Browsing Category 'People’s History'


by Zainab Syed and Arsalan Samdani

“They tortured me. They punched me on the head, they slap[ped] my arms and they beat me with a stick,” said Kareem Khan to journalists after his release from detention on February 13th.

Kareem Khan, 43, poses with images of his deceased brother Asif Iqbal (L) and son Zaenullah during an interview in Islamabad November 30, 2010. REUTERS/Mian Khursheed

Kareem Khan, 43, poses with images of his deceased brother Asif Iqbal (L) and son Zaenullah during an interview in Islamabad November 30, 2010. REUTERS/Mian Khursheed

Khan, a vocal anti-drone activist from FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), was kidnapped (allegedly by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence – ISI) from his home in the outskirts of Islamabad on February 5, 2014. This was just days before he was due to testify in front of European parliamentarians to further expose the impact of the US-led drone attacks in the northwestern Pakistan. After eight days of torture in an underground cell, he was released by being thrown out of a vehicle blindfolded.

“Some armed men in police clothes and plain civil uniform came in my house after midnight and took me with them,” Khan said about the identity of his captors.

After losing his teenage son and brother to a drone strike in North Waziristan in December 2009, Khan had launched a case in Pakistani courts implicating CIA members, including the CIA’s former station chief, in their deaths. Khan’s abduction was no surprise considering his role in exposing the atrocities committed by the US-led drone operations in northwestern Pakistan, and the collusion of the Pakistani authorities in this program. His kidnapping is further evidence of the extent of this collusion and the measures that Pakistan’s authorities are willing to take to suppress any voices that break through the barriers of silence placed on the people of FATA for the last six decades.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as of 2014, millions of people have been displaced and at least 2,500 have been killed in drone strikes. Pakistan, being a ‘strategic ally’ of the US, has received more than $15.8 billion as security assistance in return for their compliance and support for US intervention in Central and South Asia.

After a renewed offensive launched in December 2013, which saw the bombardment of several neighborhoods in North Waziristan, the Pakistani government entered into negotiations with the Taliban under pressure from the people of Pakistan, allegedly to “give peace a chance.” These “talks” were unsuccessful, but many analysts have alleged that the government was not serious to begin with, and used the failure as a means to justify an alleged major offensive that would have resulted in the displacement of several thousand people, and many casualties.

The Pakistan army has entered into negotiations with the Taliban in the past, but these talks have been disrupted on numerous occasions. In June 2004, just two months after entering a peace deal with the Pakistan military, militant commander Nek Mohammad was killed in an attack for which the Pakistani military accepted responsibility, but it was later revealed that this was, in fact, the first drone strike of the region. Similarly, in November 2013, chief of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed in another drone strike just days after he had agreed to peace negotiations. This attack coincided with a US congressional hearing of drone victims that incited much public outcry and made international headlines.

FATA is a region which is still ruled by colonial laws that were meant to subjugate the local population, deny them any representation whatsoever, and legalize collective punishment by the state. As such, the area remains largely underrepresented and underdeveloped. Any voices, such as Kareem Khan’s, that venture to speak about the plight of the people of FATA are often violently suppressed by the authorities. This lack of voice and opportunity has contributed to radicalization and support for radical groups, that were once created by the state itself. Instead of addressing the causes of this radicalization, the state is resorting to violence to further silence the people of FATA.

"A large number of students hailing from FATA staged a protest demonstration on Jan 16, 2013 in front of Peshawar Press Club against the killing of eighteen innocent people in Tehsil Bara of Khyber Agency. The protesters had brought bodies of the deceased as evidence of their loss and as a way to demand action by the authorities. The Police fired tear gas and started aerial firing besides baton-charge to suppress the protest. " Courtesy FATA Research Center

“A large number of students hailing from FATA staged a protest demonstration on Jan 16, 2013 in front of Peshawar Press Club against the killing of eighteen innocent people in Tehsil Bara of Khyber Agency. The protesters had brought bodies of the deceased as evidence of their loss and as a way to demand action by the authorities. The Police fired tear gas and started aerial firing besides baton-charge to suppress the protest. “
Courtesy FATA Research Center


Pakistan’s mainstream media is complicit in this suppression as they ignore the voices of the people of FATA. In response to these circumstances, organizers in Toronto have launched the Campaign Against Drones in Pakistan (CADiP). CADiP is a pro-people, anti-intervention and anti-imperialist campaign that seeks to shift public opinion and mobilize communities to take a stand against drone strikes in Pakistan and the imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan in general.

To learn more or to get involved:


Welcome to Canada: Growing up Latino in Toronto

This is an interview by Camila Uribe-Rosales of BASICS with Oscar and R (who prefers to remain anonymous), two Latin American youth who migrated to Canada from El Salvador and Mexico, and their experiences in the Canadian education system.



O: I was born in El Salvador. My parents migrated here.  I didn’t speak the language at all as a youngster, and I remember I was about 7 years old.  You definitely feel outcasted. I remember feeling that the only people that really knew me and the only place where I felt safe was at home amongst my family. I would go to the classrooms.  Kids would laugh at me.

R: The first school I went to, there was no ESL program at that school. There was one Latina.  Actually she was from Spain, she wasn’t Latina, and she refused to speak to me.  I remember very clearly that she said she would be considered low class if she was to speak Spanish to me.


O: There was one particular incident where there were these two girls that were speaking and they were talking about my skin colour. Something along the lines that “We shouldn’t judge him because of his skin colour, like it’s not his fault.”  And I was like “Really? Like why is that even a problem?” I didn’t even know that that was an issue.

R: I remember being picked on a lot. People would come to me and sing Daddy Yankee songs, like that was cool or that I would feel at home or something, and people bullying me.  It was very hostile. A lot of people tried to fight me and I didn’t really know why.

At one point, I went to Mexico to celebrate Christmas. And so when I came back, the teacher had a set-up with chunks of desks, like she had four here, four there, whatever. And when I came back, my desk was at the corner closest to the door. And everyone else’s was at the opposite corner, packed away from me. And so when I walk into the classroom the teacher says to me, “Look, we just really feel you shouldn’t be here, because you’re Mexican and we don’t want to catch swine flu. And so we wanna ask you not to come back to school.”  I got completely bullied.  I was harassed.  People wrote this on my Facebook and made videos about it.


