Forests, Rivers, and Oceans Need Protection Now: Indigenous Peoples of Canada
We arrived in Simcoe County on Winter Solstice December 21. Our first real snow fall of winter had just begun to fall. It snowed for two days straight and for awhile it looked like a storm was hitting Georgian Bay. The next day my partner advised me that we would try a new hiking trail that would take us through Simcoe Forest to Awenda Provincial Park down to the highway and back up to our camp.
After dressing in our warm winter clothes, we headed onto our trail. We noticed that there weren’t as many fresh animal tracks as we normally had seen over the past 10 years. As we headed north we passed our usual landmarks and Alicia said we would hang a right instead of turning left on the road ahead, and thus head towards Awenda Provincial Park.
After hiking for awhile the forest began to thicken and no human or skidoo tracks were seen anymore. As we continued along the path, the forest thickened more and we started to see some footprints in the snow—the four legged and winged ones—turkey, pheasant, grouse even crows were travelling and maybe hunting and gathering in the Woodlands.
We kept hiking until we arrived at a sign “Awenda Park.” We turned towards Awenda Road continuing in the bush and seeing fresh foot prints of deer, wolf, coyote, rabbit, and possibly fisher and raccoon. Soon we could see a spectacular native camp site that we had heard about a few months ago.
Ojibway youth from Beausoliel First Nation had set it up because many of their people were not satisfied with the small government payment for land that the courts at Coldwater had deemed stolen. Some community members were against the sale of their stolen territory. The youth camped on the Coldwater territory until they were asked to move. They chose the Awenda Park location because of the Council Rock, on which the true agreement of the Penetang purchase was carved in 1795.
It was a sacred camp. I could see the skeleton poles of a sweat lodge. A large lodge was up and the living quarters were huge. It could provide sleep and refuge for at least 50 people.
Sacred flags appeared everywhere. The colours of the four directions were flying high, blowing in the wind, and signifying Ojibway Territory. Earth Values messages were written on banners: “Protect Mother Earth with Native Culture!,” ” Stop the Cultural Genocide,” “Where are Our Missing Indigenous Women along the Highways!”
As we walked along the trail skirting the camp, we felt devastated by the words we had read because they were about a life and death struggle. This Ojibway camp was in the middle of Simcoe Forest and Awenda Provincial Park. In the middle of the camp we could see the Huge Ancient Stones where the Sacred Carvings/Petroglyphs of Ojibwa Ancestors stated their relationship with the natural world! These huge stones contained carvings describing the Great Ojibway relationship to Mother Earth, which was their homeland from time immemorial. We are one with our Relations—the Great Mystery is Our Creator!
We walked down a highway as we came out of the bush. We couldn’t stop talking about the beauty of the camp we had seen. It was so incredibly alive and full of history. Built by Ojibway youth concerned for their rights, their future, their culture, and the protection of Mother Earth.
The disappearance of native women across Canada was a priority and issue for the Ojibway Nation.
Today a great resurgence of native culture and environmental protection is dawning on Canada’s society and government because of the indigenous people. Not since the Ghost Dance by the Lakota have indigenous people awakened to their ancestors’ crying for the Earth!
With this resurgence of native culture comes a movement: Idle No More. Only because a prime minister calling for the abolition of sacred native treaties and environmental protection does this movement grow like a beautiful garden of the world. With all the broken treaties in Canada and removal of environmental laws, the prime minister has given the green light for natives to stand up for their rights or be forgotten along with Mother Earth.
With all the thick forests in Canada and Georgian Bay, now is the time for people to stop the destruction of sacred forests and farmland. The cry for Mother Earth has never been louder, simply because it is evident that we cannot continue to rape and pillage as our fragile ecosystems and life species are being wiped out and destroyed. Ontario forests, Alberta rivers, and the entire B.C. coast are in danger.
We talked more as we hiked out. We realized that the Ojibwa camp behind us was a sign of peace, hope, culture, and consciousness for all human beings and life. The camp that we had walked past stood for justice for the Ojibway future—past and present. This was a sign that Native Americans or Native Canadians were maintaining a sacred way of life. Throughout the Georgian Bay region Chippewa, Wendat, Huron, Mohawk, Ojibway, and others across Canada are maintaining a way of life by defending the water, air, plants, animals, birds, and life for future generations to come.
All across Canada the Idle No More Movement is focused on the defense and protection of Mother Earth. Our Ancestors would be proud of the way many put on their moccasins to walk the red road of peace and harmony. The Ojibway Camp built in Simcoe could demonstrate the resurgence, restoration, and values of ancient native culture; and was a place for our ancestors to rest, rekindle, and heal.
Now, we can and should consider what our ancestors would do if they could witness what is happening to our homelands and territories by the forces of negative projects and governments affecting our way of life. In the old days, we burned our sacred fires and gathered in sacred councils to discuss topics of survival. We smoked our sacred pipes to honour The Great Mystery, creation, and the spirit world; we gave thanks continually to our Great Creator who is the Great Mystery. We built sweat lodges for purification; and our young people fasted with elders watching over them and giving guidance when needed. Our elders and chiefs burned sacred tobacco to honour and give thanks to everything that moved on Mother Earth: plants, water, animals, birds, fish, insects, and the sky world—sun, moon, stars, air, and thunder people.
Our ceremonies were our way of life with the universe, cosmos, and spirits of our ancestors. Many Canadians have no idea about our ceremonies or spiritual way of life. In the past, our ceremonies occurred in secret, while today our ceremonies are held in prisons, universities, and in public schools so today’s children can be educated properly.
Now we have to organize ourselves like we did in the old days, but this time we must create unity for all life that is suffering from negativity, including the ones who want to stand tall with us and seek justice, respect, harmony, healing, and peace. This includes our non-native friends who have stood with us and want to stand with us. All must be brought under the tree of peace and the good mind must be shared by all if we are to survive this invasion by negative activity, and by negative corporations and thinking.
We are the ones concerned for our children’s clean air, water supply, and earth. Some of us are farmers, teachers, mothers, and fathers; some are called environmentalists; and people like David Suzuki, Al Gore, Barrack Obama, Chico Mendez, Maude Barlow, and Elizabeth May are a threat to national security/economic development. We are even called terrorists etc. Now, we have to look at the natural world, the natural world economy, and at the natural laws and the life-giving forces of the world—earth, air, fire, and water—and see if climate change, global warming, and turbulent weather will inspire us more to become human beings again.
We can watch the natural world, but it was our ancestors who told us and our elders who taught us that the plants hear us and know us if we talk to them. The four-legged can hear us if we talk to them. Everything that moves in the sky world knows us if we give thanks and show respect—as we should to all Creation. These are some of the things that I have heard from our sacred councils and gatherings of the good minds, and from our oldest elders.
Danny Beaton is a Mohawk of the Turtle Clan who dedicates his life to environmental education and protection. He has received the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Environmental Protection.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.