Reflections from the Ah­nish­i­nah­bæójib­way (We, the People)


Red Lake geological survey map
U.S. geological survey map, from 1953 aerial photographs

pines on "cutoff" road to Ponemah, Red Lake reservation
Pines along the Ponemah cutoff road, Red Lake, fall 1987


... We Have The Right To Exist...

from the Forword, August 24, 1992 draft:

Your .  But, Anishinabe Ojibway people and other Aboriginal Indigenous People are not “Indians.” We have never been “Indians.”  It is our resources which have been used to build the structure of Euro-American society.  It is our resources which have been stolen to “make American great,” and it is our resources which have been changed into a foreign currency, and then that alien money system has been used to oppress us, destroy our community and our forest-based permacultural food supply, and lock us into poverty.  We had immense wealth, in our forests and in our land.  Everything was kept in harmony, abundant and beautiful.  But, the Euro-Americans and their subject people the “Indians” (who are “ethnic” Europeans because of their White fathers) have cut all of our forests down, destroyed everything, because it was not theirs, and they have no roots in this land.  They have destroyed the food chain.  When you take the species out of the woods, like they did, it doesn’t matter whether you call it “scientific cutting,” or rampant plunder, the effect is the same.

Where are the flying squirrels?  We used to admire the flying squirrels in the pines, and watch them glide from one tree to the next, walking behind them on a thick carpet of pine needles.  They were beautiful, graceful animals.  They are gone, because their home in the ancient pines has been cut down.  There is nothing left but brush.  Where are the smallest of the woodpeckers, that used to be all over the woods when I was a boy?  In the last ten years, I have only seen three of them.  Where are the cedar swamps, so thick that it was dark in the daytime?  I used to go down into the swamps and pick our swamp tea, and pick a few of the moccasin-flowers (which the White man tried to steal, and re-name “lady slippers” — but these are our flowers, not the Europeans’).  The beauty which our people kept for thousands of generations has been completely destroyed in my lifetime by the Euro-Americans and their “Indians.”  My children will never see much of what was our peoples’ heritage, because of the greed of the Whites and the Indians.  Our water is polluted, our fish are sick, and the game has almost disappeared — because the inter-connected circles of life have been destroyed.  The “Scientists” talk about “forest management,” but all they really care about is G.N.P.  They think that they can “manage” by brute force, applying insecticides and herbicides that kill everything.  Everything in Nature has a place, and when you kill one thing, you destroy the harmony, and kill many things.  The bugs, the mosquitos, the wood-ticks are all part of Grandmother Earth, they have a place here and they have a place in our religion.  Grandfather, the Midewiwin, and Grandmother Earth: that is who we, the Anishinabe Ojibway people are, we can’t get away from it.  Mother Nature comes out in the Spring of the year, gives birth to all of the young.  The trees flower, the birds hatch, the deer and the bears and all of the other animals have their young.  The mosquitos come out, and then the mosquito-hawks and the birds and the bats eat the mosquitos.  When you spray DDT or any other insecticide, you unbalance everything.  Everything is walking around in the woods sick; there isn’t any fruit because there aren’t any insects to pollinate the flowers.

The Anishinabe Ojibway People are different from the “Indians.”  The Midewiwin is a twenty-four hour a day religion, every day, everything that we do and think and dream.  It is not a one-hour-a-week religion, like Christianity, where you go to Church on Sunday and then go back to destroying the environment again.  The Europeans have declared war on our religion, on Grandmother Earth, and on Grandfather the Midewiwin, and then they have the gall to say we’re warlike.  We are not like the Euro-Indians, who have White values.  We are a non-violent people.  There is no word for “war,” and there is no word for “peace” in our language.  We are not like the Europeans, whose “peace” is just as violent as their “war.”  Their social structure depends on instability, factions, and violence.  They govern through violence, deliberately creating unrest in the community, calling each other names, creating scapegoats and “evil empires.”  There is no harmony at all for the “Americans,” or “ugly Americans.”  That’s not right.  It’s sick to have to live like that.  We had a decent community.

Wub-e-ke-niew


“Where are the flying squirrels?  We used to admire the flying squirrels
in the pines, and watch them glide from one tree to the next, walking behind
them on a thick carpet of pine needles.  They were beautiful, graceful animals.
They are gone, because their home in the ancient pines has been cut down.
There is nothing left but brush.”

 
Field near the Mission School at Redlake, which in the 1930s was jackpine forest where
Wub-e-ke-niew and his brother Valerian watched the flying squirrels.

 
Fall 1992: bulldozing the field to build the new school.


Bulldozing the field which was once a jackpine forest, fall 1992.


work on the Redlake school
Work on the Redlake School; St. Mary’s Mission and Mission School in background.

bulldozing in preparation for the new Redlake school
Bulldozing in preparation for the new Redlake School.

work on $10 million Red Lake school
Early Winter 1992 — work on the $10,000,000.00 Redlake School.





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