The Most Important Move in Federal Politics Right Now: Two Faces of Canadian Colonialism and Harper’s Termination Plan
Russell Diabo and Pam Palmater provide, in this interview, a must hear discussion of the most important political move happening in Canadian federal politics right now. Diabo and Palmater explain the crucial problems with the Harper government’s litany of bills that constitute a legislative agenda that Diabo compellingly describes as Canada’s “major First Nations termination plan.” Diabo outlines this in his concise, sharp and informed article “Major First Nations Termination Plan: As Negotiating Tables Legitimize Canada’s Colonialism.” Everyone should listen to this interview and read Diabo’s article to understand what’s happening right here, right now in our time and place.
In my view, the Harper termination plan, to follow Diabo’s analysis, is illustrative of how Canada oscillates between two rhetorical faces of historical and ongoing colonial violence against Indigenous polities: 1. Assimilation (exemplified by the 1969 white paper); and 2. Accommodation through recognition and reconciliation (as exemplified in the horrific SCC decisions that impose the sovereignty of the settler polity and justify executive infringements on Aboriginal rights and title for such vague and arbitrary reasons as ‘national interest’). The Harper program is turning the head of Canadian colonialism 180 degrees back to an unabashed assimilation, the essence of Trudeau and Chretien’s 1969 White Paper. It is an Outrage! As are both faces of this same colonial project. A project cultivated with intention, calculation and viciousness.
Invitation, Opportunity and Ethics: Supporting the Tsilhqot’in Fight against Taseko and the Free Enterprise Coalition Government
Currently the B.C. government and Taseko are aggressively attempting to impose a mining project on Tsilhqot’inon land. This is in the face of clear Tsilhqot’in opposition.
A famous economist once posited that state-governments are merely committees for managing the affairs of free enterprise. The B.C. government, which brands itself as a ‘free Enterprise coalition,’ is something seemingly even more narrow than this. A committee catering to the affairs of Mining corporations. And most nefarious is the use of state power by the province to back the efforts of mining enterprises to expropriate and exploit the lands belonging to polities, nations, peoples and communities that actively do not approve, permit and consent.
It is Tsilhqot’in land. They said no to this project many times in many ways. To use the instruments of force, coercion and violence to impose this project is something we could and should all stand against. The Tsilhqot’in have put out a call out for support. The action is to stand at the B.C. courts in Vancouver this week as Tsaeko seeks juridical instruments of power to force exploratory operations on Tsilhqot’in land. Invasive operations for a project that has been rejected time and time again by the Tsilhqot’in nation. And if you can not be there in person, why not at least oppose the project in your heart and conscience. Be forthcoming about your support for the Tsilhqot’in with your friends, family, colleagues, co-workers, class-mates, journalists and politicians.
This is an opportunity to take up an invitation to be part of a constructive action. To be on the ethical side of an issue being fought by the Tsilhqot’in. Why not take it?
Here is the decolonization statement passed by The Peoples Assembly of Victoria (Occupy Victoria). I think other cities that have released various kinds of statements regarding settler colonialism and/or statements of solidarity with Indigenous peoples include Boston, Denver, Winnipeg and New Mexico. I do not have an exhaustive list. Please send along any links and info regarding other cities that have released these kinds of statements.
Free Enterprise Coalition Drops Treaty Pretense?: Clark Government Puts Forward Development without Treaty Strategy, Justine Hunter Reports
Treaties too slow at feeding B.C. and corporations First Nations’ land?
Justine Hunter reports in The Globe and Mail (4 November 2011) that the Clark government in B.C. is more explicitly putting development without treaty at the forefront of the government’s strategy to both economic development and Aboriginal relations. Indeed, the Clark government’s jobs plan is premised on adding more expediency to mining and other natural resource projects frequently held up due to longstanding disputes over title since colonial expropriation of unceded land and lack of consultation with First Nations governing the territory.
In related news, the Globe also reports that B.C. has issued a license to Taseko for drilling ahead of a second federal environmental assessment. Taseko’s “Prosperity” project, which is being pushed a second time following a setback–due to broad opposition from key actors and a previous rejection from a federal environmental assessment review– continues to face a coaltion of critics. To my understanding, this includes the Tsilhqot’in National Government , the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs, the Sierria Club and the Council of Canadians among others. And most recently, the Globe reports that “Clark seeks federal cash to help B.C Natives negotiate non-treaty deals.” All of this, it is worth adding, comes just weeks after Sophie Pierre, head of the B.C. Treaty Commission, suggested that the B.C. Treaty Commission is not working and should be shut down.
