MNN. Aug. 8, 2009. In the 1960s some Mohawks use to visit the Maliseet community of Tobique in New Brunswick. They visited us in Kahnawake to exchange ideas about the Great Law of Peace and how to resist colonialism. We looked up to our elder, Louis Karonhiaktajeh Hall for guidance. He designed the Unity flag, which became known as the warrior flag, and wrote books on indigenous history and revitalization. These people broke free of the capitalist system of exploitation:

“On Monday, June 8, 2009, some Maliseet walked peacefully into the New Brunswick Power Corporation [NB Power] hydro station. Stephen Red Feather Perley approached the employees and said, “You guys have fifteen minutes to pack up and get out.” They left. The Maliseets wrapped a chain around the gate and locked it. The dam was now the property of the Maliseet Nation of Tobique.

Tobique, the largest Maliseet community in New Brunswick, first rejected a developer’s bid to build a hydro dam there in 1844. Another was rejected in 1895. At that time, the Tobique River was “one of the greatest salmon river systems in the world,” (along with the St. John River and its other tributaries) with hundreds of thousands of fish swimming upstream to spawn each year. This defined them and their way of life.

By 1945, provincial and federal agencies started development. In 1950 New Brunswick’s Premier approved construction of a dam at Tobique without consulting the Maliseet. By year end construction began.

Tobique’s chief wrote to Indian Affairs, “If the dam cannot be stopped, we demand compensation.” He wanted “free electricity for all their domestic and business uses”. When the power lines were installed, they were billed. The Council paid for Elders and those on social assistance.

Today, barely any wild salmon make their way up the Tobique river. Tobique has high rates of cancer, due partly to the power lines over the community and to the toxic chemicals dumped and sprayed on their land by NB Power. The dam has eroded the community’s riverbanks. Trees being washed away and homes are in danger of falling into the river”. Many of the edible and medicinal plants are gone. The islands they grew on are underwater. Tobique residents are charged among the highest electricity rates in New Brunswick.

In the spring of 2008, Canada’s Indian Affairs Department put Tobique’s finances under third party management; the Council was purportedly $20 million in debt. They stopped paying the power bills. In April 2008 the elders and welfare recipients received bills for thousands of dollars. When NB Power threatened to cut off an Elder’s electricity, the community stepped in.

In May 2008, some Tobique activists set up a blockade denying NB Power access to the community and to the dam. Almost all Maliseet stopped paying their power bills.

In July 2008, the Maliseet began allowing NB Power access to the dam to do repairs and maintenance only. The employee had to check in with them and be escorted into the dam or community.

That month, NB Power forgave over $200,000 worth of hydro bills. In 2008 Paul Durelle, of Baie-Ste-Anne, NB died when NB Power cut his electricity because of non-payment during the winter. The Maliseet women sat at the blockade every day until New Brunswick’s no-disconnect policy came into effect.

In May 2009, an NB Power employee was caught sneaking around the community reading meters. [After kicking off the peeping Tom] on June 8th, the Maliseet took over the generating station. The blockade went by the highway in front of the dam.

On June 26, 2009 tensions escalated. A truck rolled by the blockade and into the station. The driver was talking on his cell phone. Stephen Perley told him to hang up and seized his truck.

The flustered driver was escorted to the blockade and given food and water. His employer refused to pick him up. The RCMP drove him home.

Today Maliseet women sit at the blockade every day playing cards and watching for NB Power trucks. Cars drive by, many honking in support. The dam continues to operate. NB Power continues to profit off from Tobique’s land and water.

On June 30th, 2009, the NB Minister of Aboriginal Affairs committed some money to restore eroded riverbanks and to clean up toxic and other wastes dumped at and around the dam.

Ottawa’s Department of Justice recently validated Tobique’s specific land claim, the largest in Atlantic Canada. Talks are underway.

The electricity being made on their land belongs to the Maliseet. The imperialist thieves have been hit in the once bulging pocketbook that they refused to share with the Indigenous land and resource owners. Also, they are fraudulently putting up Maliseet unsurrendered land as collateral to raise money on the stock exchange. Maliseets could soon learn to run these operations. So, New Brunswick and NB Power, stop panicking! Don’t do anything stupid or
desperate! Contact: Shawn

Posted by MNN Mohawk Nation News
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Wednesday, 29 July 2009

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