R: I got kicked out of the school because, well, I was in a classroom and the priest walked in and he started to ask people the commandments. And so I didn’t know them in English and so he threw a set of keys at me. And I picked them up and I walked to him and I gave them back to him in his hand. I mean, he was a priest and I was just coming from Mexico. And so he once more asks me for a commandment which I don’t know how to say. And so he throws the keys at me for the second time, and I pick up the keys and I throw them at him. And so I was like arrested [sic] by a teacher, and they took me to the office and they were just screaming at me.  Like I understood what they were saying.  They were saying I was stupid or I was gonna burn in hell, that Mexicans were violent, that it was all because I was Mexican. That Mexican people were horrible.

Then I arrived at Downsview which is where I completed my high school. There was a lot more Latinos at Downsview and things were a lot more enjoyable in the sense of students. I remember at one point we had a group of like 30 friends and we would help each other out. But as soon as I got there I was told by the principal that I would never be able to go to university, and that I would never achieve to graduate high school, because I would never be able to pass Grade 12 English.

And I was bashed out of many classrooms by teachers because I was called a communist, simply because I wanted to speak about things. I remember one time, this teacher wanted to give us a lot of homework for Thanksgiving. And I said to him, “No, this is a holiday.” And he started to argue to me and I said, “Look, this is not a dictatorship.  You’re not an ultimate power. You are in a sense elected by somebody and if we all work as a collective and decide to walk out on you, you will be fired.” And he bashed me out of the classroom.  He called me very nasty things and started to relate me to a lot of nasty characters in Latin American history. He started saying “Oh, don’t call Pablo Escobar on me,” and stupid things like that.

O: I remember this one professor, he was white, but I remember one of the first slides.  He showed a little caricature, and he said, “Oh its scientifically been proven that those students that wear hats backwards, there is a correlation with lower grades.” So I purposely would bring in a cap.  I wouldn’t always put it on backwards, but I would always bring it in, as a form of resistance. And you know, that’s bigotry right to the end because it’s based on absolutely nothing, and yet you’re claiming it to be scientific evidence, as a professor.  I don’t know if he was joking but even if he was, like who jokes around about that? Why, out of everything, pick that? And I think that’s definitely targeting racialized groups. They don’t understand the culture that it even comes out of.

R: I was incarcerated [sic] by a principal. It was in high school and the teacher said we could do whatever we felt like doing, but our teacher had written on the board that we had to do a shitload of work, like a crazy amount of work. He had been absent and he hadn’t taught any of the material he wanted us to do, and so I was like “Wait a second, this guy never comes to class, never teaches the material and expects us to perform like a super student.” And so I said to the students “Look, if we all walk out of this classroom, the teacher can’t fail us all. If all of us get up and walk out right now, he’s screwed.” And so, we all got up… Well it took some convincing, took me a little more convincing. And so we all got up and started walking out, and the principal grabs me. Grabs me by the shoulders and yells, “Everybody get back into the classroom!” Everybody gets freaked out.  Everybody started heading back in.  And he says, “You’re coming to the office with me!” By the way, that class was very crucial to me.  That was Grade 12 English and if I didn’t pass I wouldn’t graduate. And so he took me to the office and made me sit in a corner of his sketchy office. And so I said, “No, I’m an adult.  You’re not gonna treat me like this.  You’re not gonna segregate me, you’re not gonna outcast me because I was speaking about my rights.”  And he was literally like, “Shut up, I don’t wanna hear you, go in your corner.”  And so he locked the door and locked me in. And he left me in that office for two hours, just sitting there. And I remember kicking the doors and getting angry and screaming.  I started writing step by step how I was segregated, and comparing it to acts of genocide which have happened in our society.  Like I was locked in an office as a student for fighting for my rights! And I drafted this to the director of education. He looked at the paper and said, “Oh yeah, this is a good principal, don’t worry about it.”

At one point in my life, I was like, “Fuck this.  These guys are all racist.  I’m never gonna win against them.  There’s no one like me.  I’m a nobody.  I’m not gonna go to university,” and I started believing it. And it’s really hard without teacher support, it’s really hard as a student. And it’s quite frustrating because you don’t have control over them. If a teacher wants to be racist to you, he will be racist to you. And to know that you can’t do anything about it, that you report it to the Director of Education and he does nothing about it. It’s frustrating.  It’s heartbreaking.

You don’t feel like you belong in the school, all your teachers are white, and they talk about white behavior, and they’re all racist towards you, and it’s like well, what am I? A fucking alien? Am I the weird one? We talk about why there is so much violence in youth, why there is so much anger…fuck, what do you think this frustration builds to?


O: I feel like a lot of times we have to resort to those things [violence], or fit into the stereotype that was being projected onto me. As a young Latin American male, you’re like cholo, gangster, like you have to do that. You have to be a drug dealer, beat people up, treat women like shit, be a scumbag, machista.  Even with all the bullshit that we have to go through, I imagine it’s much, much more difficult for a Latina.

R: My girlfriend was told to take parenting classes five times because she was told by a guidance counselor that all she needed to do was go to university to find a husband. And that once she found a husband that what she would do for the rest of her life was be a mom, so she might as well take a lot of parenting courses. And so it took her two extra years to graduate high school because of that, because the courses she was supposed to take were not given to her because she didn’t need to be smart. All she needed was to find a good husband, so she was given almost a semester and a half of the same subject.  Just because she was Latina.


R: There was definitely a lot of pride in the land where we came from and I never wanted to turn my back on mi gente and my community. I was blown away by the lack of community that I experienced here. Coming from a little colonia back home, it was all like one family and that was something that I lost.  Every time you try to explain to people who we are as Latin Americans, we aren’t listened to.  Like I feel that we are a minority and not even recognized…things like the constant need to remind people that we’re not Spanish but Latin American, and the constant need to remind people that we’re not all Mexican.  We’re not all the same.  It’s important for us to come together; I remember one of the chants in El Salvador that is used all over Latin America. “El Pueblo unido jamás será vencido” [The people, united, will never be defeated] and I truly believe that.

Feb 14: Over 600 gather outside Police Headquarters to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women

by Nicole Oliver

Several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Toronto Police Headquarters in downtown Toronto to protest state inaction on missing and murdered indigenous women.  SHAFIQULLAH AZIZ/BASICS.

Several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Toronto Police Headquarters in downtown Toronto to protest state inaction on missing and murdered indigenous women. SHAFIQULLAH AZIZ/BASICS.

“The strawberry represents love, courage, and women,” explained Wanda Whitebird in Toronto at the 9th Annual Strawberry Ceremony Honoring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and those who have died violent deaths by colonialism in ‘Canada.’

