Speaking for the Water: Mokijiwaanibiish (Spring Water)

by waaseyaa'sin christine sy

Mokijiwaanibiish is an Anishinaabe word that describes water coming up from the ground. It’s a word we use for spring water. A word used here in Mississauga Anishinaabegogamig is ti’keb. The following entry is what I read to an area municipality that was making a decision on a private owners request to create a quarry in the area (the area is already rife with them). In spoke against approving this request by speaking for mokijiwaniibiish and the honouring of the existing life that exists in the area. (This spring water is located at the end of a road where we also harvest leeks, miijim that I speak about in another essay on this blog.) I attended this public meeting with Michi Saagiig Anishinaabe Gichi Piitzijid Gidigaa Migizi (Mississauga Anishinaabe Elder Doug Williams), who also made a presentation.

We placed our name on a list to be notified about the outcome of this meeting and the Bobcaygeon Municipality’s decision, neither myself nor Doug has received notification. Neither of us has received any notification on the matter.


Bobcaygeon Municipal Meeting

Re: Potential Quarry Site

June 23, 2012

Aaniin kina weyaa. Waaseya’sin Christine Sy ndizhnikaaz. Hello everyone, my name is Christine Sy. I live in Peterborough. I’m Anishinaabe from Sault Ste. Marie, ON and have lived in Peterborough as a student from 2006-2008 while I completed my MA at Trent University in Indigenous and Canadian Studies from 2006-2008. I returned in 2009 to begin my PhD in Indigenous Studies and continue to live there.

I am here today because I want to share why it is important that we keep the land as it is and not create another quarry. I want the rocks –mishomisag, asiniin—to be allowed to rest like they have always been. I want them to be allowed to continue to be the foundation for our earth—strong and unwavering—like they were intended. I want them to be left alone so they can continue to do the work of filtering the water—the spring water, mokijiwaanibiish—like they have always done. I want the spring water to remain undisturbed so that it may continue to be forever flowing for all of us and for our future. One of the lawyers for the applicant has just suggested to us that the water will not be impacted because the digging will not go below the water table however I think we all know that you can’t dig up 360 acres of land without it impacting a water system in this area.

I found out about the quarry in the early spring when my friend Doug Williams and I went harvesting leeks along Quarry Road. I found out about this meeting from a sign posted at the spring one day when I was collecting, a sign that was shortly thereafter removed. I have been collecting spring water from the corner of Quarry Road and County Road 36 since 2009.

I gather that water for my family’s drinking use; for use in our Anishinaabeg ceremonies; and, on occasion, to give the graduate student garden at Trent  University a little drink of some natural water—some good water that comes right from the land. That water—nibi—is good medicine. It tastes healthy. It tastes like love. From an Anishinaabeg point of view, we know that everything we need to survive and continue to grow life for thousands and thousands of more years into the future is here, in the land.  It has sustained Anishinaabeg here for over 10,000 years and continues to do so; and, it has sustained Canadians for about 400 years and will continue to do so if Canada and Canadians begin to show it—the land, mashkikimkwe, mother earth—the love she shows us.

Reciprocating the love the land shows us and has shown all of our ancestors will ensure our grandchildren will always have beautifully tasting, naturally filtered, cold, forever flowing water. I know where the leeks grows, where the water flows; I know the amazing gifts these are in my life, how much they are needed to live an abundant life. I want my great, great grandchildren and your great, great grandchildren to know this too. They can and will if we begin to make different choices about how we want to be in the world—do we need another quarry that destroys the rocks and aquifer? If we do need it and we do want to rationalize that we need it, do we need it more than we need our future children to have a strong foundation built on rocks and natural water? Do we need another quarry more than we need our children to know that amazing taste of spring water that flows forever from the land, filtered by her rocks?

I don’t think we need to dig up the land anymore. We need to be grateful for what we have and show that we are grateful for what we have by leaving the land alone and being satisfied with what we’ve got. Before economic development, capitalism, entrepreneurship, and resource exploitation arrived in this land, there were diverse economies that sustained millions of people in abundance for thousands upon thousands of years. The basis of these economies and their sustainability was and is respect for mashkikimkwe—mother earth—and her life force as well as complete gratitude and awe for all she gives us. We don’t need a quarry but we do need the rocks to be there and we need the water to be there. We need to have something for our future children—more gravel for new roads and landscaping, income for a few families is not what our children need today or into the future. They need mishomisaag and mokijiwanibiish—rocks and spring water. Nahaaw, mii sa iw. Chi miigwech, thank you for listening to me. And, thank you for all you the hard work you do.


Municipality and Other Reps present were:

Bev Mathews – Councillor

Ron Windover – Deputy Mayor

Lois O’Neill – Clerk

Janet Clarkson – Mayor

Pat Kemp – CAO

Madeline Pearson – Councillor

Don Lacombe – Councillor

Aiden Stanley – Planning Technician

Mike Zimmer – Chief Building Official

Applicants People – lawyer, various consultants

Some of the issues/points raised by other people who presented include:

-develop comprehensive aggregate reserve plan with  other municipalities

– declare moratorium

-costs of road repair

-decrease in property value

-applicants report is inadequate – 5 pages of inconsistencies on their environmental report; insufficient information on various points; the city has a responsibility to ensure this report is meets the requirements

After Thoughts

I has some anxieties about being  there in a room full of white people. So was my daughter. I was somewhat nervous to get up and read but felt really strong about doing so. I feel a great sense of gratitude for all the gifts of the land that contribute to my families good life and I wanted to do this as a way to say miigwech to her and the Mississauga. I wanted my daughter to witness that our voice is something that we can use to say the words that are important to us about what matters to us as women, Anishinaabeg, Anishinaabeg women. I was surprised when the room exploded in applause at these words. I talked about love, life, and Anishinaabeg perspective and people of the Bobcaygeon community appreciated it. When I walked out several of the grandmothers and grandfathers made eye-contact with me, smiled, and shook my hand.

The low point was that my daughter, while I was only a few feet away from her, had to endure a man was sitting behind her/us and was jeering while I was talking. It made her feel very, very upset and angry. I was sick thinking that even though I was only a few feet away this man was able to hurt her like that. We processed this alot. We reviewed what we knew about him: he was earlier seen bullying the Mayor (a woman); he was grumbling a lot with other people’s presentations too; and most importantly, he was NOT one of the many, many people standing in that long line wanting to share their words on the matter. He was a person sitting there bullying and complaining about others. That was enough for my girl to realize that his words, at least the ones he said while her mother was talking, were not worth her time or heart energy. Hiy hiy.


Further reading: