The snow fell steadily as we assembled, Ogui duct-taping posts to the beautiful signs Stefan had created for our rally. As I tried (unsuccessfully) to figure out how to use the megaphone, a SUV pulled up and I spotted Grandfather William Commanda and his assistant, Romola. I raced over to greet them. We had not known if 97 year old Grandfather Commanda would be up for the journey over to join us.
Once people had their signs, we formed a circle, with Grandfather able to stay seated in the vehicle. Elder Albert Dumont gave a beautiful opening Blessing for our rally and march, reminding us to be mindful with every step we took that it was a step to help save the Forest. Paul Renaud then gave an impassioned speech, challenging the City of Ottawa to do the right thing and demand a new Archeological Assessment, which would halt destruction of the Forest until spring.
Then Grandfather Commanda prayed for the land (in three languages) and offered tobacco. Those of us who have worked together to save the Beaver Pond Forest over these months (and for some, these decades), were moved and grateful. In a letter to City Council, the Premiere, and others, Grandfather wrote that the Beaver Pond Forest is “[a] living temple, a place of Manitou, a special place of nature, and that precious reality also demands immediate protection and reverence.”
As the protesters marched off, all the more eager due to the cold, I went to thank Grandfather. I reached out to shake his hand. He took my hand… and didn’t let go! He held my hand and spoke to me mostly in French, looking deep in to my eyes with warmth and kindness. At first it was difficult to hear his words due to the good-natured clamour of those marching to the Urbandale Sales office. As it became quiet, only a few of us with Grandfather, I could hear and understand his words. But his message went beyond words. It went straight to my heart. It was about living a good life. More than anything, I felt his words validated my efforts. And this inspires me to continue to put my energy into helping nurture a sense of interconnectedness with each other, the land, and other species.
After Romola gently reminded him a few times that I was the Rally’s emcee, he finally released my hand, and they gave me a lift to join the rest of the group. But I would have happily listened to him for the rest of the day.
Many more powerful words, drumbeats, and songs were shared at the Urbandale Sales Office. The crowd was eager to keep fighting, to keep our candle of hope burning bright for this Land. We each know Beaver Pond Forest has a powerful and beautiful energy that fuels and inspires our efforts to save it.