Posts By: Danny Beaton (Mohawk)

Chief of the Chiefs: Chief Leon Shenandoah

The old elder was a chief. He was a small man in his eighties the year we first met; he was only a hundred and sixty pounds full of peace, passion, strength and kindness. Everyone who had the opportunity to sit and listen to his wisdom felt his radiance, serenity, and harmony. He was chief of the chiefs; he was a leader for peace, power, righteousness, and equality.

Every year, we gathered in a place where there was a need to strengthen traditional Native culture and restore balance on respected Native territory. Leon was chief of all our chiefs. He was honored by being chosen to lead our ceremonies from the east on behalf of our circle of honored elders and for the nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy known as the Six Nations or Iroquois. Leon said “We are the voice for the plants; we are a voice for all vegetation, trees, bushes, shrubs, medicines, fruits, and vegetables.” Leon said, ”It was our duty as Human Beings to give thanks, to acknowledge and respect the rivers, lakes, streams, the great oceans and tides, and all of creation.” He said “our Sacred Mother Earth was a lady, and she gives us her blood from her Sacred body for all life to drink.” Leon said, “We humans must never forget these instructions and our Sacred Duties.”

Next the old man said, “We human beings are a voice for all creation.” Leon took responsibility to address a thanksgiving to all life on Mother Earth including everything that moved in the Sky World and all that could not be seen with the human eye. “We join our minds together,” he said. “We give a great thanks as we wander about on this Sacred Mother Earth, to all our Relatives, the four legged, the winged ones, the creeping and the crawling and the fish life for sharing this Sacred Mother Earth with us human beings.” Leon was the humblest, noblest gentle man I had ever had the chance to see, hear, or experience in my life. This all happened over twenty years ago, and I can only try and share the experience I had in the circle of Native elders who were gathered to give thanks to all of the Natural World that morning in 1990. Everyone in the circle who stood with Leon that morning by the Sacred Fire witnessed the offering of our Sacred Tobacco for all the gifts the Great Mystery our Great Creator had given us Human Beings to enjoy on this Sacred Journey in Life. Leon moved slowly, for his old age had slowed him down to almost a shuffle. He was a respected elder in peace and had become one with Creation, sounds, colours, harmony and Celestial movement with the universe.

After honoring everything that moved on Mother Earth, Leon went on to give thanks to Mother Earth, then to Brother Sun, Grandmother Moon, and the Stars he said was where we Humans came from. Leon said, “We Humans came from the Sky World.” Leon gave thanksgiving to everything that moved in the sky, the Winds of the Four Directions, the Sacred Air we breathe and use in our ceremonies, the voices from the sky he called “Grandfathers/Thunder people” whose duty was to remind us that Our Way of Life would continue and the rains would come and replenish our rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans, and that all life would now be able to drink clean fresh water.

Our old elders always spoke in their Native tongue at ceremonies. Leon was of the Great Onondaga Nation from Onondaga Territory; his people and nation were of the Haudenausnee the Great Iroquois Confederacy, and the only times our elders would speak English at ceremonies was when they came into the cities to address environmental issues that threatened life everywhere. We were taught in our sacred circles over and over again that we cannot think of ourselves; we must think of our children’s children and their children. Leon was a leader of our circle, and we had many leaders from across Turtle Island. Leon was also a leader of the Onondaga Nation. He was chief of the chiefs; his title was Tadodaho. When we all would rise to greet the sun during our Sacred Sunrise Ceremony, Leon would be there; for many, many years and he would begin with our Thanksgiving Address. Then our Hopi brothers from the south would give their thanks to brother sun. Our old elders were gathering every year throughout the year and day after day to share their understanding of sacred cultural ways to keep our Native Way of Life alive! The old ones taught us to walk in peace and balance, to respect and love natural life, the universe, and cosmos. Our Sacred Circle was a beginning and way to create healing, harmony, respect and unity for all life; the circle represented the continuation of life itself.

The wisdom and teachings our elders bring to our circles is from their elders’ elders and their elders: the understanding of natural life, holistic healing with natural law and natural life, with a deep understanding that all life must be respected and that we Human Beings are not superior over other life forms. We were given the duty to be a voice for all life forms, and all life forms have their own duties. Our elders taught us that all life is connected and that we must stay connected to natural life on Mother Earth, not unnatural life. Our old elders brought us their strength, insights, culture, and healing ways of life through sacred ceremonies to our Sacred Circles. The harmony our elders had must have come from their grandfathers and grandmothers teaching of The Good Mind, the Oneness with respect for all life: four legged, winged ones, insects, fish life, earth, air, fire, water. In our Sacred Circles, we relive the way of life of our ancestors and their ancestors. In our Sacred Circles, we follow the footsteps of our Sacred Ancestors, the Thanksgiving Way of Life. In our sacred ceremonies, we maintain the way of life with respect to creation and all life forces that give us human beings life for the continuance of life on Sacred Mother Earth. Our children are depending on life for their own future now; they will need to heal, find peace, harmony, and be able to find the things they need for balance. The old circles are older than the old elders that stand in them and pray for thanksgiving every day, every year, or as often as they are asked to gather up or when it is time.

