Posts By: Danny Beaton (Mohawk)

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     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


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, 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)

Defending Mother Earth: A Blue Print For All Life Species in North America

by Dr. John Bacher and Danny Beaton, Turtle Clan Mohawk []

On June 17th, 2015 Dr. Reed Noss, Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Florida, the author of seven books and 304 articles, gave an impassioned talk in the Debates Room of the University of Toronto’s Hart House. Noss spoke on the need to rescue and connect natural habitats before they are chopped up by urban sprawl. Isolated habitat islands are becoming “biological sinks”: leading to species extirpation and extinction.

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Reed Noss Environmentalist and Danny Beaton Mohawk Clan. Photo by Andrew McCammon.

Noss was introduced by Shelly Petrie, Program Director of the Greenbelt Foundation. She stressed his rescue of the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Niagara Escarpment from development cuts.

Noss exploded debate through maps. These indicate areas that should be “re-wilded”, (meaning restored to natural habitat). During the late 1980s his dissertation supervisor, told him, “Don’t publish these maps.” Noss gleefully recalled how, “I did publish the maps, and they soon dominated the front pages of Florida’s newspapers. “

Noss finds that, “There are a minority of around twenty-five per cent of the population who disagree with the natural areas networks the maps propose. They attempt to use the maps to organize opposition to conservation. They do not however, succeed in changing public opinion. Most people are inspired by maps that show more wild lands”.

Noss recalled how, “For twenty-five years Florida funded land acquisition based on the corridor concept at a guaranteed level of $350 million annually. This continued until the last six years. It only ended because of the domination of state politics in Florida by the factional group known as the Tea Party. The majority of the population however, do not support the Tea Party’s antics. This was shown by a successful referendum for an amendment to the Florida state constitution to restore funding for the acquisition of natural areas. “

Although retarded by the Tea Party, Noss’ efforts during the quarter-century that they were funded in Florida have had a major impact on rescuing critical threatened species, notably the Cougar and the Black Bear. Before the program began to have an impact in the 1990s the Florida Panther, ( a popular name for the American Cougar in Florida), was on the verge of extirpation. Since they were trapped in a few protected areas such as Everglades National Park, the Cougars were suffering from genetic uniformity, causing a high rate of mortality from heart disease.

In response to the Cougars’ plight Noss soon showed the importance of the new scientific discipline he leads so ably, Conservation Biology. Cougars from Texas were brought in to increase genetic diversity in the population. This was combined over the a quarter century with an aggressive program of purchase of habitat including linkages that allow the Cougars to expand their range northwards. Noss told the wowed audience, “We are seeing increasingly the success of the network of corridors stretching northwards from the Everglades. Cougars are expanding .their range to where they were displaced in the past. We are increasingly seeing Cougars from the Everglades roaming north to Georgia.”

While Noss told the Hart House assembly that the Ontario Greenbelt’s connected corridors of natural habitats resembles the system built up in Florida over the past thirty years, the province has not adopted Florida’s efforts to build wildlife crossings to reduce road mortality. Some of the most significant photographs he displayed were of underpasses in Florida to encourage Cougars and Black Bears to move safely under highways. These he stressed have been monitored and are being used successfully. Another contrast to Ontario came out in his description of the community where he lives, which is organized to help wildlife move through it. Unlike Newmarket where bears are shot, it is honoured to have a few passing through annually.

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Georgian Bay, Ontario. Photo by Danny Beaton.

Noss is pessimistic about improving wildlife habitat west of the Niagara Escarpment. “I have been to Rondeau and Pelee parks, but I don’t see great opportunities for linking and expanding habitats there.” While in the rest of southern Ontario he uses larger species such as Moose and Deer to expand ranges through corridors and bigger habitat tracts, here he see micro scale strategies for limited ranges species such as Blanding’s Turtle.

