In 1886, 127 years ago, European immigrant workers marched in Chicago to demand an eight hour work day. The massacre and execution of trade unionists that followed has been commemorated every year since, in almost every corner of the world on May 1st – International Workers Day.
Since then, working people have waged a continuous struggle, from social reforms to revolutionary alternatives. In this country, these struggles have produced important reforms including the minimum wage, pensions, a retirement age, and many social programs and rights including access to health care and primary education. International Workers Day is also a day to celebrate these victories, especially at this time when we are compelled to organize to protect these vital gains from capitalism’s latest offensive, so-called “austerity”. This agenda is being orchestrated from the highest levels of international finance right down to municipal governments, a program to advance the redirecting social wealth from state-sponsored social programs to the richest.
The colonial foundations of this country, including the systematic theft of land and attempts to destroy the culture and social fabric of indigenous nations, remains the most pressing internal issue in this country today.
The ‘Idle No More’ movement has brought the issue of internal colonialism to the world, and especially to the public in Canada that has largely ignored this reality. Indigenous communities continue to wage campaigns over land claims, the inexcusable number of missing indigenous women, as well reparations for crimes committed by the residential school system, just to name a few.
The Canadian state has also been increasingly playing a role as an imperialist political, economic, and military actor. While Canada has been active in foreign military campaigns since before WWI (participating in military actions in South Africa) over the last decade Canada has gone from being a major component of the military offensive and occupation in Afghanistan to also participating in the NATO-led bombing of Libya, with the prospect of military involvement in Mali, Syria with North Korea currently under discussion. Moreover, the Canadian state has backed and assisted in the proliferation of Canadian mining companies and their operations all over the planet. In many cases, not only do these companies engage in labour exploitation and environmentally destructive practices, which have catastrophic impacts to local communities and ecosystems, but they have also been connected to targeted acts of violence against workers as well as environmental activists, from Colombia to Tanzania.
There are many more – too many – examples of the injustices and crimes that occur here and around the world, crimes that are committed to maintain the capitalist order. All over the world, the wealthy and powerful are using the governments they control to push the same relentless, criminal agenda of pursuing profit at the cost of the rights and lives of people. Whether it be by robbing people’s money as they are doing in Cyprus, or by robbing a nation’s resources through military means as in Libya, or by unrelentingly attacking social programs and workers’ rights as is happening here, their agenda and their system must be stopped.
There should be no mistake. We are not simply talking about going back in time, rewinding the clock to the supposed heyday of the so-called “welfare state” in Canada. This welfare state was at the same time pursuing its genocide of indigenous peoples through residential schools and pursuing its criminal war of aggression against the people of Korea. We cannot continue to pretend that, as Stephen Harper said, “Canada has no history of colonialism”. We can no longer pretend that Canada acts as a ‘peacekeeper’ on the world stage and that transnationals are altruistically ‘providing jobs’ as they outsource jobs here while exploiting workers and resources abroad.
On International Workers Day, we march to build a Solidarity City. Solidarity City is a unified struggle for: Respect for Indigenous Sovereignty, Status for All, an End to Imperialism and Environmental Destruction, an End to Austerity and Attacks on the Poor and Working class, continued resistance against Patriarchy, Racism, Ableism and Homophobia and Transphobia’.
On this International Workers Day, the organizations of the May 1st Movement call for:
Support for the struggle for Indigenous peoples’ liberation including:
The defense of ancestral lands and support to frontline land defenders; and
The recognition of the right of Indigenous genuine self-determination, including their right to determine all their economic and political affairs.
Pushing back on attacks upon working class and poor communities including:
Rejecting all forms of the capitalist ‘austerity’ agenda, reject the cutting of services and trampling on worker and civil rights;
Curtailing police abuses and impunity by reducing of police budgets, dismantling of the bogus Special Investigations Unit, and its replacement with a genuine community-based civilian oversight groups;
Rejecting the continued neoliberal drive towards privatizations, eliminating public incentives and tax breaks for large corporations, and resisting outsourcing by placing regulations and restrictions on these practices.
Supporting concrete campaigns that address immediate needs of workers, including:
Extending access to services without fear of deportation, while fighting for regularization of undocumented people, and extension of permanent residency to any worker in Canada while re-regulating migrant labour to eliminate laws that exempt these workers from the rights and benefits that other workers enjoy; and
Increasing the minimum wage to $14.50/ hr, re-adjustment of social assistance rates to lift people out of poverty whiling indexing both of these to inflation.
Exposing Canadian Imperialism and reasserting our support for liberation struggles abroad including:
The withdrawal of Canada’s military from all foreign outposts and immediately halting any preparations for foreign military campaigns;
The subjection of Canadian mining companies to strict regulations to protect the rights of workers, the protection of the environment and communities where mining may take place, and the rights of people to benefit from any extraction that may take place;
The immediate halt to the practice of labour import which utilized temporary immigration status to regulate and discipline labour; and
The extension of different forms of support to liberation movements abroad from peoples organizations and social movements in Canada.
Of course, there are many other issues that impact different sectors of the working class in different ways and this is but a short list of changes we demand and deserve. Perhaps more importantly, we cannot expect the Canadian state to simply ‘give’ us these things and more. We stress the need for building people’s power in communities, in workplaces, on the streets and in the reserves, if we are going to actually achieve these.
This system is not and will not work for us, the majorities, the working people both here and abroad. We are the ones who build and make things, who perform the tasks and services that make societies progress, and it is our ancestral lands that are being plundered to feed this system.
This May Day, while the same class of politicians who live well off the public dime tell us that we need to tighten our belt and that we need to blame unions and immigrants for this mess, we need to understand that this system, and those that protect it, are the problem. We must stand with each other, in solidarity, so that when any government or corporation looks to trample on one community, one union or one group, we all stand together.
LIBERATION FOR FIRST NATIONS AND ALL OPPRESSED NATIONS!
HANDS OFF OUR SOCIAL PROGRAMS AND RIGHTS!
BUILD A SOLIDARITY CITY!
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
by Binnadang Migrante Canada
The Cordillera Day event is a uniting activity held in our home country of the Philippines and here overseas. In these yearly celebrations, it would serve us well to look back in time to where we came from, the difficult paths that we had to go through in order to be where we are today.
Cordillera Day is on its 29th year of celebration in our native land (the Cordillera region of the Philippines) and its 5th year here in Toronto. On May 4, we will be guided by the theme “Strengthen unity in the indigenous people’s struggle for self determination. Uphold the rights and welfare of migrants and families. Support the politics of change.”
Binnadang – Migrante is spearheading the celebration. We are an organization of indigenous migrants to Canada that is advocating for our rights as migrants and actively engaging in the struggle of the indigenous peoples in the Cordillera for self-determination and for the Filipino peoples’ struggles for genuine freedom and democracy.
Cordillera day was born out of the struggle of the Cordillerans. It provides us a venue to give tribute to our martyrs who courageously defended and protected our indigenous people’s rights for our land, life, honor, rich culture, and vast resources of the Cordillera region in the Philippines. Ama Macling Dulag, a respected tribal chieftain, helped unify tribes in the Northern Cordilleras from the late 70’s to early 80’s to resist the construction of the World Bank–funded Chico River Basin Hydroelectric Dams. On April 24, 1980, Dulag was brutally killed by the Philippine military. Up to now, no justice has been served for his murder.
Today, we reflect, learn, derive inspiration and gain further guidance from our Cordilleran martyrs’ perseverance in various struggles throughout the past decades. As migrant workers, we have been forced to leave our families and live under exploitative and oppressive conditions abroad by the very same reasons why Ama Macling struggled before and why many of our people are still struggling now.
The land, life and livelihood of the Cordillerans are under attack! Across the region, the adverse effects of large scale mining have resulted in irreparable damage to the natural environment and local agriculture, the economic and even physical displacement of indigenous communities, and the aggravation of climate change impacts. Human rights are trampled through militarization, employment of union busters, private armies and pseudo-unionists who do not really serve the interest of the people.
