Sunday, September 24, 2017


Yes, the time has come for me to shift gears in my blogging career.

I began this effort as a continuation of my "work", as I have thought of it, to try to tell my fellow settler/newcomer, fellow Canadian citizens that "The First Peoples have some very important things to say to us, and we must learn to listen to them."

For about 50 years, I have been trying to put out this message to anyone who would listen, not trying to "speak for" First Peoples, for that is not necessary; there are many First Peoples who are extremely capable of speaking for themselves, but to say to my people that we must learn to listen..

Over the years, I began to realize that speaking out doesn't have any meaning unless you have hearers who will listen to your words, receive and think about the message so received, and then begin to act on what has been heard - even if "action" means simply trying to comprehend what was said. 

But two years ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report, containing 94 Calls to Action.  Since then I have observed a change in my fellow Canadians, as we begin to become aware of the fact that there seems to be a history of a relationship between First Peoples and The Rest of Us (that's you and me), about which we know nothing - or whatever we thought we knew is not the way the First Peoples viewed our co-habitation in this part of Turtle Island we call "Canada".

The result of that new, growing, awareness is causing many of us to begin to think about what we seemed not to know, and there are varying degrees of desire on the part of many of us to begin to think that maybe we should try to find out more.

Thus I see my "work" changing.

Now, I am beginning to have individual persons approach me to say:  Jean, I've never really known anything about "Indians" (or whatever other word they use to describe the people that I call "First Peoples", by which I mean anyone who identifies him/herself to me as "First Peoples" or "Indigenous" or First Nations, Inuit, or Metis, living either on an "Indian Reserve" (as designated by the Indian Act) or "off-reserve", often as our neighbours in towns and cities and in rural areas.

And what I have just written here can be challenged by the same First Peoples I am trying to identify, so I simply emphasize the point I am making for myself; i.e., any person who identifies him or herself to me as one of the original inhabitants of the land in which I have been living for most of my life, I accept as a First Peoples person.

But I digress.  You are saying to me that you think I may have information to share with you.

And I hasten to add that I am more than happy to receive such requests for information, especially as some come from people who have been near and dear to me for many years, or have recently become dear friends, so that is both an honour and a privilege for me to be so approached.

But, as you know, I am getting old, and my energy level is falling - it's not yet gone totally, but I find I do have to conserve energy (which I've never been good at doing, since I love being involved with people), so... but I hope you get the idea.

Thus I am thinking of a new way forward, and I do not yet know what that will be.

Perhaps a new blog, with a new theme to reflect this new reality.  Or perhaps the decision will be made for me, in ways that I do not yet know.

Meanwhile, please know that I have enjoyed writing this blogging effort, amateurish as it is - but more importantly, I have appreciated your interest in reading, and sometimes commenting, on this same effort.

My wish for you is that, if you have now begun to learn about the First Peoples, you will not stop your learning, but that you will benefit, as I have through this past half-century, through the relationships you may be able to enter into with the First Peoples, sharing respect, justice, peace, and friendship, unto the Seventh Generation.  And, if it is possible, I am glad to help with that.

Kaa waab min, farewell, and every blessing,
P.S.  There is no word for "goodbye" in Anishinabemowin (Ojibway) - only for "till we meet again". 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee - The Journey to Self-Governance

The jubilant sense of accomplishment among the people of the IIyuusche Cree Nation of northern Quebec is shared by many of us who have followed this struggle for self-determination for the past 40 years.

This media story caught my eye for another reason as well.

I happened to be a delegate to the Anglican Church's Algoma Diocesan Synod of 1973 when then Bishop James Watton, of Moosonee Diocese, Watton, one of the special guests, spoke to us about the "James Bay Project" as part of the work of the Church in the North.  His notes, found in the Algoma Synod Journal, point out that in that diocese, 98% of "Swampy Cree Indians are Anglican; 80% of these people live in the Province of Quebec".

Watton said the "James Bay Development Company was set up as a Crown company by the Province of Quebec" and eventually Quebec Hydro took over management of the Project.  "Four dams will be built and they are on their second one now".  But there was an "ecological argument", he said.  "The Peoples in the area were never consulted about their feelings toward the project."  A temporary injunction resulted in the province challenging "the Indian people to prove their lineage to before Confederation".

