Reconciliation as Liberation of Peoples and Lands
Wendy Lynn Lerat, 11/12/15
I am so very blessed. My Father surrounds me with so much love. His creation is so very beautiful. I am thankful for the blue sky on a warm morning, fresh snow on a winter’s morning, the sound of birds chattering away and the magical sound of their wings as they fly as one into the trees. I am thankful for the peace around me.
I am also very thankful for the young people in my life. Their words inspire me. Though I have been born into a period of great darkness, there is light all around me. I struggle each and every day to keep my eyes on You. I am thankful for Your goodness, kindness and love for I know in my heart that You are for us and not against us. And for this, I am so very, very thankful. Your mercy is still here for each one of us this day. I understand this to be true. I ask that the Spirit of Truth be poured out upon this great land. It is a good day to turn towards the path of light and begin the journey back to living how we are created to live. It is time to become human again.
The Global Crisis and the Colonial Establishment of So-called Canada
Earlier this week, Justin Trudeau is quoted as saying a new relationship with Aboriginal people needs to be established based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership, and that he knows that “renewing our relationship is an ambitious goal, but I am equally certain that it is one we can, and will, achieve if we work together.”
Speaking at the Assembly of First Nations, he said: “I promise you that I will be your partner in the years to come, and hope that you will be mine,” he said. “We have much work to do together.”
Politicians are amazing. They surround themselves with thinkers who are master manipulators of the public discourse. They scan the landscape of public opinion and strategically choose to address the ‘key issues’ around them, including the language of discord around them, and define common themes with ‘key messages’ to read from their approved scripts.
In a YouTube interview with Catherine McKenna on December 1st, Perry Bellegarde was asked the significance of Indigenous Peoples’ voices being part of the climate talks in Paris (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7D... ). His performance is amazing. A year ago, he wouldn’t even engage in the topic as a politician. Listening to him in the interview, an uninformed listener would believe him to have been a great climate crisis warrior.
According to the politicians of the world and their publicists, the Paris conference is a make-or-break moment for the ‘United Nations’ of the world on their collective response to the climate crisis. Current commitments have made ZERO impact as far as stabilizing emissions and averting worse case scenarios – the world is now locked into them. If Paris discussions fail to engage the nations of the world in commitments that take aggressive action to halt emissions, and they will, the world will be left without an agreement on collective global action - global ‘government leadership’ to solve this global crisis.
The only hope for a sustainable future for future generations is sustained grassroots resistance and revolt against this global system that TODAY is destroying our world.
The global crisis is very real. This Beast, the global Empire, is made up of an interconnected conglomerate of both the colonizing and colonized ‘nations’ of the world, and it has its grip on the lands of every continent of our beautiful world. This BEAST is the source of the global crisis unfolding. The system that supports it is fueled by reckless ‘resource development’ and understandings around perpetual ‘growth’ and ‘development’ that advance the exploitation of limited ‘resources’ – this path is unsustainable. Empire itself, because it is locked into the way of knowing, the ideology, that is the root cause of this destruction, will witness its own destruction. This is inevitable. Why? Because this global system is incapable of responding to the current global crisis. It is like a machine that cannot be stopped from within.
Today, what is urgently needed is a collective grassroots response that literally shuts down this machine, challenges the colonial establishment, and acknowledges the urgency and significant risk in leaving the collective response to the current global crisis in the hands of those with power and influence within global Empire. Western ideology, that has spread like a cancer across our world’s creation, must be challenged. Grassroots people must take back, re-establish, their authority over local livelihood decisions. Local areas that begin NOW the journey to taking back authority over livelihood decisions will fair better than areas that do not.
Living in a city is the worse place to be as this crisis deepens.
Reconciliation & Rights
Here on the People’s Island, among the most oppressed, there are those who cling to the grand sweeping promises and acquiesce to the language of relationship as defined by so-called Canada, the oppressor of Original Peoples of the People’s Island.
