anishinaabewiziwin

all the elements that make up anishinaabe life through ojibway makwa ikawe embodiment + anishinaabe feminist lens

Summer Solstice

Remember, Anishinaabeg, to offer a little something to the spirits—the ones that belong to the place where you live and our own. We like to do it up and it feels so good to do it up with others but it doesn’t have to be real “dead-leh”. Many of us don’t have much, or maybe we can’t get outside; maybe we don’t have access to traditional things like medicines or food. Still, we can offer a little something, anything. It’s the power of our thoughts, intentions and action and it’s the power of all of us offering something collectively as Anishinaabeg that is doing the work for our future and honouring our ancestors.

It feels good to make a little something for an offering. It’s feel like self care and community care. It feels just right to feast the spirits on solstice. It feels good for the spirit.

Me? I was able to get a bit of manoomin last summer in Leech Lake so I had that on hand. The nuts and seeds and odeminaan I used are no doubt bound up in unethical labour and land dispossession. I offer thoughts for all that. I bought some wild coho salmon in recognition of the local Lekwungen and WSANEC peoples and all their relations. Cooked it up with good thoughts and gratitude. Was thinking about all the supernatural ones that look out for this place that I know next to nothing about but know enough that folx here care about such things just as do we. Was thinking about all the folx who have helped me and my kid along the way. Gratitude for our Beebs. Was thinking about niibin manidooyag and being in ceremony this time last years at the petroglyphs in michi saagiig territory. Was thinking of my Dad who I had just dropped in to visit in the hospital in Bawating after having a stroke. Friends. Went up PKOLS behind my apartment, faced home (waabanong) and made a few acknowledgements, found a Garry Oak and laid the spirit food at its base. Then, I got the heck out of there. I didn’t want to rush or look too conspicuous because there’s lots of people around on the trails who would might ask questions or police me about putting food out—wild animals and all you know. Anyhow, that’s what I did on this Father’s Day, this Indigenous Peoples Day (in Canada) and this solstice.

It feels good to be Anishinaabe. nahaaw, mii sa iw.

The Ways IBPOC People & Allies are Challenging Racism and Colonialism

This is a collated list of resources created by my friend Rita Kaur Dhamoon which she shared with a group of people who are engaged in decolonial anti-racism work. With Rita’s permission, I am sharing here. (At the very end there are additional links I have added or will add to as an addendum).

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I sit here thinking of the family and friends of Floyd George and all the people standing up to protest his violent murder by the police. Another Black death by police. For those interested in reading more and/or who are able to take action re: George Floyd, you might see following: https://www.wmagazine.com/story/george-floyd-protests-minnesota/. I started documenting some of the ways in which Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, East Asians, and other people of colour, sometimes with some allies, are currently challenging ongoing racism and colonialism across Canada. Here is some of that:

SAY THEIR NAMES:

o    Regis Korchinski Paquet, a 29 year old Black woman, died from a fall from the balcony. The police were the only ones in the apartment with her. Her mother had originally called 911 after a family conflict that left the 29-year-old in a state of “distress”, but now fears that her daughter was pushed. Relatives of Korchinski-Paquet have said she was in the midst of a mental health crisis.

o    D’Andre Campbell, a 26 year old Afrikan man, was fatally shot by Peel Police in his home while he was experiencing a mental health crisis, on May 7th 2020. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which has taken over the probe, said preliminary information indicates that two officers discharged conducted energy weapons before one of the officers fired his gun multiple times. Campbell’s eldest sister, Michelle Campbell, said she is traumatized after witnessing the incident.

o    Eisha Hudson, an Indigenous teenager, was shot by police on April 8 2020, following a police chase in response to a liquor store robbing. She was pronounced dead in hospital. The Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth announced that they will do their own investigation. The Indigenous Bar Association has called for an inquiry.

o    Jason Collins, an 36 year old Indigenous man, was shot and killed by an unnamed police officer following a call regarding a domestic incident just hours after the death of Eisha Hudson also by Winnipeg police. Police claim they left the house after arriving to help de-escalate the situation. Police shot Collins 40 minutes after they arrived at his home, after saying he walked out the front door and threatened them. Eishia’s father William Hudson was a close friend of Jason Collins.

o    Stewart Kevin Andrews, a 22 years old Indigenous man, died near the Maples after police shot him while responding to a reported robbery. He was shot on April 18th 2020. The police injured a 16 year old boy who was with Andrews. He was the third Indigenous person to be killed by Winnipeg police in 10 days, and the fourth police shooting victim in the city in 2020.

  • An online resource created by Desmond Cole on “Remembering 27 Black, Indigenous and racialized people killed by Canadian police”https://thatsatruestory.wordpress.com/2020/04/17/remembering-27-black-indigenous-and-racialized-people-killed-by-canadian-police/.
  • Ziyian Kwan and others stage a peaceful anti-racism performance in the courtyard near the Chinese Cultural Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia on Monday, May 11, 2020. They helped to raise further awareness about anti-Chinese and other Asian racism, including:
  • Of the 15 hate crimes reported to Vancouver Police in April, 11 were anti-Asian.
  • On April 2nd, Vancouver’s Chinese Cultural Centre was defaced with racist hate and death threats..
  • On April 12, an Asian woman was punched in the face.
  • On April 14, a woman from the northern community of Kuujjuaq, Nunavik harassed and a stranger spat towards her and told her to leave the country after mistaking her as Chinese.
  • On April 15, a white man told two Asian women to “go back to your own country” while on a bus. A non-Asian woman intervened to tell the man to leave the women alone, but he grabbed, kicked and punched her before leaving bus.
  • On April 22, a 51 year old Asian man was attacked outside his home in Vancouver.
  • In late April a woman was attacked by a stranger after screaming “You are the reason my daughter is sick”. He then punched her in the face several times before throwing her head against the seats.
  • In March, a 92 year old Asian man with dementia was attacked by a white male after the white male made racist remarks about covid-19.
  • On May 28, the lion statues in Vancouver’s Chinatown were hit with racist graffiti again.
  • Statues outside a Buddhist temple were pulverized with a sledgehammer.
  • Since the semi-shut due to the pandemic, an article in the Toronto Sun by Tarek Fatah expounded at how Muslims were engaging in “virus jihad.” In Calgary, a video went viral showing a neighbour screaming at her Muslim neighbours (who were sitting in their own property) with racist invective. In Thunder Bay, a Muslim physician was screamed at with racist language at a store when buying groceries. In Hindu nationalist ilk, a non-Muslim South Asian councillor for Brampton City, Ravi Hooda, wrote Islamphobic tweets after the Mayors decision to allow mosques to broadcast azaanover loudspeakers during Ramadan.
  • #HealthNotHatecampaign https://healthnothate.com/?utm_source=vancouver%20is%20awesome&utm_campaign=vancouver%20is%20awesome&utm_medium=referral
  • Report a racist incident to online Elimin8hatehttps://www.elimin8hate.org/fileareport. The Elimin8hate reporting centre will collect data on incidents of racism, hate and violence experienced by the Asian diaspora in Canada. In the aggregate, data will be used to develop strategies, design interventions, raise awareness, advocate for policies and improve outcomes for our communities. All personal information will be kept confidential and will not be shared without your consent. All data will be used anonymously. This project is in collaboration with Project 1907.
  • On Friday March 13, 2020, project 1907 hosted Vancouver’s first #IWillEatWithYoudinner, in support of Chinatown businesses impacted by racism and xenophobia resulting from COVID-19. https://www.project1907.org/iwilleatwithyou. 50% of the funds accumulated from #IWillEatWithYou went toward paying much-needed wages for staff at Floata. With 25% of the funds accumulated, we purchased 100 meal vouchers to Kent’s Kitchen, another local Chinatown business. The vouchers were distributed to the residents of the May Wah Hotel (single-room occupancy in Chinatown). The remainder of the funds went towards fulfilling essential needs of low-income seniors isolated as a result of COVID-19.
  • Take a Bystander Intervention Traininghttps://www.ihollaback.org/bystanderintervention/
  • On Black Grief”– Black Lives Matter Toronto (May 15th 2020) https://www.facebook.com/blacklivesmatterTO/videos/277338613305797/UzpfSTMxMzQ5OTY5NTUxMjE5NDoxMzYxNjcwNzE0MDI4NDE1/
  • Regis Korchinski Paquet – “Justice for Regis”fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/justice-for-regis.
  • Eisha Hudson – ‘Justice For Eisha’campaign: https://www.facebook.com/Justice-For-Hudson-1454809054825988/.
  • Prison-Justice Action:
  • On April 4 2020: physically distanced sign hangings at the Surrey Immigration Holding Centre.
  • On April 26, noise demonstrations were held at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre and the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women, both in Maple Ridge.
  • On April 17 and April 19, physically-distance demos at Mission and at the Surrey holding centre.
  • On May 3, noise demonstration (in cars or safe physical distance from others) at Mission Institution in B.C.  Mission Institution is experiencing the largest prison outbreak in Canada. The B.C. government said in early May that 133 inmates and staff have tested positive for COVID-19. Across Canada, as of early May 2020, 290 federal inmates have been infected and 155 have recovered, according to federal figures.