The problem of development aggression and security continue to intensify the worsening phenomenon of forced migration. Most of the Cordillerans live on the graces of our fertile lands. But the richest of our lands are claimed by foreign capitalists and local elites. Thus many of us were left with no choice but to migrate overseas, a condition that makes us vulnerable to different forms of exploitation.
The indigenous people together with the other toiling masses of the society are left with no recourse but to resist. We want to finally go home to a country where there is an opportunity for a decent life, where Cordillerans are the ones who benefit from the riches of Cordillera, where our culture is respected and where the Filipino people are free and our society is truly just.
“As ‘urban indians’, it is a bit harder for us to maintain our culture because we are not on the land. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try. As an Indian man, I have always sought to be a good man, husband, father, or brother to my family. What does an Indian man do? He is a warrior to protect his family, and he is also a provider for his family. Its harder to maintain our way of life in the city, but we learn to adapt. I go hunting all the time. Loblaw’s is the new hunting ground.” (Elder Vern Harper)
Living in Toronto, does not mean that we have to give up our traditional values or customs. As a the above quote indicates. For those of you who may have heard about ACTION (Anishinabek Confederacy to Invoke Our Nationhood) our organization has been comprised mainly of the Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp, located in what is known as Awenda Provincial Park. After spending a full year at the camp, it became apparent, that our peoples are not ready to make a large migration back to the land. In fact the opposite is quite true. While some of our people live on the reserves, and have grown accustomed to reserve living, many of us migrate away. A vast majority of our people leave the rural settings of the reserves and traplines, for urban areas such as Toronto. The 75 000 or so people who claim Native status in Toronto alone is a testament to this fact. (I am sometimes one of them).
While many of our peoples migrate to the urban centres, many do not leave the impoverishment of the reserves behind. Many end up in low paying jobs, or social assistance programs, dependent on food-banks, shelters, soup kitchens etc. I personally have been through all of the above, and can attest to waiting outside food-banks countless times. Having seen the donated foods in the food boxes (high carb, high sugar, low nutrients) it no wonder our people have the highest obesity, diabetes, heart/stroke statistic’s amoung all people on Turtle Island.
“We’ve got to really start doing stuff, you know building community gardens, hauling water, chopping wood, whatever they needed done. I said that is your responsibility is. That is what a warrior’s responsibility is.” (Leonard PeItier quote from “Incident at Oglala”)
As an Anishinbek man, it is my responsibility to be a protector and a provider for the people. Just because I am not always out on the land, it does not exempt me from my duties and responsibilities. Which is why I am spearheading a chapter of ACTION aimed at feeding our people in Toronto. We’ll call it “Serve the People/Feed the People.” Our first plan is to start immediately by joining the Good Food Box program established in Toronto.
(The Good Food Box (GFB) is a non-profit fresh fruit and vegetable distribution system created and operated by FoodShare. The GFB runs like a large buying club with centralized buying and coordination. Individuals place orders for boxes with volunteer coordinators in their neighborhood and receive a box brimming with fresh, tasty produce, on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly cycle.)
While most churches and NGO’s aims to subsidize the $13-18 dollar cost, ACTION aims to provide 100% of the cost. We will be hitting the streets, attending rallies, marches, roundances, with clipboards in hand asking for monthly donations from everyone.
The long term goal is to network with the farmers and community gardeners, to get all of our people involved in every aspect of planting, growing, harvesting, delivering, cooking, sharing…etc, just like our people once did. The immediate goal is to feed some of our people now.
We need public support. We have relied heavily on our allies to contribute funds directly over this past year, and we thank them greatly. But those costs mainly go to the operation of Oshkimaadiziig Unity Camp. We are calling out for public support to help ACTION feed the people.
We hope that you can see the need for such an initiative, and would be willing to give a small monthly donation. Our bank at Alterna makes donating quick and easy. One time donations can be made through our Pay Pal account.