With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's completion and publication of its final report in May, here, within so-called Canada, there is much ‘talk’ about the need to ‘heal’ and establish a new relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. When Justin Trudeau states that the nation-state of Canada intends to establish a ‘new relationship’ based on recognition of the rights of Original Peoples, then a good place to look for guidance on what this will look like is the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP).
In an article published on November 12, 2015 on thestar.com:
“Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett says the new Liberal government will rebuild the relationship with First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples by including them in every decision that affects them and their land.
“That means starting out right, such that everything has been considered before a decision is taken so that you can find that win-win of ‘you can develop there but not there,’ ” Bennett said in an interview this week, when asked how the Liberals plan to make good on their promise to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave that sentiment a boost when he told his new cabinet ministers in their mandate letters: “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples.””
Let’s take a brief look at some of the articles of DRIP and reflect on why they are so very relevant TODAY for Original Peoples - especially those who are engaged in supporting the liberation of Original Peoples and their lands.
Article 3: The right to self-determination
The Original Peoples of this great land have the right to self-determination and self-government as defined by ourselves. Not some corrupted colonial interpretation of self-determination such as the one on the website of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada that defines self-government as:
“The inherent right of self-government does not include a right of sovereignty in the international law sense, and will not result in sovereign independent Aboriginal nation states. On the contrary, implementation of self-government should enhance the participation of Aboriginal peoples in the Canadian federation, and ensure that Aboriginal peoples and their governments do not exist in isolation, separate and apart from the rest of Canadian society.”
Original Peoples have the right to self-determination and the growing pan-Indian sovereigntist movement will accept nothing less than sovereignty in the international law sense. Why? Because we are sovereign peoples within this sense. Why would we accept less especially TODAY when it is becoming increasingly clear that it is only through the sovereigntist position that the insanity unfolding around us can be checked?
Article 13: The right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies.
Article 18: The right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.
Given the current global crisis and the urgent need for Indigenous/Original Peoples to re-establish the ability to protect lands and its peoples from further exploitation, it is imperative for this article to be interpreted as foundational. Previously established institutions and elected individuals can no longer, within the current global crisis, be recognized as legitimate, and Original Peoples must have opportunity to redesign anew, if they so choose, the processes established by others for choosing spokespeople using processes defined by Original Peoples. In addition, Article 35 identifies the right to determine the responsibilities of individuals to their communities. Both of these are necessary to ensure that grassroots Original Peoples’ right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights are not violated. Article 19 articulates the right that Original Peoples have that nation-states MUST consult and cooperate in good faith through representative institutions defined by Original Peoples to ensure that nation-states obtain free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them. Unless the opportunity to redesign established processes is provided, this article is violated.
Article 20 speaks to the right of Original Peoples to be secure “in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development” and that Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, economic and social systems or institutions to establish this security in ways that effectively establish this security that are uncorrupted by colonial government interests. Article 25 goes hand-in-hand with this: “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.”
Original Peoples have the right to take whatever steps deemed necessary by them (according to our own defined processes) to uphold our duty to those not yet born - regardless of its impact on the ‘economic’ interests of the nation-state of Canada.
Article 23: Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to self-determination
As the Original Peoples of the Peoples’ Island, we have the right to determine what the critical issues are for ourselves and future generations, and to exercise complete autonomy over the necessary strategies that will address the critical issues we define. Today, the ‘development’ agenda among the colonial state, Indian elites, and industry is pre-determined. Unless grassroots Original Peoples have the opportunity to be part of a meaningful process that provides their voices meaningful engagement in determining decision priorities and strategies to address the critical issues within this current global context this right is being violated.
Of greatest significance specific to the violation of the oral version of treaties is Article 26, 29, 32, and 37: “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired”; “the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources”; “the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories”; “the right to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements concluded with States or their successors and to have States honour and respect such treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements”.
Within the context of this current global crisis, unless Original Peoples and their lands are liberated, free from further destruction, and the PEOPLE FREE to determine their own way forward, there can be no reconciliation.
Post-colonial consciousness is THE defining political and social force TODAY.