Bishop Watton's notes continue:

Actually, the land was  given to the Crown by the Hudson Bay Company to be part of the new Dominion of Canada at Confederation, 1867.  The year 1870 is the key.  The reason the Province challenged the Indian People to trace their lineage was because the Indian Affairs records went back only to 1934 and the Roman Catholic Church had no record of them.  Quebec didn't realize the Indians were Anglicans.

An urgent call was received from one of the chief men of the Indian settlers telling of this situation.  As a result, clergy and records took off by plane for Quebec City along with myself.  The Indians could trace their lineage.  Over 3,000 Indians were traced back before 1870.  As a result, a court case is pending.

Watton also speaks of the impending Quebec election, and Premier Robert  Bourassa's involvement, including a book in which Bourassa wrote:  "... I have always believed that to develop these resources (hydro power) would require conquering and taming the North".

My thanks to Algoma's archivist, Krista McCracken for these notes from Bishop Watton, but I have not found any further comments from the Anglican Church on this situation.

However, I did discover Roy MacGregor's book: "Chief: The Fearless Vision of Billy Diamond", which fills in this 40-year span from the Northern Quebec Cree Nation's point of view, although there is no mention of Bishop Watton's account of the Anglican Church connection.  Perhaps, some time in the future, that information will come to light.

Meanwhile, I heartily recommend reading MacGregor's book, which recounts the life of Chief Billy Diamond, who paved the way to the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Settlement Agreement, from which Chief Matthew Cooncome was able to lead his people onward to the current signing of the self-governance agreement in 2017.

It  seems to me, as a long-time observer of (and participant in) the relationship between the First Peoples of Turtle Island and The Rest of Us, that this history of the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee holds a significant place in the renaissance of the First Peoples.  It is not my place,  however, to tell First Peoples what to do.  My people have been trying to do that for hundreds of years, and we have been wrong most of the time.  The First Peoples are entirely capable of figuring this out for themselves.

But I think it is important that we "newcomer/settler/immigrant people" read, learn, study and inwardly digest the knowledge contained in these aforementioned sources so that we can find our proper place within this new relationship with the First Peoples, of respect, justice, peace and friendship we so badly need, if Canada is to  become the nation we claim to be.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

How do we learn to ask the right questions - in 2016?

"How do we learn to ask the right questions?"  This was the remark that caught my attention as Dr. Ken Howard, renowned hydro geologist, addressed almost 100 people at Via Mede Conference Centre, July 24, 2016.

Members of the Friends of the Fraser Wetlands, on Stony Lake north of Peterborough, with other cottagers from the Kawartha resort area, and environmental protection supporters, listened carefully as Curve Lake First Nation Elders Doug Williams and Dorothy Taylor, and Archivist Anne Taylor, shared their teachings of the sacredness of the water which sustains all life on earth.

I have listened to these teachings for many years, but the past seven years, I was able to join the Anishinabe women of this territory as they walked around the lakes and rivers in this area, carrying the water - "the blood of Mother Earth" - blessing the water in the Four Directions, and teaching us the importance of protecting this life source for future generations.

It has also been my privilege to sit with the Sacred Water Circle, especially as they welcomed Spiritual Knowledge-Carriers and Elders from the Kogi People of South America who shared their knowledge of the power of water that gives life to all creation.

And I have listened to the teachings of the First Peoples Elders who share with us their knowledge, handed down through many generations of story-tellers who are the Indigenous Peoples "history books", of the need to protect the water so that it may continue to give life to the generations yet to come - "unto the Seventh Generation", as the Elders tell us.

This is the basis of what I have to come to understand as "Indigenous Knowledge", which is beginning to make its truth felt within the corridors of western academic learning.  And this is the connection I make in my mind as western scientist Ken Howard tells us of his study of water, and then tells us to "learn to ask the right questions".

