Shopping Malls and Streets are“Bridle”, While Most Ancestral Lands are “Idle”

By Giibwanisi

Defenders of Mother Earth
Defenders of Mother Earth-Peacefully Blockading the illegal logging.

My emotions are a roller coaster of a mess. I’m anxious, nervous, confused, angry, and depressed.  Grandmother Louise Wawatie has had a massive stroke and is in hospital. Her brother Jacob, first informed the Facebook world last week. When I first heard of this news, I was devastated, and my first instinct was to drop everything that I was doing and rush to her side. It took just over a week to mobilize a few friends and a ride, and we headed out to see her.

Seeing Grandmother Louise unconscious and hooked up to all those machines was eerily reminiscent of years prior when my father had a massive seizure and was in the exact same condition. I never personally talked to any doctor, so I can’t comment on what exactly the prognosis is, but from what Jacob has posted about her on Facebook and from what I have personally seen, her condition can be said to be “serious but stable” (she has a tracheotomy, but is breathing on her own).

Grandmother Louise is not my blood relative, or even a clan relative, but I view her as an intricate part of my own family . I first heard of the Wawatie family last summer, when their community put out a call out to stop illegal logging from Resolute Forestry. I even had a dream that I was in that community, and was instructed to build a lodge on the logging road. When I asked what the dream had meant, a member from Poigan Lake asked an elder and informed me, that dreams are messages. Dreams can be visions. But if we don’t do anything to actualize our dreams than they are simply just dreams. From that time on, I had made plans that I would eventually go and see the Wawatie family.

During the fall time, near the end of October, my girlfriend and I headed set out to see the Wawatie family. Before we left, I texted Louise and Joseph Wawtie and told them of our intentions. Plans were made to head to Ottawa, and then to Minawake, meet up with someone there, who would then drive us out the the land where the Louise was. Our plans changed however when we got to Ottawa, it turned out Louise was driving down with her other brother Solomon to attend and elders gathering in Ottawa. She had instructed for us to stay in Ottawa, and that she would pick us up, and we would attend the gathering with her. After only a few minutes of driving she told me that I would be her helper, and ONLY her helper. I felt honoured to be asked to be that. (Apparently Elders have a habit of stealing each others helpers at their gatherings LOL)

I will not talk too much about the gathering as, I’m not sure if it is customary to share the things that go on at Elders Gatherings. But what I will share is that it was my first time being at one, it was my first time being asked to be a helper, and it was my first time being asked to watch over the sacred fire. I will also talk about the Grandmother/grandson relationship that Louise and I developed. She was everything that I had imagined her to be and more. If you haven’t seen the video of her and other Grandmothers standing up to the logging enforcement, then I suggest you do. Grandmother Louise, carries traditional knowledge, teachings and practices them in her everyday life. Her knowledge and insight of language, culture, ceremonies, teachings, etc, was more than that of anyone I had previously encountered. (I should note, that all of her family members that I had met, Joseph, Jacob and Solomon, all have their incredible skill set, but for now I will only mention Louise). I shared many stories with Grandmother Louise, and asked her advice on many things going on in my life. She answered openly and honestly to everything…just like a grandmother should. I listened to everything intently as a good grandchild should.

Grandmother Louise is very nurturing and loving. She talked gently and softly and spoke from the heart. To hear the things she had to say, and how she had an answer and insight for all life…was truly astonishing.

There is a fire that burns in Louise, a fire that is not prevalent in a lot of people. Her fire and zest for life is almost unmatched. I took warmth in that fire, and I allowed it to ignite a fire in me.  She is the grandmother that I have never known.

The 5 days that I got to spend with her, are some of the most memorable days of my life. I felt special, I felt loved, I felt a part of something, I felt like her family, I felt like I belonged with her. I felt truly connected to something larger than myself. Somehow it was as if I had known her my whole life and that she had always been with me, much like the relationship I have with Mother Earth. Grandmother Louise in my opinion epitomizes Mother Earth in every regard. She can be just as fierce as a hurricane, or as gentle and nourishing as the summer rains.

As one person noted, seeing Grandmother Louise tied to machinery with tubes invading her body and in a very ill state of health, symbolized the state of Mother Earth and the seventh fire prophecy. It was as if she were a symbolic reflection; forcing me to recognize all the destruction we are imposing on Mother Earth. Bringing to light the results of what we have incurred onto our Mother, and the fragile state in which we have left our earth. It was heart breaking and despairing for this sight to be forced onto my eyes, as if I had finally come face to face with something that I knew was happening on a world-wide scale, all encompassed in one hospital bed.