An important aspect of Western ideology is the idea of ‘development’ that can be traced back to early European societies and the dogma around man’s God-given duty to make more ‘productive’ the natural world over which he understood ‘man’ is the steward over creation. Twisted sense of stewardship but this understanding drives Western civilizations and is the foundation of economics and capitalism, and legitimizes the expansion of Western civilization and the exploitation of lands and peoples. Being ‘civilized’ went hand-in-hand with domination and the taming of lands.
Another aspect of this way of understanding reality is that power and authority is concentrated at the “top”. In the medieval period this way of knowing gave rise to feudalism and in many respects when I look around me today I ask myself is the social structure of this colonial society any different than feudal Europe? Nationalism and ethnocentricity (the superiority of some races) also crystalized during the period leading up to the “Age of Discovery” (Age of Exploitation is a more accurate term) and both rationalize the on-going oppression of some peoples and justifies the poverty that exists in the world today.
Self-security is central to Western civilization. Its citizens are focused personal security (pensions, insurance, investments) and wealth accumulation (hoarding opposed to sharing). Another cornerstone of Western civilization is its understanding around private ownership of land. Original Peoples of the People’s Island did not have this understanding and its continued acceptance as a legitimate concept perpetuates the class structure and it too justifies the greed, disparity, growing poverty in Western societies around the world where colonization occurred, and the exploitation of lands and peoples that occurred and is STILL occurring. Because colonization is still occurring. Colonization is about the assertion of control, increasing power and control, and gaining dominance over other human beings and creation itself. It is not based on harmony among peoples and the rest of creation.
Hand-in-hand with this is the idea of evolution – that some peoples are more advanced, more developed than others, and that those who are more ‘advanced’ must take care of those who are not because they need to be raised, as a parent raises a child, to full development. Western societies’ discourse is permeated with the concept that there are developed countries and under-developed countries and that Western societies were above those not as developed exacerbating any attempts at addressing the unequal distribution of the bounty stolen from Indigenous lands. Hence, the ‘Indian” as the ‘white man’s burden’.
Wherever colonization occurred, local Original Peoples’ histories were supplanted with the history of Empire, therefore, if one is to have an accurate understanding of global history and the history of so-called Canada one must also SEEK and have an understanding of the history of its Original Peoples otherwise the vision of the future of this great land is a distorted illusion drawn from a deceptive narrative. We must know where we have come from to understand where we are going. Until the cobwebs of ignorance are removed, the truth will remain hidden from the masses and the illusion allowed to continue its deception of all peoples – both Original Peoples and newcomers.
What a testimony to the failure of this colonial empire’s education system and the very values it teaches its young. Here on the Great Plains, after 200 years of colonization, two vastly different ways of knowing are still colliding, and most of the ‘citizens’ of the nation-state of Canada are completely ignorant of the rich heritage they share with the Original Peoples. Rather than a collective common understanding of our history, most settlers are consumed by blatant prejudice towards peoples who have been oppressed and exploited since contact. Few understand what was actually destroyed through colonization. Rather than mutual respect and understanding, there exists widespread racism - from both sides.
What is colonization?
Colonization is the process of one group invading the lands of Indigenous/Original Peoples and displacing tribal peoples, exploiting both the peoples and their lands, and imposing an alternative understanding of reality, Western ideology, on them.
Colonization has been very effective in destroying the societies of Original Peoples on the Great Plains. Here, Original Peoples were subjected to some of the most horrendous forms of the colonial experiment. Colonization and the assimilation agenda was very effective - destroying the very societies if still intact would have had the greatest potential to weather the coming storm. The very knowledge colonization has sought to remove from collective thought through genocide and assimilation policies is the very knowledge we will need to survive.
The Growing Pan-Indian Sovereigntist Movement
Public discourse must experience a significant shift if meaningful adaptation to climate change is to occur. Those who continue to seek recognition as legitimate spokespeople of the grassroots Original Peoples’ voices must be challenged in this period of crisis. Why? Because there is a significant chasm between two vastly opposing perspectives of REALITY today. Those who embrace Western ideology as a legitimate lens with which to understand reality are by aligning themselves with nation-states perpetuating the continued destruction of our world. Given the inability of nation-states to effectively respond to the climate crisis, this is a statement that is increasingly indisputable.
