Grassy Narrows: News and Background information

Grassy Narrows: News and Background information

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July 18, 2006

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Amnesty Internationals Submits Brief on Grassy Narrows to the United Nations

The Primary reason for the blockade

For Immediate Release:
February 28, 2006

Grassy Narrows, Ontario- The Grassy Narrows First Nation today sent letters warning the chief executives of Weyerhaeuser (NYSE: WY) and Abitibi-Consolidated to “immediately cease and desist from all logging and industrial resource extraction on our territory” or face a “fierce international campaign”.

The letter follows a decade of failed negotiations, lawsuits, environmental assessment requests, public protests, and a 3-year logging blockade. The letter asserts that decades of unsustainable logging has “poisoned our waters with Mercury and other toxins, nearly eliminated our ability to practice our way of life, and robbed us of economic opportunities.”

The letter includes an SOS to the international environmental and human rights community to stand with Grassy Narrows in their demands and expand the struggle in the woods, in the streets and in the market place.

American Dream: First Nation’s Nightmare

In the 1990s Weyerhaeuser fiber-supplier Abitibi dramatically increased logging rates in Grassy Narrows without the consent or proper consultation of the community. According to a report by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Abitibi cut almost all of the remaining endangered woodland caribou habitat between 1999 and 2004 and regularly clear-cuts huge tracts of land, sprays the land with pesticides, and replants with monoculture tree plantations.

According to plans filed with the Ontario Ministry of Forests in 2003, Abitibi-Consolidated and Weyerhaeuser will continue their clear-cut logging operations within the community’s traditional territory through at least 2009, and have requested an extension to log through 2024.

Nearly half of this wood will supply Weyerhaeuser’s Trus Joist/ Timberstrand mill and will be used widely by American homebuilders, the US building industry and by Weyerhaeuser’s own home-building subsidiaries to build American tract homes in suburbs throughout the US.

Most of the remaining wood taken from Grassy Narrows territory is used by Abitibi-Consolidated to manufacture Abitibi paper products. Abitibi newsprint is used for hundreds of newspapers including the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Grassy Narrows First Nation

The people of Grassy Narrows First Nation have lived on 2,500 square miles of land north of Kenora, Ontario for thousands of years. Nearly 50% of the community still sustain themselves from the land by hunting, trapping, and gathering medicine and berries. The old-growth habitat provided by these areas also support animal species like the pine martin and woodland caribou critical to the ecological integrity of the area.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763, Treaty #3, and the Canadian Constitution all outline the rights of indigenous people to their traditional lands. An ongoing lawsuit between the members of Grassy Narrows First Nation, the Minister of Natural Resources and Abitibi-Consolidated claims that the community was not properly consulted or compensated by the company, and that Abitibi’s clear-cut practices are making it impossible for the people of Grassy Narrows to exercise their Treaty 3 right to hunt and trap on their traditional territory. The lawsuit, if successful, would revoke all current cutting rights on Grassy Narrows land north of the English river.

Supporting Statements

“The clear-cutting of the land, and the destruction of the forest is an attack on our people,” says Roberta Kessik, Grassy Narrows’ blockader, grandmother, and trapper. “The land is the basis of who we are. Our culture is a land based culture and the destruction of the land is the destruction of our culture. And we know that is in the plans. Weyerhaeuser doesn’t want us on the land, they want us out of the way so they can take the resources. We can’t allow them to carry on with this cultural genocide.”

“For years now, we have attempted to voice our concerns within this process with very little constructive response or progress towards desired benefits for the trappers,” explains Gabriel Fobister, Head of Grassy Narrows Trappers’ Council. “All we have seen is the demise of our way of life which disappears every time more cutting areas are extended to Abitibi and Weyerhaeuser. In despair our trappers are ending up in the streets in the cities to become homeless people and living off the soup lines.”

“The government and the logging industry have conspired to destroy much of what we hold sacred,” says Joseph B Fobister, Grassy Narrows business owner and community leader. “Our traditional values and culture are suffering and are headed towards extinction. This land and the forests that are an integral part of it have sustained our people for time immemorial. We watch as they disappear on the backs of logging trucks to paper mills all over the continent.

We do not have more to give. We are left to deal with the environmental and sociological nightmare left behind following tree “harvesting”. Most of our trap lines have been decimated along with the old growth forests. A way of life disappears with these forests. This way of life does not grow back. Tree planters cannot replace it. Yet the government and corporations show no interest in correcting unsustainable economic growth. We are not against economic development; we simply realize that it should not be considered an end unto itself.

We have participated fully in planning for many years and our concerns are never properly considered. We are never treated as equal partners in the process. What’s worse, our attendance at the information sessions and open houses is misconstrued as participation or approval.”

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