One one hand, with a lot of prayers/time/healing/recovery, it is hopeful that Grandmother Louise can make a recovery. On the other hand, she is dealing with trauma to the brain, and a full recovery is doubtful.  The state of Mother Earth is questionable. There are those that continue to fight for her survival and the survival of all life…but with the continued legislation that allows Tar-sands development, Keystone/Enbridge/Pacific oil pipelines, all types of mining, water displacement (dams, quarry facilities, etc.), logging, toxic waste dumping, carbon emissions, etc. Not to mention the entire uranium industry that allows, mining/processing/production of reactors, weapons and radioactive waste. Everyone seems to have forgotten that some nuclear reactors in Fukushima continue to melt down and release radioactive waste into every ecosystem on earth. (It has predicted that the nuclear waste being dumped into the Pacific Ocean will reach the shores of the West Coast some time this year.)

If one hunger strike could mobilize one million people world wide, what would one million land defenders look like? Instead of round dancing in shopping malls and intersections disrupting consumers and traffic, what if one million people returned to their traditional territories and round danced in front of industrial machinery? Not only would we be disrupting the environmental destruction for the duration we are out there….we would be making the spiritual connections to our lands, and quite possibly be utilizing them, the way that Grandmother Louise did, and as our ancestors had always intended.

While Idle No More has awakened a mass amount of people, those at the helm of the movement (i.e. refuse to take any direct actions such blockades, suggesting they are too aggressive. Grandmother Louise, who carries many traditional values that members of Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp aspire to, would never suggest that blockades are “aggressive” but in fact necessary.

Since the start of Idle No More to the present date, nothing has changed terms of governmental policies or Treaty right violations. The legislation has not been retracted and environmental destruction continues, and we are collectively worse off because we have lost the leadership of a Grandmother and land defender. The only sure thing that has changed since Idle No More began is that Grandmother Louise, now lies in a hospital bed, fighting for her life.

If Idle No More has lost its urgency with the ending of Theresa Spence’s hunger strike, and a new figure head is needed, could Grandmother Louise be the solution?  What the movement needs is the momentum it lost, and there is nothing more urgent than the health of Grandmother Louise. What if people were to rally behind Grandmother Louise, uniting their prayers for health, peace and respect for Mother Earth?

Grandmother Louise, your family needs you,  we need you and Mother Earth needs you.  All of us at Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp are praying for your complete recovery and the restoration of your health.

Chi Zaagin Ogitchidaa Kookum

Oshkimaadziig Anishinabek

8 thoughts on “Shopping Malls and Streets are“Bridle”, While Most Ancestral Lands are “Idle”

  1. Giibwanisi
    Respecting that all of us have the right to chooose how they deal with any issue….and also adding that my prayers and thoughts are with Nokomis Wawatie….some of your comments regarding Idle No More trouble me. Idle No More is based on being a peaceful non-confrontational movement that strives to do things in a good way. This has been part of their mandate from the beginning. You were very correct that “while Idle No More has awakened a mass amount of people, those at the helm of the movement (i.e. refuse to take any direct actions such blockades, suggesting they are too aggressive.” And for a very good reason. A traditional person such as Grandmother Louise, who as you describe “carries many traditional values that members of Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp aspire to”, is unlikely to support an act of any kind of aggression despite you saying she “would never suggest that blockades are “aggressive” but in fact necessary”. Not when in fact blockades are very much aggressive. Nor are they necessary when other forms of resolving these issues still haven’t been fully exhausted….including the chiefs meeting with Prime Minister Harper….with all being held accountabie by a grassroots organization based on peaceful resolution like Idle No More.

    You state that “since the start of Idle No More to the present date, nothing has changed (in) terms of governmental policies or Treaty right violations. The legislation has not been retracted and environmental destruction continues, and we are collectively worse off….” If in fact Idle No More has lost momentum (and I for one can’t fully agree with that summation), then it is because others with different agendas have started to dovetail onto Idle No More’s coattails. Creating a form of divisiveness in the ranks of INM….almost a form of ‘divide and conquer’ mentality. If Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp is truly based on unity then don’t buy into this form of disunity. If you take a single stick and bend it it will likely snap into two. If you take a bundle of sticks and tie them together then they become almost impossible to break. We must be like a bundle of sticks tied together – virtually unbreakable… now is the time to put aside our differences and meet within UNITY!