“Over 600 strawberries and cups of water were handed out,” Audrey Huntley of No More Silence posted on the Strawberry Ceremony Facebook event page.

The Toronto ceremony took place February 14 outside the Police Headquarters in downtown Toronto. From coast to coast, other communities also gathered to mourn and remember beloved sisters, daughters, mothers, and grandmothers who have gone missing or have been murdered in recent decades.



“We stand together on this day to show our solidarity with the community of the downtown eastside in Vancouver where the Memorial March has been taking place for 23 years and because the violence is here too and inherent to settler colonialism”, Huntley shared with BASICS.

Indigenous women are five to seven times more likely than other women to die as the result of violence, cites Canadian government statistics. Still officers of the colonial state, including the police, have a track record of over-persecuting and under-protecting indigenous women. In Canada, Onkwehon:we (original) peoples make up four per cent of the population, yet First Nations, Inuit and Metis women account for 32.6 per cent of the inmates in the federal prison system.

Blu, the event’s emcee, shared with those gathered at College and Bay that “when my Kohkom [grandmother] was murdered – her life was taken and this took something away from me, my family members, from people in my community”. When describing how healing and solutions to end the violence requires the collective efforts of community members, Blu stated, “we ask the men to help, to stand beside us, to support us as we are a community and a community involves everybody”.

Tobacco ties were handed out to participants as the Strawberry Ceremony progressed into a march from Toronto Police Headquarters to the 519 Church Street Community Centre. As an indigenous medicine, tobacco is seen as a plant responsible for acting as a medium for communication with the Creator, with its smoke seen as lifting prayers to the Creator to be heard. When offering tobacco in ceremony it signifies that those involved are to be of one heart, one mind, and one spirit moving forward with the same purpose.  Those who took the tobacco ties were asked to “tie them in a place where they will be seen, so that those who come will know that someone has been there before representing not a closing, but a beginning” explained Whitebird.

John Fox, father of Cheyenne Fox, led the march of over 200 community members to  519 Church. Cheyenne Fox of the Sheguiandah First Nation died at the age of 20 in April 2013 after mysteriously and tragically falling from a 24-storey condo in Toronto. After only 8-hours police had ruled the death a suicide. John Fox has been vigilant in pressuring the police to look further into the death of his daughter.

Michelle Schell, an Ojibwe woman, shared with BASICS, “I was staying at a Native women’s shelter and I heard a story of a woman who was raped in the backyard…I later found out that this was Cheyenne Fox. The fact remains that she was harmed in a place where she was supposed to be safe. So it’s not just a question of whether she jumped from that balcony or whether she was pushed, but I cannot help but wonder had she not left that place because obviously she did not feel safe after what happened, if things might have happened differently. Either way she may not have found herself in the position of being on that balcony”.

Schell’s insight into Cheyenne’s death speaks to the continued systemic failings that indigenous women are continually subjected to by service providers and agencies set up by the Canadian colonial government.

Since last year’s ceremony, Toronto has seen the unresolved violent deaths of three indigenous women – Cheyenne Fox, Terra Gardner, and Bella Laboucan McLean.

As the march carried forward to the beat of hand drums and songful voices, major intersections were occupied by those who came out to honor the lives lived and the loved ones of indigenous sisters no longer with us. Before partaking in a community feast prepared by the men of NaMeRes, a round dance took place at the intersection of Church and Wellesley. Schell told BASICS that the Strawberry Ceremony is held in front of Toronto Police Headquarters because “it’s symbolic… to make it visible and to let people know that they have failed in so many cases and that they just don’t seem to care”.

"From coast to coast, other communities also gathered to mourn and remember beloved sisters, daughters, mothers, and grandmothers who have gone missing or have been murdered in recent decades" - Nicole Oliver.   Photo: SHAFIQULLAH AZIZ/BASICS

“From coast to coast, other communities also gathered to mourn and remember beloved sisters, daughters, mothers, and grandmothers who have gone missing or have been murdered in recent decades” – Nicole Oliver. Photo: SHAFIQULLAH AZIZ/BASICS

Native hip-hop artist Young Jibwe (Cameron Monkman) of Lake Manitoba First Nation created a song featuring Robbie Madsen entitled “Come Home” to raise awareness about Missing and Murdered indigenous women of Turtle island.  Young Jibwe was in attendance at the Feb 14 event in Toronto and he told BASICS that “I want to show my respect to the missing and murdered women and acknowledge my cousin Unice Ophelia Crow. She was murdered in Winnipeg in August. She was 19.  She was stabbed multiple times on her upper body. I came out to shine light on that. I feel people need to know who she was. She was a great person. It’s just sad that community loses great people”.

In discussing where the solutions to end the violence will come from Schell told BASICS, “I think the answers will come from the community itself; whether it’s an indigenous issue or not we have to stop relying on the government…obviously they don’t listen, obviously they don’t do anything … they keep saying there’s no money, we don’t have it, so we have to look to ourselves to organize.”

Comandanta Hortensia reads the EZLN communique in the Oventic Caracol on January 1, 2014

by Pablo Vivanco

'The Originales from San Andrés' livened up the first evening of New Year with their revolutionary 'corridos' (Mexican folk music), tracing the history and struggle of the EZLN and their struggle.  Photo Credit: Marta Molina.

‘The Originales from San Andrés’ livened up the first evening of New Year with their revolutionary ‘corridos’ (Mexican folk music), tracing the history and struggle of the EZLN and their struggle. Photo Credit: Marta Molina.

On January 1st, the governments of Canada, US and Mexico marked the 20th anniversary of the passing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  In Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, the day was being commemorated for very different but connected reasons.

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), often referred to as the Zapatistas, was celebrating 20 years since the start of their armed uprising.  With the words “Today we say ‘enough is enough’”, the EZLN declared war on the Mexican government on January 1, 1994.

Among the Zapatista’s three basic principles were the defense of collective and individual rights historically denied to Mexico’s Indigenous peoples. NAFTA attacked the rights of working people in all three countries, but especially attacked the traditional communal land rights of Mexico’s Indigenous peoples.

The Zapatistas’ social base is the mostly rural Indigenous people in Chiapas.  Roughly 957,000 out of 3.5 million people in Chiapas speak one of 56 different Indigenous languages.  One third of these people do not speak Spanish at all. Out of 111 municipalities, twenty two have Indigenous populations over 90 percent, and 36 municipalities have native populations exceeding 50 percent.

