Posts By: Danny Beaton (Mohawk)

The Iroquois Speak out for Mother Earth

L-R: Masie Shenandoah Oneida Nation from Clayton Logan Seneca Nation, John Mohawk Seneca Nation from Audrey Shenandoah Onondaga Nation, Chief Oren Lyons from Onondaga Nation photo by Danny Beaton Mohawk Nation taken at Lehman and Alice Gibson Farm Six Nations Territory

For the thousands of years the Haudenosaunee Confederacy founded by the Peacemaker has been a powerful force in the protection of Mother Earth. The sacred Roll Call of Chiefs, also called the Hai Hai, which is a national anthem of unity, shows the calling of the chiefs of the various nations, represented according to clans based on natural species, such the Bear, Wolf and Turtle.

The original five nations of the Haudenosaunee founded by the Peacemaker, developed a civilization which was in remarkable sustainability with the life forces of the blessed area around the Finger Lakes and the Mohawk Valley. (often termed Iroquoia) It is revealing that the capital of the League founded by the Peacemaker is at the same site near Lake Onondaga as it was when it was founded. The Onondaga Chief, the Taddadho, still chairs the Confederacy councils.

The Haudenosaunee developed a gentle way of life that did not damage the land that blessed them. They obtained rich yields of the three sisters of corn, beans and squash by farming away from the edges of streams, that provided a great yield of fish, many of which, from Euro-American abuse, such as the Lake Sturgeon (which provides caviar from its eggs), are now so rare that any fishing would threaten them with extinction. In the 1790s the Oneida Chiefs tried in vain to explain to the representatives of the new government of United States that farming and villages should be kept away from streams to protect fish.

The Haudenosaunee cared for the forests around the Finger Lakes a great garden. They deliberately modified these forests in a gentle way. Trees such as maple which provides sugar and syrup were deliberately encouraged. Modifications were also made in the landscape to assist various trees of the Juglen family, which produce edible nuts. These food forest trees include Hickories, Butternut and the Black Walnut. Villages were lined with trees that were orchards of edible native fruits. These included cherries, plums and the Papaw. Peaches were later introduced as a result of French contact.

Through their remarkable diplomatic skills encouraged by the Great Lake of Peace’s mandate to foster the Good Mind, the Haudenosaunee were able to make the Finger Lakes a garden of peace and ecological stability for most of the two centuries of European contact before the American Revolution. This attraction was why in the early 18th century the sixth nation of the Confederacy, the Tuscarora journey from their homeland in South Carolina, all the way to the Finger Lakes. It became a refuge for many other allied nations such as the Delaware, (Pennsylvania), the Tupelo, (Virginia) Samponi, and the Nanticoke. (from Maryland). Iroquoia was a rare peace garden in the English colonies dominated by schemers who would devastate forests by fires to make ashes for soap and cheap foraging for domestic livestock.

When the violence of the American Revolution began to breakout in 1775 with an invasion of Mohawk territory on the way to occupy Montreal, Iroquoia was a remarkable refuge of peace on the Anglo-American colonial frontier. The tragedy of the American Invasion can be seen in the records of the pillage of the US Army attack on the Finger Lakes heartland called the Sullivan Expedition. It recorded lists of well built homes, vast fields of corn, and orchards of cherries, plums and peaches.

Despite the American pillage after the revolution the Haudenosaunee Confederacy was able to establish itself in Canada at Grand River, although some communities of all the Six Nations remained in the United States. (where a Confederacy Council remained at Onondaga. In Grand River the Confederacy was to become a powerful force in the protection of the environment beginning in the 1820s. One remarkable leader. John Brant (Tekarihogen) was a Mohawk Chief of the Turtle Clan. Brant challenged the destructive flooding the Grand River by powerful canal building interests which flooded the most fertile farmlands of the Confederacy. To stop such plunder he ran for the Legislative Assembly and was entered in 1831. He was ousted by a judicial challenge on the basis that some of his electors did not own enough property. Brant died a quite heroic death during a by-election seeking return to the legislature when he perished during a cholera epidemic.

After Brant’s death a new Mohawk Confederacy leader began to emerge George Johnson a condoled chief of the Wolf Clan. During his youth he came under the influence of a formidable Ojibwe leader, Peter Jones, a pioneer forest conservationist. The two would be horrified when at night they came upon the corpses of native people who were dead drunk on the road after falling down from wagons in the winter cold. These victims had allowed white swindlers to clear cut their location ticket forests in exchange for whiskey.

This deadly whiskey driven clear cutting emerged since the forested tract of around 55,000 acres of the New Credit and Six Nations reservations was one of the last well wooded lands in southwestern Ontario. The devastation was so complete that the forests had been so horribly successively burned that trees could not regenerate. Much of what would soon become Ontario had been turned into a desert of dangerously marching sands.

In 1856 Johnson used the Hai Hai condolence ritual when made a Wolf Clan Chief to draw attention to the threat to the community from the marching sands unleashed by the illiterate farmers of Canada West who burned and plundered forests. Following the gathering on the Woods Edge, which enquires of conditions on largely vanished communities of the Finger Lakes, after the recitation of the names of the League’s founders such as Hiawatha, Taddadho, Johnson orchestrated a prophetic warning.

The resounding chants of the names of the founders the Hai Hai at Johnson’s condolence came a vivid warning. This was that the “degenerate successors” had “inherited their names but not their mighty intellects: and in the flourishing region which they left, nothing but a desert remains.” At this time the warnings of the Hai Hai had become quite literal since the Six Nations was threatened by the same fate as nearby Norfolk County, where once thriving farms were being buried in sands.

Johnson led a Confederacy team of 12 Forest Wardens, paid out of revenues obtained from seizures of illegally harvested timber. Johnson’s youngest daughter Pauline would write of the Confederacy’s heroic patrols to stop the whisky dealers and forest poachers. She described in her short story “My Mother” how her Father, “Night after night” concealed himself in the marshes, the forests, the trails, the concession line, the river road, the Queen’s highway”. Here his team of Confederacy bailiffs would “seize” all the swindled “timber he could, destroying all the whiskey, turning the white liquor traders off Indian lands and fighting only as a young, inspired man can fight.”

Johnson was able through a Coroner’s Inquest gather evidence to charge a Middleport tavern keeper, John Mills in the deaths of timber poaching trade found frozen in the cold. Mills responded with an assassination attempt on January 21, 1865. Recovering following a mile long walk to his home Chiefswood, Johnson was able to have Mills locked up for three years in the Kingston Penitentiary.

Eventually following two more assassination threats through its “little force of zealous Indians” the Confederacy was able to effectively curb forest poaching. This set in motion events that would cause the forests at Grand River to double from their 25 per cent cover when Johnson died in 1884 to over half the Territory today.

With the forests of his own community now secure Johnson embarked on an effort to change public attitudes towards forests in Ontario. He became an active member of the Ontario Fruit Growers Association, helping to turn them into the first environmental protection organization in Canada. In these meeting he met two men Charles Drury and Edmund Prout, whose son and grandsons respectively (E.C. Drury and Edmund Zavitz) would turn back the marching deserts that threatened to bury Ontario with sand.

What was most tragic about after having done so much to rescue Ontario from ecological disaster In 1921 the Confederacy council was stripped of legal recognition by the Canada government. The council house was seized along with sacred Wampum. The crackdown against native peoples rights in Canada was so severe that the Confederacy was forced to hire an American lawyer, James Decker, to argue their case to the public since, any Canadian attorney would be disbarred for having them as a client. The oldest daughter of George Johnson, Evelyn had here attempt to gift

After the invasion of the Confederacy Council House was there was no other place in Canada than Six Nations had the iron heel aspect of a foreign occupation. This situation was more oppressive sense nowhere else in Canada had the denial of political rights unleashed such a cruel sting. A nation which once elected a Confederacy Chief to the legislature and helped wrest the return of political rights after they had been stripped away between 1858 and 1986, felt this injustice most grievously.

The Confederacy challenged the colonialist occupation most effectively by a 1959 occupation of the Six Nations Council offices, originally built opened in 1864 a few months before the first attempt by timber poachers to assassinate its leading conservationist George Johnson. The Mohawk elder Danny Beaton while talking to Cree elder Vern Harper got some sense of the brutality of the occupied Canada in the 1950s. The combination of priests and Indian agents that ran reservations could at whim prohibit sweetgrass ceremonies and sweats, using police to shut them down at whim. He saw this with an Innu couple the Pasteens in Labrador, who explained to him how without notices, many Innu families had homes destroyed by flood waters unleashed by surprise by the Churchill River dam.

The band offices, now a library under lease to the Confederacy, was occupied. The occupiers were led by a leader of the Mohawk Ironworkers, Lehman Gibson, who would later become an important elder shaping the work to protect the environment carried out by Danny Beaton, a Mohawk of the Turtle Clan, like John Brant. The worked to keep the Grand River a refuge for now endangered turtles.