Noss’ pessimism about the corn belt illustrates the limitations of efforts to improve the environment which do not attempt to mobilize native communities and their treaty rights. This situation is most evident in the part of Ontario with the least natural habitat, Chatham-Kent. (former Kent County) It has only 4.5 per cent of its landscape in forest cover. This is rapidly shrinking as corn prices soar and trees are razed.

Much of the tiny area remaining in forest cover in Chatham-Kent is found on the predominately forested 13 square kilometre reserve of the Moravian of the Thames First Nation. The community’s leader, Chief Greg Peters has termed the situation an affront to their “aboriginal right to hunt and fish”, since wildlife cannot survive where there are no forests. He has also attributed deforestation to the siltation of the Thames River, which kills fish.

It is to be hoped that Noss’ ideas will be strengthened by work with native communities, using treaty rights to restore a degraded landscape. In such a situation moose might again swim in the Thames River. It flows through a landscape which ecologist Thomas Beaton, has found contributes to “the highest rates of hospitalization due to cardiovascular disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” in Ontario.

Danny Beaton says, “When we destroy Mother Earth we destroy ourselves. We humans have the Sacred Duty to be a voice for all life Species, so that means we are the voice for the Cougar, we are the voice for the Bear, the Turtle, moose, deer and everything that moves on this Sacred Mother Earth. We are the voice for plant life, the rivers, lakes and great oceans.”

Native Rights And Forests Chewed Into Dust

I was moved to hear in the longhouse of the Six Nations Confederacy an effort by the revered Cayuga environmentalist, the late Norm Jacobs, to have the courts defend treaties and the land. He explained that if treaties that protect the land are not enforced, Native rights will simply be ground into the dust by those who seek to exploit our traditional territories for profit.

During the last days of the deep cold winter of 2015, one of the worst examples I have seen of Jacobs’ warnings took place. Fifty acres of forest were ground into sawdust in defiance of our treaties that seek to defend the land. A great refuge for deer and their natural predators, the coyote, in the heart of the built up area of greater Toronto was chewed into a mess by chipping machines. Trees that were donated by Ontario government nurseries for reforestation became sawdust for the schemes of a development company: Corsica Developments.


Author Danny Beaton (second from left) protesting the desecration of the Dunlap Forest.

What makes the devastation so insulting to the good mind of traditional people is that the fifty acre forest to be razed (about half of a larger woodland slightly over one hundred acres, which may be later cut up for turf playgrounds) was created in order to compensate for some of the damage done by “pioneer” invaders of the land. Their greed saw the forest burned down to clear farms and to obtain quick cash for potash used to manufacture soap. The Oak Ridges Moraine just north of this forest was turned into a desert wasteland, and blowing sands threatened to bury Toronto. At the same time, the rivers that flowed into Toronto (notably the Don, which has its headwaters close to these lands) experienced massive floods. This led to 88 deaths in November, 1954 from Hurricane Hazel. For this reason, under the leadership of visionary astronomers such as Clarence Chant who used the restored forest as a barrier from light pollution from the newly built David Dunlap Observatory (where black holes were discovered), the site was gradually reforested from 1939 to 1980.

An environmental protection group, the Richmond Hill Naturalists, whose existence is now threatened by demands for an award of costs by the developer, went through three hearings to defend the land. This lead to a bill for expert witnesses fees and lawyers in excess of $500,000. At the most significant of these hearings, one by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) on zoning, the Native band that considers these lands part of their traditional territory attempted to become a party to the hearing.

On July 21, 2013, Karlene J. Hussey (a Vice Chair of the OMB) issued a ruling that assaulted Native rights and ultimately doomed the land. In her decision, which put a residential official plan designation on close to fifty acres of forest, Hussey denied a request by Carol King, the authorized representative of the Mississaugas of the New Credit. King’s request sought an adjournment of the hearing on an “urgent basis,” so that the band would have time to develop a case to defend the threatened forest.

Hussey rejected the Mississaugas’ plea for the earth on the basis that it was “prejudicial” to the interests of Corsica. She also told the band to involve itself in the later “proper process associated with the zoning amendment necessary to implement this development.”

