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Dear Ms. Wynne – Please save Big Falls for the NamekosipiiwAnishinaape

By Kiishikaatikokwe, Carolyn Spicer

September 25, 2013

The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier,
Room 281, Main Legislative Building,
Queen’s Park,
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1A1

Re:  Plans of Horizon Inc. to build a dam across our traditional migratory route, Trout Lake River, at Big Falls

Dear Ms Wynne:

I am from Namekosipiink, Trout Lake, Ontario, and am a descendant of signatories to Treaty #3.  My ancestors, along with the Lac Seul and Sturgeon people, signed the adhesion to the treaty in June 1874.  The NamekosipiiwAnishinaape community is the most northerly community of Treaty #3.  When the surveyors came to mark out the reservation boundaries, it late in the fall and decided not to go any further north than Lac Seul.  They never came back and thus we never did get a reserve.  However, we are still a community, even thought we are dispersed all across this great Turtle Island.

Neither the Ministry of Natural Resources nor the Horizon company consulted with us in any meaningful way.  They said that we did not fit the legal definition of a community as defined by the Indian Act.  We have opposed the building of the dam because we still use the same migration route that our ancestors used for hundreds and hundreds of years.  The river is a place of traditional education and camping and recreation.  The Falls themselves are of huge cultural significance to us.  The land around is sacred to us, we have ceremonies there.  We have made an Order II request to the Ministry of the Environment and we have not yet received a response from them.  While we await their response, we are continuing work with a petition in opposition to the dam and we invite you to learn more about our situation.

The following are some quotes from letters written by our people. Their eloquence and passion are moving.

“Ninkii’ishinikaataamin Mitatimipaawitikonk.  Wiinke kii’waasawan kaakii’ishiwichikeyaank.  We spent one winter on the river, built an upright log house, about 50 feet long, it was called a shaapotawaank.  It had three holes on the peak of the roof for three fires on the ground.  There were no windows.  The door was a piece of canvas.  The men didn’t have any nails or a saw, just an axe.  It was held together by the way its ends were carved to fit and hold it all together.  I loved sleeping in there, it was warm on the branches we slept on and I could see the stars through the roof.  They made a misikiwaam where all the cooking was done.  They built a tesaako’ikan high above the ground where they kept the meat frozen all winter and trout hanging from the cross poles.  We left that cabin in the spring when we went back to Lac Seul.”  (Sam Southwind)

We used to trap there.  We’d see lots of beaver and muskrats there, even in the winter when the falls were frozen over.  (Ida Kenny)

It is my history, and we must also protect our clean waters and land for our future generations.  (Lorraine Trout)

In my old age, the ways of my parents and the ancestors before them are becoming more and more important to me.  In my old age, the  river and all its stories are becoming more and more important.  (John Paul Kejick)

….. from the time of my birth, the Trout Lake River, NamekosipiiwiSiipii, has always been important.  I have memories as a child being in our canoes for several days and camping at different places along the river.  One of my earliest memories is about Big Falls.  My father was taking my and my older brothers to Lac Seul so we could go to school at Pelican Falls.  Of course, the whole family went, except for my older sister who stayed in Trout Lake to work at one of the tourist camps.

I remember going back on the portage trail, to where my dad was, at the top of the falls, preparing to bring another load of stuff.  The hill is pretty steep there and as I was going down, I started running and I couldn’t stop.  I yelled at my dad to catch me and he told me to fall down but I couldn’t.  He did catch me before I went into the water.  That is one of my stories from Big Falls.  (Josie Angeconeb)

….. sound is important to aspects of our spirituality and to some extent, the constant sound of the water at Big Falls is a continuation and perhaps a reminder of that original and sacred sound of creation. Some might even say that the sound of Big Falls is an auditory reminder of our responsibilities to live respectfully on and do our best to care for all of our relations with whom we share this earth. I would even go so far as to state that the voice of our Creator is expressed through the sound; the roar; of Big Falls. I fear a hydroelectric dam would distort and even silence this beautiful way of listening for the voice of our Creator.  (Leslie King)

Building a dam will only damage something that is already a gem the way it is naturally. It would be nice to see at least one place that humans don’t mess with, and just appreciate it as is. Leave it alone!  (Pauline King Shannon)

