Highway 671, Ontario—Today at 1pm, the Grassy Narrows Women’s Drum Group will be hosting a traditional Anishinaabe Water Ceremony near the CN Mainline at Mile 106 near Highway 671 between Kenora, Ontario and Grassy Narrows First Nation in Treaty #3. The location is in an area where the rail line passes directly by several lakes and river tributaries as it runs along the southern boundary of Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) Traditional Territory and multiple Anishinaabe families’ traplines.
Today’s ceremony is being held to protect the local waterways from increasing threats posed by the rapidly expanding transportation of tarsands bitumen, natural gas, and other explosive and toxic chemicals across and through our Territories.
Originally, the Water Ceremony was planned to take place right on the tracks in order to protect the local waterways from the potential of a disastrous major spill from one of the many oil and gas trains that pass through daily. However, yesterday community members received calls from CN Rail Police and Aboriginal Relations officials promising a heavy handed response and threatening arrests. OPP Liaison Officers were also in Grassy Narrows today, questioning band members about the planned Ceremony and attempting to serve a preemptive injunction secured by CN Rail against the Ceremony.
In response to these threats and intimidation, a Grassy Narrows Elder asked that the railway stoppage be called off. Local organizers, respecting these wishes, are moving the ceremony to a location beside, not on the tracks.
Recent train derailments near Mattagami First Nation (Gogoma, Ontario), as well as last year’s devastating explosion in Lac Megantic have drawn attention to an increasing threat from expanding traffic of increasingly explosive and toxic oil and gas shipments. Much of that oil is tarsands bitumen.
Local waters are also at threat from expanding transport of tarsands bitumen through the proposed TransCanada Energy East Pipeline project. Whether by rail or by pipeline, increased transport of tarsands bitumen represents a terrible risk to waters across Treaty # 3 Territories.
As Indigenous people we have a sacred connection and responsibility to our lands and to our waters. We have spiritual connection to all life through our teachings. Our land has provided for us since time immemorial and we will maintain our waters for the next 7 generations as our Ancestors did for us.
Locally, waters have already been greatly impacted by industrial spilling—in the 1960’s, the waters of the English and Wabigoon River Systems were poisoned when over 9000 Kgs of mercury were dumped into the Wabigoon River by the Dryden Pulp and Paper Mill. Today, while newborns in Grassy Narrows continue to exhibit symptoms of mercury poisoning, the waters are threatened with more mercury contamination from proposed industrial logging operations in Grassy Narrows Territory as well as proposed gold mining expansion in Dryden and at Red Lake.
The ongoing expansion of tarsands development poses a threat, not only to waters and communities along the pipeline and rail routes used for its transport, but communities downstream from the tarsands are the most directly impacted, enduring a range of brutal environmental and health impacts. Tarsands expansion and its accompanying carbon emissions is also a massive contributor to global climate change.
The date for this Ceremony was chosen in solidarity with the ‘Act on Climate’ march taking place in Quebec City this weekend.
We know from our own experience in Grassy Narrows, that industry will not be responsible to clean after it has damaged the waters and lands through their reckless ‘development’. We no longer trust these industries to come onto our land and further damage our home for economic reasons. The companies have no interest or consideration for our lives and livelihood which has provided for us for thousands of years.
CN Rail’s refusal to accommodate the Water Protection Ceremony (which would have only required relatively brief delays), in light of recent environmentally disastrous derailments, shows a firm commitment from the company (and the OPP) to protect industry schedules and profits over protection of the environment and the safety of communities.
We need to stand together for the protection our future generations for our children and grandchildren to stop the development of the Energy-East pipeline and other water destroying industry, so life can continue as we know it and continue to provide for the same clean waters and undeveloped lands for our own survival.
more info: www.freegrassy.net
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