    The Journey of Nishiiyuu is one of the purest forms of supporting Idle No More I can think of….the youth following their culture and traditions….leading the way for so many of us to follow….walking the walk literally not just talking the talk….

    As has been said before:

    “Traditional people of Indian nations have interpreted the two roads that face the light-skinned race as the road to technology and the road to spirituality. We feel that the road to technology…. has led modern society to a damaged and seared earth. Could it be that the road to technology represents a rush to destruction, and that the road to spirituality represents the slower path that the traditional native people have traveled and are now seeking again? The earth is not scorched on this trail. The grass is still growing there.” – William Commanda, Mamiwinini, Canada, 1991

    “The traditional way of education was by example, experience, and storytelling. The first principle involved was total respect and acceptance of the one to be taught, and that learning was a continuous process from birth to death. It was total continuity without interruption. Its nature was like a fountain that gives many colours and flavours of water and that whoever chose could drink as much or as little as they wanted to whenever they wished. The teaching strictly adhered to the sacredness of life whether of humans, animals or plants.” – Art Solomon, Anishinaabe Elder

    “You can always tell a white man from an Indian…The Indian walks like a fox, in a straight line, one foot in front of the other; a white man walks with his feet pointing in opposite directions, like he wasn’t sure which way to go….” – from “Of Mice and Men, White Pine, and Mobility”, in Grey Owl and Me: Stories from the Trail and Beyond by Hap Wilson….as told to Hap by a Native elder.

    “Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!” — Black Elk (Medicine man of the Lakota (Sioux)

    “With the beauty before me, May I walk With beauty behind me, May I walk With beauty above me, May I walk With beauty below me, May I walk With beauty all around me, May I walk Wandering on a trail of beauty, Lively, I walk.” — Proverbs, Sayings and Songs, Navajo Indians

    “On the path that leads to Nowhere I have sometimes found my Soul.” — Corinne Roosevelt Robinson (younger sister of President Theodore Roosevelt)

    “The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark”.– Barbara Hall, Northern Exposure, Rosebud, 1993

    “Be brave enough to live creatively.The creative is the place where no one else has ever been.You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk, and not knowing what you’re doing. What you’ll discover will be yourself.” -Alan Alda


  2. Let me also add (once again) that my thoughts and prayers are with Grandmother Louise….and I too hope she recovers fully….and soon. A traditional person such as she is does carry much knowledge….and wisdom….which is very important to aspire towards. Don’t let your hurt and upset at this moment blind you from such knowledge and wisdom….make your pain at this moment your friend….use it in a positive way….instead of reacting, be proactive….may you find all of the LOVE (Zaagidwin)….the RESPECT (Mnaadendimowin)….the WISDOM (Nbwaakaawin)….the BRAVERY (Aakwade’ewin)…..the HONESTY (Gwekwaadiziwin)….the HUMILITY (Dbaadendiziwin)….and the TRUTH (Debwewin)….as well as the LAUGHTER (Bapeewug)….that brings BALANCE (Gwayahkooshkawin) and HARMONY (Ninoododadiwin) to your life.

    Maybe governments should think about their ’poor track record’ when it comes to ‘consultation’ of First Nations.Whether Provincial or Federal, governments should learn to listen to First Nations….to actually hear them….we have two ears and one mouth so should listen twice as much as we speak….

    But then it was said that when the Europeans first came and ‘discovered’ North America that they had no eyes and no ears, since they didn’t see or hear. Maybe it is time to change that. Open up their eyes….and ears….which I believe Idle No More has done at the very least.

    But then again Native people sometimes wear what is called a Unity button….a button with the four colours of red, white, black and yellow on it….these colours represent the four sacred colours of the Medicine Wheel….the four races of man….and these colours all meet in the middle….so we need to learn to meet in the middle too….to actually find common ground….equal footing….

    I only say what I have out of respect for yourself….


  3. I respect what you have to say, many great teachings in what you have written. One thing that Grandmother Louise always stressed was CLARITY. Perhaps some of these colonial words need to be clarified. Under this term ‘aggressive’ Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp and its land reclamation could be construed as ‘aggressive’. However I see it as “assertive”. People can be assertive, while not being aggressive. I think the key is perhaps not to be outright passive.

