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52 Responses

  1. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl January 13, 2012 at 9:55 am |

    Thank you for this. The Howe family’s story is deeply disturbing to read about.

  2. rox
    rox January 13, 2012 at 10:07 am |

    Thank you so much for writing this. My sister was from the Crow Creek tribe and sent to live with a white family when our mother was unable to parent. Supposedly they “checked in with the tribe” which basically meant 6 months of my sister floating through foster care and them determining that her native father was a drug addict and his parenting rights could be forfeited.

    There is never a good time to talk about it when you profit from the stolen lands. It’s “in the past”. And yet the suffering of real people affected by this barbaric land grab is in the present. It’s NOT in the past. There’s NOT nothing that can be done about it.

    The native people aren’t GONE. They still exist. And everyone wants their experience of life to be shuffled out of sight because that’s so “old news”. What’s done is done, what can be done about it?

    You know what? for one thing? Returning as much land as possible. Acknoeledging that because we destroyed the native peoples way of life we OWE some financial assistance with rebuilding a SELF DETERMINED way of life.

    My cousin is also half native. His native father is also an addict. My sisters father died a month before she began her search for him. We should go out of our way to FIND native activist voices, to spotlight what dreams of hope and change native people have, to spotlight what kinds of things can be done by the decendents of immigrants who took over this country and still profit from inhumane and barbaric injustice.

  3. LC
    LC January 13, 2012 at 10:28 am |

    I remember when I first started visiting Canada, wondering why so many of the art pieces for sale said “Made in Occupied Canada”.

  4. saurus
    saurus January 13, 2012 at 10:29 am |

    I highly recommend people check out these works/people:

    Jessica Yee and her book “Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the academic industrial complex of feminism”.

    Andrea Smith and her book “Conquest: Sexual violence and American Indian genocide”.

    Alanis Obomsawin and her documentaries, which you can watch online. (I recommend starting with Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance).

    If people want to learn more and are able to engage offline, they can also see if local aboriginal justice groups and communities would like them to volunteer/contribute.

  5. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage January 13, 2012 at 10:54 am |

    Another documentary worth watching is Finding Dawn.

  6. jackie
    jackie January 13, 2012 at 10:55 am |

    Thanks for the post. I think that feeling of irritation at “irrelevance” is always a good sign to examine the discomfort more closely – it’s one I’m very familiar with.

    Great video from Wab Kinew that I just saw the other day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlkuRCXdu5A

    (Also, a little correction, I don’t think “the Attawapiskat” is quite correct, they are Cree people of Attawapiskat First Nation – Attawapiskat being the place, not the ethnic group.)

  7. Catherine
    Catherine January 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm |

    Hi –
    This is a fascinating article, and really made me think about these issues, which we here in the UK hear even less about that all of you in the States.
    However, I have a quick question about the imprisonment of the five Makah men for their killing a whale – I’m not sure that that constitutes discrimination. Even if it is a traditional hunt (and their bringing along high powered rifles would seem to suggest otherwise), I don’t know why that gives them the right to violate laws created to protect endangered wildlife. Furthermore, if this is something intrinsic to tribal life, they have the option to obtain a permit, as detailed in the report you linked. If I’ve missed something or failed to understand why this is discriminatory against Native Americans, I promise that I am eager to hear and learn, but at present it seems to me like they are simply being punished for doing something illegal, unrelated to their identity as Native Americans. I think that if you were trying to find examples of discrimination against First Nation peoples, you could find much more egregious ones than this.

  8. Breply
    Breply January 13, 2012 at 12:44 pm |

    http://apihtawikosisan.wordpress.com/

    I love this blog. She’s a Métis lawyer who writes about First Nations issues in Canada

  9. QLH
    QLH January 13, 2012 at 12:54 pm |

    Thanks so much for this post. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

  10. Brandy
    Brandy January 13, 2012 at 12:58 pm |

    Thanks so much for this post. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

    Ditto! Book recommendations are especially useful.

  11. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin January 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm |

    Often, I find that discussions like that of the Mohawk woman come down to a simple matter of presentation. It’s not what story you tell, but how you tell it. People may not even be aware if they sound repetitive, especially if they’re working through an issue. But the hope is always that moving forward will produce a variety of different insights.

    Among Quakers, there’s a temptation towards self-martyrdom that I’ve often found annoying. Friends will work hard at a noble cause, but want everyone to know precisely how much time and effort they put into it. Hard work and sacrifice in a particular field is important, but, pardon the phrase, at times people come off as self-masturbatory. And when it takes the form of vocal ministry during Worship, as can happen, the focus is less about the community and more about the self.

