An Atheist Visits The Sacred Fire

I am an atheist. I do not believe in god or mythical beings, nor do I believe in organized religion. I think of myself as a physical and intellectual being and not as a spiritual one.

So what does "sacred" mean to me. That is a good question for I do not usually think of things in that manner. But if I was to think of anything as "sacred" it would be the land, and in particular, land in it's natural state.

I love being in the forest, and while many safety experts recommend against it, I love being in the forest alone. I always tell people that they should not be afraid of being alone in the bush because you are never alone in the bush. But I do not fear the animals in the bush for I mean them no harm.

So for me it was important to visit the Sacred Fire to pay my respects to the forest and the land that we all want to protect and it was a particular honour to be smudged by Algonquin Medicine Man Ron “Big Bear” Goddard.

The Sacred Fire represents the prayers and hopes of many peoples. Indeed, as far as all involved know, this is the first time that non-aboriginals have been given the responsibility, and honour of tending a Sacred Fire. This is indeed a very important milestone in the development of the Canadian multicultural mosaic. And it represents what the land means to all of us.

Not that there is not some "culture clash". The media have expressed an interest in Sundays Day of Prayer for the Land, and want to know when the protest is and when the leaders will be speaking. But to the Algonquin this is not a protest and it is not a day for the leaders but a day for the people. This, of course makes it much more significant, but not so good for "sound bytes"

Indeed recent reports indicate that people all across Canada and across the world will be taking some time Sunday to participate in the Day of Prayer for the Land.

I invite all of you who do not quite understand what this is all about or the significance of it to spend some time in the forest and to spend some time sitting by the Sacred Fire.


Pray For The Land

(please click on above image to enlarge and read)

Statement by the Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands

Attached is a download link to the Pray for the Land announcement planned for this Sunday, Jan 30, in the South March Highlands [announcement appears above this statement]. The current outlook, which we are still working hard to prevent, will have tree clearing begin in Beaver Pond Forest on Jan 31. Tree clearing has already occurred on Richardson Ridge prior to our OMB appeal being heard.

It is apparent that the City’s infrastructure approvals staff intend to push this subdivision thru regardless of how many rules they have to bend/break.

The provincial government is acting like an inert bowl of jelly. Despite irrefutable evidence of provincially significant archaeology, the Ministry of Culture has done nothing. Despite the fact that the City of Ottawa lacks the authority to approve the mass killing of wildlife, the Minister of Natural Resources has done nothing. Despite the fact that the planned subdivision will illegally divert water from one watershed to another, the Minister of Environment has done nothing. Despite the fact that the most-biodiverse area in Ottawa is being clear-cut, in his own back-yard, the Premier of Ontario has done nothing.

Two area MPs, Gordon O’Connor and Paul Dewar, have asked the NCC to show leadership and step in. The NCC has the archaeologists and natural environment assessment resources that the city lacks. Yet the NCC has done nothing and the Minister of the Justice continues to ignore the illegality of a mass killing of wildlife, the Minister of Indian & Northern Affairs continues to ignore the constitutional duty to consult with all First Nations who have stepped forward in protest, and the Minister of the Environment continues to ignore a travesty that is playing out within 20 minutes of Parliament Hill.

Thousands of letters have been sent and yet we still have to ask “WHERE ARE OUR LEADERS?”

It’s time to make our voices visible. It’s time to make our prayers heard by all.

A large turnout will be important to help bring this issue into the consciousness of the thick heads of politicians at all 3 levels of government. Please advise your distribution lists. We will be sending out a media advisory as well as Action notice to our list.

Thanks for your continued support to Protect the South March Highlands.


Algonquin Chiefs Statement re proposed development in the South March Highlands (Beaver Pond Forest)

This is posted at the request of the Chiefs

January 22, 2011

Kwey Kwey,

We are writing to you on behalf of several Algonquin communities who remain outside of the comprehensive land claims process and thus have not been consulted about the proposed development in the South March Highlands. The Beaver Pond Forest is one of the only remaining stands of forest in southern Ontario that contains old growth trees. Most of the original forests that existed here have been lost because of unsustainable logging practices and settlement of Indigenous homelands by Europeans and their descendants. As retired Chief Robert Lovelace has brought forward, Philemon Wright was the beginning of sustained British Settler colonialism in the Ottawa Valley. Soon after his arrival in 1803, he was caught attempting to cut down an entire sugar bush by a group of Algonquin people. At that time, they stopped him and questioned his actions and why they had not been consulted about the changes he was in the process of bringing to their homeland. Wright told them that he had authority to do so by the Colonial Office. We now know that this was a lie and that Wright had no such authority from any British officials, and even if he had, he did not have the authority from the Original People who have the ultimate responsibility for maintaining balanced relationships within this homeland. Wright did not consult with Algonquin people who would be impacted by his development. In fact when confronted, he dismissed Algonquin concerns about the forest and their relationships with the forest as superstition. He informed them that they needed to “be sensible” and abandon their way of life in favour of the “gift of civilization” that came with English settlement and development.

Wrightʼs actions were a direct violation of the Proclamation of 1763 which guaranteed Algonquin people that third party interests such as developers would be prevented from appropriating Algonquin lands without those lands being first sold to the official British government operating through the Colonial Office. Algonquin people received this guarantee by John Johnson, then Indian Agent, who signed a copy of the Proclamation and gave it to them to keep in their possession. Historical evidence shows that Algonquin people carried this with them and mentioned it in various petitions to the British government concerning Algonquin lands.

Two hundred and eight years later, we are very aware as Algonquin people that these ancestors were right to question Wright and his actions that day. In that period, the great forests were still mostly intact; there was little damage from mining, or forestry on the land, and there were few toxins or contaminants in the soil and water. All of that degradation has happened as a result of settlement that came subsequent to Wright. He and his sons built all of the “colonization” roads in and around Ottawa, which aided the intense settlement in the area after the War of 1812 by British Loyalists. This settlement across what is now southern Ontario and Quebec led to the establishment of a resource extraction industry, which fueled the economic and political development of Canada as a nationstate. In a contemporary sense, Canadaʼs economy is still based upon resource extractions. This is why Canada, under the Conservative government, had refused to ratify the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. To do so was seen as a possible threat to the economic and political longevity of Canada as a nation-state. Even now the acceptance of the Declaration by Canada happened only with “conditions” attached to it that would prevent Indigenous communities from articulating the rights that are embedded in international law. Canada continues to maintain its colonial legacy with Algonquin people so that it can maintain its status as a nation-state.

