Send us your photos to document the progression of the spreading of rice over the years.

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17 thoughts on “Images

  1. When we visit as tourists and spend our summer vacation at Pigeon Lake, the rice really spoils our enjoyment of the lake. It interferes with boating and water sports.

    I support anything that would reduce the amount of rice in the lake. It would benefit the tourism in the area.

  2. This is unbelievable!!! I have been visiting relatives for a number of years on Pigeon Lake and noticed the spread of this, but had no idea as to the how and why.

    How is this allowed to happen?

  3. @shelley - that’s a racist, ignorant comment. Rice has been grown in this region for a long time, long before Europeans settled on the native people’s land. Why do you think Rice Lake got it’s name? And to all the other seasonal residents who show up in the summer and leave after Thanksgiving, the native people use this crop as a staple in their diets all year long and it also earns them money to buy other goods they need. Being able to go out in your recreational watercraft burning fossil fuels isn’t the most important thing in life. Having clean water and food is far more important.

  4. if it’s deemed an invasive species, and is harming aquatic wildlife, it should be removed, otherwise leave it. I quess more studies will have to be done as to the pros, and cons…

  5. This is aboriginal land. If you want to be upset with some, be upset with your government they are the ones that lied to you and sold you land that did not belong to them.

  6. Honestly, I am shocked and saddened by one man`s ability to ruin a portion of the lake. My empathy goes out to the permanent residents of South Pigeon Lake.

    If this cannot be resolved, the government should tell all Canadians it is unwilling to stand up for the rights of residents, and NOT to purchase waterfront property ANYwhere in Canada because this can and will happen again, somewhere else.

  7. Did anyone among the cottagers consider the possibility of contacting Curve Lake First Nation’s council to express concern and request a discussion? Why is it easier to write provincial and federal agencies than to have a conversation with your First Nations neighbours? If your neighbour in Toronto were doing something that you felt encroached on your property, would your first move be to go to the police or to the city for redress, or would you show your neighbour the respect of raising it with them directly and trying to work out a mutually acceptable solution?

  8. Melissa
    We did just that on Tuesday August 18th in a meeting with Chief Williams. We ask that a meeting be arranged for all stakeholders First Nations , TSW, MNR and representatives from the shoreline Residents to meet and discuss this situation with the objective of finding a solution that would satisfy all stakeholders. Unfortunately a confirmation of this suggestions has not been received. We appreciated your suggestion and applaud you for your forward thinking.

  9. Thanks for your constructive reply. I do think it’s a pity that getting in touch with leadership at Curve Lake was not your first step in this process. It would have shown much more respect to First Nations’ rights to harvest, and actually open up a conversation about whether, notwithstanding those rights, the community might be open to working out a negotiated solution of the conflicting interests in this case. It would still have been within the rights of Curve Lake to insist on a government-to-government conversation, but it’s quite possible that they would have been open to a respectful discussion of the issues at stake. Because the cottager community’s first move appears to have been to write angry letters and make claims based on property rights, the First Nations in the region have little choice but to take the stand that your property rights do not supersede their inherent rights to harvest.

    Reconciliation in Canada will not progress unless we settlers adopt a conciliatory and respectful attitude towards First Nations, acknowledging that they do have rights that we are bound by, as the *first* move in our engagement … not an afterthought.

    Perhaps an apology from the community to Curve Lake First Nation for not having come to them first to discuss this would open a door to constructive dialogue.

    I do hope that a creative and mutually acceptable solution is found in this case. We have had too many conflicts of this sort over the decades and centuries, and it is time for all of us to take responsibility for building relationships in which First Nations can flourish. It’s not a zero-sum game.

  10. I understand your point of view and We along with you sincerely hope a mutually acceptable solution can be found and that it is time for all of us to take responsibility for building relationships in which we all can flourish and enjoy this great country called Canada

  11. Dear SavePigeonLake,

    Thanks again for your kind response.

    I hope that you and other members of the cottager community will try to look at this situation from a First Nations perspective — and I trust that the people of Curve Lake will try to look at it from your perspective.

    It is not for me to articulate a First Nations perspective on this dispute, as I am not a citizen of any First Nation. Like you, I am a settler/descendant of settlers. But this is how I see it:

    Your community’s claim is that you have been coming to Pigeon Lake for up to 70 years. That’s about three generations. That means that those of you who are now grandparents first came to the lake as small children. You knew and came to love the place as a lake of pristine, open water, glistening in the sun. It became a playground: first for canoes and rowboats from which you might have fished; then for rowboats with outboard motors that enabled you to find new places to swim and fish; then for larger boats with larger motors which introduced new kinds of fun, such as water-skiing or tubing, which has been a heck of a lot of fun — and a great release from the stress of city life — for you and your kids and your grandkids.

