Faith is Peace: A Walk to Save our Sacred Site Akikodjiwan
A special moment in my life occurred on June 23rd, 2017, when Algonquin elders led the Faith is Peace walk (Victoria Island to Parliament Hill, Ottawa). What made this walk so profoundly memorable for me is the fact that many of the region’s faith leaders walked with us in support of our struggle for sacred Akikodjiwan (Chaudière Falls and nearby islands), a place of peace and harmony for Anishinabe since time immemorial. Together we stood as one. Indigenous roots intertwined with settler roots. The faith leaders, no doubt realizing that spiritual solidarity with us is surely something in line with Creator’s plan for great Turtle Island!
The walk became a moving, breathing statement to Canada. First Nations spirituality is a faith. And as a faith with its own unique foundation and creation story, the First Peoples’ places of worship must be protected with the same force and vigour Canadians would put into motion to protect a synagogue, a temple, a mosque, a church, or any house of worship, if a holy site came under attack by people who had absolutely no respect for it. Are we not duty-bound by Canada’s constitution to do so?
It was with humility in my heart that I heard faith leaders eloquently express their support for our cause. Words from Archbishop Prendergast, Rabbi Bulka, Imam Samy Metwally, the Very Reverend Shane Parker and many others gave us renewed hope that Akikodjiwan will be saved.
First Nations spirituality was outlawed until almost 1960. This terrible act of oppression was, in my opinion, the worst of the many outrageous actions Canada took in her efforts to destroy the culture and identity of the First Nations Peoples. Today we often see media-produced photos or film footage of politicians partaking in a smudging ceremony. For most of the politicians who do so, smudging is nothing more than a photo op. Anyone who really respects the sacred medicines would never vote to allow a developer to defile and destroy Akikodjiwan. Yet that is what Ottawa City Council did when they allowed Akikodjiwan to be rezoned for the proposed “Zibi” condo development.
Terrorism and catastrophes are taking place in all areas of the planet. The world does not need more condos! We need more sacred sites, not less of them. It is not too late, we can still save Akikodjiwan from destruction. The Faith is Peace walk reassured us of this!
As difficult as it might be for the good people of this country to emotionally digest, the truth is that the First Peoples are still fighting every day against oppression. We fight to regain our languages. We fight for resource sharing so that our impoverished communities can grow an economy and build schools.
But it is the struggle to revive our ancient spirituality which is of greatest concern for me and many, many more Algonquins and their supporters. Our spirituality was our way of life! Is it too much to ask to have it present once again for those of us who respect and honour it?
To my knowledge, the Faith is Peace walk was the first of its kind: interfaith groups rallied to support Indigenous spirituality. Let us hope it is not the last! Let us work together to save Akikodjiwan from the proposed “Zibi” development, and any other desecration.
Let us reclaim Akikodjiwan as a sacred place for peace and fellowship, not just for the First Peoples but for all Canadians. Canada will be greater because of it!
By: Keep the Circle Strong, South Wind (Albert Dumont)
Spiritual Advisor, Traditional Teacher, Mediation Facilitator