The Vancouver Prison Justice Day Committee is calling for the urgent care of all prisoners across Canada and the immediate release of detainees to ensure adequate physical distancing and quarantine measures. The group is also calling for broader testing of all prisoners, and daily updates with details of the situation for their family members. Prisoners inside the medium-security building could hear the noise being made outside and responded immediately with noise of the their own. There were cheers, shouts, banging, and drumming. One prisoner hung a “Thank you” banner out a window. Another thank-you sign appeared, then one saying, poignantly, “Help us.” People inside started drumming in rhythm with the noise being made by the activists outside. There were waves and claps. This interaction kept up for most of an hour.

Please correct any of my errors. And please add to this list if you are able.

My heart with all those who stand up, fight back, and build alternate relations and communities.

Rita

 

Additional Links:

Shenequa Golding, “Maintaining Professionalism in the Age of Black Death Is…. A Lot”, May 28, 2020

Colinda Clyne et. al., “Annotated Bibliography: A Resource for Ontario Educators Learning about Racism”, 2020

Justin Scott Campbell, “Trauma Makes Weapons of Us All: an interview with adrienne maree brown”, May 10, 2018

Danielle Cadet, “You’re Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Ok—Chance are They’re Not” Refinery29, May 28. 2020

 

Indigenous Entertainment to Nurture Indigenous Relations of Care in Pandemic Times

It was recently reported that the Navajo Nation has the highest per capita rate of COVID-19 infections in the US. As a way to raise funds to support, Navajo filmmaker Blackhorse Lowe’s Fukry (2019) is streaming free until midnight May 21 (not sure of time zone) on VIMEO. Donation to any of a number of organizations that Lowe supports and who are accepting donations can be obtained here.

Also, Good Medicine Comedy Fundraiser is happening May 22 at 8pm PDT. This is meant to support tribal communities in dealing with the impacts of COVID-19. Indigenous and allied comedians are putting this on. Ever. 🙂

I know what I’m watching tonight and tomorrow!

Maria Hupfield’s playful, poetic approach to Decolonizing the Museum

Beautiful April on a Lekwungen Mountain in Victoria, B.C.

There is a mountain in Victoria, B.C. popularly known as Mt. Doug but originally known and named by WSÁNEĆ peoples as PKOLS. The Lekwungen peoples, whose lands and waters Victoria made itself upon, have a mountain they also call PKOLS (Cheryl Bryce, personal communication). It’s popularly known by it’s settler name, Mt. Tolmie. I live on the slopes of Lekwungen PKOLS. It’s beautiful. In summer, it’s grasses are yellow and throughout the fall, winter, and spring, it’s green. It’s home to ĆENÁŁĆ (“Garry oak” in the SENĆOTEN language of the WÁSANEĆ)* , kwetlal, and deer. It offers a 360 degree view of mountain ranges, ocean, straits, and islands. The celestial action too, is incredible. On a windy day, I enjoy witnessing the various birds–seagulls, sparrows, osprey, and eagles–play around on the currents. There is a thicket of invasive blackberries that the baby bunnies love to run around in until well past twilight. This week, my girl and I have been walking PKOLS and enjoying the beauty of this place.

sunsetPKOLS

mid-way up. 28 namebin giizis (Sucker Moon/April)

 

kwetlalPKOLS

theres a little patch of kwetlal in the above photo. this is close up. also known as camas.

 

eyaabeENHswithbabyvelvet

in a little meadow at the “entrance” to Mt. Tolmie. there were about 7 deer. they let us get really close. this one’s new antlers are growing. this Ojibway man told me that the velvet on deer antlers is used as love medicine. 28 namebin giizis.

 

Apr28OlympicMtsB&W

Olympic Mountains, south of Victoria, over the water and in Washington state. Photos taken with my phone so are not the best. On the waterfront over there, to the right of that tall apartment building, is Port Angeles (you can’t see the lights twinkling here). This is the ‘big town’ that the teenagers in the film series Twilight would go to for entertainment.

 

ishkiigiiziswaabigwangiizis+Venus

midway up. 25 namebin giizis. This is the crescent moon for May (waawaaskone giizis/Flower Moon). The bright star is actually the planet Venus (I forget the anishinaabe name for this.) This sky, its clarity and the blues,  the colours of the sunset, reminds me of spearing back home with my friend. The only thing missing is the sound of frogs. 

Right now, when I step outside, the air is so fragrant. I don’t know what the flower is but it is powerful. It reminds me of lilacs along the Otonabee river in Mississauga country. The power of the natural world to bring joy and health is incredible. I miss spring back home–the maple sap, the spearing for pickerel and occassional muskey, the leeks, the asparagus (not indigenous, but wilding from farmers fields), the fiddleheads, the mushroom hunting–but I love being in this place and getting to know it. There is so much to be grateful for in the memories and the living.

 

 

 

* Nancy J. Turner and Richard J. Hebda, Saanich Ethnobotany: Culturally Important Plants of the WSÁNEĆ People (Victoria: Royal BC Museum, 2012),78. Note: “Saanich” is an anglicization of WSÁNEĆ and is a popular name used throughout Victoria.

 

 

A Quick Anishinaabe Read of a Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for COVID-19

My COVID-19-social-isolation mornings are usually spent reading online news from a number of sources. Ugh. The rabbit holes! This morning however, I landed on an interesting article by France Nguyen writing for The Lily, the first newspaper by and for women in the U.S.

This state says it has a ‘feminist economic recovery plan.’ Here’s what that looks like.” gave me all the feels. It gave me all the feels for a number of reasons.

One, I know the limitations and problems with feminism and yet as an anishinaabe feminist I know that a feminist proposal for economic recovery is going to be better for more people who are marginalized than what the billionaires, war-mongers, and windigos who live and die at the alter of the GDP without even knowing what the GDP is will have in store for us. (I don’t even know what the GDP is other than to know it’s a post-WWII economic formula that rules most of the world.) The Plan will undoubtedly prioritize the restoration of their losses and in fact, allow the rich and powerful to make more money by further eroding what is left trickling down the hierarchy. These priorities will be legitimated under the auspice of ‘economic recovery’ (read “global capitalist neoliberal” economic recovery which always and already rests on Indigenous lands and marginalized bodies and peoples). I mean aside from economic losses, where is all the stimulus and emergency money coming from? Who do we think is going to pay it back?  The fact that in the US (and in some circles in Canada?) there is debate about the economy vs. human life is telling about the kinds of economic recovery plans that will be initiated and instituted vis-à-vis the powers that be. A feminist economic recovery model, as titled, at least gestures towards doing better for humans and humans in balance.

Two, this article introduces the idea of a proposal for feminist economic recovery into popular cultural. Here, the idea can circulate and gain traction. I appreciate when alternatives to the norm are presented. It disrupts dominant and omnipresent understandings of what is true, real, or possible. The whole world is a f*cking construction so let’s construct a new one. A proposal for a feminist economic recovery does this.