    I know I’ve consistently mentioned aspects of my life in comments and through blog posts. Many issues constantly assert themselves over and over again, in related patterns. This is especially true in a Feminist context. Those are the ideas we think need advancing and need to be consistently pointed out, lest they not be brought to the attention of the public.

    I’ve made a concerted effort to seek to present my own take on these issues differently each time. I don’t need to be always and forever externally validated for what I accomplish. Nor do I need that validation when it regards an particularly pertinent experience I’ve had. The satisfaction of greater development and productivity is enough for me. And in the meantime, we all tell our stories, as best we can.

  12. glitterary
    glitterary January 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm |

    Thank you for this. I think it is difficult for privileged people to understand problems as not being compartmentalised–as being something that continually affects an oppressed person’s life, not a subject that can be discussed over coffee and then set aside until we feel like toying with it again. Every reminder is helpful.

    It must take huge bravery for your coworker to stand up and say that knowing how many people will ridicule her for it. I’m awed–I don’t think I could ever do that, but then I’m privileged enough not to have anything to have to do it for.

  13. saurus
    saurus January 13, 2012 at 1:23 pm |

    Often, I find that discussions like that of the Mohawk woman come down to a simple matter of presentation. It’s not what story you tell, but how you tell it. People may not even be aware if they sound repetitive…

    I dunno, aboriginal peoples have been telling their stories of genocide, colonialism, land theft and oppression in about five million ways for literally hundreds of years; I’m going to have to hold the dismissive audiences (and their privilege-encouraging society) responsible for this one; not the speakers’ failures to make their acknowledgements of oppression adequately entertaining and multifarious.

  14. Alex
    Alex January 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm |

    One of the most valuable thing I ever learned as a non-Aboriginal person living in Canada was that all Canadians, whether brand new immigrants or Canadians whose families had lived here for centuries, benefit from treaties. The land we live on, the water we drink, the food we eat. It is our collective responsibility to honour those treaties, to ensure that the treaties are honoured and respected*. Saying, “yeah, but what does that have to do with me” (of course, a lot of times, at least in Canada, what is said is way more derogatory and racist) isn’t good enough and it isn’t even remotely accurate.

    That said, I’m really glad that the author wrote this piece and had her own “aha” moment in regards to Aboriginal rights.

    A couple other writers to look out for are Zainab Amadahy particularly her work at rabble.ca and the amazing Lee Maracle.

    * This is super simplified and there are way more issues and a lot of other land claims underway and communities that weren’t included in the original treaties. I don’t mean to negate or erase those issues but to only touch on one aspect of treaties.

  15. Evergreen
    Evergreen January 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm |

    Thank you for this post. A friend of mine is trying to do something similar at the university where we’re both graduate students: make it a subject of common knowledge and conversation that the institution we’re a part of and benefit from was built on slavery – specifically profits from the violent trade in human beings. We could add land theft to that as well.

  16. Vigée
    Vigée January 13, 2012 at 2:17 pm |

    Just wanted to say thanks for the resource links and recommendations. Bookmarked.

  17. jennifer
    jennifer January 13, 2012 at 2:54 pm |

    I liked the way Zinn’s People’s History of the United States discussed Native American history as American history, and I think that’s important in discussing oppressed groups–the ways they have been wronged and continue to be wronged, but also the realization of everything they contribute or have contributed that is ignored, forgotten or appropriated.

  18. matlun
    matlun January 13, 2012 at 2:57 pm |

    However, I have a quick question about the imprisonment of the five Makah men for their killing a whale – I’m not sure that that constitutes discrimination.

    This is an interesting point. No, it is not discrimination (since it is a generally applicable law), but maybe it is still problematic. The question is whether we should allow the space for traditional tribal traditions even when these do not fit in modern society.

    The question is how to address the fact that our ancestors (in many cases) founded our current society and civilization through bloody conquest and other immoral means. Should we just accept that this is the way of human history or should we try to undo these historical actions in some way?

  19. Jessie
    Jessie January 13, 2012 at 3:07 pm |

    Thank you for this post. I have so much Googling to do now. I’ll definitely be checking out your recommended reading.