Our elders taught us all natural life is a part of the Native way of life, and this is how our children learn from the old ones how to keep happy, healthy, and feeling strong with the life around them in harmony. With the Good Mind, our circles, councils, and ceremonies create healing through disciplining our minds for life around us. The Lakota say “all life should be happy in the eyes of the Great Mystery, and all life should be able to play in harmony in the eyes of the Great Spirit.” Our Elders and Ancestors gave us the warmth through their eyes and smiles each time we watched them in ceremony and experiencing their love for life and Mother Earth. We are blessed to watch our elders walk, sit, sing, eat, and dance! The memories of our elders and ancestors are a beauty with universal power. The beauty and strength of our culture is with our Sacred Mother Earth; nothing will change this or ever will.

The memory of our circles in the early mornings as we gathered to give Thanksgiving to brother Sun is a sacred seed that sits in our minds, with the sacred fire in our hearts. Eagle, deer, wolf, turtle, bear, plantlife, water, sun, moon, and humans become one in the universe in our sacred ceremonies of thanksgiving and healing. It is an honour for us all to become one in unity for justice, life, and the protection of Mother Earth for our children’s children’s children. When we give thanksgiving it is to affirm our relationship to all life, the life is that our Great Creator has made.

Mohawk Community Advised To Boil Water For Over Five Years By Canadian Government


Mohawks feel and know their kids are becoming sick in Tyendinaga by pollution and contamination dumped there. In a confrontation with the OPP, Shawn Brant led 350 Mohawk men (all armed) to stand before police and say you cannot have what is not yours anymore. Later, Shawn joined 175 Mohawk men in a face off with OPP and told them our ancestor’s blood and bones are buried here, and it will not be only our blood that is spilled here today. Ontario Provincial Police backed away.

Every Sunday, Shawn Brant lines up with community members to collect free water from a community pump for his family because the Ministry of Environment has not taken away the boiled water advisory. Tyendinaga is one of hundreds of Native communities in Canada with the same problem of buried contaminated waste on their homeland poisoning ground water, and it is fully documented in environmental archives, says Shawn Brant.
When I visited Shawn at his home by the Bay of Quinte on Mohawk Territory, I sat down and listened to Shawn tell many stories and insights he had experienced over the years as a Native activist, and I felt Shawn was a true environmentalist in every way and more. I believe Shawn and his people must be protected and respected so their culture, ideas, values, love, and insights can survive and help all of Canada and all life to survive. Shawn said, “The reason why we have to arm ourselves now is because we saw what the OPP did to our brother Dudley George. They killed an unarmed man; we are not going to be killed the same way on our homeland.’’

Here is my interview with Shawn Brant, my brother and a friend: “My name is Shawn Brant, and I am forty-eight years old, born in Oshawa Ontario. My father worked at GM; my mother was a nurse. We moved to Tyendinaga when I was five years old. I have lived here for the last forty-three years. I do not consider myself to be an environmentalist per say. I do consider myself to be a responsible, honorable Mohawk man who complies with the laws and the constitution of Mohawk people. That brings in the stewardship of all things, the people, the land, and the law, so in some context it brings me in as an environmentalist, but I don’t see myself as that. In the past 20 years, I have been arrested two hundred and fifty times—maybe three hundred times. I have been charged, arrested, and jailed. I had to stay in jail at least twenty five times.”

“As a Mohawk, I am bound to the protection of Mohawk people. Through our free and sovereign people and our lands and laws firstly. Our families and our children benefit as we undertake that responsibility. Having said that, I don’t believe that a caring and compassionate person can restrict himself to only his nation’s issues in view of all the other things that are going on across the country. We have been on a boil water advisory where we have not been able to drink the water from our well for over five and a half years. In those five and a half years, we had to go to a park and fill up our water buckets for the week. I always believed that the greatest indignity that could face a people or face an individual was having to do that for the last five and a half years and go down and fill your water buckets so your kids can have clean drinking water for the week. But in the last five years and before, given the murdered and missing women across this country, given the fact that they are finding women in ditches and river beds and dumpsters, I believe that’s a greater indignity that faces our people.”