Three, if you are like me, as soon as you see the word “feminist” barriers to engagement come up. Right or wrong, there are a lot of them and they vary from person to person. For me, when I see or hear the word I think of settler liberal middle-class-to-upper class women who are white and/or perpetuate whiteness and who, in a contemporary world of reconciliation, diversity, and race politics (in the US) traffic in a performative politics of identity and relational alliance or critical-ness across difference that exists between womxn. Yet, I have come to know that the possibilities and need for feminism and feminisms is more than the problem of privileged women of any identity or structural location who do not want to undo themselves. And, for me, this feminist proposal for economic recovery seems to overcome these problems with a turn to intersectional considerations of gender where intersectionality operates as Kimberlé Crenshaw intended it to—that being from a structural analysis as opposed to an analysis of individual identity difference. There is a recognition of gender, power, and difference embedded in the underlying logics of this proposal and aspirational visions for social justice and a new world.

And four, the report that this article is derived from is accessible online and is a short, 23 page read. Called, “Building Bridges, Not Walking on Backs: A Feminist Economic Recovery for COVID-19” it was prepared by the Hawai’i State Commission on the Status of Women (April 14, 2020). I don’t recognize any Kanaka Maoli women and/or feminists who write with a consideration of gender as authors in this report. I wonder what they would say about it.

Moving onward with the dream of an economic recovery that works towards making a new world: the IMF and World Bank need to make such a proposal. Of course, they won’t. Billionaires, war-mongers, windigoes, and the GDP–oh my! It would be great though–and feasible–for New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern to initiate a feminist economic recovery plan. She seems to be a Prime Minister who would be most likely to. And, she would have access to well known feminist economist, Marilyn Waring, to lend a hand. It would work for the self-identified feminist (as brand), PM Justin Trudeau, to have the Deputy Minister of Women and Gender Equality for the Status of Women in Canada, Guylaine F. Roy develop a proposal. The time is perfect for such performances–at least Canadians would get an idea circulated and a kind of document out of it. The eco-feminists in both countries could ensure issues regarding climate change and the environment are included.

I wonder how the idea of a “feminist” economic recovery plan would land with national Indigenous leadership organizations such as the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiritt Kanatami, Métis Nation of Canada, or Congress of National Peoples (which doesn’t seem to have a working website). It might have good traction with the National Women’s Assembly of Canada. Ideally, for us, we would come up with indigenous feminist economic recovery plans for our communities–informal and formal–and for submission to the settler state. The former would be for us, our homefires, our circles and relations; a submission to the settler state (however that would happen) would be to document our position and to hold Canada to account that it has a relationship with Indigenous nations it is responsible to. We know Canada is not going to release it’s economically exploitive clenches from our lands and waters anytime soon but we can continue to document, voice, and hold Canada to account to us. Ideally, the UN–the Indigenous section of the UN–might develop an indigenous feminist (queer- material- trans- indigenous feminist) economic recovery proposal as well. Wouldn’t that be something?

I haven’t done a close read to the proposal itself but I like it for all the reasons stated. I do want to make two quick points though for why, as generative as this proposal may be, it must be engaged critically from an indigenous position:

  • It’s a proposal coming from a settler state. The indigenous-settler state politics in Hawai’i, U.S. are different than in Canada but are fundamentally the same: the settler state exists on the removal of Indigenous peoples and dispossession of lands and waters. Until the settler state, like settler liberal middle-class-to-upper-class feminists, are willing to undo itself, it’s always going to be limited. I think this proposal though, is a step in the right direction; and,
  • I have critiqued intersectionality and social justice elsewhere. Again, while a step in a generative direction for humanity (not sure if the proposal mentions the environment or not), it includes Indigenous peoples along with other groups of people. “Inclusion” is a conundrum: on one hand we want better living which means advocating to not be excluded from or to be included in the processes and sites where and through which better living may be obtained however unless those process and sites are oriented towards decolonization, they are inclusion-cum-assimilation into global, settler colonial structures. Intersectionality and it’s embedded social justice proclivities do not acknowledge indigenous sovereignty or grapple with or account for the settler colonial realities we live in.

So, there you have it. A plan, a vision, a getting ahead of the curve with a document outlining steps for economic recovery that disrupts the sense that economic recovery itself is a natural, hegemonic thing that will just happen and we don’t have a say as to how it will happen. The idea that there are possible approaches to economic recovery is a powerful one. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be something that disrupts the idea that the economy is an entity that is natural. It is not. It’s human-made (by people with certain kinds of power). And, it can be human-changed (by people with certain kinds of power, as well). This proposal seeks an economic recovery that centres gender and feminism and serves those upon whom the billionaires, war-mongers, and windigos thrive.

Anishinaabe Words for “Virus”, and Other (Big/Little) Things

Anishinaabe Word(s) for “Virus”

The anishinaabe word for bugs is manidoosheNhsag and this translates as “little spirits”.

The “Nh” indicates a nasal sound and “eNhs” makes the noun diminutive (i.e. little, small).

These things I learned from Doug Williams (Mississauga) and Howard Webkamigad (Odawa), respectively.

I was chatting with another adult language learner the other day, Carmen Craig, and shared with her my musings about what the word for virus might be. I recall from somewhere reading or hearing that we considered viruses to be little bugs but of course compared to bugs, like ants and worms, viruses would be very, very, very little bugs. Humorously, I wondered if the word for virus would be chi chi manidoosheNhs, where the prefix refers to “big” or a kind of emphasis as in chi miigwech (many thanks, much thanks, big thanks, etc.) thereby making this big, big little spirit or very little spirit. Reflecting on the emphasis made through “very, very” I now wonder if maybe the word could be geget manidoosheNhs. Carmen wondered if a word for virus might be mashkimanidoosheNhs, where the prefix mashki, meaning “strong”, turns the meaning of the noun into strong little spirits. We shared this with our language learning community out here in Lekwungen territory which has moved from in-person to online and one idea that came up (or maybe I dreamed it) was the idea of a bad virus which would be majimanidoosheNhs, where the prefix “maji” translates into “bad”. We haven’t come up with anything firm on a word for virus yet. If you know what other words might be created to refer to virus or pandemic or, if you know of any ancestral and old time Anishinaabe words for either, please share.

Other (Big/Little) Things

Speaking of pandemic and viruses, I was thinking about Elder, Lewis Debassige-ban from Manitoulin Island who, in another context, shared a story, an oral history about a kind of virus or sickness that was very powerful but which Anishinaabe had strong medicine for. I have to obtain permission from one of Lewis’ relations to share that story but the point is, we had, and have, medicines for these kinds of things. While there is much grief around the intentional erosion/destruction of our knowledges (i.e. epistemicide), its fragmentation, or its isolation to pockets of people or individuals here and there, these knowledges and stories are still out there and that can give us courage and inspiration; it can motivate us to seek each other out so we can keep us going and growing, and the knowledges—old and new—that continue to work for us.

On the subject of how our people have “been here done this”, I recalled a part of the story in Lee Maracle’s Ravensong that reflects this. An arc in this indigenous Pacific Northwest Coast story portrays how we have a history of, and practices for, dealing with viruses and epidemics within a colonial context. And because our modern history includes what remains of our own healthcare systems and knowledges and a settler healthcare system and knowledges which are reaches of a colonial state, this story, told from the perspective of 17-year-old Stacy, weaves both old time ways, practical ways, and new, necessary ways to deal with an influenza epidemic:

Stacey looked out after her mom, pondering the reticence of the village; like a living organism, it seemed to be gripped in a major sulk. No children hung about in little groups or scampered about.  The whole village was quarantined. No one visited. No one went outside. They hid from each other in isolation. A handful of fearless women about to tend the sick. Momma fashioned masks for those who worked with the fallen. Young women spent hours washing out the homes. Old Dominic kept conducting ceremonies in secrecy each night, hoping to cast out the disease. He regularly sent cougars and bears back to the hilltop homes they people, but he couldn’t speak the language of this virus. It was too small for him to see, he said. Nevertheless, he kept trying. (67)

… For the next ten days, Stacey would not be at school. The sickness drove through the community like a miserable tornado. … Each night the owl, plaintive and sad, called a new name.… Nora’s daughter Martha recovered and leapt into the fracas. Even Judy and Rena rolled their sleeves up… and joined the other women who felt it was their duty to try to save the community.