Most recently, Clark announced regarding her China trade trip that she has secured investment for a coal mine that is to be to located on First Nation land. Justine Hunter Reports in the Globe that Ms. Clark announced at the end of her China trade visit that “she has secured $860-million in financing to build a coal mine in northeast B.C. which will eventually create 4,800 jobs.” Hunter adds:
What she didn’t mention is the hitch: The proposed Gething coal mine would be built in the West Moberly First Nation’s territory. The province knows full well that the native band – coincidentally, another one of the small number with a treaty in B.C. – opposes the plan.
The Premier glossed over the obstacle this week, saying it’s just a question of settling on a price.
“A big part of the benefit will accrue to first nations,” [Clark] explained to reporters in a conference call from Beijing. “It’s just a question of negotiating how much.”
Hunter also reported Chief Douglas White’s opposition to the unilateral proposal and his critique of the whole Clark strategy, punctuated by his position that this “is not relationship building.” Also worth noting is Hunter’s analysis that there is a similarity between Clark’s development without treaty strategy to James Douglas’ move in the 1860s to discontinue pursuing treaties because it was too slow of a means for gaining settler access to First Nations’ land and resources.
In addition to constituting the latest version of British Columbia’s free enterprise approach to expropriating Indigenous peoples’ land, there is another political dynamic at play in this move. It is an electoral logic. By dropping a commitment to the treaty process, the Clark government eliminates a wedge issue for BC Conservative leader John Cummins and throws a bone to anti-treaty caucus members ( i.e. see the True Extravagance of the B.C. State-Society ).
It also raises an issue for the official opposition that the B.C. government will surely enjoy. What will the NDP’s response be? The B.C. NDP will be put in a tough spot as it has its own target audiences that are hostile to decolonizing B.C.’s relations with First Nations. A sound byte response that puts nothing on the line will be difficult because the treaty process has two kinds of critics. 1 Critics that are opposed to the idea that First Nations should have any recognition and nation to nation agreements at all. 2. And those that recognize that the B.C. treaty process is already an instrument of prioritizing development over just relations, as the process was geared towards securing so called “final agreements” for long term access to Indigenous peoples’ land for as little cost as possible. Regarding the latter, it turned out that this process predominately resulted in facilitating lawyers access to Indigenous peopels’ cash in long running and expensive negotiations with the B.C. government on the terms and limits framed by B.C. and heavily affected by the context of unequal money power.
For the NDP to simply be against the B.C. Treaty Process can easily be seen to agree with John Cummins, the anti-treaty caucus of the B.C. liberals, and now possibly the Clark government itself. And to be for the treaty process can easily be seen to support the Campbell era strategy to accumulate Indigenous peoples’ land through an unequal negotiation game of settling final agreements. Thus, my speculation is that the dropping of the treaty pretense by the B.C. Liberals will receive little to no priority for the opposition party. Silence or perhaps a one off comment from the leader or a high profile caucus member might be expected. But this remains to be seen. The option would be for the NDP to come up with an approach significantly different than anything that has come before in regards to B.C.’s unethical conduct in province to nation relations.
My analysis of the electoral logic behind these moves is supported by the recent Ipso-Reid Poll that puts the NDP ahead of the governing B.C. Liberals and places Cummins B.C. Conservatives at 12%. For the B.C. Liberals, the latter is a threatening double digit figure that could potentially split the right enough to be a significant factor counting against the governing parties efforts to win a fourth consecutive general election.
I will be watching with interest how the politics around the dropping of the treaty pretense plays out in the B.C. public. Always with the question, how could actual B.C. decolonization begin?
A friend and colleague shares words on 10/15 day for the global day of action in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street at centennial square, Victoria, BC. The square is on Lekwungen land.
“I am struck by the ready conversation and commitment to stand together against injustices and inequalities.I am struck that a discussion of how we come to be here on this land and come to think we can speak law and justice here has been brought to the forefront.
I am struck by the comments that some people feel emboldened to make; and whether it is because of the anonymity of the internet or because of an anxiety about how we come to be here and live our lives, venomous hatred couched in bigotry and ignorance has too-often been directed at friends and colleagues.
