GRASSY NARROWS FIRST NATION: A Community Celebrating Life



December 31, 2002



by Michael Smith

Christmas is a celebration of coming back to life. For

those of us in the Northern hemisphere, it comes

shortly after the longest night of the year. Just when

darkness seems most powerful, light begins to reassert

itself. That is why we celebrate Jesus’ coming when we

do: “The light shines in the darkness and the dark has

not overcome it,” says John.

For the Anishinabe people of Asubpeeschoseewagong

(Grassy Narrows), in northwestern Ontario, it seems

that darkness has been asserting itself for a long

time. Pollution of their waters, relocation and its

attendant displacements, and the loss of the Mahnomen

(wild rice) harvesting areas have all played a part in

tearing down their traditional way of life. And now,

large-scale clear-cut logging threatens to destroy

what’s left.

Into this darkness, however, have come signs of new

life. Dozens of members of the community have taken

action to regain control over their traditional land

use area, a right guaranteed them by treaty, and to

reassert control over their lives, a right guaranteed

them by the Creator. In the cold and darkness of the

northern winter, they have established an encampment

in the forests of northwestern Ontario from which,

when the timber cutting and hauling are underway,

Aboriginal people peacefully block the roads to the

cutting areas.

On Christmas Day, 2002, in the roundhouse at the

encampment, CPTers Matt Schaaf (Winnipeg, MB), Char

and Michael Smith (Gibson City, IL), and Ellis Brown

(Kitchener, ON) joined them for a Christmas feast. The

tables were laden with turkey, mashed potatoes,

dressing, salads, wild rice dishes, and deserts, all

prepared at various homes in the community and brought

to the encampment. All who came were invited to eat

and enjoy the fellowship. Europeans and First Nation

members, Americans and Canadians, young and old,

without distinction, joined together in that

traditional roundhouse to feast. Afterward, everyone

enjoyed singing, accompanied by drum, guitar, shakers,

and hands.

Inevitably, the time came for people to depart into

the cold, clear, starry night. A few stayed behind for

a traditional sharing circle. That, too, emphasized

how, in the bleak cold of winter, in the darkest time

of the year, when the temptation to yield to the

darkness is at its greatest, a community is

celebrating new life. Those of us here will not forget

it. We will continue to pray that John’s words will

find fulfillment here: “The light shines in the

darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”

Photos of the Christmas feast can be found at Enter the address in

the Search box to view CPT photo albums.

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