The KW White “Left” is at it Again
This week, on Friday evening (the 12th), there is an event being put on on at the University of Waterloo’s campus that is being referred to as a “Six Nations Solidarity Teach-In.” This event is in response to another one that will be hosting anti-Native propagandist and “journalist” Christie Blatchford. This, in principle is a good thing. Blatchford has recently written a book, Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy and How the Law Failed All of Us, and her anti-Native work in this book as well as elsewhere needs to be confronted and exposed for what it is – apologism for white power, imperialism and settler colonialism. So, like I said, this kind of thing is good, in principle. However, any good is tossed out the window by the teach-in’s organizers because of how the event is being put on.
So, what is so bad about the event? Well, as it currently stands, this event will be lacking Native voices. A concerned comrade and I questioned the organizers on the event’s Facebook page with regards to who will be giving the teachings and what kind, if any, Native presence there would be at the event. We received a private response. We believe this is because the organizers of the event did not want to publicly expose the lack of Native involvement in the event because it would have been a major embarassment.
I do not want to seem like I am attempting to air dirty laundry here, but the other Native activist and I were so incensed by the organizers of this event, and their condescending response, that we feel we have no just course left before us other than to simply tell it like it is, and, more importantly, to expose the event and the wack principles on which it is built for what is, an insult to the Native community in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and elsewhere.
This is what we got [note that I have excluded the names from the original message]:
Thank you for your questions on facebook. I thought I should give you a direct response as opposed to openly on facebook as we are still working out the arrangements and some of the details are not fit for public display as you will read in a moment.
We are organizing this teach-in through a collaborative effort with the Six Nations Solidarity Network – with individuals and groups from KW, Guelph, Brantford, Hamilton, and Toronto (among others) – in response to the Blatchford book (seehttp://toronto.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/4957). This teach-in will be approached specifically from settler perspectives in accordance with the Two Row Wampum agreement of 1613 and specifically under our responsibility, as settlers, to the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784 which “guarantees forever” six miles deep on either side of the Grand River to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. However, some of those speaking may include some of our allies from Six Nations. However, our allies are discussing issues, which we are respecting, about speaking to non-native audiences for various reasons that are not my place to share here.
We are approaching this teach-in from the framework instilled in the Two Row, the first agreement between the Dutch and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in 1613. While, as depicted by the two purple lines, the settler ship and the Haudenosaunee canoe traverses the same river – divided by the three white lines representing peace, respect, and friendship – we remain on same river together. We do not take this lightly and believe that our ship has been hijacked by the very propaganda that Blatchford presents. This is the same colonial perspective that has led to the widespread theft of lands on the Grand River territory and the attempted assimilation of “Indians” into white society through the residential schools. Blatchford re-wraps these perspectives in new book bindings and is trying to shock other settlers into harsher measures for land defenders, and not just on the Grand River.
Therefore, in accordance with the principles of the Six Nations Solidarity Network, we understand that we do not speak for the Six Nations people and we will not pretend to. We plan on facilitating a discussion on settler responsibility through employing a basic teach-in model that will foster participatory dialogue instead of passive observance. We plan on providing the basic information in a package that settlers should know around the occupation of Douglas Creek Estates in February of 2006 that counters the narrative Blatchford presents in her book of simply the descent into chaos and the failure of law and order in Caledonia. We do not intend to pontificate about settler responsibility – instead we want to foster dialogue that will lead to meaningful reflection and then further participation in the ongoing struggle for decolonization and Six Nations sovereignty. This resource package is for people to take home and “do their own homework” as it were. In other discussions with our allies from Six, the process of decolonizing the mind is an imperative discussion between non-natives.This event before and after Blatchford will focus on the settler row of the Two Row and the process of regaining control of our ship.
While this is not an ideal situation as responding to Blatchford legitimizes her perspective, and the other Gary McHale’s within Turtle Island, we thought we should respond somehow. We think this is a creative response that fosters a deconstruction of colonization in the face of one of the most repsected propagandists in Canada. I hope you will understand that this is not an ideal answer to your question publicly on facebook. As of today, we cannot guarantee who will be speaking from the Network as folks traveling from out of town will be late if they can make it at all. And, as for our friends from Six who will be there, it will be up to them if they want to participate.
This email confirmed our concerns. As I noted above, this event, as it stands, will be lacking Native voices. However, what truly makes this an affront to the Native community is that the organizers of the event are attempting to hide behind the principles of the Two Row Wampum in order to cover and explain away the lack of Native voices (and those that have apparently been invited may not even attend the event). The truth is, and the organizers of this event should be completely aware of this, is that there are many Native activists in town, not just myself. There are other individuals and Native centres speckled throughout Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge. Together we represent people from Six Nations, Tyendinaga and other Rotinoshonni communities, as well as Ojibwa, Delaware, Cherokee, Inuit, Metis, Menominee and those who are just exploring their heritage, having been assaulted by assimilation. Yet it would seem that none of these individuals or groups were approached. This is an insult, and just another sign of the nature and direction of the local white “left.”
What makes it all worse, as I said, is that they are saying that they are doing this in accordance with the principles of the Two Row Wampum. In other words they are appropriating an important and sacred indigenous political tradition to EXCLUDE indigenous voices from the event.
If I wan’t already not able to attend because of committing to being at Palestinian Nights, and event being put on by another student group, Students for Palestinian Rights, I would not attend this event anyway, simply out of disgust.
Unfortunately this is typical of the white “left” in this town.