July 3, 2019 4:22 pm
Updated: July 3, 2019 5:06 pm

Beausoleil First Nation man asserts Indigenous rights at Awenda Provincial Park

From left to right: Elizabeth Brass Elson, John Hawke (Kaikaikonas) and Earl Oegema in front of the blockade that's been set up at Awenda Provincial Park.

Daina Goldfinger/Global News
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A 34-year-old man, along with a few others, has blocked off the main entrance of Awenda Provincial Park in Tiny Township, Ont., in what he’s calling an assertion of title and jurisdiction of Anishinabek territory.

John Hawke (Kaikaikonas), from Beausoleil First Nation, has been camped at the main entrance of the park since National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21.

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By sitting in front of the entrance of Awenda Provincial Park, Hawke said he hoped to use National Indigenous Peoples Day as a platform to educate the public about Indigenous history and treaty rights.

“The day is mostly used to tokenize who we are by way of celebrating our culture, our dance and song,” Hawke, who’s also a member of the Caribou Clan, told Global News.

“When it comes to bringing up our rights, so-called Canadians are not educated, and the federal government keeps trying to extinguish those rights and our ties to the land.”

The Beausoleil First Nation man said he’s been camped at Awenda Provincial Park in response to a variety of factors. For instance, he said there’s issues with Canada’s Indian Act, policies that the Canadian government has imposed on Indigenous people and land claim settlements.

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“Our goal is to reclaim our traditional territory as the grassroots collective represented by our traditional governing structure,” Hawke said.

Before his community can reclaim its traditional territory, he added, it needs to build its traditional governance system.

Elizabeth Brass Elson from Beausoleil First Nation has been at the park with Hawke for several days. She sits as a clan grandmother for the Martin Clan and is part of a grandmothers council.

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Brass Elson said the grandmothers’ council is in charge of helping to get people back to the clan governance system.

“Before, we used to make decisions in clan settings, where every clan is responsible for something,” she said. “Every clan has a purpose, and when you get all those people together and they all know what their purpose is, that’s how everything gets looked after.

“You don’t have anyone who’s left out. Everyone’s voice is heard when you’re in that system. It needs to come back.”

According to Hawke, about five to 10 people have joined him at the entrance of Awenda Provincial Park.

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He said most who have passed by have been supportive of his efforts, but there’s been two or three locals who vocally opposed them.

“A lot of visitors from the city reach out their hand, and most of them are newcomers here, like new Canadians, and they really understand the injustices coming from other places of injustice,” Hawke said.

For Brass Elson, it’s important to get back on the land and to get well.

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“We need to put our feet in the dirt and connect back to our land and our ancestors here,” she added. “This is where it all started back in the day. We went here for probably thousands of years, so that energy is here and we need to utilize it.”

Awenda Provincial Park has published an advisory on its website, stating that the park remains open for camping and daytime activities. According to the alert, a detour has been put in place to provide the public with access to the park.

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Hawke noted that despite the blockade at Awenda’s main entrance, emergency vehicles are permitted to go through.

“It starts with community and trying to bring community out here on the land and to create that change,” Hawke finished.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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