to justify land /1

“…those who believe the land belongs to them cannot ever really understand”

Elder William Commanda


I  am  in  the  earth,  wind  and  waters; 

I  am  as  the  bird  flies,  the  wind  blows,  the water flows…

On the ancient river, seagull rock crests out of the waters. An outcrop within its sight is thorned by a few young silhouettes, taking turns plunging into the river some feet below. Riverboats and water taxis, white river cruise-ships weave short and cyclical tours between the two shores. When the black outlines all fall into the water, seagull rock disappears entirely underneath a white swarm. The steady rhythm of a drum carries down the rocky riverbed. At a great distance, an undulating song ripples through a woman’s throat, a few moments, and then the screaming birds are all that is heard again. Drumming and song are held here as if in a cup, the Ontario bank curving in to the gushing water. Millennia before, the Champlain Sea coursed through this cup. This river, and the humid nest of the city, is at the ancient floor of the sea. Shells and fish bones mingle with cemeteries. The condominiums and government buildings of the 80s settle comfortably on the graves of ancient people, on the fossils of ancient animals. Cranes and the hideous metal hydro towers grow in the east with each day, raising the condominiums of reconciliation. Grey gunmetal silhouettes cut the distance behind the Algonquin teepees that dot the island – those three sturdy pyramids, white as the screaming gulls.

When Ottawa signed off on the fee-simple trade of contaminated land to private ownership of a Toronto entrepreneur, it called this Reconciliation with the Algonquin. When the lease in perpetuum on the land encroached upon the $4 billion infrastructural expansion plan [Ontario Hydro], and the local $45 million hydroelectric development [Ottawa Hydro / Chaudière Hydro L.P. / Chaudière Water Power Inc.] derived from the damming of the Ottawa River, they were following in the footsteps of the neo/Liberals who preceded them in Quebec [Hydro-Québec exporting energy to: Ontario, New Brunswick, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and New-York] and who are currently being mimicked in B.C., through the plan to reroute Peace River for the construction of the Site C dam.

Pierre Vallières wrote in 1971, “Duplessis, having once more won a brilliant victory, was completing the sale of Quebec to the Americans. In the country as still and silent as a great, pale corpse, living men were suddenly questioning themselves as if they were in peril of death; they were not wrong.”

The industrial chimney tower and block warehouses of Hull are smoking behind it. The yellowing concrete is rotten with thin green mould and faded names in shades of ochre, purple and silver. Glass and concrete converges into cliff faces looming with the Liberal fears of Quebec sovereignty, when the red terror solidified a federal presence with the razing of the poor neighbourhoods swathed over the Outaouais. The sky is flushed with coral and lilac, and a gentle wash of foamy green, the shallow parts of the river are curling rapidly against each other. The few lit windows from the Hull warehouses are illuminated, showing the acidic paint inside, revealing walls of an old paper factory, of warehouses moving paper cups and plates, napkins between the two provinces. Along the poorly lit path that snakes along the river, steam violently belches from large metal pipes that line the stone walls of an underpass. The river is slower here, the dam is growing.