From Palestine to Turtle Island: There is No Justice on Stolen Land, Part 2

Yesterday, Monday March 2nd, I was given a bullhorn for the first time and given a pretty wide berth to speak my mind on political issues to a crowd that had assembled to protest apartheid in Israel. The event was a march to kick off Israeli Apartheid Week across Canada and around the world and I was one of three people delivering  speeches before we set off on the march itself, which eventually took a snaking path from the campus of the University of Waterloo (which I attend), to the nearby Wilfred Laurier University. While the other speeches dealt with why it was that we were marching and protesting, mine took a slightly different direction, speaking from the perspective of an indigenous person living in Canada I compared the historical and current policies of Canada concerning Indian peoples with the apartheid practices of South Africa and Israel.

Anyway, Sunday night I posted what I was going to say, and in light of not yet being able to upload my video and photos of the event (which will be soon, fingers crossed), I am posting the finalized version of my speech, which I completed literally about five minutes before I got up and spoke.

Pōsōh, Sekoh, Boozhoo, O-si-yo, Yá’át’ééh, Hau, Marhaba, Bonjour and Hello

As we gather here today, and throughout this week to assert our opposition to colonialism and apartheid, and to demonstrate our solidarity with struggles for dignity and self-determination of the people of Palestine, as an indigenous person living here in Waterloo, I believe that we cannot speak meaningfully about apartheid in Israeli without speaking first about the realities of apartheid here in Canada. The truth is that Canada’s reservation system and treatment of Indigenous peoples was closely studied by the planners of apartheid in South Africa, though this fact has become mostly lost in the chapters of Canadian history. More recently, many defenders of Israel have argued that “Canada’s values are Israel’s values”, and you know what, they’re right: the dispossession and theft of Palestinian lands, and the creation of Palestinian open-air prisons and Bantustans, mimic Canada’s own historical policies.

From its very foundations, Canada has been based on the theft of Indigenous lands, and the genocide and displacement of Indigenous peoples. In crucial ways, the Canadian state’s treatment of Indigenous peoples, historically and currently, can be described as an apartheid system — from the imposition of the Indian Act, band councils and reservation system, to stolen children and residential schools; from the continued theft of lands and resources by governments and corporations, to the appropriation of native traditions and culture.

Here in Waterloo, and all over Canada, we live in colonies, indeed, we exist in just an older and more established version of the settlements now built illegally in Palestine. To this day Canada’s colonial past is celebrated in the names of our streets, our towns and our cities, while erasing the genuine identity of the original peoples of this land. This colonial project continues to this day, encroaching on native land with golf courses, subdivisions, highways and major international sporting events. As we stand here today on the territory of the Haudenosaunee, more commonly known as the Six Nations or Iroquois, we can look around us and see that there are countless other examples of this colonialism in practice today. For instance, we now stand witness to the environmental devastation that is being inflicted on the Indigenous communities of Western Canada, such as those who live downstream from the Alberta tarsands, a people whose traditional livelihoods are in the process of being destroyed in order for Canadian corporations to ensure a cheap supply of oil. This type of colonial attitude is also reflected in the obliviousness, and lack of response, by the Canadian authorities and wider population, to the horrifying reality of hundreds of disappeared and missing native women in the past three decades alone.

In the face of more than five hundred years of Western colonialism, we in the Indigenous communities of this great continent continue to resist and survive, from the jungles of Chiapas to the plains of Dakota to Oka, Caledonia, Grassy Narrows and the west coast of Canada. The many and diverse struggles of Canada’s first peoples demands our active support, especially in the face of state repression and criminalization. Non-natives, also have a role to play within their own communities, to further the process of decolonizing Canada the Canadian psyche, and to correct the mistakes and crimes of the past. So, if you are here with us in opposition to Israeli Apartheid, we encourage you to join us in opposition to existing apartheid right here in Canada. Let us support both the resistance of indigenous Palestinians, and the survival and struggles of Canada’s own Indigenous nations.

Finally, I am reminded of a poem by Leonard Peltier, an Indian man who has spent more than 30 years in an American federal prison for daring to resist colonialism and fight for the freedom of my people, it is called “The Message”:

Silence, they say, is the voice of complicity.
But silence is impossible.
Silence screams.
Silence is a message,
just as doing nothing is an act

Let who you are ring out and resonate
in every word and every deed.
Yes, become who you are.
There’s no sidestepping your own being
or your own responsibility.

What you do is who you are.
You are your own comeuppance.
You become your own message.

You are the message.

From Palestine to Turtle Island: There is no justice on stolen land.

In the spirit of Crazy Horse

Mitaku Oyasin

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Posted on March 3, 2009, in Imperialism & Colonialism, Indigenous Struggles, Radical History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on From Palestine to Turtle Island: There is No Justice on Stolen Land, Part 2.

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