Stacy too felt this duty. … (68)

[She] dared to suggest they try intravenous—makeshift intravenous of their own. Her mom agreed to go to the hospital to look at the patients who had the flu. Two of the women said their boys would steal the plasma and the equipment needed to save their villagers. …They hooked up the sickest to the three intravenous apparatuses. Like a miracle it worked. …

The boys went after more…. Within days those treated with intravenous recovered. It made the women furious that they should be left in total ignorance about how easily the disease could be treated. (69)

I’m biased for the detail of womxn’s and teenage girls’ labouring care work and the presence of enduring indigenous epistemological processes as portrayed by Old Dominic. I was floored by the truth of extremes we have to go to in order to survive and the withholding of live-saving knowledge and material items from us. There are additional important elements to this story but I don’t want to give it away. The wisdom portrayed within the characters and the relationships throughout the whole story elicits my admiration for Maracle’s writing skill and her own wisdom because she wrote this novel herself as a young woman. As Maracle states in the Preface in Ravensong’s newly reprinted life,

Although I had it in my head to write a comedy, this tale of the last epidemic in which we were not permitted to go to any hospital of our choice was born… Ravensong takes place on a fictitious reserve. … The community it was set in used to exist though. It is one of those many west coast communities where everyone died. The Canadian government was continuously amalgamating reserves or villages from early settlement until around 1916. Our shrinking population led to many rounds of such amalgamations. All of the consolidations were due to epidemic loss.” (xii-xiii).

If you have the resources, Ravensong can be ordered here. First published in 1993 by a press that no longer exists, it was republished in 2012 and 2017. Cecilia’s Song, published in 2014, carries on with the story of Celia, who first appeared in Ravensong. It can be purchased here.

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Here is a resource on immune and respiratory herbs meant for these times: “Immune & Respiratory Herbs: A Resource for Tribal Communities During COVID-19”. Prepared by Elise Krohn, Valerie Segrest, Reneee Davis, Rhonda Grantham, and Sofie Geist, they say, “The knowledge and information included in this resource is not protected, and is intended to be shared. Please share with your community. This information is not intended to diagnose or prescribe.”. I’m not able to find a link to this resource online but if you are interested in this resource please send me your email and I will pass it along.

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I, like others in Canada and abroad have been thinking about the risk for increased domestic, family, and/or intimate partner violence during this time. Increased stress and social contact as well as decreased options for diffusing or escaping any situation are just some of the risks. Also, police or child welfare workers who arrive to such situations in the present context, may also be employing particular measures that exacerbate tensions or limit being able to respond and interact “effectively” with anyone involved. (I place effectively in scare quotes because I question whether and/or how settler police and child welfare are even already “effective” with our people.) NWAC, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, has posted a webpage on resources about COVID-19. Unfortunately, at the time of posting they haven’t addressed the topic of increased risk of violence for women, non-binary people and Two-Spirit people, transgendered people, children, or youth and ways to protect oneself or strengthen a support network. They do provide phone access to three different Elders however the numbers do not seem to be toll-free. Further, Mi’kmaw lawyer and educator, Pam Palmater, recently wrote extensively and broadly about how governments need to be paying attention to this matter right now, calling for an Indigenous gendered pandemic plan. It seems to me that women, Two-spirit, non-binary, and transgendered people as well as youth and children will continue to do for themselves in times of need. However, if networks of trusted, caring, and safe people who have extra room could be established to support people in need of safety or ideally are able to provide a place for those who are causing the violence so they can depart the home—a subject that requires much more attention and blog space) this may be one way to anyways-and-already respond to this need. Again, if anyone knows of any specific resources or strategies in this area, please share.

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The Indigenous Action Climate community has gathered and recently updated this expansive list of resources entitled, “Responding to COVID19: Building Communities of Care”. The sources they include are varied but if you want to see and hear fellow Indigenous folx speak about COVID19 in relation to our communities, check out the link to a webinar, “COVID19 and Indigenous Communities” which aired in partnership with Idle No More and NDN Collective fellows. It’s approximately 1hr30min long so provides some good “social time”. I mean honestly, seeing and hearing other Indigenous folx, even if only in a one-way online “relationship” can be a powerful medicine during these times.

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My sugar bush chum, Damien Lee, prompts us to think about youth during COVID-19. A few weeks ago, he gathered and blogged a short and sweet list of resources in this vein called, “Youth-Focused COVID-19 Resources”. While there, check out some of his other posts.

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Indigenous Physicians (who are also TV-and-Film famous), have some wise words for us as well. Read what Dr. James Makokis (who specializes in medical care for Two-Spirited and transgendered people and who won Amazing Race Canada in 2019) and Dr. Evan Adams (who played Thomas Build-the-Fire in Smoke Signals) have to say about us and COVID-19.

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For some academic thought and writing, which is not necessarily (or even) Indigenous (I don’t know for sure as I don’t recognize any authors as being Indigenous and haven’t read anything from it yet) see a recent publication of COVID-19 essays by TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. Also, see Verso Books for free access to 5 e-books and significant discounts for other books for “reading in these times of social isolation”. To access the free books, you will need to click on the e-book tab, sign up/register, and select how you want the source delivered (to a reader, IPhone/IPad, or your email. The deadline to obtain the free books or discounts is April 2. Finally, Films for Action has many (many, many) free documentaries. It also includes a section on Indigenous Knowledges. miigwech to my friend Rita Dhamoon for sharing all these resources. Note: I’m not sure if these resources are accessible from anywhere or if they are limited to access within Canada.

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 I was thinking about how social isolation is new and difficult for many. I was also thinking about how social isolation, with all its’ problems, is also very much the daily and chronic norm for many. The thing of it and the affect. The fact is there are already many socially isolated people out there and this is just a new, and temporary, reality for many. I was thinking about the emerging ritual of clanging pots and pans outside every evening at 7 pm for the healthcare workers. This is really important. I was also thinking what if we banged our pots and pans at 8 pm every night to show support to the people who suffer daily in this world—stuck in a relentless, merciless structural position of poverty, exploitation, forced migration, violence, detention, neglect? After all, whatever comforts any of us before, during or after this epidemic is because of a construction of hierarchies that are structured into a complex relationship of privileges and disadvantages. I was thinking about how this Cree woman who was in the same MA program as I many years ago (and whose name evades me) shared how her grandmother told her that when the Depression hit, the only thing different was that her people were no longer the only people suffering. Maybe it is the same for the context we are in. Regardless, the structures we live in, and how we are located in them, or how we work to be located in them, are a big problem and while many hope that things will not go back to normal when this is done, I’m fairly sure that the big structural issues are not going to change. They are going to morph to feed even more powerfully to recuperate themselves because you know without a doubt all that crisis money being necessarily disseminated to people, businesses, and yes, corporations are going to have to be recuperated somehow. I’m not sure how we change the structures, the war-mongers, the international monetary fund, the world bank, the focus on the GDP and growth and wealth and progress but I am sure we, like Old Dominic, have to just keep on keeping on as we look out for each other and commit to a refusal to be passive, apathetic, and easily seduced into complacency. For now, let’s put our tobacco down or up or into the fire or onto the water for our people who are burdened either due to the pandemic or were and will continue to be burdened when it’s all over.

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 And, I was thinking about the Italians and how early on in their isolation their cultural proclivities for socializing manifested as collective singing from neighbourhood balconies. I really admired this. I wondered what songs would “we” collectively sing from our balconies, and doorsteps, and windows. I felt sad that the only song I could think that might be collectively sung “together” would be “Oh Canada” or some hockey jam. My friend Chris Wright cheered me up with his suggestion that it might be a Drake Song. That said, I can’t imagine myself or my girl participating in such performances of social cohesion in the urban setting where we live. I certainly don’t feel as a part of a “we” when it comes to Canada. Now, if folx pulled out hand drums I would be more than happy to be a part of it. I also read articles portraying how families or individual family members were going to nursing homes and singing to their beloveds or playing instruments outside the nursing home. If I could be back home, I would blast some music from Bell Island radio for my Dad. I would stand outside any number of my beloved Elder friends’ homes and drum a song or two for them. And what about this: wouldn’t it be just good if a group of people got their drums and shakers out—and whatever other kind of instrument—and, walking 6 feet apart, went door to door singing songs for their fellow neechies? Geez. That would also be just ever.

