The survivors and heroes of living indigenous in the remote north

It didn’t matter that the February weather was -42 C. Marcus Monture got the call while he was sleeping that there was a fire at a neighbours house. He ran down the road in his pajamas and ended up becoming a hero.

A terrible house fire had erupted in the northern community that Marcus had been visiting, which is located 320 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay.

Because the fire truck in Mishkeegogamang was stored in an unheated building it couldn’t hold water during the winter and was completely useless. The Six Nations man had to beat back the flames himself by running down the side of a hill, smashing the frozen river open to bail water and running it back to the house – one bucket at a time.

Marcus ran into a burning house to save people’s lives that night and even dragged one person out who was unconscious. He suffered severe smoke damage to his lungs, received major skin burns and is still traumatized by the memories.

For this act of selfless sacrifice, Marcus Monture was awarded the Canadian Medal of Bravery. All this happened two years ago in 2014.

Last week a similar tragedy occurred in Pikangikum when another house fire devastated the community leaving nine people dead including two-year-old Aubree Strang and five-month-old Amber Strang.

An internal federal government report says almost half the First Nations across Canada have “little to no fire protection” and that indigenous people are 10 times more likely to die in house fires.

The quesion we ask is, “more likely than who?” We have to assume that they mean we are more likely to die than the “regular” people who aren’t affected by the racist Indian Act.

If these northern nations had been properly compensated for the trillions of dollars of natural resources extracted from their land they could not only afford better living conditions but also the establishment of the official Country and Nation that they are entitled to.

Indigenous nations across the board are getting Federal crumbs from their own table.

The problem isn’t just that Pikangikum has no running water. The problem is that they are violently being marginalized and systematically being forced off of their traditional territory by the same government that 100 years ago sought to eradicate them with residential school.

Even Six Nations – the most city-like reserve in Canada – receives only $25 per person for fire emergency services in comparison with the $150 per person that “regular” Canadians enjoy.

When you study the history of Canada you can see that the whole point of the Indian Act is to remove the Indian “problem” and the founding fathers of Canada decided the best way to do it was to reverse-assimilate indigenous people into their colonial European culture.

They want us to be a part of their franchise. And they almost have it. So far, most of us have taken an English surname – we call them government names. Most of us speak the foreign language of the English immigrants. Some of us even think like they do. But not all of us.

The northern elders have realized that Canada wants them to pack up and move to the city so industry and developers can seize their land.

Sir John A. McDonald probably didn’t think they wouldn’t be able to last this long, living in some of the harshest conditions on earth. Pikangikum has been surviving on moose meat and neighbourly love for a long time.

So when indigenous people spend their entire lives in a little shack heated by an oil can stove it is the most radical kind of resistance imaginable. The nine who perished this week should be declared as martyrs against colonialism and as freedom fighters who stood their ground against the Canadian regime.

And for all those tax-paying Canadians who think they have the solution you need to study history and realize that moving to Thunder Bay isn’t the answer. We get killed there too.

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1 Comment

  1. A sincere, genuine and meaningful recognition of the abuses and damages of the past and ongoing ‘legalized’ genocide policies is not enough…. it must be ended, followed with an immediate and full restoration of the lands to the people of the lands. Aboriginal Law should sit on top of Colonial Law and the Two Row Agreement and Great Law must become Sacred, upheld by all and unalterable. Even the average brain washed colonial indoctrinated ‘settler’ is starting to wake up to this reality. What’s wrong with being kind & fair & helpful & loving anyways? And don’t ever accept any cheques or pay offs either, it isn’t worth the plastic it’s printed on, the only thing of value is a healthy living planet and good relations with all living beings.

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