“The number one issue that concerns me the most that I can’t sleep at night and I think about it every day is the fact as men we failed in our ability to protect our daughters and sisters and our mothers from simply walking down the street, walking down a road, being some where in public, and that they suffer the incredible indignity of being abducted and raped, tortured and murdered, and that we cannot stop that. I used to think that when I was in jail there was nothing that I could do, so I felt good while I was in jail because I didn’t feel that responsibility. When I see our people protesting and trying to bring attention to these issues and limiting the degree to which they go forward on these issues, it hurts me, and I think that if we are going to project ourselves in any way as being a real, true, and proper people then that’s the issue that we have to start to deal with and we have to resolve it because it demonstrates that there is not only violence against women, it demonstrates that there isn’t any regard, cause, or concern by anybody within society because they allow those things to continue, and the police don’t investigate it, and government will not call an inquiry, and Mr. Harper has made it clear that he is not prepared to take any measures to address this issue. I find that unacceptable.”

“Tyendinaga is the territory of the Peace Maker; it’s the birth place of the one who brought the Peace that made the Five Nations the Confederacy as people know it through the Constitution of the Great Law. We have always been here. The special part is that what gives our relationship to each other, the relationship to Mother Earth, the relationship with our Great Creator, it comes from the words and constitution that came from here. It isn’t just about the richness of the community; it’s about the richness of the spirit. When government passes polices and attacks Tyendinaga, they are not attacking us as any other community, they are attacking the very heart of the Confederacy. They are attacking the spiritual base and the spirituality of the Confederacy. All those things that bind us together, whether its Six Nations or Akwesasane or Kahnawake, Onieda or Onondaga where Oren is from, all those things are based on one Constitution and one document of peace and relationship that came from Tyendinaga. When we struggle here and people think we are a pretty feisty community, it’s because of that. It’s because we know that if were extinguished here, the very heartbeat of the Confederacy and the heartbeat of the Mohawk people will be extinguished.”
“Here on Tyendinaga, we have a landfill that is polluting our community. We have five kids with cancer—one who passed away last year. Fourteen-month-old, two months ago that got diagnosed with stage four lung and liver cancer. We are supposed to be those Stewards. When people stand up and talk about their relationship with Mother Earth, our children have expectations of us, that all society has of us, that our communities have for us, is that we must step up at some point and fulfill that or nobody will believe us anymore. My feet are here today because hundreds of years ago my ancestors literally put their blood and bones on the ground fighting to ensure that we would have survival. In the Longhouse at every meeting we remind people, and people talk about these sacrifices that were made. Our ancestors’ thoughts were of us of those who hadn’t even existed yet. Are our children’s feet going to be here too in the future? Society has lost a connection in a greater way. We have to be really careful that we don’t bring people down where we say that there’s no hope, but we don’t say to people ‘guess everything we are doing is going along good’ because it’s not. Things are not getting better.”

“The other night, I was listening to Bernie Farber on CBC talk with Phil Fontaine, and they were speaking about the unwillingness of Canada to use the word ‘genocide’ and genocidal policies. Bernie Farber, of course, is responsible for the Jewish Congress. Bernie said that these policies that have been demonstrated by government in the past seventy years are certainly evidence of genocidal tendencies as defined by international law and standards. A man who represents the interests of and the future of those descendants of six million Jews who were killed in concentration camps across Europe is talking about us and saying that we’re affected by the same policies. When starvation experiments are being talked about and uncovered as part of international news, we have Canada saying, ‘well they are not starvation experiments they were engaged in nutritional experiments, like lets give Johnny an apple today; lets give Jimmy two oranges.’ These were similar experiments that were done to First Nations people that were done to Jews while they were being held in concentration camps: where you determine that line of where someone can live on the most minimal amount of available food and keep them on a cutting edge of death or living based upon the food you make available to them. These where experiments of starvation. New allegations are being made about intentionally deafening our children for scientific experiments.”

“There are some seventy thousand documents that have not been made available to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee that is ongoing about the Residential School Experience; there are over a million pages now that our government won’t disclose. They won’t disclose it because they contain these types of allegations and these types of experiments and procedures and policies that the government was using because they had a scientific body that was ready and available, because they had Indian children in these institutions. Of course, they carried out this activity the same as they carried it out against Jews in concentration camps. So when Bernie Arber is talking about Canada’s indigenous people facing genocidal policy, he does not know why Canadian government is not willing to acknowledge that now. Canada is not willing to acknowledge this because we as Indian people do not acknowledge it. We do not talk about apartheid, we talk about Canada as colonialism. Well, colonialism is coming over and occupying the country. Apartheid is an international crime. Apartheid says that when you want to colonize a people, each and every day you torture them. You make them struggle for food, you keep them in a state of despair and sadness so you can rip them off. When this is done to a people, it is known as a crime.”

