August 1st, 2016 – 252 years after the signing of the Treaty of Niagara, Niagara Falls
At least 250 years ago an acorn landed in the middle of the now controversial Thundering Waters Forest. It may have landed near it’s parent tree, it may have been carried by one of the creatures of the forest, or perhaps even drifted across a nearby vernal pool. It likely resisted certain destruction by becoming a snack for a thing that walked or crawled or falling prey to any number of other powerful forces of nature. That acorn now stands in the form of a majestic elderly white oak tree towering over the uncertain fate of its surrounding natural companions.
Almost 250 years ago then Superintendent of Indian Affairs William Johnson stood only a few miles from this seedling and planted the seeds for a covenant of peace that became formative in the relationship of the country now called Canada. This agreement, the Treaty of Niagara, which came on the heels of the Royal Proclamation, laid the foundation to formalize the importance of Niagara as a traditional land of peace, strength, and integrity. Johnson understood better than any of his contemporaries that the only path to peace was by including the principles of the people original to the land. Those legally affirmed principles of land stewardship – such as equal access to resources like water and air for all living things – now tower over the Western cultural appetite for endless exponential growth.
Nature, twists of fate, random selection perhaps, allowed that acorn to lay a tap root into the soil. Once those favorable conditions were achieved a shoot went up and started working at exchanging carbon dioxide for breathable air practically immediately. The shoot began it’s work to establish itself while simultaneously engineers like James Watt were perfecting steam engine technology to establish rapid growth as the driving force of the Western way of life. Within a few decades the tree was creating acorns and seeding new trees to aid in it’s work with the new task of acting as a sink for the onslaught of carbon to follow in the ensuing centuries.
Over the next few decades conflict and strife would surround that sapling as the United States of America emerged heavily influenced by the principles of democracy, egalitarianism, and justice modeled by the Haudenosaunee people. On one side of the sacred and special Niagara River a nation based on principles of a new kind of republic was sprouting up. On the other side of the Niagara River, where the sapling was growing, tradition and the history of honour in the name of the crown was being continued. Caught in the middle of the struggle of formation of these nations were the people original to this land. The decades following the trueTreaty of Niagara in 1764 would see death, strife, and combat right into the 19th centrury.
By the 19th century the groundwork for the Nation of Canada was being laid. The United States would begin to expand and grow. In spite of promises made in the Treaty of Niagara, the Jay Treaty and the Treaty of Ghent this century saw the deliberate erosion of rights earned by the people original to this land. The blood of the loyal Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe warriors is spilled all over the Niagara Peninsula in the name of peace, strength and integrity. The rewards given to these warriors’ people were deceit and treachery.
The values of the Treaty of Niagara were fading and as the material rewards of the Western world’s ways grew their attachment to the values expressed in the now long since past Treaty agreements faded. What didn’t fade was the urge to protect a way of life that was thousands of years old for the people original to this land. Like the white oak tree in the forest that would now be fully mature and giving away acorns, oxygen, and so many more natural benefits, the people original to this land continued to preserve their ways and most importantly their unique values.
The oak tree continues to grow and perpetuate natural gifts in it’s cycle of life. The Anishinaabe people continue to nurture the spiritual world share their unique wisdom and sacred teachings across all of Turtle Island. The Haudenosaunee people celebrate their egalitarian principles and practice their perpetual cycles of ceremony to always tread as lightly as possible on the back of Our Mother the Earth. The Western governments continue to push for expansion, development and maximum material growth as a matter of policy.
All of these cycles cannot continue, but there is still time for the Western cycle to adapt to the other older ones.
The oak tree still stands in the Thundering Waters Forest, but could face threats and maybe even destruction as proposed arterial roads and bike path expansion encroach right through the protected areas. The principles of the Treaty agreements still stand, but political convenience, austerity and other policies continue to threaten agreements, all of which Canada benefits from but only some of which Canada acknowledges. The Anishinaabe people may have their youth lighting the eighth fire with all the youth of the world, but the threat of assimilation and Westernization of their ways looms large. The Haudenosaunee are continuing to spread the principles of peace strength and integrity, but the covenant of peace gets rustier the more it is neglected.
The time to renew the Treaties – not symbolically or as an election ploy – is now. To honour the spirit of the Treaties is to honour the roots of these new nations that have formed on the back of Our Mother the Earth. To neglect them is to neglect peace, strength and integrity.
We know we have the ability to change, but do we have the will?
Don’t risk the life cycle of the majestic white oak tree coming to an untimely end because of the current Thundering Waters Paradise Development. Show that we have the will, honour and goodness to change. Protect the covenant of peace and help save Thundering Waters Forest-Savannah.