Posts Tagged ‘first nations’

“November 27th marks a dark day in the history of the Battlefords. It is the anniversary of the executions which took place at Battleford in 1885, which were also the largest mass execution in Canadian history.

Six nêhiyawak (Plains Cree) and two Assiniboine men were hung at Battleford and their bodies dumped into an unmarked grave that remained undiscovered until the 1970s when erosion on the riverbank exposed some of the remains.

The men were named:

Kah – Paypamahchukways (Wandering Spirit)
Pah Pah-Me-Kee-Sick (Walking the Sky)
Manchoose (Bad Arrow)
Kit-Ahwah-Ke-Ni (Miserable Man)
Nahpase (Iron Body)
A-Pis-Chas-Koos (Little Bear)
Itka (Crooked Leg)
Waywahnitch (Man Without Blood)

Some facts about the hangings at Battleford:

1. Judge Rouleau, the man who sentenced the eight men to die at Battleford, had his house in Battleford burned during the Resistance: The local newspaper at the time reported that Judge Rouleau: “is reported to have threatened that every Indian and Half-breed and rebel brought before him after the insurrection was suppressed, would be sent to the gallows if possible. In view of all the circumstances, and particularly as Judge Rouleau was a heavy loser pecuniarily by the Indian outbreak at Battleford, it is contended that he should not have been allowed to preside at the trial of the prisoners. A memorial has been received by the Department of Justice asking that the matter be investigated.”

2. Although the men spoke Cree – not English, none were provided with a translator at their trials.

3. Almost all of the historical writings about the hangings were written from the perspective of settlers. Blood Red the Sun and other narrative accounts paint the men as criminals. Barry Degenstein, local author of In Pursuit of Riel, as one relatively recent example, has continued to assert the men were “cold blooded murderers of innocent civilians.” (See: https://www.newsoptimist.ca/…/grave-not-that-of-heroes-and-…) It is important to remember that the North West Mounted Police (now Royal Canadian Mounted Police) played a major role in colonizing the region around the Battlefords and committed serious violent acts against Indigenous people here. The history of the Battle of Cut Knife Hill and other major events are primarily told in history books and other accounts from the perspective of the colonizers and settlers. (See also: Views from Fort Battleford: Constructed Visions of an Anglo-Canadian West https://archive.org/details/ViewsFromFtBattleford)

4. Hayter Reed, the Assistant Indian Commissioner in 1885, wanted a public execution. He asked the Lieutenant Governor to send any Indians who were sentenced to death during the second series of Regina trials so they could be executed with those sentenced to die in Battleford. He insisted that “the punishment be public as I am desirous of having the Indians witness it – no sound thrashing having been given them, I think a sight of this sort will cause them to meditate for many a day and besides have ocular demonstration of the fact.” This was echoed in the local newspaper. The Saskatchewan Herald’s P.G. Laurie understood the importance to the government of making the hangings a public spectacle. “We are not in favor of public executions as a rule,” wrote Laurie, “but we believe that in this instance it would have a wholesome influence on the Indians at large to have the extreme penalty of the law so carried out on those whom the court may find guilty.” Laurie viewed the hangings as a type of deterrence to further violence, arguing that the calm administration of punishment would impress the Native population more than further battlefield bloodshed. Laurie also agreed with the government that the executions should happen at the place of the capital trials, in Battleford. Laurie argued, “[I]f the Department of Justice will.. .permit the executions to be public, the sight will have such an effect upon the native beholders as will make them think twice before they again take up arms.” (See “A Lesson They Would Not Soon Forget” Chapter 3: https://drive.google.com/…/1yvqkd4LfbfO4YC5mWcQS0QfCPVEWNo_k)

5. The biography of Senator John Tootoosis notes at page 77 that among the witnesses at the hangings were “the Indian children from the Battleford Industrial School who had also been brought to see the eight men die. It was a part of their education that none of them would soon forget!”

6. One week prior to the hangings, Prime Minister John A. MacDonald wrote in a confidential letter to the Indian Commissioner: “The executions… ought to convince the Red Man that the White Man governs.”