“Each and every day you maintain a degree of sadness that immobilizes people. It immobilized us when they took our kids away from our homes. The numbers are higher now than they ever were since the ‘60s scoop or residential school experience. So let’s not call it colonialism; lets not call it intended policy that’s gone bad. Lets call it what it is. Bernie Farber said genocidal polices are designed to eliminate our people. Maybe when we all start to look at history in its true form as being the victims of history, when we look at why our children are killing themselves at rates that are the highest in the world, when we talk about the degrees of drug and alcoholism, of being lazy slugs that can’t get off our ass and do anything, lets talk about it in the context of these polices that made us feel immobilized without any sense or control of our future. Let’s talk about the policies that make our children feel like there’s no hope. But the shining light at the end of the tunnel is that we understand all of this as a people that we are not failures and this is not genetic to us or being caused by us.”

“The policies that are being created today will be hard to fix. The environmental laws that existed for all life are now gone; exploitation can move forward, such as oil development etc. Social programs for elderly and for all people are being disbanded behind closed doors, and all children will suffer in the years to come. International Free trade is being built behind closed doors with Canada’s resources being given away for short term profit and for whom? Mother Earth and our water is being polluted and destroyed faster and faster each day. These are things we all need to think about now because all life is suffering! We will kill all life if we do not change our ways. Our ancestors have shared everything in the past, but nothing is protected today! In Cochabamba and the Earth Summits, indigenous people said Mother Earth has rights. Canada has a responsibility to all children, and now we need leaders who will listen to indigenous people in Canada who care and know what is going on behind closed doors.”

Cree Urban Elder, Vern Harper

Story and photos by Danny Beaton |

A sweat lodge ceremony was the reason for my very first visit to Guelph around 1988. The skins in Toronto suggested that I contact Vern Harper, a Cree ceremonial elder way back, when I was looking for my culture and healing. When I look back in my mind, someone said, “Catch a Greyhound to Woolwich and Woodlawn. There is a Canadian Tire store near the corner—you cant miss it—then walk up the hill, then down, and you will see a house with a barn with horses; that is where elder Vern Harpers camp is.”

Twenty years have gone by or more since we gathered at Vern’s camp. I remember his wife Geraldine, his daughter Cody, and Lionel Whitebird who I ran into at a protest in Toronto when our people occupied Revenue Canada. Lionel had aids; he was wrapped in a colorful Indian blanket; he had lost over 100 pounds, but he came to support our struggle and show solidarity for our Native rights and culture. Lionel died not long after, but I can say he worked with Vern for many years in the prison system to help our Native brothers who were incarcerated, as many of our people are. Lionel’s wife Wanda still continues the work for our people and culture, healing and helping. Wanda was a great person, and they had a son, as far as I remember.

Thinking back to our first sweat lodge ceremony. I remember I was told by someone to bring a pouch of tobacco as an offering to Vern for his role in leading our ceremony. Bring a towel, shorts, a bottle of water, and the bag of tobacco.

My memory of Vern’s camp and sweat lodge are strong, and what happened before the ceremony was sacred, and everything before and after the sweat was sacred. Vern had several helpers who sometimes would ask us to help to gather wood or stones or to go to the stream to bring back water. At times, someone would show up with a truckload of wood or stones, which Vern taught us were grandfathers. The grandfathers had to be heated up in a sacred fire to be brought into the lodge later, and this would take hours and prayers. We would stand around the sacred fire burning on the rocks, and we were taught to honor the fire and grandfathers by putting tobacco sage or cedar into the fire with our prayers. This part of the ceremony become very important for me, as I grew up with this teaching and today I have the highest respect and love for the stones, the grandfathers, and the sacred fire. Vern taught us all that the fire and grandfathers had to be respected and honored in the Indian way of life, and that this is how he was taught by his elders—one whom I remember was Crow Dog, an elder from South Dakota.

Vern was like a grandfather, too. We were in our thirties (some of us were older, some of our group were mothers and fathers) being brought back to our culture with the help of our Native Cultural Center in Toronto or by word of mouth about this sacred place we were all at. We were like a healing family now, all of us talking about our past before arriving, our past abuse and the abuse to ourselves through alcohol, drugs, and violence. There was domestic violence growing up and the pain that never went away. We all were healing just being on the land, being out of Toronto, being near like-minded people—as many say now, we were attracted to each other in a healing way, a healing way of life.

Our first visit to Vern’s camp became a healing journey which none of us can ever forget. I kept going for several years and learned so much from Vern. There are not enough words of gratitude, thanks, and blessings I and anyone who has attended “Grandfather Vern Harper’s Purification Ceremony” as Vern sometimes called it. Vern said we were coming out clean; sometimes he would say we were reborn after the purification, and the sweat was for honoring our ancestors and the spirit world and Creation. But most of all, the sweat was a purification ceremony. We were taught how to see in a sacred way, how to walk in a sacred way. We learned to give thanks to the forces that gave us life. The ones who attended Vern’s camp were healing big, and we all were happy on the land with Mother Earth and learning to humble ourselves with thanks. Many of us became life long friends.

