Trespasser – Martha Steigman

It happened by accident. The best projects always do. I was just going to let some activists use my classroom for a meeting. Then I found out why–they were making banners for a highway blockade. I had heard about the Algonquins of Barriere Lake. I knew the Trilateral Agreement they had landed was a precedent setter and I knew that was why Canada and Quebec were playing as dirty as they could to undermine it. So I couldn’t think of a reason not to go when they asked me.

I’ve never been anywhere like it. Algonquin is still spoken as a first language; Traditional government is still intact, and people still live off the land. You simply don’t find that this far south in Indian country. If it were implemented, the Trilateral Agreement would give the Barriere Lake Algonquins decision-making power over 10 000 square kilometers of their traditional territory without surrendering their rights to the land. Surrendering rights to the land is one of the usual conditions the Canadian Government has forced on First Nations when they come to the negotiating table under the notorious Comprehensive Land Claims process. In the old days they called it extinguishment. They changed the wording in 1986, but not the effect. At least back then they were more honest about it.

A friend sent me a link to this year’s World Press Photo contest winner.

I doubt many of us in Canada think of ourselves as settlers. I wake up every morning on Mohawk Territory. The Great Peace of Montreal was negotiated where I live in 1701. But if the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabee Peoples gave us “permission” to be here, I know damn-well the people I pay taxes to, the ones who speak in my name on a daily basis didn’t hold up their end of the deal. But fuck them – do I live by the Treaties?



Martha Stiegman grew up in Halifax, on Mi’kmaq territory. These days she’s doing what she can to keep it real in Montreal. For more information on the Barriere Lake Algonquins and their struggle, check out http://barrierelakesolidarity.blogspot.com