Who are the Neskantaga?
A people united, determined, and committed to protecting their lands and water
Many of you will remember the hunger strike by Chief Theresa Spence, who camped out on Parliament Hill for 6 weeks to draw attention to the drinking water crisis in Ontario’s north. That was 2013.
Here we are, in 2021, and despite speeches, anguished calls to action and plenty of development in the north, Chief Spence’s community — and neighbouring Neskantaga — still lack clean household drinking water.
A friend of mine, a physiotherapist, came to visit me while I was working in Africa a few years back. She noticed the same repetitive stress injuries on people’s necks and shoulders that she’d seen working in Indigenous communities in Canada’s north. “People sustain injuries from lifting heavy buckets of water over time,” Jodie explained. “The women I see on remote Canadian reserves are dealing with the same issues as people in the poorest countries in the world.”
That is not right.
Despite the fact that they’ve spent 25 years without the basic necessities of life, Neskantaga are not victims. They are, with the legal action launched last week, taking charge of their future and standing up for their rights in a challenge that stands to throw a wrench in the reckless path of mining development in the “Ring of Fire”.
If the powers that be cannot address the fundamental rights of Indigenous Peoples, they have no business rushing through complex industrial development on Indigenous territory. Neskantaga are not going to sit idly by watching billions of dollars of infrastructure be installed for the mining equivalent of tar sands that will severely damage and, in places, destroy the land and waters they depend on.
We can make a real impact here, helping draw a firm line that tells the Ontario government it cannot run roughshod over the rights of a community that is united, determined, and 100% committed to uphold Anishinaabe protocols of decision-making and governance.
Thank you for taking a stand. We appreciate you giving what you can, and spreading the word about this important campaign.