7. Little Bear continued to assert that he was innocent until his death.

8. Loyal Til Death (a thoughtful account of the true history of this period by Blair Stonechild and Bill Waiser – https://www.amazon.ca/Loyal-Till-Death-North-West-Rebell…/…/) discusses the terrorizing effect the hangings had on Indigenous people in the region: “As for the Indians assembled in front of the gallows, they watched in quiet horror as the men dropped to their doom and then silently moved off once the bodies had been placed in the coffins. Nothing was said or done. They simply returned to their reserves, trying to put behind them the shock of the executions. But to this day, the executions have remained a numbing event, comparable to an old scar on the soul of a people. Elder Paul Chicken of the Sweetgrass reserve recalled how the Indians of the area lived in morbid fear of being picked up and tried before "Hanging Judge Rouleau.” Dressyman’s grandson, meanwhile, related how his reprieved grandfather and several other men were forced to watch the executions and threatened with a similar fate if there was any more trouble. “My grandfather was there, he saw them hung, he watched it all,” he recounted. “They didn’t like the hanging… the law overdone it.” Don Chastis, a descendent of one of the Cut Knife warriors, said that he often heard the Elders speak of the bravery of the condemned men, how they all sang on the platform in the face of death. He also speculated that the police refused to release the bodies for a traditional burial because the government did not want the men glorified as braves. “So they were forbidden to have anything to do with them. That’s why they buried them right there in a mass grave,” Chastis said. “It would have defeated the whole purpose of the hanging if they let these people [bodies] go.” The Battleford trials and executions accelerated the exodus of Indians to the relative safety of the United States.“ (At page 226-227 of Loyal Til Death.)

9. There are almost no artistic works or photographs that depict the hangings other than the attached illustration from "Loyal Til Death” by Blair Stonechild and Bill Waiser – https://www.amazon.ca/Loyal-Till-Death-North-West-Rebell…/…/

We remember the eight men who were executed at Battleford, and encourage people to consider the perspective of the historical accounts and begin working to decolonize the accounts of this history.

Is it time to consider exonerating or posthumously pardoning the eight warriors executed at Battleford?

(See: https://www.cbc.ca/…/pm-trudeau-exonerate-tsilhqotin-chiefs…)”

– from the Battleford Residential School Facebook page

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1974 Occupation of Anicinabe Park.

The year 1974 was seen by some as the turning point in the Red Power movement in Canada. One of the key events was the occupation of Anicinabe municipal Park in Kenora, Ontario, in July 1974. Louis Cameron from the nearby White Dog reserve organized a conference in the park, participants decided they needed to do more to assert their rights and make their demands heard. They were demanding better living conditions, education and access to land.
The July conference created an atmosphere to articulate other objectives including an end to police harassment in Kenora, better medical and dental services, cultural training for white police, creation of a local human rights committee, and appointment of First Nations justices of the peace. Ojibway Warrior Society Including dozens of young First Nations people from across the continent joined the protest in 1974.

One of the original protestors, Lorraine Major, said the people who were there with her should be remembered and honoured. “They had the guts to stand up for their rights. They had the guts to speak out against leadership.“

The occupation lasted 39 days, involving a stand-off between 100 First Nations participants and police. There were dozens of arrests but subsequent acquittals.

– Anthony Melting Tallow, November 18, 2018.

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“The Giant Ke’-lok hurling hot Rocks at Wek’-Wek,” from an original painting by C. J. Hittell, 1909. From The dawn of the world: myths and weird tales told by the Mewan Indians of California. Collected and edited by C. Hart Merriam. Cleveland: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1910. pg.77.

Then his grandfather told him that Ke-lok was his elder brother.

“All right,” said Wek-wek, “I’m going to play al’-leh with my brother.”

Nowadays al’-leh is a guessing game, played with two small bones, one wrapped or dressed to distinguish it from the other. But in those days it was different, for al’-leh was played by hurling rocks with intent to kill.

After a while Wek-wek arrived at Ke-lok’s han-na-boo, and when Ke-lok came out, said to him, “Brother, I have come to play hand-game with you.”

“All right,” answered Ke-lok, and he at once built a fire and put eight round rocks in it and heated them until they were red hot. Then he said, “ My young brother, you begin first.”

“No,” replied Wek-wek, “I want to see you play first; you begin.”

“All right,” said Ke -lok, and he immediately sprang up and darted up into the sky, for he was great and powerful and could do all things. As he went up he made a loud noise. Then he came down in a zig-zag course, and as he came, sang a song.

