North Bay Nugget
As travellers in southern Ontario struggled with detours, barricaded roadways and cancelled trains, the First Nation day of action left some local residents with a full stomach and a better understanding of one another.
And that’s exactly the way Nipissing First Nation wanted it.
The Assembly of First Nations had called for a national day of protest Friday in and around First Nations across the country.
And although there were demonstrations elsewhere in Northern Ontario, Nipissing First Nation decided their interests would be best served by strengthening the community’s ties with its neighbours, said Perry McLeod-Shabogesic, a councillor with Nipissing First Nation.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better response from our neighbours and from our own community,” he said, noting the large crowd that filled the Nbisiing Secondary School Friday were aboriginals and non-aboriginals alike. “It makes me feel great because when you look at communities, they themselves are made up of smaller communities within them. And whenever you can have the larger community come together, it’s always a good thing.”
McLeod-Shabogesic said he and his council hope Nipissing First Nation will feel comfortable calling on neighbouring municipalities for support from time to time, “for instance, a letter of support or a resolution from our neighbours to add weight to our cause.”
But the feeling didn’t carry over across Ontario. Highway 401 was shut down for 11 hours and rail lines were closed to passengers and freight for even longer as a rogue Mohawk protester ignored calls for a peaceful day.
But at Nbisiing Friday, information booths, a presentation and various placards offered people a look at Nipissing First Nation’s unresolved issues, including the illegitimacy of land surrenders in the early part of the 20th century, as well as contaminated soils at former mining sites.
“In the past, we stood back and watched things go by. We complained a little bit, but we never really had an opportunity to present our point of view,” said Fred McLeod, who studies the Nipissing First Nation land disputes. “Part of today is to tell the people we exist and we’re very much a part of this country and our history is shared.”
Leo McArthur, president and CEO of Miller Paving Ltd., said Friday’s event was a success from his non-aboriginal point of view. Being in the paving business, he said, he works with a lot of First Nations and its nice to learn more about them and just to talk.
“It’s great,” he said. “It’s a real opportunity to meet members of the other communities, and vice versa.”