Onkwehonwe Week in Review: June 1, 2016

Mohawk College plants Three Sisters

Mohawk College’s Indigenous Gathering Space, named the Hoop Dance Garden, is now the home of mounds of soil planted with corn, beans and squash, the Three Sisters. Staff and students interplanted the Three Sisters in order to teach sound agricultural practice and to raise awareness of indigenous culture and traditions that sustained Haudenosaunee people physically and spiritually.

The Three Sisters are planted together because of their ability to work together to produce strong and healthy crops. It is said that the corn, beans and squash thrive together, just like three sisters would. The plants are said to be gifted from Creator. They are grown together, eaten together and celebrated together to offer a balanced diet and a sense of cohesion in the community.

The corn offers support, just like a supportive big sister would. The beans give the other sisters nitrogen from the air, bringing nutrients to the soil to benefit the corn and the squash. The beans also offer structural support by offering it’s winding stems as means for the Three Sisters to stay together, like a giving sister would. The large leaves of the squash plant protect the threesome by creating living mulch that shades the soil, keeping it cool and moist which protects the plant from weeds and pests.

The Three Sisters are a sophisticated and sustainable agricultural practice that is marked with ceremony and song. It also reminds us to pay careful attention to the timing of planting and celebrating of harvest.


New Brunswick extends fracking ban indefinitely

In September 2014, Liberal Premier of New Brunswick Brian Gallant imposed a moratorium on the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Fracking is the technique of using chemically laced water under high pressure to break rock deep with the earth’s surface to access “natural gas” or oil. First Nations land defenders and anti-shale activists have actively opposed fracking in their territories.

The province of New Brunswick has faced major divisions over shale gas exploration. Notably, in 2013, when Southwest Energy (SWN) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) faced off with Mi’kmaw land defenders and Acadian allies over proposed fracking taking place in Elsipogtog. The New Brunswick government extended the ban indefinitely saying that, “the jury is still out on the risks to public health and the environment from this controversial practice.”

A Liberal appointed commission reported that the government needs to take time to build public trust and to appoint an independent regulator to oversee the development. They are looking for ways to get First Nations on board; however, it did warn that the province is dependent on “natural gas” and that the Nova Scotia offshore supplies are quickly dwindling. New Brunswick will have to rely on fracked shale gas from the United States or Western Canada if it doesn’t develop its own resources.

Business lobbyists also criticized the decision.

“They’re saying the number one priority is job creation, but they’re not going to lift up the rocks to figure out what economic opportunities lies underneath,” said Joel Richardson, Fredricton based VP for the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporter’s Association.

What the lobbyists are not taking into consideration are the valid, and often ignored, world views of indigenous peoples. That is, that the earth is a living, breathing entity and that we are all interconnected. First Nations land defenders and anti-shale activists are cautiously optimistic about the decision but are happy that protection for the Earth has been extended a bit longer.


Mohawk code talkers honoured in Akwesasne ceremony

More than 700 delegates, veterans and Akwesasne members packed the Travis Solomon Memorial Lacrosse Box in Generations Park. They came to honour 24 Akwesasne Mohawk code talkers. Levi Oakes, the only remaining code talker who is still alive, was honoured with the Congressional Silver Medal. Oakes fought in World War II and served in New Guinea and the Philippines.

Code talkers used the language to communicate between allied troops. Enemy forces couldn’t decipher the language, helping to make the West successful in their endeavours. Oakes said that he kept his role in the war from his seven children up until five years ago; however, his son Wally is proud of his accomplishments. One of his hopes was realized when his father’s work was recognized “before he left this earth.”

District Chief Timothy Thompson said that the ceremony has resulted from a long process that started in 2011. “It’s about time that our elders and our families get recognized for their valiant efforts to secure peace,” he said. On the front of the medal is a World War II code talker, a snipe, a bear, a wolf and a snapping turtle. On the other side is a Mohawk kustowa, a bear claw, a war club and a Mohawk Wolf belt.


Grassy Narrows Anishnaabek travel to Toronto to demand clean up of Mercury poisoned waters

For years, Grassy Narrows has attempted to hold the Ontario government accountable for the lack of political will in cleaning up the environmental disaster left behind by Reed Paper in Dryden, Ontario.

During the ‘60s, the company dumped chemicals into the English River, causing mercury poisoning in the water. In the ‘80s, a government research team was commissioned to research the effects of the chemical dump but the report was shelved.

Numerous health problems have manifested for the people, including cancer and mercury poisoning. “The problem is being perpetuated,” said John Rudd, lead author of the new research commissioned by Grassy Narrows First Nation released on Monday. “If we don’t do something to stop the source … the problem will continue for many, many more years.”  Last year, Kathleen Wynne said that more research was needed.

Ontario will be responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations in Provincial Legislature with another apology for “not doing more to protect the children.”  On the heels of one of many apologies issued by the Canadian government, is the 2014 River Run, held in Toronto, Ontario on June 2, 2016.

Perhaps, the government will realize that they are capable of creating change by remediating the English River, instead of repeatedly apologizing for not creating change.

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