Then Wek-wek began to throw hot rocks at him but purposely missed him, for he did not want to kill his brother. His grandfather O-let-te the Coyote-man, called out to him from the south that if he hit Ke-lok in his body it would not kill him, but that his heart (wus-ke) was in his arm, under a white spot on the underside of the arm, and that if he hit that spot it would kill him ; that was the only place on his body where a blow would kill him.

Wek-wek answered, “I can easily hit that, but I don’t want to kill him.”

So he threw all the hot stones but took care not to hit the white spot under the arm. When he had fired all the rocks he picked them up and put them back in the fire to heat again.

Then it was Ke-lok’s turn.

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“Iroquois Hear Chiefs Preach From Wampum,” The Globe and Mail. October 25, 1938. Page 03.

Teachings of Their Prophet, Handsome Lake, Proclaimed in Native Tongue; to Stage Great Feather Dance Today

150 Tribesmen Met

Ohawekan, Ont., Oct. 24 (CP). – Braves and squaws of the Iroquois Tribe that once ruled North America gathered today around long tables to hear tribal chieftains preach in native tongue from the ‘wampum,’ Indian bible based on teachings of the prophet, ‘Handsome Lake.’

The ceremony was part of the opening rites of the three-day convention at the Six Nations Reserve, conducted by Chief Fred Bonsberry and Chief C. Williams of the Senecas.

The convention has attracted Iroquois chiefs from parts of Canada and New York State, Chief Rodeye of Syracuse, noted Indian preacher, is expected tomorrow.

Following exhortations that sometimes last three yours, ceremonial dances are held. The daily powows end with distribution of corn cake and berry wine.

A highlight of tomorrow’s festivities will be the ‘great feather dance,’ one of the most sacred of Indian dances. Individual chants will be the feature of Wednesday’s program.

The convention closes with a peach stone betting game in which all kinds of articles, clothing and blankets are polled and ‘winner takes all.’

About 150 tribesmen are gathered for the festival, near Altkins Corners, three miles from here. The reserve is twenty miles from Brantford.

The main object of the festival is to give thanks to the Manitou or Great Spirit for plentiful crops.

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“Seventy kilometers north of Kenora, in Ontario’s Lake of the Woods region, among a series of rolling, densely forested hills between two lakes, is the Ojibway community of Grassy Narrows, or the Asubpeechoseewagong First Nation. It is home to about 1,000 people.

As you travel north towards it, the lakes and rivers are crowded with pleasure craft, tourists and sportsmen. The closer you get, however, the sparser the pleasure-seekers get – until eventually you find a Chernobyl stillness heavy among the trees.

Nobody wants to touch the waters around Grassy Narrows.

Between 1962 and 1970, the Reed Paper company dumped more than 9,000kg of mercury into the Wabigoon and English river systems here. Slowly, that mercury poisoned the waters, and made the walleye – the cornerstone of the local fishing-based economy and the staple food of the local First Nations people – unsafe to eat.

On 6 April 1970, shortly after detecting the spill, by then nearly a decade old, the Ontario provincial government closed the region’s fisheries and moved to cut off the source of mercury.

That date, 6 April, serves as a dividing line for the few surviving elders of Grassy Narrows today: a line between a growing, employed and prosperous traditional community, and an era of disease, government inaction, and Ojibway resistance.”

– Robert Jago, “The Warrior Society rises: how a mercury spill in Canada inspired a movement.” The Guardian, October 16, 2018.

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“Campers have for years parked their RVs at the Turtle Crossing campground along the Assiniboine River in Manitoba, without knowing that it’s situated on the site of unmarked graves of more than 50 Indigenous children who died at the Brandon Residential School.

But Anne Lindsay, a researcher and former archivist with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba, has spent nearly 10 years looking for and trying to identify the bodies. So far, she has identified children ranging in age from 7 to 16, dating back to the early 1900s.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that more than 3,200 children in total died at residential schools, where more than 150,000 Indigenous children were sent from 1883 to 1998 as part of a program of forced assimilation.

According to the Commission’s report, child abuse was “institutionalized” at residential schools and the entire system represented an attempt at “cultural genocide.”

Among its 94 calls to action was one to determine how — and how many — children died at residential schools and to determine where they are buried.

But some say that, so far, all they’ve seen is apathy.

