No More! On the blockade at Grassy Narrows – Chrissy Swain (2004)

Art by Sylvia Nickerson

[**Content Warning: Discussion of suicide. – M. Gouldhawke]

No More! by Chrissy Swain

This year has been quite a year for me. It started off pretty slow. I was almost beginning to think that my days of fighting were over. Then somewhere along the way I started to reflect on my life. Just when I felt I wasn’t gonna take this stand anymore, I remembered my commitment to the creator. And that was that. I already committed my entire life to fight for the future generations. I questioned myself why did I make that decision in the first place? It took me a journey and meeting a really good friend to figure it all out for myself. On my journey I got to go to Kanehsatake Mohawk territory. Being here reminded me that in 1990 during the OKA CRISIS, I was 11 years old. That year I tried to commit suicide. I ended up in Winnipeg and from there I somehow ended up at a rally. I was inspired to want to take such a stand for my people here in Grassy Narrows, Ontario. But at 11 years old I didn’t know what. It took losing several friends to suicide, a young man being shot down by OPP, several friends dying from alcohol poisoning realizing that all the things that happened in the last 510 years has affected me as an Anishinabe. This is where it ends. I say No More!!!

I remember an elder once told me on my healing journey that I should start with myself, my family, my community, and then our nation. I never understood that until the day my sister, another young man and I went to lay logs over the road. We did it because we were sick and tired of watching our lives slowly disappear.

We grew up hunting and fishing and just living off the land. We still have our culture and beliefs. That’s what we wanted to save that day. Laying those logs on the road wasn’t just against clearcutting, it was for everything that affects Anishinabek negatively today. We made this stand for the ones who aren’t here yet. And we’ll still stand strong. We don’t want no deals, no negotiations and no compensation.

I say NO MORE!

Chrissy Swain is a youth from the Anishinabe community of Grassy Narrows. In December of 2003, Chrissy and several other youth from Grassy Narrows erected a blockade on their territory to oppose the clear cutting of their forests by Abitibi-Consolidated, a Montreal-based pulp and paper corporation The blockade still stands to this day, a clear sign of the community’s continued struggle for dignity and justice, and for an end to the colonial and exploitative relationship between the Anishinabe Nation and the Canadian state. 

[ Text from pamphlet “Long Before, Long After: 512 Years of Resistance, by the Montreal Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement, 2004(?) ]

Interview with Bonnie Swain by Lyn Highway

[ Excerpt from the article “A Community in Resistance” by Lyn Highway (Anishinaabe) from Redwire magazine, September 2003 ]

Q: I heard you and your sister Chrissy were the ones who started the blockade?

Bonnie: We thought the logging company was trying to get all the wood out before the blockade started. We were frustrated the blockade was taking so long to set up. We were seeing trucks come out. We went out and blockaded the road [with debris]. Then a couple days later the official blockade started. December 3rd [2002], the sacred fire was lit. A few trucks tried to come through but they were turned away. They never came back this way. They go around.

Q: Are they still logging the area?

Bonnie: Yeah, they started making roads right by the reserve. That’s what we didn’t like. Plus [she motions to the forested slopes across the lake from her house], they’re planning on cutting there. You can imagine… there’ll be no trees. They’ve stopped working on those roads.

Q: How come you decided to do the blockade?

Bonnie: Our step dad took us out in the bush and taught us how to live off the land, to hunt. And the more clear-cuts there are, the less land we have.

See also:

Grassy Narrows Blockade: 2002-2016, by Judy Da Silva

Grassy Narrows re-lights sacred fire for 10-year blockade anniversary (Ontario Birchbark, 2013)

Children of the poisoned river (CBC News Interactives)

“When People Are Calling, You Go” – The first hand account of Eetsah, an Indigenous woman who took part in the Native Peoples Caravan (1974)

Oka Crisis, 1990, by Warrior Publications

No Surrender – Howard Adams on the Oka Crisis (1990)

How to Become an Activist in One Easy Lesson – Joe Tehawehron David (1991)

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