by Comrade Black
Today has been a big day for those interested in or involved in Indigenous resistance and anti-colonial struggle. It is also a good reminder of how much work remains to be done.
In an interesting symbolic gesture, the city council of Vancouver voted to formally acknowledge that the land which the city is built on is stolen Indigenous lands that remain unceded. This means that no settlement or land treaties were ever made for the territories; and that the city council is now recognizing the Indigenous people have never given up their sovereignty to the land which Vancouver now occupies. In many respects while this move is only a symbolic gesture, many consider it an important first step down the road to ending colonialism. Yet the mayor of the city went out of his way to make it clear the gesture was entirely symbolic and “wouldn’t effect land owners.” So don’t worry, the white supremacist colonial systems and the institution of property are still intact. I am also reminded that when the Occupy Movement was on the rise a few years back, that even this type of symbolic gesture was considered too much by many of the white activists who were occupying already occupied lands for their own struggles.
In what I hope is a more meaningful act, the Supreme Court of Canada – one of the most powerful bodies that make up the nation state -has ruled in favor of the Tsilhqot’in Nation who have been fighting for legal recognition of their Aboriginal title over their traditional lands. The Tsilhqot’in are a Indigenous nation in what is now called Norther BC in the colonial tongue. For those unfamiliar with the history of BC, colonial settlement began here in the early to mid 1800’s, and when the province became part of the Canadian nation state, there still remained almost no treaties between any of the Indigenous Nations and the colonists. This was a violation of both the British colonial laws for settlement, as well as the laws of the new Canadian nation state. In 1862 Small pox broke out through much of the territories desired by the settlers, radically reducing Indigenous populations to only a small fraction of their previous numbers, which allowed for the colonists to usurp the governance of those lands and settle areas which only months before had been inhabited by Indigenous villages. Many Tsilhqo’tin have always stated that the small pox was brought to them as an intentional act of genocide, and the recent work of author Tom Swanky appears to confirm their story. Today’s court ruling doesn’t go as far as acknowledging that the theft took place through an intentional act of genocide, but it does give a place to begin, and gives much greater legal clout to the Tsilhqot’in in future matters pertaining to their lands, waters, and any potential resource extraction. ‘It only took 150 years, but we look forward to a much brighter future. ” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip in one statement.
This decision also sets a legal precedent that other Indigenous Nations may be able to use in their own land claims and challenges to the state; including possible avenues for those seeking to stop pipelines, mining, fish farms, and other exploitation of the land and animals by industry.
Also in the news today, two of the Mi’kmaq warriors who faced off with police to stop fracking for shale gas in their territories have been convicted of weapons charges, but were also found not guilty of many other charges including throwing molotovs and multiple charges of assault on police. In October of last year Germain Junior Breau and Aaron Francis took part in armed the standoff facing off with violent police. Both men have been remanded since October, and will remain there until their sentencing hearing on July 25 at 10 a.m. Breau also still faces another charge of obstruction a police officer.
Resistance to fracking, pipelines, and other resource extraction will only continue to grow, as will repression by the state of Indigenous land defenders and any other groups which challenge state and corporate interests in a meaningful way. We need to support those who are inprisoned for their actions to defend the land, animals, and other people. The warriors from Elispogtog, as well as other long time Indigenous prisoners such as John Graham, Oso Blanco, and Leonard Peltier need our continuing support, as do the various other movement prisoners who have risked their lives and freedom to stop this monster.
I would like to end off by posing a few questions directed towards any non-Indigenous (settler) readers; questions I have been reflecting on myself for a few years.
For those of us who do not recognize the state as legitimate and dream of a world without nation states, capitalism and industrialism; how will we engage with the history which brought us to this place?
If we ever succeed in taking down the monster, the Leviathan, in overthrowing the state will we continue to ignore the terms of settlement negotiated in the previous treaties (where they exist) as the state has done before us?
Will we continue the colonial legacy of occupation and white supremacy that the state was birthed from?
What will the treaties signed between the Nation States and Indigenous Nations mean to the decedents of the colonists who wrote them once the Nation State no longer exists?
If we were to negotiate new terms of relationship, how would we do so while still recognizing the imbalances from which those negotiations begin?
Will Anarchists return lands stolen by our ancestors and recognize sovereignty?
Will we leave a particular territory if we are asked by those who have lived there since time and memorial? Or will we continue to act with entitlement once our common enemy has been defeated?
It’s easy to call ourselves allies, and to claim solidarity in our current context – but what happens when the context has changed and the systems mutually oppress all of us have been overthrown – yet other systems of oppression that may benefit us at anothers expense still exist? If we truly seek to be in actual solidarity instead of just claiming we are, than these are questions we need to be asking ourselves and each other. It would be easy for anarchists such as myself to simply delare that since the treaties were agreements made on our behalf without our involvement by the nation state which we have denounced and declared our enemy, and that we reject their laws as well as the very concept of law – that those treaties do not apply to us. However to do so would be to continue in path set out for us by the existing the legacy of colonialism. If we truly seek to be allies, or accomplices, than we need to figure out how to position ourselves so that our actions and contributions will lead to a future that is different from our current structures in meaningful ways. A world where we don’t dictate the conditions to Indigenous peoples, or benefit from their subjugation and their displacement. Whether we are anarchists, punks, crusties, vegans, animal liberationists, straightedgers, or whatever; we need to answer difficult questions like this in order to ever hope to see a world where our resistance will actually lead to real freedom from oppression and exploitation.