"Surface water" that we see flowing in lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans, is only a very small part of the earth's water content.  By far the greatest part of the water in our planet is what we do not see, and it takes the "slow route" to move underground.  It's known as "groundwater", and its movement is measured in thousands of years, unlike the surface water which we can see moving and flowing before our eyes.

Again, this is where I make a connection to Indigenous Knowledge.  It seems to me that these teachings tell us that Indigenous Peoples, living in traditional ways, relying on the earth and the water over millenia of generations to provide their very survival, have endeavoured to pass on to future generations a respect for this knowledge so that they may also survive and thrive on this earth.

This was the message First Peoples Elder and environmentalist Danny Beaton, of the Mohawk Nation, shared with us through the words of his opening and closing prayers, uplifted by the haunting beauty of his melodious flute-playing.

And I dare to suggest that, while "western science", as it was uncovering the secrets of the universe over the past several hundred years, was exciting and beneficial, and I freely admit that in many ways I have benefited from that "success" physically, economically, socially, medically, - and in many other ways you can think of that I'm not listing here - nevertheless, I dare to ask whether there is perhaps one dimension of life on earth that we may be missing, and I dare to call that "spiritual".  What do I mean by that?

Well, here's where so many of you, who are so much more learned than I, will  begin to use words to complicate what I'm trying to say, and that's okay - I accept that.  So much of our lives has now become so "technological" - and again we get caught up in words - and again I must admit that I am as much seduced by current technology as the next person, as witness my sharing my thoughts in this blog.

But I also ask myself whether we have missed something important, and I hear that in the teachings I receive from Indigenous Peoples.  Because First Peoples spiritual leaders speak of the mystical energy and power of the Earth which we inhabit, which contains these secrets of groundwater and other elements which are so closely integrated to our survival, but which we seem to be able to ignore so blithely in our western science calculations.

In our desire to continue "development", are we planning projects based on the action of the water we can see, without giving adequate consideration to the water we can't see?

I value the skill of developers who offer the concept of improving our lives through projects that often amaze us with their design and construction from the work of architects, engineers, construction companies, and others, and again, I know I have benefited from much of that effort.

But how can they know that they have covered all the bases when they are planning projects that are to serve us for a hundred years?  I know there are ways of working at that - consideration of  various scenarios in the past 100 years and then planning to offer design and construction to reach at least the 75% level of safety within that length of time.

But does that kind of planning even apply to today's world when world-wide climate patterns seems to be changing so unpredictably?  Have we already reached a place of no return in that kind of development?

Are these just a few of the questions we should be asking of one another, developer and citizen alike?  For better, for worse, these are the kinds of questions I have been asking myself, and I will continue to share them with any of you who will listen, for as long as I am able. I do this for the water.  I also do this for the welfare of my great-grandchidren, and generations yet unborn.

My thanks to the Friends of the Fraser Wetlands for offering us their Emerald Summit 2016.  It was a valuable contribution to our communal life in this part of our fragile homeland





Saturday, November 7, 2015

IT'S TIME TO MOVE ON: From "Walking in Solidarity" to "We are Treaty People"

Recently, the Pine Tree speakers at the Peterborough Library told us of the importance of “Mnoomin”, wild rice growing in the traditional waters of their homeland, known as the Mississauga Territory of the Ojibwe Nation.  This is also the area that we think of as our home, Peterborough and the Kawarthas.

When someone asked, “what can we do to help you?” - I thought I heard Elder Doug Williams say that it was time for us to start figuring that out for ourselves.  He said it much more diplomatically, but I think that was his challenge to us.

The background:
For generations past, most Canadians have lived contentedly in the country we call Canada with no thought of the price we have demanded of the First Peoples, as our governments, in our name, followed policies that tried to assimilate them into our society, committing horrendous acts named “genocidal” by the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and pushing them onto small parcels of land to eke out a meagre existence while we flourished through the resource development on their lands.

As the work of the TRC comes to an end, we have suddenly begun to realize that the relationship between the First Peoples and The Rest of us is badly out of kilter, and we are now beginning to wonder what we can to do to make changes.