In my mind and in my dreams I have seen the beauty and the sound of running water through Big Falls …I have dreamed of the medicines that are plentiful in and around the waterways of Trout lake and the river system.. Perhaps the dreams I have are mandates from Creator to remind me that The river holds important plant life and animal life that need this system to survive as well as my people… Idle no more… Grandson of Chiipwat.  (Brian Angeconeb Rae)

Big Falls, to me, is full of those sacred sounds that remind me of my place in creation and of my responsibilities to live in a good way with all of creation. This includes speaking up for those whose voices are not always heard and are threatened with silence, such as those voices present in the rushing waters of Big Falls.  (Les King)

My ancestors travelled the Trout Lake River as a part of their seasonal life style.  They have names for every rapid, falls, tributary and lake along the way.  The names reflect a full and rich story of their lives along the Trout Lake River.  They can tell you where the water, going upriver, begins to show the clear water of Trout Lake, which waters come from the Joyce and Woman Lakes.  They know where the medicine plants are plentiful, where the waterfowl breed, where the osprey and eagles nest.  The river is full of the stories of our ancestors, and even if we don’t know them right now, we will.  Those stories will come back to us, as well as the customs and practices that we have lost due to historical and intergenerational trauma. We have also begun to make our own stories on this river that we will pass on to our future generation.  (Marney Stevens-Vermette)

I am very much against the drowning and flooding of this beautiful territory. Do not damage my birthplace and the memories of those who have lived here before my family and me. We are coming back to our territory and we want to be able to share this land with our children. The devastation of the land cannot be undone.   (Rhonda Lee McIsaac)

When we are at the cabin on the river, we still get our water from Big Falls.  The water is clear at the bottom of the falls on the west side of the island.  This is also where we fish.    This is a beautiful place.  I think it is really romantic here, a place to reflect and remember.  (Mary Capay)

I am 15 years old and I recognize the immense downside of building a dam. Not only is it dangerous for people surrounding the area, whether it be by heavy metal pollution or interrupting food sources. Think about the wild life, our animals have already dealt with the many hells we have given them, why make their lives harder.  (Shayne Stevens-Campeau)

In the traditional territory of the NamekosipiiwAnishinaape people, we are struggling to defend our historic migratory canoe routes.  Each year, our small community follows the water trails of our ancestors up and down the Trout Lake River.  Our women, especially the young women, will share their tremendous knowledge and teachings about water as they undertake their work to save Big Falls.  (Kaaren Dannenmann)

When we were children, we were always told to look after the land and the water.  Especially the girls.  We were shown how to use tobacco to talk to the water, to ask for safety and fair winds.  Whenever a thunder storm comes up and we have to go across the lake, we put tobacco in the water so the wind and the waves won’t be so strong.  (Sarah Jane King)

Our beliefs, history and culture thrive on this land and these waters.  There are many teachings and medicines that still remain at Big Falls.  My concerns are for the falls and the surrounding areas of Trout Lake, Little Trout Lake, Ear Falls and many others.  I am not only speaking of land but of the life that our Mother the Earth gave us to protect – our Nation, the wildlife, all the Land and water. (Jenny Angeconeb)

Although I don’t remember ever being at Big Falls, I know my father grew up making the twice annual trips down and up the river.  His parents, Chiipwat and Kweyesh, made these river trips every year.  These ancestral migrations are still imprinted in my memory, through the memories of my parents.  The memories that are also a part of the stories of the Land and waters.  (Martha Angeconeb)

What do we want for Big Falls?  We have never allowed the disruptions of our life ways on the lake and river to terminate our stewardship of the area.  Each year, we still paddle its waters, camp at Big Falls.  We are looking after the portages, keeping the river navigable for future generations of story-tellers.  We want a camp ground established at Big Falls, so that our stories, our teachings can have a wider audience.  We want the river trails maintained, scenic lookout spots re-established, we want to preserve the shorelines from further erosion, set up new information plaques that are more about our story.  (Kaaren Dannenmann)

Premier Wynne, I am asking if you could please intervene on our behalf.  I thank you for your time.  Kichi Miikwech!

Yours very truly,

Kaaren Dannenmann