Please contact Giibwanisi at 416 806 6929 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can help today.
by Laura Lepper
In February 2013, members of the Commission in Support of Indigenous People’s Struggles (of the Canadian chapter of the International League of People’s Struggles) travelled to join fellow members from Mishkeegogamang and Savant Lake on their traditional territories, 1,700 km north of Toronto. We saw the apartheid-like conditions that lead people to call the region the “deep North.” Everyone we met shared a story of severe displacement, dispossession and social trauma at the hands of state-supported projects such as residential schools and the mining and forestry industries.
In order to strengthen the alliance between grassroots struggles of Indigenous activists in different nations, and build a common front among people’s struggles from all directions, the Commission was formed at the 2013 ILPS ‘Right to Exist, Right to Resist’ conference. It is currently composed of delegates from struggles in the native communities of Six Nations, Mishkeegogamang, Savant Lake, and the groups Anishinabek Confederacy to Invoke Our Nationhood, CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group, and the Anti-Colonial Working Group of the Law Union of Ontario. Delegates organized a trip to the northern Ojibway communities out of a deep understanding that building an effective Commission must come from strong relationships built out of shared understanding from on-the-ground experience and concrete struggle.
Gary Wassaykeesic of Mishkeegogamang and Darlene Necan of Savant Lake introduced us to people in their communities and the nearby cities and towns. The trip began in Thunder Bay, with the Sleeping Giant rock formation always on the horizon. Our last visit was in Pickle Lake, the most northern community in the province that has year-round access by road. Pickle Lake airport is the entry point for much of the region’s mining and many of the 49 fly-in-only Indigenous communities in the region such as Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and Attawapiskat.
We traveled to Savant Lake, a small settlement of Ojibway people of the Saugeen Nation, to see Darlene’s trapline. A trapline is an area of ancestral land where a family will hunt and trap animals for food. In 2004, Darlene’s mother was kicked off her trapline because Abitibi Bowater/Resolute was spraying herbicide, which was poisoning traditional food sources. Her story is not unique among her people. Darlene shared stories of Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), along with treeplanters, burning cabins and destroying camps put up by Anishinaabe people.
There is special interest in the land around Savant Lake, since CN Rail goes right through the town. While industry wants to transport gold through Savant and prospect on Darlene’s land, many members of the Saugeen Nation are impoverished and essentially homeless. There is also interest in Savant because of its proximity to the ‘Ring of Fire’ – an area of muskeg swamps in the James Bay Lowlands. Ontario has plans for massive escalation of mining development in the Ring of Fire, despite Indigenous leaders calling for a moratorium on mining in the area.
We drove about an hour north of Savant to the community of Mishkeegogamang. Jon Thompson, of the Dryden Observer, reported that of the 1,644 people living in Mishkeegogamang First Nation, 8.6 people live in every house, leading to crises of overflowing septic tanks, homes without electricity or sewage, hundreds on constant suicide watch, and traumatizing poverty. Over 1,000 more are in jail and nearly 300 people have lost their lives suddenly since 1981.
Mishkeegogamang is on what is called Treaty 9 territory. Tom Wassaykeesic, a band councillor working hard to seek justice for his people, explained: ”According to the governments…we surrendered the land and all its resources. But our ancestors never agreed to surrender anything. We’ve always believed that the spirit and intent of the Treaty No.9 is to share the land.”
The original site where the treaty was signed is now underwater. In 1934, the Ontario government chose to build a hydro dam to supply the Pickle Crow Gold mine with hydro. Water began to rise in 1935, washing away homes, gardens and gravesites for the man-made Lake St. Joseph. People were not told they would be flooded and awoke to find water rising in their homes.
The dispossession of the people of Mishkeegogamang only continues. Highway 599 runs right through the reserve and is crucial for the vast gold mining industry in the area, which results in billions of dollars coming from Ojibway land and resources. The East-West route for the Ring of Fire development will include Mishkeegogamang, but as Tom highlighted, the continual promise of social development and employment has only resulted in continual disappointment.