    For those interested in ways to help the people of Attawapiskat, here are some ideas I stumbled across (most of the drives are over, but still some relevant information): http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/giving/giving-news/how-to-help-the-people-of-attawapiskat/article2260763/

  20. Jadey
    Jadey January 13, 2012 at 7:31 pm |

    There is a woman at the university where I work (a Mohawk woman, if that matters)

    It DOES matter. I get that it’s a figure of speech most likely being used to deflect attention from something which the dominant culture teaches us is very embarrassing (i.e., talking about someone’s race/ethnicity), but the whole point is that it DOES MATTER that she is a Mohawk woman. It is who she is, and it’s not something to shy away from.

    Maybe that particular sentence grated on me because it made me think of Patricia Monture, a Mohawk woman who definitely knew that that mattered and always identified herself as such proudly. She died last year, and it is going to be one of my life’s chief regrets that I never had the opportunity to hear her speak or attend one of her classes in person. She’s definitely someone else worth reading, for her challenging work on the problems of the colonialist Canadian legal system and her focus on Aboriginal women.

  21. Alex
    Alex January 13, 2012 at 10:16 pm |

    It DOES matter. I get that it’s a figure of speech most likely being used to deflect attention from something which the dominant culture teaches us is very embarrassing (i.e., talking about someone’s race/ethnicity), but the whole point is that it DOES MATTER that she is a Mohawk woman. It is who she is, and it’s not something to shy away from.

    This. Thank you for pointing that out, Jadey.

  22. Jennifer Carroll
    Jennifer Carroll January 14, 2012 at 3:50 am |

    It DOES matter. I get that it’s a figure of speech most likely being used to deflect attention from something which the dominant culture teaches us is very embarrassing (i.e., talking about someone’s race/ethnicity), but the whole point is that it DOES MATTER that she is a Mohawk woman. It is who she is, and it’s not something to shy away from.

    When I sought permission from my colleague to write this post about her, this is how she requested that she be identified in the text. I think we both saw it as a little tongue in cheek. No shying away was actually intended.

  23. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn January 14, 2012 at 4:48 am | *

    Re: comment 6, (Also, a little correction, I don’t think “the Attawapiskat” is quite correct, they are Cree people of Attawapiskat First Nation – Attawapiskat being the place, not the ethnic group.)

    The post has been edited to say “in Attawapiskat” at the request of the author.

  24. Blue Duck
    Blue Duck January 14, 2012 at 3:55 pm |

    Catherine @7:

    The Makah Nation has a treaty with the US Government, and in that treaty the Makah people retained the right to hunt whales. As with many peoples of the far Pacific NW, whaling is an important part of their culture. Whalers have to train for months to prepare themselves for a hunt – as do their families.

    It is the case of the US being psycho about recognizing a treaty (as they so often are – see continuing theft of the Black Hills in the Dakotas).

  25. âpihtawikosisân
    âpihtawikosisân January 14, 2012 at 9:22 pm |

    However, I have a quick question about the imprisonment of the five Makah men for their killing a whale – I’m not sure that that constitutes discrimination. Even if it is a traditional hunt (and their bringing along high powered rifles would seem to suggest otherwise), I don’t know why that gives them the right to violate laws created to protect endangered wildlife. Furthermore, if this is something intrinsic to tribal life, they have the option to obtain a permit, as detailed in the report you linked. If I’ve missed something or failed to understand why this is discriminatory against Native Americans, I promise that I am eager to hear and learn, but at present it seems to me like they are simply being punished for doing something illegal, unrelated to their identity as Native Americans. I think that if you were trying to find examples of discrimination against First Nation peoples, you could find much more egregious ones than this.

    If no one minds, I’d like to address this post.

    1) Traditions are not technology dependent. The tradition in question is that of hunting whales. Whether the hunters use harpoons, high powered rifles or even rickrolling (go on, picture it!), is irrelevant to the tradition itself. Whales are central to Makah culture, and that relationship is not determined by the implements used to harvest the whale. (More information here: http://www.makah.com/whalingtradition.html)

    The common misconception that indigenous traditions are technology dependent is one that needs to be challenged constantly, as it reflects a ‘frozen in time’ approach which is deeply paternalistic and ignorant of what constitutes ‘tradition’ in the first place. No one is asking non-indigenous people to legitimise themselves by getting back into their horse-and-buggy and pulling out their powdered wigs.

