On June 19th, 2008, RAN hosted a conference call to discuss the Old Growth Campaign’s part in the Indigenous lead efforts that brought us to the tremendous news that AbitibiBowater had decided it was time to leave the Whiskey Jack forest in the traditional territory of the Asubpeeschoseewagong, or Grassy Narrows First Nation people who have lived in that beautiful and priceless area for thousands of years.
(From www.freegrassy.org) Asubpeeschoseewagong – the Indigenous or Ojibway name for Grassy Narrows – is situated 80 kilometers north of Kenora, Ontario in Canada. The community membership is approximately 1,000, and their traditional land use area spans a forest of approximately 2,500 miles. The community has lived sustainably for millennia, using the forest for physical, economic, cultural and spiritual sustenance. Approximately 50 percent of the community still lives a subsistence way of life where members depend upon hunting, trapping, and gathering berries and medicines from the land.
The Grassy Narrows community has been through many traumas including attendance in white-governed residential schools, forced relocation away from their traditional living areas, mercury contamination, flooding of sacred grounds and burial sites, and clearcut logging of their forests. These traumas have led to many social, health and economic problems, as well as the near devastation of the culture.
For thousands of years this community has been strong and self-reliant. Now, as a result of the continued economic dispossession and cultural annihilation that they have suffered, Grassy Narrows exhibits the signs of distress that have become typical of First Nations communities across Canada. Indigenous people, as compared to any other racial or cultural group in Canada, have the lowest life expectancies, highest infant mortality rates, substandard and overcrowded housing, lower education and employment levels, and the highest incarceration rates.
In the face of this oppression, the people of Grassy Narrows are actively resisting the continued destruction of their territories, re-occupying their lands, reviving their culture and fighting for the right to manage their land as they see fit, otherwise known as self-determination.
It is an incredible honor to work in solidarity with these people and their allies, and it is a great day when we can announce the results of our work together in fighting for their land and their rights to self-determination, and for the rights of the Earth.
We hope you enjoy this audio recording of a breakdown of RAN’s involvement in this campaign. In it you will hear from some of our Old Growth campaign staff as well as some of the activists and volunteers who helped make the withdrawal of AbitibiBowater a reality.
In addition to the recording attached to this post, I encourage you to also listen to this interview on CBC National primetime radio with Roberta Keesick, a Grassy Narrows grandmother, trapper, and defender of the land. It is a great piece and it gives people a chance to also hear directly from someone from Grassy.