How Hussey cunningly misdirected the Ojibway nation to a dead end is seen by the subsequent decision regarding the zoning amendment. This was issued by OMB hearing officer J. E. Snienek on December 11, 2014, shortly after a protest walk around the perimeter of the threatened forest by the Toronto Field Naturalists.

In his decision, Snienek argued that no matter how compelling the testimony was from the various expert witnesses he heard who argued that more forest should be saved, it was all worthless. He ruled that the issue of forest protection had been decided by Hussey’s hearing and that further efforts to save it constituted inappropriate “re-litigation.” It is on this basis that the zoning hearings were irrelevant, and Corsica is attempting to recover $200,000 in legal costs from the Richmond Hill Naturalists. If even a small portion of these costs were awarded by the OMB, the organization that was worked for a half a century to protect the environment in Richmond Hill would be forced to disband.

In Hussey’s hearing, the naturalists hired an archeological expert to present testimony about traditional Native use of the land. This report was never defended by the expert witness, on the basis of the decision of the Naturalists’ legal counsel. Also barred from the OMB was a lengthy report by historian Dr. John Bacher, PhD. He is the author of the history of reforestation in Ontario: Two Billion Trees and Counting: the Legacy of Edmund Zavitz.

In his barred report, Bacher wrote that the David Dunlap Forest was one “of the most successful examples of an ecologically restored landscape” north of Toronto and south of the Oak Ridges Moraine. He explained, “Today, it is very important that historically, as well as functionally, this site remains as a legacy to the past and a reminder to our future of the importance to protect watersheds and give us all the benefits that trees bring to our communities.” To prepare his anticipated testimony, Bacher visited Boston to view the Arnold Arboretum, a forested park that provided the model for the creation of the David Dunlap Forest. He found it was part of a “chain of parks whose principal goal was pollution control through a network of settling ponds and constructed wetlands similar to innovative conservationist thinking today.”

Shortly after the barring of Bacher’s testimony, a massive flood of the Don River hit Toronto. Although past reforestation such as that of the Dunlap Forest helped to diminish floods by increasing forest cover, this wise legacy of the past is being undermined by spectacles such as the Richmond Hill chipper massacre. With the disruptions caused by climate change, the earth is posed to take a horrible flooding revenge for the destruction of one of Canada’s biggest urban forests.

~ Danny Beaton, Turtle Clan Mohawk []

Alicja Rozanska: Lost Partner, Protector, and Healer

The very first time I saw this very tall noble woman walking around our neighbourhood marketplace, I knew she was someone special. Later when I got to know her and spoke to her co-workers, they said when you meet Alicja you are getting the real deal, you will be talking to someone who is real, and she has a sense of humour.

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Alicja and our grandson Justice on Gladstone Ave. in Toronto around 2005. Photo by Danny Beaton.

When I first did meet Alicja at Taste of Nature, the local health store in our neighbourhood, I felt she was totally magnificent, delicate, and original. I was taken aback by her demeanour. Then it was weeks later I got a call around midnight one night, and Alicja said she had just come back from Moose Factory, James Bay area where she had taken the long train ride to go camping alone. She told me a lone wolf, who was very friendly, had stayed close to her camp and had followed her around all the time she was up there hiking and exploring. Alicja said she had seen plenty of wildlife, bears, moose and smaller animals. She said she knew Canada was stolen land and felt guilty being here. Alicja said she had seen me around our neighbourhood for many years, but we had not met. I asked her to come on over to my place and stay the night with me, and when she arrived we were together for almost fourteen years till the very morning she died in my arms. My life has never been the same, from the enormous loss and amount of love and beauty that we shared with each other. Alicja gave and shared love with everyone we became friends with and worked with.