I will leave the hate-filled comments for now, but I want to discuss two kinds of comments that have been raised frequently: equality – that we are one and all part of the same movement and that colonialism is innate to Euro-Canadians, or settlers, and that is the only way we can act.
The first suggests that we are all part of an economic and social problem and that somehow the rights of Indigenous peoples and our obligations to them are a special interest in a global movement. It is true that Indigenous peoples are entangled in social and economic systems often not of their making, but to urge Indigenous peoples to “occupy” the Square today with us today is an affront to reality of the situation and the history of here.
This Square is occupied and has been via the HBC, England, the Colony of Vancouver Island, Victoria, BC, and Canada. Notwithstanding these occupations, Lekwungen, Esquimalt and WASANEC peoples have never surrendered their lands and they continue to persevere amidst great pressures. It is because of this recognition that those of us who meet today, do not meet under the banner of occupation but rather in solidarity with global movements to challenge the power structures that we face and also facing the history of the place where we are right now and how we come to be here. We are many.
Secondly, there is a suggestion that colonialism is the way that Euro-Canadians behave – innately. Moreover, it is contended that colonialism benefits Settlers and does harm to Indigenous peoples. While I am certainly not trying to say that Indigenous peoples aren’t harmed by colonialism or that settlers do not benefit from these relations, I think we also must realise that these actions are not innate to us, they are taught, and they do us a world of harm. They limit how we think about ourselves, the care we offer, and reward exploitation of people, land, and resources.
So, I believe, we need to recognise the connection between economic and capitalist inequalities and injustices and colonial mentalities and work to believe that we are not stuck in these relations. We need to believe that we can work creatively and caringly for ourselves and each other and build other forms of relationships.”
There is another global day of action being organized for 11/11/11 called Occupy the World. I should make clear that I have a positive and sympathetic take on it. My reflection regards the poster slogan “We are One.” I contest the idea that we are one, both as a general position on the human condition but also in the context of participants of occupy movements. I don’t think participants in the movement are one. I think many have come together for mutual action on shared and divergent concerns. Equating, or conflating, this coming together for mutual action with “uniformity” is a misleading description.Thus I agree with those that say, that we are not one we are many–as my friend Marc Pinkoski said on 15 October 2011.
The previous global day of action under the banner of Occupy on 15 October was a global day of solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement which has swept across the U.S. and sprang up in numerous Canadian cities and cities around the world. But it was more. It was a global day of solidarity fostering some shared aspects between various movements around the world which in a number of ways inspire the occupy movement: The Arab Spring, The Indignato movement in Spain, and the various movements against austerity measures coming down on societies across Europe and the world.
From my view, and I suspect the view of many others who have participated in these local and global movements, these are constructive political spaces from which to contest the dominant order and, more importantly, to begin to break bread with each other. Begin to find and practice alternatives. Perhaps learning and hearing that some of these alternatives have already been found and have been practiced for a long time below the mediated rhetoric and physical infrastructure of state authoritarianism, globalization and violence. A number of people in the movement are building new relations and creating new kinds of relationships. This is all aspirational, inspirational and brings a politics of hope and mutual caring and sharing to the forefront.
It is not a naive politics. It is a politics that persists through an awareness of the social, political economic injustice that seems ubiquitous and nearly everywhere. An awareness that injustice is not merely historic, it is ongoing in the present and will be happening tomorrow too. That said it is not natural. Not inevitable. Not total. And rarely, if ever, final.
As more than one thinker as tried to show us, forms of freedom and contestation exist even in conditions of domination. In this movement of mutual action, living the alternative approach is also based on an awareness that alternatives are practice based and living orders. Many know these alternatives are not perfect or utopian. And that to contest the dominant order of arbitrary force, absurd finance and authoritarian conditions requires questioning ourselves constantly. They know that they do not want to mirror the ways that they oppose. They know, as some of my friends and colleagues might say citing one of their influences, that they need the “freedom to make mistakes.” And with that comes the obligation to always question our practices of power and the ethics of our relations.
Thus a robust politics of change in the present requires both critique and constructive change. Critique of modern order and the local and global institutions that are set up to govern subjects for power, profit and control by the few. Critique of ourselves and our relations with others. Because we cannot struggle against the social, political and economic relations that we oppose and seek to free ourselves from unless we also struggle with our own practices of domination and unfreedom. But, as described above, we need to live constructive change though mutual action and alternative relations
One area where this need for internal contestation has been most apparent in occupy movements is in the tension between a movement that takes on the social, political and economic injustice and subjugation on the one hand, and frames its political activity as “occupation” on the other hand. Specifically in places such as Canada and the United states which are settler states that occupy Indigenous peoples lands. These settler orders live and profit off of this continuing occupation through the mechanisms of the state institutions, industrial-capitalist enterprises, military-security forces, methods of bio-power, and the social forces of racism, ehnocentricism, and gendered and sexed forms of occupation and exploitation. A number of people have written a take on this tension between occupation and colonialism. My own is on this site: Beyond Occupy: A Reflection for Occupy Wall Street Movement from Victoria, B.C.
If I might offer a limited sketch based on my experience, it seems that there are three general ways this kind of internal critique within the movement unfolds or is taken by participants.
1. People are receptive to questions of colonialism. They are open to having new conversations, learning more and symbolically, if not practically, trying to work out what kinds of practices should be taken up within the movement on the matter of colonialism. In fact, on this basis various occupy cities have changed their local names to unoccupy/unsettle and released various kinds of statements of acknowledgment/solidarity
2. People are open to the conversations and questions but are not moved by them. They have their own set of concerns that they locate in the movement and the stick with them. They do not oppose the questions or others organizing around the problem of colonialism, but they remain elusive of them for whatever reasons. This second response does not undermine the possibility of mutual action. Although they are not part of a mutual action on the problem of colonialism. And thus such a standpoint contributes to a movement towards what I called in Beyond Occupy to be “the failure of a generation to address the most profound political fact of our present: colonialism.”
3. Finally, the third response is a reactive one. One that writes out those attempting to build mutual action relations to address the problem of colonialism on the basis that they undermine the “unity”, the “oneness” of what Occupy is truly about. Some go even further than this so called “pragmatics” and deny that colonialism is a true problem. Sometimes they even pull out the worst colonial myths and practices built on the edifice of racism and ethno-centricism to deny that Indigeneous peoples constitute polities and have ongoing claims to their land. This third kind of response to colonialism shows the extremity that notions of oneness and unity constitute.
Indeed, the problems with the language of occupy and the language of oneness are connected. The whole tragic and intertwined lineages of colonialism, nationalism, fascism and occupation illustrate this. Watching the The Killing Fields I am struck that the film ends with “Imagine” playing in the final scene. As the director explains, in many ways the Khmer Rouge believed in a world of oneness without difference” which is why the movie ends with the iconic music. Colonial policy in Canada trades in oneness and uniformity. From the 1857 Act for the Gradual Civilization of the Indian Tribes to the 1969 White paper and contemporary arguments in favour of state and economic supported assimilation. These are grounded in the idea of uniform oneness for Canadians and Canada’s “national interest.” 20th century fascism is the most common example of a vision of nationalism, oneness and occupation taken to the extreme. Aimé Césaire once described Nazism as colonialism applied in Europe in his work Discourse on Colonialism. In short, there are many examples of how occupation and oneness make a terrible and haunting combination.
Hence my own efforts are towards critical and constructive practices that are in the spirit of the many coming together for mutual actions worked out in relations with each other. I think there are many others who operate with similar orientation away from oneness. Oneness, Uniformity, Nationalism and Occupation are not for me. It seems to me that these languages belong mostly to that which I would like myself and my relations to be free from.
Canada and the Empire of Modern Rule: Frames of Colonial and Imperial Governance in a Liberal Democracy–An Abstract
A Working Abstract for conference presentation. I have posted for feedback…….
