In Memory of Alicja Rozanska
and Three Sisters Corn, Beans and Squash
Every time I would go back to Six Nations and visit my elders Alice and Lehman, they would say: “What’s new in Toronto, Danny? Are you fighting more environmental issues? Are things getting better or worse over there?” Alice would say: ”Go out in the garden, Danny, and eat some fresh rhubarb.” Our elders knew how to keep happy and make others happy just by sharing food and good ideas and honoring Creation all around them. Our elders have been taught by their elders the traditional native culture and that the natural world would take care of them if they took care of all natural life around them. Many of our elders have spent their life in the forest living a good life of hunting and gathering and some still do, and they were also able to work in the cities and earn a living building structures and high-rise apartments that housed mostly non-native Europeans. Many of our people maintained farms and kept growing food while working in cities doing construction. This continued for many years, and many Indigenous people were able to take time to go hunting and fishing for their families throughout the year because they knew they had to eat real food and maintain Sacred Thanksgiving ceremonies to the life-giving forces. Ceremonies were maintained on many reserves even during first contact, but it became harder up north, as the new people coming had their own ways of life that were not Indigenous to Indigenous territories. All of this information must be kept alive and preserved, because our younger generations are now struggling to protect the old hunting grounds and rivers where our ancestors fished for food. Even our medicines and berries are in danger of being killed from urban sprawl and resource extraction. Our old way of life, when our elders were happy from sharing, is hard now, because natural life is not what it used to be once you enter the cities. We have survived colonization, we have survived residential school, now we have to survive Global Warming, Climate Change and Infectious Virus. Nothing has been easy for Indigenous people in Canada or the USA, but we are still trying to protect Mother Earth and keep our way of life going, hunting, fishing and farming.
We all are living a Human Experience of learning, building, teaching, seeing, feeling, creating, and sharing what we have experienced with the community, with the world around us, with life, with our thinking, with work, words, art, dance, song, everything that is going on around us we learn from and communicate and grow like a garden in the world. As native people, our elders and leaders teach us how to communicate and be connected to all the natural world and life around us, even when we dream at night, we can hear life talking to us through our relatives. We also have our own instinct and intuition like an animal hunting in the forest. We too are hunters and seekers, gathering experiences, teachings, lessons that will bring us peace, harmony, health and the ability to share and help others. Our people have always been builders and organizers, but in our way of life our work never destroyed life around us. Our communities were also farmers, and in Canada and North America Indigenous people shared and traded in order to have a better life, and things were very good until the fur trade and gold rush created greed. At the same time, alcohol came into our communities, and our healthy communities soon were sick from the new poisons. Later, Indigenous people began the return and restoration of their healing culture, but things have not been the same; they never will, but we never stop trying to heal.
Our elders know what is happening on Sacred Mother Earth. They have spent their whole adult life in ceremonies and council with Great Creator and Life-giving forces. Our people on Six Nations are holding the original instructions just like all native communities across Turtle Island for Natural Life. Only some people have got lost in all the inventions and foreign ideology. Because Indigenous Culture is one of healing and harmonizing, we all need to focus and balance ourselves in the messages and teachings of our sacred ancestors and Indigenous Values and Thinking. Just start by talking about what needs to be done to achieve justice and healing for Mother Earth and society at the breakfast table. Even writing our ideas down can help share the dreams we each carry and hold in our minds, body and spirit. Do not get sucked into negative thinking or action. Our elders have said peace and gentleness is our greatest strength! Tom Porter says we need to arrange ourselves like a bouquet in the Garden of The World.
Lehman Gibson, Mohawk Six Nations Haudenosaunee, Speaks Out
“This struggle has brought unity to the community”, said Lehman Gibson, a Mohawk Farmer and Traditional Elder of the Six Nations Territory. “I have never experienced such unity and strength of our people up until now. The elected council is supporting our old traditional government of our Clan Mothers as equals. Everyone has come together for peace here. Everyone has come to defend the protestors and our original territories. Our homeland. We are finally united as a People, as a Nation. For our Sacred Traditional Longhouse values, the Way of the Good Mind, where our Clan Mothers are respected as leaders. At this time we are being respected as a Nation. But who knows for how long… There are 350 police ready at the airport.”
John Gibson, Mohawk Six Nations Haudenosaunee, Speaks Out
Ultimately we want to leave a legacy for our future generations by thinking ahead. Its all about our future generations, the unborn, our family, showing them that we made a commitment to the environment, to the land. We fought for it. That is how we got here in the first place. That is why we have been here- camped along the Grand River for the last 200 years. This has affected every human being on the planet. We need to harmonize ourselves, to live in peace. All the principals that the Iroquois Confederacy stand for, all the laws we stand for, are about keeping the great peace.
That is why when we talk about the environment we are talking about everybody’s rights. The vast majority of people, including non-native people support what we are doing, they understand the struggle has always been going since day one. The media are selling newspapers because of the violence, the confrontation. I think people are not stupid because they realize how important it is to protect the environment, our Sacred Mother Earth. Its not just the Grand River, it is everywhere; there is a problem of land theft all over the world.
They cannot break that bond that we have, it is something that we are tied to. There is nothing they can force upon us. The Canadian government cannot violently impose laws and regulations on us. They beat us up and it did not change things. We are still here and we are more determined to protect our children’s future. We are still fighting, we are not done and we might never be done as long as there is Mother Earth. My dream is world peace, people living in harmony with natural justice. People doing what is right, living by what is right. People living with the truth. There is justice and karma out there that comes back to bite you.
This is happening now. Mother Earth is wounded, she cannot do what she used to. All we have to do is watch the weather, the universe is speaking on behalf of Indigenous Peoples. If we do not change our ways and stop polluting the planet, it is going to destroy Mother Earth. Mother Earth is suffering, there are too many people taking from her. Millions of people are immigrating out this way, immigrating to the green lands, we are losing the agricultural base here. New subdivisions are piling up, people are piling up on top of each other. This is not a harmonious way to live in the country. It is adding to the pollution of the air, everything is getting polluted by overpopulation. Over population is polluting Mother Earth. To us the fight is not with ourselves, it is with the power to understand that you cannot eat money and that money is not everything. You have to look at our lifestyle, you have to look at the way of life for all humans. In Canada, the people can be the catalyst for the environment, but it is not happening, because they are not listening to the Aboriginal People here, the Native people here. We are the heartbeat of the environment.
My family have been here, in Six Nations, seven generations along this Grand River. Everybody has seen the development, we have been pushed and pushed and pushed. Now we are on a little patch of territory. We have been pushed back to a tiny patch. We can no longer hunt and do what we need to along this river which was our sustenance. The river is heavily polluted with all the cities dumping their sewage into the river, You cannot eat any of the fish anymore.
After all the years of pollution along the Grand the fish are heavily contaminated. It all goes back to the Great Lakes, the contamination is affecting everyone, not just Native people. Everyone should be speaking out. What happens to Six Nations People happens to everyone.
One day there will be no land here, there will be no water, only sand, it will be made into a desert, barren, no trees, no nothing. We have been ignored, our pleas have been ignored, we have been asking the government to be accountable to the people and to the environment, to Mother Earth. But we have been ignored. That is why there is an explosion of all these forces, it died down this winter but spring is back and we are organizing. We want to be heard, we have been sleeping outside on the roadblock for a year. Real issues are affecting all of our children’s future. Hopefully, more people will understand our plight and be enlightened.