    2) Indigenous people have the inherent right to practice their traditions. Please invert the question about rights and ask…what gives the US government the right to violate the hunting rights of indigenous people? How is it that a government who has no legitimate claim to the lands they are currently occupying, can claim any legitimacy over the exercise of aboriginal rights? Clearly the US and Canadian governments DO claim that legitimacy, which is precisely what these hunters are protesting…and make no mistake. Every time indigenous people assert our traditional rights, we protest the right of settler governments to interfere with those rights. I’ll get to that in a moment.

    3) Invoking conservation does not legitimise the violation of indigenous rights. Indigenous peoples are not the ones responsible for the decimation of various land and ocean-life. The complete lack of effective wildlife conservation policies at the federal and state/provincial levels is what has caused this deplorable situation. Nonetheless, the inherent right of aboriginal peoples to continue to access resources on our lands is constantly abrogated in the name of ‘conservation’. This justification is further tarnished by the fact of large scale commercial harvesting allowances which continue to degrade ocean stock in particular (and lead to these kinds of depletions).

    This is, with no hyperbole involved, colonial practice at its worst. It is the preservation of harmful and unsustainable commercial exploitation of resources at the expense of aboriginal peoples, who are being denied even the opportunity to hunt for sustenance. We are also the ones who rely the most on these traditional source of food. Yet it continues to be more politically important to allow foreign fishing vessels access to our waters so that we can buy our own food back from a Chinese canning company.

    A more just outcome would allow indigenous people primacy when it comes to harvesting quotas, and ensure proper consultation with indigenous communities in the situation of any hunting moratorium being proposed. A unilateral ban is unacceptable.

    4) This case touches on the core of indigenous identity.

    For the Makah, whale hunting is a central aspect of their culture. Preventing them from maintaining their reciprocal relationship with one another, with their territory, and with the whales that are so important to them, is a direct attack on who they are as indigenous people. I cannot stress this enough. This is not similar to other kinds of ‘illegal activities’. This is a denial of their rights, and of their culture.

    The US Attorney’s office recommended pursuing these men with extreme prejudice (link here: http://www.justice.gov/usao/waw/press/2008/jul/whalesentencing.html) As a result, these men are forbidden to participate in any whale hunting, under any circumstances. A central aspect of their culture is being denied them. The US Attorney’s office argued that the Makah must ask permission (via getting permits) before engaging in this traditional activity, and that failure to do so is not just poaching but, “a carefully planned effort deliberately calculated to violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act moratorium on taking a grey whale without authorization”.

    Cutting through the legal mumbo jumbo, these men are not just being found guilty of hunting out of season and without a permit. They are being found guilty of deliberately defying the authority of the US government. They are defying that government’s right to abrogate the Makah right to hunt their traditional prey. Whoa! These guys didn’t just mess with a regulation, they basically engaged in sedition! Watch out, we’re a dangerous bunch :P

    All over the US and Canada, indigenous people continue to assert our traditional rights, and because of this, we often face fines, and even imprisonment. On the other hand, court cases tell us that if we do not exercise our rights (even if the exercise of these rights is forbidden), then we risk losing those rights. It’s a Catch-22 situation, legally, and it is unconscionable.

    When these cases come to the courts, they are often misunderstood by the public as being minor and pointless violations of regulations or conservation laws. In fact, these cases are often the front line struggle between two groups of people who are attempting to assert their rights over a territory. The US and Canadian governments have a vast supply of money, manpower and force. We have tenacity, and culture that just won’t die. It is essential that the non-indigenous people with whom we share these lands begin to understand these issues…and having people overseas understand these things as well is also vitally important. So I thank you for asking the questions you did, and I hope you can see this from a different point of view now.

  26. Drew
    Drew January 15, 2012 at 3:02 am |

    Wow, âpihtawikosisân. Damn good post.

  27. Catherine
    Catherine January 15, 2012 at 5:45 am |

    Here in Australia most formal community assemblies (even in primary schools) begin with a welcome to country, delivered by an Aboriginal elder, if one is available, or acknowledgement of country, which is this.

    ‘Before we begin the proceedings, I would like to acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners of the land on which we meet – the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. It is upon their ancestral lands that the (name of institution) is built. ‘

  28. matlun
    matlun January 15, 2012 at 9:44 am |

    @âpihtawikosisân: Good post.

    When these cases come to the courts, they are often misunderstood by the public as being minor and pointless violations of regulations or conservation laws. In fact, these cases are often the front line struggle between two groups of people who are attempting to assert their rights over a territory

    I think this is one the central conflicts: Does the current governments have the right to create and enforce laws on the indigenous peoples? Should they have?

