and with a refreshed and re-invigorated devotion to peace because of the fact that MLK lived and because of the way he died.

MLK was an extraordinary man. His message left his heart, passed through his lips and flew over his audience like a beautiful songbird who let fall from its wings words which directed the people who heard them to rally in peaceful protest.

receiving plaque 16Jan12017I admire MLK and was so very humbled today to accept the DreamKEEPERS Citation for Outstanding Leadership. Activists like me do not say that we stand in MLK’s shadow. We are not worthy to do so. The same ballpark? Maybe. I will strive to be more like him though. You can bet on that.

I have my own dream. It is not as mighty as that of MLK. My dream cries to the people of Ottawa to open their eyes to the fact that Creator does not see the colour of our skins but sees only the beauty of our spirits. I too believe in equality. I am fully 100% aware that equality will never be realized until the day arrives where white people harbouring superiority complexes are not allowed anywhere near our justice system, nor in classrooms where children learn. How foolish does a person appear before God who believes that having white skin will make him/her a better police officer, jail guard, parole board member, judge, teacher, etc. than someone else whose skin is of a darker shade than theirs.

I am certain that there will be continuing hardship and more grief for the impoverished and for the working poor of our villages, towns and cities until such a day where politicians no longer allow themselves to be the puppets or the lapdogs of the rich and powerful of the land’s Ivory Towers. There will never be equality until all communities, minority and white folk alike, rise as one and say “no more, enough is enough”.

I said today that if politicians (municipal, provincial and federal) vote to destroy the Chaudière Falls site (Akikodjiwan) by endorsing development of them (Zibi condos), it would tell me that gatherings such as the one today honouring MLK are not real. A day like the one today would be nothing more than a veneer of brittle scales made of pretty lies and clumps of hair from the coat of the beast of greed. Neither MLK nor Jesus Christ would endorse the destruction of a sacred place created so a wounded people could heal.

Were any politicians listening? Time will tell.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

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Black Direction House Concert

What a wonderful and memorable evening (January 7, 2017) was had by all who attended the Black Direction House Concert held in La Pêche at the home of Bettina and Andrew Johnston. Our hosts graciously welcomed many good people made up of activists, environmentalists, friends and visionaries to a moment in time where an audience allowed their hearts and spirits to melt into the songs sang for them by Phil Jenkins and Tito Medina. Our time together began with a smudging ritual and ended with a prayer. The highlight for me (I can’t help it) was when Phil surprised me, and I assume everyone else, with him singing a song featuring the words of my poem “When the cedar is gone.” The words are as follows and can be found in my book “Of Trees and their Wisdom”:

When the cedar is gone
Who then, will speak of our spirituality
When the oak is gone
Who then, will speak of our strength
When the maple is gone
Who then, will speak of our generosity
When the birch is gone
Who then, will speak of our creativity
When the pine is gone
Who then, will speak of our legends

Thank you, Phil! Thank you, Tito! Thank you my new friends, Bettina and Andrew. And it was so nice to see Benjamin Ramirez Arancibia (and hear him drum the Unity Song!) and Luc-Anne Salm again. God bless all of you and let’s rock this country in 2017.

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind


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J.B., The Cat Who Thinks He’s A Dog

A friend of mine lives in an old farm house on the outskirts of the city. A cat (I’m almost 100% certain it’s a cat) lives with him. The cat’s fur is the colour of a freshly shined black shoe, the hair, growing only long enough to keep him warm on those long, frosty winter nights. The cat’s name is Jack Black, better known far and wide as J.B.

J.B. is no regular run-of-the-mill cat. Reason being, J.B. thinks he’s a dog. Like a friendly dog, he excitedly greets visitors at the door. He jumps up and down, runs in circles, all that nonsense! And one of his favourite things to do is to rest his head on a human being’s foot. If you whistle, J.B. will come running. “Ya got a treat for me?” he seems to be saying. He’s quite the critter! Visitors to my friend’s house often remark, “Hey man, your cat thinks he’s a dog.”

Although J.B. (the cat?) often carries on like a dog, he gives himself away as a cat when an obliging visitor rubs his belly. J.B. loudly purrs away, totally lost in ecstasy, to the point that the walls of my friend’s kitchen vibrate in response to the sheer power of the purring’s rhythmic eloquence. He gives himself away as a cat, too, when he presses his arched frame up against a welcomed visitor’s leg (I’ve never seen a dog do that). It’s at times like these that some people say, “Hey man, your dog thinks he’s a cat.”

Because he has so many traits usually reserved for canines, there are some people who truly believe J.B. is a dog. “If he has even 1 drop of dog blood,” said one person, “then that’s good enough for me. He is in fact a DOG!!!”

A dog? A dog you say? He doesn’t look like a poodle nor a hound. He doesn’t resemble Lassie nor Rin Tin Tin in any way, shape or form. Fetching? Forget it! J.B. retrieves neither stick nor ball nor frisbee for no man.

jb-the-catOne day a visitor brought two dogs with him to the farm house. The dogs were curious, you know how dogs are and what dogs do! It was for this exact reason that the dogs were called in. The visiting dogs gave J.B. the ol’ sniff test. It was hoped their findings would prove at long last, one way or the other, whether or not J.B. was a dog. If nothing else, a dog knows what another dog smells like! Well sir, the dogs each took their turns with gusto, eagerly pressing their large wet noses under J.B.’s elevated long tail. One of the dogs snorted and sneezed after doing so. It was as if the many years of sniffing out the truth had finally caused a foreign irritant to wedge itself into one (or both) of his nostrils. I felt sorry for the dog, but what the hay, nobody was forcing him to do it. We, the folks gathered there hoping to get to the bottom of the mystery, were beside ourselves with the suspense of it all. The results of the smell test weren’t long in coming. The conclusion, J.B. is not a dog. He is a cat! The sniff test proved it!

You’d think that this silly controversy would have been laid to rest right then and there, but no, there are still some people who believe that J.B. is a dog. “If he has only one drop of dog blood in his veins …”

Some folks are convinced that J.B. is a cat, others are not. What do you think? Let me know. Meow!


I’ve just been informed that J.B. (the cat?) has begun to write a novel titled “The Dog”. It tells the heart-wrenching story of a proud sleigh dog, the alpha, overcoming attempts at mutiny, the merciless elements of the north of 60 landscape and the cruelty of the desperate man leading the team of dogs into frozen tundra in his lust for gold.

Turns out that J.B. is a hell of a writer. Watch for the release of “The Dog” sometime in 2017. Accolades and awards are expected. J.B.’s next book “Wooff, I Have Spoken” is scheduled for release in 2018. I can hardly wait!!

Keep the Circle Strong,
South Wind

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