Chiapas has about 13.5% of all of Mexico’s Indigenous population. Most of Chiapas’ Indigenous groups, including the Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Ch’ol, Zoque, Tojolabal, and Lacandon, are descended from the Mayans.

This past January 1st, the EZLN accused the federal government of maintaining a war strategy against them and wanting to take the land recovered by the Zapatista’s during their uprising, leading to a renewed call to rebellion.

Comandanta Hortensia reads the EZLN communique in the Oventic Caracol on January 1, 2014. Photo Credit: Marta Molina.

Comandanta Hortensia reads the EZLN communique in the Oventic Caracol on January 1, 2014. Photo Credit: Marta Molina.

In front of several thousand guests and hundreds of grassroots members, Comandanta Hortencia, a Tzotzil woman and spokesperson for the EZLN, read a statement that emphasized the struggle to maintain autonomy and self-government. “We are learning to govern ourselves according to our ways of thinking and living. We are trying to move forward, to improve and strengthen together, men, women, youth, children and the elderly. About 20 years ago, we said enough is enough.”


“We are sharing our experience with the new generation of children and youth. We are preparing our people to resist and to govern. In our Zapatista areas we no longer have bad government, nor do parties rule and manipulate.”

In fog and constant drizzle, the EZLN celebration lasted all day and well into the night, as it was attended by thousands of young people from almost every state in the country as well as students from other countries attending the two courses at the Zapatista school.

To these visitors, Comandanta Hortencia spoke of the possibility of the Zapatista experience of autonomy and self-governance applying elsewhere.

With notes from

The Threat of Liberation: Imperialism and Revolution in Zanzibar – Book Review


by Saraswati Ali, writer and lawyer in Toronto

The Threat of Liberation: Imperialism and Revolution in Zanzibar by Amrit Wilson

Pluto Press, 2013. 192pp. Paperback. African Studies. CDN$ 32.56 at

The Threat of Liberation returns to the tumultuous years of the Cold War, when, in a striking parallel with today, imperialist powers were seeking to institute ‘regime change’ and install pliant governments… The book also draws on US cables released by Wikileaks showing Zanzibar’s role in the ‘War on Terror’ in Eastern Africa today. – Pluto Press, Publisher

The Threat of Liberation reflects on the history of a party which confronted imperialism and built unity across ethnic divisions, and considers the contemporary relevance of such strategies.

Spice_Islands_(Tanzania).svgTanzania was formed in 1964 through the uniting of Tanganyika (located on the mainland of east Africa) with Zanzibar, the historic islands off the east coast of Africa.

In her first book on the topic, US Foreign Policy and Revolution (1989), Amrit Wilson, feminist activist and writer based in London, UK, discussed how this union of regions was orchestrated by the U.S., who was desperately attempting to prevent Zanzibar from becoming the Cuba of Africa, spreading dissent and revolution through the continent.

In her new book, The Threat of Liberation, Amrit Wilson tells us what the U.S. was so scared of – the Umma party, its characteristic leader A.M. Babu, and the leadership’s dedication to fostering multiracial unity, socialism in Africa, and independent relations with China and the Third World.

Wilsons delves into the historical details of 1950s and 1960s Zanzibar through records and interviews with the few leading activists who have not been murdered or died. A.M. Babu has also left extensive writings which form the guiding spirit of the book. It is an important tale of an attempted revolution, in the midst of the Cold War. It conveys how the presence of an organized and principled Umma party, and especially a youth wing, helped convert a revolution led initially by “lumpen” elements into a focused revolutionary government.

However, the process was only allowed a few months before it was hijacked by Julius Nyerere under orders from the U.S. Nyerere was a pro-West leader. He led a one-party state which governed Tanganyika and then Tanzania from 1961 to 1985.

Zanzibar became relegated to dominion status within the union, and a viciously oppressive and racist (anti-Arab and anti- Asian) clique was permitted to govern Zanzibar. All the Umma activists were either murdered, tortured and jailed for years. Hundreds of women suffered forced cross-racial marriage and rape by the ruling party in the early years.


Babu (to the right) was a figure who helped foster Malcolm X’s anti-imperialist perspective not long before the latter was assassinated.

As and when opportunity presented itself, and when he was not imprisoned, Babu continued to cultivate links with radicals, including Malcolm X. They spoke together at rallies in Harlem, and Babu influenced Malcolm X into adopting an anti-imperialist perspective.

In the second half of the book, Wilson uses Wikileaks released material to bring the story to the present and to look at how and why Zanzibar continues to present itself to the paranoid U.S. as a threat – this time because of its masses of unemployed Muslim youth sitting on…. an abundance of natural gas and oil. Talk in foreign intervention circles is ongoing regarding “allowing” Zanzibar to secede – this time as a disciplined workground for SEZs coupled with oil extraction monopolies.

In this section, Wilson takes us through the contours of the horrific current processes of recolonization of Africa with the descent of multinational extraction companies and donors like vultures on the land, in search of gas, oil, valuable metals, and minerals. It is a very important story to hear because it tells of the contrasting methods of the Western powers (including Norway usually touted for its wonderful social democratic state) compared to China, who is also gaining access to the oilfields, but through setting up long-lasting infrastructure projects which could potentially bring benefits to African development.

One of the most important aspects of revolutionary struggle that Wilson discusses at some length is the nature of the underlying vision – what did Babu and other radicals in the PanAfrican movement want.  This is best seen as what Babu attempted on one occasion – he went to Indonesia in 1964, then a major importer of Zanzibar’s cloves. A tri-lateral trade cum industrial agreement was made, where Zanzibar would provide Indonesia with cloves, Indonesia would provide East Germany with raw materials of equal values, and Germany would provide Zanzibar with industrial tools and machinery. By the time he returned to Zanzibar, however, Nyerere had taken over, with no vision of development for Zanzibar.  Later, however, Babu did manage to get the Chinese to offer Tanzania the historical Tanzania-Zambia railway. This permitted Zambia to be able to export its copper from a port outside of racist South Africa. Hence Zambia could partially de-linking from the imperial-controlled routes and take an autonomous stance on apartheid. The World Bank and the U.S. government had refused to finance this railroad.