We had been using natural herbs like dandelion root, red clove, milk thistle, and burdock root most of the summer of 2013 and fall. By October, Alicja had an appointment with Dr. Gabor Kandel in the Dept. of Gastroenterology at St. Michael’s Hospital, and we thought all of this must be an infection, but we were told Alicja had stage four cancer; it was in her lungs, liver and colon. The next day, I began phoning all my professional friends and asking them if they knew anyone who had beaten stage 4 cancer. It turned out my best friend told me a friend of his, who was an environmentalist/farmer, his wife had beat stage 4 cancer 20 years ago and was still living. This gave me and Alicja great hope because we had positive news so fast. But it turned out the doctor, Dr. Rudy Falk, had died himself ten years ago. I learned Dr Falk had an office on College Street here in Toronto. Dr. Rudy Falk was a surgeon and was treating his patients in his office on College Street with alternative protocols such as high doses of intravenous vitamins C, D, B and mistletoe, poly-MV, etc. Dr Falk had also administered hypothermia and was doing his own x-ray tests in his office to locate tumours.

Alicja took me to many places. From the first time we met, we were going to Simcoe County and Georgian Bay. We were swimming and hiking and berry picking. Once she started to swim so fast and so far, I couldn’t see her almost. She stopped and waved to me from the middle of the lake. I was calling to her, “Come back! Come back!” She was a strong swimmer. She took me hiking in Iceland, New Mexico, British Columbia, and New York, and all over Ontario, Canada, up mountains. She really loved to hike and swim, so she planned all of our trips.

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L to R: Alice Gibson, Mohawk; Audrey Shenandoah, Onandaga; Jeannie Shenandoah, Onandaga; Alicja Rozanska, Kaszebe/Polish at the Gibson Farm, Six Nations Territory. Photo by Danny Beaton.

The first time I spoke to her was in Taste of Nature, a health food store where she worked at the time. She used to work in a macrobiotic restaurant in the Annex around 2001, but she first lived in Chicago. She came to Toronto twenty-three years ago. She told me that there was no work for her in Poland, but she said she was here now for her son, Rigel, named after the brightest star in the constellation Orion. She was also working as a bookkeeper for my friend at one time; she had taken some courses at University of Toronto and received very good marks she really understood mathematics. Later she found a job with the Canada Revenue Agency. After a couple of years she became a team leader, managing and overseeing 16 people on her team. At the same time, she volunteered to organize some social programs for her staff and her department. Alicja initiated environmental and energy conservation projects and Native cultural exhibits. What we had in common was that we believed in healing, laughter, having fun, and holistic health and organic food just to name a few of the things that we shared. To put it mildly, she was a nature-oriented person, but her biggest interests were her son, traveling, and being in a forest or water.

We picked berries every year. Strawberries first, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. She loved mushroom picking and fresh water from the Alliston Aquifer in Georgian Bay area. There are places where the water shoots out from the ground, the surface springs. This is what we protected and we were fighting for in Simcoe County when we got involved in stopping dump site 41. We were involved for several years in a protest in Simcoe County, being arrested when we set up blockades with Ojibwa women of that area to stop the machines from raping the farmland and taking water away. Later we fought for Dufferin County to stop the Mega Quarry from raping farmland and water. Alicja received an award from the citizens of Simcoe County, a plaque that says: “Protect Our Water Stop Dump Site 41 Alicja Rozanska Site 41 Hero.”

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L to R: Chief Oren Lyons, Danny Beaton, Alicja Rozanska, John Mohawk, and Rigel Rozanska in front. Photo by Brian Daniels around 2001.

She died on June 29, 2014 in my arms. We thought that she had an infection, but we were devastated when (in November 2013) she was diagnosed with fourth stage cancer. She was weak and bleeding. Her cancer had spread to her liver and lungs and colon. During Chernobyl, when Alicja was a teenager, she went on a school field trip into the mountains. Nobody had told people that there is radiation in the air. She felt that she was contaminated with radiation while she was on that school trip in the mountains during the Chernobyl catastrophe.