How to make changes:
The first thing to understand is that changes have already been happening.  The First Peoples, in particular, have been making tremendous changes; they have begun to reclaim their own languages, histories, traditions and spiritual teachings, and are taking charge of their own lives and their own territories.  Locally, that is what the Anishinabe speakers were telling us about “wild rice”. 

And they don’t really need our help to make that happen, because the mechanisms are already in place – have, in fact, always been in place from the time of first contact, when we began to come to this land and were received by the First Peoples who lived here and were prepared to share their homeland with us.

But we came with the belief that we were superior, and had the right to subjugate the First Peoples, which we did over several hundred years of colonization policies, with tragic results.

But we have not been able to conquer the First Peoples, as they are now showing us.  In those intervening years, there were times when, as some of us began to understand the horror of the past, we tried to help, and friendships were established, and church teachings were accepted, but now we are entering a new era.  The First Peoples are reclaiming their sovereign nationhood; however they understand that in their particular territory and within their own tribal affiliation.

So it’s time for us to recognize that, and to find new ways of working together with First Peoples, in a nation-to-nation relationship in accordance with the Two-Row Wampum teachings

Back to the wild rice issue:
With regard to mnoomin, the chief players are, on one side of the Two-Row Wampum, the Williams Treaties First Nations:
Alderville First Nation
Beausoleil First Nation
Curve Lake First Nation
Georgina Island First Nnation
Hiawatha First Nation
Rama First Nation
Scugog First Nation
with Karry Sandy McKenzie as Process Co-ordinator.

On the other side is The Crown, which includes:
For the Federal government:
Parks Canada and the Trent-Severn Waterway
For the Provincial government:
Ministry of Natural Resources and Kawartha Conservation
For the Municipal government (re part of Pigeon Lake)
Selwyn, and possibly Peterborough County.

What is “The  Crown”? Check your history:
The First Peoples know that their treaties were made, and negotiations took place, between the sovereign nation of whichever First Peoples were engaged, and the representatives of the British Crown, which in 1763 was King George III.

Over the years, the country we call Canada has evolved into a national entity through subsequent legislation: The British North America Act 1867, the Indian Act 1876, various amendments to Indian Act legislation in intervening years, and the Canada Constitution Act 1982, which includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as Part II, 35 (1) and (2).

More recently, the Canadian government has signed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, whereby we agree to uphold the principle of the “duty to consult” for the “free, prior and informed consent” of the First Peoples, although Canada, in its agreement to sign, referred to the “aspirational” nature of the right, (meaning, I presume, we understand the First Peoples “hopes” but do not yet recognize the First Peoples “right” in this regard.  This did not impress the First Peoples.)

As our Canadian governance has evolved, many of the federal government’s fiduciary and other legal responsibilities under all that legislation has been devolved to the provincial governments, and then to municipal governments, so that today, we must see THE CROWN as composed of federal, provincial and municipal legislative leaders; hence, the listing above.

And all those government entities together represent us, the citizens of Canada.

Thus, we have a responsibility:
Our responsibility, as Canadians citizens, is to monitor the actions of our federal, provincial and municipal elected leaders to ensure that they, as ministers of The Crown, meet the requirements of negotiating with the First Peoples, on a nation-to-nation basis.

Back to the Mnoomin issue:
During this past summer, an error was made when one segment of The Crown (Trent-Severn Waterway and Parks Canada) issued a permit to allow non-First Peoples to destroy the wild rice in Pigeon Lake, without undertaking the “duty to consult” for “free, prior and informed consent”.  In other words, we acted without consulting the First Peoples, and that is now a “no-no” in our current relationship with First Peoples.

It took some spirited action on the part of First Peoples to point out this fact, but when The Crown component of Parks Canada realized what had happened, it agreed with the request of Karry Sandy McKenzie to attend a meeting with the Williams Treaties First Nations representatives to begin the correct negotiating process. 

So far, one meeting has been held, but I understand a second meeting is to take place very soon.

So where does that leave us – the local cottager-owners and the local First Peoples supporters in this area?
It leaves us waiting – perhaps praying if one is so inclined – that those representing us in those negotiations (representatives of The Crown) will accept the necessity of honouring the “duty to consult” for “free, prior and informed consent” by listening to the representatives of the First Nations as they sit together around a table. 

