“No negotiations, no compensation, no more clear cutting”: The Grassy Narrows Road Blockade, 2002

No negotiations, no compensation, no more clear cutting” has become the slogan of the Ojibwa First Nations people of Grassy Narrows in their contentious struggle against a major logging company known as Abitibi-Consolidated (The Fourth World 2005). This corporation is part of a larger consortium who have been progressively harming their territory. Located approximately 80 kilometres North of Kenora, Ontario, the Ojibwa of Grassy Narrows have been facing adverse conditions for decades. In addition to the re-location of their community and the forcing of their youth into residential schooling, the Grassy Narrow population suffered major economic losses. Throughout the 1960’s, a pulp and paper mill dumped mercury into the English-Wabigoon River System (Carter 2003). Commercial fishing was a substantive means of the Ojibwa’s survival and the mercury poisoned their fish, resulting in health defects for anyone who ingested it. Knowledge of the mercury ‘accident’ is important because it provides context for the infamous road blockade which was initiated in December of 2002. The Ojibwa of Grassy Narrows were already disturbed with the way in which the government was ‘protecting’ their reserves; thus, when Abitibi Consolidated was pushing for approval of a twenty year plan to clear cut the Whiskey Jack forest, the community became further enraged (Carter 2003). They were not going to let another corporation impede upon their ways of survival and they were not going to allow them to go against Treaty 3 which granted them the rights to the land.

On December 3, 2002, three youth members of the community positioned a fallen tree along a road just North of Ontario Provincial Highway 671 in order to block the entrance of logging trucks within the Grassy Narrows Traditional Land Use Area (Willow 2008:1). As the day progressed, approximately 60 other First Nations persons joined the youth and lit a fire and erected a teepee (Willow 2008:171). When a truck later attempted to pass through, the protesters had established that they were there to stay. The Ojibwa started collecting donations and financed the rental of four heated trailers and a generator to place at the blockade. Once the blockade attracted the media, even non-Natives began to arrive and support the cause (Willow 2008:175). Unfortunately the logging trucks found detours and were still able to access the lands. In response to this, the protestors adopted a strategy of “roving” blockades which meant that they travelled to the different truck routes and blocked the roads there as well, initiating a blockade movement (Willow 2008: 177).

Media attention was not the only type of attention Grassy Narrows had attracted. In June of 2009, An Annual Strategic Intelligence Report was released and it indicated that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were focusing on eighteen “communities of concern”, one of which included Grassy Narrows (Groves and Lukacs 2011). A nameless organization had been established to be the “eyes and ears” of the Canadian government in order to ensure public safety and this organization was focusing on Aboriginal communities who had made headlines over the past few years. In an RCMP presentation to CSIS in April of 2007, they stated that “there is an increasing sense of militancy among certain segments of the aboriginal population” (Groves and Lukacs 2011). In relation to Grassy Narrows specifically, this general statement seems harsh considering the fact that the protestors were never in possession of weapons and did not initiate any violence.  Therefore, as a result of merely standing up for their rights, the First Nations peoples of Grassy Narrows have become classified as ‘militant’ and are targets of extreme surveillance.

References

Carter, Lauren. 2003. “Grassy Narrows Fights for their Future.” First Nations Drum Magazine, Spring. (4 pages). Retrieved October 16, 2012 (http://www.freegrassy.org).

Groves, Tim, Martin Lukacs. 2011. “Mounties Spied on Native Protest Groups.” Toronto Star, December 4. Retrieved October 16, 2012 (http://www.thestar.com).

“The Fourth World is Still Here: Surviving a Nation Called Canada, The Grassy Narrows Report.” 2005. Independentmedia.ca. Retrieved October 16, 2012 (http://www.independentmedia.ca/survivingcanada/2005-06-june_10_grassy_narrows.html).

Willow, Anna J. “Strong Hearts, Native Lands: The Cultural and Political Landscape of Anishinaabe Clear Cutting Activism.” 2008. Sociological Abstracts: 1-416.

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