The Algonquin homeland, the Kiji Sibi, has suffered great ecological degradation as a result of settler colonialism over the past two hundred years. The land and waterscapes have been so altered that we are not sure our ancestors would recognize it any longer. Their fears about the actions of developers such as Wright have been realized across the expanse of our homeland. Not to mention in every other Indigenous homeland on the planet. Settler colonialism has also had catastrophic impacts on our identity as Algonquin people. Not just because of the Indian Act and residential schools, but because of the specific ways that these policies and legislation have impacted our minds, bodies, and spirits. As a result of this destructive colonial process we struggle to know ourselves as people and we struggle to restore in ourselves the comprehensive understanding of our relationships within our homeland that our ancestors enjoyed and which Wright witnessed.

While we have begun the journey to reclaim our humanity and our dignity as distinct human beings, it is a hard journey filled with continual obstacles because of the colonial consciousness that has been created and perpetuated in Canada. That consciousness relegates the Natural World to a subservient position to human beings where those spiritual beings are seen as nothing more than resources that can be extracted for the economic and political benefit of Canada. Every day we struggle as Algonquin people to find comprehensive ways to reconnect ourselves culturally and spiritually to those spiritual beings in our homeland. Mining, clear-cutting, and numerous other development projects impact our ability as people to make that reconnection and to sustain it into the future. “We are the land and the land is us”. Many Elders and Knowledge Holders have said this in all parts of the World, and it is true for the Original People of the Kiji Sibi.

The Beaver Pond Forest contains over ten thousand years of history and relationships in our homeland that has survived settler colonialism. It is a place where we can go as human beings and connect (or reconnect) with our ancestors and the spiritual beings that still exist there. It is a place where we can gather as people and heal from the destructive processes we have had to endure over the past four hundred years. It has been argued as well by various anthropologists and archaeologists that this forest is a national heritage site that should be protected from development because of this very history and the added bond that settlers have developed with this landscape.

Many people now see the Algonquin homeland as their home and also want it to be protected. It has also been noted by various scientists that Beaver Pond Forest has hundreds of diverse species with respect to animals, birds, amphibians, insects, trees, plants, to name just a few categories that will be directly impacted by the proposed development. For Algonquin people, there is the additional knowledge that comes from Pimaadiziwin that recognizes these beings as spiritual beings who have specific roles and responsibilities that must be maintained within the forest. Our responsibilities and their responsibilities working together maintain the ecological diversity and longevity of the Natural World. The compounded loss of these spiritual beings within our homeland as well as the continued colonization of Algonquin people jeopardizes the entire ecosystem. As human beings, it is our responsibility to make sure that we act in balanced ways so that these spiritual beings can maintain their responsibilities. In other words, it is not the Natural World that needs to be managed; it is the interactions of human beings with the Natural World that need to be managed. When we think about development today as Algonquin people, we look at it comprehensively based on the fact that our homeland has already had 200 years of impacts as a result of settler colonialism. Given this reality, we have to consider the compounded impacts on lands and watersheds from any proposed project. We also have to consider the social and cultural impacts on our identity as people because of the ways in which development and resource extractions impact our relationships with the Natural World and thus our ability to develop positive identity into the future as distinct human beings.

These complex relationships make it vitally important that all Algonquin people be consulted so that we can discuss and decide for ourselves whether or not a particular project should go forward. These decisions must be based upon more than western scientific paradigms. Western scientific thought within our homeland is very young in its development and thus limited when it comes to true comprehension. Our knowledge system and ways of understanding the Natural World, however, are much older because it emerged over thousands of years through ongoing direct relationships with all components of the Natural World. This process enabled Algonquin communities to develop complex social and political structures that guided both individual and collective behavior in ways that promoted balance and the continued sustainability of the entire ecosystem.

Our ability to maintain these responsibilities within our homeland are continually under assault by the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec which have assumed control of our lands as a result of The BNA Act and Canadian Confederation. British and then Canadian Law created an artificial border that continues to separate Algonquin people from each other and to limit our ability to work together to maintain our relationships and responsibilities within our homeland. Algonquin people in what is now Quebec are never consulted about development or resource extractions within what is now Ontario, and we are never consulted about development or resource extractions within the Algonquin homeland in Quebec. We are forced to deal with Ontario and they are forced to deal with Quebec. The Algonquin people on both sides of this colonial border need to be able to come together to discuss and make decisions about all development and resource extractions throughout the entirety of our territory. These decisions need to be made based upon our collective directive based upon our customary law that was developed by our ancestors. We need to come together in a united fashion to reassume jurisdiction within our entire homeland collectively based upon our own principles set out to us in Algonquin Law.

The history of the present land clams process in Ontario is evidence of this urgent need. When issues around development or resource extractions emerge, the province makes very limited attempts to consult with the AOO (Algonquins of Ontario). The title of the organization working with the province and federal government to extinguish Algonquin title and jurisdiction is misleading, however, because the AOO does not represent all Algonquin people in Ontario. There are other Algonquin communities who choose to remain outside the comprehensive land claims process because they consider it to be fraudulent and not in keeping with Algonquin Law and the responsibilities that we have to maintain balanced relationships within our homeland. For twenty years community leaders outside the claims process have consistently reminded the province and the federal government that there is a duty to consult with all Algonquin people not just the communities who sit at the claims table. As communities outside that process, we MUST be consulted about proposed development within our homeland. The AOO has shown through past actions that they cannot be trusted to represent the interests of all Algonquin people with respect to decisions about development and resource extractions. The AOO has not and does not consult with us about their decisions. Therefore their interests are not ours, and do not take the place of free, prior and informed consent for development projects or resource extractions within the Algonquin homeland. This fact became evident to us as we struggled through the uranium exploration project and resulting conflict beginning in 2006. Our struggle to stop that development was undermined by the AOO who signed an agreement to allow uranium development on Ardoch lands without any consultation whatsoever having taken place with Ardoch leadership. In fact the province refused to consult with Ardoch leadership about the project and instead helped to facilitate the deal between the AOO and FVC. We consider this to be a betrayal of Ardoch Algonquin people by the AOO and also the thousands of local residents who worked tirelessly to support our efforts. It is also a betrayal of the duty that the province and the federal government has to us as the Original Peoples of this homeland.

