The wild rice on Pigeon Lake has been such a contentious issue around Peterborough, Ont., that playwright Drew Hayden Taylor wrote a play about it.
“The title itself, Cottagers and Indians is a play on cowboys and Indians,” he said. “And I think what is different about this play for other people is that it’s an exploration of contemporary native and non native relationships.”
The tension started three years ago when cottagers on Pigeon Lake began pulling what they call a nuisance weed from the rice beds.
Things came to a head once again two weeks ago at a local meeting where cottagers and Indigenous groups faced off. in public about wild rice.
As they were set to begin the meeting, the power went out that sent everyone home.
Pigeon Lake is located in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe.
Elder Doug Williams from Curve Lake First Nation said the growth of cottages is invasive.
“I only wish that the Canadian government would look at this plant and make it a heritage plant and protect it forever,” said Williams.
“Because we’re gonna have these unscrupulous people with their own ideas only advancing the increase of the cost of their properties and all that adds up to me, just not much thought given.”
The cottagers said the wild rice is destroying their view of the waterfront and impacting the use of the lake.
James Whetung started reseeding the wild rice about 35 years ago.
He’s participated in panels over the years – educating people on the importance of the plan that has sustained First Nations peoples for thousands of years.
“I want to see Anishinaabe people being able to eat our traditional foods good healthy foods without having to put up a fight,” he said.
“Without having people come running through our garden with a play toys and wrecking our food.”
There is a plan to reschedule the meeting between the cottagers, and those in favour of growing wild rice.
It may happen around the time Taylor’s play, Cottagers and Indians, comes to town.