Occupied Homes

March 17, 2007

grassynarrows.jpg 

“We’ll Leave Your Home… When You Leave Ours!”
– Grassy Narrows to Weyerhaeuser 

When I was in high school, I was sitting on a Seattle to Bothell bus one night when I spotted a dude reading Anarchism, Marxism and the Future of the Left by Murry Bookchin. Bookchin-crazy as I was at the time, I got all excited and introduced myself. That dude was Brady, and we’ve been pals and comrades ever since – sharing not only our affinity for anarchism but also our Bothell childhoods: my partner’s best friend in elementary school had a big ol’ crush on Brady, but he moved out of Bothell long before I would meet him on that late night bus (and funny enough, my partner was there when I met him).

I tell this quaint little anecdote ‘cuz on Wednesday, Brady returned to Bothell for an action in coordination with the Grassy Narrows First Nation and Rainforest Action Network targeting a housing development by Quadrant Homes, owned by the lumber company Weyerhaeuser. According to the press release,

Grassy Narrows First Nation, a Northwest Ontario Indigenous community that depends on the land for hunting, fishing and other cultural activities, opposes Weyerhaeuser’s use of wood supplied from clear-cut logging on their land. Weyerhaeuser is the top consumer of wood from Grassy Narrows territory, which comprises more than half of the company’s total volume. For years, the community has suffered the ill effects of clear-cut logging on its territory and has tried to stop it. They have been ignored by the Canadian government and by companies like Weyerhaeuser and Quadrant Homes that continue to profit from the wholesale destruction of the Grassy Narrows land and people.

After locking down on the roof of Quadrant’s model home, Brady and another activist were arrested and held in the county jail for nine hours, but not before the event was captured via helicopter by local television news. Brady would be the first one to admit, though, that his jail time didn’t mean shit next to what is at stake for the people of the Grassy Narrows First Nations. After all, it’s really their homeland that is occupied – not just by Weyerhaeuser, but by all us settlers. Again, from the press release:

“Enough is enough. The true cost of Weyerhaeuser’s clear-cuts is illness, the death of animals, and the ruin of our spiritual practices and culture. Because of the clear-cuts, we can no longer hunt, fish, trap, or gather medicine or berries like we used to,” said Maria Swain, a Grassy Narrows grandmother who has traveled over 3,000 miles to demand an end of the destruction from Weyerhaeuser.

This action tickles my fancy in a special way, given that it went down in my hometown. The lesson is clear: the affluence on display in a bloated ‘burb like Bothell is built on the exploitation of the global economy, in this instance represented by Weyerhaeuser. The house targetted by Wednesday’s action differs very little from the house I grew up in.

Growing up in Bothell, the immediate reaction of my self and others to that boring – but deeply moneyed – lifestyle is a total repudiation of consumer living. But it isn’t the products I buy or don’t buy – individual choices – that’ll change this system: it is specific actions with tangible goals, and solidarity with those most affected that move this struggle along.

Six years ago, Brady and I met on a bus, and I’m happy that we’re still in this together, moving forward!

More pictures of the action available here.

And here’s a neat little video.

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