The truth we came to realize is that the current claims process with the AOO does not represent the majority of Algonquin people and therefore cannot take the place of comprehensive consultation with all Algonquin people. In each of the areas, claimed by the table, and represented by an ANR (Algonquin Nation Representative) there are other Algonquin communities who have chosen not to participate in the process to extinguish Algonquin title and jurisdiction. This does not mean they have given up their right to be consulted, each community outside of the process has asked for direct consultation on various issues, but the Crown has refused to fulfill its fiduciary responsibility. Unlike what happened in previous historical treaty processes, this particular table has not been particularly successful in hiding the true colonial nature of the process or the ongoing documented opposition to it by a majority of Algonquin people, including those in Quebec. As communities, we continue to fight against it and to bring attention to the fact that we are not surrendering our interests as Algonquin communities in our homeland. Algonquin Law is still in effect in our homeland and we remind both the Province of Ontario and Canada that you have a fiduciary responsibility to consult with us as Algonquin communities about any development that has been proposed to happen. Consultation with the AOO is not consultation with our communities.

We have not been consulted about this project as Algonquin people and we demand that you to begin that process now. This is our homeland and we have no other place that we can connect to as human beings. We will utilize Algonquin Law and international law to protect our homeland as we have been instructed to do within our Original Instructions and by our Elders and Knowledge Holders. We call on you now to honour the responsibility that you have under the Proclamation of 1763, the Constitution Act of 1982, and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We do not support this development and call on you now to stop it and to meet with us to discuss the larger issue of Algonquin title, rights and jurisdiction.

We also call on the Algonquin people and communities presently working within the AOO process to take a step back and consider the impacts of this process on our people and on the Natural World. We urge you to abandon participation in the present claims process and return to Algonquin Law and work with us to develop a collective unified Nation that can work locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally to restore autonomy within our homeland.


Paula Sherman- on behalf of:

Chief Paul Lamothe: Ottawa Algonquin First Nation
P.O. Box 198, Wendover, ON. K0A 3K0
613-673-2217: pelamothe@videotron.ca

Chief Grant Tysick: Kinounchepirini Algonquin First Nation
3689 B-Line Road, Pembroke, ON. K8A 6W7

Chiefs, Mireille Lapointe or Paula Sherman:
Kapishkawandemin Family Headʼs Council, Ardoch Algonquin First Nation
1045 Canoe Path, Ardoch, ON. K0H 1C0
613-273-3530: Mireille Lapointe, mimikwe@gmail.com
705-750-7490: Paula Sherman, omamikwe@bell.blackberry.net

Chiefs, Melinda Turcotte or Melissa Graber:
Pasapkedjiwanong Algonquin First Nation
1585 Pinery Rd., Smiths Falls, ON., K7A 4S7.
Melinda Turcotte: kiwe@rideau.net
Melissa Graber: algonquin.1@live.ca


Will the Beaver Pond Forest Eve of Destruction lead to the South March Highlands Dawn of Correction

"Make no mistake about it. Those trees will come down."

Those words from City of Ottawa senior legal counsel Tim Marc, in late July 2010, make it clear that the City never intended any real consultation with the community or with any Algonquin First Nations representatives. Indeed nothing has changed since the election as far as developers determining city policies is concerned, other than perhaps an even more pro-developer City Council.

How naive do they think the public is that they expect them to believe their "pretty pleases" to the developer mean anything after they have given them full speed ahead approval to clear cut and blast the forest away.

So where do we go from here. We know the City has no intention to stand up to KNL (Urbandale/Richcraft) even in the face of documented flaws in the environmental assessment process, inadequate and inappropriate storm water management plans and alleged outright illegalities, not to mention the lack of a proper response to the archaeological information provided to them and the complete lack of constitutionally required consultations with all First Nations with an interest in and concerns about the land.

We still hold out hope that someone, perhaps another sovereign level of government, will have the political will to step in and save the Beaver Pond Forest before it is destroyed.

Cutting has now been delayed till February - time to write your federal and provincial representatives and the NCC.

Regardless of the outcome of the fight for the Beaver Pond Forest the fight to save the rest of the South March Highlands continues.

We must all recognize that it is not only the KNL (Urbandale/Richcraft) lands that are threatened, and it is not only the privately owned lands currently zoned Environmental Protection that are potentially threatened.

The South March Highlands are one ecosystem and one habitat for flora and fauna. If all the lands surrounding the city owned South March Highlands Conservation Forest are destroyed the ecological integrity of the protected lands will be under great stress and undoubtedly will be affected negatively. Trillium Woods, identified by the City as the most environmentally significant zone, will be under the greatest stress if destruction is allowed to continue as planned, as it is only connected to the rest of the forest by a narrow connecting strip with Terry Fox Drive running through it.

The smaller an environmentally protected zone is, the least chance it has of surviving as anything other than an urban park. That is why the 40% agreement narrow strips of land are meaningless, as is "Marianne's Pathway", essentially an urban pathway the cost of which was twice as much protected land elsewhere.

I say to the city of Ottawa do not let what happened to the lands south of the Conservation Forest happen to the lands north of it. Act immediately while these lands are zoned Environmental Protection (and valued accordingly) to bring them into public ownership and protection before it is too late, using the City's expropriation powers, if necessary. Even former councillor and fiscal conservative Gord Hunter recommended that.