“We hear from residential school survivors who tell you of these things happening, of mass graves existing, and everybody always denies that those stories are true,” said Arlen Dumas, the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. “Well, here’s one example…there will be more.”

Lindsay found the unmarked graves by using an old, hand drawn map made by a former student of the Brandon Residential School.

Current campground proprietor Mark Kovatch, who is the third owner of Turtle Crossing, told CTV News that he had no idea his property held a burial ground. He said that he is co-operating with the City of Brandon and a local First Nation to uncover the grave site.

“Their preference was to repatriate the bodies up to the site of the old residential school and to try and have a memorial up there,” he said.

Harshly disciplined and poorly nourished, children at residential schools often died from illnesses such as tuberculosis, pneumonia or influenza. But others died from the hard labour they were forced to endure or died by suicide. Twelve children died after the Cross Lake school in Manitoba burned down in 1930.

“They operated equipment, which in the early 1900s was far less safe than farm equipment we know today,” Lindsay said. “They were also just physically run down from the amount of labour they were doing.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report said that “the failure to establish and enforce adequate standards, coupled with the failure to adequately fund the schools, resulted in unnecessarily high death rates at residential schools.”

The work of Lindsay and others in trying to identify the thousands of children who died at the schools is a difficult one, in part because governments and churches have not always been forthcoming with relevant documents or have provided documents in poor quality.

Compounding the problem is that school officials routinely failed to report the deaths to authorities, choosing instead to bury the children in unidentified cemeteries on school grounds rather than to send them home to their families. For nearly one-third of the deaths, no effort was made to record the name of the student who died. In even more cases, they did not record the cause of death.

A meeting is scheduled in September to discuss next steps. Dumas hopes that Indigenous families — long excluded from conversations surrounding the deaths of Indigenous children at residential schools — will be invited.”

– Zig Zag, “Unmarked graves of children from residential school found beneath Manitoba RV park.” Warrior Publications, September 1, 2018.

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“A 70-year-old grandmother has been ordered to serve seven days in
jail for blocking Kinder Morgan’s Burnaby, B.C. gates in opposition to
the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

Laurie Embree, a resident of 108 Mile Ranch located more than 400
kilometres north of Burnaby, learned of her sentencing Tuesday. She’s
the first of nine activists facing jail time following their arrests in

In her statement to the court before sentencing, Embree said there
have been “many times when our laws have supported injustices,”
including slavery, child labour and the apprehension of Indigenous

“I truly believe that when we have laws that support injustices, it
is the duty of all good men and women to stand up and challenge those
laws,” she said, according to a press release.

Jean Swanson, an Order of Canada recipient and Vancouver City Council
candidate, was also arrested for blocking the gates of Kinder Morgan’s
Westridge Marine Terminal on June 30. She’s also facing up to seven days
in custody and $5,000 in fines.

“I think it’s an unjust project – not only unjust, but a dangerous project – that we’re trying to stop,” she told APTN News.
“It’s also a ridiculous expenditure of tax money to keep people who
aren’t violent or doing anything bad – who are actually doing something
good – in jail.”

Following opposition by the B.C. government and anti-pipeline
activists, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal
government would purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project
for $4.5 billion, a transaction due to be finalized this fall. That
doesn’t include the estimated $7.4 billion cost to twin the pipeline
from Edmonton to Burnaby.

Swanson said she would rather see the Trudeau government spend that
money on clean drinking water for reserves or invested in solar and wind
energy projects.”

– “Grandmother sentenced to seven days in jail for protesting Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.” APTN News,

July 31, 2018.

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“Got Five Years For Plundering Cottages,” Toronto Globe. July 25, 1912. Page 05.

Indian Found Guilty Of Theft From Grimsby Beach Residences.

(Special Despatch to The Globe.)
St. Catharines, July 24. – David Dockstader, an Indian, accused of entering J. D. Cran’s and J. B. Oliverson’s cottages at Grimsby Beach last December and stealing a large number of household articles, appeared before Judge Carman to-day. He was found guilty and sentenced to five years in Kingston Penitentiary. Mary Greene, a squaw, accused of a similar offence, was allowed to go.

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“Indigenous people who say they lost
their culture and suffered physical and sexual abuse at
government-funded day schools are calling for compensation in a
Canada-wide lawsuit that has been certified as a class action.