Canada and the Empire of Modern Rule:
Frames of Colonial and Imperial Governance in a Liberal Democracy
This paper raises the question of how Canada’s liberal democracy frames approaches to governance over Indigenous peoples in colonial and imperial ways. To this end, two predominate approaches are juxtaposed: (1) Assimilation and (2) Limited Accommodation. By juxtaposing predominate approaches two related problems are brought to the foreground for analysis. Firstly, liberal democracy in Canada is deeply connected to practices of colonialism and imperial governance. For example, assimilationist programs developed by liberal democratic institutions to assimilate Indigenous peoples have at times also operated as a program to promote a uniform civil citizenship and a liberal vision of equality. In this way, the work of building and extending Canada’s representative democracy is also tied to the development of Canada’s apparatus of colonial governance. An Act for the Gradual Civilization of the Indian Tribes, 1857 exemplifies this kind of connection. And so do contemporary assimilationist arguments that are grounded in majoritarian liberal-democratic theory. Michael Murphy has aptly problematized this frame in the current post-RCAP era as a revitalization of the civilizationalist tradition that is part of a long genealogy of euro-centrism in western political theory .
Secondly, despite the differences between various colonial approaches to Canada’s governance over Indigenous peoples, this paper argues that they share a profound continuity. This continuity is described as “the empire of modern rule.” By this is meant the presupposition that Euro-Canadian normative orders are superior (more advanced, more legitimate, more authoritative, more proper, more modern, more universal etc….) in relation to Indigenous social, legal and political ways of being. Implicit is the position that Indigenous normative orders are, or should be, subordinate to Euro-Canadian (settler) ways of being. This paper aims to illustrate that the empire of modern rule is a logic that cuts across different frames of colonialism and imperial governance in the Canadian context. In conclusion, the implications that this continuity of empire entails regarding a constructive pathway towards Euro-Canadian (settler) decolonization are considered.
There is a pamphlet issued by Victoria’s Free Knowledge Project (FKP) and Friends. It’s titled
Decolonization and Occupation: Suggestions for a Victoria Statement. (An Offering to Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, October 15, 2011.)
One of its strengths, in my view, is that it tries to offer a starting point for (i) ethical settler position and (ii) an approach to settler decolonization. It suggests a need for a different kind of relationship with First Nations than the predominate colonial relations that have persisted. I attached the PDF On Occupation and Decolonization. I have also placed the text below so that the content can easily be shared and viewed.
There are 4 sections to the pamphlet:
1. Occupy and Decolonise Victoria
2. Local Indigenous Perspectives on Treaty Relationships
3. A Settler Response
4. Suggestions on a Victoria Statement
Redescription readers will noticed some of the content from Beyond “Occupy”: A Reflection for the Occupy Wall Street Movement from Victoria, BC
OCCUPY & DECOLONISE VICTORIA
We are on occupied land. Victoria is located on Lekwungen (Songhees) Territory. The Lekwungen, along with their neighbours the Esquimalt and WSANEC (Saanich), are often referred to in English as Salish peoples. The occupation of these territories has an historic relationship with the colonial and economic forces that are being criticised in the global movement on October 15, 2011. The global critique is based on the notion that our social, economic, and political relationships must be organised in other ways.
We urge that the organisation in Victoria be motivated through a different ethic and expressed through other metaphors than” occupy.” To this point, Tim Smith writes:
The persistence and growth of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the creation of a North American Autumn, perhaps even a Global Autumn beginning with the Arab Spring is impressive. Organizers and participants deserve admiration for the effective dissent they have accomplished, and the constructive possibilities they have opened up in an age defined by the despair. The despair of a uniform world defined the 9/11 era of home foreclosures, prisons, financial disaster, wars and a dis-empowered public that comes with it all.
“Occupy” is more than an unfortunate banner to run a new social movement through. And too frequently it is a typical banner of the euro-american left. A generous reading is that they are inspired by old school 60s style sit-ins and the success of the ‘Arab spring.’ Both iconic examples used civil disobedience in the form of sit-ins in major public spaces. Camp in the square! Occupy the Dean’s office! Sit-in at the legislature! etc.. These are all worthwhile actions.
But an unfortunate tragedy is that the spirit of radical democracy and civil disobedience is limited by and wrapped-up in a colonial lexicon, “occupy,” in places (Wall St., New York, the U.S., Victoria, B.C. Canada) that are so definitively shaped by the history and ongoing practice of colonialism. In fact settler colonialism seems to be the most profound commonality connecting these diverse and distant locations.
Decolonizing the left, along with decolonizing the present in general, is itself a key social movement. The free enterprise vision of Wall Street (which is the superficial face of a corporatist reality) and the counter just society/welfare state vision of its critics both fail to take colonialism seriously. Merely redistributing wealth, benefits and security back to a middle class, which is where much (but not all!) of the support for Occupy Wall Street lies, is a far too narrow project. To the extent that this characterization is true, this strikes me as meaningless to those subject to severe conditions of poverty. And perhaps lacking in significance to those concerned with and subject to the exploitation and violence of settler-state societies.
It is the colonially enforced corporate exploitation of the resources on Indigenous peoples’ land around the globe from which a signifi- cant portion of the wealth circulated through Wall St in question is derived. It seems that any contestation of the way that wealth is managed and distributed can only be ethically worked out by bringing the problem of colonialism to the heart of the movement.
We stand in solidarity and applaud the contesting of the undemocratic, unequal, and socially unjust features of liberal democracies and its system of finance and global governance. And if this movement can take a life of its own and go beyond “occupy” and the concerns of the middle class and take colonialism seriously, it is our hope something powerful could unfold out of the spread of this dissent. But if colonialism is yet again silenced for the sake of a settler Euro-American unity that glosses
over the most profound aspects of the undemocratic, unequal and socially unjust features of our present, then a generation may find they have failed themselves and each other by missing an opportunity to challenge the most profound political fact of our age: the fact of colonialism.
LOCAL INDIGENOUS PERSPECTIVES ON TREATY RELATIONSHIPS:
Nick Claxton (Saanich) has written that
…on southern Vancouver Island Governor James Douglas negotiated 14 land purchase agreements with the indigenous nations of the area. With respect to indigenous fisheries, the Douglas treaties explicitly state that those indigenous groups signatory to the trea- ties have the “liberty to carry on their fisheries as formerly”. If taken literally, those indigenous peoples had a system in place, a system of governance over their fisheries, which indeed formed the core of their traditional societies.
In R v. White and Bob, the judgment is considered the first legal affirmation that the Douglas Treaties are in fact and remain to be valid treaties in accordance to Canadian law. It was ruled that Governor James Douglas who at the time was the Chief Factor in the Hudson’s Bay Company, acted on behalf of the Crown in his negotiations, arguably then the Douglas Treaty represents a Nation to Nation Agreement. The court ruled that Douglas Treaty beneficiaries could hunt in accordance to treaty rights rather than under provin- cial regulations. Since this ruling, Aboriginal and Treaty rights have been recognized and affirmed in the Canadian Constitution under section 35. This is not to say that there is now justice today and the Douglas Treaties have been respected as “International” agreements, but to me strengthens the argument that they should be.
The Douglas Treaty in the eyes of the Crown is in fact a valid treaty, where hunting rights extend into the whole of the traditional territory of the Saanich, and there is a traditional fishery of the Saanich that needs to be protected. This is by no means a complete picture; the courts have sidestepped the issue of a right to governance, which I would argue is vital to understand. If the Treaty is a “treaty” or an international agreement, then the Saanich do have a right to govern themselves, fishing and hunting included, within the whole of their traditional territory. Yet the courts, which are a non-indigenous institution, and adversarial in nature, are not the solution.
As Saanich we should not depend on the courts to tell us what are rights are and how to live by them. We instead have the answers within our community, homelands, and our culture. Just ask any one of our respected elders or listen to the teachings of our ancestors; they have not proven us wrong. The courts only reaffirm that these teachings need be respected.
If the Crown continues to maintain that the Douglas Treaty is in fact a valid treaty between the Saanich and the Crown, then a true treaty relationship must be restored. In terms of fisheries then, the Saanich continue to have jurisdiction over their fisheries and do have the right to govern all fisheries that are taking place within the bounds of the Saanich Territory.
In the context of the contemporary treaty process, the Te’mexw Treaty Association explains that they are formed from five Coast Salish First Nations:
Songhees (Lekwungen), Nanoose (Snaw’Naw’As), Beecher Bay (Scia’new) T’Souke and Malahat. The five Te’mexw Member First Nations initially joined together with one common objective to support one another and combine forces to work together under one organization to negotiate a treaty under the British Columbia Treaty Process. Songhees (Lekwungen), Nanoose (Snaw-naw-as), Beecher Bay (Scia’new), T’Sou-ke, and Malahat all share common history, culture and experiences with federal and provincial governments. Each of these member first nations is descendants of the original signatories of the Douglas Treaties on the mid-nineteenth century. James Douglas signed fourteen treaties on Vancouver Island during this period.