Mishkeegogamang has a band council under the Indian Act. Gary and Tom continuously emphasized that this political system imposed by Canada has resulted in levels of corruption that have been dangerous for the people.
Pickle Lake and Central Patricia Path
Our visit to Pickle Lake, 20 km north of Mishkeegogamang, continued to reveal the displacement and apartheid conditions of the region.
The long history of mining around Pickle Lake has brought Native people to the town from the many fly-in communities such as Round Lake, Bearskin Lake, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug only to face eviction and segregation. Tom Wassakeeysic’s family, like many others, lived in a former mining house on Central Patricia Path until “white guys from the township” told them they had 3 days to move to the Mishkeegogamang reserve so that white mining workers could live there.
We were told many stories of police brutality in the town. George shared an intense story of being harassed, tasered and arrested by the OPP “while just waiting for a cab.” A state-of-the-art OPP detachment centre stands in stark contrast to the run-down buildings of the economically depressed town. There are 13 OPP officers in this town of only 400 people.
On our drive back to Thunder Bay, Gary stated: “There’s a lot of potential now. With this group that came up [ILPS], I think you opened the door for other organizations to come in… to visualize, to support. And you’re coming into a community where that’s what people need right about now.”
These relationships and commitments extend to ILPS membership and beyond, as people committed to struggling against colonialism and imperialism, for true justice for Mother Earth and her peoples. This destructive system makes the links between us every day by raping the land in Northern Ontario to fuel financial centres and capital accumulation in Southern Ontario. Thus we must continue to form relationships in struggle which connect the defense of land in the North with people power in the South.
Concrete Next Steps: Building a Home and Building People Power
We in the ILPS Commission in Support of Indigenous People’s Struggles are in the process of working with our friends in Mishkeegogamang to see how best to support the efforts of the community to seek justice, especially for the youth.
Our immediate next step is to support a group of Saugeen women who are addressing the lack of housing in their community, their forced disconnection from the land, and the lack of institutions under people’s control. This summer, we are organizing for a group of people to join the building of a log cabin for a Saugeen woman who needs a home immediately. She wants to live directly on the land that she is fighting to protect from the incursion of mining and the poisoning of traditional food sources by forestry companies. She is leading the building of homes for many other young families who need housing and is also building a general store by the highway to address the need for resources and employment.
Her strength and vision is clear: “We’re put in these areas to look after earth and her people. That’s why I’m going to do my best to walk with the people.”
Hosted by ILPS Commission in support of Indigenous People’s Struggles
Join us for a discussion with delegates from the ILPS Commission on Indigenous People’s Struggles and a report back on the Commission’s recent trip to Savant Lake, Ojibwe Nation of Saugeen and Mishkeegogamang, Ojibwe First Nation. This trip and event are critical in the Indigenous-led Commission’s work of building unity and coordination among grassroots struggles against Canadian colonialism.
Darlene Necan, an Indigenous delegate to the Commission from Savant Lake, Ojibwe Nation of Saugeen, is on the frontline of anti-colonial struggle in her community. Mining, clearcutting and herbicide spraying is destroying the ability for her people to live off the land. She is working tirelessly to build grassroots power and resist the poisoning of traditional food sources and lack of adequate housing.
Gary Wassakeeysic, an Indigenous delegate to the Commission from Mishkeegogamang, Ojibwe First Nation. Highway 599 runs right through Mishkeegogamang and is a key artery for allowing the million dollar ventures of mining companies in Northern Ontario. Yet, his community faces severe overcrowding, police brutality and poverty. Gary is a a grassroots activist on the frontlines of resisting this oppressive contradiction.
Indigenous and non-Indigenous Commission delegates recently returned from a trip to both communities. They will speak to the ways in which ILPS-Canada can work to these efforts, in order to build a strong united front against Canadian colonialism and its destruction of Mother Earth.
These organizers struggle for resources to have basic necessities for life, let alone to further their organizing.
The event is FREE but generous donations are greatly needed and appreciated.
