This season is baseball season! I’m looking forward to it because last year we did pretty good, but this time we’re gonna perform our best while playing against other communities. So, I encourage the little ones (ages 8-12) to come out and play on June 9. They’re doing this ‘Spring Mixer’, which means everyone who plays in the league will get a jersey and also, we will meet our coaches. The teams will take team photos and food will be provided. Come out and play ball with us!
This upcoming local baseball season is hosted by the Kenora Chiefs Advisory (KCA). The aforementioned ‘Spring Mixer’ will be held on June 9 at the Portage Bay (Keewatin) Fields in Kenora, ON and is for rookie league players. The scheduled hours for the games are set for 11:00 am – 5:00 pm (latest). Buses will arrive at each participating community for pick-up.
The Naotkamegwanning Water Treatment Plant (WTP) was originally constructed in 1998. However, the plant’s treatment system, an Ecodyne Graver Monoplant process, was purchased in a used condition – making it 27 years old and obsolete in its current age.
Detailed designs and specifications were completed in 2011 to upgrade the process to a membrane treatment system. At that time, funding was not sufficiently available to move into construction.
Naotkamegwanning First Nation secured funding for a $2,666,666 sum through the Small Communities Fund, provided by the Government of Canada. Naotkamegwanning FN retained the original engineering company, JR Cousin Consultants (JRCC), Ltd., to update the design from 2011 which had then replaced older versions with a new concept.
Indigenous Services Canada further funded the major WTP upgrade totalling an overall sum of $4,788,376.
Penn-Co Construction Canada, Ltd., was contracted as a ‘tender of construction’. Following this, the project team hired a Project Manager, Ingram Consulting, Ltd. In the early stages, the project team were only representatives of Naotkamegwanning First Nation and Ontario First Nation Technical Services (OFNTSC). It soon grew as every company was brought aboard including ISC representation.
Currently, the upgrade is near completion – with only a few weeks to go. The water treatment plant operators have been participating in an intensive training plan that will continue to carry on throughout the year.
“Our mandate is to move Whitefish Bay operators up a level, and for them to be confident running the plant”, says Overall Responsible Operator Marty Clement, who was hired under Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation (OFNTSC).
The community has been drinking water from the new membrane treatment system for weeks. The plant is also equipped with a UV system as a second barrier from harmful bacteria. The WTP’s UV system disables any harmful microorganism’s ability to reproduce by effectively aggressing their DNA.
“The water has never been clearer or tastier. This is because we require less chlorine to disinfect as a result of our new, advanced filtration system”, says Penn-Co Operator Ryan Craig
The Naotkamegwanning FN Band will be celebrating with the community in early summer of this year. Please stay tuned for the official ribbon cutting ceremony and an opportunity to tour the plant.
A one-way, rural Nova Scotian road is not the most obvious place to train and learn the critical value of solidarity in accompanying Indigenous Guatemalans threatened for speaking up for justice, land and human rights.
“Once you know, you can’t unknow,” says Kathryn Anderson, founder of the Breaking The Silence Maritimes Guatemala Solidarity Network (BTS), as she describes how the voluntary network began answering the call for partnership 31 years ago from Guatemalans facing persecution. She holds a hand-sculpted bust of a Mayan elder which she says was given to her by a Guatemalan refugee in Canada.
As the tides flow in and out, draining the salty ocean waters, the Tatamagouche Centre is my home for the next six days. Tatamagouche, deriving from the Mi’kmaq term Taqmakujk, or “barred across the entrance with sand,” is connected to both the Mi’kmaq First Nations and French Acadians.
Having learned the expressed value of learning and maintaining Anishinaabemowin while living in Naotkamegwanning First Nation, I take comfort in a Maritime map labelling the regions’ original names in Mi’kmaq, which were placed at the entrance of the multicultural and multi-spiritual centre. I am encouraged by it, viewing it as a de-colonial symbol and educational act towards the First Nations territory I am in.
However, the push for re-education of traditional Indigenous knowledge and language is not limited to Canada, nor just a talking piece for 2019 as the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Language. Guatemalan survivors, such as Jesús Tecú Osorio, a BTS partner, have channelled their trauma to fill the gaps that their government continues to ignore and deny.
