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.