Lacy MacAuley

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a home for my pen, projects, and passions

young indigenous leaders want struggle, and resistance, not appeasement

“We are being attacked. This is a direct war against our people,” said Ojistori:yo (Missy Elliott), a young indigenous community leader of the Six Nations, from the stage at the event “Confront the Invasion Night of Solidarity with the Mapuche Peoples and All Our Indigenous Nations in the Struggle for Indigenous Sovereignty!” Part of the resistance to the G8/G20, the event took place last night at the Steelworkers Hall in Toronto.

The night of solidarity ended well after midnight, with young indigenous leaders taking a brave stance on tactics to oppose the G8/G20 and defend their native land. The event included performances by artists such as Test & Logic, revolutionary hip-hop duo; Danny Beaton, traditional native flute player; and Mario Muñoz, Cuban pianist performing Trova folk music. A clip was shown from El Despojo, a film about the Mapuche people’s resistance to corporate corruption in Chile. As the event stretched well after midnight last night, discussions about the indigenous rights community grew passionate and loud.

Some male elders were "co-opting" traditional practices to push women to the sidelines, said some young indigenous community leaders.

In heartfelt tones, young indigenous leaders expressed that their elders had been too quick to accept pacification, and that they furthermore had been failing to show women in the indigenous community due respect. Speaking at a panel discussion that concluded the evening, the young leaders stated that some of their elders were “ego-tripping” from the posh treatment from police and other institutions that resulted from the from their embracing pacifist nonviolence, and that furthermore they were emphasizing pacifist nonviolence out of fear.

“Are we weak? Are we pansies?” asked Zig Zag (Gord Hill), an indigenous community leader, of the Kwakwaka’wakw nation and the author of “500 Years of Indigenous Resistance.” His questions evoked cheers and laughter from the crowd. “This fear is to control us and to subdue us! Their role is to pacify resistance!”

“We have to embrace different tactics, because our movements are diverse,” continued Zig Zag. These tactics, said Zig Zag, include disruptive tactics to fight for the land. The speaker passionately recalled the militant resistance that happened in Canada 20 years ago. Other tactics involve efforts toward indigenous autonomy and a return to traditional practices, as discussed by Miranda D of the Native Youth Movement, of the West Coast, Secwepemc Territory. “We’re taking actions to be self-sustaining,” said Miranda D, who discussed projects to build traditional houses, as well as fishing, hunting, and collecting native plants, presenting ways to oppose colonialism and the policies of the G8/G20.

“[The G8 and G20] have no absolutely no moral right to dictate policies on our land. This is our land!” said Sharon Sanchez, a young community leader of the Women’s Coordinating Committee Chile-Canada. Sanchez decried local indigenous elders who had told her that her banner, which depicted traditional symbols of indigenous resistance such as an arrow and the Mohawk Nation symbol, was too violent. (The banner design concept may be viewed here.)

“All these nations that are gathering are claiming jurisdiction over our people,” said Ojistori:yo. “That red in the Canadian flag? To me that represents the blood of my people.”

Sexism among male elders

Excessive sexism among male elders was pushing many female community leaders to the sidelines, the young indigenous community leaders agreed.

Lindsay Ganohshan Ohwe Bomberry, a young leader of the Onondaga Nation, Eel Clan, of the Six Nations, expressed concern that many male community leaders were suppressing women during the march earlier yesterday that wove its way through downtown Toronto, with men walking out in front and pushing women to the back and the sidelines.

“We [women] are carrying the weight of a lot of the decisions that our elders have made,” said Ojistori:yo. She said that women were not being given the voice that they were due in the indigenous rights movement, even though it is the women upon whom the community rests. Women hold together their communities as well as the indigenous rights movement itself, she said.

Some of the male elders “have even co-opted our traditional practices” in order to gain more power, with the effect of suppressing the voices of women, said Zig Zag.

An event that almost didn’t happen

Repression within the community had been at the top of the discussion, even though it was state and police repression had almost prevented the event from happening.

Organizers had initially been denied access to the Steelworkers Hall. According to staff at the hall, this was due to a scheduling mishap. (However several of the panelists, as well as Toronto-based community organizers, expressed that a police department had instructed the staff not to allow access to its space.) Organizers sent text messages and posts to Twitter to call for more attendees, legal observers, and indymedia support, resulting in groups of activists in the area reporting.

According to a legal observer, further repression resulted when “a really weird parade of bike cops,” approximately a dozen of them, pulled up onto the sidewalk and began asking harassing questions. The situation was fortunately de-escalated when one of the most vocal police officers turned out to have been an old tennis buddy of one of the activists who was standing in front of the Steelworkers Hall.

G8/G20. They are few. We are many.

"G8, G20. They are few. We are many," were the pounding words from Test & Logic on stage.

Performers at the event included Test & Logic, a socially-conscious hip-hop duo whose beats encourage people to “be strong, get the fear out of your hearts Disrupt the G20!” Inviting the audience to sing and clap with them, Test & Logic’s lyrics ask, “The days will end, get the books off the shelf. The clock is ticking. We’re approaching the twelfth hour. The power of our reality is felt.”

“G8, G20. They are few, we are many,” is the handle of Test & Logic during the weekend summit. It has also become a popular chant during the week of actions in Toronto so far.

The draft G20 resolution, which was leaked to Greenpeace, states the G20’s firm policy stance toward so-called “open markets,” also known as “free trade.” The draft resolution claims that, “open markets play a pivotal role in supporting growth and job creation.”

These “open market” policies are the same policies that give corporations free reign to enter communities, disrupt traditional ways of life, and destroy the ecosystems that traditional communities rely upon. They are policies that allow the rich to amass wealth, while leaving the rest of us poor and subjugated.

The evening of activities, including the artwork, film, and panel discussion, was initially endorsed by the UTSU, OPIRG Toronto, and Young Onkwehonwe United (YOU).

The young indigenous community leaders can be expected to be seen on the streets of Toronto as the G20 meets this weekend.

In the closing words of Sanchez, “Ten times we will triumph!”

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Filed under: activism, climate justice, environmentalism, g20, g8, g8/g20, global justice, human welfare, immigrant rights, indigenous rights, international relations, , ,

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