Grassy Narrows
Saving the Whiskey Jack Forest
Life at the blockade

Kody Doxtater, a Mohawk dancer, gets ready to perform at the blockade.

Life at the blockade

Semiah Keewatin and David Ball rest in the cabin located at the blockade site. David is a CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams) volunteer.

Life at the blockade

Roberta Kessick, band administrator and trapper, is one of the organizers of the blockade.

Life at the blockade

Gloria Kegick, a blockade supporter, removes the rain water accumulated in the big top during the night.

Life at the blockade

Bertha Keesick, a blockade supporter, lights a candle inside the cabin, where there is no electricity.

Life at the blockade

A sacred bonfire is always kept lit near the cabin.

Grassy Lake

Between 1962 and 1970 a pulp and paper mill owned by Reed Inc., later Great Lakes Forest Products Ltd., dumped mercury-contaminated effluent into the Wabigoon River.

Mercury contamination

Mike Fobister, carpenter and tradicional music singer, cuts some fish he just caught from Grassy Lake.

Wild rice picking

Shoon Keewatin, Grassy Narrows trappers centre director, examines wild rice stalks. This cereal, which is collected in the lakes in early fall, is an important part of the traditional Indian diet.

Mercury contamination

Tom Peyash, ex-hunter and trapper, is one of the people affected by mercury poisoning.

Mercury contamination

Steve Forbister was diagnosed with mercury poisoning in 2002.

Resources

Hunters and trappers in the community complaint about how it is getting increasingly difficult to find animals, due to the logging activities.

Resources

Clear-cut area in Grassy Narrows' territory.

Resources

Weyerhaeuser is the only company still logging in the Whiskey Jack forest.

Kody Doxtater, a Mohawk dancer, gets ready to perform at the blockade.Semiah Keewatin and David Ball rest in the cabin located at the blockade site. David is a CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams) volunteer.Roberta Kessick, band administrator and trapper, is one of the organizers of the blockade.Gloria Kegick, a blockade supporter, removes the rain water accumulated in the big top during the night.Bertha Keesick, a blockade supporter, lights a candle inside the cabin, where there is no electricity.A sacred bonfire is always kept lit near the cabin.Between 1962 and 1970 a pulp and paper mill owned by Reed Inc., later Great Lakes Forest Products Ltd., dumped mercury-contaminated effluent into the Wabigoon River.Mike Fobister, carpenter and tradicional music singer, cuts some fish he just caught from Grassy Lake.Shoon Keewatin, Grassy Narrows trappers centre director, examines wild rice stalks. This cereal, which is collected in the lakes in early fall, is an important part of the traditional Indian diet.Tom Peyash, ex-hunter and trapper, is one of the people affected by mercury poisoning.Steve Forbister was diagnosed with mercury poisoning in 2002.Hunters and trappers in the community complaint about how it is getting increasingly difficult to find animals, due to the logging activities.Clear-cut area in Grassy Narrows' territory.Weyerhaeuser is the only company still logging in the Whiskey Jack forest.

Saving the Whiskey Jack Forest

The people of Grassy Narrows, an Anishinaabe community in northwestern Ontario, Canada, has repeatedly suffered the impact of government decisions taken without their consent.

The province did not carry out meaningful consultation before licensing large-scale logging activities in the Whiskey Jack forest, near to where this community lives, and it has ignored clear calls from the community to stop logging and other industrial development until consent is given. This is despite the fact that past decisions by the federal and provincial governments, such as the relocation of the reserve community and the contamination of the river system in the 1960s, have had catastrophic social and economic impacts from which the people of Grassy Narrows are still struggling to recover.

On April 6, 1970 the Government of Ontario banned fishing on the Wabigoon River due to mercury contamination from a pulp mill. Overnight unemployment in Grassy Narrows rose from 10% to 90%, a primary food staple was lost, and the devastating neurological health impact of mercury poisoning set in. Forty years later, a study on the health of Grassy Narrows residents shows that while mercury levels are going down, the health impact of mercury poisoning are substantially worse now than they were in the 70s.

In 2002, a group of women from the community began a blockade on a road near the settlement. The goal was to stop the logging in the area and vindicate their right to self-determination. The blockade, which still stands, is now the longest running logging blockade in Canadian history.

In 2008 the paper giant AbitibiBowater surrendered license to the forest. However, Weyerhaeuser, a major logging company, continues to access wood to clearcut on Grassy Narrows territory.

For now, the blockade continues to stop the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) from interfering with the road repairs that the natives are doing by themselves on their traditional territory. The roads require repairs because the MNR has not conducted maintenance on the back road network since 2002. Previously the back roads had been maintained by local contractors through provincial subsidies provided to the logging industry.

This entry was posted on Friday, November 12th, 2010 at 05:36

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