These Douglas treaties encompass approximately 358 square miles of land around Victoria, Saanich, Sooke, Nanaimo and Port Hardy. These treaties were never honoured or recognized by both the federal and provincial governments.
Our objective to negotiate a treaty that is acceptable to each of our individual Nations that will sustain us well into the future for our children and great grandchildren and the many generations to come.
It is clear from the statements that Indigenous Peoples are minimally in agreement that they wish to be enter into fair and just relationships with Settlers. It is also clear that Indigenous Peoples do not wish to assimilate into foreign cultural and political systems. What are our obligations to these political but non-assimilative relationships?
A SETTLER RESPONSE
The linked concepts of “reconciliation” and “decolonization” are taking leading roles in conversations about the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian state. In particular, they have become a central focus of recent interpretations of Constitution Act, 1982 and Indigenous and non-Indigenous jurists conclude that if significant progress towards reconciliation is to be made, it will require work beyond the courtroom and particularly within the public at large. The importance of such a focus is articulated specifically, for example, in the recent Aboriginal title case Tsilhqot’in Nation, where Justice Vickers of the BCSC recognizes in his judgment that “Tsilhqot’in people have survived despite centuries of colonization. The central question is whether Canadians can meet the challenges of decolonization.”
The necessity of a process of reconciliation connected to wider projects of decolonization is further underscored in the work of Cree political scientist Kiera Ladner, who notes that there is much the general public needs to address in preparation for a robust form of reconciliation. She states in her article, “Take 35: Reconciling Constitutional Orders”:
While many Canadians may not be cognizant of their history and may choose to ignore the realities of the present, reconciliation is necessary. It is a necessity for Indigenous peoples as they seek to realize their goals of self-determination, cultural renewal, and economic independence; it is also a necessity for Canadians as they grapple with the demands for a new, or renewed, relationship between Indian peoples and settler nation(s) (Ladner 2010: 281).
At a minimum, true reconciliation and decolonization will require new approaches to conveying information to both Indigenous and non- Indigenous communities. In order to foster these new methods, a small group of us has formed the free knowledge project with an eye to offering existing courses and developing and delivering teaching materials about the Canadian state, including representations of Indigenous peoples, law, policy, research and options. It is important to note that the materials are intended to inform Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences about the actions and attitudes of the Canadian state and its approaches to the issues being raised, not to offer information about Indigenous peoples per se.
Our first venture began in May 2010 when Dr. Marc Pinkoski taught a five-week class on the topic of Anthropology and Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Offered for free in a downtown Victoria café to a diverse audience, Marc drew on courses he had been teaching at the University of Victoria over the past decade. He offered the class in this way to answer calls from students to make the information more widely available, addressing topics including anthropological representations of Indigenous peoples, anthropological science, the role these representations and methods have in Aboriginal rights litigation, and the history of the Canadian state’s and BC’s engagement with Indigenous peoples. In October 2010, Marc offered the course again, expanding it to six classes; and he is currently teaching a nine week version.
Subsequently, we were very fortunate to have had Dr. Michael Asch offer the third free class, entitled Indigenous-State Relations – a six week class framed as “Canadian Studies.” These lectures were based on a number of experiences, but in particular Michael’s many years of teaching and his voluminous research at the University of Alberta and UVic. Dr. Rob Hancock, also presented a four week course on “Aboriginal Rights, Anthropology, and Development in the North.” He focused on the emergence of Canadian Aboriginal rights law in the context of Indigenous resistances to resource development in their homelands, and examined the roles played by anthropologists in this history. Rob is currently teaching in Indigenous Studies at UVic, and has recently returned home from the University of Western Ontario, where he completed a post-doctoral fellowship teaching and writing on anthro- pology and Indigenous political history. Podcasts of the lectures are accessible on the site and video is being uploaded.
Currently, Marc is offering another course on Anthropology and Indigenous Peoples in Canada. This 9-week course is designed from a set of classes he has recently taught at UVic. He has two purposes for offering it: the first is to introduce students to the discipline of anthropology, and the second is to show the relationship of anthropology to Indigenous peoples and the history of Canada. His objective is to answer the calls of many students to make this information more accessible. We also hope that offering classes in this manner may assist those who feel alienated from some forms of learning such as high school or university. The class is free.
