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.
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.
“Canada’s plan for long-term management of used nuclear fuel is known as Adaptive Phased Management (APM). This plan emerged from a three-year dialogue with Canadians between 2002 and 2005. It reflects best international practice and features considered important by citizens. The federal government selected APM as Canada’s plan in June 2007”.
– Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) Safe and Secure Transportation of Canada’s Used Nuclear Fuel book.
Our community, Whitefish Bay F.N, is part of Canada’s plan for long-term management of used nuclear fuel. NWMO is already in the process of the plan in our area. We are currently being educated about what the NWMO project is, what the plan is, and how the plan and the nuclear fuel are safe. Another thing we are working on is bringing awareness to the project. When’s the last time you heard about Adaptive Phased Management? I am here to learn more about the project and to share all I can with my community. Let’s all learn a little bit more each day, my fellow peoples.
What is used nuclear fuel?
“Nuclear reactors in Canada are fuelled by natural uranium. The uranium is formed into ceramic pellets made from uranium dioxide powder and encased in zircaloy tubes called fuel pencils. These are welded together into bundles the shape of a fireplace log. Each bundle weighs approximately 24 kilograms. Each bundle is made of a strong, corrosion-resistant metal, called zircaloy”.
The Nuclear Fuel Pellet
What I learned is that Fuel Pellets are made from uranium dioxide powder, baked in a furnace to produce a hard, high-density ceramic. Ceramics do not readily dissolve in water and are resistant to wear and high temperatures.
The Fuel Pencil
A fuel pencil is like armour protection – in my head anyway. Fuel pellets are contained in sealed zircaloy metal tubes, called pencils. These are welded together into a cylindrical bundle. I have one bundle in my office! It’s so cool to see what they actually look like. Pay a visit to your local Naotkamegwanning Band Office and check one out, if you’re super curious! (Ask to see NWMO workers)
The Fuel Bundle
Each bundle is composed of fuel pencils and is made of a strong, corrosion-resistant metal, called zircaloy. Fuel bundles are roughly the size of a fire log and weigh approximately 24 kilograms. Before being loaded into a reactor, the radiation hazards associated with unirradiated fuel bundles are relatively low. Radiation dose from unirradiated fuel bundles is in the order of 0.05 mSv/h. When operational in a nuclear reactor, each fuel bundle can generate enough electricity to power up to 100 homes per year!
I thought the same thing any other human being would think: “What are the dangers?”. A lot came to mind, like maybe the nuclear fuel will fall and break, maybe the transports will crash and the nuclear fuel will take damage, maybe the fuel won’t be safe underground and in the future. But all of my concerns were answered over time the more I attended NWMO meetings, read up about it, and spoke more with the people who work with and alongside the Nuclear Waste Management Organization. Canada and the people of this project’s main focus is the safety of every citizen The plan for long-term energy will be 100% safe for our kids, our kids’ kids, and so on. I, Laval, will be here to share all that I can with my community on our country’s future for long-term management of nuclear fuel.
On April 8, 2019, Managing Editor Damon Hunter of the Naotkamegwanning Mazina’igan released his first amateur short film on Youtube. The video was a submission for the charitable non-profit organization, TakingITGlobal.
While taking on a leadership role for participating youth as an audio/interview mentor, he also partook himself, producing the short-film alongside Mazina’igan executives Karli Zschogner and Laval Namaypoke.
The finished product features Ian Crow, Kirby Paul, Sherry Blake, and other prominent supporters in the area of Naotkamegwanning First Nation.
Niigaan mikan waabooz obimikawewin. Mikan mitig ji aabijatooyan, ji bimaakositooyan goysk imaa, ge izhi dadibinaman nagwaaganeyaab ji nagwaazod waabooz. Amii ezhi badakidooyan niizh mitigoon gegekayii, ji ziinjising nagwaaganeyaab. Miinaawaa bookonan zhingobiins amii imaa izhi attoon niigaan nagwaaganeyaabiing.
