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Posts Tagged ‘settler colonialism’

“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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“A decade-long access to information fight by Amnesty International has uncovered documents the organization says reveal a deep-seated bias in how the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) handled the Mohawks land dispute in 2008.

“From the very beginning we think the response to the land occupation and protests in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory were vastly disproportional to any credible evidence of any threat to public safety,” said Craig Benjamin, who works for the human rights organization.

“Do I really think the OPP are there for public safety? Absolutely not,” said Dan Doreen, a Mohawk land defender, who was on the frontlines of the land reclamation in Tyendinaga.

“Does public safety encompass Indigenous people? Absolutely not.”

Larry Hay is a Mohawk investigator based in Tyendinaga. He worked with Amnesty International to examine the OPP actions.

He said this is still very much a live issue for his community.

“Why is it important ten years on to move this forward? Because these issues have never been addressed,” said Hay.

Hay is a former RCMP officer and former chief of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Police.

“What happened here in 2008, here Tyendinaga at the Culbertson Tract turned out to be an example for police of how not to manage an Indigenous protest,” said Hay.

The Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, in southeastern Ontario, sits on the shores of the Bay of Quinte, framed by Highway 401, the train tracks to the north and two small towns on either side.

In 1995, the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte filed a land claim for a 900 acre (364 hectares) area called the Culbertson Tract. Roughly a third of it is farmland, but it also includes part of the small town of Deseronto, which borders the reserve.

“All the important part of the town is on stolen land,” said Doreen.

The land claim is still under negotiation.

Back in 2007, the Mohawks had already protested a permit granted by the province to a local developer for a quarry in the land claim area.

They occupied the quarry site and shut it down.

That occupation was still going on a year later, when another property developer announced plans for 200 housing units in Deseronto, in another area that’s part of the land claim.

“It was always about the land and it was stopping development of the land,” said Doreen. “And we did that.”

The 2008 protests and police actions largely happened out of the public eye.

But through freedom of information, Amnesty International has accessed documents including officer’s notes, briefing books, police interviews, and footage recorded by the OPP – video never before seen by the public.

“Do you need 200 police officers to address a situation which is at most one of mischief? Or perhaps one where no laws are being broken?” asked Benjamin.

The OPP deployed the Public Order unit, the Canine unit, a helicopter and the Tactics and Rescue Unit (TRU), commonly called the sniper squad or swat team.”

– Trina Roache, “Documents show deep-seated bias by police during operations against Mohawks of Tyendinaga.” APTN Investigates, November 23, 2018.

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“[Lieutenant Governor John Graves] Simcoe’s greatest achievement as a road builder was also planned to serve military purposes, but in serving those objectives it also provided the impetus for settlement of Simcoe County. In planning to build Yonge Street, Simcoe was looking for a short cut to Georgian Bay, the jumping off point for the most western British fur trading post at Michilimackinac, where lakes Michigan and Huron meet. Such a land link between Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe would then allow easy access to Georgian Bay via water and would avoid a much longer water passage on Lakes Erie and Huron. Writing to secretary of State Henry Dundas in October, 1793, Simcoe advised that ‘I have ascertained by a Route hitherto unknown but to some Indian Hunters, that there is an easy Portage between York and the Waters which fall into Lake Huron of not more than thirty miles in extent, and through a County perfectly suited for agricultural Purposes.’

By the time he wrote the letter in October, Simcoe was already on his way with a group of soldiers, surveyors and Native guides to follow the old Carrying Place Trail north from the mouth of the Humber River to Lake Simcoe (originally named Lac aux Claies by the French and renamed by Simcoe after his father, although some say after himself). This route followed the marshy areas along the Holland River and did not meet Simcoe’s expectations but on the return trip to York he found the route that his new military highway would take: south from Holland Landing, via Bond Lake and the branches of the Don River. According to military tradition, the 33-mile (53 km) road was carved through the bush in a straight line from York to Holland Landing.

Surveying and clearing started at Holland Landing early in 1794 but Simcoe had to send his work crews, his Queen’s Rangers, to Niagara in 1795 to meet the threat of an American attack, and the project was delayed. The road was completed by February of 1796, after Simcoe contracted with renowned surveyor August Jones to get it finished. He also relied on assistance from each settler along the route, who was required to clear six acres of land within a year and provide some road building labour. Simcoe also had convicted petty criminals removing tree stumps. The ‘Stump Act’ of 1800 would formalize the practice of using convicts, alcohol offenders mostly, to remove stumps on public road projects.

As was typical, as soon as it was built maintenance became an issue for the new link to the northern districts. On its completion it was a stretch to call Yonge Street a road, with many stumps not removed and sections sinking in the marshy areas. Trees, brush and other construction debris remained unburned. There was no public money to maintain the road and no early settlers on the route to do the work for free.”

– Robert Bradford, Keeping Ontario Moving: The History of Roads and Road Building in Ontario. Toronto: Ontario Road Builder’s Association, pp. 13-14.

Image: Titus Hibbert Ware, “Corduroy Road Over a Swamp in Orillia Township, Ontario.“  September 1844. Pen & brown & blue inks, grey wash, over pencil.

Toronto Reference Library, Baldwin Room, M 1-17.

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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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“In the shafts of the tin mines in the mountains around the city of Oruro, Bolivia, the miners have statues representing the spirit who owns the mines and tin. Known as the devil or as the uncle (Tio), these icons may be as small as a hand or as large as a full-sized human. They hold the power of life and death over the mines and over the miners, who conduct rites of sacrifice and gift exchange to the spirit represented by the icons — the contemporary manifestation of the precolonial power of the mountain.