She was with me for fourteen years. We traveled with (Native) activists and elders, because I was a Native filmmaker first on Alice Gibson farm, so Alicja met the Elders before and after filming. The Elders treated her with respect because they liked her. Alicja brought positive and peaceful energy wherever we went. Around the same time, we were traveling to Georgian Bay and Simcoe County. We visited several Native camps, and we almost always left Toronto every Saturday just to get into the bush and water. Wherever we went, Alicja always helped with the cooking and cleaning. All of these trips that we took only happened on the weekends or when she had holidays. Up in Simcoe County, we attended many Native ceremonies and feasts in order to help the environmental struggles that we were involved in. She loved Native food and tried buffalo, deer, beaver, muskrat, fish and especially loved to make fish soup. My people believe in laughter, and she loved to joke with everyone. We were staying with the people of Simcoe County as often as we could. Oh yes, she loved drumming and the stars…

After she passed away, somebody from her work answered the phone when I called and said they knew her well, so I tried to get her to talk about her relationship with people at work. That woman said, “When you are talking to Alicja, you are talking to the real thing and so when you are talking to Alicja you are getting the real deal.” The second woman that I talked to from her team agreed with me that Alicja was one of the most amazing people that she had ever met because she cared so much about her team and all the life struggles that were happening in the world. She said that Alicja was involved with all the personal problems at work because that was her job, and she cared about everybody.

Alicja became a foster parent for Native kids through Native Child and Family Services. I was told that I was the first foster parent for this system in Toronto. We went to a Christmas party one year and Landy Anderson suggested that I should be a foster parent, so I asked Alicja. We completed the program and learned how to be foster parents through the Native Child and Family Services policy. We had a few kids in our home. Some were needy kids, some were well organized, and we took care of these kids, and Alicja loved those kids like they were her own.

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Janet Nadjiron, Alicja, Rigel, Wilmer Nadjiron Camp, Owen Sound. Photo by Danny Beaton around 2003.

When she was diagnosed with cancer, she knew she would be treating it in a natural way. Alicja had spent most of her life as an alternative holistic thinker and natural holistic human being. We were using organic herbs that were passed on to us from Natives and Alicja had been studying healing all the years I knew her, so we even had some herbs in our garden. We spent a lot of time using medicines that were being used to fight cancer but were non toxic, and they did not kill immune system that protects the body. Alicja did not want to use chemotherapy or radiation or surgery. She felt she could cure herself, and she wanted to take control over her own body. This was an important rule she thought, but she took my advice to seek out the ones who followed Dr. Rudy Falk’s work. Most of the contacts I made came from Googling over the internet.

During the 14 years I lived with Alicja, she never even took aspirin. The first clinic we found that was using some of Dr. Falk’s work was the Nasari clinic. Alicja began treatments at Nasari clinic including roughly 20 treatments of high doses of intravenous vitamin C, D, and mistletoe, Poly MV, and other non-toxic medicines. At home, Alicja was using protocols off the internet such as the Budwig diet, drinking organic vegetable juices 3 times a day, taking baking soda baths, using the Tesla Proton IIX Sound Machine, and using infrared lights to kill cancer cells. Later, Alicja began using Essiac Tea and essential oils. We traveled to our house in Simcoe county on April 15th, and I began to tap birch trees so she could drink the birch water. Alicja was also a patient at Grand River Regional Cancer Center; her doctor there was Dr. Knight. Alicja began protocols at Marsden Centre with many treatments of hyperthermia and chemotherapy; however, the cancer had spread, and we were too late in using any kind of medicine.

Alicja loved Dr. Eric Marsden and Dr. Ashley Chauvin and all their nurses because she told me they talked to her and really cared for her healing. This journey in Canada for Alicja was healing and later shattering for her and me, but Alicja never steered away from her spiritual or intellectual thoughts or values. Alicja said to me “you cannot change my destiny” and after we lost our baby years before Alicja said to me “I have no future now.” These things she said to me echo in my mind just like the way we began to study the stars at night when we would sit outside in the bush or when we camped out.