As for the KNL (Urbandale/Richcraft) lands south of the Conservation Forest, they are the most important to save as they provide the connection between Trillium Woods and the rest of the Conservation Forest. But we know that we cannot depend on the City to save them.

That is why we have to get the message out to our provincial and federal representatives that these lands are special. Anyone who has spent time in them or has studied then knows this. And these lands are not just environmentally significant but culturally significant to the Algonquin Peoples containing archeological sites and have been declared sacred by their Elders.

The National Capital Commission is currently studying whether to add the South March Highlands to the Greenbelt as part of their Review of the Greenbelt Master Plan, but the Final Master Plan is not scheduled to be completed till Fall 2012. This may be too late for significant parts of the South March Highlands.

Everyone must urge the NCC to expedite the decision making process on adding these lands to the Greenbelt. Write or email NCC CEO Marie Lemay and other federal government representatives and tell them how much the South March Highlands means to you and how important it is to save all of it as a complete ecosystem.

Meanwhile we have to buy time for the NCC and other levels of government to act. We must do what we can to stop the destruction of the Beaver Pond Forest and to stop KNL (Urbandale/Richcraft) from moving on to the next phases of destruction.

Usually when house buyers purchase houses, they just see a housing development. They do not know what was there before. This will not be so for the Beaver Pond Forest. Potential house buyers will know that they are buying houses on destroyed sacred land. And they will know that if they buy these houses KNL (Urbandale/Richcraft) will move on to destroy more land to build more houses. This fact alone can have a huge impact on preventing KNL (Urbandale/Richcraft) from moving ahead to further phases of destruction.

It is time to let our elected leaders know that it is never too late to do the right thing.

Further resources on the South March Highlands

South March Highlands Overview

Save Ottawa's South March Highlands

Ottawa's Great Forest

I want to save the land North of Beaver Pond Park in Kanata Ontario Facebook Group

The Fifth Column SMH posts

The Fifth Column SMH Management Plan posts

Virtual Nonsense (Paul Renaud) SMH posts

South March Highlands Advocacy

South March Highlands Stewardship Plan

Brunton 2004 Report

Brunton 2008 Report


Working Class Hero - Rest In Peace

Hated by some members of the public, André Cornellier always put his members first - a true Working Class Hero

Ottawa Citizen Obituary



City of Ottawa Consultations with Algonquin First Nations re South March Highlands

It is not the purpose of this post to suggest to the Algonquin how they should represent their people in consultations with the City of Ottawa, but rather, as an Ottawa resident, to suggest to the City of Ottawa that it should deal with respect with the Algonquin in representing our interests.

The Ottawa Citizen reports:

OTTAWA — The planned construction on the South March Highlands can’t begin until the city has held consultations with Eastern Ontario Algonquins, a native group says in a new letter to Mayor Jim Watson.

The letter from the Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation, a non-status band under the Indian Act, says the land is in the group’s traditional territory and so they have a right to a say in how it’s used.

After a recent discussion with the Algonquins of Ontario, [Deputy city manager] Schepers said, the city acted as a go-between with KNL, seeking to have the tree-cutting put off until the Algonquins can review the studies of the land, a process she understands could take till the end of the month.
There is more than a constitutional requirement to consult here, there is also a matter of respect. Respect for the First Nations of these lands would mean the city would not simply "seek" to have the clear cutting delayed but would refuse to allow it until meaningful consultations were completed.

Respect would mean that they City would follow the recommendations of the Aboriginal sub-committee to the Arts, Heritage & Culture Advisory Committee to Ottawa's City Council which states

1. The City undertakes a comprehensive and meaningful consultation with all Aboriginal peoples who wish to participate regardless of status;

2. The current and planned site preparation and alteration activities, including tree-clearing, in the South March Highlands for the Richardson Ridge, Uniform, and KNL subdivisions be immediately halted pending consultation with the Indigenous people of the Ottawa River Watershed;

3. That the City request the assistance of the National Capital Commission who have a licensed archaeologist on staff;

4. That the City takes a leadership role in assuring that a full and credible archaeological survey is performed independent of the third party interest of developers.

5. That such an archaeological survey encompass the entirety of the South March Highlands.

6. That this be set in place as soon as possible.
Respect for the archaeological heritage of the First Nations means no clear cutting or other work on the lands would occur until proper studies can be done when the forest is clear of snow and the ground no longer frozen.

But respect for this heritage means much more. These are not just isolated archaeological sites, they occur within a context. Identifying them, fencing them off and putting up plaques does not represent respect. These sites are within the context of the forest and destroying the forest context and replacing it with "ticky tacky" does not show respect for the First Nations heritage or the forest.

It is time for everyone involved, the developers and all levels of government to show respect.

Respect for the Community
Respect for the First Nations
Respect For the Land


Aboriginal Peoples Speak Out on the South March Highlands

In their words:

A Message from William Commanda regarding the Proposed Development in South March Highlands

January 6, 2011

Your Worship the Mayor and City Councillors,
City of Ottawa

Re: Proposed Development in South March Highlands

Greetings for the New Year.

I write again with respect to the campaign to save the South March Highlands site. This holiday season has been afire with the passion of many community voices determined to protect this unique area.

I together with many others again urge City Council to initiate an immediate and comprehensive archaeological survey of this site; I believe it is the underlying responsibility of the crown and governments and the National Capital Commission to safeguard this ecologically and archaeologically unique site of the South March Highlands as a potential national heritage site, one of significant Indigenous importance, and as an Algonquin in the unceded, unconquered and unsurrendered Ottawa River Watershed, I add my voice to the call for such action.

I also add, as spiritual elder, that beyond its archaeological history, this is a living temple, a place of Manitou, a special place of nature, and that precious reality also demands immediate protection and reverence.

I, like many others, am deeply concerned with the devastation of yet another precious bio-diverse eco-space; the ancient history and records of the land itself, and the signature and knowledge of its original inhabitants of 10,000 years ago, yet to be uncovered and comprehended, add to the potential irreplaceable loss. It is no insignificant heritage that lies here – the likes of this site and heritage would be deeply valued in other homelands.