I remember Fernando Hernandez. He had come from Southern Mexico or El Salvador, and he had a wife Monique Mohicia. They had joined the ceremony to heal and give thanks with us. Sometimes as we all gathered up and we were waiting for late arrivals, we would sit and talk, or we would stand by the fire and make offerings until it was time to go inside the lodge. This process was a powerful healing in itself: just waiting. Vern said we were entering Mother Earth’s Womb. We all shared stories of intense discovery and pain while healing with the heat coming from the fire heating the stones. We talked about being clean for the first time because for many of us this was our first sweat lodge. We were learning to live a clean life, learning to think clean, we were cleaning our minds bodies, and spirits. Later I heard Fernando had become a famous actor and he starred in Mel Gibson’s film Apocalypto.

Many years have gone by since our first sweat. We have recovered as we all learned after the healing; we were all very wounded people at one time, maybe when we were younger. Vern always said our sweats were “four direction sweats” or “four colored” because all races of people were allowed in his lodge. Here in Toronto, these days Vern has become a great leader. As far as I know, he is the Spiritual Leader of Toronto simply because he will pray for all people, his own people, and helps anyone who needs healing or to purify themselves. Vern is recognized for his relentless work in the prison system, giving his good energy wherever he can for his people and all people. Vern’s camp is still in Guelph, and he maintains the Sacred Sweat Lodge Ceremony. Vern said he has lived 83 winters now.

I have learned over the years that all the cities and reservations across Ontario have camps like Vern’s, and all the provinces across Canada and all across North America. We have spiritual camps and elders in the prison system, public schools and universities, and suburbs where urban and traditional Native elders share our sacred culture and teachings to people who want to heal, learn, and purify. Our healing and the healing of Mother Earth must work together because Mother Earth gives us so much—in fact, Mother Earth gives us everything we as humans need to survive.

Many of our group have become urban elders ourselves because we continue the way of life our elders have taught us; this way of life was passed onto our elders by their elders, so it is now many winters, and we continue to give thanks to the natural world, the universe, the cosmos the way we were instructed. Thank you all for listening.

Vern speaks out from the Book of Elders

Courtesy of Sandy Johnson

A hundred years before the Europeans came, a Cree prophecy said a time would come when Rainbow People and the People of Color would appear and be like children. The prophecy talked about how the people would be very innocent and childlike, and that would be one of the signs for the great changes to come. This would be known as the Seventh Fire, I’ve talked to many of my uncles and aunts, and we believe the hippie movement was part of the prophecy. Maybe that’s why a lot of Indians identified with the hippie movement in the sixties.

Everyone has a responsibility to find out what they’re here for. There’s only one way you can do that: with a sober mind, through mediation and ceremony. There’s no other way that I’ve found, and it’s taken me four decades to find this out. Traditionally, Cree men were not allowed to do community work or speak on behalf of anyone until we were over fifty because up until that point our teachings instructed us to learn and listen. And when we reached fifty years of age, we would be able to say something for the people. But things have changed because of the need to teach others, and the world is out of balance. When I crawl into the lodge, I do it unselfishly. I crawl in there and think about my brothers and sisters. I think about Mother Earth, and I suffer and give thanks in the lodge. Our life here is part of a journey to the sprit world and preparation means everything. That’s why I keep my teachings simple. When I teach the children, I tell them to make life a good journey and then work to prepare your self. We must all prepare ourselves, so when our time comes, our spirit journey is a good one.

Ojibway Elder Beth Elson Leads in Defending Springwater Provincial Park

Beth and Krystyna both work with Les Steward and local citizens to protect Springwater Provincial Park. Photo by Danny Beaton May 2013

Ontario has a very large number of tribes, natives, indigenous populations that have survived all forms of deceit so far from non native policies, agendas and activities. Yet the way things are going non natives might not survive from the deceit of their own agendas. With the abundance of farmland which produces a rich supply of fresh food for Ontario why sell this fast green belt and parklands, to hungry developers for huge profits.

Seeing how Ontario is full of rich farmland so is the province with adequate parklands, watersheds, marshland which too is under extreme threat by developers. Not only are natural spaces and natural environment used by the farmers and the public but the indigenous people of Ontario are maintaining their way of life and culture with a vigorous restoration and resurgence through education ,sharing ,healing and ceremony. Why is there such a threat to natural environment/Mother Earth and those who try to live with green space and try to protect other life, animals, birds, fish, and insects which are our relations? They say the Bumble Bee is threatened and if we loss them it could bring about a human disaster why is this so hard to believe?