While continued devaluation of the Mayan including refusals from government to support, one of Jesús’ efforts was the creation of a land-based school, to counter the harms and degradation of Mayan language, knowledge and culture. Students, with a newly built greenhouse and learning cultural teachings around weaving, can graduate as a ‘rural wellbeing technician’.
Coming in contact with BTS while living in Nova Scotia and having previously covered a news story on their fundraiser coffee partnership, I also craved connections to those who have shared a similar connection to Guatemalans as well as the heart-wrenching but empowering stories of Indigenous Mayan resilience, which I had documented in 2015. When I saw the network had opened up a cooperant program, I immediately applied.
Not a business, nor a not-for-profit, or a charity, the volunteer-based network has been responding to the needs and issues defined by their partners, and supporting not with money but in supporting them in taking charge of their own lives. In explanation of their solidarity, the group has stuck with the following quote as their motto:
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time…but if you come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together,” spoken by Lilla Watson an Australian Aboriginal activist and organizer.
The network, BTS, evolved in the 1980s at the height of the country’s 36-year internal armed conflict and genocide against the Mayan Indigenous and any who opposed the government. While advocating for the Government of Canada to condemn the violence, the network began offering accompaniment alongside Canadian advocacy for Guatemalans to ensure their safe passage back home in testifying.
Spiraled red yarn becomes our interactive historical reference to Guatemala as we take turns laying out dates of major struggles and powerful milestones. Not starting from colonial contact as most colonial history lessons do, we start at the seed of Mayan creation story and their age of great civilizations including their leaps in architecture, agriculture, mathematics, and astronomy starting in 250 AD.
We take turns unscrambling pieces of their history and providing any reflections we have. “Land is central to everything,” says the cooperant program leader, a Guatemalan. “So much it gives to the world, but at the expense of others.”
During the activity, we broke down the international involvement not just from governments but the role powerful corporations play in exploitation and conflict. For the internal conflict, it was the control of land and labour under the United Fruit Company beginning in the 1930s, to the dehumanization of those who challenge or opposed. In this case, it was the use of the term ‘Communist’ during the Cold War’s fear-mongering.
Flashbacks of emotion come to me during the training of my trip to Guatemala, including the feelings I had experienced while meeting the collective of female Mayan weavers who had lost their husbands, and touring morgues home to those lost in gangs and murdered women.
Despite accomplished milestones such as having the first openly Indigenous lesbian politician and successful guilty trials to those sexually violent towards Mayan women, BTS facilitators give examples of their partners who continue to experience slander, unwarranted arrests, death threats and murders including under multiple large Canadian mining projects.
These examples remain the reason why BTS’ partners continue to seek a notable international presence regarding reporting and advocacy in Guatemala and, in Canada, organizing tours for Guatemalans to share their stories and political advocacy.
“I want the companies every day to think of us,” says BTS Coordinator Lisa Rankin who’s permanently working in Guatemala. She says the main part of her advocacy is pressuring investors and companies.
The network’s partnership allows organizers like survivor Jesús more more safely continue his legal clinic, another created initiative, which is currently serving survivors in testifying in ongoing national and international cases related to the genocide and ongoing land claims.
In Tatamagouche, we video call in with a Guatemalan survivor Jeremias Tecu, now working in New Brunswick in refugee settlement. He shares with us the horror of the polarizing violence and the pain of losing so many family members and his determination to advocacy in justice and healing.
“I have an obligation to the world,” he says, speaking of his position as a Guatemalan genocide survivor.
BTS also partners with a group called Instituto Mesoamericano de Permacultura (IMAP). They are currently working towards maintaining traditional Mayan knowledge through permaculture farming as local sustainable solutions to climate change. One of their unique initiatives, a library seed bank, is intended to preserve near extinct species of edible plant resources. To compliment their work, they also utilize fish-farming within the same area for later use as plant fertilizer.
The fourth Guatemalan partner is a committee of small farmers known as Comité Campesino del Altiplano (CCDA), a group within the business-agriculture sector that are helping take back traditional knowledge. With growing momentum due to some of their members being elected into Congress, their direct advocacy for their own Indigenous and land rights remain deeply at risk with threats of assassination.
With respect of processes of truth and reconciliation commissions, I have learned that without the process of first laying out the truths, the full history, there cannot be open doors for justice and reconciliation. Systemic issues do not fix themselves, especially when the government denies or does not hold value in education and justice processes. It is not surprising that the most successful initiatives come at the grassroots, from the ground up.
