Supporters rally and stop police eviction of Anishinaabe Kwe for refusing to pay property taxes
Robyn Eshkibok has been refusing to pay property taxes on her home in Baawaating in accordance with her treaty rights.
BAAWAATING / SAULT STE. MARIE – Robyn “Kiki” Eshkibok was awoken this morning by the arrival of a sheriff and half a dozen Sault Ste. Marie police officers who tried to evict her from her home at 416 Old Garden River Rd. Eshkibok was born and raised in Baawaating and is from Wiikemkoong and Ketegaunseebee First Nations. She has been living in her home on Old Garden River Rd since October 2011, but ceased paying property taxes to the city after becoming aware of her Aboriginal and Treaty rights.
According to Eshkibok, “My elders told me that our people do not pay taxes to the government. We made our contribution to the Crown by making treaties with it. We do not pay tax on our treaty lands, because we are living in our own homelands and we are allies, not subjects of the Crown.” It is the position of Eshkibok and her elders that the city of Sault Ste. Marie lies on unceded Anishinaabe lands and that the treaties made by her ancestors with the Crown make any collection of taxes on Anishinaabe illegal.
As the police tried to evict Eshkibok from her home in the middle of winter during a pandemic, she took to Facebook live, and called for support. Police were surprised when one supporter popped out of a Quinzee snow shelter on Eshkibok’s front lawn, and a dozen other Anishinaabe quickly materialized.
Noella Boissoneau was one of those who interceded with police when they arrived to demand that Eshkibok vacate the premises. “I stated that this wasn’t the way to get it done. They said it was their obligation to do it this way. I told them it was my obligation to help Robyn and her family” said Boissoneau.
Boissoneau’s desire to help Eshkibok stems from her own experience as a child being traumatized by police removal. “I’m here for the women and children,” said Boissoneau. “I know how the kids felt. I’ve been torn out of my home as a child before. It’s not right what they’re doing. It’s terrifying what these police are doing.”
As supporters gathered, a smudge was offered to all. When it came to the police, Boissoneau said that the officers backed away when it was offered to them. “They all denied being smudged, and backed up further.”
Officer Beau Neveau, an Indigenous police officer and uncle to Eshkibok’s children, who is now working with the city as a mental health liaison, arrived to de-escalate the situation. Neveau entered the house and met with Eskibok. After their conversation, Neveau spoke to the rest of the police who then dispersed.
Wide ranging support for Eshkibok
Eshkibok has received the support of many in her community, including political leadership in both the Indian Act system and the traditional system. In the fall of 2021, supporters erected a teepee on her front lawn, and numerous people including the elected Chief of Batchewana First Nation, Dean Sayers, and hereditary chiefs such as Gary Sayers and Delbert Riley came to visit and express their support for Eshkibok’s cause.
Brendan Syrette, a long time supporter of Eshkibok, arrived on the scene today and in his own Facebook livestream stated, “we’ve already heard it from our chief… as a people, as a whole, we’ve already paid our taxes. Now we have the city of Sault Ste. Marie ready to evict this Anishinaabe Kwe, this veteran. If you are First Nations, stand up for your inherent rights and support this woman…. It’s ridiculous that these people think they can come and evict this woman in the middle of winter time.”
This is not the first time that Eshkibok has faced eviction. On September 20, 2021, Eshkibok was evicted from her home by the local Sheriff who arrived when Eshkibok had her twelve year old son Wyatt home sick with a cold. According to Eshkibok “The Sheriff came to evict me while he was in the tub. I explained to the Sheriff, not today, my son is sick, this is Baawaating, that they are trespassing, I don’t owe any taxes. The bank was seizing my home and assets. They had paid the City their tax and were there repossessing my home, during a pandemic.”
Eshkibok is planning her next move, but now that she has regained her home, she has no intention of leaving it. Those interested in supporting her can get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.