Since time immemorial, the Asusubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek (Grassy Narrows indigenous people) have lived in the Boreal forest. There was a time not long ago in Grassy Narrows when families were self sufficient and did not know the words “welfare” or “social assistance”. They lived from season to season living off the land and the food it had to offer.
From the 1850’s onwards, large numbers of European settlers began arriving in the area of Grassy Narrows. On October 3rd, 1873 Treaty 3 was signed which defined the terms by how the land would be shared and how the various cultures would co-exist. The treaty guaranteed Grassy Narrows’ right to continue hunting, fishing and trapping as before. People in Grassy Narrows understood the Treaty to be mean that the plenty of the land would be shared, and that the Indigenous way of life and economy would not be interfered with.
In the 1950’s hydroelectric damming on the English river, touted by the provincial authorities for their environmental benefits, flooded sacred burial grounds and destroyed wild rice beds – a major food staple. It also drowned out fur bearing animals that were a key source of culturally appropriate income for the community. The consequent deplacement of families further resulted in a loss of traditional knowledge, language, culture and spirituality. In the 1960s, the community was coerced into relocating from their traditional territory and subsistence life to a reserve near the town of Kenora, Ontario, by the Government