A few months after the dramatic occupation, which received positive international support including from the newly swept to power Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, shook Canada up. Political rights which had been swept away were now restored within a few months. Soon afterwards oppressions such the residential school system, the repressive rule by Indian Agents and priests ended. Native communities began to use their new powers to protect the earth. Reside Gwitchin have worked with their Alaskan brothers to safeguard the habitat of the Porcupine Caribou which roam across the international border. Throughout the country co-management agreements with native communities are forged to reduce environmental impacts of forestry and mining. In the 1980s Beaton would work closely with the Gwitchin elder Sara James, to defeat schemes for oil drilling in the calving grounds for the Porcupine Caribou herd Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Beaton assisted the Cayuga environmentalist Norm Jacobs in his dramatic actions to use the Confederacy’ vision of “peace, power and righteousness” to protect the earth. This included defeating a scheme leaked to Jacobs by environmentalist Pat Potter through government documents, to turn much of the Grand River Territory into a garbage dump for Toronto wastes. Jacobs halted efforts by waste haulers to wreck the reserve by giving the Ontario Ministry of Environment the Confederacy’s authorization to act as its agent. He defeated a scheme to create a toxic waste dump in a wetland known as the Lower Cayuga Slough Forest. Beaton would later be raised up to similar heights by his critical role in stopping through an occupation, Dump Site 41, planned above the world’s purest water near Elmvale in Springwater Township.

Beaton was part of an effective team that included himself, Jacobs, and the Onondaga Chief Arni General. Although they could not stop the Red Hill expressway which tragically was bulldozed through during Jacobs dying moments in a Hamilton hospital, the trio helped defeat a more massive scheme, that if built would have been a longer path of destruction. The expressway would have sliced up the Caistor Canborough Slough Forest, a wetland refuge for endangered Canadian amphibians, such as the Western Chorus Frog

Beaton lived up the the Hai Hai’s message calling for a rebirth of the mighty intellects of Founders of the League while speaking in Tyendinaga. He spoke at the opening of a gallery of his some of his photos of distinguished native elders from across Turtle Island. Beaton explained how “In my work for the past thirty years I have helped in win some victories. However, despite this the situation is getting worse, with the oceans that have so far being moderating the climate crisis being impacted. We are looking at an ecosystem collapse”, Beaton warned.

Beaton stressed that it should be appreciated that Ontario is blessed through the impact of the Great Lakes and water generally, to be an area of stability than other parts of the world impacted by climate change. We must protect our waters, a lesson brought home to me by walking around Lake Simcoe to protect its waters.”

In what Beaton proposed, he is working in the traditions of the great Mohawk Chiefs of the Turtle Clan. While John Brant spoke of the threats to farmland by flooding induced by dams and flooding. Beaton drew attention to the dangerous posed to these lands from urban sprawl. As his Turtle Clan chiefs in the past did, Beaton implored, “We must protect our most fertile farmland and water for seven generations.”

In memory of Alicja Rozanska

www.dannybeaton.ca

Our Healing Ways

www.dannybeaton.ca

In memory of Alicja Rozanska, Josephine Mandamin and Dave Vasey

My brother Stephen Ogden spent about twenty five years trying to protect the Allison Aquifer in Tiny Township that runs through his farm –  above ground and below – nurturing everything in the surrounding area, from Georgian Bay all the way down to the St Lawrence river according to Mohawk Scientist Henry Lickers Akwesasne. I remember waking up as a child and going down to the river to swim with my dad around 6am in the early morning. We grew up in Ottawa, and the Rideau River that ran just behind our house was so clean, fresh and peaceful back then that the pike would be laying by the shore in the weeds sleeping. It was a time in my life that I will never forget. Everyone has memories of beauty and peace from their youth.

Things change every day. Now people come and go, opportunities happen and there is a lot of panic from the world as things fall apart and issues arise from injustice, locally and around the world. People in Ontario are voicing their concern over farmland being turned into urban sprawl, aquifers being exploited by foreign companies, wetlands being destroyed for subdivisions and shopping malls, and even old growth forests are cut down for profit seekers, and hate is growing from groups like the white supremacy. Man I would not want to be a teenager today with all this mismanagement and dysfunction. Everywhere you look there is madness..              

Every day the memories return to us when we are on the red road, our good times and hard times growing up, the strength and freedom that many of us had even though our parents were fighting and drinking. Many of us were not looked after or given enough food to feel good at school, while others had so much energy, yet we survived our youth, but broken, from family violence. Its funny when I was working in the prison system when someone wanted to join our class and ceremonies I would always ask the new residents, ‘did your parents drink when you were young or did you see your parents drinking alcohol when you were young and did you ever see them fighting about things and did you ever see them hit each other’? Then I would ask ‘did they ever hit you when you were young?’

I ran ceremonies in the prison system full time at one point, but I always have been going into the prison system to help our native brotherhood and all incarcerated men locked up. Now when I think of it, working inside the prison system helped me heal almost better than anything I ever had in my whole life except the fourteen years I spent with my partner/wife. Prison work comes second to my life with my wife Alicja who passed away 5 years ago. One thing I learned about violence is that a lot of times it happens when we were young, and we copy our parents and then we become parents. But with the transitions we all go through in our lifetime, on this sacred journey, our Great Creator has given us overwhelming gifts, not one person on this Sacred Mother Earth has no gifts. We all do have gifts from the Great Creator from the time we are born till our last breath when we cross onto the other side. But then again, there are many brothers and sisters who suffer from childhood abuse and never can get out of the trauma that keeps them broken all their lives; trauma which became addictions, and violence which eats so many native communities and cities, men and women, families and children, broken from childhood trauma, some homeless, some with mental illness which can be treated by healers, caregivers and native culture.

We are living in a social crisis and environmental disaster that unfolds on television, media and newspapers daily. The once clean, pure rivers, lakes and oceans are in need of healing just as the people who are lost and suffering from fantasy and pain. We need leaders who care for the people, leaders who are unselfish and who have compassion and will protect Mother Earth – the words from Chief Oren Lyons Onondaga Wolf Clan and Faithkeeper. Everything that is happening today does not need to be so negative, with so much life, energy and the freedom to be creative. Indigenous people have always been positive, creative, thoughtful and aware of natural life, natural laws and common sense to know what is right and wrong  and what will support life seven generations ahead. For all the humans that are healed and walking on this sacred red road or spiritual path, we need to keep the great mystery alive, we need to keep feeding the ones who are in need of truth and guidance. All the medicine is in our native culture, all the healing can come from the Red Road, The Good Path, The Sacred Journey – this is not fantasy, this is what our ancestors gave us, left us and fought for.

Thinking back to our ceremonies brings back the joy of watching our elders assembling around our sacred fire in the early mornings. Someone would walk around the camp at sunrise beating a sacred drum and singing to wake us up gently – this is our healing ways. It was a time of healing because we were all filling ourselves up with these sacred ceremonies on indigenous territory with indigenous values, and with traditional native culture being lived again through our elders and traditional native leaders. When I think back it was like a beautiful dream watching our elders in a giant circle with only earth and cedar arbor smoke and sacred fire – in their midst everyone was focused on prayer and thanksgiving to the gentle morning around us all, the feeling of oneness, the feeling of peace around us all in that sacred circle of life, and the true love of the universe and our Great Creator.

Our elders had so much kindness and love they filled our whole camp with harmony, respect, peace and healing. These ceremonies made us strong, and like Tom Porter would say, ‘our ceremonies energize us’. Every man is a brother on this Mother Earth and every woman is a sister on Turtle Island, the first law of this land is respect for everything that moves. Uncle Robertjohn and Joe Medicine Crow would say when we go into our Sacred Sweat Lodge we are one with the forces that give us life, earth, air, fire and water. In the lodge we are all one, so we heal and purify ourselves in this way. All these memories that our old elders gave us, and being on our indigenous territories with our indigenous values filled us all with the healing and oneness that created real humanness amongst each other to know how important it was to speak out for justice and Mother Earth, and to give Thanksgiving. Our traditional gatherings showed us how important it was for us to be together in harmony on the land with a sacred fire burning day and night. These memories help us to help others and to see what is right for our friends and families.

Mac McCloud says his mom and dad knew what was happening to Mother Earth, and that is why they never stopped fighting for native justice and our native rights; and Jane Fonda and Marlon Brando supported the struggle of the indigenous movement back in the sixties when The American Indian Movement started to speak out for North America Native Culture. Native elders always spoke out about the genocide that was happening on Turtle Island and the hardest part was the residential school era. The memories that native people have are not all the best, nothing came easy for us. Ann Jock  would tell me so many environmental stories of how clean it used to be on Akwasasnee. Now the Saint Lawrence is so dirty that you cannot eat the fish and the animals are contaminated too.

This article is dedicated to Josephine Mandamin, Sacred Water Walker, and my good friend David Vasey — both were peacekeepers and Mother Earth Protectors — and Alicja, my partner/wife who crossed over June 29, 2014.