That means careful listening, compassionate comprehension and respectful dialogue while the two sides try to think of ways to move forward in partnership to a reasonable conclusion.

My humble conclusion:
Perhaps one role we can play in this situation at this time is to keep trying to educate our fellow Canadian citizens about these historic facts as listed here.

And I make no claim to any special knowledge about all this.  I am just sharing with you the sort of understanding I have reached in my own heart and mind as I have listened to the First Peoples over the past half-century.  And I humbly ask that you begin to learn the true history of our country and of our relationship with the First Peoples as it has been evolving since the time of first contact. 

This is not an easy path to take, but it is the journey I believe the First Peoples are now asking us to undertake.  And I would further suggest that the time has come for us to ask of the First Peoples not “how can we help you?” but “how can you help us?”

The First Peoples may reply in different ways: some are already very busy working at various levels of this part of our journey together, and won’t have time to talk with us; but others will be willing to undertake that role.  That’s what I think the Pine Tree Lecture of Trent’s Indigenous Studies Dept. was offering us earlier this week.

I would dare to think that the Pine Tree lecturers would feel well supported if we could show them that we are indeed beginning to learn the truth of our shared history.

And as we engage one another in that journey, I believe we will become better human beings, and we all know how badly our world needs that.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

APTN interviews Tom Mulcair

I have just watched APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) anchor Cheryl McKenzie interview Tom Mulcair, and it's easy to see how First Peoples would be drawn to vote NDP in this election next Monday.

 Listening to questions from First Peoples across the country, including First Nations, Metis and Inuit folk, Mulcair replied in ways which told me that he has done his homework.  He has spent time visiting with First Peoples communities and organizations, and listening to their concerns, as well as having the benefit of his law experience and education, so that he knows and understands the legal ramification of the relationship between First Peoples and The Rest of Us, and he has been building the NDP platform to show respect for the nation-to-nation relationship that I have never heard from any other Canadian government leader.

I find that very hopeful.

At the end of the interview, Cheryl said that, in its 16-year history,  no sitting prime minister had ever agreed to appear on APTN, so she asked Mulcair: "If you become prime minister, will you come back to be interviewed?",  to which Mulcair replied: "It would be an honour."  That brought tears to my eyes.

Cheryl also pointed out that Stephen Harper had refused the invitation to be interviewed.

Elizabeth May ad Justin Trudeau were interviewed, also by Cheryl, earlier this week.

APTN will also be reporting election coverage on Monday, October 19. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Further help with TRC Calls to Action follow-up

In Mr. Justice Murray Sinclair’s presentation at the final Truth and Reconciliation Commission Gathering in Ottawa last month, he told us: 

“We have described for you a mountain. We have shown you the path to the top.  We call on you to do the climbing.”

Now KAIROS has offered important details for how to begin that journey.  It will be especially helpful for churches, but any and all of us can use it to our benefit towards finding new ways to understand our role in the Federal government’s assimilation policies and how we can help to repair the relationship between the First Peoples and The Rest of Us.

So take a look at
and find your entry into beginning the journey.

As you scroll through the document, perhaps you could check out some parts in particular:
<>  Be attentive to Indigenous voices in your midst.  (Some may be living next door.)

<> What does your church denomination say about the “Doctrine of Discovery”. (Anglicans currently have a commission working on that issue.)

<> Explore your own family history.  (Some years ago I was told by a young Quebec woman that her family had lived on land along the St. Lawrence River for eight generations, so she was a “native” just as much as “Indians” were “native”.  Really?)

<> In which watershed do you live?  (I think where I now live is part of a watershed that flows into Hudson Bay – but at this moment I can’t find the website where I saw that diagram – but you may have better luck on your browser.  At any rate, it’s impressive.)

And this one:
<> Introduce yourself at the Band Office of a nearby First Nation community.  (This may come as a bit of a surprise to First Nations communities who are not usually swamped with non-First Peoples folks showing up to ask:  “What can  I do to help?”  I hope the First Nations folks are ready for this.)