    I think we have to accept that we do have a common, democratically elected government. In other words, the answer is “Yes”.

    But then we get into the messier discussions around “details” of exactly how these common laws should look. For example: How much freedom should we give for people to follow a traditional lifestyle? There are no easy answers to this.

  29. RootedInBeing
    RootedInBeing January 15, 2012 at 10:59 am |

    I am so glad this is being discussed on a feminist site. It is just so important.

  30. Jadey
    Jadey January 15, 2012 at 11:37 am |

    @ Jennifer Carroll

    Thank you for the clarification.

    @ âpihtawikosisân

    Awesome response, thank you. I just added your blog to my blogroll the other day because it’s such a fantastic resource of good analysis and information like this, and it’s great to see you posting it on Feministe too!

    @ matlun

    I think this is one the central conflicts: Does the current governments have the right to create and enforce laws on the indigenous peoples? Should they have?

    I think we have to accept that we do have a common, democratically elected government. In other words, the answer is “Yes”.

    If you’re going to say, “Yes,” then I am going to simply counter with, “Why?”, because you haven’t actually answered the original question. Why do we need to accept colonialist governments? Why are alternative governmental structures dismissed so readily? Simplistic appeals to “democracy” (especially given the horrifying history of enfranchisement as a tool to assimilate and control indigenous people, at least in Canada) don’t cut it.

  31. matlun
    matlun January 15, 2012 at 11:52 am |

    If you’re going to say, “Yes,” then I am going to simply counter with, “Why?”, because you haven’t actually answered the original question. Why do we need to accept colonialist governments?

    Well, that is my answer at least.

    I believe that a common, democratic government including everyone and respecting everyone’s individual rights is the best thing we can hope for. What better alternative do you see?

    Note that this is a statement of principle and I most certainly am not claiming that the current US government is the best possible implementation (obviously).

    Also, do you really think that “colonialist” is a reasonable description of the current US and Canadian governments? It has been some time since the current states developed from the old colonies.

  32. âpihtawikosisân
    âpihtawikosisân January 15, 2012 at 1:41 pm |

    I think this is one the central conflicts: Does the current governments have the right to create and enforce laws on the indigenous peoples? Should they have?

    I think we have to accept that we do have a common, democratically elected government. In other words, the answer is “Yes”.

    Acknowledging what you say about the details being important, I disagree with the premise that we must accept the right of settler governments to legislate and enforce laws on indigenous peoples.

    I don’t want to go too deeply into this in a comments section, but there is certainly precedent for how to deal with one another as sovereign nations, each having authority over one’s own people and territory. Indigenous peoples recognise that settlers aren’t going anywhere, and that we share these lands. That has never meant that we accepted our own sovereignty had to become subsumed to the authority of the Crown. This is not something I think we will ever accept.

    More and more, aboriginal nations are exercising that sovereignty over our own affairs, and it hasn’t resulted in a meltdown of civilisation or a descent into anarchy. Whether we’re discussing fishing laws, the provision of social services, the creation of our own school boards and even the exercise of criminal law enforcement, there are many examples right now across Indian country both in the US and Canada.

    So I do not believe we must accept colonial governments, regardless of which model of governance they use to justify themselves. We clearly do need to create a more cooperative relationship and one that is much less unequal, and those many details of which you spoke make up the substance to which we must turn our minds.

    Stating that because a government is ‘democratic’, it is therefore de facto legitimate, ignores the deeply rooted oppression that indigenous peoples continue to face, which prevents us from exercising power within that colonial system. I for one, am not not going to give into resignation, and I don’t think you should either.

  33. matlun
    matlun January 15, 2012 at 2:35 pm |

    âpihtawikosisân@32: Some kind of sovereignty could theoretically work, and alternatively some kind of federalist deal could give at least some level of autonomy. Which I believe is the current US situation (Ie limited tribal sovereignty under federal law)

    Stating that because a government is ‘democratic’, it is therefore de facto legitimate

    I do think this is the case. But I do recognize this is not a given, but rather my opinion of what it means for a government to be legitimate.

    And sure, there are general problems with democracy especially for small marginalized minorities. Even if the government was perfectly democratic, the decisions of the government will reflect the will of the majority which can easily become oppression of the minority.

    My original response was mostly related to what I saw as an attempt to disengage from mainstream society which I believe to be self destructive. There is a difference between “the government do not have the authority to make this decision” and “this decision is wrong and should be changed”.