    “The cottage” is a great Canadian tradition, a tradition of seasonal migration from the city to the expansive space of the lakes and woods, which reminds you how important it is to stay in touch with nature no matter what the stresses of urban life.

    This is something that you want to pass on inter-generationally: the cottage is also a space for kids to be free of the constant supervision that’s necessary in the cities, a place for them to really be *children* and explore their natural environment with untrammeled curiosity and a love of new discovery. I think that this is what makes cottage life so precious for so many Canadians. It provides a reprieve in which both parents and children can recover from the relentless demands of performance and scheduling and achievement that hounds us incessantly in the city. It is a precious thing. It is literally a breath of fresh air, in which we can unwind and relax and be grateful for the wonderful lives we have, despite all our daily concerns and worries.

    Cottage life is part of the Canadian way of life, and part of what makes Canada a decent society, because it satisfies a human need for family connection, tradition, and relationship to nature, none of which reduces to the “bottom line” of one’s net worth — the metric that dominates in city life. Most of us would be more than willing to give up a percentage of our “net worth” in order to provide a safe place for intergenerational family connection, tradition, and relationship to the natural world. I think these values are much more important to the cottagers at Pigeon Lake than the property values that keep coming up in discussions. And rightly so. They’re much more important values.

    But what if these values are also very dear to the First Nations people who inhabit the reserves near your cottage property? What if they, too, care about family connection, tradition, and a close relationship to the natural world? Think about it from their perspective. Your family has been at Pigeon Lake for 3 generations. Their families have been at what is now Pigeon Lake for 500 generations (estimating their presence on the land for 10,000 years, which is a rough consensus among historians, I believe, and thus 100 centuries, and 5 generations per century). Should the claim of people who have a 3-generation history in the land override the claim of people who have a 500-generation history in the land?

    People in the cottage community say that it is not right for one selfish person to advance his commercial interests at the cost of the property interests of hundreds of people. That way of framing the issue might be valid if we were just looking at the decline in property values for cottagers in 2014-15, as compared with the increase to Mr. Whetung’s wealth from manoomin harvesting in the same period. He said he made the poverty line last year, which is (let’s say) around $25K. Presumably in 2014-15 he was below the poverty line, i.e., less than $25K. So taking the short-term view of things, surely his gain of a few thousand dollars in income can’t offset the loss in *tens* of thousands of dollars in property values among cottagers. He’s just being selfish.

    But let’s take this same logic to another context: Grassy Narrows First Nation. There, the operations of a pulp mill upriver have polluted the waters on which Grassy Narrows people rely both for water supply and for food — with mercury poisoning. Maybe, on average, this is acceptable to you, because the number of workers who are employed by the mill and the number of people who benefit from the cheap price of paper mulch is greater than the number of people living at Grassy Narrows. Still, the way of life of the people of Grassy Narrows has been disrupted by the pulp mill not only because they cannot fish or hunt on the property claimed by the pulp mill, but — much more importantly — because they need clean water and healthy fish in order to maintain a basic standard of the quality of human life. Their life expectancy is devastatingly low. How can you have quality of life if the water your people drink and the food they eat is full of poison? Imagine if the rice harvesting in Pigeon Lake involved not only noisy airboats but also mercury-polluting buildings, to the point that the water you gave your grandchildren to drink, and the food you gave them to eat, was full of poison that would shorten their lives by years or decades, and bring a painful death for them? Would you be concerned about the declining property value of the pulp mill if anyone should raise objections to mercury levels? Would you think that it was okay to see your grandchildren poisoned, so long as a larger number of other people’s children were economically better off?

    Now let’s take it back to Pigeon Lake. Let’s take it back not 3 generations but 12 generations, to 1875 or so. My understanding is that the dam that produced Pigeon Lake was built around 1880. So in 1875, there would have been no Pigeon Lake, though there was a Pigeon River. Let’s say that in 1875, Pigeon River had abundant manoomin crops, and between its fish and its manoomin was a major source of food for the people in the region. Then Canada came in and built the dam, turning a rich agricultural region into a series of lakes which generated no food supply for native peoples. They became very poor, and had no source of food but what British North America chose to give them by way of transfers, material or monetary. Were the rights of the Anishinabek people of this territory more, or less, violated than your rights as cottagers on what used to be the “pristine” shores of Pigeon Lake? Remember: they had been there for 500 generations. You have been there for 3, or at most 4.

    Does it matter how many generations, or how many years, people have been on the land? If it matters, it’s hard to see how 3 or 4 generations can generate a stronger claim than 500 generations. If it doesn’t matter, then why should First Nations cultivators care about your grandchildren? You clearly don’t care about theirs. In that case, their best strategy is to just go ahead and exercise their aboriginal and treaty rights under the Constitution Act of 1982 (backed up by a commercial license to harvest manoomin), and the devil take you and yours. How much did you do to stand up for the grandchildren of Grassy Narrows?

