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The Story of Grassy Narrows

Secondary

Description

The Grassy Narrows people in Canada have a special relationship to the river. However, the Indigenous community has been devastated by mercury poisoning in the river system. Fish and tap water were contaminated with extremely high levels of mercury, causing cancer and severe health problems for decades. This video is an example of just one of the more than 100 Indigenous communities in Canada with limited access to safe water. Approximately 90 percent of Grassy Narrows residents suffer from mercury poisoning. From 1962 to 1970, a now-defunct Dryden paper mill poured 10 tonnes of mercury into the Wabigoon-English River system. Though the situation here has been long-known, the government's slow response to the issue highlights another case of environmental racism in Canada toward marginalized Indigenous peoples.

The issue of clean water on First Nations land and the Federal government's reaction to the perceived crisis is currently very much in the media. The video helps to raise student awareness of the topic and may serve as an introduction to the issue and encourage further study.

General Assessment

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This video may be used as a case study in resource management or human-environmental interaction (Geography, Environmental Science); as a case study in social justice or social equity (Social Studies); as part of a study of First Nations issues and government response to those issues (Indigenous Studies, Social Studies). The video could begin a more extensive study focusing on clean water and other challenges faced by First Nations.

Following the viewing and discussion of the video, students may investigate the local situation concerning First Nations and water to determine whether this is an Ontario issue only. Local First Nation Elders and government representatives would be a useful resource in any such investigation.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

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        • Aboriginal Studies 10: Political and Economic Organization
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        • Aboriginal Studies 20: Legislation, Policies and Cultural Change
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        • Aboriginal Studies 30: Aboriginal World Issues
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        • Social Studies 10 -Canada and the World: 1914 to the Present: Historical and contemporary injustices challenge the narrative and identity of Canada as an inclusive, multicultural society
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        • Canada in the Contemporary World: Opportunities and Challenges
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        • Social Studies 10 -Canada and the World: 1914 to the Present: Historical and contemporary injustices challenge the narrative and identity of Canada as an inclusive, multicultural society
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        • Environmental Science 11: Human practices affect the sustainability of ecosystems
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        • Environmental Science 12: Human actions affect the quality of water and its ability to sustain life.
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Justice: Individual worldviews shape and inform our understanding of social justice issues.
        • Social Justice: Social justice initiatives can transform individuals and systems
        • Social Justice: The causes of social injustice are complex and have lasting impacts on society

Themes Addressed

Governance (1)

  • Government Regulations

Human Health & Environment (1)

  • Environmental Contaminants & Health Hazards

Human Rights (2)

  • Environmental Racism/Justice
  • Social Justice

Water (3)

  • Water Cycle
  • Water Use
  • Watershed Protection