Wilson also offers us a debate between the African socialism model of Nyerere and the socialism in Africa model of Babu. The former, with its romantic rhetoric of pre-colonial class-less Africa, had no concept of how to raise the necessary capital for the welfare it wanted to deliver. The model became implemented as an authoritarian system of top-down rule leading to the impoverishment of the peasantry on the other as they were compelled to live in collectives under terms of austerity with no infrastructure, market, or subsidy. A.M. Babu and the Umma party, long dissolved, could not put into practice or refine their own vision, but Wilson at the end of her book imagines what it might look like in the contemporary context: where the extraction of oil and gas in Zanzibar is controlled by and used to benefit the people; such that illiteracy and poor health can be relegated to the past; and housing , education and employment a birthright to all. She does not tell us if anyone is discussing these ideas with the ‘radical Muslim’ youth in Zanzibar, but perhaps that is one reason why she wrote this important book.

A class in penmanship at the Red Deer Indian Industrial School.
Portuguese and Greek immigrants arriving in 1956. (Manuel Faria da Silva and Jose H. da Silva)

Portuguese and Greek immigrants arriving in 1956. (Manuel Faria da Silva and Jose H. da Silva)

by Steve da Silva

Many of us have the impression that immigration policy in Canada is driven by so-called “Canadian values” like humanitarianism.  This may have been part your or your parents Citizenship test, or maybe you learned this in school.

However, since the 1870s, Canadian immigration policy has primarily been about attracting workers to feed its expanding capitalist economy.  In the century leading up to that, immigration policy was primarily focused on colonizing Indigenous lands with British settlers.

By 1942, just as most of Canada’s 23,000 Japanese were about to be branded as “enemy aliens,” dispossessed of their property, and removed to concentration camps, the government began thinking seriously about the crisis of legitimacy they would face after the war, especially in the eyes of non-Anglophone peoples.  They did not want a repeat of WWI, which sparked the takeover of Winnipeg by workers in the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.

In the same year, the Department of National War Services established an Advisory Committee on Cooperation in Citizenship that was charged with studying the views of immigrants for the purpose better cultivating their allegiance and loyalty.

Throughout the 1920s and ‘30s, a large section of the immigrant population and a growing section of the lower middle class were orienting towards the Communist Party and their vision for an egalitarian society; and communists played a leading role in building unions for industrial workers.  So cultivating the allegiance of certain sections of labour in postwar Canada would be just as important as cultivating the allegiance of immigrants in general.

In February of 1944, the federal government passed an executive order recognizing trade unions; by March 1945, 133 new unions had been certified; and a fierce 99-day strike at Ford over the summer of 1945 led to the compulsory check-off of union dues from members’ pay cheques (the ‘Rand’ Formula, which is being threatened today). But these moves were not a concession to the communists: rather, bringing labour relations within the law went hand-in-hand with the subsequent policy of isolating and fiercely attacking communism during the Cold War period that followed.

In 1947, the Canadian Citizenship Act was passed, and in 1950, Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent made clear that the goal of the Act was “to make Canadian citizens of those who come here as immigrants and to make Canadian citizens of as many as possible of the descendants of the original inhabitants of this country.”  In other words, the objective was assimilation, for immigrants as well as for Indigenous peoples.

A class in penmanship at the Red Deer Indian Industrial School. (United Church of Canada archives)

A class in penmanship at the Red Deer Indian Industrial School. (United Church of Canada archives)

Once the flow of cheap European labour began drying up in the 1960s – the last waves of which were the Greeks and Portuguese – the Canadian state began looking towards other pools of immigrants, and to varying degrees grudgingly ‘tolerating’ non-white peoples migrating and gaining citizenship.

Canadian immigration policy responded to these labour needs by introducing the “points system” by 1967, which formally lifted the racial criteria (which identified “preferred races”) for immigration and set out ‘objective criteria’ for the recruitment of prospective immigrants, such as education background, language skills, occupation or professional experiences, as well as family ties to Canada. These policy shifts in immigration became institutionalized with the Immigration Act of 1976.

Meanwhile, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration (DCI) oversaw Indian Affairs from 1949 to 1966, at a time of the height of the Indian Residential Schools. A 1961 report from DCI explicitly stated that the government intended using off-reserve educational opportunities – such as the Residential Schools – as a means of depopulating reserves and effecting the assimilation of Indigenous peoples.[1]

By the mid-1960s, however, the Federal government became frustrated with the pace of assimilation of natives, and the Trudeau government decided to proceed with its infamous ‘White Paper’ of 1969, which called for a complete dismantling of the Indian Act and the direct assimilation of natives as ‘Canadians’ – which would have made them into the most dispossessed and poorest strata of the working class, and completely eliminated their self-determination.

The policy of native assimilation, the demand for cheap labour, and the need to tame Quebec nationalism, therefore, were driving forces behind the policy that we have come to know in the benign terms of multiculturalism.

But in his own day, Trudeau was clear that his policy of multiculturalism sought to “promote creative encounters and interchange among all Canadian cultural groups in the interest of national unity”.  What national unity? Whose nation?

More people enter into Canada as temporary migrant workers than as permanent residents.

More people enter into Canada as temporary migrant workers than as permanent residents (Canadian Council for Refugees).

Many would point to Canada’s refugee policies (at least until very recently) as an example of Canada’s humanitarianism.  However, as Pablo Vivanco analyzed in BASICS recently, it wasn’t until solidarity activists forced the Canadian government to accept Chilean refugees fleeing the Western-backed dictatorship that Canada’s refugee policy was partially opened up to refugees who weren’t anti-communist.  Until the Chilean refugee crisis, Canada’s Cold War refugee system only granted asylum to people leaving ‘socialist’ countries, like Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Vietnam.  Recruiting anti-communist refugees had a lot to do with national unity as well: the unity of Canada as a capitalist country.

With the banning of religious symbols in the public service in Quebec’s new Charter clearly directed at Muslims, many are wondering what happened to ‘tolerance’ in this country.  But the emergence of the policy of ‘multiculturalism’ in Canada was never the product of some progressive enlightenment of Canada’s political system, its nationals, or its elites. It was developed in the postwar era as a strategy for the assimilation of immigrants, Indigenous peoples, and containing Quebecois nationalism.  It was a policy for assimilating and managing an increasingly diverse population in the interests of capitalism and colonialism.

Many of us want to live in a diverse society where all peoples from all nations are genuinely respected and can fully participate in society for the benefit of all.  But that was never Canada. Not yesterday, not today.  That’s a society we have yet to build.

[1] See p.444 of Bohaker, H. & Iacovetta, F. (2009). Making Aboriginal people ‘Immigrants Too’: A comparison of citizenship programs for newcomers and Indigenous peoples in postwar Canada, 1940s-1960s. Canadian Historical Review 90(3), 427-461.