Stripping down of what accompaniment and cooperant support is, I am learning that especially when fear is used as a tactic to prevent action, it is to help people to feel not alone and having someone’s’ back. As I think of all the unsolved missing and murdered women cases in Guatemala and Canada, being there as offering moral or technical support is critical in documenting in non-bias observation as a last witness in preventing impunity and seeking justice.
When I am moved, upset, shocked or reflecting on something I have learned firsthand of in news, what is often missing is the ‘calls to action’ or what we can do about it. In discussion of examples of concrete ways to make a difference, we watched a video clip of former BTS delegate Hannah Martin directly speaking in the House of Commons to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at an event called Daughters of the Vote, calling for accountability of the damages of Canadian mining companies she visited.
Hannah was then video called in to us, introducing herself as a Mi’kmaq youth of Tatamagouche and having lived in Millbrook First Nation.
“Collectively, we are not much different,” she says in our video chat in reference to Indigenous peoples in Canada and Guatemala. She says, however, being an Indigenous Canadian living and learning from Indigenous Guatemalans, she sat with realizing her own form of privilege as a Canadian citizen.
Currently a student at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON for Indigenous Studies, she expresses solidarity for her as “using our privilege as Canadians on a global scale”.
Since my return from Guatemala and the personal experiences shared with me in 2015, I also began realizing the privilege, including as a Canadian citizen including access to services, technology and other products from around the world, and most critically, being able to use your voice without a constant fear of death.
It is why I’ve become more conscious to what I buy and the business behind it. I have learned that as a buyer, there is power in choice and as an act of solidarity. Even through the challenge of living on a small budget, I have learned that this power of choice remains, whether selectively buying items that may on the surface be more expensive, or choosing between wants and needs.
In a reflection exercise, trainers were asked to pick a quote that resonated with us most and draw something to symbolize its theme of solidarity. I chose the one below:
“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence & vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.”
– Indian author Arundhati Roy
Karli Zschogner is a guest contributor. She is the former journalism trainer for Naotkamegwanning First Nation, from September 2018 to March 2019.
Mary Anne Mooring of the Chi Key Wis Arena in Naotkamegwanning First Nation, formerly known as Whitefish Bay, spent the months of March and April organizing and undertaking the construction of a coined “pop-up curling rink”.
The idea, she claims, originated from the repeated requests for a curling rink from Naotkamegwanning First Nation Band councillors; namely, Kirby Paul, Rene White, and the former Warren White.
Warren White previously served as a Naotkamegwanning councillor and chief. He served as grand chief of the entire Treaty #3 area. His activity in indigenous politics ranged from 2003-2018.
He remembers the previous existence of a curling rink in Naotkamegwanning. He describes it being long in structure with a concrete base. The structure utilized naturally frozen ice with water pumped from the nearby Dogpaw Lake.
Mary Anne recalls several older residents reminiscing about the days of the curling rink. She says they’ve remarked on its prevalent sporting role within the township of Emo during the early 1970s.
Mary Anne says the Naotkamegwanning Band, alongside the reservation’s Chief & Council, has long requested the implementation of a curling rink within the community. Though without sufficient funds to purchase proper curling equipment, she says it’s been a struggle.
“They all wanted curling but I just had to keep going back to them and saying, “I can’t do it. If we don’t have rocks we can’t do it… I looked into buying rocks. They’re [approximately] $30,000 so that wasn’t an option for a community to try it. So I wanted to see if we could borrow some, and then see what the response was.”
Denise Lysak, a friend of Mary Anne’s and contact of the Keewatin Curling Club, initially pitched the idea of lending Naotkamegwanning curling equipment directly to KCC Board Director Mike Szajewski alongside other club members, including Joshua Szajewski.
“As a club, we see this as a great opportunity to engage a community that does not have regular access to curling facilities with our awesome sport. Playing a role in the expansion of the game is definitely important to us and we are thrilled that we could play a role in bringing curling to a First Nation community in our area”, says Joshua.
Following Denise Lysak’s pitch, Szajewski then provided the Chi Key Wis arena with curling equipment.