The Peacemaker


Chief Oren Lyons and Chief Sid Hill Onondaga Nation at Six Nations Grand River Country. Photo by Danny Beaton

 

Story and photos by Danny Beaton,

Turtle Clan Mohawk

In memory of Alicja Rozanska

www.dannybeaton.ca

Thousands of years ago when the Haudenosaunee people were in conflict  warring among each other, the Five Nations were in turmoil in North Eastern Ontario Canada and the USA territory we call our self’ Woodland Indians/People of The Flint. Things had gotten so bad around Lake Huron the people had become cannibals eating flesh, killing, warring, creating fear and jealousy was rampant. Lucky for the Iroquois Nation a baby was born to a neighbouring tribe of the Wyandot Nation or Huron Nation near Lake Ontario. As the baby became a man The Great Creator had a dream that this Wyndot baby had incredible abilities and gifts.

Soon this baby became a man and had a vision to travel to neighbouring villages at the same time his Grandmother had a dream that the Creator wanted him to restore peace and harmony among all people especially the Five Nations.

This baby who was now a man was to become known as The Peacemaker. As The Peacemaker grew to become a man he realized he had a gift from the Great Creator and a message in his mind, body and spirit that he had to share with other people about peace, harmony, unity and righteousness. As The Peacemaker prepared himself to leave home and journey to spread his message he asked Great Creator to help him build a special canoe something that would show a beauty and power as he traveled to neighbouring villages. So the Creator helped the Peacemaker build his first canoe it was a beautiful canoe which he built of white stone and when this canoe was finished the Peacemaker set out on Lake Ontario and his people were in awe that this Stone Canoe would float as he paddled away from his homeland. The Peacemaker knew in his heart that what his Grandmother had dreamed was the same idea in his own mind that he had a gift and message to share with the world.          

 Not far from where the Peacemaker set off on his Stone Canoe journey to bring his message of peace, power, unity and righteousness to the people there is a man who was called Tadadaho who was working with his obsession of negative values and creating fear, war and murder among tribes.                                            


Clan Mother Audrey Shenandoah Onondaga Nation. Photo by Danny Beaton
 

   Today there is another man who thinks he has a powerful message but not one of peace and unity or harmony- it is a rant, a need to bring hatred and racism to the people of Canada who are negative and want to build an idea of White Supremacy. His name is Gabriel Sohier Chaput who lives in Montreal and is highlighted in a Montreal Gazette investigation by journalists Shannon Carranco,  Jon Milton, Christopher Curtis are featured on Google explaining activities May 16, 2018 of The White Supremacy Organization and the young neo-nazi and neo-fascist Gabriel Chaput. Once I had a look at the information on this neo-nazi it made me think of all the struggles of our people and the black people of Africa- Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and our missing women.

My Spirit brother Mac McCloud says there is no place for hate or anger in native people because it will give us a heart attack. Nelson Mandela spent about thirty years in prison from his oppressors and learned in his own mind that he had to forgive the white oppressor and carry no anger or need for revenge.  While Nelson Mandela was imprisoned his colleague Bishop Tutu continued the struggle outside the prison walls for African people. The time of Apartheid was a time freedom and genocide because people were disappearing tortured and imprisoned for protesting and speaking about their human rights. Mothers and fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers were jailed indefinitely and mass murder and torture occurred amongst the African tribes yet when public outcry began the truth was hidden until the people brought evidence to the colonial court system and the world began to see and demand justice for the people of Africa. The African people themselves let their cry be heard and seen no other way out of dictatorship but to fight for justice and their children’s freedom from suffering. Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu fought for their people and never carried anger, hate or revenge towards their oppressor.  

Mahatma Gandhi might have been the most beautiful leader the world has had taking his people out of the hands of colonialism and showing his people the power of unity, ceremony and peace. Mahatma said the only way to peace is by nonviolence and love. But it took India discipline of the good mind and ceremony to bring justice, freedom, unity, and independence back to India. These stories of equality freedom and peace were created by leaders who believed in the higher purpose of Human Beings and sacrifice with the power of the Universe God or Creator, very little was ever accomplished by atheism. Mandela, Tutu, Gandi, Crazy Horse, Fools Crow, Brant and Peacemaker were leaders who stood with the people mind, body and spirit always with the natural laws and natural life around them and the respect for Mother Earth that she the giver of all life on our sacred journey.

These leaders stood up for peace, power, equality, righteousness and respect for creation. Peacemaker set out on Lake Ontario and could see not far from the shores was a great lodge built in a huge circle as he drew near a woman stood behind a huge fire burning as if to greet Peacemaker. As the Peacemaker introduced himself and his mission to bring peace and harmony to all people the woman said adamantly that there was trouble everywhere among the Mohawk people there. The woman introduced herself as Jigonsaseh of the Great Cat Nation. This woman was both strong and gentle in nature she asked the Peacemaker to sleep in her lodge but that all visitors were asked to leave there weapons outside the lodge Peacemaker assured Jigonsaseh that he carried no weapon .The next day the Peacemaker walked to the nearby swamp where he was told the most dangerous warrior Tadadaho was living, Jigonsaseh was with him and other community elders. They began singing a song of peace to the Tadadaho and slowly he emerged out of the swamp and stood in front of the Peacemaker with his hair swimming with snakes, with his incredible power and hate. As the woman kept singing slowly the snakes began to fall from his head, he, Tadadaho began to look like a human being instead of a anger monster.           

As the Peacemaker began to comb Tadadahos hair, he spoke to Tadadaho of the peace harmony and the need to reason so to bring calmness to his people, then he spoke of Mother Earth and all the natural life and gifts that Great Creator had given Human Beings to be one with. Then the Peacemaker said to Tadadaho would you like to use your mind for peace and would you like to stand for The Great Law and govern your people with a Good Mind. The Peacemaker offered Tadadaho the position to be chief of all chiefs if he could use his energy for peace instead of murder! The Peacemaker then asked the Tadadaho to lead the unity of tribes to become The Haudenosaunee Iroquois Five Nations later to become Six Nations in unity for peace through the use of reason and harmony.    

Uncle Robertjohn of the Seneca, said the White Supremacy is everywhere in the USA and they are the rich and wealthy who refuse to share and take care of Mother Earth and the people, the White Supremacy are negative but the Good Mind is positive energy The Light of our Great Creator is everywhere on Mother Earth the same light from Brother Sun the same light that beats in our hearts. After Peacemaker finished reasoning with Tadadaho, he said “you will lead our 49 chiefs now and you will stand for the Great Law, you will lead the Haudenosaunee Iroquois Five Nations Confederacy and the chiefs will be made by our leader of our woman Jigonsaseh of the Great Cat Nation.”             

There is no place for The White Supremacy in Canada or USA today there are too many native and non-native woman disappearing, the country needs peaceful loving citizens to protect our women and children from hatred and predators.

Revolution for Mother Earth

Alice Faith Keeper, Longhouse Mohawk with husband Lehman Gibson Longhouse Mohawk on their farm Ohsweken Grand River Country  photo by Danny Beaton 1988

Alice Faith Keeper, Longhouse Mohawk with husband Lehman Gibson Longhouse Mohawk on their farm Ohsweken Grand River Country  photo by Danny Beaton 1988

 

In Memory of Alicja Rozanska

Alice and Lehman Gibson would tell me “Danny go out and pick some fresh rhubarb and turn on the garden hose and clean them and eat them after you pull them out of Mother Earth. Then pick some strawberries and eat them out of Mother Earth; they are very healing and still alive.” NiaWeh for all the gifts that our plant life gives us humans to use and heal with, to fill our tummies, medicines, the three sisters, corn, bean and squash, which give us a good life here on this sacred Mother Earth. It is the gardens of the world that feed us with life-giving forces. Our elders teach us, when we are young, to eat plant life from the garden.  Alice said “Nothing is more healing than fresh strawberries right out of the garden, Danny; they are the first to ripen and so we use them in most ceremonies, social gatherings, feasts. They are the leader of the berries in our way of life, we even have strawberries on our traditional clothes and headdresses, shirts, dresses and sacred artwork. Go out in the garden and pick what you like and pick some berries to take home with you. You can wash them, if you like, or just take them off the plant.” The rhubarb was a new experience for me at Lehman and Alice’s farm because I had never really tasted rhubarb fresh from the earth and eating it raw without being cooked or without sugar was a new thing and realistically the only time I had tasted rhubarb was in freshly-baked rhubarb pie when I was a kid. Whenever I visited Six Nations and saw my elders, chiefs, clan mothers and people, they were always friendly on the reservation. The people were mostly always happy when I was young and I would bring my friends from Toronto with me to learn and feel the open space and see the beauty of the farmland and open space. It was magical with the Six Nations community, now people ask me if I am still going to Six.