    To illustrate what I’m trying to say perhaps I’ll use an analogy. I use the example of Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp. There are three ways arguably to resolve a conflict. 1) Being passive, 2) Being aggressive and 3) Being Assertive. If we at Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp were passive, nothing would have been resolved. If we stood at the edge of the park singing and drumming, the colonial powers would just let us do so, and not budge. If we were aggressive, and moved in with guns, this undoubtedly would have been an armed standoff, and people might be dead. (No one wants that). Or the third option, you ASSERT your rights, and you sing and dance your way into the park, and claim that land. All done without violence or aggression and in a every respect peaceful.

    I should also mention, that the above picture is Grandmother Louise and her family at a blockade on her territory peacefully asserting her rights.


  4. This saddness me, as this is one of my fears, when we lose our spiritual leaderS. Being that she has said that you are her helper, this ignites that knowledge to come to you. Stay close to her teachings, we need our way of life to continue.

    We have to remember, OKA, Dudley George… without this past stand-off and sacrifice of life, Oshkimaadziig comes in a time when there is possibly more ignorance than racism. There is no doubt in my mind that these guys wouldn’t have been in the line of fire, if it weren’t for all that has come before this land reclaimation by way of occupy the land.

    I have to sit back now, pray and take care of my family the best that I can… I’ve been out in them frontlines a few times, it is expensive and takes a lot out of you. I am not an idle no more campaigner. What I have seen is that this idle no more is of economy and resource development. I’ve stood up enough for my treaty brotherS and sisterS. I’ve stood up for their right to this… this means of communication that I am using and what have you. I shut my e-mail, facebook down, yesturday… then this evening, I felt a pull and I scolded myself… then here I am, saying the last that I need to say, in respect to the 5 days of Anishinabe Bemadziwin that I experienced at Oshkimaadziig in the late spriing of 2012.

    If they do stop the process of the Conservative Government, I do hope they keep us, the “traditionalistS” in their heartS as I know my prayers do include our people on the frontlines, wrongfully, rightfully calling out “idle no more!”

    The best blockade of WUIR #26 has of this, is a declaration of soverignty using our unceded title of the 1836 Treaty, pre-confederation. One band councillor said, “Why not go back to 1764?” lol. My question is… 1764 to pump the oil for ourselves?

    My spirtuality lies within mother earth, my children’s and grandchild’s placentas. I grieve and choose to hold them all closer.

    The sacred colours are not of the 4 races, it is a teaching those colours. There are more than 4 races. This is an Odawa teaching that I was told by an Elder.


  5. Giibwanisi,

    I am very much in agreement with assertiveness….and there is a very big difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness….but being assertive doesn’t mean necessarily taking direct action….using techniques such as blockades of major roadways or railways in a big city….which can alienate rather than gain support….there is a huge difference in setting up a blockade on a logging road….defending your own home territory….and doing something similar in downtown Toronto, blockading a railway….you will likely gain more publicity from the latter….but not always of the best kind….

    I’m not suggesting being passive either….just smart….asserting your rights without confrontation….in a peaceful way….a good way….

    Don’t let others turn what you’re trying to do into their agenda….don’t protest for the sake of protest as some of them do….your idea of a bush camp experience is a good one….an important one….and not to be lost by tilting at every windmill that comes along….walk your walk….don’t get caught up in or even lost in others’ talk….

    And don’t sell Idle No More ‘short’ just yet….

    Use prayer and ceremony instead of confrontation….


    1. This could take another 500 years… which means our people may exist for another 7 generations? An elder said in the falltime, it could take 20 years of hard work for our Clan System of Governance to come back to us. Prayers and ceremony, forsure, good strength and visionS to the ChiefS and Spiritual leaderS.


  6. To quote Art Solomon again:

    “Native people feel they have lost something and they want it back. It doesn’t necessarily mean that when I talk about going back over there, that we stay over there. You have to get those teachings and pick up those things that we left along the way. The drums, the language, the songs are all scattered around. We need to bring them into this time. You need these things to teach your children today in order to give them that direction and good feelings about who they are. They need to know where they are going. it doesn’t mean we have to go back to living in teepees. You can be a traditionalist and be comfortable wherever you are.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s