Ani waabang wiiba gigaa naadagwe daga ji nagwaazod waabooz. Wiiba dash izhaa jibwaa awensii gimoodamik gidagoodoowin.
Go to the bush, find rabbit tracks. Find a place where you will set a snare for the the rabbit. First, find the rabbit tracks. Find a stick to place across for the snare, and then wrap the snare wire on the stick where the rabbit will be snared. Then you will place two sticks, one on each side of the snare to secure the snare. Break a branch and place it in front of the snare.
Next morning, go early and check to see if you snared a rabbit. You will have to go early so an animal does not steal your snare.
On Saturday 19, a local family had gathered a total sum of 39 participants to partake in a fishing derby. The derby was appropriately situated on the frozen Lobstick Bay ice road. With 19 teams of 2 and a large sum of money as the prize, it was reportedly an especially suspenseful event – as suspenseful as the sport of ice fishing can get.
The derby’s organizers, Jyles Copenace and Jolene Fontaine, said they particularly want to fund their daughter Jazlyn’s “Junior Jingle Dress Special”, which has the intended use of honouring her for how far she’s come in life.
Furthermore, the special is expected to be a large gathering which will hopefully help Jazlyn visualize the wide range of supporters surrounding her.
The special is set to happen at the Manito Ahbee Festival between the days of May 15-19, in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
“She’s going to be a young woman pretty soon”, says Jyles. “The people that are going to be helping her with this special are [also] going to be the people that keep helping her through[out] her life. So that’s kind of our way of honouring her at this young age”.
The derby had additionally been held to show respect and acknowledgement for the shockingly recent victims of Canada’s residential schools, especially the ones that prematurely passed.
Due to largely undocumented history, the current statistic is no more than an educated guess. The current estimate for student deaths within residential schools is, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, somewhere in the 3,200-6,000 range. To scale, there were over 150,000 Indigenous persons who attended residential school – many of whom had endured multiple forms of abuse.
To this day, some local elders and adults still recall certain events from these schools. One person, in particular, Jolene Fontaine’s mother, recalls the recurring average of 2 pupils per month going missing, according to Jolene.
“I want to honour the ones that passed on, [the ones] that didn’t get to go home”, Jolene recalls daughter Jazlyn saying.
The event had garnered enough attention that, through word of mouth, found its way to Gindon, who has only been a permanent resident of Canada for 10 years.
Originally from the Philippines, he’s now found joy in fishing. He says he was invited to the event by his friend, Jeff Qi from the Bimose Tribal Council situated in Kenora.
Filleting a fish just metres away was Bill Girard, from Northwest Angle #33. In conversation, Bill revealed that because of his parent’s interracial marriage, he had in turn, lost his Indian status.
It wasn’t until April 1985 that the Canadian government passed Bill C-31, effectively ending the inequality set before indigenous peoples.
He claims to have thankfully never attended a residential school or was ever expected to – a fortunate loophole.
On the flipside, his only education was at a university level, which he claims to have obtained through an indigenous-supportive program. He says he regrets never having a formal education.
At one point in his life, Bill says he worked as a tour guide for people from all corners of the globe. He once spent a day with Wayne Gretzky, touring and cooking for him. This was the highlight of his career, he states.
He also has experience in the traditional powwow scene. He proudly volunteered to work in the Pow Wow Committee for approximately 10 years, he claims. Alongside this, he also claims to have served as an Education Board member for about a decade as well.
All in all, the event was a commendable and diverse get-together with an intriguing idea supporting it.
The winners are as follows:
1st – Tag and Jammice Joseph
2nd – Shannon Rochelle/Dale Cowley
3rd – Terence Gordon Sandy and Samantha Cowley
4th – Murphy Kakeeway and Raven Crow
5th – Fred Morrison
Mystery Weight – Murphy Kakeeway
50/50 – Megan Cowley
Skunk Pot – Marcel Bill Girard