Nations, Métis and Inuit people who were forced, as children, to attend
these schools say they suffered atrocities similar to those who went to
residential schools. The Indian Residential Schools Settlement
Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history, has
paid more than a total of $5-billion to residential school survivors.

attempts have been made over the years to obtain similar compensation
for those who attended the day schools, which Indigenous children who
were not part of the residential-school system were legally required to
attend starting in 1920.

June 21, Justice Michael Phelan of the Federal Court agreed that a
class-action suit filed with the court on behalf of the day-school
students could proceed.

The only
real distinction between the experiences of residential-school students
and those of day-school students is that the day-school students went
home at night, says Robert Winogron, of Gowling WLG, the Toronto-based
law firm that is working for the plaintiffs.

suffered exactly the same kinds of abuses – sexual abuse, physical
abuse, psychological abuse, the language and culture deprivation, and
denigration,” said Mr. Winogron. “My partner and I and my team have
travelled from communities from B.C. to Nova Scotia and the stories are
hauntingly similar.”

The lead
plaintiff in the case is Garry McLean who was forced to attend the Dog
Creek Indian Day School in Manitoba from the age of seven and was
strapped or forced to sit in a corner every time he spoke Ojibway, the
only language he knew when he arrived.

Mr. McLean also says he was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a nun.

The day schools were funded by the federal or provincial government and, like residential schools, they were run by churches.”

– Gloria Galloway, “Court approves class-action lawsuit for Indigenous students who say they were abused at day schools.The Globe & Mail, July 8, 2018.

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A declaration of war has been issued against Indigenous peoples in Canada by the federal government. By bailing out Kinder Morgan’s investment in the Trans Mountain pipeline, Canada has announced its ongoing intention to violate Indigenous title, law and jurisdiction, as well as the constitutional rights of Indigenous peoples, and all protocols of international law protecting Indigenous peoples’ homelands and right to consent to development on their lands.

Kinder Morgan purchased the pipeline for $600 million dollars. They sold it for a return of almost 650 percent for a product that proved faulty only a few days ago. Canadians are increasingly complicit in this swindle because they are all part-owners now. But Canadians have legal, moral, and treaty obligations to respect Indigenous jurisdiction, especially in light of what is to come. So the strategy must remain the same: we must devalue the pipeline by blocking its construction by any means necessary and supporting those who do.

Indigenous peoples from affected nations along the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion have already been arrested and violently removed from the path of destruction that will expand tar sands production and multiply tanker traffic and the risk of pipeline spills through their watersheds.

While there is much talk in the federal government about respecting Indigenous rights, not only does the pipeline bisect the lands and waters where Indigenous Peoples practice their right to hunt, fish, trap, pick berries, and sustain themselves, rendering those rights vulnerable to the imminent threat of a spill, its direct contribution to climate change already cuts these rights off at the legs.

Furthermore, the law itself and the deployment of police forces must be an object of scrutiny in the protection of Indigenous rights. Canada’s use of legal and police forces to repress Indigenous peoples is widespread and goes hand-in-hand with extraction. It is done in conjunction with corporations like Kinder Morgan, where the risk of Indigenous rights to commercial profit is mitigated through state police criminalizing Indigenous land defenders.

When we write that this is a declaration of war, we mean it literally. The military will be called. But the threat is not only the criminalization of land and water defenders protecting their territory from pipeline construction, but from the harmful corollary effects of pipeline construction, such as the ‘man-camps’ that are being established in four locations along the route. As the Women’s Declaration Against Kinder Morgan Man Camps reads: “Today, wherever man camps are set up, we face exponential increases in sexual violence. As development results in the destruction of our land base and our food sovereignty, it also drives up food and housing prices. This further intensifies our economic insecurity and we are forced into even more vulnerable conditions”.

Indigenous jurisdiction is collectively held. This means the deals Kinder Morgan has made with individual bands do not replace the need for engagement with the nation as a collective, as the proper title and rights holder on a territorial basis. Canada now bears the risks from the company’s failure to obtain consent from the appropriate jurisdictional authority. They are now the ones operating illegally, not the Indigenous land defenders.

