Get Off My Property

Aquimin is part of the Black/Land project, and this is an excerpt from his story:

There's a creek running through the forest valley where my neighborhood is situated, and all through my childhood this is where I'd go to play, to hide, or to pray in silence the way lonely children do. Whenever I bring someone new to my home I always point out one particular house, one right up next to the creek, point to it and talk about how this is the house that I have a lifelong resentment against. "Why?" the guest will inevitably ask, but I could never understand why their response to my answer was always one of flat affect and quiet dismissal.

As a child I had a very intimate relationship with the creek and woods in the valley, one that despite my young age, I now understand was ancient in its nature. A few new people moved into the area, drawn by its beauty, and in the tradition of the suburban dream, trampled all over that beauty with gaudy uncreative architecture, hideous grass lawns, and infernal lampposts that stay lit around the clock, alienating the nocturnal creatures they claim to love and marring the night sky. Regardless of my observations of their intrusion, I was dedicated to maintaining my relationship with the creek much like I had been, visiting her, cheering her up, bringing her gifts, telling her my stories and listening to hers.

One autumn afternoon after quite a spirited visit, I decided to take the long way home by climbing up a jagged bluff, soaking wet and clutching a small plastic bucket of creek rocks which, in all their angular and mud-colored glory, I had deemed perfect enough to complement my pink and gold room. Just as I neared the top of the bluff I heard a woman's voice, frantic and incoherent, disorienting in its stridency, relentless in its assault, demanding of me "Get off my property!"

"Property?!" I thought to myself, incredulous, "this is a creek, this is the woods." Yet in fear I conceded and climbed back down the bluff, back into the water, and ran splashing along the creek bed until I reached the underpass and could ascend to the street.

It seemed the most preposterous thing to me, that someone could claim ownership or dominion over nature like that, that someone would WANT to, disregarding nature's role in our life as a guide and protector, an elder. Do you own your friends too? Your parent? Your dog? Do you own that rock over there? How about this cloud?

But when I tell new visitors to my home about the wretched soul who told me to get off their property once upon a time, the reply is always the same, "Well, was it their property?"

I now understand that it is this ancestral framework of relationship to, within, and of the land that allows some of us to see beyond settler colonial notions of property. The highest honor is not to claim ownership over land, but to be claimed by it.