Wiikwemkoong Grandmothers reorganizing to stand against drug issues in the community

Grandmothers against violence Donna Pangowish, Alison Recollet-Simon and Roberta Oshkabewisens lead a march through the main streets of Wikwemikong in the Spring of 2017 to bring attention to the need to come together to heal the community. photo by Michael Erskine

WIIKWEMKOONG—Following the vicious attack on a 39-year-old Wiikwemkoong man by two men and two women, all from off-Island, on May 9, the Wiikwemkoong Grandmothers’ movement has been resurrected.

In June of 2012, several grandmothers from the community held a daily protest at the Wiikwemkoong/Assiginack border on Wikwemikong Way, this after three people were charged following a forcible confinement and assault in an event that played out at the Wasse Abin Junior School, to the horror of the community. The Grandmothers were concerned with the drug problem occurring in the community and the often-violent events that seemed to accompany the drug trade and the drug pushers that the Wiikwemkoong Grandmothers felt were inundating the community. They took it upon themselves to be the eyes and ears of the community, watching over the border and letting any unwelcome visitors entering the territory know that they were being watched.

While this latest incident has not officially been tied to the drug trade by police, there are many who believe it is and this has prompted Marion Peltier and Doris Recollet, two of the Grandmothers from the original grassroots movement, to call for a community meeting.

“The first protest we had, it was kind of unplanned, but this time we’re getting everything organized,” Marion Peltier told The Expositor on Monday. She noted that she has so far met with the band program manager and the Wikwemikong Tribal Police but was still waiting to have a meeting with property management.

“The Wikwemikong Grandmothers are back,” she said.

Ms. Peltier and Ms. Recollet are hosting a community meeting for band members on Monday, May 29 at 6 pm at the band council chambers. She said she wants to bring the topic of drugs in the community to the forefront and brainstorm on ideas on what the next steps should be.

“I want it to be peaceful, with no negativity,” Ms. Peltier said. “We are hoping the OPP to be there too, not just the Tribal Police, because it’s their problem too.”

“Somebody has to stand up,” she continued. “A lot of people are too scared to do something about it. I wish the whole of Manitoulin would do something too.”

“Maybe everyone will start doing something,” the Grandmother added. “If other people want some help to get organized, they can contact me on Facebook.”

Ms. Peltier said the Grandmothers will likely hold a demonstration this summer, but probably not at the border as it has been deemed too unsafe. “We’ll see what the band members come up with at our meeting,” she said. “We need their input.”

Ms. Peltier said the assault of May 9 was most definitely the push they needed.

“It’s everywhere,” she said of the drug problems plaguing Manitoulin, “but we need to focus on us, on our community, right now.”