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Alicja hiking in the Adirondack Mountains around 2011.

The universe was alive for Alicja. Of all the people and elders I have known in my lifetime, Alicja was the purist loving human being I have ever seen or known. I photographed her for fourteen years, swimming, hiking, or smiling; she was an incredible swimmer, dancer, and hiker! If I could say anything to the Polish people it would be that you lost and gained a female hero and spiritual leader who was almost not noticed by many. Only photographs can show the strength and calmness of Alicja or anyone else who was able to remember or capture her incredible beauty and love that she carried and shared. My words do not do her life justice. The reason why I am writing about the non-toxic protocols Alicja was using is because Alicja would want society and people to know about non-toxic medicines available to stop cancer!


In memory of Alicja Rozanska.

Robertjohn Knapp Speaks Out:

Our old elders tell us that our physical bodies are sacred tools or shells so that we can communicate with life around us and walk softly on Sacred Mother Earth, that our spirits are energy, and that our spirit energy never dies. The question is when did I start Sundancing; where did I start Sundancing; why is the Sundance good for me and Native people?

Sundancers Robertjohn Knapp and his son Michaelsun at ceremonies with Traditional Circle of Elders and Youth, Montana. Photo credit: Danny Beaton.

Sundancers Robertjohn Knapp and his son Michaelsun at ceremonies with Traditional Circle of Elders and Youth, Montana. Photo credit: Danny Beaton.

Years ago, I was on the Longest Walk—I think it was seventy-six or seventy-eight? Had my eldest son with me. We went all the way to Indianapolis. He was about six years old, and I turned around and came back to California to meet with Dennis Banks to tell him my experience, how the walk was going. After that there was a Sundance at DQ University in Northern California out of UC Davis, so I went there to dance. There were a couple of young boys with me, and my son and David Miller were with me. There were so many flies and fly crap everywhere that the whole camp was sick. The FBI had dug holes and threw all the watermelons in. The place was very dirty, so every one was sick including me; I could not hold anything down. After two days, I got in my truck and headed to Big Pine where Raymond Stone was.

I swore I’d never dance again, until I broke my neck. I broke my neck in 1982 and had to go through lots of stuff, in and out of hospitals, doctors, therapy, etc. Then I went to meet Raymond Stone, and he with several others began to work on me. It was in Yosemite Valley at Jay Johnson’s place. There we saw white deer, white coyote. There I got back into the sweat lodge; it was the first time that I could sit up again since I broke my neck—that’s what I remember back then. Back then Senator Goldwater in Arizona was going to use the national guard to take out the Navajo off the Big Mountain area. So the gift of being able to sit up in the sweat lodge again was me and David Miller driving over to Big Mountain Arizona, then we started to dance at the survival camp there.

Leonard Crow Dog, the medicine man for AIM, sponsored me to dance. When I got there, I asked Leonard if he needed another dancer and he said, “Yeah.” Leonard said, “What do you have” and I said “not much” so he asked one of his helpers to get me a skirt, then he asked me if I had a whistle, and I said “no” so he gave me an eagle whistle. He said, “Do you have a pipe?” and I said “yeah” so he said “okay.” I made my regalia parts, and I danced there until the end. I danced at the survival camp for a few years, and then went to Ana Mae’s, danced there until they tore it down, the Hopi and FBI and other police, county and state. Between them two places I danced over twenty years.

The question is why is the Sundance good for Native people? I have seen a lot of things over the years, and the Sundance is good for those who want to know themselves and the medicine that you’re praying for. I have danced for my mom; I have danced for my brothers, and they all died, but I danced for them to help them go on to the other side. I went there once. They told me I was supposed to die. Before the third day of dancing, I knew I was already better and cured. So its the same kind of question. It’s a good place; I seen good things and not good things; I seen people come there because they wanted notoriety or some other thing.

Left to right: Professor Francis Borella, Mount San Antonio University, California. Robertjohn Knapp. Professor Gina Lamb, Pitzer College, California. Photo by Danny Beaton.