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My girl and I made a list of no-cost things that we have done or that we will/may do during these pandemic times. Extra: these things are free of internet dependency:

Walking. In the sunshine. Better in the rain. Because fun.

Reading. Anything. Including palms. Make it up if you have to.

Reading out loud to each other. Poems are fun. They quickly lead to performance. The performance of the thing you are reading to a beloved. Yes. Fun. Silly. Yay.

Blowing bubbles. If you have them. Blow them outside on a gently windy day or blow them inside while lying in your bed. Yes, you and your things will get a little bubble-wet. The magic outweighs this little annoyance. J I think bubbles can be made with just water and dish soap. How to make a bubble maker thing? I don’t know. Figuring that out will be part of the challenge.

Go outside and watch the day go by. And watch all the things in the day as it goes by. Or, do this from a window. See what you can see wherever you are. Even if you have to close your eyes to do it.

Find a natural space away from people and stare up at the sky. If there are clouds, what do they look like?

Stargaze.

Find a place where there are people and where you can perch at a very safe distance. People watch. If you have a daaban, all the better. (This may sound odd during times of social isolation but where we live, people are still out and about down by the ocean and here and there. There are definitely enough people about to people watch).

While people-watching, make up stories about the people you see. What are their names? Where are they going? Who are their parents? Why are they together? How did they meet? Why do they wear their hair like that? Where did they get that funky hat? And on and on.

Ah. Play an instrument. Remember, spoons can be an instrument, too.

Cut your hair. Make bangs. (I think you really should use hair-cutting shears but I recently watched a person cut their hair using kitchen shears—you know, the thing you use to cut up a whole baakaakweNh, er, chicken). Braid beloveds, braid!

Paint your nails. Paint designs on your nails.

Get dolled up. For no reason.

Have a fashion show.

Do each other’s make-up. Especially if you think your gender precludes you from wearing make-up.

Write. Anything. A poem, a diary about these pandemic days, a love letter. Maybe do some therapy writing where you write letters to someone (or plural or nation) to whom you have strong things to say but can’t, or won’t, for whatever reason. Burn them, bury them, or tuck them away somewhere private.

Love your pet up.

And, your plants.

Damn—clean. Organize. Cull. Re-arrange.

Draw.

Tell each other stories—like, from inside your body. Yea. Do storytelling. Make it up, pull it out of your memory, retell oral histories and traditional narratives. Do them all.

Make a play. Perform it. Record it. Watch it. Laugh or cringe at your wondrous selves.

Record yourself talking out your creative ideas. Or, ramblings. Or, processing of stuff.

Play cards or whatever other games you have.

Play hide and seek.

Make a blanket fort. Go in there.

Have a pillow fight.

Lounge around with each other and tell each other all the things you like and love and admire about each other.

Call people. Call all the people. Visit-talk. Talk-visit.

Prank call people? J No. Never.

Toss a ball around. Against a wall. At a hoop. Or, be a support to the person in your family/home who is athletic. Help them do the exercises particular to their sport by just giving them pep talks or whatever they particularly need. Or, just kick a darn ball around.

Exercise. Stretch. Meditate. Visualize.

Daydream. Make art. Make love/lust. Do it with (an)other(s). Do it solo. It’s all good.

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Finally, here are some internet resources that some may find interesting for education and/or entertainment:

  • These Native You-Tubers giving a shout out to other Native-You-Tubers is a good waboose-hole to get lost in (two of my favourites who are not listed here are Siaosi and Victoria, a Samoan het-couple, and Toniajo Hall with her character Aunty Beachress). Also, since we’re here, make your own You Tube channel because why not;
  • Ryan McMahon’s Clarence Two Toes has returned to Facebook (live) to help us all out during these pandemic times and all I can say is Clarence Two Toes still makes my heart swoon in that ever deadleh way—check out RM’s facebook page to scout it out and tune in because Ryan also gives plenty of shout-outs to other Indigenous-created live or archived content that is happening at the moment such as online pow-wows and Indigenous curated playlists;
  • The National Film Board, which is only accessible in Canada, has many free documentaries and films many of which include Indigenous directors, actors, and/or content;
  • The Knowledge Network also has free documentaries and films;
  • Thirza Jean Cuthand, a filmmaker, performance artist, and writer makes “short experimental narrative videos and films about sexuality, madness, Queer identity and love, and Indigeneity” short experimental narrative videos and films about sexuality, madness, Queer identity and love, and Indigeneity”, has a wide selection of their videos available on their website, and has been recently blogging about social isolation;
  • On Netflix, “Burden of Truth” is a Canadian legal drama series whose setting is small-town Manitoba (and Winnipeg) and whose storyline includes Indigenous peoples, relationships between Indigenous peoples, and Indigenous-non-Indigenous relationships with complexity, nuance and in my mind, insight. The best part about this series is that the story includes a Two-Spirit teen whose character and role is pretty rad. Where the lead actor in this series is a mixed race Asian Canadian woman who is white passing, there is another great legal drama called “Diggstown” whose main character is a Black Canadian woman lawyer. Airing through CBC Gem, “Diggstown” is set in Halifax and has commercials (unless you want to pay for a subscription). The story hinges on power and difference across diversity (mostly racial and class); and, Indigenous peoples, Indigenous and Indigenous-non-Indigenous relationships, and indigeneity are present in ways that, to me, seem to be accurate contemporary realities in Canada and at times are quite satisfying and compelling. Finally, back to Netflix, “Frontier”, which airs in both Canada and the US (I think) is a story about 18th century trading relations in Indigenous-HBC territory. Filmed in Newfoundland, the terrain is gorgeous; set in early trading relations, the exchanges portray extreme violence bordering on what I would say is gore. Indigeneity, Indigenous actors portraying Indigenous characters, complex relationships, racial and sexual diversity, class, feminist, and indigenous feminist proclivities, exist in this series. The extreme violence unsettled me right away and had I not been reading about the contemporary violence of global trading against women and the way men prioritize economy, money, power, and ego above the well-being of women, including Indigenous women, I likely would not have endured watching the series. I think that the violence portrayed is gratuitous at times but for the most part is quite likely a reflection of the toxic masculinities and colonial-corporate economic frenzy operating at the time. I kept watching but would not watch the violent scenes. The representation of diversity and complexity of relationalities and relationships, truth of indigenous territorial sovereignty, the gender representations (aside from the toxic masculinities) and the portrayal of how capitalist economics f*cked with everything, is what I stayed for. Also, I’ve just begun reading Afua Cooper’s, The Hanging of Angelique: The Untold Story of Slavery in Canada and the Burning of Old Montreal, and the sick racist-sexist-classist brutality of 18th century settler Montreal, a place of significance in “Frontier”, affirms that the violence portrayed is likely not off the mark. (I also compared the violence in “Frontier” to the violence against Indigenous women portrayed in Joseph Boyden’s I experienced Boyden’s inclusion of violence against Indigenous women as gratuitous and therefore disturbing. When I could not reconcile why he included this in the story, doing so very early on, I closed the book and never opened it again.) Finally, for three excellent films still showing on Netflix that fall under the rubric of indigeneity in some way shape or form, watch: Roma (2018) which is set in Mexico; Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen (2018) which is set in New Zealand and has some transnational indigenous feminist connections with Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin in Canada; and, Atlantique (2019), which is set in West Africa;
  • There are many Indigenous podcasts. Closing your eyes and just listening to Indigenous voices is a beautiful thing;
  • Apparently, DJ DNice hosts darn good dance parties on Instagram; not sure when but the kid followed him so we can figure out what the what;
  • Finally, this is not necessarily Indigenous but it is not necessarily NOT Indigenous either but, learning TikTok dances can be fun and a good way to move your body. J Are there any famous Indigenous TikTok-ers or Instagrammers out there that we can follow? Let me know.

