Splitting the Sky to Speak at University of Waterloo

03/31/2011 19:00
03/31/2011 20:30

The University of Waterloo Department of Religious Studies, with support from the Department of Religion and Culture at Wilfrid Laurier University and Waterloo Public Interests Research Group (WPIRG – wprig.org) are proud to present:

Speaker: Splitting the Sky

Topic: The Sun Dance and the Gustafsen Lake Standoff

Date: Thursday, March 31, 2011

Location: Hagey Hall 373 (University of Waterloo)

Time: 7:00pm to 8:30pm

In 1995 Splitting the Sky led a major Indian uprising in Canada at Gustafsen Lake, British Columbia. Preceding what would be the most costly RCMP operation in Canadian history, he was the leader of a Sun Dance which had been practiced at the site annually since 1990. He had been participating in Sun Dances in the North America since 1981 and even danced in the 1994 ritual at Gustafsen Lake. The Sun Dancers who took occupation of the sacred grounds sought an international investigation into the matter of unceded indigenous territory, believing that sovereignty would help to alleviate the suffering caused by the actions of the various institutions of the Canadian state.

Local elected indigenous leadership, the media, and the state would publically challenge the validity of the beliefs of the Sun Dancers, arguing that political militants were using the religious ritual to advance their agenda. Only when internationally recognized Dakota spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse and Cree Medicine Man John Stevens entered the camp three weeks into the standoff would the confrontation come to an end. It was later discovered that Splitting the Sky had suggested both Looking Horse and Stevens as mediators for the conflict, a suggestion that was initially ignored by law enforcement.

Splitting the Sky is the English translation of his Mohawk name which is Dacajeweiah. He was born in Buffalo, New York on January the 7th, 1952 and was colonized as John Boncore. He was also to become known as John Hill.

From the age of 7 Splitting the Sky survived many years in New York State foster homes and youth detention centers which sought to brutalize him with torturous punishment for resisting forced slave labor, attempted sexual assaults, genocide, culturalcide, family and community annihilation, and emotional and spiritual deprivation. As he grew older and released himself from youth incarceration he found himself alone, lacking life’s basic skills to function as a balanced entity, and without any support system, he found himself in a situation in which he was arrested for attempted robbery.

Splitting the Sky was sentenced to 8 years in prison. Eventually John Dacajeweiah Hill would become the only man convicted as a ringleader of the infamous 1971 Attica State Prison rebellion. He was listed by former UN Ambassador Andrew Young of the Carter administration as the number one political prisoner in the USA in 1975. These events have been popularized in film, notably in Against the Wall (1994) starring Samuel L. Jackson and Anne Heche, and Attica (1980) starring Morgan Freeman. Numerous documentaries have been made including, most recently, The Ghosts of Attica (2001).

Life has held many experiences for Splitting the Sky. Upon release from prison Splitting the Sky became the Eastern Regional Director of the American Indian Movement. He became involved in a major standoff at Ganiekeh in upstate New York. As well, he founded an organization to unite all Indigenous Peoples into a great confederation, known as the League of Indigenous Sovereign Nations (LISN).

In 2001 Splitting the Sky published his autobiography titled From Attica to Gustafsen Lake: Unmasking the Secrets of the Psycho-Sexual Energy and the Struggle for Original Peoples’ Title. The book recounts his religious epiphany, his subsequent pursuit of indigenous rights, and his role in and defense of the actions at Gustafsen Lake. From the outset of the 1995 incident he was the spokesperson for the occupiers and was responsible for securing international support.


Posted on March 30, 2011, in Immigrant Struggles, Imperialism & Colonialism, Religion & Spirituality and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Splitting the Sky to Speak at University of Waterloo.

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