The people of the cities and urban life, even suburban area, can find peace, healing creativity, community, even great healing there, but there is no healing like the rich forests, meadows, woodlands, old-growth forests or rainforests. The insects creeping, crawling and flying, together with frogs, turtles, salamanders, snakes, are living as one with the ecosystems full of nutrients and medicines, which make up true Creation in its power and spirit. The mushrooms, flowers, berries, wetlands, swamps, Cattails, Oneyed Suzannes, Dandelions, meadows, are evidence of a vast life of species thriving, nurturing each other while we humans can only study what is transpiring in this world we live in. The sap runs from the big Maple and Birch trees and we make syrup for pancakes, but before we boil it, it is considered a powerful medicine for many illnesses. Here in Ontario, Canada, we have Carolina Forest, which is actually the biggest one remaining in Canada with the greatest biodiversity for wildlife: common trees are Shagbark and Black Walnut, both with edible nuts and these nuts are not just good for humans to eat, but also animals: birds eat too, even wild turkeys. Native people gather what our elders call “Repper Roots” and many more herbs for medicinal value. The forests here are home for our relatives, big and small, but now forests are not just a home but a Refuge in Ontario for many creatures, such as the Painted Turtle and Snapping Turtle, which are an endangered species and at risk of disappearing forever. Scientists say we are losing between two hundred and two thousand species each year in the world. Some scientists say the number of species dying is a lot more already. The Eastern Cougar is gone forever, also the japanese Otter, Black Rhinoceros, Pinta Tortoise, Clouded Leopard, Newfoundland and Cascade Wolves, Passenger Pigeon and Labrador Duck, to name a few all directly or indirectly affected by Global Warming.

As native people we have to ask ourselves if there is anything we can do that will stop the destruction of Mother Earth, how we can slow down the forest industry, mining industry, fishing industry, urban sprawl and the oil industry, which includes fracking. When I attended our first elders and youth gatherings in Onondaga, New York, around nineteen ninety, our leaders were crying because our women said our men were not doing enough to protect Mother Earth’s Blood, the water! There were a lot of tears from our grandmothers and women. That had a huge effect on me; from that day on and every ceremony I ever attended with The Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth based in Bozeman, Montana, the spirit of the people always energized our people, the ceremonies were powerful and healing for us all. Back then Bob Staffansan and Eric Noyes were our executives for American Indian Institute and for our council of grassroots spiritual leaders of North America. The Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth is a part of the American Indian Institute and as far as I remember there is a website with the Communiqués or sacred messages sent out from our spiritual leaders and youth, including our mandate.

Almost thirty years ago our elders spoke of the devastations that were happening in their respected communities; alcohol, addictions, drug use, aids, diabetes, environmental issues from pollution to mercury poisoning, then our kids joining gang culture. Back then there was more hope than there is  today, even with everything that was going on. Even as I write this story I think how I can truly wish someone Happy New Year, when it is not a happy situation or new year for Mother Earth or Creation. Our way of life tells us we are supposed to be happy, but realistically it is not a positive time in the history of the earth for anyone. Our elders and youth involved in sacred ceremonies through traditionally native culture and those defending Mother Earth have hope of being human beings again, even when things look bad and hopeless. In the past few years there has been a great resurgence of native culture and pride by standing up for Mother Earth with new protests, called “Idle No More! and “Occupy Now!” Mother Earth can see and hear every ceremony we give, our old elders teach us. Creation can feel every prayer and song and action we take for respect, for life! With the recent protests across Canada and the world for the Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia and the Gidimt’en Clan, support is pouring in for the Indigenous people there, holding anti pipeline camps for Mother Earth’s Protection.

Because there is such a growing consciousness for Mother Earth/Environmental Protection, maybe it is time to start an Indigenous Party of Canada in contrast to the Green Party or NDP social political movements. Maybe Canada is ready for change, maybe Canada wants to start a revolution to bring about change for the planet. There certainly is enough spirit power and Good Minds here to begin. The recent voice of women across Canada can be heard through three of the strongest intelligence and Traditional Indigenous Culturalists: Ellen Gabriel Mohawk teaching at McGill University, Tanya Talaga Anishinaabe (writer for Toronto Star author of Seven Fallen Feathers) and Pamela Palmater (Chair of  Indigenous Studies at Ryerson University). With the backing of natives and non-native people maybe the people can begin to heal themselves and Mother Earth! I have seen the new documentary film Anthropocene (2018) by photographer Edward Burtynsky and I consider it a blueprint for environmental education and protection. Anthropocene was filmed all over the world, showcasing the world’s largest mines and mining corporations devastating the planet and ecosystems, including climate change and the oceans of the world dying out. The spirit of Mother Earth is everywhere in Ed Burtynsky’s new film, from the animals being eradicated to the beauty of people finally standing guard to protect them in protected areas of the wild. The film documents the forests of British Columbia being clear cut throughout coastal mountain paradise. This is a film that shows rape, pillage, genocide and voices of a bankrupt society lost in a fantasy of greed, which needs a healing consciousness to restore balance in the world. We humans need to look at what we are losing at this fast pace, as this generation is a society out of control. “There is a need to start a revolution, because if there is one iota of a chance for restoration for Mother Earth we need it.”

Dannybeaton.ca

Danny Beaton and Lehman Gibson both Mohawk, Six Nations Grand River Country photo by Alice Gibson 1988

Danny Beaton and Lehman Gibson both Mohawk, Six Nations Grand River Country photo by Alice Gibson 1988

Healing Supersedes Punishment

In Memory of Alicja Rozanska

Even when we are born, with just our cry we know the breath of life is a sacred gift from our Great Creator/Great Mystery, Great Spirit. That first cry brings us into life, it gives us that sacred fire and that sacred breath as a part of the four winds that move Creation all about, even sometimes in the form of a hurricane that is part of the Great Mystery. Our old elders teach us that Great Creator put a piece of his sacred fire into each and everyone of us. We all work for the Creator because he is so great.

Started getting up at four am every morning so I can get to my work in the correctional system, my job is to run Sacred Ceremonies/counselling and discussions pertaining to healing and drugs and alcohol. After seven months I can feel the strength of the Brotherhood growing in those who have worked with me in our Sacred Circles, giving Thanksgiving to Mother Earth and passing the Sacred Eagle Wing from hand to hand until everyone has given thanksgiving in their own way to Mother Earth and prayed for healing and the protection of their loved ones outside. The amount of positive energy and respect being created from the Sacred Ceremonies in my classroom is overwhelming by the feedback I get from my students now! There is a sense of respect coming from the correctional officers as well; I can feel it whenever I see them or talk in the workplace and I am proud to be working with the youth and adults who want to change their life. I have never seen or worked with such a respectful and professional staff and Social Workers concerned for giving guidance to people who are trying to find a way to be positive and healthy! When I arrived at my workplace, it was already a healing place: it just got better with the energy from our teachers that I carry and share. I am honored to be a part of a work that brings native culture to people who want to learn sacred teachings of the people who care for environmental protection and peace, justice, harmony and respect.

When I talk to our elders, chiefs and clan mothers back home, there is always news of ups and downs, environmental struggles, elders crossing over, ceremonies coming up and Sacred Conferences that will bring people together for healing and cultural justice for all people and Mother Earth! Our elders always have something positive to share or talk about and our old elders have their stories about how things went in the old days how things went in the ceremonies and who was around in the old days. Alice and Lehman Gibson are featured in my film Mohawk Wisdom Keepers; also in my films are our spiritual leaders Tom Porter, Judy Swamp and Harriet Jock speaking about respect and native values. These elders in the film Mohawk Wisdom Keepers I also bring into my classroom because I feel my own teachings and understanding are not enough for my students. Now I am bringing in my teachers and my friends whom in the past I filmed because I knew they would not be here forever and their wisdom was too important not to document. Sometimes I will tell our students our old elders cannot be replaced; in fact, I have said that all summer long, now fall has passed and winter is here. What we say now is that every people is a spiritual people. In our ceremonies we give thanks to the spirit of the four races of people, the four seasons and the four directions and I say why four then: four races of people in the spirit world are watching over us and we don’t know what spirit decides to help us. My wife Alicja, she is white, she was Polish and she’s the best Indian I ever met; Nelson Mandela is black, we cannot choose who is helping us. When we are praying it just happens.

Things happen in our life we cannot explain, we can only try. When we watch the film Unmistaken Child, on the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama’s brother, we find a lot of information that can help guide us all to better know that the great mystery is powerful and we need to learn more about life and the spirit world. When my students are with me, I say: “When you are here with me, you are free because you are now out of the drug culture, you are out of the gun culture and you are clean and sober and we need to look at our minds like they are a Sacred Garden”. When I was young, our old elders filled us up with love and healing because they knew we had to know how to take care of ourselves and how to take care of our woman and families, but most of all our old elders taught us how to talk to Mother Earth, how to give thanks to Creation and life and to honor the Great Mystery, Our Great Creator! My uncle Robertjohn says: “When you were on the street, you would not listen, but now you are in here and you have to listen”. If my students were still on the street, they might be murdered or killing someone from the drug and gang culture.