Given that most of these voices are well-positioned within the current class structure, the ‘Indian elite’, the legitimacy of the voices that have established themselves as THE VOICE of Original Peoples must be declared illegitimate as spokespeople and these ones must back-off from further speaking on behalf of Original Peoples until local voices can establish that they either are or are not. The time has come to recognize that the Indian elite are compromised by their personal interests within Empire. These voices, until such time that a legitimate process legitimizes them, do not and cannot speak for the growing sovereigntist voice that is spreading across the People’s Island. The greatest risk TODAY to the pan-Indian sovereigntist movement are the co-opted voices of the Indian elite as it is doubtful that the Indian elite are capable of effectively standing firm on the things that for the sovereigntist are non-negotiable.
The time for promises has past. Today we need action.
I recognize the sentiments among colonial leaders today and the new choice of words appearing in mainstream media. I suspect that the new sentiments more accurately reflect the growing recognition and concern of the nation-state of Canada of the pan-Indian sovereigntist movement and its spread across this great land. It is becoming increasingly clear that a growing grassroots resistance is spreading and gaining momentum among both Original Peoples and settlers who understand the potential for standing in solidarity with Original Peoples as a legitimate response to the climate crisis. Increasingly, mainstream media is manipulating the language of resistance that is crystalizing against the nation-state of Canada. Propaganda from the colonial state is clearly now focused on pacifying the growing resistance through its use of promises around a ‘new relationship’.
Reconciliation, Respect, Co-operation & Partnership
What is unfolding is a rapid awakening that is spreading hand-in-hand with the reality of the climate crisis and the urgent need to re-establish pre-contact protectionism (stewardship as defined by relationship to the land as part of the land within pre-contact tribal societies) and our collective duty to the rest of creation. In addition, many “settlers” are coming to terms with what has happened in the past and the colonial legacy that must be addressed if rapid adaption to this global climate crisis is to effectively occur.
Those who are ‘awake’ – both settlers and Original Peoples - are determined to overcome our collective colonial legacy and this is one of the reasons why the pan-Indian sovereigntist movement is taking off so rapidly. It is gathering strength and those who are involved in this movement are confident, aggressive, assertive, insistent, and desiring a new world from both the Original Peoples’ way of knowing and western ideas. Ironically, this awakening of the need to forge a ‘new’ way forward that brings two worlds together into one, in peace and harmony, is the very place intended as where we were to begin our sacred relationship after our treaty relationship was negotiated in 1874 - according to the oral version of Treaty Four. The coming together of two worlds into one. In the words of my father, “We were to live side-by-side; each to learn the ways of the other”. Everything we received from treaty was to be over and above what we already had therefore the idea that land was sold, ‘ceded’ or ‘surrendered’ is a falsehood. We cannot walk in both worlds.
Treaty Understandings & Treaty Enforcement Today
Our treaty elders tell us that our treaties are sacred and are a bridge to our collective future.
Treaty knowledge is essential today. Our treaties are living arrangements that need to be enforced, not implemented. It is THE PEOPLE who must do this. Not governments nor their officials. Not ‘elected leaders’ nor anyone who has any vested interest in the ‘resources’ of this great land given that the oral version limits use of the land to nothing deeper than 8 inches or 20 centimetres – and that applies to both settlers and Original Peoples.
The current crisis is beyond the ability of nation-states and allies of nation-states to respond to; therefore, in my humble opinion, a critical part of any response to the global crisis here in Treaty Four is treaty enforcement.
Treaty elders have identified treaty principles that guided the treaty negotiation process and to this very day are the foundation of our collective treaty relationship:
- Joint acknowledgement by treatymakers of the supremacy of the Creator and their joint fidelity to that divine sovereignty;
- Treatymakers commitment to maintain a relationship of peace;
- Mutual agreement to initiate and create a perpetual familial relationship based on familial concepts defined by principles of ‘good relations’;
- Guarantee of each other’s survival and stability anchored on the principle of mutual sharing and that both parties would share with one another elements of the gifts given to each from the Creator;
- Sharing arrangement would guarantee Original peoples a continued right of livelihood.
