The Benny Forest is threatened by the invasive arm of capitalist industry and the forces of colonization. Pristine blocks of old-growth forest, located an hour’s drive north of Sudbury on the ancestral lands and territorial hunting grounds of the Anishnawbek, are being clear-cut by the logging giant EACOM Timber and aerially sprayed with toxic herbicides. Innumerable rare species of animals and medicinal plants are at risk. And while the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and other state bodies work diligently to facilitate this lucrative destruction, the rights supposedly given to the original peoples of this continent by the settler-colonial Canadian state are once again being trampled.
This is business as usual on occupied Turtle Island, an unjust order that has handsomely profited the dominant minority of exploiters and oppressors for centuries, which they hate to see disturbed and work hard to maintain against fierce resistance. But to challenge this injustice is the aim of Barbara McNichol, her partner Clyde who is a descendant of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek Clan that was promised part of land by the Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850, and Art Petahtegoose, elder and former Chief of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek. Generations of Clyde’s ancestors are buried in the Forest in two marked cemeteries and among the trees – lives past and present are being defiled in pursuit of private profit. The McNichols also operate a traditional Native and contemporary arts and wilderness recreation centre called Camp Eagle Nest out of the Benny Forest. Since last Spring, when the decades-long cutting in the region first began to reach Camp Eagle Nest’s doorstep, they have been defiantly campaigning to protect their land and culture from further ruin.
Clyde’s Clan and the Anishnawbek people share a deep connection to the land. The Forest is their heritage and the basis of their communities. It is more than just a commodity to be bought and sold, more than a trivial product to be consumed; it is part of life itself. To lose it would be to lose themselves. If anyone can condemn the clear-cutting as unsustainable, it is the people that have lived in harmony with the Forest for generations. Animals too, the deer and bears, cannot return to the brutalized remains of what the logging industry calls ‘reclaimed land’. These creatures are often pushed out of their habitat forever. In the face of this all-out assault, surrender is not an option for the McNichols and the traditional hereditary Clan leadership of the area.
The Revolutionary Student Movement – Sudbury (RSM-Sudbury) stands in solidarity with the brave Defenders of the Benny Forest. We join them in demanding that the pillaging of the Forest stop here and now! All encroachment onto the territory must cease immediately! The full political, economic, legal, social and cultural autonomy of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek nation must be recognized! We say YES to complete self-determination for all oppressed nations in this occupied country, including the right to secede from the settler state that has never stopped waging war on them.
The McNichols and Petahtegoose are currently pursuing a court injunction to halt all logging, road-building and spraying on lands reserved for the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek in 1850. But they are also urgently aware of the staggering pace of the destruction in the area, which continues not just in Benny while the courts grind through the ‘due process.’ And it is also known that any justice offered through this process – marked as it is by a fundamentally oppressive colonial character – has historically been partial, double-edged, ultimately a disorienting mirage. For militants of RSM-Sudbury, this presents the task of building our capacity to go beyond this rigged framework by any means necessary, now more than ever!
To ensure they are prepared for any court decision, the Benny Forest Defenders have started to establish a winter camp by a key road leading into the Forest. On February 27 they were joined by members of RSM-Sudbury and other supporters to help get the camp off the ground, which has served as an outpost for reconnaissance on the logging operations and a visible sign of the mounting opposition. The Defenders and allies have remained at the camp for over a week. They are calling for support from all groups, artists and other individuals who want to stand with them against further assaults on their land. RSM-Sudbury plans to help further agitate and organize in support of this struggle in the areas we are active, especially among working-class youth and students; and to continue participating in actions on-site to protect the Forest.
Ever since arrival of European settlers, Indigenous peoples here have been in the genocidal crosshairs of white-supremacist patriarchal colonialism and capitalist imperialism. Their communal ways of life, which they have long struggled to assert and defend, are vital inspiration for us as we strive to help build the perspectives and unity needed for our common liberation from all oppression and exploitation. We envision and fight for the united Power of Indigenous militants and the revolutionary working class, a mighty force to smash the dominance of the imperialist bourgeoisie and dismantle colonialism from coast to coast.
Hands off Atikameksheng land!
Self-determination for oppressed nations!
Down with the colonial state!