Judy Da Silva and Roberta Keesik are members of the Grassy Narrows First Nations community in Northwestern Ontario, Canada.

Since 2003, RAN has provided ongoing support to Grassy Narrows through Protect an Acre . Small grants were made for speaking tours throughout Canada, as well as a Women’s Gathering aimed at empowering women within their communities while enhancing and sustaining their culture and inherent rights as first peoples.

Despite widespread opposition, including a three year-long blockade, logging giants Weyerhaeuser and Abitibi Consolidated continue to log on Grassy Narrows traditional lands.  Weyerhaeuser’s Trus Joist mill in Kenora uses almost half the wood cut from the Whiskey Jack Forest--323,726 cubic meters per year.  Weyerhaeuser’s Dryden paper mill uses wood sourced from the Trout Lake Forest to produce paper for Xerox.

This spring, RAN is starting a major initiative working closely with the Grassy Narrows First Nation to assert the community's right to determine the fate of their traditional territory.

Q: How did the blockade start and what compelled you to keep protecting your lands?

JUDY:   It started with three young people that were tired of the forest being destroyed. They went and cut logs on the logging road and tried to make them fall across the road. That forced us to take action, that’s when everybody started getting mobilized and taking action because of what the youth did. We said we’ve got to do something. We’ve got to protect this land because if we don’t, there will be nothing left for the children, or the grandchildren or the great grandchildren.  So that’s how it all started.

ROBERTA: Protecting the land is like protecting ourselves, the Anishnabeg, and everybody else on the earth, and all future generations. That is our responsibility.

You will notice if you go to Kenora how many Native people have been displaced by being forced off their land. Some of them are being forced to live the life that you see them living on the streets. That is part of the reason why we have to protect not just the traplines but the whole area.


Q: What are the corporations doing to your traditional homeland?

JUDY:   There’s Abitibi cutting the softwoods, and there’s Trus Joist and Weyerhaeuser cutting the hardwoods and dumping all these chemicals plus the smoke that goes in the air.  We have all these companies that are taking from the forest and then giving us back disease and sickness and death.

ROBERTA: The forest that has been cut and transformed by bringing in other trees, the continuation of that forest, the history, the blood line, whatever, it is just being destroyed, and that is Abitibi and Weyerhaeuser doing that and that’s not right. It’s no longer a forest. You can’t call the trees that they plant a forest: it’s a tree farm. A plantation is not a forest.

They spray chemicals and when it rains, they flow into the lakes and that affects the land animals, and the water animals and it affects us. That’s all Weyerhaeuser and Abitibi doing that.  It doesn’t just affect us it affects everybody.  Not just the Anishnabeg; all people on earth and everybody should be concerned and do something about it.


Q: What can people do to help?

JUDY:  I’d want the people that are out there to look at  the products that they buy, where does it come from, and for them to know that people are being affected by the things that they buy and paper products.

The forest is so affected by paper and I guess for people to make a knowledgeable decision on the paper products that they use, and if it comes from Weyerhaeuser or Abitibi for them to know that it destroying our people, our way of life.

ROBERTA: They could be cutting down on how much they consume. All things come from the land; the buildings, the steels, the gas, and we are all using them. The public should think about cutting down on what they are consuming.

They could also write letters for us on our behalf. Pressuring the government and pressuring the companies by making them aware will help us. A lot more would really put a stop to what they are doing not just here but everywhere.