It is the national pattern to use criminalization, civil action, and other penalties to repress Indigenous resistance to these policies by bringing to bear the weight of the law and police forces against Indigenous individuals and communities. The widespread surveillance of Indigenous peoples – e.g. the “hot spot” reporting system established under Harper, or the RCMP’s Project SITKA that monitored “Aboriginal public order events’ – is also part of a pattern of intimidation and risk mitigation. The use of incarceration is a long-term strategy to contain Indigenous rights within the carceral state, rather than see them asserted on the ground.

It is the failure of Canada to find peaceful measures to resolve this fundamental conflict that must be examined. Indigenous blockades are not acts of civil disobedience, but encounters between Indigenous and settler law.

And they should be dealt with as political conflict between Nations through diplomacy, not by security forces. Together, we will shut it down.

Support the Tiny House Warrior project!

Read more: https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/kanahus-manuel/kinder-morgan-indigenous-resistance_a_23349533/

Donate: here – https://www.gofundme.com/tinyhouse2

Please email reconciliationmanifesto@gmail.com to add your support and solidarity to this call to action!

A list of people who stand in solidarity with this Call to Action:

Kanahus Manuel, Secwepemc Womens Warrior Society + Tiny House Warriors

Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade

Christi Belcourt (Michif of the Belcourt & L’Hirondelle Families from Mânitow Sâkahikan)

Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Lubicon Cree, David Suzuki Fellow

Jeffrey McNeil, TRU//

Audra Simpson (Kahnawake Mohawk) Professor, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University

The Indigenous Environmental Network

Janice Makokis, Indigenous Scholar (Saddle Lake Cree Nation)

Dallas Goldtooth, Keep It In The Group Campaigner

Eriel Deranger, Executive Director Indigenous Climate Action and member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

Hayden King, Beausoleil First Nation, Director, Yellowhead Institute, Ryerson University

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Ryerson University

Nick Estes, Kul Wicasa, Co-Founder of The Red Nation, Assistant Professor of American Studies, University of New Mexico

Erica Violet Lee, Nêhiyaw nation, University of Toronto

Pamela Palmater, Chair of Indigenous Governance, Ryerson University

Tori Cress, Beausoleil First Nation, Idle No More Ontario

Clayton Thomas-Müller, Stop-it-at-the-Source Campaigner – 350.org

Avi Lewis, The Leap

Naomi Klein, Writer

David Suzuki, geneticist and broadcaster

Bill McKibben, author and environmentalist

Dr. Damien Lee (Zoongde), Band member, Fort William First Nation

Deborah Cowen, Associate Professor, Geography, University of Toronto

Sherry Pictou, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Women’s Studies: Indigenous Feminism, Mount Saint Vincent University

Audrey Huntley, No More Silence

June McCue, Ned’u’ten. Water is Life!

Judy Rebick, Author and Activist

Harsha Walia, Activist and Author

Anne Spice, Tlingit, CUNY Graduate Center

Maude Barlow

Stephen Lewis

Sheelah McLean Idle No More Organizer

Tony Wawatie, Interim Director General, Algonquins of Barriere Lake


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William Armstrong, Hudson’s Bay Post, Sault Ste Marie, 1863. Water colour, 1863/1911? Toronto Public Library, JRR 2426 Cab IV (Armstrong)

(Inscribed in brown water colour, l.l.: W. Armstrong 1911 [“1911” erased]; In pencil, mount vso u.l.: (7); C.: 8; l.l.: [trimmed; probably description of site]. A photograph (Acc. D 5-79a) shows this water colour before the erasure l.l. of “1911” and is inscribed on scrapbook page mount: Sault Ste Marie 1853 / Hudson Bay Post)

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“The Tsilhqot’in War of 1864 is one of the most important conflicts of the initial period of colonization in what is currently “British Columbia.” In many ways, it illustrates the colonizing process, complete with devastating disease, conflict over land and resources, and settler officials’ betrayal of Indigenous peoples.

The Tsilhqot’in War involved members of the Tsilhqot’in Nation resisting efforts by settlers to build a road that would cut through their traditional territory in the interior of the colony of British Columbia. The road was initiated by Alfred Waddington, a colonial official and businessman, who lobbied his government and business friends for a wagon road to be built from Bute Inlet to Fort Alexandria that would connect to the Cariboo Road and continue on to the goldfields at Barkerville. Without adequate consultation with the Tsilhqot’in, the settler government approved the road for construction.

