Barriere Lake Solidarity has produced this video to help bring attention to the current struggle of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake: The Canadian Government’s attempt to take control of the community through an obscure provision of the Indian Act known as Section 74. The video is narrated by Barriere Lake spokesperson Norman Matchewan.
Please visit www.barrierelakesolidarity.org for more information on what’s going on and how you can help. You can also watch this video on Vimeo: Algonquins of Barriere Lake vs Section 74 of the Indian Act
This is Barriere Lake, 3 hours north of Ottawa. Our Algonquin community of 400 people is fighting for control of our land, our government and our way of life.
We call ourselves Michikanibikok Inik, The Algonquins of Barriere Lake. Our way of life is inseparable from the land we live on. It includes knowledge of traditional medicines, harvesting and craft-making and our relationship with the animals through hunting, fishing and trapping. This is the land where we dream and where our ancestors live.
Our Traditional system of government is called Mitchikanibikok Anishinabe Onakinakewin. The selection of our leaders is governed by this code. For example, Elders undertake what is called a blazing process where they select and nominate potential leaders.
Potential leaders must live on the territory, have connection to the land and speak the language. Then community assemblies are held where leaders that have been nominated are approved by the community. It is a direct democracy. Leaders must always have the consent of the governed.
Barriere lake live on unceded Algonquin territory. We have never signed away our land rights.
Our land is rich with resources: Every year approximately $100,00,00 is made off the land through forestry, hydroelectricity and tourism. We do not see a cent.
We fought for and won an agreement in 1991 that was supposed to help us protect our traditional way of life and protect the medicine, spawning and sacred areas. The agreement was also intended to give a modest share of the revenue generated from our land, which could then be used for sustainable economic development. The agreement was called an environmental trailblazer and a model of coexistence. 20 years later, the governments are still refusing to implement it.
Our peaceful protests have been met with tear gas, arrests, police brutality. The government has tried everything to crush our spirit and our will to fight for our rights, economic sabotage, internal political interference and PR campaigns spreading misinformation.
This (last) summer, Canada attempted to destroy our traditional government. Their latest tactic to undermine our connection to our lands and our ability to fight for our rights by using a racist and paternalistic section of the Indian Act: Section 74. They have imposed a foreign system of government on our community.
The community does not want these Indian Act Band Council elections. 200 people from the community signed a community resolution in support of our traditional government, so it’s no surprise only ten people sent in nomination ballots.
Based on only these ten ballots, a Band Council was put in power consisting mostly of people that do not live in the Barriere Lake community. That’s the government’s idea of democracy.
As feared, this Band Council has already been making deals with forestry companies. the government must be relieved to get a strong traditional government out of the way. But we will not back. we will never back down. Our parents and grandparents did not back down and that’s why our land is still protected.
The falsely nominated Indian Act Chief has since resigned in solidarity.
Support us. Support is strong when we are united, native or non-native. We will protect our land and our customs. Our hearts and our minds are with our future generations. There will always be Anishinabe who will live and protect the land.