Lake Obabika -- The eastern shore of Lake Obabika here in the Temagami wilderness is dominated by towering red and white pines that are home to bears, wolves, pine martens and more than 100 species of birds. Alex Mathias, the head of the Misa'be family, left the reserve almost 10 years ago to make his home here and reconnect with his ancestors, who had lived on the land for generations before contact with white people.
On this Saturday, I'm sitting with Mathias and 35 other people, native and white, around Spirit Rock, a centre of energy where the Anishnabe have sat, fasted and sought guidance from their ancestors for millennia.
The smoke of burning sage is circulated to cleanse our spirits. Sacred tobacco is passed around. Love for the land flows between us as the feather of a juvenile bald eagle is handed around the circle.
One native woman speaks of her experiences as a child -- how she was taken from her family at the age of four and placed in an abusive home in Alberta. She still carries the scars. She also spoke of her connection to the land here and how it has helped her to heal.
Later our tears will be transformed into peals of laughter as we swim in the lake. But now we throw our tobacco into the sacred fire, asking our ancestors to give us strength for the fight ahead.
Two large areas (blocks 30 and 46) not far from here, in the heart of the Temagami wilderness, have been approved for logging by the Ontario government.
For more than 20 years a struggle has been going on between those who want this area protected and those who want to profit from logging its natural wealth of red and white pine.
The land is truly magnificent. Sadly, though, 200-plus years of logging have taken their toll, particularly in the eastern section of Temagami, where past clear-cuts are marked by logging roads and partially regenerated forests. The Ontario government has assumed jurisdiction over the territory and handed huge tracts over to logging companies.
I have visited many First Nations communities in Canada since my arrival from the UK four years ago. One common theme resonates through all these meetings. A way of life, a culture practised since time immemorial, is under serious threat.
This culture is the land, and the land is the culture. One cannot survive without the other.
The land provides for all needs -- physical, emotional and spiritual. The land is the grocery store, the community centre, the pharmacy and the church.
In Temagami as elsewhere, as each new tree is felled, as each new clear-cut appears, the integrity of the land begins to disappear .
The boundaries of block 30, slated for logging in early September, fall just 300 metres from Spirit Rock.
Mathias worries that the rumble of heavy machinery could cause the rock to topple.
He compares the loss of the surrounding forests to tearing down the church while leaving the damaged altar behind. A place of healing will be lost forever.
Louise Molloy is forest campaigner with Earthroots.