This past month, two well-known people in our community – Grandfather William Commanda and Jack Layton – along with many more unknown heroes around the globe, went to the Spirit world. It is sad time for us but we know that they are in a peaceful place now. We send our love and prayer to all of their relatives and wish them strength to continue the work of these two men and countless others for peace. Grandfather and Jack had very different world views but they both spent most of their life working for their people. It is an honour to work for the people.
Grandfather William Commanda, the respectful spiritual leader of the Algonquin Nation, passed away on the morning of August 3. He would be 98 years old on November 11 this year! Ojigkwanong is the name his mother gave to him because he was born under the morning star. Even though Grandfather isn’t here physically with us anymore, he, like the morning star, will always look after us and lead us in a good way. We, the folks at this small grassroots group called IPSMO, had the honour to meet Grandfather three years ago. Grandfather was one of our very first supporters for our work trying to learn and act in solidarity with Indigenous peoples.
On March 3, 2009, we had our first big event in the National Library and Archive. We screened the documentary “Invisible Nation – The Story of The Algonquin” and had Grandfather open the event for us. His Granddaughter, Claudette Commanda, was our special guest speaker. Grandfather’s presence was a big reason why close to 500 people showed up, overflowing the auditorium’s seating capacity and requiring the setting up of a second screen in the foyer! It was a big success and we did what we intended to do – creating an opportunity for native and non-native peoples, who’ve been separated by colonial measures like the reserve system, to get to know each other.
Six months later, Grandfather surprised us by coming to another big event we held – The Epidemic of Continuing Violence Against Indigenous Women, to raise fund for Maisy Odjick’s family. Maisy and her friend Shannon Alexander, both from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, went missing on Sept 6, 2008.
And at the beginning of this year he was active in supporting the efforts to protect the Beaver Pond Forest and South March Highlands in Kanata.
Grandfather has inspired us and many others. He taught us about forgiveness. It was hard to understand at first how he could forgive after so many years of colonization by the white settlers. But now, we understand: it is only through forgiveness, the white settlers / colonizers can have a way out of white guilt for what they have done to Native peoples. It is only through forgiveness, the white settlers can have the chance to transcend their guilt and start their decolonization process, and the Natives can get a possibility for co-existence.
Jack Layton, another respectful man, passed away on the morning of August 22. We did not know him well, to be honest. But, at our recent direct action to support the Algonquins of Barriere Lake in front of the Minister of Indian Affairís office on a cold December day, he surprised us by showing up and speaking to the crowd in support of Barriere Lake’s inherent right to self-determination and customary governance. We thank him and respect him for his support for Indigenous rights and other social justice issues. RIP Jack.
To continue the legacy of these two great men and countless others, please continue supporting our solidarity work. Here is how:
CALL FOR SUPPORT: ALGONQUINS OF BARRIERE LAKE
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake have been forced into a costly legal battle with Canada to protect their land rights. They cannot succeed without your support.
Please donate! You can either make checks out to “Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa” with “Barriere Lake Legal Defense Fund” in the memo line, or through PayPal – http://bit.ly/barrierelake. Everything counts. Please give what you can.
For details on Barriere Lakeís legal battle and where to mail your cheque, please go to our previous post: https://ipsmo.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/barriere-lake-legal-defense-fund.
Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa
On Unceded and Unsurrendered Algonquin Territory