  34. Gretchen
    Gretchen January 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm |

    Thanks for the post and thanks to all the commenters with their great book/blog/documentary recommendations. With underreported issues it’s always hard to know where to find good and reliable sources of information, so thanks!

  35. JetGirl
    JetGirl January 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm |

    Interesting post. I moved to North America from Europe when I was eight. I lived first in Mexico, then in the United States. And I was always confused by the names given the various groups of people that settled here long before the Europeans arrived. Of course, Indian was inaccurate, because of Columbus. But Native American always seemed awkward (not to mention there didn’t seem to be an equivalent in Spanish, at least not when I lived in Mexico), and the word native seemed to have negative connotations. I went to Canada two years ago, and heard the term First Nations. That seemed to be both accurate and respectful. I hesitate to use the term in the United States, though. A friend is Cherokee. He uses Native American. Is First Nations an accepted term south of Canada?

  36. âpihtawikosisân
    âpihtawikosisân January 15, 2012 at 8:45 pm |

    My original response was mostly related to what I saw as an attempt to disengage from mainstream society which I believe to be self destructive.

    Since your original response quoted the portion of my post which discussed the battle over hunting rights as being a front-line assertion of indigenous sovereignty, I don’t think it’s at all accurate to characterise this as ‘an attempt to disengage from mainstream society’. You see…we’d have to actually have ever been integrated into settler (what you call mainstream) society in order to be attempting to disengage from it.

    Nor is it self-destructive to resist assimilation. In fact, it’s the opposite of self-destruction (or externally imposed destruction) we are pursuing.

    You are correct when you say:

    There is a difference between “the government do not have the authority to make this decision” and “this decision is wrong and should be changed”.

    There is also a very great gulf between those of us who assert the former, and those of you who assert the latter. Which is why solidarity movements can be so very tricky. We may seem to agree on the basic wrongness of this matter, but the devil is truly in the details.

  37. Jadey
    Jadey January 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm |

    I believe that a common, democratic government including everyone and respecting everyone’s individual rights is the best thing we can hope for. What better alternative do you see?

    A government that respects the sovereign rights of other nations with which it has made treaties. I’m not saying it would be easy, but we need to develop a systems of governance in which multiple sovereign nations can co-exist while sharing some territory (and respecting non-shared territory), rather than allowing one nation dominate other nations on the basis of oppression being more socially accepted and convenient.

    (I also don’t share your enthusiasm for “democracy”, which I have yet to see in practice as fairly and equally representing anyone.)

    Also, do you really think that “colonialist” is a reasonable description of the current US and Canadian governments? It has been some time since the current states developed from the old colonies.

    As long as they are still actively engaged in colonialist activities of attempting to coercively control the territory which they have claimed as their own despite legitimate competing claims from other sovereign nations… Yes. As it stands, Canada hasn’t figured out how to exist without being colonialist – we refuse, as a nation, to acknowledge the truth of our history and its impact on our present state which is seeking to destroy indigenous people, whether by assimilation or annihilation (so different?), in order to legitimate ourselves as a country. We have a win-lose mindset – either this is Canada, peopled only by Canadians and where everything within our defined borders belongs solely to the Canadian government and Canadian citizens, or it is not. This is the attitude that needs to change.

    (I’m avoiding referring to the US because I really know very little about what’s happening down there.)

    Basically, what âpihtawikosisân has said.

    In fact, what she has said many times:

    Building relationships requires education.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    No justice, no peace.

  38. Jadey
    Jadey January 15, 2012 at 11:11 pm |

    @ JetGirl

    If speaking to or about a specific person, in my experience it’s best to ask, if you can. Different people will have different preferences (including preferring Indian, in some cases). Some people may prefer to be referred to by their specific nation or community, rather than a generic term like “indigenous”, “native”, or “Aboriginal”. (I was party to an interesting conversation once of some friends of mine discussing their personal preferences for even Aboriginal vs. indigenous and whether one or the other was too anthropological and dehumanizing – there really is a lot of variety of opinion!) Also, “First Nations” actually has a specific legal meaning up here, which might lead to some confusion, and it’s not really a catch-all term either because it specifically doesn’t include Métis or Inuit people. But I’m not in a position to say whether it’s an accepted term in the US, which was really your question, sorry.