This class is open and no registration is required. We ask that students commit to attending as many classes as possible. Classes will run on Monday nights from 7:15-9:00pm until November 28th (except October 31st) at the Solstice Café, 529 Pandora Avenue, Victoria, BC.
Info: email@example.com; or, the free knowledge project on facebook and freeknowledgeproject.wordpress.com
SUGGESTIONS FOR A VICTORIA STATEMENT
Acknowledge that we are on Lekwungen land, territory that has never been ceded and although complicated is Treaty territory.
Acknowledge that Lekwungen, WSANEC and other First Nations from the area continue to endure despite great pressures.
Will take responsibility to learn the history of Vancouver Island and surrounding area, including colonial legal history and the Douglas Treaties.
Will resist framing Indigenous Peoples in evolutionary and euro-centric ways, whether through environmental, technological, civilizationalist or racial terms. We will focus on political, legal and philosophical discourse.
Will be open to cultivating political and social relationships with Indigenous peoples that will effect change.
Will be open to change that may place Settlers in seemingly vulnerable positions.
First of all, I am impressed with the persistence and growth of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the creation of a North American Autumn, perhaps even a Global Autumn beginning with the Arab Spring. Organizers and participants get my admiration for the effective dissent they have accomplished, and the constructive possibilities they have opened up in an age defined by the despair. The despair of a uniform world defined the 9/11 era of home foreclosures, prisons, financial disaster, wars and a dis-empowered public that comes with it all.
That said, to me “Occupy” is more than an unfortunate banner to run a new social movement through. And too frequently typical of the Euro-American left. The generous reading is that they are inspired by old school 60s style sit-ins and the success of the ‘Arab spring.’ Both iconic examples used civil disobedience in the form of sit-ins in major public spaces. Camp in the square! Occupy the deans office! Sit-in at the legislature! etc.. All worthwhile actions.
But an unfortunate tragedy is that the spirit of radical democracy and civil disobedience is limited by and wrapped-up in a colonial lexicon, “occupy,” in places (Wall St., New York, the U.S., Victoria, B.C. Canada) that are so definitively shaped by the history and ongoing practice of colonialism. In fact settler colonialism seems to be the most profound commonality connecting these diverse and distant locations.
Decolonizing the left, along with decolonizing the present in general, is itself a key social movement. The free enterprise vision of wall street (which is the superficial face of a corporatist reality) and the counter just society/welfare state vision of its critics both fail to take colonialism seriously. Merely redistributing wealth, benefits and security back to a middle class, which I think is where much (but not all!) of the support for Occupy Wall Street lies, is a far too narrow project. To the extent that this characterization is true, this strikes me as meaningless to those subject to severe conditions of poverty. And perhaps lacking in significance to those concerned with and subject to the exploitation and violence of settler-state societies.
I suspect it is the colonially enforced corporate exploitation of the resources on Indigenous peoples’ land around the globe from which a significant portion of the wealth circulated through wall street in question is derived from. It seems to me that any contest of the way that wealth is managed and distributed can only be ethically worked out by bringing the problem of colonialism to the heart of the movement.
I applaud the contesting of the undemocratic, unequal, and socially unjust features of liberal democracies and its system of finance and global governance. And if this movement can take a life of its own and go beyond “occupy” and the concerns of the middle class and take colonialism seriously, it is my hope something interesting could unfold out of the spread of this dissent. But if colonialism is yet again silenced for the sake of a settler Euro-American unity that glosses over the most profound aspects of the undemocratic, unequal and socially unjust features of our present, then a generation may find they have failed themselves and each other by missing an opportunity to challenge the most profound political fact of our age: the fact of colonialism.
Note: I am no longer tracking media on Occupy Movement. I have left these up for people who are interested in a sample of coverage between October 4-11.
As the Occupy Wall Street Movement contesting the undemocratic, unequal and socially unjust organization of wealth spreads across the U.S., Canada and cities around the world there has been a lack of mainstream media coverage. Ongoing, I am compiling some links to media, information and coverage here. Please feel free to contribute by posting links or sharing in the comment section.
http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/krystalline-kraus/2011/09/activist-communiqu%C3%A9-occupy-canada-movement (Directory and links to Occupy Movements in Canadian Cities )
October 11 2011
October 10 2011
October 9 2011
October 8 2011
October 7 2011
October 6 2011
October 5 2011
Some Previous Coverage and Commentary