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Where the Brooks Begin: visiting the Sisson Brook Grandmothers’ camp

The Wolastoq grandmothers holding down the camp at the Sisson Brook Mine are calling the place ‘Macehcwik sipohsisol’ (ma-jedge-eh-wig zeeboo-zeezil), meaning ‘where the brooks begin’. Ramona Nicholas of Tobique First Nation explained that there are at least three brooks starting in the area, and along with the land and ecosystem, all would be threatened by the project.

Ramona tells us about the camp from inside their living quarters

The camp was reestablished this summer after the environmental assessment received approval from the Federal government this past June. They have the full support of the Wolastoq Grand Chief Spasaqsit Possesom (Ron Tremblay), who represents the traditional government of the Wolatoq (Maliseet) Nation, but getting support from the colonial structures that are the First Nations Band Councils has been more challenging.

Ramona sharing updates from the Grandmothers camp at the Peace and Friendship Alliance meeting in Kingsclear FN on Nov 25

For the Grandmothers living here, it has been a healing journey: being at the camp means reconnecting with the land, learning many lessons about living with each other and the environment, and sacrificing time with their loved ones. Their vision is to connect others to the land through ceremony. Each Grandmother has her own story, and Ramona’s is one of spiritual reconnection and resilience. Since moving to the camp full time in September, she has made plans to build a sweat lodge, a healing centre and a greenhouse.

The location is remote and Ramona tells us there’s a bear living closeby, as well as a moose and calf. Animals, plants, trees and water are considered not only living things but relations, and as such the Grandmothers remain resolved to protect this land for future generations.

And so despite the plans to create a place of healing for others in the future, they are living in solitude day by day, asserting sovereignty over the land where the brooks begin.

Robin looks at maps of the proposed mine and the brooks and waterways that will be impacted by the project.

Details of the proposed project

Sisson Mines Ltd., a subsidiary of Northcliff Resources Ltd., has plans to move ahead with their proposed Sisson Tungsten and Molybdenum Mine Project in the spring. As noted in previous blogs about the project, the proposal includes an open-pit mine that would be built at the headwaters of the Nashwaak River on Wolastoq territory, about 100 kilometres north of Fredericton (near Napadogan in central NB). The mine would also include a tailings pond and an ore processing plant. This project’s supporters, including the New Brunswick government and industry groups, are touting jobs and economic prosperity for the region and all of NB. You can find all of the exaggerated numbers on the Sisson Partnership website.

Critiques and submissions to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency are found here by the Conservation Council of New Brunswick as well as Mining Watch Canada.

Map of the site via Stantec

How can you support the camp? The Fredericton chapter of the Council has been raising awareness about the project, raising money for the protectors, delivering materials and assisting with building a structure at the encampment. If you’re in the area get in touch with them at chrissmissaert.rpf { @ } gmail.com

Garry Guild and Joan Green of the Fredericton chapter help load the generator into the Jeep for Robin and I to transport

Robin, myself and Ramona by the new generator that will help keep the Grandmothers warm and with power over the winter, thanks to Council of Canadians supporters!

Fundraising efforts continue, with beautiful beaded birchbark heart pins made by the Grandmothers and a go fund me account (connect with me if you’d rather e-transfer to the Grandmothers to save on the administrative costs that go to go fund me). You can also stay connected through their facebook group, Connecting to the Land.

Mary from Madawaska FN shows heart pins she just finished beading.