With the Chi Key Wis Arena’s curling games hosted between April 11-May 2, the Keewatin Curling Club’s equipment has undergone it’s appropriate sporting use in a total tally of 36 games between a total of 13 amateur teams.
With each game’s passing, people began to discontinue their sporting efforts. Though, the point of the games was solely to test. Therefore, no loss – only an increased perspective.
Mary Anne Mooring says she would like to try again next season.
During the days of April 23 – April 26, I was in Ottawa – an area scattered with jaunty, new personalities. Among this group (of which I once lived alongside), I met highly creative, motivated individuals. These ‘individuals’ included teenage Ojibwe language teachers, dancers, and the esteemed Canadian MP Anita Vandenbeld. Laval Namaypoke (the Mazina’igan’s Youth Engagement Coordinator), and Xavier Ranville (a past contributor) had also partaken in the experience by my side.
During a three-day trip to my old city, Ottawa, Ontario, I was invited to attend NDRAMA 2019 and MamawiTogether as a ‘special guest’, though not initially planned. The whole thing was generously funded by TakingITGlobal through one of their offered travel grants. Even after an unfortunate, costly series of events they’d gladly upped the budget for us. A very charitable organization; co-founded by the ever-so-kind Michael Furdyk, whom I had the pleasure of ‘co-coordinating’ the trip with.
During my day attending the NRAMA 2019 Youth Conference at the Carleton University, I met Theland Kicknosway – an old childhood friend and neighbour who’s now a respected hoop dancer and public speaker, interestingly enough. We had both recognized each other’s names prior to meeting over lunch-hour. From “Do you want to come to my birthday party?” to speaking at the UN and hosting largely-recognized runs. Certainly an interesting situation.
Speakers such as comic book writer and author Jay Odjick, CBC Radio One host Rosanna Deerchild, and a few other eccentric figures attended, providing their life stories with undoubtedly thought-provoking morals in the auditorium.
The day following, I was scheduled to attend MamawiTogether at the University of Ottawa.
Before that though, I had the pleasure of visiting the on-campus CHUO-FM radio station. Xavier and I promptly received a tour of their workplace from a cheery figure named Mickey, who introduced us to a small-but-full room containing an almost monumental CD music collection. Shelf-after-shelf of 1990’s-2000’s underground tunes flooded the room. Next door to this was their recording studio, where Xavier and I both recorded intros to the show following the welcomed appearance of Darren, CHUO’s indigenous-focused radio host.
Shortly after our brief introduction to campus-radio we then directed our feet to the actual event: MamawiTogether. My time there was recognized a hundred times more than it was during NDRAMA 2019 – not that there’s a competition. Unknown people frequently approached and congratulated me on a personal level, providing much-appreciated support. If I remember correctly, I left that night feeling irregularly self-determined. This was my last full day in Ottawa.
The following day, my group and I readily arrived at the airport, set to board our plane to Winnipeg – home to the closest homebound airport capable of lengthy domestic flights.
The stay was great and the string of events within it, twice so. The two conferences welcomed my presence with an unexpected “special guest” title, though I didn’t speak. I screened a short version of my documentary thanks to co-creator Karli Zschogner’s cross-province editing and timeliness and met up with familiar faces in-between hour-to-hour busyness. All in all, it was an unintentionally perspective-altering experience and was, without a doubt, very interesting business. I hope to visit again soon – or travel elsewhere, who knows? “We’ll see”, as my signature phrase goes.
This reserve is better since the last story I wrote. Usually, I’m always busy doing something else or focused on school. I really love the reserve how it is now, rather than the way it was before. There is still bullying around but not as much as before.
But can’t anybody start activities for youth on weekends? I always see kids bored, walking around, or trying to vandalize.
Our community, Naotkamegwanning FN, has been dealing with tricky roads for a long time and they will always be around due to unaffordability and other factors. Over time, most of the community’s members and regular visitors have been able to figure out the pothole hot spots – which makes it less bothersome.
The employed group that officially repairs the community’s potholes is the Operations & Maintenance crew. Though sometimes community members take time out of their days to fix the pothole problem themselves, they only provide a temporary solution. With the help of the O&M crew and community members, we do our best to ensure safe and smoother passage into our great community for visitors and our fellow community members. They always do a great job and they always make the roads smooth as they can be. Those people are always thanked and very appreciated for the repairs on our roads.