Fire / Feu

Terre mère et la coupe du bois

Dan Ennis, de la Première nation de Tobique, maintient que le conflit de la coupe du bois sur les terres de la Couronne prend racine dans l’avarice, que ce soit du côté du gouvernement ou des Premières nations. Chaque partie se fait un plaisir de s’accrocher, à tord et à travers, aux droits des autochtones et aux droits de la personne.

Il nous rappelle que ses ancêtres exploitaient respectueusement la nature, afin de subvenir à leur besoin. La conservation allait de soi dans un environnement dépourvu de polluants. Par ailleurs, le partage était une valeur défendue avec vigueur. Voilà en quoi consistaient les droits des autochtones et les droits de la personne.

Après avoir été sous le joug des Européens et de leurs descendants pendant plus de 500 ans, les Premières nations ont en quelque sorte été dénaturées. En voyant leurs droits reniés, les membres des Premières nations ont énormément souffert et ont été profondément blessés. D’après l’auteur, Dan Ennis, l’avarice de la lignée d’Européens qui a tant fait de mal aux Premières nations se trouvent aujourd’hui présente chez certains membres des Premières nations. Il trouve regrettable que le partage et le respect de la nature aient été si commodément oubliés, au profit de l’accumulation des biens personnels.

Earth Mother 
and the People:

The True Meaning of Aboriginal Rights

Dan Ennis
Tobique First Nation
June 1998

t.gif (259 bytes)here has been considerable discussion over the years about aboriginal rights and human rights. Now, with the conflict over the rights to cut wood on crown lands, we hear these expressions tossed around more than ever, often by individuals on both sides of the conlict who have no idea what aboriginal rights, or even human rights, actually means. What exactly are aboriginal rights any way? What are human rights? And what about birthrights? Do we as Native people have any of these rights?

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(photo: Mary Ann Coleman)

"Our heritage was built on sharing and respect. Conservation was natural."

For me, it is simple. Aboriginal rights, human rights and birthrights should all be the same thing. But for the Native person, they are not.

I, like my ancestors before me, was born an aboriginal with a deep and loving connection to our sacred Earth Mother. That connection goes back to the beginning of our existence and it brings with it a sense of responsibility and respect for the Earth Mother. Our people were expected to take care of our sacred Earth Mother; that was a responsibility given to us from time immemorial. In turn, our sacred Earth Mother would sustain us. It was a simple, mutually respectful relationship. That was our birthright, our human right, our aboriginal right.

It was also our birth/human/aboriginal right to use our own language, determine our own destiny, conduct our own ceremonies, follow our own spiritual ways, maintain our sovereignty, raise and educate our own children, build our own institutions, and care for our own land, which was originally called Turtle Island. These basic rights ensured peace and equity in our communities. People did not go without. Only what was needed -- wood, food, fish, deer, moose, etc. -- was used, and always, there was thought of the generations yet to come. Our heritage was built on sharing and respect. Conservation was natural. There were no toxins dumped into our rivers. We did not deplete fish, game or anything, for that matter. And we did not destroy our forests. Creator made us the Custodians of the land and our ancestors took our responsibility seriously. Greed was not a part of our birthright.

Things have changed. After the European invasion of our land, a Eurocentric government determined what our rights would be. Even today, the non-Native, updated versions of human rights have been thrust on us. Canadian government legislation and policies have decided what is in our best interest, even though they have never lived in our skin or felt the connection that has been handed down by our ancestors. It's like trying to make a carrot behave like a cucumber: they are both vegetables, but one has grown in the earth, while the other has grown on top. There are differences.

I, like many of my generation, cannot speak my Maliseet language, thanks to Canadian legislation. Many Native people lost their children to residential schools, their independence, their means of livelihood, and their land. There is no equity or peace which was my birthright. Even the right to practice spiritual beliefs and customs was outlawed. All of these things took place as a direct result of Canadian government legislation.

Taking away our birth/human/aboriginal rights was wrong. It is genocidal and goes against the laws of Creator, and it has caused terrible damage in the hearts and minds of aboriginal peoples everywhere. But, regardless of all that has happened, or should I say because of what has happened over the past 500 years, we as human beings must continue to act responsibly toward our sacred Earth Mother. We, as aboriginal people, must remember, live-by and preserve those original instructions, those traditional teachings, to love, honour, respect and protect our sacred Earth Mother. That is our only hope of surviving the holocaust that is taking place against our Earth Mother, against our people and all natural living human beings.

Sadly, the holocaust that is taking place in our forests is being perpetrated by some of our Native people, and for the same rationale that was used by our oppressors: greed. This greed is being disguised by "wannabe white" Natives as economic necessity. Some cry, "I only want to feed and clothe my family," but they are really talking and acting like businessmen who see a way to accumulate wealth. They speak of profits and growing into large companies. Unfortunately, the concept of sharing doesn't enter into it for many. In most cases the notion of conservation for the generations yet unborn is never considered, and our sacred Earth Mother is not respected. That is nothing more than personal greed.

As aboriginal people, as human beings, and as the designated protectors of the land, we have a responsibility to all living things, all of creation: the two-legged, the four-legged, those creatures that fly, all creatures that swim, all plant life, the trees, the water, the air, the land -- every living thing. It is our responsibility to love, honour, respect and protect all creation. In doing this we honour our birthrights, our human rights, our aboriginal rights, and the Ancestors who kept our traditional teachings alive. We honour the Seventh Generation, yet to come. That is the root of out Aboriginal/human/birth rights. These are the rights we need to understand and defend. These are the rights we must be allowed.

I conclude this article by recognizing, acknowledging and respecting my relationship to all other living things, past, present and future. Our sacred Earth Mother requires our respect if she is to continue to sustain us. ALL MY RELATIONS.