This past summer, Coral Petzoldt and Maggie Panter from Holy Trinity, Trinity Square in Toronto travelled to Grassy Narrows, a First Nations community in northwest Ontario that had been devastated by mercury poisoning from a pulp and paper mill in the 1970s. Ms. Petzoldt and Ms. Panter were part of a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation.
Before going to Grassy Narrows, they spent some time in Kenora, where they learned about Indigenous issues, including residential schools, sexual assault, children adopted into non-Indigenous families and murdered and missing Indigenous women. “We heard from more than one person that separation from family and community was the worst part of the residential schools, even worse than the various kinds of assaults,” said Ms Panter.
At Grassy Narrows, the team slept in sleeping bags on the floor at the Trappers Centre. They attended the opening of the Family Services Building. “After speeches, drumming and dancing, a delicious meal was served,” said Ms. Panter. “We visited some of the memorials for the residential schools – some listing those who had died and others listing all those who had attended. We learned about the path that mercury had taken through the area and region. We went to the blockade site, started by two teens, to block the logging trucks from continuing to clear-cut, which also leads to more mercury poisoning. So far, it has been successful.”
The group made bannock and learned how to harvest rice in the traditional way. “We attended a pow-wow and participated in the intertribal dancing. It was truly a memorable experience,” said Ms. Panter.