“How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?” Chief Seattle 1786 – June 7, 1866
By Leslie Knibbs
SAGAMOK ANISHNAWBEK – On January 27, a fundraiser was held at the Millenium Centre in Sagamok Anishnawabek by Robert Stoneypoint to raise money for his son’s defense fund to fight criminal charges he faces as a result of his activities at an incident in northern Quebec last year. Family members, young and old as well as community members attended to support Freddy Stoneypoint and his legal defense fund. According to the senior Stoneypoint, when referring to the incident, “others had left the scene while Freddy stayed and lit a sacred fire. A swat team came took him to ground and arrested him.” The young Stoneypoint is no stranger to the reoccupation movement.
Earlier in 2017, Stoneypoint and others held a peaceful reoccupation and ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Canada Day. The Ottawa reoccupation garnered international media attention – no charges were laid at that time.
Just over a month later, on August 15, 2017, and eleven days after a blockade was set by up by the water protectors at Galt well number 4 of the Junex oil exploration company in the Gaspé region of Quebec, one lone firekeeper from Sagamok Anishnawabek was arrested by the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) and charged with eight criminal offences. At the time of Freddy Stoneypoint’s arrest, others involved in the blockade had left the area according to reports. Stoneypoint’s arrest came as a result of him being part of the reoccupation blockade of Junex fracking activities. The water protectors claimed Junex was trespassing on Mi’kmaq Territory, and, claimed they were allies to the Mi’kmaq Nations.
“The arrest was extremely violent and over-the-top considering I was just one water protector tending to a fire. There was a helicopter, around 50 militarized SQ officers storming in from the sides of the mountain, and I heard that they even brought a tank to the base of the mountain. They pointed assault rifles in my face. One pressed their weapon on my face with so much force that it snapped my glasses in half. They were all white cops. I took a pretty hefty beating, but I’m happy that I survived to keep on fighting.”
The water protectors state, “as land protectors who are protecting the future generations, (we) should be respected, not criminalized.” Concerns by the water protectors included the safety of the St-Jean River, which, according to a spokesperson, “will be directly affected by this (Junex) development.”
Following his arrest, Stoneypoint was detained then taken to the Percé courthouse in handcuffs to make a brief appearance where the Crown opposed his release. Prior to a bail hearing Stoneypoint was incarcerated in New Carlisle Prison.
While in jail awaiting his bail hearing Stoneypoint released a statement through his lawyer to his supporters and the public.
“As a representative of Bawating water protectors, my only wish is to activate my ceremonial being in defense of land and waters through peaceful means. I am not an activist, I am an Anishinaabe man working to protect the land for future generations. I thank all of my supporters working towards same future for all on Turtle Island. Tomorrow at 10:30 am, I will receive decision on my bail hearing.”
A letter of support for Stoneypoint from the Hereditary Chief Gary Metalic was handed over to the presiding Judge at the hearing. The following day Stoneypoint was released with conditions.
“I am currently a full-time undergrad at Carleton University who is studying Sociology, but not by choice. One of the Crown’s conditions for my release from jail was that I go back to university, so that is what I did.
Dawn Hill, who is no stranger to direct actions in support of Indigenous rights, sits as the Chairperson of the Cultural Anthropology Program at McMaster University in Hamilton. She holds a PhD in Indigenous Studies. Hill had this to say about the Stoneypoint affair, “he’s representing what many in his generation thinks, and my concern is the government exploiting the changing landscape of colonial regimes, incarcerating him is only going to galvanize the youth movement and the resistance to Indigenous governance through Indian Act.”
“Other than my bail hearings while incarcerated in New Carlisle Prison in so-called Quebec, the only hearing I have had so far was back in November. It was to request a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a trial will be needed. The Crown granted this request and this inquiry will happen on February 28th (this year).”
The preliminary hearing is not meant to determine guilt or innocence, but rather to determine if evidence submitted by the Crown is sufficient to warrant a trial. Stoneypoint is facing eight indictable charges for alleged offences under the criminal code, conspiracy, break and enter into a non-dwelling property, mischief over $5,000., theft of equipment over $5,000 and four charges of setting traps or devices to cause bodily harm or death. According to Stoneypoint two of the latter charges involve “a pile of rocks and some fireworks.”
The fundraising event in Sagamok raised over $1,000 to put towards Stoneypoint’s defense fund. He will appear in court on February 28 at which time the Preliminary Hearing will take place. Throughout the community that Stoneypoint calls home, the thoughts and prayers will be with him on his day in court.
“My goal is that one day we rise as Anishinawbek and reclaim power and authority over our territories. We are on a path of extinction and we have a responsibility to our ancestors to be constantly refusing colonialism in all of its forms, especially neoliberal capitalism and resource extraction. Not only do our lives depend on it, but the unborn are those we must protect as well. This land is not ours, it is theirs.”
“It all comes back to home. That is where our nation-building must happen; not in Ottawa or in fancy hotels. That is where the language is strongest and where our ancestors are buried. To see my family organize the fundraiser (in Sagamok) and to have the community out to support the cause is a huge affirmation of my beliefs in Anishnawbek nation-building as done from home.”
Mindful words from a thoughtful Anishinaabe young man who calls Sagamok home.