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COVER:
Grassy Narrows Fights for their Future


BIOGRAPHY
Eskasoni's Icon: Seymour Doucette


Sophie Pierre, Lifetime Achiever Seeks a Better Future for Children

BUSINESS
Tobacco Road Revisited

Interior First Nations Awarded Forest Licenses

BOOKS
Fatherhood, History, and Art

CULTURE
A Mother's Prayer for Son's Safe Return

EDUCATION
CHIP Hospitality "Future Tourism Leaders" Scholarship

HUMOUR
Bee in the Bonnet: Circle the Wagon

MODERN TREATIES
Top Court to Determine Scope of Metis Rights

Tobacco Road Revisited
By
Dr. John Bacher

The terrible way of organized crime disguised by the rhetoric of the Warrior's Society, which peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s in Iroquois country, had its roots in the assault on the lands held sacred by native people through the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway during the 1950s.

This was a decade in which basic political rights, such as the vote, were denied to native Canadians, which crippled their voices to protest the assault suddenly unleashed on their ancestral lands.

The assault on the Seaway was combined with the other invasion of other Iroquois lands. This included the preliminary Oka Golf course and the construction of dams, which flooded much of the New York State reservations of the Tuscarora and Seneca; including the Cold Spring Longhouse from which emerged the sacred message of the peace prophet, Handsome Lake.

The assaults on the earth in the homeland of Iroquois launched a complex and complimentary toxic brew of hatred, deadly chemicals, polluted waters, violence, racism, corruption and despair. Once again, war and terror came to a land that had not seen violent political conflict since the Saskatchewan Metis Rebellion of the 1880s.

Turning the turbulent St. Lawrence into a canalized channel for ocean commerce was pushed forward by right wing Republicans prominent in the presidential administration of Dwight Eisenhower.

Similar business tycoons influential today in the U.S. presidential administration of George Bush are trying to further expand the Seaway to larger ships, for the same narrow interests of the polluting coal, automobile and steel industries.

They remain blind to the widespread contamination this would cause through the introduction of more exotic marine species and the destruction of islands and shoals by dredging and explosions.

The 1950s Seaway scheme was born out of another tragic episode: the ecocidal invasion of the Innu homeland, Nitasssinan. Until this decade, the homeland of the Innu of Quebec and Labrador remained pristine wild lands, where these people were able to continue to live through a traditional subsistence economy, respectful of the vast herds of caribou that teemed their land.

Then an industrial assault suddenly appeared in a virulent form through iron ore mines, since abandoned, in the interior of Quebec and Labrador. These were serviced through a new train line to the port of Sept Isles blasted through old growth boreal forests. The main reason for the construction of the Seaway was to get iron - marginally cheaply for a few decades - from Sept Isles to steel refineries in Ohio.

For short-term steel industry profits, enormous harm was done to the earth during an era when native Canadians could not vote and environmental assessment legislation did not exist. The greed of a few well-placed plutocrats in the Republican Eisenhower Administration devastated the traditional native subsistence economy based on fishing.

An abundance of marine life had nourished Mohawk communities along the St. Lawrence for more than a thousand years, since the valley had been part of Iroquois territory from time immemorial. When Jacques Cartier arrived at what is now Quebec City he found a large Iroquois community numbering in the thousands. The plagues brought about by Europeans compelled the Mohawks to retreat to the central New York area until they had regained sufficient population to return to their ancestral territories.

Organized crime lays roots
One of the leading and courageous foes of the drift to organized crime is Kanentiio, a Mohawk journalist and author, more widely known as Doug George, who for many years braved the gunfire of the Warrior's Society and their organized crime allies.

Despite bearing the brunt of considerable hostility from these elements, involving serious threats on his life, and a period of imprisonment from a trumped up charge manipulated by the Quebec government's of dam building maniac, Robert Bourassa, George has no hesitation in tracing their origins to the greedy devastation of the St. Lawrence for the Seaway's construction.

In his book Iroquois Culture and Commentary, published by Clear Light Press in 2000, George describes the great bounty of the St. Lawrence before the coming of the Seaway. Before its completion on the dark day of April 25, 1959, he recalls:

"A family could do well on the river. Like the lifeblood of our mother, it provided all one needed to survive. The rapids scoured the water clean so that when the river finally slowed at Akwesasne, it was a shimmering green. The turbulence brought a rush of rich oxygen into the waters.

Species of fish such as sturgeon, walleye, northern pike, trout and salmon took to the rich beds with excitement. When the ice surrendered in defiant, crashing roars in the spring, the fish began to run, spawning by the millions. A family working together, with gill nets and spears, could catch enough bullheads in two weeks to care of their financial needs for a year."

George stresses that the problems caused by the drowning of the St. Lawrence rapids causing former fish breeding ground to be choked with weeds, were compounded by the toxic contamination unleashed by new industries that located in the region to take advantage of heap hydro power.

"Powerful, arrogant and flush with cash, companies such as Reynolds Aluminum, the Aluminum Company of America, Domtar, Courtland Textiles, and General Motors built new factories or expanded old ones along the St. Lawrence. Employing thousands of workers in upstate New York, they became virtual lords of the St. Lawrence."

Fluoride contamination from an aluminum refinery in Massena, New York, resulted in the demise of cattle farming. After Mohawk fish consumption was reduced by pollution, the rate of adult-diabetes began to soar. Captured fish became too toxic to use for garden fertilizer.

The slow process of environmental litigation and cleanup eventually revealed some of the scope of corporate abuse of the St. Lawrence. The Alcoa refinery eventually received a $3.75 million fine, the largest criminal penalty ever assessed in the history of the United States, for a hazardous waste violation. A foundry of General Motors in Massesna was convicted of illegally dumping 31,000 tons of PCB contaminated waste.

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