“It’s not just one community, its 63% of our communities who don’t have access to clean drinking water”
– Native American speaker during the Q & A session.
The disjunction between what was being scientifically reported about the conditions of the lake as generally positive** and the reality that Native American’s were living in shocked me. It was also pretty ironic that, while the conference planners “honored” the Natives (even giving them a whole 10 minutes to talk) by first acknowledging that this land belongs(ed?) to the indigenous populations. There was something haunting about the contrast between the rhetoric around respecting aboriginals and the Native American woman who spoke at the Q & A.
Attending the conference it becomes easy to forget that, since Europeans have landed on the continent, the Great Lakes have been, not only a place for commerce and cooperation, but also a contesting territory of instrumental importance for both natives and settlers. What I want to explore further is the place of the Lakes as a setting for conflict, both on the water itself and in the regions which depended upon it for sustenance. Control over and knowledge of the Great Lakes certainly meant control over a region.
Furthermore I could relate this contentious historical point with the condition that Natives of the Great Lake regions find themselves in today- how many have been deprived of their natural hunting grounds and drinking water, and how their society in relation to the lake has been damaged by this legacy of colonial conflict in the Great Lake region. This is something that I know nearly nothing about but I am greatly interested in from other Aboriginal histories I have read of in Latin America. The abusive history of Native Americans is not a memory which is often discussed, even being almost completely absent in textbooks and classrooms.
Doing a library search, some books of further interest to me include
**Note: (let’s be real here, the poor-fair-good distinction was pretty meaningless, especially because one area (Lake Superior) was so non-polluted while another (Lake Ontario) was on the other end of the scale. When they averaged out they resulted in a pretty meaningless “fair” grade)