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.
Founder, Circle of All Nations
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
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.
OTTAWA ALGONQUIN FIRST NATION
3129 Avenue Du Quai
P.O. Box 198
Wendover, ON K0A 3K0
January 9, 2011
Premier of Ontario and MPP for Ottawa
Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs
Mayor of Ottawa
Ontario Minister of Culture
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
Joint Message from the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and the Pasapkedjiwanong Council of Chiefs
From: mireille lapointe [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: January-10-11 7:52 AM
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;
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
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
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
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,
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.
Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation
Kichi Sibi Anishnabe