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Looking back at Earth Day 1990

PHOTOS COURTESY DONNA JONES BAILEY

Last year, Donna Jones Bailey from Tennessee came across these two pictures that she took on Earth Day in 1990.

“I had been cleaning up since the pandemic, and I found these photos. At the time, I could not remember all of the details, other than I was taking a photo class, and I lived in New York City for about four years,” said Jones Bailey.

After doing some digging on the Internet, she contacted the Kahnawake Environment Protection Office, who then referred her to The Eastern Door.

“My teacher gave my name to somebody to take photos on Earth Day. At that time, I just knew that a tribe from Canada was coming down to protest the James Bay Project,” she said.

That day, Jones Bailey recalled getting picked up in a motorized rubber dinghy from a pier in the Hudson River.

“It was just so exciting. That is how I got the wide shot. They took me up closer, and I got to take a few more pictures. I was shooting with black and white film back then. Just a few feet away from the canoe,” she said.

In the canoe were brothers John and Mike Canoe.

“At some point, I ended up in the canoe because I met Mike and John. John was so funny, and we just struck up a friendship, and I have often wondered whatever happened to them.

“Now, when I look at the photo, and you see the twin towers, it’s kind of shocking to think of that time,” she said.

Jones Bailey said that both brothers were chatty and lively and all-around nice men. They told her that they were Mohawk from Kahnawake and that they had decided to come and join the protest.

“At the time, I had seen Kenneth Deer had set the whole thing up. And my brother Mike actually went and met this crew up in Vermont,” said John.

When Jones Bailey took those pictures, John was 22 and Mike was 19.

“I remember Donna. Those pictures were some of my favourites. I only paddled the last day when we went through New York. I remember I was with Kenneth. We met them in Yonkers, so the next day we just paddled with them to New York City,” said Canoe.

Once the two brothers and Jones Bailey arrived back at the pier, a bunch of media had gathered to cover the protest.

“The project was going to make a huge impact on where the Indigenous people live, and they talked about it destroying their way of life and where they hunted and where they fished and that it was a beautiful area,” she said.

Jones Bailey said that even though it was only one day – that event and all of the people she met, including the Canoe brothers, had a major impact on her.

“I had never really experienced Earth Day like that before. I don’t know that Earth Day was ever mentioned where I came from. But that day was just huge. It opened my eyes to a lot of things that were going on in the world that we just take for granted,” said Jones Bailey.

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