Ojibway elder, harvester and playwright join forces to save wild rice - APTN NewsAPTN News

Ojibway elder, harvester and playwright join forces to save wild rice


Annette Francis
The wild rice on Pigeon Lake has been such a contentious issue around Peterborough, Ont., that playwright Drew Hayden Taylor wrote a play about it.

“The title itself, Cottagers and Indians is a play on cowboys and Indians,” he said. “And I think what is different about this play for other people is that it’s an exploration of contemporary native and non native relationships.”

The tension started three years ago when cottagers on Pigeon Lake began pulling what they call a nuisance weed from the rice beds.

Things came to a head once again two weeks ago at a local meeting where cottagers and Indigenous groups faced off. in public about wild rice.

As they were set to begin the meeting, the power went out that sent everyone home.

Pigeon Lake is located in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe.

Elder Doug Williams from Curve Lake First Nation said the growth of cottages is invasive.

“I only wish that the Canadian government would look at this plant and make it a heritage plant and protect it forever,” said Williams.

“Because we’re gonna have these unscrupulous people with their own ideas only advancing the increase of the cost of their properties and all that adds up to me, just not much thought given.”

The cottagers said the wild rice is destroying their view of the waterfront and impacting the use of the lake.

James Whetung started reseeding the wild rice about 35 years ago.

He’s participated in panels over the years – educating people on the importance of the plan that has sustained First Nations peoples for thousands of years.

“I want to see Anishinaabe people being able to eat our traditional foods good healthy foods without having to put up a fight,” he said.

“Without having people come running through our garden with a play toys and wrecking our food.”

There is a plan to reschedule the meeting between the cottagers, and those in favour of growing wild rice.

It may happen around the time Taylor’s play, Cottagers and Indians, comes to town.


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9 Responses to “Ojibway elder, harvester and playwright join forces to save wild rice”

  1. sfdixon2010@hotmail.com'
    Steve November 18, 2018 at 5:57 pm #

    Fake news. The power did not go out. There was no plan to reschedule the meeting. Get your facts straight. Shame on you for not accurately reporting the facts. Almost 250 people filled the hall. Almost as many were turned away because the room could not accommodate any more people. The meeting concluded after two and a half hours. Government officials promised to have a committee to address the issue, to be struck within 90 days.
    Those are the facts

    • austin.gillian@gmail.com'
      Gillian Austin November 19, 2018 at 12:45 pm #

      Hi Steve. I think you are referring to the Nov. 3 meeting that took place. This story is about a panel at Market Hall in Peterborough that did not take place because of power outage.

  2. savepigeonlake@gmail.com'
    Save the Tri-Lakes November 18, 2018 at 4:12 pm #

    Save the Tri-lakes

    It is unfortunate that more care is not taken in reporting the issues accurately. The community meeting held on November 3rd 2018 was a show of passion of the people residing in the communities surrounding the Tri lakes. The lights did not go out. Hopefully the meeting enlightened many people of the true facts, We have been working on bringing to the attention of our governing bodies the impact of the intentional seeding of the waterways for over seven years, not just the last three years.

    The value of our homes are experiencing a decline not an increase as reported.

    The meeting clearly showed that we have no malice towards the First Nations as a whole. Our objective is to find a solution to the Manoomin issue that will continue to honour The First Nations Right to Harvest while ensuring the shorelines are returned to their natural state before the aggressive seeding by Mr. Whetung began..

    This can be achieved by having constructive dialogue, recognizing the need for a compromise. We must want to find a way for all of us to live together,,respecting each other and ensuring our actions do not cause irrefutable harm to one another. This is possible ! Let’s work together and make it happen.

    • sharon.alanah@hotmail.com'
      MetisProud November 21, 2018 at 1:34 am #

      I think you are missing the point that before the settlers came in and destroyed the lakes and waterways the natural shoreline contained the wild rice. That wild rice was there 100’s of years before any cottage. The only reason it needed to be reseeded is because it was almost wiped out by the incoming settlers.
      I am 100% for any preservation of the natural original environment especially if it is growing food to feed people. At the end of the day a decrease in your fancy cottage property values on unceaded Indigenous territory causes me no loss of sleep. Sorry not sorry.

    • thom2361@hotmail.com'
      Thomas Olszewski November 24, 2018 at 6:32 am #

      “Ensuring the shorelines are returned to their natural state before the aggressive seeding by Mr, Whetung”. Tells me two things, [a] you don’t know what a “natural shoreline” looks like, and [b] you don’t know what that shoreline looked like before the cottage industry colonized it.

  3. krichlar@trentu.ca'
    Kathy November 17, 2018 at 6:14 am #

    Is this not a place that we can come to agreement. I am a settler living on Pigeon Lske. I regard this as a privilege We have so much to learn from the people of the land. We need to take care of the water and the manomin that grows there.

  4. Bjjryan@hotmail.com'
    Joanne November 17, 2018 at 2:50 am #

    The meeting most certainly did happen with property owners wanting to work together to respect indigenous rights and share the lake with other Canadians. The pro-rice folks would have nine of that. They have no interest in sharing the lake.

    • austin.gillian@gmail.com'
      Gillian November 19, 2018 at 12:56 pm #

      Joanne I believe this is a misrepresentation of what occurred. There were many small break out sessions after the main speakers where meaningful dialogue and learning occurred between individuals. On one hand you are saying you and other cottagers want to respect Indigenous rights and on the other you are lumping all the people who came to help educate the cottagers on these complex issues as not willing to share. Anishinaabeg (Ojibway) are ALREADY sharing their homelands with all of us with came here. Some first steps towards respecting Indigenous rights or responsibilities to the environment, as many frame this issue, would involve learning from Anishinaabeg about their traditional food source manoomin or wild rice. There is much education that needs to take place. Some cottagers were actually crying because they can’t waterski! Is this comparable to people tending to a plant that bring health to the water and ecosystem and wanting to eat nutritious ancestral foods instead of minute rice?

  5. thohahenta@kimpatrickweaver.com'
    Thohahente Weaver November 17, 2018 at 12:46 am #

    This is not accurate “Things came to a head once again two weeks ago at a local meeting where cottagers and Indigenous groups faced off. in public about wild rice.

    As they were set to begin the meeting, the power went out that sent everyone home.”

    The meeting two weeks ago happened. I was there and summarized it on Twitter and Facebook. There was to be a meeting two night ago. I believe the power went out then. The meeting has not been re-schedule.