Healing the Spirit at Grassy Narrows

posted by Brant Ran

This report comes from Caitlin, one of several interns spending their Summer in Grassy Narrows:

After 400-500 years of assault on the spirit, the Anishinabe nation has begun the process of healing their nation and spirit. This was why they named their Youth and Elders Gathering “Healing the Spirit.” Hosted by Grassy Narrows, the gathering took place at the blockade sight June 13-15. Gatherings like this are an important step in this long but crucial process. The Gathering has become a yearly event and brings together youth from Grassy Narrows as well as other youth from the Anishinabe nation.

Leon Jordain the former Grand Chief of Treaty Three came and spoke to us. He is a man that has a strong presence and I was inspired to see a politician who was so real. He is actually connected to the people he represented and fighting for their rights. I got the sense that he would be fighting until he left this world despite the fact the federal government has labeled him a ‘terrorist threat’ because he has been standing up for his people, and not selling out to industry or the federal government. In addition he has been denied federal funding for the Treaty Three Anishinabe Nation because he was ‘talking too much’. He has been a Chief for 12 years and Grand Chief of Treaty Three for 4 of those.

Healing the SpiritHe spoke of uniting all the communities under Treaty Three as the Anishinabe Nation instead of the federal government’s current plan of ‘divide and conquer’ that forces each community onto a small reservation and creates legal obstacles to these communities forming stronger connections. For example, a member of Grassy Narrows is unable to get a job on another community of their nation. This would be like me going to a neighboring town and it being illegal to work there.

He stated that his people have been “imprisoned by someone else’s lines in the sand”. These lines have been drawn by the federal government such as the lines around the reservations and the borders between provinces and countries which so often arbitrarily cut through Indigenous peoples’ nations. He told youth of Grassy Narrows that they were right in stopping the logging and systematic destruction of their territory. He asked, “Am I Canadian? No. I am Anishinabe,” he replied.

Jordain informed us that the Cheifs of Treaty Three are required to report to the Minister of Indian Affairs but not their people. As well Canadian First Nations get millions of dollars in government funding annually, but ¾ of that goes directly to the Federal Department of Indian Affairs and I doubt that many of their employees are indigenous. “We must fight from within not from the head”.