Tom Porter and uncle Robertjohn worked in the prison system 20 or 30 years and were community leaders; so was Cree Elder Vern Harper, who is now I believe spiritual leader of Toronto. All these things I say out of truth and love of life and my teachers! The last time I spoke in the Sacred Circle I said: “You need to know how to see things in a spiritual way; that’s why drugs and alcohol kill our mind, body and spirit. It stops us from seeing and drugs and alcohol disconnect us from being guided by spirit world. Chief Richard Maracle, Aussie Staats Norm Jacobs, Ann Jock Leon Shenandoah, Alice and Lehman Gibson were my friends and teachers when they walked on Mother Earth. Now they crossed over. They are Mohawk ancestors and our spirit helpers, maybe they help me every day?

When we are clean and sober, we can see things and feel things that are sacred and real. When we are stoned out, we are in the ultimate fantasy world and we need to come back to the real world: our people need us, all the people need us, Mother Earth needs us. The greatest thing in the world is the work we do for ourselves and others and all of life. Every time we step into the community to talk, work, eat or do ceremony we energize ourselves. Tom Porter says ceremonies energize us. We all need to energize ourselves through our Traditional culture or books and films and art or through all forms of the arts pertaining to healing and protecting Mother Earth. It’s all simple, but because we get hurt in our youth, it becomes trauma and when we see things when we are young, it stays with us till we are adults or adolescents and we copy it and act out because it was too painful to see or hear or feel violence. So I always ask my students if they ever saw their parents fighting when they were young. I always ask my students: “Did you ever see your parents drinking alcohol or doing drugs when you were young or did your parents break up when you were young?”, because these situations are devastating for young people to feel. Our prisons are full of people who imitate and copy what they saw and heard and felt when they were young and some never had ceremonies, medicine or love to heal with!

Our prisons are filled with our youth who became wounded men and women who need help and healing in today’s world. Doctors, social workers, caregivers, therapists and psychologists are on the front lines doing everything they can to create harmony and balance, but indigenous ceremonies, medicine, songs and way of life create respect. Our prisons need programs and farms and gardens and farming, for healing and restoration of the spirit, mind and body. Healing should supersede punishment! Our Sacred Ceremonies are full of healing, respect, love, balance, wisdom and harmony. That is why the Sacred Circle is so important to the prison system.

Alice Gibson Speaks out in the film Mohawk Wisdom Keepers:

“Long ago when I was a child we were more family-orientated because we had our grandmother and grandfather. My grandparents lived behind us. Every time you spoke to my grandmother you only needed to speak Indian. If you spoke English she wouldn’t talk to you. I used to get mad at her and I didn’t speak to her for a long time. Then I’d start again in Indian because I don’t know if she knew it but that was her rule: if you spoke English at all she wouldn’t speak to you. Now I am glad she did that. We were always at my grandparents home because they always had time for us kids.My cousins too we all were always at our grandparents’ place down the hill. Me and my sister were kind of bad, we used to tease our cousin Robert. If my grandmother or grandfather saw Robert raise a hand or even smart mouth me they’d just be all over him or make him go to work or else they’d send him home. We always got tired of playing with him and he bugged us; then my grandparents would send him out to bring in wood. They had no hydro and I always wondered how they lived because they wouldn’t apply for old age pension for the longest time. I know my dad and mom helped them. It was a nice place to visit growing up. In those days it was very strange growing up with all the things that happened.                            

We used to go to a one-room schoolhouse. When I first started school I was only five years old and we had to walk a mile everyday. In those days we were taught not to use our own language and I know my older sisters when they’d only speak in Indian because that is the way we were raised. It was my generation I believe that started using more English at home than Indian. I blame that on us. Because English was surrounding us more and more. We would get a strapping at school if we spoke Indian. Our language was really frowned upon in school. So we tried to use more and more English: that’s how it all got started. I think the kids were nicer back then. They weren’t mean. There’s violence now in the classroom that I find with the young people. Now I don’t  know if every old person says this, but there’s no respect any more for old or young or for each other. We’re losing respect for each other as people. In our days you just dare hit anyone, especially your brother or sister, and your hand would burn. They always told us your hand was burning up because it was a sin to hit anyone. Nowadays you go into the classroom and bang bang bang. There is no respect for each other, older people or younger. I find that really sad. But you talk of respect, there’s two sides of that. It’s the same with the adults today: they show no respect to the little kids and little kids deserve as much respect. You give what you dish out. I think respect is lost also from adults to the little kids. It’s just completely lost altogether, which is causing turmoil in the homes and around the world. Now there is no respect for other people, small or big. To me that’s one of the most important things. It really bothers me today about Six Nations and around the world, around me. It really bothers me and I said I am now a teacher. I’m in the classroom a lot of the times and you can see it in the kids. It’s the neglect; some kids are so like, not looked after. They’re abused, physically and mentally. Some of them will go hungry. It bothers me. What’s the most important thing in the world? I’ll tell you: before anything The Creator. He cares for the small babies and little children and the the old people. We stand in between. We’re the ones who have to carry the caring for both. That’s our future and there are so many people now that seem to have no love or caring for their children. This really bothers me, not only among us Indians; it’s in the papers every day. I wish this would change in the world!”

 

The Last Prayer

Wendy and Alicja with the Beaton Family Nanaimo BC photo by Pat Beaton

Wendy and Alicja with the Beaton Family Nanaimo BC photo by Pat Beaton

In Memory of Alicja Rozanska

Woke up at midnight last month after sleeping four hours and was not sure if I had a vision or if I was thinking in my sleep or what, but I was having all these thoughts about my elders and who was praying with them and if they had said their last prayer.

We all need to share, communicate, work, create and heal to survive; if we find love we are lucky and if we learn to pray, then we can give thanks like all the old cultures did in the old days. Of course we are an extension of our ancestors, we are an extension of our elders and loved ones. We are the past, present and future generations; we are the light, darkness, the sun, earth, air and water. My old uncle Robertjohn says it is the old elders who have taught us as children how to give thanksgiving, how to honor life and Mother Earth; our elders teach us everything has a spirit. Robertjohn says everything is alive; if you are sitting on the moon looking down at Mother Earth, he says “alive or dead”.

When our old elders gathered up and we all stood in a circle around the sacred fire every year, our prayers got stronger and our love got stronger, but our people were getting weak from the negativity around us and we tried to keep our way of life alive, but everything was out of balance in the world, from losing our natural diets to forgetting to maintain physical, mental, spiritual indigenous lifestyle.

Robertjohn said the highest form of prayer is song. In the song is the melody, the harmony and the thought, the prayer. All the songs in the world have given so much love, joy, peace to the peoples of the world and their very spirit. Some songs are so healing we need to hear them over and over and over again. Some songs are sung every day, they are sung by the entire community, entire families, entire nations for respect, for peace, for harmony, maybe even for healing. Some songs are so powerful they are used for birth and crossing over. Some songs can be used for purification, cleaning of the mind, body and spirit. Some songs are for making happy, in giving thanks to Creation and Life and Life-giving forces. Rabbit Dance Song, Eagle Song, Fish Dance Song, songs that honor fish, birds, insects and animals bring us closer to our relations and our relatives. The songs are old, the songs are new, but they are songs that bring harmony, peace, humility, justice and unity. The song is a form of prayer, a form of respect, a form of healing. A song is from the heart, the song is from the spirit, the song can be with tears and laughter, peace and pain. Some of the most beautiful songs come from birds, animals, fish and insects, we just cannot hear some. The universe can be a place of prayer and song at times in Tibet, Mongolia, China, Africa, Greece, Turkey, Australia, Poland, Russia, America and the world. The world can be a breeding ground for peace, harmony, prayer, song and dance.

When I woke from my dream, I thought who was praying with our elders. I thought of Leon Shenandoah,  one of our most gentle Onondaga chiefs,  who was chief of the chiefs, Tadodaho, a leader of his people and culture, someone raised in peace, power, righteousness, respect and harmony. Then I thought who was praying with Austin and Hilba Two Moons when they were dissidence of his grandfather who fought in Little Big Horn and Austin always treated me like a son, the way most of our elders treated us when we attended sacred gatherings and councils. Every year our Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth/American Indian Institute would sponsor and organize our sacred councils somewhere in Canada or US, where a native community was in need of traditional native elders to help bring back their native ways and ceremonies with our help. Then I started thinking who is praying for my mom and is her apartment getting smudged and purified. I know Marcus and Priscilla Vigel had a strong community of Pueblo Culture and that their ceremonial life was strong among the families and people of New Mexico. They had two daughters, Margret and Vicky, who were like clan mothers keeping the family and community positive with prayers and good energy. Also I knew Tom Porter, our spiritual leader of the Mohawk people, was being looked after because he was always out in the community boosting people’s spirit with his wisdom and teachings of The Good Mind, of the respect needed for any family or community to find tranquility, harmony, equality, justice and peace. When I think of the love and gentleness from Ann Jock for all Indian people and all people of the world and her own family with her husband Corn Planter, I realize there is hope in the world if such love can exist on the planet! Who taught us how to pray, who taught us how to give thanksgiving, who taught us how to purify ourselves. Priscilla used to say to me, Danny you pray for me and I will pray for you in the most beautiful way. It was like a blessing just to be talked to in that gentleness and peaceful manner.