Darlene,Gary and the organizers they work with, also need the following materials as soon as possible. If you can spare any of these items, please do so to directly help indigenous delegates of the ILPS Commission build grassroots power in their community:
Join us in supporting this inspiring struggle for the Land, and all Life.
Want to help promote the event? Print off a PDF of this notice: ILPS Indigenous Commission Event.pdf
Join and share the Facebook event page.
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.”
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 http://tworowsociety.com/.
by ILPS-Canada Commission in Support of Indigenous People’s Struggles
For many years it has been clear that the struggles of Indigenous people represent a clear threat to Canadian capitalism and its state. Oka (1990), Gustafsen Lake (1995), Ipperwash (1995), Burnt Church (1999), and Caledonia (2006) have become place names symbolizing militant Indigenous resurgence. Each of these direct confrontations over land between the Canadian state and Indigenous people gained national and international attention and served to remind us that a major contradiction within Canada is the struggle of Indigenous people against colonialism.
In recent months, we have seen the birth of Idle No More (INM), a new movement for Indigenous land rights.
INM protests swept across Turtle Island over the past several months. Bridges, railways and highways were blocked, malls and intersections were filled with round dances, hundreds of teach-ins and public meetings took place, and the movement exploded on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. While the protest organizers sought to keep the movement firmly within pacifist boundaries, it is undeniable that INM has opened up new possibilities for resistance.
It is important to note that while the INM movement has captured the popular imagination and inspired a new generation of Indigenous activists and non-native supporters, grassroots traditionalists have long been active in resisting colonialism. Whether continuing to defend Kanonhstaton, the Six Nations reclamation near Caledonia, resisting border authorities in Akewesasne, or in blocking pipeline construction on Unist’ot’en lands in “British Columbia” and countless lesser-known struggles, grassroots Indigenous activists have “Never Been Idle.”
While INM was able to mobilize considerable resistance against Stephen Harper’s legislation, the movement faced significant shortcomings. The first of these came from the movement itself. Because INM was primarily focused around making moral claims and expressly limited itself to pacifism – going so far as to discourage nonviolent direct action such as occupations and blockades – it was going to be inevitably ineffective in struggling against a ruthless government that was deeply set in its ways and unwilling to budge. The Harper government was prepared to let Chief Theresa Spence starve on her hunger strike.
Because none of the actions carried out under the INM banner grew into the kinds of spectacular confrontations seen in Oka, Caledonia or elsewhere, the INM movement was able to fuel pan-Indigenous political consciousness but not repeal the government legislation being protested against. In part, this occurred because of a specific strategy undertaken by police forces to avoid confrontation with protesters and to allow the protest to “burn themselves out”.
Another key factor has been the relative weakness of forces on the Left and throughout other oppressed and exploited communities to connect with the grassroots struggles of Indigenous people. While many non-natives participated in INM activities, the explosion into activity of INM revealed how inadequate the relationships of the left are to those struggling in “Indian country”.
Fortunately, there are some indications that this dynamic is beginning to change. At the October 2012 General Assembly of International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS-Canada) in Toronto, delegates came together from some 20 organizations representing grassroots anti-imperialist forces. What was particularly significant about this conference was the level of participation from Indigenous activists from a variety of different communities and the links that they made with other oppressed and exploited communities fighting the same opponents.
One of the outcomes of the conference was the creation of the ILPS Commission in Support of Indigenous People’s Struggles. The mandate of the Commission was set to make serious and ongoing connections with Indigenous communities across Turtle Island in order to learn from their struggles, connect with international anti-imperialist struggles, jointly advance campaigns and altogether strengthen a united front against Canadian imperialism and colonialism.
In February 2013, ILPS organizers traveled to northern Ontario Indigenous territories, Savant Lake and Mishkeegomang, home to some members of the Commission.
