Grassy Narrows First Nation marks 13 years as 'the voice of the forest'
Grassroots blockade against logging trucks north of Kenora, Ont. started on Dec. 2, 2002
In the beginning, Randy Fobister of Grassy Narrows First Nation, in northwestern Ontario, disagreed with community members who were stopping logging trucks from entering their traditional territory, but 13 years later the deputy chief says "it's really important the blockade is still there."
A community gathering was held on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of the blockade that started on Dec. 2, 2002.
People continue to maintain the site and "protect the land", Fobister said, even as the community considers whether blockade is the appropriate term for what they're doing. He also balks at the word 'activism'.
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"I think that word protectors, you know protectors of the land," is preferred," he said. "The forest doesn't have a voice, but First Nations people are the voice."
Fobister said in the early days he didn't understand why people were standing in the way of the logging trucks because he was so used to seeing the impact of forestry all around him.
"As I was growing up I noticed the [forested] areas that looked beautiful for as long as I can remember...they'd be gone," he said. "I thought that was normal.
"Thirteen years ago I became aware," he added, offering "great compliments to the grassroots people for starting this."
The work of community members to protect the land now has the support of the chief and council and has also raised awareness at government and industry levels, Fobister said.
Grassy Narrows' stand against industrial logging "is on the map already, government can't say 'we didn't know'," he said.
Ontario's most recent forest management plan includes clear cutting on the traditional territory of Grassy Narrows First Nation.
Fobister said the resistance to the province's plan will continue because "we need that forest — that's our identity."