So, lots of very good suggestions for beginning to change the relationship between the First Peoples and The Rest of Us. 

I am most grateful for KAIROS issuing this very thoughtful and inclusive list of “things to do”, and I would dare to offer my own note of caution:

<> Never presume to know who is a First Peoples person – allow the other person to tell you who he or she is.  If it seems appropriate, I sometimes ask: “Do you have a tribal affiliation?”

<> Become at least somewhat knowledgeable about the protocols of interacting with First Peoples persons, especially Elders and Knowledge-Carriers, and learn to follow those protocols.  If you are not sure, ask an Elder or Knowledge-Carrier to explain.  If First Peoples find that you sincerely want to learn, they are willing to help.

<> If you plan to attend a Powwow or other First Peoples Gathering, learn the protocols associated with such events.  Having concern for such actions will hopefully show the First Peoples that you are sincere in your efforts.  In my long experinece of walking with First Peoples, I have come to believe that showing  respect is the first sign they seek from us.  In the words of the Treaties, we must honour our renewed relationship in RESPECT, JUSTICE, PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP, which, sadly, we failed to do in earlier times..

Or so it seems to me.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Truth and Reconciliation Commission 94 Recommendations

As I read through the 94 Recommendations listed in the Truth and Reconciliation’s “Calls to Action”
I saw that it had sub-headings, so I’m wondering if it may help us to plan further action if either individuals or groups could begin by working at one “section” at a time. 

At this point, a special note to my dear First Peoples friends who have allowed me to walk with them for so many years past: 
N’wiijkiwenh:  I hope you know that I am not including you in these suggestions – in that I learned long ago that First Peoples do not need me – Zhaaginaashii-kwe (white woman) – to tell them anything; rather, I have spent half my life learning how to listen to you as you shared with me your good teachings and your Anishnaabemowin (Ojibwe language), all of which has greatly enriched my life, and for which I say a profound gchi miigwech.

But we – The Rest of Us who have come to live among you – can sometimes feel simply overwhelmed at the scope of the devastation wrought upon your People throughout our shared history, and so we must find ways of coping.  For me, this is one way of trying to cope, because I really do want to make amends, to seek a new relationship with you, the First Peoples of Turtle Island, based on the equality, respect, peace and friendship that I think these Recommendations are calling for.

Back to my people:

Thus, under “Legacy”, there are five sections concerning Child Welfare, Education, Language & Culture, and Health and Justice, with several actions listed under each, numbered 1 - 42.

 A person, or a group, could perhaps check out the heading which holds particular interest, and think about how you could move forward towards putting one of more of those recommendations into practice.

The second section is headed “Reconciliation”, and lists 17 more Recommendations:

Canadian Government and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ONDRIP -    # 43-44
Royal Proclamation and Covenant of Reconciliation - # 45 – 47
Settlement Agreement Parties and the UNDRIP - # 48 – 49
Equity for Aboriginal People in the Legal System - # 50 – 52
National Council for Reconciliation - # 53 – 56
Professional Development and Training for Public Servants - # 57
Church Apologies and Reconciliation - # 58 – 61
Education for Reconciliation - # 62 – 65
Youth Programs - # 66
Museumsand& Archives - # 67-70
Missing Children and Burial Information - # 71 – 76
National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation - # 77 – 78
Commemoration - # 79 – 83
Media and Reconciliation - # 84 – 86
Sports and Reconciliation - # 87 – 91
Business and Reconciliation - # 92
Newcomers to Canada - # 93 – 94

As you look through that list, there may be a section that concerns particular interests you are already involved with, and so you – or your group – may wish to think of how you could concentrate on those particular recommendations.

This is simply my own idea, and is certainly not sanctioned by any sort of official body, so please don’t think this is offered in any light except as my own personal thoughts.

But if it helps you even to be willing to begin to look at the “Calls to Action”, which represents so many long hours of dedicated listening on our behalf, then I would commend this to your attention. 

And in the words of one of my early Ojibwe language teachers:  Ni mino masen - mishkooziiwin ge.  Walk in a good way - and be strong.