His body is sculptured from mineral. The hands, face, and legs are made from clay. Often, bright pieces of metal or light bulbs from the miners’ helmets form his eyes. The teeth may be of glass or of crystal sharpened like nails, and the mouth gapes, awaiting offerings of coca and cigarettes. The hands stretch out for liquor.

The spirit can also appear as an apparition: a blond, bearded, red-faced gringo (foreigner) wearing a cowboy hat, resembling the technicians and administrators who control the tens of thousands of miners who excavate the tin that since the late nineteenth century has made Bolivia a satellite of the world commodity market. He can also take the form of a succubus offering riches in exchange for one’s soul or life.

In the peasant communities of the Andean plateau, where, individually and communally, the tillers of the soil exercise a measure of real control over the means of production, the spirit owners of nature differ from those in the mines, where the capitalist mode of production reigns. Only in the mines, honeycombed mountains of capitalist organization, does the spirit owner seem predominantly and actively evil. There, rites to the spirit owner are necessary and frequent; yet, try as they might, the miners are constantly on the verge of failure despite their ritual propitiation.

Prior to nationalization, wages were shared between the ten to fifteen members of a work gang who were tied to contracts based on the amount of metal excavated. Following nationalization the gangs were dismembered into two-person units and wages were fixed by the cubic meter dug out rather than by the amount of mineral extracted. To some degree the intense solidarity of the small work group was replaced by the national Bolivian workers’ union (the Central Obrero Boliviano). But after the military coup and takeover of the mines in 1964, the union lost much of its power. Now the workers have neither the strength of their old primary work groups nor that of the monolithic union.

In the autobiography of the miner Juan Rojas, it is strikingly clear that the miners are preoccupied with the life of the mine as a living entity, so to speak. They are forced by the management hierarchy to struggle with the rock face and to hate the work that destroys their lungs and shortens their lives. Yet, at the same time they care for the mine.

In accord with a vast series of meanings inscribed in mythology, magic, and the arousal of nature’s sleeping powers, mineral ores are often spoken of as alive, resplendent with movement, color, and sound. They may be said to be flowing like water, moving, asleep, pure, beautiful, growing like a potato, like raw sugar, sweet, screaming below the ground.

The mine is enchanted, but it is the antithesis of a Christian enchantment. It is opposed to the world of Christ; it is of the antichrist. At the entrance to the mine one may pray to God and make the sign of the cross. But inside one must never do this. One cannot even use the pick when working close to mineral because the pick has the form of the cross. Otherwise, one may lose the vein. God reigns on the surface, but the Tio is king in the mine. “We do not kneel before him as we would before a saint,” says one miner, “because that would be sacrilegious.”

A workmate of Rojas’s was badly hurt in 1966. Rojas himself felt that his luck was out. He was refused permission by the engineer to resign as head of the gang. When his mate returned to work, he suggested to Rojas that they perform a rite to the Tio. They bought the offerings of sugar, hard corn, sweet corn, beer, white wine, red wine, pisco, and a sheep. A visiting shaman was contracted. Instead of allowing the shaman to puncture the heart with wire, which would dirty and kill it, the miners insisted on slitting the animal’s throat and then sprinkling its blood over the rock face deep in the mine. Then they went to eat the sheep.

When they were finished, the bones were wrapped in red wool, and they made their way back to the mine. Ritual infusions were sprinkled at the mine’s entrance. The heart was placed in the center of the sugar sweets and flowers, and on top the bones were placed in the form of the complete skeleton, which was then covered with the hide. At the four corners they placed white wine, red wine, alcohol, beer, paw paw, and some little vases of clay. They drank a toast “to the memory of the sacrifice that we were making for the Tio.” Then they left rapidly without daring to look behind.

Try as they might, the miners are constantly on the verge of being destroyed. The Tio seems implacably bent on their demise. Yet, as the rites to him suggest and as the pageants make clear, he coexists with a symbolized history of conquest and mining, the evil of which is bountiful with the promise of reversal.

The miners deserted the ways of the peasant to enter the unnatural economy of wage work; now, they gut the mountain of its precious metals. The Tio stands as a custodian of the meaning of Indian submission and loss of control over the life they constantly call for. Yet, by the same curse the Spaniards and, hence, all non-Indians, are condemned to lose their power to exploit the Indians’ labor, and they will have to live from their own sweat and toil. The prevailing world is not accepted as good or natural.

A new element not found in peasant life has been added to the dross image of the Spaniard and the glitter of precious metals: proletarianization of Indians, associated with a strange fetishization of commodities.”

– Michael Taussig, “The Ghost in the Machine (extract from The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America, thirtieth-anniversary edition, by Micahel Taussig (2010, University of North Carolina Press).” Jacobin, October 31, 2018.

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“Indians Ask Ottawa Aid,” The Globe & Mail. October 27, 1938. Page 03.

Fort William, Oct. 26 (Special). – Seeking redress from the great white father for ills suffered by their tribesmen, five chiefs of Rainy River Indian bands left here today for Ottawa.

The five chiefs will protest particularly against prosecutions of Indians by the Ontario Department of Game and Fisheries for taking moose, deer and other food animals contrary to provincial regulations. They contend that treaties made in the time of Queen Victoria gave their bands perpetual right to hunt and fish. They also will protest against flooding of part of their reserves through control of river waters by lumber company dams.

Some of the Rainy River reserves escaped narrowly from the forest fires recently, which drove all game and fur bearing animals out of the vicinity and made the plight of the Indians more than usually difficult.

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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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