A couple weeks ago I went to Toronto to be a trainer at an Action Camp coordinated by Forest Ethics and Rainforest Action Network for activists who had been involved in the Grassy Narrows Blockade. We kicked off the camp with an action that looked like this:
then went to the woods and did a bunch of trainings on strategy and advanced hard-skills, which looked kinda like this:
and then came back and did an action like this:
Then last Friday, a buncha those folks were involved in organizing a third action :
Read about what happened by clicking below…
The goal of the gathering was to get together folks who have worked in solidarity with the First Nations community Grassy Narrows, or have otherwise worked on the campaign against Weyerhauser. We kicked off the training with an action. Its election season in Canada right now, and while RAN doesn’t mess with electoral politics, Forest Ethics in Canada is after the Liberal Party’s parliamentarian David McGuinty and his record on indigenous rights and protecting the Boreal forest.
About ten of us got together at 4am, got into costumes, loaded up helium tanks, and headed to the Angus Glen golf club. McGuinty was having a fundraiser breakfast (rich people seem to have events at 7:30 am – wtf), and we wanted to be there to greet him and give his fancypants donors a whole lot of reasons to threaten to pull money.
It was still dark outside when we filled up a balloon banner. Most of our inside actions got foiled, but we were able to set up a banner and look official enough that all the cars would stop to greet us and take fliers before driving in to the golf club. Afterwards, we snuck in and ate their pastries.
Later that day we drove to the woods for 5 days of an action camp. It was super relaxed, supportive, and intimate. It was an amazing crew of people, all bringing a lot of diverse experience to draw upon and share. Madeline and I came with a few different options for trainings, and we ended up doing workshops on Movement Strategy, Leadership, Racism in the Environmental Movement, and Smartmeme/Battle of the Story. We also ended up co-facilitating a fireside chat on navigating relationships between NGOs and grassroots organizations. Leah from Forest Ethics and David from RAN brought a whole buncha skills training and campaign planning, including climb trainings and tripod stuff.
After the camp we came back to Toronto proper, and hit up a Grand and Toy outlet. Grand and Toy is a paper company that sources their wood from Grassy Narrows. Grand and Toy was a secondary target to Weyerhauser, and we were in the midst of negotiation with them to cut their ties. We suited up and went outside, initially to hand out fliers to customers getting them to call the CEO.
I learned a really important lesson: little kids love full body animal costumes. Toddlers flocked from all over the city to get their pictures with the Polar Bears and Candace Caribou. While they got their pictures taken, we talked up the parents, all of whom were remarkably sympathetic. There’s Canada for you. A man came up to me, wearing multiple Venezuelan Flag Livestrong bracelets and whispered in a thick accent “Do you know, Hugo Chavez!?!” “Not personally” I replied. After explaining that Grand and Toy was buying wood from a company that clearcut indigenous land, and we were responding to a call of solidarity from a First Nations community to campaign against Weyerhauser to get them to respect native rights, he started to excitedly tell me about Chavez’ policies about indigenous rights. After an animated conversation he squinted and said “heeyyyyy….you don’t look indigenous!” We talked for a minute about how Grassy has asked for non-indigenous folks to use their privilege, especially US citizens, to leverage their power to stop the company. He smiled and said “REMEMBER CHAVEZ MY FRIEND! REMEMBER CHAVEZ!”.
Afterwards we went inside to talk to the manager, who turned out to be a teenager. There were no customers in the store. I asked her if she would mind calling the CEO and telling him that we stopped by. She ended up being quite agreeable and said that she faxed the CEO our fliers. We proceeded to put fliers and info in between all their notebooks and merchandise throughout the whole store before leaving.
RAN got a call the next day from Boise asking to talk. It was a really easy low-prep low-risk action that ended up having a really immediate and direct impact. Most of the good pictures aren’t uploaded yet, but here’s Nyla and Chris in costumes:
AND FINALLY a few days ago RAN activists teamed up with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Toronto to do an action where about 200 folks got together in Queens Park, led by First Nations leaders, to demand the Ontario provincial government take immediate action to resolve longstanding Native land rights disputes. Activists pointed a 75 meter (thats right, METRIC SYSTEM, BABY) arrow-shaped banner pointing at the Ontario Provincial legislative building.
The Native groups leading the action included Grassy Narrows, Ardoch Algonquin and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nations, and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation representing 49 First Nations in northern Ontario. They are demanding a moratorium on industrial activities being carried out on their traditional territories without their free, prior and informed consent.
(John Cutfeet, spokesperson and councilor from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation speaking. )