Left to right: Professor Francis Borella, Mount San Antonio University, California. Robertjohn Knapp. Professor Gina Lamb, Pitzer College, California. Photo by Danny Beaton.

The Sundance is one of the most powerful complete ceremonies I’ve ever seen or been in. There’s two things they talk about sacrificing in the Sundance, and I don’t believe that’s true, I believe the Sundance is an offering, and the difference between a sacrifice and offering is: sacrifice is when I throw you into the fire, an offering is when I go into the fire. So its very specific. So sacrificing is for somebody else. If you make an offering, you go in; you do it. So those are the offerings, and if your offering is pure enough, good enough, then the spirit world will respond to you. If you play, they play—that’s the way I see it. So you go there, and its never been easy. Grandpa use to say there are only two roads, the easy road and the hard road, and the easy road is like jumping off a cliff, and you fall and fall for twenty years and its really easy until you hit bottom. The hard road is that road up the mountain, and that hard road never ever changes, never gets easy, stays hard. It is we who change and therefore it’s not easier—that’s not the right word—but more successful in what you do. More whole in the things you do. More whole in what you do. So during the Sundance, if you’re taught right or maybe if you have an instinct or something where you can find out who you are, where you are, why you’re here. If you can use your mind in a good way, use your mind to make everything whole within yourself.

Leon use to come to the Sundance with me. I loved it when he was there with me. I loved all them guys I used to dance with and the women, even though there were others there doing other things, it was not for me to judge anyone. I seen behaviour there that was not conducive to those who were dancing for love, dancing for all the things, dancing to be a part of the whole, dancing to really know what you’re suppose to be doing here on Mother Earth. I danced for many kinds of things, and those things guide your life. Its not easy; it takes all year to save up enough money just to come back home. So it becomes a whole way of life, so you don’t do things that go against the natural world or life! You don’t hurt people either. Leon said “killing is Gods work,” so in that way a Sundance is good for those who enter into that special world. I remember bringing Shorty there when he was told he was gonna die, and the elders really helped him; they worked with him. We were the same age, but he still passed away. He went to the other side, but I think he went there much stronger, standing on his feet, and I think he went there with love in his heart.

From left to right: Sundancer Guero \ Al Sommers, Danny Beaton, and Robertjohn Knapp. Photo by Christine Knapp.

So what does this Sundance do? Is it for everybody? I think maybe they should be able to see it, but not in a very special way. I think they should see what real love is like and see those people who dance with their heart because they made that choice to do that, and they put their energy out there and shed their blood and suffered. The suffering is offered for everybody, for all people, for all things. They leave their flesh there; they leave their blood there. Then you see somebody negative and it makes you want to cry, makes you want to put your tears down where your blood is. At the same place—and those areas are sacred areas—they will never dig the coal from that ground. The Sundance was good for me because I learned who I was there, in relation to the whole and in relationship to Mother Earth and in relationship to all life. If I had any fear then, I don’t have any anymore. I am willing to do what it takes—to do whatever it takes, even when people hurt me, I try not to have hatred for them. In other words, I have been Sundancing every day of my life; it does not matter who the negative people are. They can’t hurt me any more than I put myself through, and I did it willingly and for my reasons. I learned pain is my friend and not to run away from it.

Well I seen things in the Sundance, all the rock paintings, all of that in the sun—I have seen everything in the sun. I could see what the old people saw, and it made me all the more stronger, all the more full of love for everything. I felt more complete when I danced with my son. When my son was there, what I felt for the first time dancing next to him trimming off the extra flesh is that I felt that I gave birth to my son. So one of the things was to know how a woman feels when giving birth, at least in that direction not by any stretch of the imagination, but it was the best I could do. So how do you do that? I don’t know… pray hard, talk to them. I seen them; I talked to them; I seen all kinds of stuff. So now there is nothing that can take me from what I do, where I am, or what I am doing—there is nothing they can do. I am who I am. I’m a Sundancer.