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ABORIGINAL JUSTICE REFLECTION: Defender of our Land - A Bible and a Bat'leth
Two double-edged swords, one angry peacemaker.

Date: 12:04 am Fri 20th of Jul, 2012
Subject: ABORIGINAL JUSTICE REFLECTION: Defender of our Land
Security: Public
Simple, urgent messages on children's birch-bark hats cut through confusions of all but the most monetised mindsets.

I sit, staring at the page. "Where should I start?" I ask the boy beside me. He looks up at me with a grin, and after a moment, points to his hat. I pick up my pen.

“Defender of our Land” – this is the slogan written on the hat of the seven-year-old Algonquin boy sitting next to me. The kids have befriended me since we met here at Poigan Bay four days ago. They were asleep when we arrived Sunday night from Toronto and pitched our tents in the glare of headlights. Now they sit around me doodling on scraps of paper from my notebook. Each wears a hat made of birch bark with a slogan of their choosing. “Peaceful co-existence: Save a Tree, Save a Life” reads one; another is “Our Land: Our Say: Our Future: Our Way.” Each time a vehicle approaches, they drop what they are doing and rush down to the roadside in their hats. Loggers and police have been passing by to the clear-cut work site all day. Despite the kids’ vigilance, they seem not to be getting the message.

Occasionally police stop by to talk to people here. They repeat that they are positioned between the two parties – loggers and protestors – but the messages they bring are warnings against disrupting the logging. Their orders are to uphold the law. When that law is challenged, they shrug and say they don’t make the decisions; a solution is a matter for government, not policing. They intend to ensure the safety of all persons, but have no answer when asked about the safety of land or animals.

For this Algonquin community, as for indigenous peoples across the world, the safety of land is essential to the safety of people, both individually and collectively. Land is food security – for hunting, for gathering food like the blueberries ripening near our tent. Land is health, offering its medicines and a wholesome, active way of life. One of my friends’ hats reads “Our Land Is Our Identity.” Grassy Narrows First Nation land defender Roberta Keesick put it this way: “Our culture is a land-based culture, and the destruction of the land is the destruction of the culture.”

A culture such as my own, steeped in the forms and rites of capitalism, cannot conceive of anything that cannot be monetised. Other cultures are worth less than the tangible wealth the logging industry offers. This logic is bad enough when it drives an economy, but here it has infiltrated souls – of company bosses, of politicians and of those who enforce their plans.

Like this unique culture, my analysis comes from the land, in a way. I have gained insight from my time in Turtle Island and wisdom shared by experts and elders, activists and academics, allies, writers and mothers. But such an analysis is not needed to know that the issues on my young friends’ birch bark hats – land, culture, life, identity, and the future – are urgent.

Indigenous land-users have a right to be consulted about plans that affect the use of that land. Barriere Lake members who use the area being cut have asserted that they do not consent to this cutting. Will governments do their duty by respecting this? Or will they turn a blind eye once again, allowing the status quo of logging without consultation to continue with police protection?

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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 10:19 pm Sun 22nd of Jul, 2012 (UTC)
Subject: Support and a smile :-)
My prayers and thoughts are with you. I signed the petition I hope it counts comeing from England. A friend of mine supports the wheel of the sun who are trying to support Amazonian tribes with similar problems. It's quite shocking how horrid and disrespectfull people can be when greed replaces reson, peace and respect.
Laura. B
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