Beating of 24-year-old Innu man by Quebec police caught on camera – Onkwehon:we Week in Review (Aug 5-11)

Onkwehon:we (Original Peoples) – Week in Review (August 5-11, 2013)

‘Onkwehonwe’ is a word used by Haudenosaunee peoples (also known as the Six Nations Confederacy) that means ‘original peoples’ and refers to all Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island (North America).

by Steve da Silva – Reproduced from the Two Row Times

Flood Evacuees of Siksika Nation Living in Prison Camp-Like Conditions


Warren Drunken Chief, with his son Matthew Littlechild, 8, is living with his family in campers on a hill above their flood-damaged homes. There is no running water and the one generator they had is broken.
Photograph by: Lorraine Hjalte, Calgary Herald

No smoking, no pets, no ‘vulgar language’, an imposed curfew and no ‘inappropriate clothing’ – such as women wearing shorts or tank tops. These are just a few of the ‘rules’ that flood evacuees of the Siksika First Nation are being subjected to after having to flee heavy flooding along the Bow River.  While many regions affected by floodwaters that swept through Alberta in June 2013 have been quickly restored, members of Siksika Firs t Nation have been waiting weeks to return home, even after flood waters receded.

The camp, which is policed by a private security company, contrasts sharply with the relatively comfortable amenities and support provided to evacuees of the town of High River.

The Siksiká are one of the four nations of the ‘Blackfoot Confederacy,’ known as the Niitsítapi (‘Original People’) in the Blackfoot dialects.  The ancestral lands of the Niitsítapi span much of southern Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana, and part North Dakota.

CSIS, Aboriginal Affairs Involved in Widespread Surveillance During Idle No More

Recent reports attained by the Canadian Press through access-to-information requests reveal the extent to which Canada’s spy agency kept tabs on the Idle No More movement throughout December 2012 and January 2013. Aboriginal Affairs, CSIS, and the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Center (ITAC), cooperated in monitoring and creating ‘threat assessments’ of the Indigenous protests, of which they documented 439 over the two month period.

Investigative journalist Tim Groves of Toronto revealed in July 2013 that CSIS is currently deploying a recruitment strategy to bring on board more Aboriginal people and ‘visible minorities’.  The spy agency’s internal reports revealed that they had 55 “Aboriginal employees” as of 2012, which they were seeking to increase to 111.

Beating of 24-year-old Innu man by Quebec police caught on camera

A video of two Quebec police (Sûreté du Québec) officers beating a 24-year-old Innu man in Unamen Shipu territory in northeastern Quebec has gone viral. The YouTube video shows Norbert Mestenapeo – who does not appear to be resisting – receiving multiple blows to the head.  The assault occurred in La Norbert MestenapeoRomaine, an Innu First Nation community.  Unamen Shipu had its own police force until 2008, when it could no longer operate due to budgetary constraints, at which point policing was taken over by Sûreté du Québec.

The incident has been seized upon by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec to call for a return to Aboriginal policing of the community. Grand chief of Unamen Shipu, Raymond Bellefleur, said of the incident: “Police come here and they can’t speak the Montagnais language and they never stay for more than a week. How can you effectively patrol a place you know nothing about?”

APTN has license renewed for 5 years

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) renewed the ‘mandatory carriage’ license of APTN for another five years, providing the Aboriginal broadcaster with a place on basic cable and $38 million in funding that comes with it.  APTN provides programming in 30 different Onkwehon:we languages, as well as English and French. APTN had applied for an increase of its subscriber fees from 25 to 40 cents, but received 31 cents per cable subscriber.

Sun Media, notorious for its rightwing anti-native, anti-working-class, and anti-immigrant editorializing, had its application for ‘mandatory carriage’ on basic cable rejected.  But the CRTC’s compromise solution directed all television networks to offer all-Canadian national news services, which would encourage cable providers to pick up Sun Media in their basic cable packages.

Three Indigenous women killed in Toronto in last few months


Bella Laboucan-McLean

Bella Laboucan-McLean is the latest victim on the long list of Onkwehon:we women who have been murdered, disappeared, or have died under suspicious circumstances in Canada.  Laboucan-McLean, the young Sturgeon Lake Cree First Nation woman who had just graduated from Humber College, was found dead on July 20 after having plunging 31 storeys to the ground from a downtown Toronto condo she was visiting.

Two other women in their 20s have died in highly suspicious circumstances in Toronto this summer as well. Cheyenne Fox from Sheguiandah First Nation also plunged to her death from a condo in April. In May, Terra Gardner was killed by a freight train near Yonge and Summerhill after having received death threats at a time when she had been compelled to testify in an upcoming murder trial.

The United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women will be sending special rapporteurs to Canada this summer and fall, finally responding to the awareness and pressure generated by years of work of grassroots Indigenous women and supporting activists who have drawn attention to the nearly 600 documented cases of missing or murdered Indigenous women.

Federal Conservative Justice Minister Peter McKay recently dismissed calls for a national Inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women that was backed by provincial and territorial leaders meeting at the Niagara-On-The-Lake Summit after their meeting with aboriginal leaders.

Introducing the Two Row Wampum

An agreement for peace, friendship and respect.

by Tom Keefer

The Two Row Wampum is one of the oldest treaty relationships between the Onkwehonweh (original people) of Turtle Island (what Indigenous nations called North America before European colonization) and European immigrants. This treaty was made in 1613 between the Dutch and the Haudenosaunee as Dutch traders and settlers moved up the Hudson River into Mohawk territory. The Dutch initially proposed a patriarchal relationship with themselves as fathers and the Haudenosaunee people as children.

According to Mohawk historian Ray Fadden, the Haudenosaunee rejected this notion and instead proposed that:

“We will not be like Father and Son, but like Brothers. [Our treaties] symbolize two paths or two vessels, travelling down the same river together. One, a birch bark canoe, will be for the Indian People, their laws, their customs and their ways. The other, a ship, will be for the white people and their laws, their customs and their ways. We shall each travel the river together, side by side, but in our own boat. Neither of us will make compulsory laws nor interfere in the internal affairs of the other. Neither of us will try to steer the other’s vessel.”

Well aware of the political and military strength of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Dutch agreed with the principles of the Two Row. As was their custom for recording events of significance, the Haudenosaunee created a wampum belt out of purple and white quahog shells to commemorate the agreement. The Indigenous legal scholar John Borrows described the physical nature of the Two Row Wampum as follows:

“The belt consists of two rows of purple wampum beads on a white background. Three rows of white beads symbolizing peace, friendship, and respect separate the two purple rows. The two purple rows symbolize two paths or two vessels traveling down the same river. One row symbolizes the Haudenosaunee people with their law and customs, while the other row symbolizes European laws and customs. As nations move together side-by-side on the River of Life, they are to avoid overlapping or interfering with one another.”