  39. Claire
    Claire January 15, 2012 at 11:24 pm |

    Major kudos for this excellent article (tweeted to our mostly indigenous followers) — too often, indigenous people who are “out and proud” hear a lot of flack from ignorant idiots, a la “Aren’t all the Native Americans dead?” or “Oh yeah, aren’t you all drunks?” This offensive, narrow viewpoint has to stop, and the only way it will is through strong, positive, pro-active articles like yours. Thanks, Feministe — good intersectionalism.

  40. matlun
    matlun January 16, 2012 at 4:33 am |

    As long as they are still actively engaged in colonialist activities of attempting to coercively control the territory which they have claimed as their own despite legitimate competing claims from other sovereign nations

    Ok. This is just a question of semantics, so it is perhaps pointless to argue this further, but by your definition almost any nation that has a border dispute with another nation would be “colonialist”.

    Also the “…other sovereign nations” part is problematic since the indigenous people have been denied this status (A fact that you are arguing for should be changed, but it is still the current situation).

    Anyway – I think the colonial narrative does not work well here, since US and Canada are no longer colonies in any meaningful sense. The language of military conquest and subjugation better matches the current realities.

  41. EG
    EG January 16, 2012 at 10:19 am |

    assimilation or annihilation (so different?)

    Without disputing the rest of your post, as a Jewish woman who recently learned what would have happened to her grandparents if their parents had stayed in the Eastern European city and town where they were from, I’m going to come down on the side of “yes.” They are very different. I am assimilated. My grandparents would have been annihilated. That doesn’t mean that assimilation into a dominant culture is always or even usually desirable, of course.

  42. Jadey
    Jadey January 16, 2012 at 11:56 am |

    @ EG

    Point conceded – I’m not in a position to make a call on that either way, as no one is particularly trying to do either to me or my family, so it was an inappropriate remark on my part.

  43. William
    William January 16, 2012 at 11:59 am |

    I think this is one the central conflicts: Does the current governments have the right to create and enforce laws on the indigenous peoples? Should they have?

    I think we have to accept that we do have a common, democratically elected government. In other words, the answer is “Yes”.

    But then we get into the messier discussions around “details” of exactly how these common laws should look. For example: How much freedom should we give for people to follow a traditional lifestyle? There are no easy answers to this.

    Aside from âpihtawikosisân and Jadey’s great comments, I think there are some internal consistency problems with your argument. Regardless of what the worst of the right and the left want to believe, a democratically elected government can’t do anything the masses (or their elected representatives) demand. Governments do not have rights, they have powers. More importantly, in the United States the rights of individuals are intended to be bright line restrictions upon the power of government.

    As a matter of basic human dignity I don’t believe that governments ought to be in the business of policing lifestyles. The question is not (or at least should not be) “how much freedom should we give for people to follow a traditional lifestyle” but rather “what powers of government allow them to regulate this area of life, is the means of regulation the least restrictive possible, and does this regulation violate competing individual rights.” We shouldn’t be asking whats special about First Nation’s people that they should be given a break, we should be demanding that the government show it’s justification before we even have a discussion. At every step of the process the violation of individual rights ought to be interrogated with the government’s position having to be proved and the default being individuals left unmolested.

    But that threatens power, and the five men who we’re talking about show us what happens when someone thumbs their nose at authorities.

  44. saurus
    saurus January 16, 2012 at 3:56 pm |

    Invoking conservation does not legitimise the violation of indigenous rights.

    This.

    I wish people who wring their hands about indigenous whale-hunting were equally up-in-arms about devastating logging, mining, urban, and agricultural practices on indigenous land around the world, which regularly drives indigenous peoples into famine, not to mention what it does to their culture, economy, etc.

    The remarkably tiny ecological footprint that indigenous peoples tend to have – partly because of their culture and partly because so many indigenous peoples live below the poverty line – is much smaller than that of most “But the whales!” activists, and is downright laughable in contrast the anti-environmental actions of corporations and governments. Sure, stop indigenous peoples from hunting whales, which they do responsibly anyway. And then BP will putter along and dump so much oil into the ocean that kids living on the Gulf coast will be bleeding out of all orifices from chemical dispersants.

    Like, there are indigenous peoples worldwide who are being *disappeared* (murdered) because of their resistance to mining operations on their land. People who cast indigenous peoples as anti-environmental because of their hunting seem, to me, violently out of touch with what’s going on in the world…

  45. matlun
    matlun January 16, 2012 at 5:46 pm |

    @William: I generally agree with your post. All laws should have a good reason and not unnecessarily restrict individual freedoms.