    What reason do the people of Curve Lake or Alderville have to care about your grandchildren, given the way Canada has treated their children and grandchildren, allocating less per child for education than any other child in Ontario receives? Have you objected to that policy? If not, what have you done to demonstrate care for the well-being of their children? Have you reached out to them and sought to include them in the pleasures of cottage life? Have you reached out to teach your children the long history of Anishinabek presence in your territory? Have you broken bread with your First Nations neighbours? Have you even given a moment’s thought to the impact of your life in the region upon their well-being? If you have not done these things, then why should they give a damn about your property interests or your grandchildren?

    Maybe your reaction to this is that, well, too bad, that happened back then and we can’t turn back the clock. “They lost, we won.” “If they want to dispute it now, let them face the RCMP and the forces of the Ministry of Defence. We’ve got more guns.” I hope that’s not the viewpoint you and your community members choose. That’s the path Ontario chose in the Ipperwash standoff, and it did not advance anyone’s well-being. I think that brave First Nations people like Mr. Whetung are ready for a battle if that is the way you choose to do things. They have a lot of law, including treaty and constitutional law, behind them. They might well win, if you choose to go to battle with them.

    Wouldn’t it be much better to invite a conversation with the First Nations whose traditional territory intersects with your cottage country, trying to understand a bit more what they’ve been through and why people like Mr. Whetung are doing what they’re doing, even though they are not conflict-seeking people?

    I think the Pigeon Lake controversy could be a terrific *example* to the rest of Canada of what reconciliation really looks like. Here’s a situation in which there are genuinely conflicting interests arising from difference of culture and ways of life. Manoomin vs. water-skiing. That seems clear enough — unless you probe to the deeper, common values: family, tradition, and negotiation instead of coercion. Those are values that I think we all sign onto.

    I hope that you and the Pigeon Lake cottage community will take up the role of exemplars, demonstrating that you understand that there are tensions between the way of life that is exceedingly meaningful to you and the way of life that is most meaningful to the First Nations communities that surround you. You would do a tremendous service to the nation-wide goal of reconciliation if you would engage First Nations communities in a spirit of open-hearted, open-handed generosity, acknowledging how much you and your families have benefited from living on the land that they have inhabited for 10,000 years, and expressing your gratitude to them for sharing that land with you. If you reflect on it — reflect on the fact that your cottages have (for the most part) not been subject to violence or theft, despite the challenges and changes that have been imposed on First Nations without their consent — my guess (and my hope) is that you will recognize that you and your children and your grandchildren have been the beneficiaries of an Anishinabek order of values that recognizes the importance of continuity across generations. You have not been targeted for aggression *precisely because* Anishinabek peoples share with you the importance of intergenerational bonds of community, and they would not want to deprive you of that.

    But if push comes to shove — and you are really at risk of this in your legal challenges — Anishinabek people will seek to protect the essential well-being of their own children over the profit margins of yours. What self-respecting society would not prefer the well-being of their own children over the economic interests (“property values”) of outsiders?

    This dispute is *not* about the economic interests of one individual as weighed against the economic interests of a community. That is a mis-framing of the situation, and if you encourage it, you are implicated in the moral consequences of framing it that way. Much, much more deeply: it is about trying to find ways of living-together that refuse a radical choice between the well-being of First Nations communities and the well-being (or property interests) of white settlers. It’s really your choice how it goes. Are white settlers more important than First Nations, because they are more numerous? Or is the well-being of First Nations equally important as the well-being of settlers?

    You have landed yourself in an interesting — and, I think, historic — conundrum. I hope you will grasp it with both hands, and a full heart, and turn it into a foundation for reconciliation in Canada. You have that opportunity. Please don’t waste it.

    Melissa Williams

  12. WOW!!!!
    HARVESTING naturally occurring rice beds versus SOWING and creating new rice beds. There is a huge disconnect here….the heart of this dispute.
    Where in the treaties is the right to plant and create new paddies stated?

    • Yes, Cathy, you brought up good points on this rice problem in the lake. We bought waterfront property 11 years ago on a little bay on Pigeon Lake and now we almost own property adjacent to a rice paddy! It is really disgusting and I ask, “How can one man be allowed to ruin an entire lake?”
      Obviously this person doesn’t care that our homes are depreciated from this mess!
      Our neighbours and I have to physically pull the tall rice plants out of the lake to allow boats to be able to go in and out of the bay. Several of us are getting older and this is hard work - often pulling for hours at a time! Also, we actually like to look at water instead of a rice paddy!
      I am concerned with the ecology of the lake in general, but this invasion of planted rice in the lake is beyond all reason!
      Pigeon Lake is being ruined for everyone - even for the aboriginal people.

      Ann Bourne Erickson

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