LETTERS: Anishinabe elder alerts community that band council seeks to evict

Anishinabek have an inherent right to live on traditional territory

To the Expositor:

Did you know that the “band council” has applied to the court to have me removed from Anishinaabe territory? Of all the matters to be preoccupied with, throwing a l’il ol’ lady out of her home on the rez should not even be on the horizon. There are more important matters for the “band council” to be concerned with. For instance, the “band council” lets people who have been convicted of very serious crimes walk around freely on the rez. More important matters include addressing the fact that less than two percent of Whitefish River people can speak Anishinaabemowin. More important matters include how not to get drawn into “trust agreements” that were designed by outsiders, to the advantage of outsiders. Anishinaabek should be driving the agenda, not reacting to it. More important matters include how to address climate change, and environmental degradation. More important matters include designating environmentally sensitive lands as protected refuges for the cranes, the Canada geese, the eagles, the deer and other critters. In fact, one of the most ill-advised decisions I’ve seen is the designation of environmentally sensitive land as “commercial-industrial.”

An individual “First Nation” is not a nation. The Anishinaabe nation consists of Anishinaabek in what is now Canada and the USA. Anishinaabek exist in parts of North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The treaties between the “Indians” and the British government, the French government, and other governments were made between equals, between sovereign nations. Anishinaabek have never given up sovereignty, land, or resources. The treaties pre-date, pre-empt, and supercede any law Canada has written that affects “Indians”–namely the Indian Act. The Indian Act was created without Anishinaabe consultation, was imposed unilaterally, and while its original intent was “protection” its implementation has resulted in the corralling, containing, counting, and controlling any “Indians” on an “Indian” reserve. In other words, if you follow the Indian Act, you have given up your sovereignty, your lands, and your resources.

The Indian Act and other Canadian laws were written with reliance upon the “doctrine of discovery”. Europeans who arrived in the Americas believed that they had “discovered” the lands and its peoples. The indigenous peoples of the Americas whose civilizations existed in pre-Columbian times were not “discovered.” We and our lands, resources, governments, languages, socio-economic systems, religions, and life-ways existed 35,000 to 50,000 years before any European arrived. The doctrine of discovery has been de-bunked time and again. And yet the legal professionals in Canada that purport to know “Aboriginal law” keep trying to rely on the “doctrine of discovery.” Because the “doctrine of discovery” has been thrown out as invalid, the laws that rely on that doctrine are also invalid. In effect, then, the Indian Act was built on a “house of cards.” 

So, the Canadian courts have no jurisdiction over traditional Anishinaabe law, or traditional Anishinaabe territory, one part of which is the land given to me by my late parents. My late parents were exercising their full and rightful authority as Anishinaabek in giving me home and land. First they said so verbally. Then they followed up in writing.

As stated in the treaties, we Anishinaabek merely agreed to “share the resources.” But we all know what happened. Others now occupy 99 percent of our original territory. Because Anishinaabek have not relinquished sovereignty, land, or resources, we have the right to choose where to live based on what we need–not what we want–but what we need. My needs have been met–water, firewood, access to roadway, and shelter from abuse, terrorism, and destruction of my property. I came to Anishinaabe territory and found what I needed. Then I asked the land, the trees, and the animals their permission to share their territory with them. They have protected me thus far. I have lived in my tiny home, on traditional Anishinaabe land, off-grid, for three years now. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has recognized my address as official. Contrary to mistaken belief, I have made my tiny home habitable, according to Anishinaabe custom. It is presumptuous of the lawyers and the “band council” to say that I am living in a place unfit for human habitation when they are judging my life-ways based on their Euro-Canadian Judeo-Christian cultural lens.

So, Anishinaabek, you have the right to choose where to live on traditional Anishinaabe territory. You can choose to live in a cave in the mountains, or in an Earthship, or in a shipping container, or in a wigwam, or even in plastic sided bungalow on a “street” on the rez. But for now, Whitefish River is becoming known in outside communities as the place where they throw out their elders.

Marie McGregor Pitawanakwat

Whitefish River First Nation