Two Row

The Two Row Wampum treaty made with the Dutch became the basis for all future Haudenosaunee relationships with European powers. The principles of the Two Row were consistently restated by Haudenosaunee spokespeople and were extended to relationships with the French, British and Americans under the framework of the Silver Covenant Chain agreements. It was understood by the Haudenosaunee that the Two Row agreement would last forever: “as long as the grass is green, as long as the water flows downhill, and as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the West”.

While 2013 marks the 400th anniversary of the introduction of the Two Row to Europeans, it is important to note that the concept of the Two Row and the idea of reciprocal relationships of peace, friendship and respect between different entities has a much deeper connection to the Haudenosaunee world view.

The Two Row is a foundational philosophical principle, a universal relationship of non-domination, balance and harmony between different forces. The Two Row principles of peace, respect and friendship can be extended to any relationship between autonomous beings working in concert. These include nation-to-nation relationships, dynamics between lovers and partners, and the relationship between human beings and our environment.

While the Two Row Wampum was created to commemorate the introduction of the Dutch Republic and is derived from Haudenosaunee traditions and philosophy, it is also consistent with the outlooks of many other Indigenous peoples seeking to accommodate themselves to the sudden arrival of Europeans on Turtle Island. Almost universally, Indigenous peoples extended their hands in peace and friendship to the newcomers to their lands, and sought to improve their lives through trade and friendship with these newcomers. But at the same time, Indigenous people were intent upon maintaining their own ways of life.

The Two Row can function as a framework for decolonization right across Turtle Island, since holding true to the Two Row means supporting the right of Onkwehonweh people to maintain themselves on their own land bases according to their own systems of self governance and organization. These traditional Indigenous systems are opposed to the values of the capitalist economic system. Rather than being driven by notions of “profitability” and production for markets, traditional Indigenous economics are based upon localized subsistence production taking place in harmony with nature.

In this framework, people do not “own” land, but belong to the land as a part of creation and safeguard it on behalf of coming generations. In most traditional Indigenous societies, resources and wealth were shared, and production was geared towards meeting human needs, rather than the of commodities to be bought and sold on the market.

The Two Row Wampum remains a treaty relationship that Haudenosaunee and other Indigenous nations defend today, even if the Canadian state has failed to uphold the principles of the treaties it inherited from the British Crown. Since the capitalist economy which so degrades and exploits the majority of non-Indigenous people has proven incapable of upholding this agreement, it is time for those who support Indigenous rights on the non-Indigenous side of the Two Row to reclaim these principles. We should not be surprised that the rapacious British Crown and the imperialist Canadian state is not willing to respect the self-determination of Indigenous peoples or uphold the Two Row Wampum. But that doesn’t mean that the majority of people in Canada cannot be won over to living by the principles of genuine peace, respect and friendship with Indigenous peoples on this land.

With the rise of a new cycle of Indigenous struggle through the Idle No More movement, and with the global crisis of capitalism intensifying, the 400th anniversary of the Two Row Wampum is a perfect moment for us to start redefining this relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

For more information about the Two Row Wampum, please visit

Statue of freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi, field marshal of the Kenya Land & Freedom Army, outside the Hilton Hotel in Nairobi.

Statue of freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi, field marshal of the Kenya Land & Freedom Army, outside the Hilton Hotel in Nairobi.


by James Chemose, Eric Omwanda & Owen Sheppard – LCO

In the year 1963, Kenya attained a partial, political independence from the hands of its British colonial masters by both the edge of the sword and political negotiation. For many within Kenya, this was a cherished dream come true after many years of labour and sacrifice: freedom from the colonial government, which forced Kenyans to carry identity papers called kipande, engaged them in forced labour, alienated them from their lands, and paid low wages and salaries to black Africans, just to mention a few abuses.

From the early days of British imperialism in Kenya, communities resisted this invasion and abuse in unique ways.

The Giriama community of the coastal region was one of the first to rebel against the British. This group showed enormous bravery and strategic acumen through the guidance of their leader Mekatilili wa Menza, a woman who spearheaded their guerrilla campaign against colonial rule between 1913 and 1914. Despite slowing the progress of colonialism at a crucial moment when the balance of forces did not clearly favour imperialism, Mekatilili was eventually captured in 1914 and taken to Western Province, where she was assassinated.

Other elements within indigenous communities opted to collaborate with the colonialists. Settlers and missionaries often tricked local leaders by offering them presents, such as a bicycle that was offered to King Mumias of the Wanga in exchange for his cooperation. These early comprador elements greatly smoothed the way for theft and militarization of land and resources.

Settlers soon controlled a sufficient base to occupy the land, confiscate livestock and other resources from indigenous peoples, and appropriate or import the capital necessary to begin building inland cities. Kenya’s capital Nairobi was established in 1899 as a supply depot along the new East African railway system built to hasten resource extraction from interior areas of the continent.

As colonialism reached maturity, indigenous people were increasingly denied the right to grow cash crops such as tea and coffee, these industries being placed under strict settler control. Indeed, settlers took over much of the fertile land and left Africans with less productive areas. The British occupation of Kenya’s Central Highlands, where favourable climatic conditions allowed for European-style farming and the absence of endemic malaria, was so intensive that the region became known as the “White Highlands”.

Necessarily, this process of settlement caused mass displacement of indigenous people. This and the machinations of colonial divide-and-rule policy stoked so-called “tribal” rivalries that continue to simmer today. Far from a clash of cultures, these tensions stem from ongoing issues of land appropriation.

In fact, the expulsion of subsistence farmers from their lands and the complete, imposed transformation of the economic system in most communities created a class system. Farmers became indentured labourers in rural areas, or members of the new urban proletariat. Inevitably, this created exactly the conditions of impoverishment, class solidarity, and organization needed for the coming independence struggle.

By the 1950s, numbers of trade unionists and freedom fighters had joined the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA), which became known as the Mau Mau movement. Mau Mau was a guerrilla army under the leadership of Stanley Mathenge and Dedan Kimathi, the objective of which was to harass the colonialists off the land. According to Ogot and Ochieng’ in their book Decolonization and Independence in Kenya, members of Mau Mau and their allies set aside ethnic differences incited and heightened through colonialism, instead drawing on solidarity against their common imperialist enemy. In fact, although the Mau Mau movement largely drew its membership from the Kikuyu ethnic group, Luo people calling themselves Onegos also formed a Mau Mau group to fight alongside them. (p40)

Many Mau Mau militants were killed in brutal repression and reprisals including RAF bombing raids and civilian concentration camps not unlike those the British had recently liberated in the fascist-held Europe of WWII.