Our circle is still going, but it is not what it used to be. Our elders are being replaced by their children and it’s a new generation and not that it’s not a strong generation, but the ones who carried their fathers’ and grandfathers’ Sacred Pipes are a different breed, because you had to see the open space, freedom and cleanness of  Mother Earth to know that power and quietness of 100 years ago, even the stories that were told two hundred years ago by their elders. I remember teachings twenty-five years ago: our elders said prepare yourself for what’s coming because everything is falling apart. Even when my partner/wife was diagnosed with cancer and I tried to save her, I learned that the trees were a nation to themselves and that the plants were a nation too a part of  Mother Earth and I prayed to them to help Alicja and I prayed to the Grandmother Moon to help Alicja, but then in the end I learned I had to give thanksgiving for all the years we had together and not ask for more.

All of this stuff happening tells me how Sacred Life is, how beautiful life is all around us. Sure we can see destruction and the rape of Mother Earth by negative people and corporations, but there is natural beauty all around us, even gardens, forests, mountains and lakes to heal in and energize ourselves. Like Janice Longboat says, our teachers are all around us ready to teach, but we as people have to want to see, hear and feel the gifts that the Universe, our Great Creator has blessed us all with. Like Mac McCloud says, what Mac says has to be said, what Mac says is the truth. The way I see things is we need to give Thanksgiving ourselves, we need to be mindful of Creation and be thanksgiving people.

Danny and Alicja in Nanaimo BC photo by Pat Beaton

Danny and Alicja in Nanaimo BC photo by Pat Beaton

When I was coming home from work the other day, I thought what if all the electricity shut down, what if all the hot water stopped getting hot, where would our energy come from, what’s going to power the cities if things collapse. What happens if the oil and gas run out. This world or society is built on security and refreshments and we are forgetting the Sacredness of it all. Even though my wife is gone and even though my mom is so far away, I love them more than anything I know or can see or feel; only the moon and my grandchildren can take their place now. We are living in a fragile time with our oceans being destroyed so fast; with machinery nothing seems to be sacred any more in this world, but it all is. I am honored to be sitting here at my computer with all these memories and thoughts and I pray that we all find time to bring back the Sacred and Respect for Mother Earth and Creation and we give thanks for all those who have forgotten to be thankful.

One of my best friends and elders crossed over not long ago: Wilmer Nadjiwon was 97 years old, a chief of his people for fourteen years. When we spent time together it was like hearing the legends of the past. Wilmer was a hunter and fisherman, he could feed his family and people and he did. Wilmer went to war for Canada like many other native people when we were at war. Our ancestors are as noble as the old days but wounded and broken from residential school like my uncle Wilmer. As long as I live I will smoke my pipe for Wilmer and my wife because we were happy all together, we did ceremony together, we worked for Mother Earth together and we ate together. We were the truest extended family. Wilmer was an Ojibway hero and leader. We cannot forget our elders! Wilmer was angry but he was gentle like many native people, he was gifted and blessed to be a Sacred Artist carving, writing and painting.

Chief Oren Lyons said our Sacred Pipes belong to the Creator. We pray for all people and give thanks to Creator and Mother Earth for all the gifts from The Great Mystery.

They are benefiting from our misery: The Rape of Northern Ontario

www.dannybeaton.ca     In Memory Of Alicja Rozanska

Protest and Occupation at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Toronto for  the kids of Attawapiskat. Photo by Stan Williams, April 2016.

Protest and Occupation at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Toronto for the kids of Attawapiskat. Photo by Stan Williams, April 2016.

Two weeks before the takeover of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), I had the privilege of sitting down with Gary Wassaykeesic (Dec 4, 1969) near Pickle Lake, Ontario Canada five hundred miles north of Thunder Bay. Gary was one of the protestors who took over the 8th floor of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada on Thursday, April 14th, 2016, where the protest is still going on today (Sunday April 17th).

Gary has been a friend from our neighbourhood here in Toronto where we both live and work as Native activists for Mother Earth and our people, only now our kids are committing suicide because of the attack and rape of the land by mining companies and logging in Attawapiskat, Mishkeegogamang, and other northern Native communities. Many elders call our sadness and sickness “culture shock” or traumatization, helplessness. Children are seeing no future ahead but see drugs and alcohol finding a way into northern communities by roads built for exploration and exploitation on Indigenous territories. With no sharing of the corporate profit, Indigenous people are losing culture, homeland, respect, and their heath. Native kids are committing suicide because of the negativity and being out-of-balance with their culture, the misery they see their parents facing!

Gary Wassaykeesic Speaks Out

I am from northern Ontario, five hundred miles north of Thunder Bay, Pickle Lake Sioux Lookout area. But there’s a reserve called Mishkeegogamang, formally known as Isenberg. There is a lot of mining going on where I am from, a lot of extracting that they are doing, always finding different minerals up in our territory.

Gary Wassaykeesic (Left) and Danny Beaton (Right) at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Toronto. Photo Credit: Greg Allan

Gary Wassaykeesic (Left) and Danny Beaton (Right) at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Toronto. Photo Credit: Greg Allan

 

There is so much to talk about now. Canadian gold mines that do international mining. The mining companies put a highway right through our community and built hydro dams for power. They really did the conquer and divide routine on us. There used to be five different communities in our territory; they turned around and separated us with the highway, and they separated us further by putting hydro down the middle of our main community, which makes hundreds of millions of dollars every year. They built a highway which goes through our community, which serves the gold mines. It’s all self serving.

Danny, they are doing other mining too: ore, diamonds, and more. We are ninety eight percent on welfare! What is wrong with this picture? The same thing is happening in Attawapiskat, James Bay, communities all across the north are being exploited for minerals or logging or hydro—whatever makes a profit for companies.

But yes, that’s where I come from, and there are a lot of issues happening, like the Ring of Fire. It’s going to be happening within our territory, so the mining companies will be using our roads—or its more like government roads—and the highway or the little strips of land that cuts through our territory, our reserve, our land. They consider it that little “government strip of land” That highway is theirs to do what they want. That hydro line that goes right through our territory, our reserve, belongs to them. It’s considered government or Hydro property and we get nothing from all that! We get nothing from the mines, hardly. Whatever agreements were made, we get minimal; they are like two cents to whatever they profit.

Our people are dying at a fast rate now. We’re dying from diabetes, from alcohol-related deaths, a lot of our people are on the streets. Some could not take it here—the isolation, seeing the rape of Mother Earth, the pollution, the violence growing and growing. Some of our people left the reserve and are dying in Dryden, Thunder Bay, Red Lake, Pickle Lake, Sioux Lookout and even Toronto where I am living, cities near and far.

I just feel the way things are this has got to stop. It’s been going on since first contact: walking all over the Indian man. The death rate is so high. That’s the bottom line for me. When people are dying, you have to do something man. If no one is going to do nothing, someone is going to pick it up and do something about it, and that’s the way I feel. All this stuff that’s happening, man— because when I get a phone call, sometimes I have to hold my breath. Sometimes because you’re getting bad news from home. Sometimes its from your own family that someone is dying from diabetes or violently or found frozen outside, so many different causes of death in our territory right now and that’s what Toronto doesn’t know or Six Nations doesn’t know. That’s what southern regions don’t know: what’s happening in Northern Ontario.

In some communities, if we are walking down the street after dark and a non-Native is walking on the same street towards you, if you don’t cross the street then you get beat up or attacked. There is still racism in Kenora. It is the worst place for beatings in Canada. It’s like Mississippi Burning. We’re the blacks all over again. Would you believe this is happening all over the north? Sure there are some good people but not enough to make a difference. Our women are disappearing, our mothers are not safe, our sisters are not safe. We are afraid to live in our own country. The corporations did this to our reserves. We never had so much sickness.

We have been here for thousands of years, so why are these companies not sharing our resources that they are extracting? Look at our people! We have been here thousands of years! Look at our people. When the government says we have to move in a day, we are told we have to live in a box called reservations. Then they send us to these wonderful institutions called residential schools. They did the Sixties Scoop on us. These are issues that created culture shock. We are a broken nation!!

The way I look at this is the genocide is still going on here in the north, but its affecting all of Ontario, all of Canada, and the whole planet! The resources that they are extracting, all the gold that they take out of our territory comes down to Bay Street in Toronto. They take it down their government highway they consider government land right, and our people are lining up at the welfare office. Meanwhile Toronto is living like kings and queens. They are benefitting from our misery because all the gold and minerals comes from our homeland, our traditional territory. We have been here since the beginning of time, living off the land hunting, trapping, and gathering. The earth was pristine when they got here! Why does it have to be destroyed? We were living the way you’re supposed to live. Now they make us live the way we are today, moving us around in misery.