Gary Wassaykeesic, Mishkeegomang delegate to the ILPS Commission, said:
“I wanted (ILPS organizers) to view some of the housing conditions, the severe overcrowding, the real conditions we live in… So it was a success because (they) came up and visualized everything I talk about… I hope it happens again… There’s a lot of potential now… I don’t think they made a crack in the door, I think (they) opened the door for other people, other organizations to come in and do what ILPS wants to do… And you’re coming into a community where that’s what people need right about now.”
If connections like these can continue to be forged between Indigenous peoples struggles and the grassroots people’s struggles across united within the ILPS and across Canada, then the alliance of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist forces can actually begin to turn the tide of attacks of Canadian colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism against the people. With greater unity, defeating pieces of legislation like Harper’s Bill C-45 Omnibus bill will be the least of our tasks.
For more about ILPS–Canada, visit: http://www.ilps-canada.ca.
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.
by Laura Lepper
In March and July 2013, two Six Nations women Francine “Flower” Doxtator and Theresa “Toad” Jamieson will be dragged through the Canadian courts once again for their defense of their nations’ lands. These women, along with other Six Nations land defenders, have consistently maintained that the Canadian courts do not have jurisdiction over Haudenosaunee peoples.
As these Haudenosaunee land defenders face the courts, they assert that the courts violates both the Two Row Wampum treaty and the rightful law – the Great Law of Peace – of the stolen land on which the courthouse stands. Toad stressed on December 12th, 2012 to the courts: “I don’t accept your law…See this Two Row wampum flag? There’s supposed to be separate ruling.”
The charges against Flower and Toad stem from the provocations of anti-Native rights activist Gary McHale and the Ontario Provincial Police on the reclaimed land of Kanonhstaton located just outside of Caledonia, Ontario. Kanonhstaton means “the protected place” in Kanienkehaka, the Mohawk nation’s language.
In 2006, Haudenosaunee people of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory reclaimed land in “dispute” for more than 150 years in order to stop development of a Caledonia subdivision on stolen land.
In reaction to the reclamation, Gary McHale and his followers, under the name of “Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality” (CANACE) set about a political movement against “native lawlessness,” “land claim terrorism,” and “race-based policing.” CANACE played a leading role in trying to establish a “Caledonia Militia” to stop land defenders.
Throughout the past year, several land defenders have faced charges and legal restrictions that have kept them from the reclaimed land of Kanonhstaton. Several of these charges have come as a result of provocations stemming from McHale’s incursion into Kanonhstaton. On February 18th, 2012, escorted by OPP officers, McHale instigated conflict by marching towards the house on the reclaimed land; and on July 7th, McHale tried to grab onto land defender Sean Toulouse to place him under “citizen’s arrest.” As Toulouse pulled back, McHale called for the OPP to charge Toulouse with assault, which the OPP did. This whole act can be seen on a YouTube video posted by McHale’s organization.
Throughout September 2012, McHale and his followers repeated this charade in order to criminalize more land defenders. Gary McHale was recently nominated by the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation and awarded a Queen’s Jubilee Medal.
As part of a campaign to resist the racist criminalization of land defenders and the fight for Indigenous land rights and sovereignty as asserted by the Two Row Wampum, the CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group (Toronto), the Two Row Society (Toronto), Friends of Kanonhstaton (Niagara) and Grand River Indigenous Solidarity (Kitchener-Waterloo) organize a strong supportive presence each time that Flower and Toad face the courts.
Criminalizing land defenders, disobeying treaties and violating Indigenous land rights is essential to the vested interests of the Canadian state to remove all obstacles to the exploitation of Mother Earth and her people. McHale’s actions attempt to further pave the way towards this goal.
Uniting our struggles in defense of Indigenous land rights and the Two Row treaty builds powerful resistance to this goal of capitalist exploitation. Building a supportive force at each court date is one part of the relationship building, education and actions of resistance necessary to build the movement.
Join us for a rally, round dance and court support for Flower on March 19th at the Cayuga courthouse, and later in July 2013 for Toad.
About the Author: Laura Lepper is a non-Indigenous member of the Two Row Society, based on Haudenosaunee territory in Brantford, Ontario.
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.