Lesley Belleau of Garden River First Nation has received hate mail after taking part in Idle No More-related activities and giving interviews about the movement to the local Sault St. Marie media.
“The letter was delivered to another woman, a, L. Belleau who just so happens to live on the same street I did in Garden River,” Belleau explained. Belleau is currently in Peterborough working on her PhD. “The letter was then delivered by L. Belleau to my sister Belinda, who lives in Garden River.”
“My sister opened the letters at my request,” Belleau explained. “She said the letter looked suspicious.”
Upon opening the letter, Belleau’s sister was horrified to find what was inside.
“There were newspaper clippings of the articles and interviews I did for the local papers, they were defaced. There was a photo of Shawn Atleo in there with crude sexual drawings all over it.”
“I was horrified and disgusted,” Belleau said of the envelope’s contents. “To think that someone would take the time to cut out these articles and mail them, to put these extremely racist remarks on the articles. They even wrote ‘Lesley Belleau, stay away from the SOO or else’ with a picture of a gun drawn beside it.”
Belleau did not take the incident lightly.
“I didn’t take it as a joke, especially with the rape of a First Nations woman in Thunder Bay that just happened,” she said. “It was grotesque, and it shows the extent of violence against Indigenous women.”
Belleau reported the incident to the Ontario Provincial Police as well as the Anishinabek police in Garden River.
“They’re still working on it, finger prints have been sent off but no word so far on whether there’s been a positive identification,” she said.
Belleau explained that other First Nations organizations and people have also received similar hate mail, which they believe is being sent by the same person.
“Letters were sent to the chief of Garden River, another to the Sault Indian Friendship Center, and another delivered to Rankin reservation, which is close to Sault St. Marie,” Belleau said. “The letters came in the same envelope, like a Christmas one with holly on it.”
“Whoever did it put a lot of time and effort into it,” Belleau said.
Even though receiving the letter was unpleasant, Belleau is not letting it coerce her into stepping away from Idle No More and other First Nations-related activities.
“The whole ordeal just shows how there are people out there who oppose anything related to Indigenous people and speaking the truth,” Belleau said. “It absolutely did not make me want to step away from Idle No More.”
On blogsite DividedNoMore.com, owned by artist Christi Belcourt, Belleau posted an essay in response to the incident in which she said “it is important to let the perpetrators of such hate crimes to know that their actions are being monitored and does not create a bigger gap of silence for us as Indigenous people. This type of attack will never stop me from speaking.”
“Indigenous women need to start stepping forward and speaking out more,” Belleau said. “The perpetrators are trying to create fear to further silence Indigenous women and Indigenous people.”
“Be aware that there are people out there like this,” Belleau said about the person responsible for the hate mail. “But it’s important to keep exposing it as well. Keep speaking out.”
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