When I talk to my brother and relatives and friends back home, things are not the way they are in Toronto. In Toronto everything is at the touch of a button. Everything here in Toronto is happy. Like I said Danny, its good here, but how can I be positive when you’re always getting news of people living in misery? How can you be positive when so many of our people are dying in misery? My own story is, I have been through the residential schools. I know the story first hand about all of this. The government has turned us around so much that we have to beg for what is ours to start with. They have done a fantastic job of turning our lives around.

Now the forestry companies are getting closer and closer to our homeland, and they want to build a gold mine in our backyard. If this carries, my work as an activist will have to help my people more because I am awake spiritually and consciously for ten years. I know where I have been and am at, and I know where I am going. My mom was murdered when I was in the residential school. That’s when I started to get into activism because I needed to know what happened to my mom while I was in Residential school. As a kid I was always put into foster homes, group homes, training schools, jails—all of that. My life was institutional for a long time, but I always wanted to do something for my mother’s case, my mother’s justice! I have been doing line nine blockades, train blockades, road blockades to protect Mother Earth with Natives and non-Natives. Trying to get the word out what happened to our people. Why we have so much drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness on the streets—its happening all over Canada.

The impact of what happened to us, the politics that have played out, its exactly what happened to us—now I see on the streets of Toronto, not just in my community. Sometimes I live on the street, and I would rather be on the street. I used to have a girlfriend. I used to have a job and apartment. I had a lot. But when I started looking into my mother’s case, I became a Native activist. I became involved in something more than myself. I became one with Mother Earth and my people. I don’t have too much, Danny, but I am a happier person, and I am a little bit more satisfied because I have answers now. Now I know what happened to me, my brothers. I know what happened to my family, our community. I know what happened to Native people right across this land, now our home.

The impact of residential schools, the politics that played out, are still going on to this day. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission doesn’t mean a damn thing because no one contacted me about my opinion, and I have been working on Native missing and murdered women issues for ten years now, trying to get the truth out because Canada has a propaganda machine going that we as Native people are up against. Canadian society has fallen asleep spiritually and consciously. Corporations and government are making war on Mother Earth and her children.

When people come to our country, they don’t know what Native people are because Canada tells them who Native people are. New Canadians say, “Oh you Natives get a big house and free money every year! Canada treats you real good,” and I could bring them new people to our home and they would be shocked.

 

Spiritual Journey: New Year Coming

To feel the warmth of the earth and life around us is a blessing from the universe and powers that the Great Spirit has given Human Beings. Our women and children are the biggest gift Creator has given to man to protect, honor, and celebrate creation with. So much abundance of life in so many forms, species, and the ecosystems, the circle of life and creation in all their forms. Our elders say our ancestors are waiting for us on the other side, the Buddhists say we are reincarnated, and Christians say we go to heaven.

The Navajo teach their children that there is beauty below us and beauty above us and beauty all around us, and that all Creation can hear us. When we talk to them, the plant life, rivers, lakes, mountains, stones, flowers, insects, animals, fish, birds, air, fire, and water are powers that can hear us too when we give thanks by prayer.

Uncle Robert John says that the Milky Way is a home for the Spirit World when we cross to the other side. He says our job is to help our loved ones to cross over so they can have a good journey. Carlos Santana says it is our responsibility to bury our relatives. Tom Porter said our Great Creator is The Great Mystery and The Great Spirit; many elders say Tom always has a different story to tell to inspire, to empower his Mohawk People of the Pines, the People of the Longhouse, the People of the Flint.

Ceremonies with Elders and Youth. Photo Credit: Danny Beaton 2015

Ceremonies with Elders and Youth. Photo Credit: Danny Beaton 2015

When we gathered in Utah this September for the Religious Parliament, the Mayan shaman said our bones are in the same structure as the constellations and the cosmos. They also said the fire in our hearts is connected to the fire in the sun and all the planets in the universe. Then the Mayan couple, husband and wife, lead our elders through a sacred ceremony to honor and give thanks to Mother Earth and the universe.

We like to say we have a Way of Life, and it is not a religion. Natives believe we are on a spiritual journey with the natural world. But many of our people are becoming unnatural as the people of the world are falling asleep spiritually; many people of the world have become spiritually bankrupt. Father Thomas Berry the eco-Christian theologian said Human Beings have drifted into the fantasy world and the real world is being lost to the fast pace of society.

There is a divorce taking place with the natural world. This fantasy has not been positive; it is killing all the life force and species. So when Dr. Reed Noss, Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Florida, spoke at the University of Toronto in June this year, he spoke of the life species being destroyed in Florida all the way to Georgian Bay and being invaded by urban sprawl. This gift, our Mother Earth that the universe has trusted us humans with to honor and respect, is connected to us Human Beings physically, psychically and spiritually—why are we killing ourselves? We need to prepare ourselves and our families for the New Year coming and the generations that are unborn.

When my partner/wife and I returned from Walk for Water in Atlanta, Georgia, Alicja said to me we should have a walk to Stop Dump Site 41, and we did. The Walk for Water was a huge success and Steve Ogden was never happier once it went on Dale Gold Hawk with hundreds of thousands of listeners tuning in. After Alicja’s walk to Stop Site 41, Maude Barlow had another walk that started in Springwater and ended at Art Parnel’s clover field where we were camped out already for 3 months.

What I want to say now is the people who showed up were the most peaceful and loving protesters I had seen in a long time. The spirit that day was so gentle and loving; it was a beautiful summer day. My wife and I had sat on the wagon, and the Ojibway drummers were being led by John Hawk, the camp’s Fire Keeper. These memories will last forever if we let them: the sun shining, the wind blowing, and all of us saying to ourselves, “This is an awesome day to be helping Mother Earth.”

We need to fill ourselves up with this kind of energy and activity that is positive and creative! We need to keep Simcoe County and Ontario clean and our sacred waters clean so that we and creation can live a good life! When Alicja and I used to drive from Toronto every chance we could to be in our home in Simcoe forest, we never stopped thinking of all the negative development and urban sprawl taking over the farmland and forests. Of course we have the Green Belt and the Green Party, but will this stop the fast pace of lawyers and money changing hands? We know the French Hill is being chopped up, and it is a huge hardwood forest in Waverly, Ontario. We need you to cry again. We need to organize ourselves for life and the future. We need to honor our relatives in the Spirit World and never forget them.

In Memory of Alicja Rozanska

Photography and Story by Danny Beaton, Turtle Clan, Mohawk

www.dannybeaton.ca

 

Protecting Our Children: Kenn Richard Speaks Out

After we become human beings again, then we see how creation, Mother Earth, the universe, the cosmos, and our children carry the purity of life around us. The sacred teachings of our ancestors are peace, justice, unity, righteousness, respect, and harmony. Our grandmas and grandpas passed on everything they could after colonization, and the ones who were not touched by colonization know the law of the natural world. Many of the indigenous peoples of the world are carrying the spiritual teachings of their ancestors, the Good Mind, the Good Hearted People.

Our children must be protected, defended, and loved by these sacred teachings and the way of life that nourished our ancestors when Mother Earth was once clean, fresh, full of fertility and power—when our plant life, rivers, lakes, oceans, and all creation was pure and clean! The four-legged, the fish life, the insects and winged ones are still our relatives. This way of life is for our children to know and experience.

My brother Kenn Richard is a founder of the organization Native Child and Family Services of Toronto. This article is about how Native Child and Family Services began with the wisdom and spirit of our people, who knew things had to change for our children and our people in order for us to survive in a better way. This story is dedicated to the staff and parents who seek healing and protecting for Native children and life!

KENN RICHARD SPEAKS OUT

Kenn Richard, Founder of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto

Kenn Richard, Founder of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto

My name is Kenneth Denis Leo Fidel Richard. I guess I got saints in there, and my grandfather’s name was Fidel. My first name Kenneth is not a French or Métis name, it’s Scottish. That kind of tells you that I am from Winnipeg, Manitoba. I was born in St. Boniface hospital, pretty much at the forks of the Red and Assinaboine rivers in St. Boniface. My father is a Richard, my mother a Morrissette, both big names up and down those rivers from the days of the Pembina Territory. My father was born in the house of Cuthbert Grant, the famous Métis “Warden of Plains” responsible for what they called the Seven Oaks Massacre, so this Manitoba history is infused in my blood. All this I became aware of later in life, as we never grew up talking about the history or our place in it.

My mom was a housekeeper at the Fort Garry hotel. My dad was a construction worker all his life. It was a good life but a rough one back in that day. Five people in a one bedroom “wartime” house. I guess I owe the Jesuits for my education. For about ten seconds I thought of becoming a priest, but snapped out of that at puberty. Not only am I the first generation to live in the city, I am also among the first to graduate from university.

I lived in days before Indigenous issues were talked about. For the first twenty years of my life, I was relatively unconscious, just enjoying the sixties, playing drums in a band called the Sugar and Spice. Then I got a social work degree, and that changed everything. I eventually became a child protection worker, although I never had any inkling to do so.