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Take care. Be as safe as you can. Seek out moments of joy. Lend a hand when you can, accept a hand when offered, and ask for help if needed. And, of course, wash your hands (or, watch You Tube videos on how to wash your hands to avoid the spread of germs—they’re Totally White but oddly meditative and hey, this is another thing to add to the things to do during a pandemic list: making how-to-wash-your-hand-you-tube-vids showcasing our beautiful skin).

*zaasaakwe*

 

The invasion of Indigenous woman’s home, the removal of her from her house: The stuff that Canada is built on

Who was the first Indigenous woman to be removed from her house? From her home? What were the circumstances? Did she know it was going to happen? Was it a surprise?

Who removed her? Why? Who are the beloveds who claim this one who removed her? These ones who removed her?

What kind of force did they employ in removing her? Was it easy? Or, did they have to fight?

Did she contest? Did she resist? Did she fight? Did she go quietly? Surely?

Was she surrounded by rounds and rounds of people who refused to let it happen or was there a clear, easy path to her?

Did it happen in plain sight or under the cover of darkness?

Did it start a war? A revolution? Or, did it just add to a weight already being carried by her beloveds and witnesses? Did her relations mourn? Rejoice? Feel helpless to do anything? Immobilized? Did they shrug their shoulders, think, it’s just another day or it’s the will of the creator?

What did those who remove her do to her once she was out of sight? How did they treat her? What did they say to her? What did she say to them?

What did she feel? Did a song run through her head? Or, did she sing out loud? What words were whispered under her breath? Or, did she shout? Speak evenly? Stare that one, those ones in the eye?  What of the world and her home did she see as she was propelled through it against her volition? What did she hear? What last smells did she smell? What promises did she make to her beloveds as she was ushered past them?

What dance did the trees dance? The weather? The winds? The spirits? How did the earth beneath her feet vibrate with the touch of each non-consenting footsteps as she was forced to move? What messages did the birds carry to her and back out to all her relations?

Where did those beings who removed her from her house take her? What happened to her once she arrived? Did her beloveds know where she was taken? Did they have access to her, she them?

Who was with her in her house? Were they removed too? Did many people protest? Did a few? Nobody? Did everyone care? Nobody? A few? How did people care? How did people not care? Why?

After she was removed from her house, what happened to her? Was she removed from her home too? Her homeland, her territory? Where was she taken?

And after all this,

after all this

and after after after all this

after the reason and the why, after the how, where did she go?

How did she go?

What became of her?

How did she change?

How did she be in the world?

Who did she be?

What became of those who lived with her, in her house, in her home?

What became of those who protected her?

And, what became of those who removed her? What became of their beloveds? Who did they be in the world?

How did her removal change all her relations? The trees? The weather? The winds? The earth? The birds? How did they change when their beloved was forced to leave them?

 

 

What happened to her house after she was removed from it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What happened to her home after she was removed from it?

 

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Earlier today, I read this:

“This morning on a bridge over the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River) the RCMP used a chainsaw to cut through a wooden gate painted with the word RECONCILIATION.

With sniper teams providing “lethal overwatch” and black helicopters circling, officers interrupted a ceremony for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to handcuff longtime Unist’ot’en clan spokesperson Freda Huson. They also arrested Dr. Karla Tait, clinical director at the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, and all others who refused to leave their land.

Kai Nagata”

Amidst all the bustle of supporting those who are supporting Wet’suwet’en sovereignty today I kept thinking about Freda Huson and how she was removed, by force, from her house today. I wondered about the moments of her removal and all the years she has been living in her home and living in the house she and others built in her home. I wondered about the women who were with her. All of them arrested for living in their house, in their home/her home and why? Because Canada, B.C. Premiere Horgan, CEO’s and shareholders of Coastal GasLink, the “global market”, “overseas”, international markets” and “markets”, and yes, First Nations leadership whose salaries are paid by Canada, want what they want. Everyone has a damn good reason.

This model of removing Indigenous woman and her people from her house and her home is the bedrock of Canada. You can frack its foundations and this is what will emerge. The majority find no interest in this truth. It’s one that’s easy to dismiss, overlook, deny, ignore. Canada is a force of violence and power. Maybe it looks good and performs a palatable, if not appealing, respectability but beneath that exterior, it is what it is.  What happened today to Chief Howihkat (Freda Huson), her sister, Chief Geltiy (Brenda Michell), Chief Geltiy’s daughter, Dr. Karla Tait, Victoria Redsun, Autumn Walken, and Pocholo Alen Conception is the stuff of Canada. It’s the stuff of the world. Still, there are many, many, many who want something different. We don’t have helicopters, police officers, guns, jails, judges, and war machines to back us up though, to enforce our will onto “the global market”, “the overseas”, “the international market”…”the market” or onto a Prime Minister and his by-proxy’s. In Canada, we don’t even have the numbers conscious enough to bring significant numbers to the protest lines to cause significant enough economic disruption that could possibly force a paradigm shift. Everyone is brainwashed into obtaining middle class status—a comfort EVERYONE ought to have, including the filthy rich—as though that is the end game and the fact that it rests on ^^^ kind of global and nation state political economy is not even on the radar.

Reading about Freda Huson and her long journey made me think about the first Indigenous woman who was removed from her house and her home. Who was she and who did she become? Just as the spirit of those who removed her lives on, her spirit lives in so many of us. I keep wracking my brain about what it will take to change the multi-billion-dollar global economies that have created and sustain this situation and how we are forced to be dependent on them or seduced/compelled into playing the games they offer. All I can do is fall to my knees because I don’t see a solution. It’s just never going to happen. We are never changing the hearts, minds, and desires of the uber-powerful. Never. I want to cry and rage. I want to lay fetal on the ground like a baby and bawl. I want to scream at the top of my lungs. I want to maajiimaadizi—keep the life-line going by starting over again.

And I think that’s it. I think that’s just it. We have to just keep doing what we are doing. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing. Decade after decade, generation after generation. Over and over and over again.

And that’s it. I think this is it anyways. This is what I keep coming back to: we just have to keep our life-line going. Do it like it’s an art: maajiimadiziwin.

*zaasaakwe*

Note: I’m dedicating this post to the young Nlaka’pamux supporter who was arrested this morning. A former student from last year, she emailed me late the other night, letting me know what was happening and sharing her worries about the impending arrival of the RCMP. She asked that I reach out to students to help raise attention to the matter. I hope she is okay.

Statement of Solidarity for Wet’suwet’en (BC, Canada)

The Wet’suwet’en people who are standing in their sovereignty, laws, and governance in protection of their territories, which, in every kind of way, benefits us all, have asked for statements of solidarity.

Please see below a statement of solidarity that may be utilized in full or part for those who want to circulate in their own communities. It has been sent to Unist’ot’en website today for posting. This letter was written by members of OFAR (Open Forum Against Racism) and circulated amongst a university community. It will be effective for any community. For educational purposes, I’ve inserted hyperlinks to sources that will add breadth and depth to this matter.

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FEBRUARY 7, 2020

MEMBERS of ______________ community STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY IN SUPPORT OF WET’SUWET’EN JURISDICTION AND GOVERNANCE

WE ARE WRITING TO EXPRESS DEEP RESPECT AND OFFER OUR SOLIDARITY to the Wet’suwet’en people who, in accordance with their laws, while living in their territories, are carrying out their responsibilities to protect the natural world (i.e. lands, waters, plants, animals) and future generations from the encroachment of Coastal GasLink (CGL) in its effort to build a pipeline. The Wet’suwet’en show strength, courage, commitment, and vision in these acts, particularly in the face of the BC Supreme Court’s recent extension of an injunction against these acts (2019) so that industrial development vis-à-vis Coastal GasLink, may proceed. We stand with them in their assertion of their autonomy as a nation, legal authority in protecting their interests, and sovereignty of their unceded territories.