I am Algonquin of the Ottawa River Watershed, and this Kichisippi landscape is the traditional homeland of my ancestors over countless centuries; our predecessors occupied this ancient, earliest habitable, land over ten centuries ago, and this is significant in the history of Turtle Island and the globe. Our understanding of this history and heritage in the Watershed has been obliterated and distorted over the past five hundred years, but increasing numbers of people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are beginning to reach to this heritage that now binds us all to this land, and they are already finding their lives enriched.

In recent correspondence to the City’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Advisory Committee, I wrote “It is becoming increasingly apparent to most citizens that Aboriginal Peoples and our history, art and culture are largely invisible in the capital city. During this past year,I have had meetings with the City’s Cultural Renewal team, and I am encouraged to see that some work is now underway to address this deficiency/omission.”

The present challenge presents an opportunity for transforming this history.

I have written two notes on this matter in past months. I add these words to support the great community effort now underway both to protect an ancient forest and to understand the complexities of the Indigenous voice.

1. It is very encouraging to me to see communities questioning historic land acquisition and ownership practices, development, and environmental stewardship practices; I have seen in recent years the growing strength of diverse voices coming together and impacting established governance structures with considerable knowledge and expertise. I pray bridges of understanding will evolve in engaging with these voices of the future in the exercise of true leadership in our complex and evolving societies.

2. I have followed the efforts of the local community for many months, and I see the huge challenges in the cause being addressed with creativity, passion, research, information, prayer, dedication and commitment. I note the group has also made courteous outreach to the developers, and I hope this brings positive outcomes. I see the growing awareness of the need for Indigenous voice in the effort. Unfortunately, most Indigenous Peoples have been far removed physically from the energy and heritage of this place. But this does not mean that the protection and preservation of this heritage is not of crucial importance.

3. I speak for myself alone, and for my Circle of All Nations, a global eco-community unified by my fundamental and unshakable conviction that as children of Mother Earth, we all belong together, irrespective of our individual colour, creed or culture.

I am ninety-seven years old; in less than a month, my spirit will have been part of this land ninety nine years; that is a long, long time. I have witnessed much transformation here and across Mother Earth, and I see many, many shortcomings in our individual and collective relationship with the penultimate source of life, shortcomings that are costing us, future generations, animals and plant life more and more dearly each day. I believe Mother Earth herself must and will draw us back to sustainable relationships for and with all.

I have been passionately interested in my history and heritage for close to a century; this passion fired the creation of the Circle of All Nations, focused on advancing Respect for Mother Earth, Indigenous Wisdom, Social Justice and Peace Building, and we conceptualize the intermix of these priorities under the rubric of Sustainable Relationships. This is the essence of our ancient Indigenous prayer, Ginawaydaganuc, which reflects that, in the final analysis, we are all connected – with the water we drink, the air we breath, with the food, medicines and gifts the earth provides us, with the animal teachers, with the larger universe, and with each other. Modern scientists and quantum physicists are trying to apprehend this immense reality of the circle and cycle of life. This is a medicine circle and medicine cycle that demands respect and responsibility. Thousands of people from across the world, Indigenous and non-Indigenous have participated in my annual gatherings to engage in the creation of such an understanding of and in our lives. South March Highlands is one such learning site.

4. While focused on the protection of this specific site, I see the seeds of this larger vision taking form in this South March Highlands Campaign.

By way of illustrating this point, I mention the following:

Indigenous Peoples have expressed our concern for Mother Earth to the United Nations since the 1940s, myself amongst them; in October 2010, the Policy Matters book emerging from the UN Conference on Biodiversity in Japan (after which Canada and the United States signed on to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) notes (page 209, my photo included) the struggle to practice Ginawaydaganuc, and sustain the biological diversity of (our) homeland; that day is coming;

In 1987, at the Constitutional Debates, as Carrier of our Sacred Wampum Belts, I reminded the then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and the Premiers of their historic and collective failure to protect the environment, consistent with the Three Figure Welcoming Wampum Belt heritage of the land, and issued an urgent warning and appeal for sustainable stewardship;

In 1996, with the release of the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, I drew attention to the polluted Ottawa River waters, noting that the survival of Indigenous Peoples and the environment were in fact one and the same thing, something that others not genuinely “at home” here need to understand, in order create a respectful relationship with Mother Earth; in the end, the pollution impacts all our lives;

I served as spiritual guide for the 1995/96 Sunbow Five Walk for Mother Earth, a walk from First Encounter Beach, Cape Cod to Santa Barbara, California, to bring Indigenous prayer back to land despoiled by bloodshed, expropriation and exploitation;

On my Circle of All Nations brochure, I note that endless stream of logging trucks through my homeland feels “like a needle in my eye”;

and it is only since my Waterlife Workshop of 2006 that the capital city and now Gatineau have awakened to the gravity of the pollution of the Ottawa River.

I mention these few things to show that my concern for the South March Highlands is consistent with a much larger and longer commitment to the environment and Mother Earth. Further, I have been engaged here in Kanata regularly over the past dozen years, have conducted countless ceremonies here with people from all over the world; and I photographed the four-trunked tree in my Circle of All Nations logo myself, here in Kanata. Hence my message.

It has not been easy to awaken people to my way of understanding life; my ancestors have had to suffer dismissal of our traditional practices over countless years. In view of our commitment to assert an Indigenous position, and in the spirit of the Seven Fires Prophecy, I try again.

I realize this file is not an easy one to resolve, given decisions, management, legislative, and development precedents. Yet this is one of the critical challenges of our times. Already, much pristine space has been lost to development.

In view of the body of information and the interest now come to light, I pray deep wisdom and urgent action will guide interventions and the crucial next steps. True consultation with a range of players, creative engagement, genuine exploration of options and opportunities and time can guide us to new pathways out of the forest.

With respect.


