For the Water: Peterborough Unist’ot’en Solidarity

Anonymous Submission to North Shore Counter-Info

On Saturday, January 19th people gathered again in Nogojiwanong / Peterborough to express solidarity with the Unist’ot’en Camp despite the blustery -20 degree C snow storm in effect.

An event on Facebook announced:

Calling all drummers, singers, banner makers… The fight is far from over. Join us Saturday, January 19th as we gather over the waters of Ode Nibi Ziibi (Otonabee River) to continue our stand in solidarity with the Unist’ot’en Camp and the rights of the Wet’suwet’en to protect and live on their ancestral unceded territory.

We will meet at the James Stevenson Park at the corner of Hunter and Burnham Street and march together to the Hunter Street Bridge where we will do a banner drop and round dance.

As the canadian government continues to prioritize the rights of corporations and industry over the rights of Indigenous Peoples, we will continue to stand up against ongoing RCMP violence, endless extraction from the land and water and continued forceful removal of Indigenous Peoples from their territory. The time is now, and our voices will be heard.

All are welcome! Aambe! Come!

As the crowd converged in James Stevenson Park, participants were offered to smudge prior to the action. Friends greeted each other and new friends were made and introduced. The police parked surveilling the gathering on a side street diagonal to the park.

Once a critical mass was reached, the organizer of the event spoke briefly expressing the heaviness of her heart in light of the actions of the Canadian State against the Gidimt’en Access Point, the Unist’ot’en Camp and the Wet’suwet’en.

Tobacco was distributed, and those participating were invited to offer it to the Ode Nibi Ziibi (Otonabee River) to honour its sacredness. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson explains in her 2011 book Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back that Ode Nibi Ziibi means “heart” and “boiling water” (Ziibi means river) and translates into “the river that beats like a heart in reference to the bubbling and boiling water of the rapids along the river” in Nishnaabemowin.

After a discussion of logistics and general assent to a plan, the 75+ strong crowd set off crossing to the north side of Hunter St. and occupied the westbound lane of traffic marching towards the centre of the bridge.

Almost immediately the police in East City (the east side of the bridge) pulled out to block the lane off from further westbound traffic. Though it may or may not have been known at the time, the same was happening on the west side of the bridge.

Once the march reached the centre of the bridge, almost on the west bank of the river, singers gathered and as the snow fell and wind blew, began to sing. A circle formed and the round dancing began as well.

The singing and dancing continued for several songs and then banners were tied to the bridge and some photos were taken. The crowd dispersed around 4 pm roughly as scheduled after taking a moment to connect with the river.

The police continued to block traffic on both sides of the bridge until it was fully cleared. Hearts and minds? Perhaps “The Other Side of the COIN”?

Ironically, they were wearing yellow traffic vests.

Colonially named Peterborough is located in Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg Territory. It is known in Nishnaabemowin, Nishnaabeg language, as Nogojiwanong. It means “place at the end of rapids”.

Further Reading:

Leanne Simpson: Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back

Kristian Williams: The Other Side of the COIN (PDF Link)