There is an incredible ever growing interest and need by the public which enjoy and visit native POW wows and cultural events in Ontario and through out Canada today! In fact there is a link with POW wows, green spaces native culture and parklands. Nothing is more important today then healing, health and peace in tranquil environment especially for native and non native youth who many are suffering from stress.

Ontario and Canada could be in a double crisis if rich parklands farmlands water ways which surround cities and reservations are exploited or mismanaged. The Springwater Provincial Park has been cut funding from parklands Ontario. Springwater is between Barrie Ontario and the Great Georgian Bay home to the Great Ojibwa Nation, Mohawks, Wendat, Huron, Métis and many other indigenous people not to mention non natives and everyone’s children. The way Ontario is headed if Parklands like Springwater are closed down our sanctuaries will be neglected or possibly sold to build 500 thousand dollar condos similar to the way Beaver Pond Forest was attacked and destroyed only 2 years ago in Kanata near Ottawa.

Beaver Pond Forest was defended by native elders the late Grandfather William Commanda, Bob Lovelace, Daniel Bernard, myself and native and non native citizens with environmentalists even some scientists helped out and many more but with closed eyes from all levels of government. Beaver Pond Forest was mainly all clear cut. Not only was Beaver Pond Forest cut down but it was an ancient old growth forest was cut down! Hundreds of non natives rallied with natives in a struggle which we close our eyes in shame at all levels of government in Ottawa for not listening to the people and standing up while there was still hope for the trees and life species.

With this lesson and there are many more we as Ontarians must never allow such atrocities to ever happen again. Springwater Provincial Park with fresh aquifers shooting out from Mother Earths belly must remain a funded Provincial Park and heritage place now for generations to come.

Deer, wolf, coyote porcupine fox fisher, rabbit live in Springwater not to mention frogs, snakes, turtles, salamanders and other relatives. Springwater is over 100 year old provincial park even the town it is in is named Springwater. The thick Pine Forest, Cedar Trees and Spruce cover the park and nurture all the life that sustains itself. Surface Spring flows out freely naturally so one can bend into it and drink clean pure fresh water from Mother Earth’s body. Georgian Bay would never be the same if it ever disappeared like Beaver Pond Forest or the riches developer. It is a heritage place a home to life species which are spectacular to see living and moving in good health the way we all should be. It seems our country can be bought and sold to the highest bidder daily even it can be sold to China but our ancestors would never have let this happen if they really knew where we were headed! We as human beings need to really take time to look at all the facts , information, statistics and see how much life has disappeared and is suffering road kills are every where when we head up north and when you see a dead adult many times their youth will wonder back to see and be killed too. Our parks, farmland, water must be protected as with our animals, birds, fish and honey bees.

The Late Grandfather William Commanda Speaks Out For Life

In many respects, it is too late because many of our children and people have been educated and raised in new ways and now believe in ownership of land. Many have forgotten their sacred relationship with Mother. You cannot own Mother, we belong to her. So we must stop the endless cutting of trees that produce oxygen and life breath. Trees hold the waters and prevent flooding and mudslides. Trees create; protect gardens of biodiversity and medicine plants. The forests of the world are habitats of the fourleggeds and winged creatures. The rivers are the veins of Mother Earth, and everywhere dams impede her movement of water life and accumulate debris and poison are not washed out to seas for cleaning. Our cancers are a reflection of the poisons and contaminations in our Mother Earths body. We must respect the four elements and creatures of the natural world. We must reignite a Sacred Relationship with Mother Earth if we are to survive. Take prayer and ceremony and tobacco to her and to particularly sacred energy places. We need to influence the mainstream world with the ideology of Indigenous environmental Ethics/values.

Indigenous Peoples who have retained the sacred connection with the lands of their birth and ancestors have a special role to play in the healing of Mother Earth and all her children and in decrying commodification of every aspect of her being. This is our biggest job, and we must prepare ourselves for it by going back to the land for guidance. Mother Earth is an endlessly creative spiritual being. Decades ago, Indigenous people prophesied that she would start her own process of cleaning and over recent years we have begun to see this in the devastating hurricanes, earthquakes ,droughts ,floods ,fires ,and mudslides across the globe. She is also generating new life forms and land so she will continue to be a powerful creative force. But nothing is free on Mother Earth any more people own everything, you can no longer travel safely and you can no longer pick wild berries or call other food life, so Mother Earth cannot provide for use in her own way the way. And we have abused our sacred relationship with her and so we have to pay for that. We have to reconnect with the 4 elements and learn to work with them as our ancestors did in order to create hope for our children.

Beth Elson Speaks out

We are strong minded women who are here to establish a place to come together to make our nations stronger by providing spiritual guidance and traditional role modeling to benefit all nations. The occupation is going great and the Ministry needs to open the gates and allow the disabled and our elders access to this place as well. We have been requesting the gates be opened for ceremonies and they refuse to open them. We are building a lodge later this week and putting a call out for fire keepers and campers.

We call the place-Springwater Park-Camp Nibi. We have taken over the lands of Springwater Provincial Park which was previously cared for by the Ministry of Natural Resources. It was a financial burden to the Provincial Government which no longer could afford to assume the responsibility for the park. Our objectives are to maintain the park and create a business for the First Nations and employment for our people. The First Nations has many unique and diverse programs that will be of benefit to the surrounding communities. Our unique connection to the land leads the way to inventive programs to inform and establish connection to the wildlife, forest, lands, water, and air. Our traditions and culture are to be shared and our knowledge is to be passed on so people can relate to Mother Earth and gain connection and respect. Our education and the education of the communities surrounding our territories will be enhanced by the unique relationship we have to discover in one another.

Idle No More: From Grass Roots To National Movement

Idle No More: From Grass Roots To National Movement

“There is no going back to the way it was before. This country will be forever changed because of what is happening. And there are decisions that have to be made at this crucial juncture by the Prime Minister and by extension all Parliamentarians, but make no mistake, every single Canadian now,” says AFN Chief Shawn Atleo.

Last October, Bill C-45 was put trough Parliament without any First Nations input. Better known as the second omnibus budget bill, it was four hundred pages long and changed 64 acts or regulations. It changed the Indian Act: First Nations communities can now lease designated reserve lands if a majority attending a meeting called for that purpose vote to do so, regardless of how many people show up. Previously, approval required the support of a majority of eligible voters. The Aboriginal Affairs minister can chose to ignore a resolution from the band council that’s in opposition to a decision at the meeting. It changed the Navigation Protection Act: major pipeline and power line project advocates aren’t required to prove their project won’t damage or destroy a navigable waterway it crosses, unless the waterway is on a list prepared by the transportation minister. It changed the Environmental Assessment Act: The first omnibus budget bill had already overhauled the assessment process, and the second one reduces the number of projects that would require assessment under the old provisions.

This act could have a tragic effect on Native lands. UNBC Grand Chief Stewart Phillip was appalled at the government’s action and told the Vancouver Sun, “Bill C-38 completely gutted the Canadian Environmental Assessment process and removed habitat protection from the Fisheries Act. Bill C-45 went on to remove federal responsibility for some 33,000 rivers, lakes, and streams, and reduced that to less than 100. Other features in the omnibus bills passed without any consultation whatsoever with us. The Harper government violated the commitment to work with us in an open and transparent fashion.”

Four women from Saskatchewan (Jessica Gordon, Sheelah Mclean, Sylvia McAdams, and Nina Wilsonfield) decided to protest the bill by staging an event in Saskatoon and using the slogan Idle No More. Tanya Kappo helped organize the event and stated, “The campaign was, in part, a reaction to the conservative government’s omnibus budget bill, which strips environmental regulations from thousands of lakes and rivers throughout Canada.” Within a week, several similar events were held in Regina, Prince Albert, North Battleford, and Winnipeg. The reaction to the events was so positive, they decided to use Facebook to reach more people who might feel the same way and hope they would join together.

Their mission statement was simple and direct: “Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honours and fulfils Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water.” Within two months, the Idle No More Facebook group had 45,000 members spread across the country with a definite agenda: “To support and encourage grassroots to create their own forums to learn more about Indigenous rights and our responsibilities to our Nationhood via teach-in, rallies, and social media.”

It was only a matter of time before protests and rallies were spreading across the country. The message now went deeper than Bill C-45, education cuts, and broken promises that date back to the Royal Commission that was released in 1996. Russell Diablo in a recent article in the Globe and Mail noted that “governments, whether Liberal or Conservative, have continued doing precisely what the Royal Commission warned against: tinkering with a colonial system rather than fixing its rotten foundation. The issues identified by the Commission have never gone away. “

Idle No More called for a Day Of Action on December 10th, and 1500 marched in Edmonton and thousands more from Toronto, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, North Battleford, Vancouver, and Thunder Bay. If the Conservative government wasn’t aware of the seriousness of the movement, surely now their eyes were forced open by the massive support Idle No More was receiving across the country. It was this day that Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence joined the movement and started her fasting and promised to continue until she met with the Prime Minister and the Governor General. Spence became a media darling, front page in every newspaper and on the CBC and CTV news on a daily basis. She was supported by not only the grass roots members but many of the Native leaders who, in a joint feeling of solidarity, headed for Ottawa hoping her demands would be met and they would attend the meeting. Spence became the face of Idle No More, and her meeting with Stephen Harper was now to be attended by all chiefs. The PM agreed to a meeting, but on his turf and only with representatives of the AFN and a few chiefs along with Theresa Spence. And, he would not be there for the entire meeting.