William Commanda
Algonquin Elder
Founder, Circle of All Nations
613-599-8385; 819-449-2668


Biographical note from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Commanda

William Commanda, OC (Anishinàbe name: Ojigkwanong) is an Algonquin elder, born November 11, 1913 in Kitigàn-zìbì, Quebec (Garden River/Riviere Desert), near Maniwaki, Quebec, 130 kilometres (81 miles) north of Ottawa in the Gatineau River valley. Commanda is the great-grandson of Chief Pakinawatik who led his people in 1854 from the Lake of Two Mountains to Réserve de la Rivière Désert, also known as the Kitigàn-zìbì Reserve, along the Gatineau River. Commanda worked as a guide, trapper and woodsman, a birch bark canoe maker and craftsman. Commanda was Keeper of several Algonquin Wampum Shell Belts which held records of prophecies, history, treaties and agreements. The three Wampum Belts under his care are:

* the Seven Fires Prophecy Belt;
* the Jay Treaty Border Crossing Belt; and
* the Three Figure Welcoming/Agreement Wampum Belt.

Commanda served as Band Chief of the Kitigàn-zìbì Anishinàbeg First Nation from 1951 to 1970. In 1987 at the fourth First Ministers Conference on inherent rights and self-government for Aboriginal people, Commanda began teaching about the messages of the wampum belts. He was invited in 1990 to provide a traditional blessing of the Canadian Human Rights Monument in Ottawa with the Dalai Lama. In 1998, Commanda participated in a ceremony at which he presented Nelson Mandela with an eagle feather on behalf of the First Nations of Canada. That same year, Commanda organized Elders Without Borders, a gathering of Aboriginal Elders and spiritual leaders from both North and South America.

In 2008, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

From: Indigenous Peoples' Solidarity Movement -Ottawa
Date: Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 10:36 PM
Subject: Beaver Pond Forest - South March Highlands

Year of the Forest
by Albert Dumont, Algonquin Elder, Kitigan Zibi

When blood passes through the heart of a human being, it leaves that special place invigorated in its ability to produce love for God, the family, the community and for the environment. Such is the sacredness of the heart. Such is it to be a human being.

Do the people of this city care enough about the Beaver Pond Forest in Kanata that they would pay the king’s ransom being demanded by the developer to save it? Most citizens and their duly elected municipal politicians have already pointed their collective thumbs downward.

Some twelve thousand years ago the South March Highlands where the Beaver Pond Forest is found was an island surrounded by the waters of the ice age created Champlain Sea. As the water receded, a rich and fertile land renewed its relationship with the winds. The birds, insects, animals and people living on the highlands at that time carried the seeds of trees and
also pollen of the island’s plant life further and further into their ever-widening territory. The hungry soil graciously accepted the seeds and hence pushed forward into a grateful world, trees of hardwood and softwood.

It was the descendants of the island’s trees that the European settlers saw when they arrived here a few hundred years ago. Ambitious men of vision among them became lumber barons and as a direct result, Ottawa was born.

If our wonderful city brings health and prosperity to you and your family then you owe a depth of gratitude not only to the trees here but also to the island of their origins, the Beaver Pond Forest.

If you wonder why you should care whether the forest lives or dies then please, seek the counsel of your faith leader, whoever that might be. There does not exist a holy book which does not direct her worshippers to defend and love the land.

A candlelight vigil was held on the evening of January 1st, 2011 at the Beaver Pond. Well over a hundred people gathered there in acknowledgement of the United Nations proclaiming 2011 “The Year of the Forest”. While at the site it was decided that a moment of silent prayer would be offered.The youngest candle holder standing in the soft drizzle of rain and fog was a tyke no more than 12 months old, the most senior person was a beautiful elderly woman into her 80’s. With them, the people prayed in silence for the forest to be saved. The forest, in silence too, absorbed the prayers. And the prayers have become forevermore, until the forest dies, part of her wealth in healing energy.

God lives in the forest. God does not live in your bank account. And one day, all of us will know it, even the politicians and the developer.


For more info on Beaver Pond Forest and South March Highlands:

A Message Regarding Development at South March Highlands from Grandfather
William Commanda, Algonquin Elder, Order of Canada: http://bit.ly/eVglTN

In Solidarity,
on unceded Algonquin Territory


Biographical note from: http://www.albertdumont.com/

Albert Dumont (Algonquin, Kitigan Zibi, Anishinabeg)

Albert Dumont, a Traditional Teacher, was born and raised in traditional Algonquin territory. He has been walking the "Red Road" since commencing his sobriety in 1989. He is a poet and has published 4 books of poetry. Several organizations, both native and non-native, are currently featuring his poetry in their promotions, among them are the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health and the Native Veterans Association.

Albert has served with the Ottawa Native Concerns Committee since 1993 and also served with the Ottawa and District Injured Workers Group for 6 years.

Albert has dedicated his life to promoting Aboriginal spirituality and healing and to protecting the rights of Aboriginal peoples particularly those as they affect the young.

Albert Dumont is the Founder of Turtle Moons Contemplations.

3129 Avenue Du Quai
P.O. Box 198
Wendover, ON K0A 3K0
Tel. 613-673-2217

January 9, 2011

Dalton McGuinty
Premier of Ontario and MPP for Ottawa

Chris Bentley
Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs

Jim Watson
Mayor of Ottawa

Michael Chan
Ontario Minister of Culture

Dear Sirs,

I am writing regarding the development of the South March Highlands. This issue is very sensitive, with historical and cultural implications. The Ottawa Algonquin First Nation supports Grandfather William Commanda’s call for a new archaeological study. As well we insist that all development in the South March Highlands should be suspended until that study is completed. Wide consultation and discussion with all native groups, in particular the Algonquin, is imperative.

As you are aware, The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that consultation on any issues surrounding land and resources is a duty to be fulfilled by all levels of government. This obviously has not been done in the case of the South March Highlands development. In particular, I can confirm that the Ottawa Algonquin First Nation was not consulted.

