Chrissy Swain, a Grassy Narrows youth leader and mother will be speaking about the ongoing struggles for healing and land protection at Grassy Narrows. Chrissy will also present a new documentary about the history of the conflict there.
She is speaking out in order to draw attention to links between environmental destruction and the destruction of communities, to open dialogue about protecting and healing the earth, as well as healing communities and the relationships between them.
Since arriving in Southern Ontario last week, Chrissy Swain has already visited the Anishnabe protest camp at Dump Site 41 in Tiny Township, had a presence at the rally in solidarity with Six Nations against the formation of the Caledonia Militia in Cayuga, participated in the Peace Caravan to Akwesasne, and spoke on stage in front of over 1000 music fans at the Propaghandi concert on June 26 in Toronto.
Last year, Chrissy led a group of 22 youth from Grassy Narrows (and a few other First Nations communities), on the Protecting Our Mother Walk—over 1800 kilometres from Grassy Narrows to Toronto—which became a catalyst for the Gathering of Mother Earth Protectors and Sovereignty Sleepover last May at Queens Park, where the message was:
*Respect the right of First Nations to say no to economic exploitation and environmental destruction, no criminalisation of land protectors.*
This year, Chrissy is planning another walk which is scheduled to leave from Grassy Narrows for Ottawa on August 24th. This year’s walk will bring together representatives from communities across the province to deliver a united message to Ottawa that the rights of First Nations must be honoured and land protectors must not be criminalised.
Chrissy has been an integral leader in the Grassy Narrows resistance to logging on their territory, in the empowerment of youth, and the traditional resurgence of Anishnabe culture that is taking place in their community.
On December 2nd, 2002, the youth of the Grassy Narrows First Nation established a blockade on a logging road in their territory, and sparked what is now the longest standing and highest profile indigenous logging blockade in Canadian history. Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong) is a small Anishnabe community about 80 kilometres north of Kenora in Northwest Ontario. *The Grassy Narrows community has been through many traumas including relocation, residential schools, mercury contamination, flooding of sacred grounds and burial sites, and clearcut logging of their traditional territory. However, resistance is strong at Grassy Narrows where people are actively resisting the continued destruction of their territories, re-occupying their lands, reviving their culture and fighting for the right to manage their land as they see fit. ***
This tour, for Chrissy is a spiritual journey inspired by dreams and recent incidents. Chrissy and Grassy Narrows organizer Judy Dasilva visited the site of the Macintosh Residential School near Kenora. There, behind the old school site, instead of a memorial, they found several large hydro towers right at the site of the graves of those children who died at the school, disrespecting their memory. Following the visit, Chrissy had dreams telling her that this was to be a symbol of the connection between the destruction of Indigenous lands, and the destruction of their communities. She began planning a second Protecting Our Mother Earth Walk that had been tentatively scheduled to leave Grassy Narrows on June 15.
The recent and ongoing standoff at Akwesasne is a spiritual sign to her that the time for the journey is imminent. The events of Friday June 12 (when the OPP brutally raided a solidarity blockade in Tyendinaga, and also escalated the police crackdown on protests by women from the Beausoleil First Nation who are camped at Dump Site 41) were a signal to Chrissy to forgo the walk across Northern Ontario so that she could be here now, talking to people in both settler and Indigenous communities, trying to build solidarity and support for communities engaged in land protection struggles, and to work towards healing.
“The government does not understand that words are not good enough. Talking ‘green’ and making empty apologies that don’t actually deal with real issues is not good enough. We have to *protect* the land—protect our Mother Earth. I want to tell Harper that apologies are not good enough. Canada needs to give proper respect to the victims, families and survivors of the residential schools. We need Canada to recognize the damage those schools have done to our communities and cultures, and we need an end to the destruction of our lands, and an end to native people being criminalised when they stand up for their rights to protect their lands, their cultures, and their communities.”
-Chrissy Swain, June 2009
- London, July 4*. Empowerment Infoshop, 636 Queens Ave, 6-9pm. pbd.
- Hamilton, July 7*. Sky Dragon Centre, 27 King William St, 6-9pm. pbd.
- Ottawa, July 9*. Umi Cafe, 610 Somerset St W, 6-9pm.
- Brockville, July 10*. St. Paul’s Anglican Church, 37 Victoria Ave, 7-9pm.