The trees of Kanehsatà:ke talked to me. They speak, to who knows how to listen

For three days I had been trying to reach Serge Simon, the Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kanehsatà:ke band, so we could meet. Also with Ellen Gabriel, who has taken part in all battles since 1990 to defend the territory. Two emails. Two phone calls. No answers. Two messages. Silence. Call backs. Silence. Even though we know each other.

So I decided to go walk. In the forest. Get fresh air. Catch my breath. I thought that during this road trip, my motto would be patience. To do things differently is to give time to time. The forest. A magic place. The trees call for calm, reflection, wisdom. No wonder some believe they are the reincarnation of our ancestors.

They talked to me. The trees spoke to me. They told me to be open and listen to what comes before me. To trust. I'll meet who I need to me. Things can't always be planned.

My name is Kayle. I am 30. I was born here, in Kanehsatà:ke. I came back 2 years ago. I was in British Columbia before. I work at Pizza Greco. I have 2 children. Two boys. One is 4, the other one is 8.

My name is Kane Montour. I am 30 years old. I am a Mohawk and I was also born on the reserve of Kanehsatà:ke. But my family is spread between Kahnawake and Akwesasne.

When I grew up, for me Oka was always there when things got bad, things got chaotic, or I was doing things I wasn't supposed to be doing. I'd come back here to take a break, hunt, fish, go to the Blue Mountain, set up my tent, have a fire, be with myself. It's always been my safety place. To be in peace and left alone. For years I've been on the road, traveling, and every 12 months or so I'd come back. To reconnect, recenter myself with nature. I never meant to stay here. But now it's different, since I met Kayla. When I stay down here for 2-3 weeks and refrain from going up in the woods, I start to feel anxiety. Now Kayla understands I think. Going up in the mountain is a need for me.  I can take you there if you want. To the Blue Mountain, that's how we call it. 

I like to be in the mountain most of the day. I go up there, I look for my medicines, I look for eagle feathers. That's what we do, we survive out of the land. We hunt, fish, trap. The land is a source of life for us. That's why we don't like it when people from outside come and do things on our land, wreck the forest, and leave litter everywhere. It's another world here, we see things differently. 

Usually I go to the mountain with my brother, Jason, on our four wheelers, and when we're near the top, we walk.   

We pick onions, wild garlic, roots, different medicines. The knowledge was passed down to us. By the elders. As a little kid, they'd take us through the mountains, and show us the poison ivies, the poison showmax, the plants that you want to stay away from. If you have stomach ache or you got a cold, they'd tell us to use this or this. There used to be more 20 varieties of plants here, around 8 only remain 

Older generations are the ones to hold onto the knowledge. I was lucky, I got to learn my language, got to learn my medicines, my traditions. The younger generations are loosing that.   

Threats over our land, there are many. That development project, for example, at the end of the village, where they want to build luxury houses. There's a claim on that land. It's indigenous territory. This is not the kind of development that we need, we're better off protecting it. 

There will always be land issues over here. Always. As long as the government doesn't give back to us what they've taken and until they don't stop taking from us, we're always going to have land issues. The oil and gas pipelines that go through Oka National Park, we were never consulted, we didn't know about it until it was already there.

A spill would be a disaster for our water, for the St-Lawrence River. Same with the Enbridge pipeline that goes across the Ottawa River no too far away up North West from here. We don't want the tar sands from Alberta.

But people are fighting back. Look at what happened at Standing Rock. I was there, even before all around the pipeline started to get real bad. My family was there. People rise and it's about time. There's an urgency. The Planet Earth is crying. We need to find back the balance with nature. But this is nothing new, you know. This is something we've been saying for years, hundreds of years. As native Americans, mother earth is everything to us. My elders told me, there's the water there, and we then to just had to go and drink. Now you can't do that. Last time I went swimming in the river, I got a rash, you know. We've been losing this.  

People that claim that global warming doesn't exist are crazy. Everything is melting, there's so much pollution. It's money talks. They're lying. Now, it's definite we have to step up and do something, right now, it is an urgency, definitely. People are fighting, fighting back, it's a good thing. You know, we might die, as human beings, when the earth gets so bad she might kill us off, but earth won't die, it will reconstruct. Some people use the term that the world is coming to an end. The world is not coming to an end. We are, coming to an end. The world is going to keep going. And now it's crying, because there's so much pollution but it will find a way to go on, with or without us. 

The land is a very important issue here, definitely. It's maybe one of the most political places when it comes to land. In Canada and even in the United States. Because we're constantly in battle over it. But honestly, we only want to be left alone. And live in peace. We don't want all the time to fight off people who are trying to bulldoze the land, and build on the land, in the name of progress. But it's important that we fight, because if we don't fight to it now, our generations, our kids, what are they going to have? That land that I live on, that was passed on four, five, six generations. I grew up on that land, my mother grew up on that land. My kids, what are they going to have? If we don't fight for it now, they won't have nothing. We're no rich people. To the outside, it's all about development, it's all about money, getting rich, starting a business. But it's not the most important thing in life. We've been saying this for hundreds of years. Money doesn't matter to us. There's no amount of money that you can give us that can replace the land we're standing on and make our livelihood.