By BRENDA ODJICK, THE LOW DOWN – Published on: July 8th, 2015
We are the members of a newly established council called Memengweshii. Inspired by ancestral Algonquin-Anishinabe practices, the council is a non-political group made up of Algonquin-Anishinabe women from various communities that have come together in support of Zibi, the world’s most environmentally and socially sustainable mixed-use community that will be developed in the heart of Algonquin-Anishinabe territory. As engaged members of our community, we are assuming our responsibility and taking steps that will advance our people.
We are responding to a submission by Suzanne Keeptwo called A Scared Space that was published in the Low Down’s Valley Voices regarding Victoria Island on June 17. Unfortunately for the readers of the Low Down who have long been so supportive of First Nations issues, Ms. Keeptwo’s article does not tell an honest story about this project and the people involved. It was factually incorrect on many fronts and potentially libellous on others. It is a damaging pattern Ms. Keeptwo has followed in our own local newspaper, the Anishinabek News, for which we received a printed apology just this week.
We understand that the issues are complex when forging new and healthy relationships between First Nations and non-First Nations, and journalistic integrity is going to be essential to realize a bigger vision of reconciliation for our people. Following on the steps of Truth and Reconciliation, it will take an openness to root out the use of lies and stereotyping (what we in our community call lateral violence) and to forge a new conversation grounded in a spirit of friendship.
We are so encouraged having followed what Chelsea and Wakefield and other communities within the Low Down’s readership have done to welcome and learn from the Nishiyuu Walkers and the community of Kitigan Zibi, where some of our Council members live. As with the example of the openness of Chelsea and Wakefield residents to the Nishiyuu Walkers, which then catalyzed into a true friendship and a learning through events such as the Cree movie screenings, the blanket exercise, and the paddle to Victoria Island, the Memengweshii Council looks to Zibi as the catalyst for a new relationship on a bigger scale, in an urban development context.
So many are needed to help foster the conditions where friendships bloom and conflict evolves to collaboration.
Brenda Odjick is chair of the Memengweshii Council and Fellow to the United Nations Indigenous Fellowship Programme.