WE ALSO WRITE TO DENOUNCE THE ACTIONS OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, THE PROVINCIAL BC GOVERNMENT, THE RCMP, AND INDUSTRY. The historically violent incursions from the RCMP and industry into Wet’suwet’en lives and lands are unacceptable. This includes the raid at the peaceful Gidimt’en checkpoint on January 7, 2019, when 14 members of the Gidimt’en clan were arrested, and when the RCMP set up an “exclusion zone” on 13 January 2020, which has blocked media, Wet’suwet’en, and food from getting to the people. Further, these actions are in contradiction with the spirit of and recommendations made in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report (2015), the Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry report (2019) and BC’s recent legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2019). We expect Canadian officials to prevent any future militarization against the Unist’ot’en camp. We note that the Wet’suwet’en people and their supporters remain peaceful on the front lines.

WE RECOGNIZE THE DIRECTIVES WET’SUWET’EN HEREDITARY CHIEFS HAVE ISSUED AND ADVOCATE THEY BE RECOGNIZED BY THE RCMP AND CANADIAN OFFICIALS. The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, representing all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, have met with RCMP Deputy Commissioner and Commanding Officer Jennifer Strachan to reaffirm their opposition to the CGL Pipeline. We support the Hereditary Chiefs in their directives:

  • That police stand down and refrain from enforcing the injunction order until nation-to-nation talks can occur with the provincial and federal governments to address infringements to Wet’suwet’en rights and title.
  • That the remote detachment established by the RCMP on Wet’suwet’en territory be immediately removed.
  • That no force or lethal weapons be used against Wet’suwet’en people and our supporters.
  • That RCMP refrain from preventing Wet’suwet’en people and our guests from accessing our territories. Currently, the RCMP has advised local helicopter companies not to fly into Unist’ot’en territory, endangering the safety of Wet’suwet’en people and guests at the Gidimt’en Access Point and Unist’ot’en Village.
  • That Wet’suwet’en people must not be forcibly removed or evicted from our own unceded territories.

On January 13, 2020 the Hereditary Chiefs also submitted a formal request to the United Nations to monitor RCMP, government and Coastal GasLink (CGL) actions on their traditional, unceded territory. This request follows the recent directive from the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination (CERD) requiring Canada to halt the CGL pipeline project and withdraw RCMP from Wet’suwet’en territory in order to avoid further violations of Wet’suwet’en, constitutional, and international law. We support this request to the UN Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights.

WE ENCOURAGE ALL PARTIES INVOLVED TO FAMILIARIZE THEMSELVES WITH THE FINAL INQUIRY REPORT ON MISSING AND MURDERED INDIGENOUS WOMEN AND GIRLS (2019) AND THE AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT ON GENDER, INDIGENOUS RIGHTS, AND ENERGY IN B.C. (2016). We recognize the significant leadership and ongoing presence of Wet’suwet’en women at the forefront of exchanges with RCMP and Coastal GasLink workers. We strongly advocate RCMP and Coastal GasLink ground themselves in education about violence and anti-violence against Indigenous women and keep this education at the forefront of their responsibilities in this matter. In addition, we express our profound concern about the direct correlation between increased violence against Indigenous women and girls, and remote industry camps that produce an influx of temporary workers of mostly young men. Concerns about the environment, Indigenous sovereignty, and violence against girls and women are interlinked, and need to be taken seriously by everyone. This is urgent given the lack of recognition of Indigenous peoples right to self-govern, the alarming rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and in-custody deaths of Indigenous men and boys, and the climate crisis. We stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en against colonialism, gender violence, and resource extraction that damages the earth.

WE EXPECT ACCURATE AND FAIR PUBLIC COMMUNICATION ON WET’SUWET’EN STRUGGLE AND SOLIDARITY. We urge Canadian governments and industry to stop their campaign of misinformation, especially claims or portrayals that all communities have signed on to the pipeline. This sidesteps the central question of jurisdiction and sovereignty over territories. Further, we urge Canadian media to refrain from invoking inflammatory tropes of protest which misrepresent the spirit of Wet’suwet’sen action and that of their allies and diminishes the significance of this matter. In this vein, we encourage Canadian media to reacquaint themselves with historical conflicts between Canada and various Indigenous nations such as Kanien’kehaka (Oka), Ojibway (Ipperwash), Secwepemc (Gustafsen Lake), and Mi’kmaw (Burnt Church), to ensure best practices in reporting on this matter.

WE CALL UPON ALL CANADIANS AND INTERNATIONAL WITNESSES TO ACTIVELY SUPPORT THE WET’SUWET’EN PEOPLES in their sovereignty and their struggle to protect their lands, waters, and ways of life. This is an opportunity to follow Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law). In doing so, recognition of and respect for Wet’suwet’sn authority over their territories, according to their own ways will be demonstrated. Further, as has been stated by Wet’suwet’en citizens, the trajectory of Wet’suwet’en law in this matter secures a future for our descendants that includes a healthy natural world. We urge all communities to take up this call to action, whether through statements of solidarity, donations, fundraising, sending items to the camp, or going to the camp itself. Members of the Unist’ot’en have laid out protocols for support (see www.unistoten.camp ). Additional ways to support include providing education or hosting teach-ins, engaging in critical conversations with others, challenging misinformation, and calling upon your elected officials to let Canada know that it needs to stand against conflict and for peace at home just as it does in matters abroad.

FINALLY, WE ARE AWARE THAT THERE ARE DIFFERENT POSITIONS THAT EXIST AMONGST WET’SUWET’EN PEOPLES WITHIN THEIR NATION. Much like any nation, community, family, or group of people, there are differences in visions for the future and ideas about best methods in actualizing that future. We respect that the Wet’suwet’en people self-govern who speaks for them and who represents them, without interference from corporations and Canadian governments. Our Statement of Solidarity is not a position against those Wet’suwet’en who seek to actualize a secure present and future from within Canadian governance models, legal apparatus, and economic systems that have been imposed on all Indigenous peoples and nations. We understand that these impositions have led to the extremely difficult material, economic, and social realities that the majority of Indigenous nations and peoples must negotiate today. Global economies, settler colonialism, neo-liberalism, and militarism have created and continue to sustain the situation that the Wet’suwet’sen nation and peoples are presently navigating and negotiating. We acknowledge and recognize the increasingly complex and difficult situation that is emerging for and amongst Wet’suwet’en peoples. We will continue to strive to be sensitive to and understand these complexities. In doing so, we commit to upholding and prioritizing Indigenous peoples’ sovereignty, laws, and commitments in creating futures animated by, and in relationship with, a healthy natural world which will benefit us all.

In solidarity…

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As of today, solidarity from letter writing to (economic) disruption, to more (economic) disruption and more (economic) disruption continues to be needed given the RCMP continue to invade/enact the injunction. I suppose from a Canadianist perspective this is an enactment of law whereas from an Indigenous sovereignist perspective, it’s a violation of Wet’suwet’en law and in that, an invasion.

 

Note: Indigenous meanings of sovereignty are not meant as the same a colonial meanings of sovereignty.

 

Invasion and War: (Il)Legibilities of Significance in Canada: An Anishinaabe Perspective

Depending on the circles you read, bead, and move in throughout Indian country, Canada, or the United States, you may or may not be aware of the Wet’suwet’en, a people and nation whose territory is presently occupied by the province of British Columbia and the settler state of Canada. The hyperlinks in this blog post provide some information and context for the thoughts I want to speak to regarding the global, settler colonial, and capitalist invasion the Wet’suwet’en are, and have been, enduring and resisting for some time now. With a recent ruling from the settler state’s provincial Supreme Court (B.C.) that has resulted in an extended injunction against Wet’suwet’en Nation members who are preventing corporate access to their lands and waters, Wet’suwet’en are once again in active protection of their lands, waters, and life-ways against corporate development of infrastructure needed for economic and energy growth and development. My understanding is that some Wet’suwet’en have determined such development, and the infrastructure needed for it, will be detrimental to the natural world (i.e. lands, waters, animals, humans etc.) and the health and well-being of their, and our, collective futures.