    But here we have an IMO generally good law (no whale hunting allowed) equally applied to all individuals. Even so, it is still a very problematical situation as discussed in this thread.

  46. William
    William January 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm |

    But here we have an IMO generally good law (no whale hunting allowed) equally applied to all individuals.

    Except, it isn’t really equally applied. I’ve never hunted a whale and I cannot imagine a situation in which I would hunt a whale. Such a law restrains me only theoretically, under the greater framework of a system of laws designed to protect my individual and economic liberties, in such a way as to prevent me only from doing something which would be culturally irrelevant and likely environmentally exploitive. I don’t really need to hunt whales because its not who I am, its not something I need to do, its not something which is contextually relevant to me in any way. The same just plain isn’t true for some First Nation’s people. The law isn’t equal just because it is applied the same to everyone.

  47. âpihtawikosisân
    âpihtawikosisân January 16, 2012 at 7:05 pm |

    Matlun, I want to express my frustration with the approach you have chosen to take here. You have repeatedly explained that you do not think that it is correct to use the term ‘colonialism’, and while I want to respect your point of view on this, I find that your insistence on this point is dismissive of the views expressed by most indigenous people who are the direct targets of the policies we are now quibbling on properly naming.

    That you note the flaws in the current systems does not change the fact that you have chosen to support those systems as inherently legitimate. Many indigenous people continue to assert that we do not consider these systems legitimate, and we have many reasons for this position. I am not sure that you understand our reasons.

    Analogies often cloud the issue further rather than providing better insight, but I feel that I need to attempt one. I find your approach similar to those who disagree that feminists can use the term ‘patriarchal’, because they believe at some unidentified point in time, the patriarchy was replaced by something more well-meaning (albeit flawed) and legitimate. In both situations I would question when this change occurred, and what marked the shift from ‘oppressive’ to ‘legitimate yet flawed’.

    I bring this up because as indigenous people, we often struggle with the ‘support’ of people who however well-intentioned they may be, dismiss our concerns and marginalise our voices, unknowingly participating in the systemic oppression we face by insisting that their particular world-view is correct.

    Liberal notions of equality-as-sameness tend to overlook important points such as the fact that we did not agree to lay down our sovereignty, give up our lands, or submit to a foreign system. Whatever western liberal philosophies tell you about how such situations ought to be dealt with (preserving current systems intact as legitimate, despite historical injustice because such systems are the best choice) is a particular cultural prejudice that is part of colonialism.

    I disagree that this is merely a semantic argument. Where we differ here is on fundamental notions of legitimacy. You may continue to hold the opinions you have expressed, but I do hope that you are able to recognise that it is inappropriate to minimise the discussion as something not truly relevant. My thanks.

  48. DonnaL
    DonnaL January 16, 2012 at 7:07 pm |

    I would guess that if Japan would stop the mass hunting of whales, the situation would improve sufficiently that the total number of whales hunted by First Nations and other indigenous peoples would, by itself, have only a negligible impact on the total world whale population.

  49. matlun
    matlun January 16, 2012 at 7:19 pm |

    Matlun, I want to express my frustration with the approach you have chosen to take here. You have repeatedly explained that you do not think that it is correct to use the term ‘colonialism’, [...] I disagree that this is merely a semantic argument. Where we differ here is on fundamental notions of legitimacy.

    Ok, then since I consider this a fairly unimportant issue I should probably not have brought it up. I am sorry that I have made that negative an impression since I think your posts have really been excellent and reasonable.

    We differ in our analysis, but for the “colonialism” part I thought just considering this as “normal” military subjugation and oppression of the minority would work as well for you. That part of my argument was not at all meant to be taken as an attack or dismissal.

  50. matlun
    matlun January 16, 2012 at 7:22 pm |

    To clarify: The “unimportant” issue was whether colonialism was the correct term. There are important differences between our positions, but I did not think that was one of them.

  51. âpihtawikosisân
    âpihtawikosisân January 17, 2012 at 7:05 am |

    Thank you for listening, Matlun.

  52. Stella Marr
    Stella Marr January 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm |

    It’s worth mentioning that first nations women suffer under prostitution at disproportioanately high levels when compared to the general population. A direct result of colonization and marginalization. Check out the amazing Aboriginal Women’s Action Network, who speak out on the issue.
    “Your hesitation means that we die. This is an emergency.”
    — Cherry Smiley, of the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network.
    http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/aboriginal-women?before=1316101090

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