Our ancestral lands are still being stolen for urban sprawl. As a nation who has yet to ratify a treaty, we as Algonquin, will not stand by and have our lands desecrated all in the name of development. We urge you to reconsider and cease development until a compromise can be reached.

Thank you in advance for your prompt action.


Paul Lamothe, Chief
Ottawa Algonquin First Nation

Ottawa Algonquin First Nation Council
Peter Perry
Cherry Perry
Wayne Lamothe
Nicholas Lamothe

Joint Message from the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and the Pasapkedjiwanong Council of Chiefs

From: mireille lapointe [mailto:mimikwe@gmail.com]
Sent: January-10-11 7:52 AM
To: dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org; cbentley.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org;
Jim.Watson@ottawa.ca; mchan.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

Kwey All

We, the communities of Ardoch Algonquin FN and Pasapkedjiwanong Algonquin FN (Smiths Falls) are sending you our message supporting a halt to the cutting of the forest in the South March area. Our position is clearly presented in this letter and we encourage you to consider carefully all arguments who speak for those without a voice in your politics.

For all our relations
mireille lapointe chief
Pasapkedjiwanong Council of Chiefs:
Paula Sherman chief
Chief Melinda Turcotte
for Kapishkawandemin,
Chief Melissa Graber
Heads of Family Council
Ardoch Algonquin FN

A message from Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and Pasapkedjiwanong Algonquin FN regarding the proposed development in the South March Highlands

January 8, 2011

Your Worship the Mayor and City Councillors
City of Ottawa

Re: Proposed Development in South March Highlands

We wish you well in this New Year.

Our communities have received numerous messages from a wide constituency regarding the proposed development of the South March Highlands. We have also read Grandfather William Commanda’s letter to you. Our message, with all respect due your office, must be clear and unequivocal: we support all points in Grand father’s letter and ask that you heed his lucid and wise message.

It is but repetition for us to reiterate the points that he has made. That being said, we encourage you to remember that the valley of the Ottawa river has since time immemorial been our home. We have none other, and we must care for it. This is the insight that guides our relationship to our home, its inhabitants and each other. This is also now your home. Considerations such as economic development are but one of many that must be taken into account when deciding on the fate of ancient trees, and creature habitat as well as that of the waterscapes of that area. We know that these considerations are absolutely not new to you and please understand that we do not mean to teach something that you already know well.

We believe that we all sit at the Medicine Wheel: This includes all creatures, plants and minerals. You may not agree and may even consider these beliefs quaint and out of step with the realities of the early twenty first century. But make no mistake: these beliefs and their underlying relationships have withstood the test of time, colonialism and human frailty.

You cannot assume that the disappearance of green areas will continue to make Ottawa a destination of choice. Social sensibilities have shifted and prospective citizens as well as visitors look for green spaces; considered, innovative, and creative development and civic respect for the intrinsic value of the forest, no matter how small.

We request that you enter into meaningful consultation with all constituencies as well as First Nations on the need for a proper archaeological assessment.

Please read William Commanda’s letter to you with deliberate consideration and do not allow the South March Highlands to be forever changed.

Kinounchepirini Algonquin First Nation
3689 B-Line Road
Pembroke On, K8A 6W7
613 732 1741

January 9, 2011

By Email,

Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario and MPP for Ottawa
Chris Bentley, Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs
Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa
Michael Chan, Ontario Minister of Culture

Dear Sirs,

We are writing you in regards to the South March Highlands development, as you are aware this is becoming a very sensitive issue, when it comes to the Algonquin people, in regards to the Development of their Sacret sites.

As you are aware, besides Grandfather William Cammanda calling for another Archeology study, there are also many Algonquin Communities who have not been Consulted, in regards to this issue concerning Development of the South March Highlands development.

All parties must be aware that Consultation must take place with the Algonquin people, not just a handful, not legal to speak on our behalf. Our Community will encourage open Consultation, with the Algonquin people and the leaderships that can legally speak on their behalf, without any conflicts of interest.

Our ancestral lands are still being stolen for urban Development. As a nation who has yet to ratify a treaty, we as Algonquin, will not stand by and have our lands desecrated all in the name of development. We urge you to reconsider and cease development until a compromise can be reached.


Chief Grant Tysick,

Heads Of Family Council,
Donald Dupont
Raymond Kasaboskie
Mark Lawrence
Kerry Tysick
Steve Boyle
Denis Dupont
Robert Raymond
Graham Mathieu

Added January 13, 2011

Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation

"As leader of the Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation, as mandated by my community, it is our priority to protect and preserve the customary traditional government of the Algonquin Nation, as an Indigenous Peoples of Canada, against all encroachments, derogations and abrogations.

Our community has participated in our official capacity, in accordance to customary law, which is protected under international law, to protect and promote the international rights of the Algonquin Nation, the Kichi Sibi Anishanbe, The Anishnabe, and the polity Canada.

The Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation has never come under the statutes of the Indian Act, therefore our inherent and inalienable rights have not been compromised or extinguished. We have not located to an incorporated Indian Act reserve, therefore our inherent and inalienable rights have not been compromised or extinguished.

The associated rights and jurisdiction of the traditional central government of the Algonquin Nation have never been extinguished.

There need not, and should not be jurisdictional wrangling within Algonquin territory. Our priori jurisdiction exists.

We have a proven record of exercising jurisdiction in the Ottawa Gatineau region.

We have, for years, expressed our interests repeatedly to Mr. Stephen Harper. There has been no response, even though there is a constitutional obligation for him to respond, consult, accommodate, and in certain circumstances, compensate.

Consider this official preliminary notice of Aboriginal interest in the areas currently known as the Beaver Pond Forest and the Ottawa's Great Forest.

We assert that there can be no legal development of the property without appropriate consultation based on the administratve justice, Constitutional obligations and case law requirements. We consider any costs incurred by affected third party to be a direct result of the federal government failing to adequately inform Canadian citizens. The Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation has repeatedly filed notices and claims with the current federal and provincial governments. We feel it unforntunate that Canadians are not given the proper information necessary that would allow them to exercise the democratic principles of free, prior, and informed consent, consistent with good faith relations, responsible governance, and legitimate contracts, and that vast amounts of hard-earned public monies are squandered because of lack of information.

The Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation is committed to the Canadian Constitution, the protection of human rights, the Rule of Law, international law, and the legitimate interests of Canadians.


Paula LaPierre
Principal Sachem
Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation
Kichi Sibi Anishnabe
Still Sovereign


Who Speaks For The Forest - Beaver Pond Song

Rough Cut: Beaver Pond Song
By Julie Comber

So much noise out there
Can be hard to hear your own voice
So much power used against us
make ya feel you have no choice
We may each feel small
But together we stand tall

So wake up and raise your voice
Go on and make your choice
Who’s gonna fix this
If we back down
Who’s gonna save
Our sacred ground

Its an old story
We don’t have much time
To stop the chainsaws
To stop this crime
A beautiful forest
Home to many species
Bit by bit
Cut into tiny pieces
No one paid
To take the long view
Except developers
Makin’ profits for the few
The rich play golf
While the forest crashes down
Basements get flooded
Can we turn this around?
Where is Ottawa City Hall?
Where is NCC?
Where is the province?
Why is it just you & me?

Why do humans use our power against life
Against life
Against life
And that is our fight
for life
that is our fight
for life
that is our fight
for life

Beaver Pond Forest
took centuries to grow
A week to destroy
This is our chance to show
That we’ve become wiser
That we fix mistakes
That we value life
That we’ve got what it takes
Will we listen to our Elders?
Which path will we choose
This is a key time
Not a moment to lose
So stand up and raise your voice
Go on and make your choice
Who’s gonna fix this
If we back down
Who’s gonna save
Our sacred ground

Vote with your dollar
picket Urbandale
prove this is the wrong way
to make a sale
Cut through the busy
You know its right
Save Beaver Pond Forest
Please join our fight!

So stand up and raise your voice
Go on and make your choice
Who’s gonna fix this
If we back down
Who’s gonna save
Our sacred ground

Light your candle for hope
Don’t give in
The truth will rise,
we can all still win
Light that candle
Don’t give in
Truth will rise,
we can all still win.


Protest Urbandale Plans to Needlessly and Mercilessly Kill Beaver Pond Forest Wildlife

Demand Destructive Clear Cutting Be Put Off Till Spring

Save Beaver Pond Rally - At Urbandale Sales Office

Where: Urbandale Kanata Sales Office (They are the lead developer)
When: Saturday, January 8 from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm

Meet at All Saints High School Parking Lot & we will walk across the street to Urbandale Sales Office

Implications of Destruction (courtesy of Evelyn Abell)

Are we a society that has become desensitized to violence en masse but overwhelmed at the thought of physical harm to a specific individual or pet. We are mortified to learn of a puppy thrown from a truck window and seek due punishment for the perpetrator. Why then do we yawn in the face of mass destruction? Or do we? Are we changing our paradigm from “It’s not my problem” and “They should do something” to “I truly am connected and I must take some action. Moreover, if I just do nothing, it will still affect me.”

Martha Webber, a well known Ottawa botanist shares this perspective: “The more I think of the wildlife massacre, the angrier I get. Many animals and birds shelter against the winter weather in tree cavities, even those in dens in the ground, are warm. insulated with dry leaves, The and others in deep hibernation,may be lucky enough to die of shock and fright when their tree is cut. If they survive the tree fall, with or without broken bones and bodies, confused by noise of the machinery, loss of shelter and food, few will make it to the nearest garbage can. If a dog is mistreated the owner is penalized. It makes news in the Citizen. But the half tamed birds and animals of the forest who have shared it so long with so many of us, have no concept of what man can do if the price is right.”

How do we 21st century humans protect wildlife? Marianne Wilkinson, our councillor who generally weighs in on the side of ecology reports: “The City of Ottawas wildlife protocol … directs construction be phased to avoid trapping wildlife”. and construction will occur… such that at the end of each phase the outer edge of development will extend further north , allowing the wildlife to respond by moving north towards the core of the South March Highlands.

This is truly a war zone, but the ammunition is all fired from one side. Do we really expect hibernating animals to march ahead of the chainsaws? And what of the food stores the squirrels and chipmunks sequestered through the fall? Is mass animal starvation of no consequence to humans?

Julie Comber speaks well for the future home buyers – the current “younger” generation: "I'm glad the plight of the wildlife is moving you. The problem is our society treats animals arbitrarily, based on their relationship to humans, not based on their ability to suffer or their cognitive development, so laws only protect owned animals (pets) and are very lax on farm animals. Wildlife are not covered by animal welfare legislation. This is why legally, Urbandale can do this, while morally, clearly they shouldn't. I think this is another great example of how this Beaver Pond issue that seemed so local and contained at first really is interconnected with so many other issues, and forces us to ask questions about our society and the path we are on."

Let’s not forget economic implications. According to Earth Economics, Forest and watershed-filtered water utilities contribute billions of dollars to local and regional economies by providing ecosystem services such as fresh water filtration and storage, flood protection, habitat and recreation. This contribution is currently not generally recognized or valued and therefore the acquisition and management of these natural systems is difficult and burdensome.

Further resources on the South March Highlands

South March Highlands Overview

Save Ottawa's South March Highlands

Ottawa's Great Forest

I want to save the land North of Beaver Pond Park in Kanata Ontario Facebook Group

The Fifth Column SMH posts

The Fifth Column SMH Management Plan posts

Virtual Nonsense (Paul Renaud) SMH posts

South March Highlands Advocacy

South March Highlands Stewardship Plan


"Nigger" is Not a Nice Word

"Nigger" is definitely not a nice word. But there is a reason for that and it has to do with what it represents and the history behind it. It reflects an attitude that is tied to the history of oppression of Black Americans, including, segregation, slavery and lynchings. This is a history that should not be forgotten. Removing the word from that history and from literature that reflects the attitudes of that time is not true to that history and does the remembrance of it a great disservice.