Report on Indigenize or Die #14: “Indigenous Rights Holders: Indigenous Land Defenders”

How exercising Indigenous Rights represents the best hope for protecting and regenerating our Mother Earth and all life.

We have lost so much. Despite all the rhetoric and “green” laws, the daily attack on the Earth continues. Water, the lifeblood of the Earth continues to be degraded and poisoned. But within the darkness of this landscape there shines a ray of hope – the emerging movement of Indigenous Rights Holders supported by Settler Allies. All over Turtle Island, Indigenous people, led by the women, are standing up for the land and water. 

“Toronto” is recognized as Traditional Anishinaabe Territory with the Rights Holders being the Mississaugas of the New Credit. It is also a major metropolitan city with four river systems and many ravines that are wildlife corridors throughout the city. There are many staff in the city who are deeply committed to the Earth. But change is slow, if it happens at all. Why?

In this session with Kevin Best, the series curator who has been working on merging Indigenous and non-Indigenous actions for restoring the Great Lakes bioregion for more than 20 years, we were joined in conversation by Giidaakunadaad (Nancy) Rowe from Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. We heard about New Credit’s initiatives to protect the land and water and their movement to restore Indigenous Governance in Toronto. We explored the opportunities and challenges in working with government structures, particularly in the areas of planning, education and the rights of Indigenous children.

We explored how exercising Indigenous Rights and re-establishing Indigenous governance are the best, if not the only, hope for protecting the land and water from further assault and beginning the process of regeneration. We looked at how realizing this hope requires spiritual, political, technical and social action. 

The session began with a conversation between Kevin Best and Giidaakenedaad (Nancy) Rowe followed by a circle of introductions, a Q & A and then smaller talking circles. Below you will find notes from three of the talking circles.  

Presenters:

Giidaakunedaad (Nancy) Rowe
Giidaakunadaad n’dizhinikaaz “I am called the spirit who lives in high places”. Nancy Rowe is a Mississauga, Ojibwe of the Aanishinaabek Nation located at New Credit First Nation, ON. Nancy holds an honors BA in Indigenous Studies and Political Science. She is an educator, consultant and a Traditional Practitioner of Aanishinaabek lifeway’s, views and customary practices and is currently completing a Master’s degree of Environmental Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo. She is an avid volunteer who co-ordinates Kinomaagaye Gaamik, a grass roots initiative to provide educational opportunities for all peoples interested in Indigenous perspectives of life, health, education, history and the environment. “Education is the doorway through which we all can create a common ground and understanding of not only Indigenous Peoples but also, and more importantly, our environment.” She is also part of a newly formed, Indigenous based, initiative of Rivercourt Engineering, a dynamic team of engineers, scientists and social innovators who have been on the forefront of award winning, ecologically and socially integrated design for over 40 years.

Kevin Best, Series Curator
Kevin Best has focused on how to create a just and sustainable society through activism, innovative business and restoring Indigenous society for over four decades. Of mixed descent he identifies as Anishinabeg of the Martin Clan. He has worked with Indigenous people throughout Turtle Island, consulted to Greenpeace and pioneered green energy in Ontario. He is currently working on a start-up called Odenaansan (Village or “the little places where my heart is”), an integrated, culturally-based approach to restoring Minobimadzin (the good life) through sustainable food, energy, housing and water in Anishinabe communities. Passionate about decolonization and re-indigenization, he is committed to spreading understanding of these life-giving possibilities. He is Managing Director of Rivercourt Engineering.

Notes from some of the talking circles:

Groups were offered the following suggested flow to guide their sharing:

  • Thinking about all that you have experienced this evening, what specific words, phrases or images still linger in your mind? 
  • What intrigued you or excited you about what you have heard?
  • Where did you feel most challenged? 
  • What questions remain? 
  • How might non-indigenous allies play a part in this process we have heard about this evening? 
  • What would you like to carry forward from this evening? 

They were invited to reflect on what the world needs to know from their discussion, and to record key points on a flip chart. Here are the points some of the groups recorded: