Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishnabek

In the past century, the people of Asubpeechoseewagong Netum Anishinabek, Treaty Three territory (Grassy Narrows in Northwestern Ontario), have suffered from the genocidal effects of colonization through the residential school system, flooding and displacement by Ontario Hydro dams, forced relocation, mercury poisoning from an up-river pulp and paper mill, and the loss of animal habitat, berries and medicines from clear-cut logging.

Asubpeeschoseewagong asserted sovereignty over its traditional lands with a blockade (December 2, 2002) of the main logging road near the community and occasional blockades of another logging road. CPT was asked by the community to accompany the blockade because of fears of violence from loggers, police or others and maintained a presence there until the summer of 2004. Since then the Aboriginal Justice Team has organized regular delegations to the traditional territory and has provided logistical support for public actions and speaking tours in Toronto. (Queen's Park, Toronto is the location of the provincial government—the current seat of power for resource control or “management” in Ontario.)

In addition, January 17, 2007, Grassy Narrows Chief and Council, Environmental Committee, Blockaders, Trappers, Clan Mothers, Elders and Youth all issued an open letter to the wood product corporations, governments, builders, retailers and customers:

“We now declare a moratorium on further industrial activity in our Traditional Territory until such a time as the Governments of Canada and Ontario restore their honour and obtain the consent of our community in these decisions that will forever alter the future of our people.” (www.turtleisland,org/news/grassyjan07.pdf)

Now in its eighth year, the blockade and campaign to stop the clearcutting has pressured three forest product companies—Boise (February 2008), Abitibi Bowater (June 2, 2008), and Domtar Corp (May 2010) to not use any more wood harvested from Whiskey  Jack Forest, (coextensive with Asubpeeschoseewagong traditional land use area), at least for the time being or as Keith Ley of Domtar said “until the outstanding issues are resolved” (Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal 05/09/2010).

“Weyerhaeuser now stands alone as the only major logger who refuses to respect our right to say no to logging on our territory,” Grassy Narrows resident Joseph Fobister said in a May 7, 2010 news release.

Weyerhaeuser depends on wood from the Kenora and Whiskey Jack forests for 70% of its supply to its engineered wood mill in Kenora.  While the band council and provincial government negotiate a long-term forest management plan for Whiskey Jack Forest, Weyerhaeuser is pressing for access to the wood. The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has also put forward a contingency plan that would allow for 27 clearcuts in 2010, 17 would each be over 260 hectares in size (Kenora Miner and News, March 25, 2009).

Meanwhile a new study has shown that, because of prolonged exposure, the effects of mercury poisoning are worse now than they were in the 1970s, calling into question Canada Safety Guidelines. (They were told the fish was safe to eat when in fact it wasn't.) In addition, of those who have been diagnosed by expert Dr. Harada as having symptoms of mercury poisoning (Minamata Disease), only 38% have been acknowledged by the Mercury Disability Board and have received any compensation. (http://freegrassy.org/media-centre/)

Asubpeeschoseewagong's struggle to defend its land is far from over.

 

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