Ultimately Britain’s superior military resources exhausted the capacities of the armed resistance. But the fighting had also sapped the colonial government’s resources. The administration realized it would be economical to release the the Kenya colony into the hands of moderate African independence activists such as Jomo Kenyatta. Trained in the UK as a lawyer, Kenyatta successfully presented himself as the civilized alternative to armed struggle. In return for guaranteeing the undisrupted flow of capital, he was permitted to become the first president of an independent Kenya.

Unfortunately, despite the Uhuru (Independence) government’s pledges of harambee (“let’s pull together”) and “African Socialism”, full measures were not taken to build an equal and democratic society. Public control over the economy, including vital services like transportation and telecommunications, was not protected. Public assets were gradually sold to foreign-based companies more interested in making profits for European shareholders than serving the needs of people. Issues left over from the colonial period, such as uneven infrastructure development and land distribution, were never remedied.

All these factors have worsened social inequality following independence, and opened the door to continued ethnic tensions often incited by politicians. In 2007, this sort of political incitement along ethnic lines resulted in rampant horizontal violence, characterized as a “war”, following the general elections. A thousand were killed in fighting and approximately 600,000 internally displaced.

Now, with another General Election just around the corner on 04 March, it remains to be seen whether the dispossessed of Kenya will remember their tradition of resistance to exploitation and stand united in the face of those politicians who mediate public dissent against the demands of foreign and local capital. The many ongoing “peace campaigns” in poor and working-class areas of Nairobi rarely develop beyond sloganeering, and certainly do not place a class analysis at the centre of the electoral violence issue.

It is ironic that those who desire peace in Kenya might do well to think on the words of one of its chief historical detractors, the very Winston Churchill who served as British Prime Minister through much of the Mau Mau war: study history.

Tecumseh’s Vision, 200 Years Later
Tecumseh (March 1768 – October 5, 1813)

Tecumseh (March 1768 – October 5, 1813)

by Giibwanisi

The occasion of the 200-year anniversary of the War of 1812 has brought Tecumseh back into the spotlight. The Tecumseh that many Canadians have been presented with is a great native leader who fought for the British Crown and helped save Canada from the Americans. This victor’s image of history is presented with little detail about what Tecumseh and the great alliance of Indigenous nations he led actually fought for.

Tecumseh (March 1768 – October 5, 1813) was born near the Chillicothe, located in what is now known as Old Town, Ohio. His father Pucksinwah was the head of the Kispolotha clan, and was murdered by an American hunting party when Tecumseh was only six years old, leaving him to be raised by the Shawnee and guided by his older brother.

When Tecumseh was born, a great meteor was seen streaking across the sky. This meteor was recognized to have great significance and was called the Panther Spirit by the old men. Tecumseh’s father Pucksinwah gifted him with his name Tecumseh, meaning “Panther Across the Sky”.

At age eight Tecumseh was already exhibiting the characteristics of a great leader, and by the spring of 1783 he took part in his first battle against the whites. He continued to travel across the continent, inspiring many nations and gaining recognition as more than just a magnificent warrior, but was also a political statesman, a humanitarian, a visionary, an incredible orator, and to some a prophet.

The Shawnee, like many of the northwest nations, realized that their total elimination was imminent if they did not resist the invading nations (United States and British Canada), with their flood of frontiersmen invading their lands. Tecumseh concluded that the only possible method of opposing the advancement of invading white settlers was to successfully obtain the cooperation of all the Native Nations to act with one heart and one mind.

Over the course of a decade, Tecumseh travelled throughout Turtle Island, giving speeches that inspired the Delaware, Haudenosaunee, Wyandotts, Potawatomies, Wendakes, Ottawas, Chippewas, Winnebegos, Foxes, Sacs, Menominees, Lakota, Mandans, Cheyennes, Natchez, Choctaws, Creeks, Seminoles, Chickasaws, Alabamas, Biloxis, and Cherokees. He even met with many nations usually considered traditional enemies. Tecumseh stood strong and confident proclaiming: “Brush the slavery from your eyes and create your new power, your new society.”

Tecumseh never entered into any treaty negotiations and openly condemned those who did. In one such instance with American Governor William Henry Harrison, Tecumseh said, “How can we have confidence in the white people? When Jesus Christ came on earth, you killed him and nailed him to the cross.”

As the Americans and British were set to return to war in 1812, Tecumseh chose the lesser of two evils and allied his cause and supporters with the British.

Although he aligned with the British, he maintained a vision of an alternative society, a society where all Native Nations would come together, creating a civilization distinct from that of the white settlers. This was to be a vision where an extensive use of land would be shared by all Native peoples, solidifying their self-determination and maintaining ways of life in balance with Mother Earth.

The enemy that Tecumseh fought were the leadership of the white American settlers, which have since materialized into the superpower known as the United States of America, the leading imperialist force in the world today. This force wages war against nations all across the world in all aspects of life – environmental, social, physical, political and so on. The defeat of Tecumseh’s alliance only opened the way for the colonization of peoples all across the world.

Tecumseh’s temporary alliance with the British proved fatal after he was betrayed in battle. Although Tecumseh wanted to take a stand against American forces, he was encouraged to retreat to the Thames River where his forces would receive a full provision of winter supplies. Once on the Thames, General Henry Proctor promised to stand with Tecumseh, but Proctor and the other redcoats cowardly retreated, leaving the native forces to fight alone. On October 5th, 1813, Tecumseh was laid to rest in an unmarked grave. One can only wonder how different our continent would be today if Tecumseh and his alliance had survived and fulfilled its vision of an independent alliance of native nations.

At the bicentenary of Tecumseh’s death in battle, the potential to rebuild Tecumseh’s alliance not only remains, but is strengthened by the fact that many settlers and other newcomers are also under attack by capitalism. We can and must build on Tecumseh’s vision by strengthening the alliance between native nations, while also expanding it to include the unification of all nations from all directions, for the land and its people.

Giibwanisi is a founding member of the Anishinaabe Confederacy to Invoke our Nationhood (ACTION) and Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp, a land reclamation within the occupying ‘Awenda Provincial Park’ two hours north of Toronto.