Harper’s response was not acceptable to many of the Native leaders. Grand Chief of the Manitoba Assembly of First Nations Derek Nepinak refused to attend, nor did any of the Manitoba chiefs. Chief Theresa Spence and many Ontario Chiefs attended, led by Grand Chief Gordon Peters who told reporters that his people were prepared to block roads and rail lines on January 16. Shawn Atleo and Matthew Coon Come attended along with several other delegates, but little was resolved at the meeting except an agreement to meet on the 28th of January. A few days later, Chief Theresa Spence and several other chiefs met with the Governor General in what could be best described as a ceremonial meeting. Matthew Coon Come reported that Bill C-45 and 38 were on the table as was the Missing Women problem, but nothing was discussed that resulted in anything of value.

The delegates’ meeting with Harper solved nothing; it only added fuel to to fires of dissension among the chiefs. Rumours of a vote of non-confidence that would force AFN Chief Shawn Atleo to resign were rampant among the chiefs who refused to attend the meeting. There were blockades as predicted the day after, but nothing had changed, and now another meeting is scheduled for January 28th. AFN Chief Shawn Atleo is on sick leave, and Chief Theresa Spence is still on her fast.

The question that begs to be asked is why Stephen Harper put through bills C-45 and C-38 in the first place? He surely must have known there would be a reaction, though it is doubtful he was ready for Idle No More turning into a movement. Considering the media attention the movement has received and the sense of solidarity it has inspired, why has he not promised to undo some of the changes these acts have implemented or at least made them a priority of the discussion? Harper is a savvy politician; he knows that once a bill has been made law it is almost impossible to change it. He may discuss a number of issues at their next meeting, but will it change anything? Will he meet all the chiefs as Chief Derek Nepinak requested in his letter of January 14th?

The answer is no. Harper will be at the meeting, but expect no more from him than listening to only the Chiefs present at the meeting. He will stand tough on Bill C-45 and C-38, and perhaps be more lenient on other issues such as education or suggest another inquiry on missing women. The real issues that started Idle No More will not be resolved, but there is an opportunity to deal with several other issues. The main concern of the movement is that their grievances be heard by the Prime Minister and not lost in some governmental bureaucratic catacomb where promises are regarded as solutions.

Pam Palmater Speaks Out

Pam Palmater

I am Mi’kmaw. I come from the Mi’kmaw Nation whose territory (Mi’kma’ki) comprises large portions of NB, NS, PEI, NFLD, QC, and parts of Maine. I am also a band member at Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick. I descend from my father, Frank Palmater, who was a hunter and WWII veteran who fought to honour our treaties with the Crown. My grandmother Margaret Jerome was a traditional healer in our community, and my great grandfather was a chief in our community. I am the mother of two boys, Mitchell and Jeremy (ages 20 and 18), and I come from a large family of eight sisters and three brothers.

My family was politically and socially active working on indigenous issues in terms of their work, volunteerism, and activism. It was because they included me in all of their advocacy work from a young age that I dedicated my life to advocating our issues. Throughout the years, I have had the benefit of wise counsel from traditional elders all over the country. They taught me how to listen, observe, adapt, as well as how to focus, pray, and protect myself from the negativity that comes by truth-telling. (more…)

Sacred Dance For Spirits

PowWow Drums ~ Ashley Mackinnon 2010

PowWow Drums ~ Ashley Mackinnon 2010

People think we all just go dancing in a circle at a pow wow. But it’s not like that. When you go into the dance arena and you’re praying and dancing, people will leave you alone. It’s an accepted place where you can go and be alone with your prayers and stuff. You end up dancing with your feet, and that’s a prayer because you’re praying with your feet—you pray with your whole body. So that’s the importance of dancing, along with rebonding with friends and relatives, and it’s that way for me.

There was a time when they were shooting up Bosnia and I was asked to do a talk on Saturday, so Friday night we started a pow wow and it was 72 degrees when we started dancing. Friday night is usually just an evening pow wow set up for dancing on Saturday morning. We were in the upper desert, and when the temperature dropped, it got really cold with in one and half hours and every one went home except the head staff and the drum. It got cold as heck, but I decided this pow wow was for me, and so I was gonna go out there and dance. Sauginea was MC at the time. I decided to dance my heart out until I got an answer about what I was supposed to say about Bosnia. So I started dancing, and the sweat started coming down my face, and Sauginea started cheering me on, and even when the drum stopped I kept on dancing. I learned in that dance that my weapons were the rattle and the wing and that I must keep dancing and praying for what were asking for.