The injunction, issued by Justice Marguerite Church, restricts Wet’suwet’en members from “barring workers from getting through their checkpoints along a remote logging road”. This road runs through Wet’suwet’en unceded, unsurrrended, and untreatied territory upon which Wet’suwet’en themselves have established checkpoints. The particular area of territory this road runs through is called Talbits Kwa and, based on their governance structure, the Unist’ot’ en house of the Gilseyhu clan are responsible for protecting it. Based on my reading/viewing of various Wet’suwet’en online sources and news articles, the Wet’suwet’en stand upon the authority and precedence of their own laws in protecting their territory and continue to do so in the face of the injunction.

This past Friday in my work, I recently supported students to miss class if they wanted to take time to participate in a scheduled rally in support of Wet’suwet’en who are protecting their lands. I also supported them to take time to grieve if they were connected to any of the Iranian-Canadians or others who died in the Ukrainian airplane crash. On the day of the rally for Wet’suwet’en, which was a day after Canadian PM Trudeau announced that the Ukrainian airplane had been shot down by an Iranian missile, I became alert to varied ways discourses of “war” were circulating and emerging. Regarding the downed airplane, a discourse of war had been circulating in media for days before because the attack occurred at the same time there had been much talk about an US-Iran war arising from the US killing an Iranian military leader and Iran firing missiles onto a US military base located in Iraq. Messages of “No War on Iran” had been etched in chalk on cement posts here and there on the university campus where I work, universities typically and importantly being sites of protest and agitation regarding local and global affairs. I heard students talking about these messages while moving between classes. War had been on the minds of many, including our youth. My teenage child shared with me that her social media world had been on fire with circulation of the idea about a third world war.

The second discourse of war involved Canada and Wet’suwet’en. However, this discourse was not even a discourse. It was a chant from the student rally:

1-2-3-4 Wet’suwet’en is at war;

5-6-7-8 Take apart the settle state.*

Yesterday, I read yet another headline from an Canadian online national newspaper that prompted me to track on the different ways it was emerging in regards to Iran, Canada and the US but not in regards to Wet’suwet’en. This time, the headline read, “Anti-war demonstrators rally in Winnipeg to remember victims of Iran crash, speak out against conflict”. The week before there had been other headlines signifying anti-war protest in Ottawa and Montreal, like this one and this one. The word “anti-war” and the phrase “anti-war demonstrations” made me think of cultural references to anti-war demonstrations against the US military in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s that were carried out in the US. It made me think about the motivation Canadians have to demonstrate against war and conflict abroad when it results in the deaths of innocent victims but Canadians do not view what is happening between Wet’suwet’en and Canada in the same serious light. It made me think about how we are exposed to the idea and/or fact of war by Canadian news outlets and how news outlets give meaning to what is war? It made me think about the ways Canadians signify or characterize their activism, their protest, the demonstrations, their public acts against, or for, a thing or people. In the case of the US, Iran, and Canada, as well as the case of Iranians-Canadians and passengers from other countries who were travelling and were killed by Iranian military decisions and their weaponry, Canadians position themselves as being anti-war, putting their bodies, voices, hearts, minds, spirits, and hand-made signs in public spaces to demonstrate these desires, commitments, and visions of no conflict.

When it comes to what Canada, Coastal GasLink, and RCMP are doing to those Wet’suwet’en people of the nation who uphold land-based laws, which are not commensurable with natural gas pipeline development, Canadian online national newspaper coverage is pale in comparison to Iranian-Canadian-US matters. And, media coverage definitely does not frame it as war. The one article I was able to find in my quick search that even came close to the several that gives space to the idea and practice of “anti-war demonstration” was a headline that reads, “Protestors block streets in Hamilton to support Wet’suwet’en anti-pipeline camps”. Media do not evoke the idea of war in regard to the relationship between Canada and Wet’suwet’en and do not frame the people who, in this case, have a desire, committment and vision for a better world as “anti-war demonstrators”. In domestic terms, in regards to Indigenous nations, such peoples are described as “protestors”. Canadian news outlets and Canadians contribute to how war, and anti-war, is made legible or illegible, in both the public sphere and consciousness of readers and witnesses. Canadian news outlets and Canadians contribute to the meaning-making of what conflicts are significant and insignificant, creating a societal vacuum about what conflicts ought to be significant or insignificant to readers of newspapers and witnesses of demonstrations.

All this leads me to ask, “What is war”? What difference is made of  “anti-war demonstrators” and “protestors”? How does this difference shape how we see Indigenous peoples, Indigenous nations, Indigenous territories and Indigenous peoples will to assert our sovereignty and protect our worlds? What is the difference between the US attacking one group of people over there across the ocean with military weapons, Iran attacking an Ukrainian airplane with military weapons, and Canada invading Wet’suwet’en people here in Canada, doing so with legal power that is enforced with policing power, policing power that was first reported in the UK to have historically “been prepared to use snipers on Wet’suwet’en Nation protestors” and had “argue[d] for ‘lethal overwatch’…”. Canada has been known to “wage war” against Indigenous peoples before, bringing in military, paramilitary and/or fatal policing power to do so. For example, Canada enacted such violence against Kanien’kehaka, Ojibway, Secwepemc, and Mi’kmaw. While we can hope that past deaths and inquiries will prevent the repetition of such violence, who is to say Canada, it’s “workers” (i.e. RCMP) and it’s loyalties to global corporations won’t result in history repeating itself?

It also leads me to consider the difference in discourses of violence invoked by words such as war, conquest, occupation, and invasion. While the words chanted at a student rally invoke the idea of the settler state being at war with Wet’suwet’en, thereby importantly raising the register of seriousness of this matter, I have no way of knowing if that framing reflects Wet’suwet’en thought or whose thought it reflects. I do know that I have not heard We’tsuwet’en invoke a discourse of war in how they describe what they are experiencing and navigating. Most recently, a short documentary called Invasion (2019) has been produced. The title suggests how Wet’suwet’en describe what is happening to them and their territory. It signals the way Wet’suwet’en want outsiders to see this situation. It also prompts the question then, what is the difference between war and invasion?

To me, war suggests two or more groups are engaged in conflict where each group has somewhat similar or equitable power either as independents or allies. Invasion suggests that two groups are in conflict and where one group has more power than the other they utilize it to non-consensually enter into another’s territory. In this case, Coastal GasLink has the powerful backing of a settler colonial legal system which is enforced through settler colonial policing institutions and when needed, settler colonial military. Where policing institutions have the power to criminalize, detain, imprison, and physically hurt or harm both police and military also have weapons. Wet’suwet’en have their own everything except policing and military power and therefore do not have the same power as the Canadian state, RCMP, or the corporation who want access to their lands and waters. Invasion seems to fit best in describing what is happening.

Regardless of the discourse utilized, while it does matter, I feel that the Canadian popular media needs to amplify this seriousness of this situation. In my mind, they are supposed to be working for the interests of the people, not government or corporations. They need to utilize words like ‘invasion’ in their headlines to raise consciousness and critical engagement with what some Wet’suwet’en are navigating right now. It impacts us all. If the more popularized register of (anti) violence that is connoted through ‘war’ and ‘anti-war’  is the only one media is going to expose Canadian audiences to, then I think Canadians need to engage a bit more deeply with the the ideas and meanings of war and anti-war demonstration. “War” against, or more correctly, “invasion of” Indigenous peoples, nations and our territories is happening in Canada. Canada is built on both because there was a time when Indigenous peoples did have legal, policing and war power in the face of the British and French. In an article written by Zach Ruiter for NOW, Canadian “demonstrators” were described as taking part in the national day of anti-war action across North America in the action, “No War with Iran”. Ruiter quoted organizers as saying, “the protest ‘was to let our Canadian elected officials know that Canada needs to stand up against any acts of war and be a voice of peace’.” In the case of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, I think that Canadians need to do and say the exact same thing or alternatively begin to make significant the fact that Wet’suwet’en are being invaded by a corporation and it’s Canadian backer.

* miigwech to the students who rallied and marched in the cold and pouring rain on this day. And, to the two Gender Studies student allies who came trudging down my department’s hall soaking wet and who translated for me the rhythmic roaring I heard from my opened office window.