GRASSY NARROWS INDIAN RESERVATION
In June, 1998, EnviroWatch, Inc. visited the Grassy Narrows Indian Reserve near Kenora, Canada. We toured the area with members of the band who were on their way to pick blueberries. Along the way we observed first hand the massive clear cutting sites on the reservation, and the shocking degradation of the land where clear cutting had taken place. Logs were stacked and prepared for shipping, but there were a great number of trees that were simply cut and left to decay.
Even though the clear cutting is on tribal land, on several occasions authorities have arrested members of the Grassy Narrows Band for gathering some of the slash and remnant logs for use as firewood. The land is also littered with chemical and lubricant containers left by the logging companies. Water in the river is the color of brown tea and stank with the smell of chemicals.
We continued on our drive to find blueberries, and in a short time arrived in an area where blueberries were abundant in the past. A look around quickly revealed that the bushes had a small amount of berries, but we also noticed that they were wilting on the vine and the foliage was dying, consistent with having been sprayed with herbicide.
Even though there were many berries at the second site, our joy of finding them soon gave way to the reality that this area had been sprayed with herbicides as well. A short distance from the area we discovered a sign discarded in a small ravine near the road:
Members of the Grassy Narrows Band reported that they observed large airplanes flying over the area and spraying chemicals. EnviroWatch, Inc. has recovered documents regarding the identify of the chemicals used in the spray.
As we traveled along the road in the spray zone we heard four song birds but we saw very few flying insects and did not hear any frogs. Both are usually found in large quantities around the Reservation. Also, later that evening we did not hear or observe any frogs near the creeks or streams where they are usually found. No water fowl was observed in the wetland portions of the clear cut area either.
Our party included an Ojibway trapper who, along with her father and uncles, has been trapping in the area for many years. She pointed out that the clear cutting activity was putting a large number of the local trappers out of business. The Ojibway=s use the land and it=s natural resources for subsistence, and their trapping is done for subsistence. However, trapping can no longer be done because the area where the trap lines run has been denuded of vegetation, rendering it useless for the targeted species of the trapper. Plants used for medicinal purposes are scarce and those that are found cannot be used because they have been sprayed. Now the blueberries that are also important to the Ojibway culture are disappearing as well.
The Ojibway have sought assistance and relief from the Canadian Government as well as the chemical and forestry companies, but have not been successful. They have appealed to other NGO=s, but have also been unsuccessful in obtaining assistance.
DEVESTATION OF THE LAND