Previously I completed full disclosure about my position on the Algonquin land claims and self-government process. The short story is that I do not believe in it as I know full well that the process operates through colonial polices. If you need to read my disclosure, I kindly suggest that you go to my personal website at www.lynngehl.com, look under community publications, and then look for the article I wrote published in Canadian Dimension. It is there for your perusal.
Despite full disclosure, and all the work I do to raise awareness about colonization, there is the need for me to address something. There are people offering accusing statements in my direction about the Algonquin of Ontario and their process of negotiating a land claims that terminates their rights to the land, the waterways, and the resources of the Ottawa River watershed. These comments are coming in many forms, such as that the land, waterways, and resources belong to the Mohawk, and I might add they are of a nasty tone. I struggle with this argument for many reasons such as the landscape in question is a rocky foundation and cannot sustain hearty agriculture, and I do not know of an ancient village that clearly indicates it as Mohawk. Another reason why I struggle with this argument has to do with the three - four hundred year history of Algonquin ancestors submitting petitions to have their land and life ways respected.
I seek not to get caught up in the argument of who owns the land also because I know full well that no method of analysis offers objective facts and a universal truth. All we humans can do in our analysis and arguments is present our stories and therefore our personal “truths”. This is also true in terms of wampum diplomacy. Wampum diplomacy is a form of symbolic literacy that requires interpretation. To hold wampum belts up as offering fundamental law is a form of idolatry. Clearly, wampum belts do not hold a universal and time honoured truth. Offering this statement does not mean that I do not value the “truth” in wampum diplomacy.
I also refuse to get caught up in the argument of who owns the land because I know full well that different people can share the same landscape and waterscapes just as a butterfly and humming bird are able to share the same flower. The idea and practice of singular land ownership came from the other side of the ocean blue.
Finally, I refuse to get caught into the debate of who owns the land − the Algonquin or the Mohawk? − because I know that prior to humans occupying the land and rivers, that the trees, plants, and animal beings were here first. And for that matter, rocks and water preceded the plants and animals. These two beings, meaning rock and water, also have knowledge that they have to do. “Water it just knows what to do. The arrogance of humans to claim they are the only beings that hold knowledge,” is one of my favourite sayings.
That said, if you are dissatisfied with the Algonquin of Ontario, and rightly so, I kindly suggest you place your important energy of critique, your important time, and your important effort in their direction rather than in my direction. After all, I have taken the time to demonstrate I am an ally to all people who are against the current Algonquin land claims and self-government process. Clearly, I am your ally, not your enemy. To engage in lateral violence against an obvious ally is not of good mind.
Lynn Gehl, Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe