Area resident Tina Nottaway is seeking an injunction to stop multinational forestry giant Louisiana Pacific from tearing up her backyard.
“The cutting is happening 24 hours a day,” she told the Nation. “I see the signs it everywhere, whenever I go for a walk.”
For Nottaway, the damage extends beyond the blight of seeing large patches of dark soil and broken roots where old-growth forests once stood.
Her family travels between three handmade log cabins in the area. There is no electricity. They literally live off the land, through hunting and gathering plants and medicines.
Nottaway said the logging is making it increasingly difficult to find traditional medicines that she said have tremendous healing powers.
When her uncle developed polio, it was traditional medicine – not Western medicine – that saved his life, she said.
“My grandmother took her son to the hospital. And the doctors told her to take him home and essentially watch him die. So she took him into the bush, and put him into a tub with traditional medicines. For three days and three nights. It saved his life.”
Nottaway sees passing on the traditional knowledge she has learned from living in the bush as an important part of her life’s mission.
She is in the final stages of organizing a major gathering for First Nations children. About 120 children will spend a long weekend in La Verendrye, where they will be immersed in traditional Algonquin culture.
For some, it will be an introduction to hunting, fishing and storytelling. Nottaway, who speaks Algonquin, will also pass on language skills.
“A lot of our kids are losing their language. It’s important we keep our language. It’s part of who we are. It’s part of our tradition and culture.”
One of the interesting aspects of the Nottaway and the others’ lawsuits is how they are being put forth by families – rather than by their band councils.
Nottaway is a member of the Algonquin of Barrier Lake First Nation Band. She acknowledges that the band may support her desire to keep logging away from traditional First Nations territory. But she fears they do not have the necessary determination to stop the logging.
For Nottaway, keeping the land free of logging goes beyond medicine, even food. Healthy forests are critical to her spiritual life.
“When I pray, it’s not inside a building. I go out in the woods and do my prayers. I don’t go in church. When you go out in the forest you’re more connected to everything around you. That’s important to me.”