Update from Grassy Narrows

posted by Japhet Ran

On July 13 one hundred supporters joined Indigenous mothers and grandmothers from Grassy Narrows in a blockade of the Trans-Canada highway to slow the destruction of Grassy Narrows’ forests and culture by Weyerhaeuser and Abitibi corporations. Two months later, Chrissy Swain from Grassy Narrows joined RAN interns and activists at the Provincial Legislature to welcome the politicians back to work and to put Grassy Narrows and Boreal Forest issues on the top of their priority list. Here is Christine’s (a.k.a. tripod woman) account of the action:

September 25th 2006

I woke up Monday morning in an unfinished house at the Caledonia reclamation site. I was there to transport Chrissy Swain and a few other First Nations activists to the demo at Queen’s Park. The group of RAN and FE interns had chosen this day for our next action after being arrested and banned from the district of Kenora for blockading a logging road used by Weyerhaeuser to access Grassy Narrows traditional landuse area almost two months earleir. I was excited to reconnect with the Toronto group of activists who I hadn’t seen since then.

In the trunk we had half a dozen “for sale” signs that we planned to affix to the great old oaks on the lawn of the provincial legilature, known to most Ontarian’s as Queen park. As we arrived on the scene a bit past our start time of noon, there were at least two other demonstrations occuring on the site. Our group, numbering about 30 was spread accross the pathway and various monuments of the legislature lawn. We are displaying banners which say “Boreal destruction = Cultural Genocide” and “Boreal Protection Starts Here” Others hold ugly pictures of clearcuts mounted on recycled paper board and signs that say “protect mother earth” or ” respect native rights”.

I am approached by some security agents who are concerned that a member of our group has tied a for sale sign to a tree and this, apparantly, is strictly against the rules. They ask me to ask him to take it down. The for sale sign is there to make a point that just as we aren’t entitiled to sell and log trees on public property, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has no right to sell trees to the logging companies who are profiting off the destruction of native land.

Just as I approach him to discus the sign, a circle forms and a woman, native to Toronto land, who has been offered tobacco begins the opening prayer and sings a welcoming song. Immediately after, we have an update from Caledonia by a woman named Doreen. Her words are striking and powerful as she highlights her willingness to die for the cause.

Next up is our headline speaker, Chrissy Swain, one of the women who as a youth, initiated the 4 year old Grassy Narrows Logging Blockade and continuing actions against Abitibi and Weyerhaeuser. Its great to be hanging around Chrissy again. She brings back fond memories of my summer in the Boreal taking action. “We are not militant,” says Chrissy “we are peaceful.” It is these words that stay with me in my mind and heart. I use them to remind myself that no matter what security agents might say, we are doing the right thing.

To learn more about Grassy Narrows’ resistance to Weyerhaeuser and Abitibi, go to FreeGrassy.org