Grassy Narrows

Members of the Anishnabek (Ojibway) community of Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) have maintained the longest running Indigenous logging blockade in Canadian history. The clear-cutting violates treaty rights on their use of traditional territories. The Royal Proclamation of 1763, Treaty #3, and the Canadian Constitution all outline the rights of the Grassy Narrows community to their traditional lands.

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The Anishnabek (Ojibway) community of Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) is located 80 kilometres north of Kenora, Ontario. Grassy Narrows is one of 26 reservations that form a part of the traditional land use area of the Anishnabek people. In the past few decades, Grassy Narrows has suffered repeated assaults to their sovereignty, traditional sustenance activities, and health and safety as a community. This environmental racism and physical and cultural genocide has been a collaborative effort by federal and provincial governments and corporate interests.

From the late 1960's to 1973, the Reed Pulp and Paper Mill dumped over 50 tons of mercury into the English-Wabigoon River system that runs by the Grassy Narrows reserve. Hundreds of people have fallen fatally ill and preliminary reports from a group of Japanese doctors found high levels of mercury poisoning in over 80% of the reserve's population. Fish caught from Silver Lake, upon which the community has traditionally relied for food, are often rife with tumors, thus having a doubly devastating impact on the community.


Most currently, the province of Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) granted logging rights to the multinational company, Abitibi Consolidated Corporation, without Grassy Narrows' consent over almost all of the 2500 square kilometres recognized as land accorded to the Anishnabek nation under the 1873 Treaty No. 3 Agreement. Grassy Narrows' traditional landuse area is defined as that area where the community has hunted, trapped, gathered berries, wild rice, and medicines, and fished for thousands of years. These forests make it possible for the people of Grassy Narrows to maintain sustainable traditions that have been passed down for generations.

On March 27, 2006 Amnesty International submitted a briefing to the UN claiming that the current resource extraction in Grassy Narrows is a violation of treaty rights and international laws that provide for indigenous peoples' right to self-determination. The clear-cuts devastate areas often as large as 15 square kilometers and disrupting paths of traditional trap lines. Approximately 50 percent of Grassy Narrows' land has been logged. Weyerhaeuser and Abitibi use industrialized machinery to log the endangered forests on Grassy Narrows' land, leaving gaping clearcuts that are sometimes as large as 50,000 acres, 62 times the size of New York's Central Park. Recently, Abitibi has drastically accelerated their pace of logging to supply Weyerhaeuser's new Timberstrand / Trus Joist Mill in Kenora, Ontario.

Within these clearcuts, Abitibi is creating "tree farms" where herbicide resistant genetically-modified poplar trees are being planted. These new plantations are heavily sprayed with Vision and Release, products of Monsanto Corporation, that contain glyphosate and triclopyr, suspected carcinogens that kill all plant life except for the genetically modified poplar trees. Thousands of birch trees now stand dead throughout Whiskey Jack forest. These herbicides are also swept into the river and the cancer rate in Grassy Narrows is reportedly at 12%. Abitibi Consolidated has placed signs around sprayed areas that warn against the dangers of walking through these contaminated areas, while asserting that the berries that women and children traditionally collect from these areas are safe to eat.


On December 2nd, 2002 the youth of Grassy Narrows lay down in the path of industrial logging machines, blocking access to their traditional homeland. An ongoing lawsuit between the members of Grassy Narrows First Nation, the Minister of Natural Resources, and Abitibi-Consolidated claims that the community was not properly consulted or compensated by the company, and that Abitibi’s clear-cut practices are making it impossible for the people of Grassy Narrows to exercise their Treaty 3 right to hunt and trap on their traditional territory. But, more than four years later, logging is still taking place, and the people of Grassy Narrows have called for a complete moratorium on all logging on their traditional lands.

“The clear-cutting of the land, and the destruction of the forest is an attack on our people. The land is the basis of who we are. Our culture is a land based culture and the destruction of the land is the destruction of our culture. And we know that is in the plans. Weyerhaeuser doesn’t want us on the land, they want us out of the way so they can take the resources. We can’t allow them to carry on with this cultural genocide.” – Roberta Kessik, Grassy Narrows’ blockader, grandmother, and trapper.  

The blockade is now the longest running blockade in Canadian history and serves as an inspiring example of struggle against environmental destruction, colonization, and corporate globalization.