COMMUNITY EDITORIAL BOARD: Rise of the grandmothers 2.0
Grandmother Eleanor Baptiste-Yateman is seen here holding a traditional hand drum, flanked by her daughters Jo Anne Green who is holding a blank sheet of paper to symbolize the Algonquin Land Claim Agreement in Principle's secrecy, and Miriam Gould (at back).
Last year I wrote a column based on the story of an Algonquin-Nipissing family, who claim that the traditional Baptiste family has been usurped and removed from the Algonquin land claim, by a titular body called A.O.O. (Algonquins of Ontario).
It garnered quite a bit of exposure for their cause, as I found out recently, while talking with grandmother and matriarch - Eleanor Baptiste-Yateman, talking over a cup of tea.
As Grandmother Eleanor spoke, I realized that Indigenous grandmothers have been looking out for their kith and kin since time immemorial.
The desire for doing the right, if unpopular thing, for the good of all seems to be at their epicentre. Imagine the Indigenous grandmother of the 17 year old in that terrible tragedy in La Loche asking the community to forgive her grandson. She has the courage to look beyond the hurt and grief, for the betterment of everyone, for tomorrow"¦ not just today, not just for one.
This is quite common as I learned from Denis Dupont, a traditional Kinounchepirini Algonquin, whose roots plunge deep into this soil of his homeland - 'Tanakiwin' in Algonquin; who has an abiding respect for elders and especially his "No'komos" (grandmother).
When I approached him about having a conversation on recent events, in particular, the often feted or rejected Algonquin Land Claim Agreement in Principle (A.I.P.), he deferred until he could seek advice from his 'grandmother'. Then he spoke to me with his grandmother's full blessing.
Both the Baptiste family and Mr. Dupont contend, as Mr. Dupont stated emphatically to me, "There has to be an Algonquin governing body before any decisions or agendas are made or presented."
By definition, he contends, at the moment, there is, "no such elected governing body, an Algonquin governing body elected by all Algonquins, that will respect all Algonquins and represent them."
The groundswell of support for Grandmother Eleanor and members of the traditional Baptiste family, extends beyond provincial boundaries, having recently been in conversation with other interested Algonquin communities that are similarly united on this common front.
Algonquin chiefs Chief Harry St. Denis (Wolf Lake First Nations) and Chief Terrance McBride (Timiskaming First Nation) and elder and advocate Elder Douglas Cardinal, have given support and momentum to Grandmother Eleanor's challenge of the whole process.
It would appear that the whole question of who is Algonquin has never been
properly addressed, including the strong, supportive conversations about the 'Grandmothers Law.' "If a child has one drop of Indian blood, just one drop, then that child cannot be a White man." - Renegade Newsletter No.7 2015
The question Algonquins like the Baptistes' and Denis Dupont pose is this: Does the present structure and process satisfy the burden of tradition for all Algonquins since Grandmother Eleanor and other Algonquins refuse, to acknowledge the 'Non' in their status?
Denis Dupont added that, if anyone cared to trace their genealogy as an Algonquin, does it not always, inevitably, lead back to what is now known as Quebec? He thinks it might be a question worth exploring.
But Grandmother Eleanor and her family will not wait any longer.
Being "exposed to ridicule, silence tactics and intimidation" has only strengthened their collective resolve.
They believe the time is now to inform all Algonquins, about what is presently going on. So as this column goes to press, a press release will simultaneously be issued to the media and on social network platforms, in the form of a letter.
A letter from the great-great-granddaughter of Chief John Baptiste Kecigo Manitou (who "has the distinction of descending from an unbroken blood line of three Grand Chiefs"), Eleanor Baptiste-Yateman, will begin to detail what her family believes is "...many layers of deception, too numerous to mention."
As media and Canadians pick up the thread, the Baptiste family matriarch is convinced that the evidence they'll present in this opening salvo will send one message to all Algonquins: it's time to put down the rhetoric and enter into a respectful conversation on nation building, instead of a nation tearing itself out from within.
Next week: Kim Laws