The Tsilhqot’in, however, had been hit with a smallpox epidemic introduced by settlers in 1862, and a number of war chiefs took it upon themselves to prevent further unwanted incursions into their territory. When road construction began in the area near Bute Inlet, Tsilhqot’in warriors carried out a series of attacks in April and May 1864, killing 19 settlers.

Fearing a general uprising of Indigenous peoples across the colony, the government, led by Governor Frederick Seymour, immediately dispatched two armed expeditions to find and punish the Tsilhqot’in, but both failed. Resorting to deception, Gold Commissioner William Cox sent word to the Tsilhqot’in that he wished to meet to conduct peace talks, but when five Tsilhqot’in leaders—Klatsassin, Piell, Tellot, Tahpit, and Chessus—arrived, they were taken prisoner and sentenced to death by Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie, popularly known in British Columbia history as the “Hanging Judge.” The warriors were executed on 26 October 1864. A sixth Tsilhqot’in leader—Ahan—was hanged in July 1865. During the show trial, Klatsassin declared that the Tsilhqot’in had waged war, “not murder.” Nevertheless, the Tsilhqot’in warriors were executed and written into British Columbia’s (colonial) history as merciless murderers.

150 years later, in October 2014, the government of British Columbia apologized for hanging the Tsilhqot’in chiefs. Premier Christy Clark stated, “We confirm without reservation that these six Tsilhqot’in chiefs are fully exonerated for any crime or wrongdoing.” In March 2018, the federal government of Canada similarly absolved the chiefs at a public event. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proclaimed, “We honour and recognize six Tsilhqot’in chiefs—men who were treated and tried as criminals in an era where both the colonial government and the legal process did not respect the inherent rights of the Tsilhqot’in people.”

While many saw the acts of the provincial and federal governments as meaningful steps towards “reconciliation,” it is clear that the state has ulterior motives. The governments issued their apologies as part of a strategy to try to win over Indigenous peoples in British Columbia and pacify their ongoing resistance to large-scale capitalist resource extraction. To protect the land and water for future generations, Indigenous Nations and allies are organizing unprecedented mobilizations against proposed pipeline projects through unceded Indigenous territories, most notably the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project, as well as coal, copper, and gold mines. In context, the 2014 and 2018 apologies, then, clarify what Klatsassin and others knew 150 years ago: the Tsilhqot’in were engaged in a struggle to defend their sovereignty and territory from external threats, a struggle that is still very much alive today.”

– Gord Hill & Sean Carleton, “The Tsilhqot’in War of 1864.” Activehistory.ca, May 2018.

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“How then can settler allies move beyond being sympathetic beneficiaries of colonialism? What approach is legitimately decolonizing?

The resilience of settler privilege is a barrier. Gestures toward allyship can quickly recolonize Indigenous peoples. Some people have tried to create bonds of allyship by believing that Indigenous wisdom and spirituality are so profound that Indigenous people have always lived in ecological harmony. This is the romantic approach. Other allies have tried to create solidarity through claiming that Indigenous and non-Indigenous environmentalists should not distinguish their efforts. In this view, environmental issues threaten us all, and we should converge around common problems that affect all humanity, instead of wasting dwindling time on environmental racism. This is the same-boat approach. 

The romantic approach assumes that lifting up Indigenous wisdom and spirituality constitutes action. But this approach does not necessarily confront ongoing territorial dispossession and risks to health, economic vitality, lives, psychological well-being, and cultural integrity that Indigenous people experience. This is why scholars Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang say decolonization is not a metaphor. Yet, the empathetic responsibility to support others’ self-determination and well-being is a major lesson in many Indigenous environmental traditions. Subscribers to the romantic view are unprepared to respond to criticisms of supposed Indigenous hypocrisies, like the alleged contradiction of tribally sanctioned coal industries. Responding to these critiques requires an understanding of colonialism, yet some romantics are unwilling to take the time to learn how the U.S. forcefully re-engineered tribal governments to facilitate extractive industries. This understanding is key if one’s goal is to undermine the levers of power that undermine Indigenous self-determination and well-being today.  

Nobody can claim to be an ally if their agenda is to prevent their own future dystopias through actions that also preserve today’s Indigenous dystopias.

