Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

The Environment Program has an ultimate goal to keep the waters safe for all Akwesasronon


An AtoN battery is large enough to notice it shouldn't be where you found it. Contact MCA

By Noelle Oakes

Water is a pathway of life and is the lifeblood of our planet and this element has been held in honor for generations of Kanieńkehá:ka for millennia, as stated in the Thanksgiving address, "We give thanks to the spirit of waters for our strength of well-being. The waters of the world have provided many things. They quench our thirst, provide food for the plant life, and are the source of strength for the medicines we need. Now our minds are one."

We are all connected by the water and we have to take care of it. The MCA Environment Program created the battery retrieval and disposal program and its goal to clear the land and our waters of the 'Aid to Navigation" (AtoN) batteries, ensuring the health and safety of the community first and foremost for many more years to come.

Years ago, the St. Lawrence Seaway needed to place buoys and lighthouses to guide ships through the river at so that in low light conditions the land and the ships would be safer. In the beginning of the novel inventions, they used these marine batteries that would power the buoys and lighthouses. These batteries would need to be replaced periodically when the power would wane and when the Coast Guard would do this, the 50lb. batteries would be thrown over the side of the buoy into the river to fall to the bottom of the river or sometimes placed on the land close by. It is decades later, and the AtoN batteries are quite hazardous to the health of the waters, the land and the living things; thankfully the use of the old buoys and the batteries has stopped. Some of these batteries are decades old and may contain mercury, lead, sulfuric acid, cadmium, and other hazardous substances. A more environmentally sound technology is used presently (solar), as well the lighthouses were put on the electric grid so there was no longer a need to use the toxic batteries.

The Environment Program has a goal to retrieve and dispose of all these batteries so that there will no longer be damage occurring to our ecosystem. With the coordination of Dillon Point, the MCA Canadian Coast Guard Liaison Officer and the Coast Guard, the procedure to removing the Aton batteries is underway, they have already been successful in removing many in the past and are trying to locate anymore that the public has encountered.

It is important to stress that the our people should not search or disturb the AtoN batteries in any way, this is the task of the Coast guard, the Environment Program and the ODS Marine from Greeley that are properly trained in handling the task with the correct equipment and facilities to handle the dangerous and often toxic material.

Liaison Officer Point has advised that if you encounter an AtoN battery you should reach out to emergency services; if you have unwittingly touched the batteries thoroughly wash your hands and if you have found some negative effects (skin abrasions or eruptions) please consult your medical provider. The message is that it is best if no one tries to handle or excavate the batteries from where they lay. The AtoN batteries have 'a seepage issue and sediment will surround them (in the water) and stirring them can be a real big problem.'

Dillon has a background in earth science and environmental policy from studying at Syracuse University and like most Akwesasronon has lived here his whole life and has spent most of his life fishing, boating, kayaking, swimming these rivers and has a really deep connection to its health and wellbeing.

"I want to be sure that it's (the river) as clean and as safe as possible. For me and all Akwesasronon in our community, you know it's in our best interest to make sure our waters are the best they can be."

Liaison Officer Point's job is to ensure that the relations between MCA and the Coast Guard is smooth and he works each day to ensure that the waters are safer for all the people that want to enjoy it. That is why this battery removal is so vital, we can stop any contamination by removing the batteries safely with the proper equipment, training, staff and disposal handling policies.

Point said, "Some of these batteries can be located on land, the islands and river and such, and if someone comes across it, let them know that, they will not get into trouble for it, that the environment program is just trying to dispose of the batteries properly, we are not going to come in and press charges, environmental fines, things like that. We don't want people to be scared that they will be criminalized for this, just know that we are doing this so that their property and well-being is protected."

The Ohen:ten Kariwatehkwen, our thanksgiving address, acknowledges all the elements of life that we are grateful for, the people, the earth, the plants, the three sisters, the waters, the animals, the trees, and the birds (as well, to complete the thanksgiving: the four winds, the thunderers, the sun, the moon, the four beings and the Creator), all this world that gives us our sustenance and survival as a people in balance with our duties as Onkwehonwe.

The water that surrounds the Akwesasne is the way that our people have travelled for generations and it is imperative that we continue to care for our lands and waters so that we can continue the tradition of being respectful of all that the Creator has provided to us. We as Mohawk people have to work to maintain balance with our world and not do further damage to our delicate ecosystems and wildlife. The Environment Program with the assistance of Liaison Officer Dillon Point and the Coast Guard are seeking to heal and protect the earth with each act of recovering the AtoN batteries and safely disposing them, they seek to keep the waters safe for all Akwesasronon.

You can reach Marine Liaison Officer Dillon Point by email: for any tips or sightings of AtoN batteries.


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