I worked for the Children’s Aid Society of Winnipeg, one of the most oppressive of all children’s aid societies. It was an apprehension machine, and there I am, a young guy trying to understand what’s happening. I carry a caseload of Native families and kids who by the standard of the day were at risk, terrible poverty with inadequate everything, and addictions blowing it all up. While the conditions of the families were dire, I rarely saw the benefit of apprehending the kids. I worked my ass off to keep the families together, which I mostly did.

In that process, I appreciated that it was really complicated, Child Welfare and the Sixties Scoop. Kids were in distress back then, and their parents were not only poor, they were carrying a lot of trauma as well. It was not talked about in those days; the residential school stuff came out in addictions and bad behaviours.

The services provided were not effective. Truly, they did not resonate with the people they were serving. It was mostly children’s aid workers apprehending kids, probation officers keeping kids restrained, that kind of social control stuff. My consciousness grew, and I wanted change for a multitude of reasons, mostly because I could see myself in these children. I could feel a resonance there, though my life was not so bad. I formed myself in the sixties. I was a musician, and it was a gift to have that lifestyle because it helped deliver me to the place where I am now. From there, working in child welfare in the bad days set me on a path of working as a children’s advocate, a path that I travel today.

I did some work in Winnipeg, but it really came to fruition when I joined my girlfriend in Toronto. In the early stages of my life in Toronto, I worked for the Children’s Aid Society but eventually met a guy name Gus Ashawasege. Gus is passed now. He was a residential survivor. He was one of those guys that was everywhere, doing everything. When you look back at Anishnawbe Health Toronto, Aboriginal Legal Services, Native Child and Family Services, guess what? Gus was the president of all those boards in the early stages, and he became a real mentor. When I got to know him, he asked me to join a group that was looking at child welfare issues. They needed someone who had experience. I joined the committee, and that was the beginning of the development of this Native Child and Family Services here in Toronto in the mid ’80s.

A bunch of community members concerned about kids, getting together and saying what are we going to do? It’s corny to hear that phrase “let’s get together,” but this was that in action! There was Priscilla Hughit, Gus Ashawasega, Maryanne Kelly, Reva Jewel, Emma King, Nelly Ashawasega, Wilson Ashkwe, people from the old Indian community of Toronto some would call them. They were the first to kick off this kind of development, and I wanted to help. Not only because I wanted to help—this is what I started in Manitoba. Gus’s offer was a gift to me because this was all about the social justice I wanted to address since having those experiences in child welfare back home.

We had an elder on this board named Wilson Ashkwe. Wilson was very gifted. His day job was a bureaucrat for the Feds, otherwise he was an herbalist; he could doctor, and he knew his stuff. We all went to Stony Lake with Jim Dumont for a visioning event. Wilson checked that lake all day, waiting. I asked about that, and he said he was expecting a certain root to pop up that he needed. Soon he was dragging what looked like a tree behind him saying he could eat now, and that’s what we did. He knew things that I didn’t know, that’s for sure! He was on our hiring committee. We went through lots of resumes for people applying for the first executive director’s position, and we were disappointed. Wilson said, “Why don’t we just hire this guy in the cowboy boots,” referring to and pointing at me. That was, for me, a magical intervention. In that moment, Wilson charted my whole life. I owe both Gus and Wilson, old time residential school survivors, both traumatized I am sure, but both having sufficient strength and resilience of spirit to do the work that they did. They basically gifted me with this position and I have been here since 1988.

Six Nations Artist Shares Insights About Language

At the center of Indian Country on Six Nations-Grand River Territory in the middle of the Iroquois Village Plaza is Everything Cornhusk, where we are greeted by a display of traditional cornhusk dolls and acrylic-on-canvas paintings. Six Nations’ multimedia artist Elizabeth Doxtater shares her insights through her art regarding many historic and current issues that affect our people.

Elizabeth Doxtater works on a cornhusk doll.

Elizabeth Doxtater works on a cornhusk doll.

 

From her unpublished book Art of Peace Elizabeth writes:

“After Indigenous people become strong, have clear understanding of traditional values, and the ways and means to express such within the modern world, no longer living in fear of outdated genocidal policies and legislation, we will then start the process of ‘Psychological Revillagization.’ The people will have the frame of mind as our ancestors did while they were living in villages. Peace, power, righteousness will be an expectation of each member of this group. This will counter the current oppressed peoples survival tactics associated with lateral violence.”

Elizabeth Doxtater, Six Nations Artist.

Elizabeth Doxtater, Six Nations Artist.

There is an ongoing struggle that many of us who have lost our language experience. I saw this television show called That’s Incredible back in the 1970s showing new scientific discoveries. One episode showed if you got bite from a venomous snake scientists could take that same venomous poison and turn it into a cure for that snake bite. I understood from that how the English language that was often violently forced on our people could aid as part of the cure.

We’re kind of like the lost generation. Now we can take some of those words that they have labeled us with, because some words they use are very negative and victimizing. We can turn those words around; we can create a language within a language to survive.

One word which is like anti venom would be “coloniocide.” This would mean putting an end to colonization. This new word is more accurate than decolonize. Decolonize means when a colony is granted sovereignty, but because we never surrendered our sovereignty, that doesn’t really fit. We can’t be granted sovereignty by a group of people for whom we’ve never been subjects. We’ve been “allies with” but not “subjects of.”

Another word that isn’t used very often is “dissimilation.” It can displace “assimilation.” It means individuals from our communities will be able to maintain our identities despite colonialism. We can still continue to participate in mainstream society, but we understand that we are distinct. We know that we are different from non-Natives.

We have a habit of repeating what non-Natives say, so if they put a label on something like Indian Residential Schools then we call it “Indian Residential Schools,” but the reality is they weren’t “ours.” They weren’t “homes,” and they really were not “schools.” So by repeating the name that they gave their institutions, we perpetuate their myth. The Truth and Reconciliation report says the schools were set up as a catalyst to take title of our homelands (Davin Report 1879), and in the White Paper Act of 1969 they say you don’t have your language anymore so now you’re going to be a Canadian. That was and is a form of genocide. Instead of calling them Indian Residential Schools, I suggest we call them “Canadian Genocidal Encampments.”

Another common phrase is “intergenerational trauma.” When we talk about intergenerational trauma we are focusing on the negative, when the reality is we’re still here! We still know who we are! If I saw you on the street, we’d nod even if I didn’t know you; we still knowledge each other, so we’re still distinct.

Instead of talking about intergenerational trauma (which is still here and we’re still dealing with and healing from), we can now talk about intergenerational survival and intergenerational healing. Those phrases can displace intergenerational trauma because “intergenerational survival” and “intergenerational healing” gives our young people the opportunity to celebrate the same resilience of our ancestors and become empowered as a result.

by Elizabeth Doxtater

by Elizabeth Doxtater

People’s individual experiences are unique, and I think we’re at a time in history where we’re just starting to more openly talk about how all those negative things impact our people. To a certain extent, we’re becoming more forgiving of ourselves and of each other. We understand people who are struggling to find their way back to the important teachings that were kept safe for us.

Formerly, there was an understanding that if you were raised in the city or if you were raised on the reserve there were two different world views, but I’m not sure it’s like that anymore. I think you will find that for a lot of people it’s like feeling like you’re the only one that’s raised in the city, so you don’t know anything about living in your home community or you’re the only one living on the reserve whose understanding about traditions is limited, or whichever way you understand your reality.

One of the things that gets lost is we repeat the statistics and the trauma that occurs, and we mistake that for our identity. We have to remember that we come from the Indigenous Nations of North America. We come from a history that was powerful, and it was beautiful. Our traditions were based on our people appreciating and giving thanksgiving to the wonder and beauty of everything in Creation.

In those teachings, we continue to have a responsibility to give thanks for those gifts from Creator. We understood we had a responsibility to take care of Mother Earth for our future generations. We are forgetting that because we are so focused on the trauma that happened to our people—we have to acknowledge that trauma and work through it. Now it is time to remind ourselves that we come from a rich culture.

Elizabeth Doxtater, Six Nations Artist.

Elizabeth Doxtater, Six Nations Artist.

We were all given our own mind. Our minds are precious and should be protected. We decide what we will allow in. We also learn what we should be protected from. Our mind is a gift from Shonkwaya’tihsonh. It is a sacred place. It is the first thing that is mentioned in the Great Law. A healthy mind is part of the “Great Peace.”

We can wear the peace like armour. It can protect us like it protected our ancestors. After all of the effort to commit any and every form of genocide against our ancestors, we are the evidence of the strength, endurance, and resilience of our people, protected by peace. We just need to remember: we are the real people of this land. Our breath comes from Shonkwaya’tihsonh; our bodies come from Mother Earth. We are still here, and we are gifts! We need to wear that knowledge as armour, not to boast, but to dismiss anything that has been an imposed, oppressive mind set. The lateral violence that can be epidemic in many of our communities can be dismissed using the power of peace, power, righteousness, love, unity, good-mindedness, and compassion. This isn’t a list of words that we memorize and just recite. We are actively supposed to—by law—practice these values through our actions.

(Art of Peace, Elizabeth Doxtater, 2014)