Canada: Anishnabe Life - Land Lost and Broken Spirit On Occupied Territories
Text and photography: Marc-André Pauzé
“Anishnabe Life” is the second part of a work in progress project. Photojournalist and nurse specialized in backcountry medecine, Marc-Andre Pauzé will report from various canadians indigenous communities in a in-depth documentary, to document daily life and First Nations actual realities.
Occupied territories. When we ear about these land lost to political turmoil, we often think about Palestine, Gaza or other far away places. But Anishnabe are living on occupied territories as internally displaced people in Canada.
Internally displaced people (IDPs), as we learn on the UNHCR website, are people forced to flee their homeland without crossing an international border due to armed conflict, generalized violence, human rights violations or environmental disasters.
The Algonquin People, or Anishnabe as they call them self, are an Amerindian First Nation of Canada. They were once living in the vast laurentian forest of Quebec as a hunter-gatherer society. For the last century, canadian government established reserves trying to settle these nomads, forcing them to rely on the government support to sustain a living.
Up until a few decades ago, the government forced children to leave their families and sent them to residential school, where they could not speak their language. Two years ago, the Prime Minister Harper apologized for these past mistakes. But sequels of these situation, among others, are still present.
With the intensified presence of settlers and the desire to return to traditional activities, some communities left these reserves and squatted on land that was once theirs. They encountered conflicts with land exploitation by the new comers.
These aboriginals are among the poorest citizens of a country member of the G8, often living in conditions not dislike what one can find in some developing countries.
The Anishnabe (Algonquin) of the Long Point First Nation in northern Quebec has been repeatedly uprooted over the last century to make way for colonial and agricultural development at first and now for industrial development of their lands. They now live on a half a square kilometer plot of land known as the Winneway community.
Because the community has lost access to much of its traditional land, and activities, it created new health and social problems with greater dependence on welfare.
With the loss of land access, they also lost cultural references, language and values. Poverty, unemployment, use of drugs and alcohol, are among social issues that are the foundation of violence and self-destructive habits in native community.
The Anishnabe of Winneway have never given up any rights to their lands. They are excluded from decisions about the use of their traditional lands and it has led to anger and social problems. These negative feeling have been passed to younger generations and result in a broken spirit for the Anishnabe peoples.
According to an Amnesty International Study, “the exclusion of the community from decision-making ignores (…) a series of judgements of the Supreme Court of Canada. They state that federal and provincial governments have a constitutional obligation to consult Aboriginal peoples and accommodate their concerns in every decision that could affect their rights. The exclusion of the Anishnabe also disregards the international human rights principle that the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples must be obtained, especially in decisions affecting their lands and resources.”
Canada, with USA and Australia, still refuse to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, although the 3 March 2010 Speech from the Throne, in Ottawa, includes the following:
“We are a country with an Aboriginal heritage. A growing number of states have given qualified recognition to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our Government will take steps to endorse this aspirational document in a manner fully consistent with Canada’s Constitution and laws.”
Even though they have been sharing the same country for 400 years, very few canadians visit amerindian communities, and they don’t know them. There are few modern documents of their daily life.
After having spent many months documenting the Anishnabe community situation in 2008, I returned in may 2009, with Amnesty International and on my own since then, to continue that documentation work. Here’s the result, so far, from these reporting, focusing on other dimensions, apart from statistics about social issues or folklore imagery.
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