The same-boat approach also misses the colonial context. The conservation movement has been as damaging to Indigenous peoples as extractive industries. National parks, ecological restoration projects, conservation zones, and even the uses of certain terms—especially “wilderness”—are associated with forced displacement of entire communities, erasure of Indigenous histories in education and public memory, economic marginalization, and violations of cultural and political rights. Though certain sectors of conservation have improved greatly, newer movements, such as the international UN-REDD+ Programme, still repeat harms of the past. Almost every environmental achievement in the U.S.—such as the Clean Air or Clean Water acts—has required Indigenous peoples to work hard to reform these laws to gain fair access to the protections. 

A decolonizing approach to allyship must challenge the resilience of settler privilege, which involves directly facing the very different ecological realities we all dwell in. Sometimes I see settler environmental movements as seeking to avoid some dystopian environmental future or planetary apocalypse. These visions are replete with species extinctions, irreversible loss of ecosystems, and severe rationing. They can include abusive corporations and governments that engage in violent brainwashing, quarantining, and territorial dispossession of people who stand in their way. 

Yet for many Indigenous peoples in North America, we are already living in what our ancestors would have understood as dystopian or post-apocalyptic times. In a cataclysmically short period, the capitalist–colonialist partnership has destroyed our relationships with thousands of species and ecosystems.”

– Kyle Powys Whyte, “White Allies, Let’s Be Honest About Decolonization.” Yes! Magazine, April 3, 2018.

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“A Mi’kmaq student is calling on the RCMP to take a hit-and-run incident in her home community seriously, following the not-guilty verdicts in the deaths of Tina Fontaine and Colten Boushie.

Carolyn Simon, a Carleton University student, organized an eight-kilometre justice march from the university to RCMP headquarters in Ottawa on Friday.
The message: Brady Francis’s family should not go through what the relatives of Boushie and Fontaine had to endure.

“We don’t want the person responsible to not be accountable for his action,” Simon said. “This is more to just kinda tell them to do this case fairly, to treat this case with respect and to do their jobs.”

Francis, a 22-year-old member of the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick, was killed in a hit-and-run two weeks ago.

“It just didn’t make sense that somebody like him would be taken so soon,” said Simon, who knows the Francis family. “And it’s affected a lot of people in the community because it just shows it doesn’t matter who you are we’re all not safe.”

Activist Jocelyn Wabano Iahtail said Indigenous people are collectively grieving over the verdicts in the recent Boushie and Fontaine trials.

“With Colten and Tina we reflect upon our own losses. All of this comes back again just like it was yesterday,” she said.”

– Todd

Lamirande, “Ottawa march calls for justice for hit-and-run victim Brady Francis.APTN National News, March 9, 2018.

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“The media conference, which included First Nations leaders and family of Stacy DeBungee, was called in the wake of a conduct report released by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) that substantiated allegations of misconduct by Thunder Bay Police’s investigation into the death of 41-year-old DeBungee of Rainy River First Nation, who was found dead in the McIntyre River in October, 2015.

The 126-page report, released Monday morning to the public, found the Criminal Investigation Branch of the Thunder Bay Police Service and lead investigators, prematurely ruled the death of DeBungee to be non-criminal.

Several factors were cited in the report, including failure on the part of investigators to secure or hold the scene until an autopsy had been conducted, a lack of forensic evidence examination, failure to take statements from individual or witnesses who were with DeBungee before his death, and statements made in media releases that the death was non-criminal hours after DeBungee’s body was found.

The report states there is overwhelming evidence to support that Thunder Bay Police investigators, Det. Shawn Harrison and Det. Const. Shawn Whipple, concluded Stacy DeBungee “rolled into the river and drowned without any external intervention.”

“It can also be reasonably inferred that this premature conclusion may have been drawn because the deceased was Indigenous,” the report continues. “It can reasonably be inferred that the investigating officers failed to treat or protect the deceased and his family equally and without discrimination based on the deceased’s Indigenous status.”

Brad DeBungee, brother of Stacy, said the release of the report validated what he has suspected all along regarding how his brother’s death was handled by police. […] “We knew things were bad, but we didn’t think they were this bad,” added former Rainy River First Nation chief, Jim Leonard. “Every page of those 126 pages it states there is deficiency after deficiency.””

– Doug Diaczuk, “First Nation leaders call for Levesque’s resignation.” TBnewswatch, March 5, 2018.

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