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Last week in Ontario Canada was a massive continental gathering of environmental activists, indigenous people supporters, and human rights groups. The gathering was called by Grassy Narrows, a First Nations tribe in Canada that has been fighting the Canadian government and major logging companies for years for their illegal logging on their territory and destruction of precious forest that cannot be replaced and for disturbing the delicate eco-balance of our earth.

The Grassy Narrows original territory granted them in a treaty in the late 1800's, occupies close to 4,000 square kilometers within an area known as the Boreal Forest. The Boreal Forest is roughly thirteen times the size of California and stretches from Alaska to Western Canada in the northern part of the country. It forms part of the "green halo" of forest directly below the artic tundra that helps to buffer global warming, regulate the earth's climate, provides the richest most abundant source of organic carbon in the world, and the Boreal wetlands filter much of the water that empties into the northern lakes and rivers.

Their territory consists of many lakes and rivers with the water flowing into the Arctic watershed. The forest is abundant with different types of wildlife: moose, deer, martens, rabbits, beaver, foxes, wolves, bears, eagles, and various birds. Local medicinal plants are known and used by the Grassy Narrows’ people, including treatments for diabetes, heart, sterility and skin problems.
Because of unsustainable logging practices of two major companies, Weyerhaeuser and Abitibi, the Boreal forest is under threat: Using highly mechanized industrial techniques, their logging creates massive clear-cuts virtually overnight. These clear-cuts destroy trap lines, eliminate berry and medicine patches, damage the soils, and disrupt wildlife populations and game animals, including woodland caribou and pine martin. Rather than allowing natural regeneration, Abitibi and Weyerhaeuser scar the land, aerially spraying herbicides, and re-planting ecologically barren monoculture tree plantations. Weyerhaeuser is one of the world's largest logging companies with a history of stealing resources and devastating local communities. Abitibi company removes 13.6 million cubic meters of wood from the forest every year. Much of this wood goes to junk mail, catalogues, magazines, newspapers, and toilet paper. The US is the number one consumer of wood coming from the Boreal forest. Approximately 50% of their land has been destroyed thus far.

A blockade on a logging road was organized in December of 2002 by Grassy Narrows activists to stop these companies from going into their land and destroying it: sparking the longest standing and highest profile indigenous logging blockade in Canadian history.
They do this, not only because it is their land but because the practices of these companies are ruining the precious life blood of the earth. Four years later, logging is still taking place on remote sections of their land where the community does not have the resources to block all of the logging roads in their territory. Weyerhaeuser and Abitibi refuse to stop the logging, leave the land and respect the community’s right to self-determination within their traditional territory.

The Earth Justice Gathering last week at the grassy narrows blockade was organized by ForestEthics and the Rainforest Action Network who were invited to work with the Indigenous people in their struggle. In a letter written by a Grassy Nations' council, they said, "..As well, we invite all supporters of social and ecological justice to come stay on our land at the Slant Lake Blockade for the Earth Justice Gathering July 10-16. Come show your support for our common fight to protect the forest and our Indigenous rights. Come meet us, see our reality first hand, train, learn, share your knowledge, swim in the lakes, walk in the forest, and prepare to bring this struggle into the cities, offices, legislatures and retailers of your area. We are all accountable to the earth. Take responsibility, join with us and do your part in the fight to protect the earth and our common future. "

The week was filled with workshops, info sharing, networking, and solidarity. On Thursday, July 13th, the gathering of folks from all over North America took to the streets, shutting down traffic on the Trans Canada highway, blocking off a major interstate in protest at the government's lack of acknowledgement of their plight and to let their cause be known. They had a massive banner that said, "Save the Boreal Forest". On Friday, Canadian police illegally entered Grassy Narrows territory and arrested 9 members of the Six Nations tribe who had come to the gathering in solidarity with their brothers.

Brian Skye, a citizen of the Cayuga Nation Wolf Clan of the Six Nations Confederacy, said,
"This is a clear act of police intimidation -an attempt to suppress legitimate dissent and stifle the growing movement for indigenous rights through force without addressing the serious grievances at the root of this issue, nor their political implications, ". David Stone, an organizer for the Rainforest Action Network said, "..arresting Native people as they assert their rights is a clear act of racism. The government must deal with the root issue of fundamental human rights in a honorable way, on a Nation to Nation basis, not with force. Police should not be used to suppress the inherent rights of First Nations or to interfere in legitimate political disputes."

For more information, go to http://www.friendsofgrassynarrows.com

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