Manoominikedaa Neyaashing by Jana-Rae Yerxa
Finally! My grandfather, who is seventy four years old, and my grandmother, who is seventy three years old, will finally get to roast rice on this part of our land for the very first time. I am grateful that we will get to do this together. Harvesting and preparing manoomin has always been a way of life for Anishinaabeg. I remember as a young child playing outside my Great Grandfather’s house and watching him prepare the rice as he would dance on it. This was my first introduction tomanoomin. He always welcomed us young ones, to take breaks from running around and playing hide n seek, and to dance on the rice. I didn’t realize it then that these were teachings of responsibility that he, along with manoomin, were instilling in us. Needless to say, our breaks from play were always welcomed, from the old man, to what seemed like ‘cooler’ play as we took off our shoes placing our little feet in the deep holes that were dug into the ground as we, too, danced on the rice.
As a kid growing up in the 80s, the year 2009 seemed so far away. So far away, that to my young mind, it was questionable if it would ever arrive. This was a year that many Anishinaabeg in my area had looked forward to for a very, very long time. As far back as I can remember I knew this to be true just as my father knew this to be true; just as my grandfather and grandmother knew this to be true; just as my great grandfather knew this to be true; and who knows who else before him. With the much anticipated arrival of the year 2009, came the long awaited end of an unjust ninety-nine year lease of Anishinaabeg land, where the Town of Fort Frances would no longer hold possession of our land and the land would finally be returned…or so we thought.
In 1910, our land was leased to the Town of Fort Frances. Despite the expiration of the lease on May 1, 2009, the town is maintaining that the land belongs to the municipality. Hence, four First Nation communities- Couchiching; Mitaanjigamiing, Nigigoonsiminikaaning, and Naicatchewenin- are currently in dispute utilizing the land claims process, against the Town of Fort Frances, and the federal and provincial governments, to fight for what we have always known to be ours. The dispute over land involves 35 acres commonly known as Pither’s Point Park. ‘The Point,’ as it is often referred to, has become a popular recreational area near Rainy Lake. What’s ironic about the land I am speaking of is that after the lease came into effect it was renamed Pither’s Point Park after a crooked Indian Agent and thief- Mr. Pither. Actually, I guess it’s not really that ironic at all because that is what in fact happens through the occurrences of colonial processes- the erasure of Indigenous place names with colonial ones in an attempt to present the illusion of legitimacy and connection to place.
Engaging in the politics of recognition through colonial court processes for external validation of what we already know- in the case of the Point knowing that the land is Anishinaabeg land and must be returned- is dis-empowering and full of frustration. Through on-going colonial assaults and the naturalization of colonialism, our battle is not only in the physical realm and takes place over disputes about land but has also become a psychological war zone for our own minds. Our minds have become disinfected with colonial mentalities which perpetuate and reinforce our disconnection from our Anishinaabeg ways of life which are rooted in land based practices. The psychological battle, that some of us have not even awoken to yet, limits our capacity to think outside the colonial constructs where we strongly buy into the politics of recognition. One of the clearest ways we have been conditioned through colonial assaults is to look externally for resolution rather than living up to each of our own responsibilities as Anishinaabeg. This is where we begin to buy completely into the colonial court system to acknowledge that the land is ours or leave the responsibility only to ‘band council’ to act, while simultaneously negating to acknowledge or even tap into our own responsibility and power. This is not a critique of Chief and Council or even a critique of our dissatisfaction with present day realities. However, it is to highlight the importance of what we centre as well as the strength that comes with living our words by stepping up, being responsible and engaging in a politics of accountability rather than a politics of recognition. When we are coming from a place of politics rooted in accountability, which is encouraged through thinking critically and living consciously, space is created where we become aware of our connection, making it possible to honour relationships.
That is why tomorrow, September 14, 2013, Manoominikedaa Neyaashing, is happening. This is a momentous event for Anishinaabeg. In my opinion, it is one of the most powerful acts we could engage in, as Anishinaabeg, to live our responsibility and to be accountable to our ancestors, the land and one another. Tomorrow we are occupying our traditional lands, where our ancestors have always gathered, and we are going to prepare manoomin with one another. Tomorrow we are centering our own Anishinaabeg interpretations of Treaty and asserting our own notions of nationhood.
Manoominikedaa Neyaashing “Let’s Make Wild Rice at the Point”
When: Sept 14th, 2013
Time: 7 AM – 7 PM
Place: Neyaashing (aka Pither’s Point Park)
Drinks & Snacks Provided
For More Information contact: Ed Yerxa or Debbie Fairbanks (807) 274-4297