The principles provide a basis for understanding the Original Peoples’ understandings of freedom, individual rights, duties, and obligations. The very term ‘reconciliation’ implies that both parties sat together in friendship in the past; therefore, fulfillment of the treaty relationship requires people being brought together in a spirit of peace, friendship and respect. Reconciliation TODAY requires Original Peoples and settlers to commit to taking care of each other as two from the same family.
Original Peoples did not intend to consent to blanket extinguishment of their sovereign right to ‘title’ of lands by entering into treaty relationship; however, the treaty relationship intended to share territory, jurisdiction, management over the lands and the greater family of creation that co-exists upon the land. Nor did Original Peoples intend to give up inherent right over the ways we would make decisions within our societies – it was through the Indian Act and coercion that our traditional leadership models became delegitimized and replaced by colonial election systems and ‘governance’ models. According to treaty elders by entering into treaty and the very act of treaty negotiation affirms this and any other interpretation is a falsehood.
Reconciliation as Liberation
Relationships are sacred and as such a clear understanding of what a “new relationship” between Original Peoples and settlers is TODAY, within the current global crisis, is also critical. HOWEVER, what this ‘new’ relationship looks like cannot be defined by the colonizer. And those among the colonized who reject liberation of the lands and its peoples as THE fundamental, non-negotiable starting point clearly must be challenged.
Today, rather than taking a no-compromise position on this starting point, colonized voices with vested interest in the status quo are advocating the colonial script and are pacified by the new language of ‘promises’. Most of these believe in the illusion of ‘progress’ and ‘development’ as much as their colonial masters and, because they are invited to wine and dine and attend the closed door meetings, will stand as allies with the nation-state against grassroots people who today demand system change not REFORM. They are co-opted. These voices are corrupted and corrupting. These voices must be challenged today as they are advocating the status quo and today is not the day for any alignment with the status quo.
The reality is these ones have compromised their ability to remain objective as all of them are personally invested in the current system: nice homes, great jobs, extra cash in their bank accounts, ‘plugged-in’ to the people of influence, and therefore oppose any threat to their place in the current class struggle – for, ultimately, a class struggle is what this is. Colonization has created a society of classes. Most Original Peoples are on the very bottom - except for the Indian elite.
Such an immense tragedy that so few people have knowledge of what really happened on the People's Island. Settlers came from a land where there was much oppression/class struggle, war and sickness and brought with them a corrupted way of knowing that brought injustice and greed that has spread like a plague and infested a land of peace. For this is what the elders tell us the People's Island was created for: peace and harmony.
What is reconciliation?
Until Original peoples are liberated and free to choose how to determine their own destiny, there is no possibility of reconciliation. Locked within these chains we live and locked within them we will remain. Reconciliation must liberate the most oppressed and as Cindy Blackstock said:
“Let us resolve to make a difference by putting children first. If reconciliation does not live in the hearts of children, it does not exist at all.”
A good way forward must speak to the livelihood of our children and future generations and if the discourse of ‘reconciliation’ does not it is just another empty word used by the colonizer to pacify us with the language of ‘promises’. To this point, our shared journey has been one of countless broken promises extended to Original Peoples delivered by the colonizers of this colonized and exploited land - one after another. We do not have time for empty words or promises used like dope to continue to numb us, desensitize us, and ultimately control us.
What is reconciliation? It is healing. Healing not only of the damaged and corrupted peoples who walk this land today but healing of the very land itself. Without liberty of the land there cannot be reconciliation. Liberty of Original Peoples and the land itself are two parts of the same coin. And it will be through this liberation that we will save ourselves and others.
Today’s discourse focuses on ideas of separateness, distinctiveness, cultural diversity, ethnocultural accommodation, multiculturalism; however, it is critical for today’s dialogue as this ‘new relationship’ is defined that it be based on a mutual understanding of relationship; mutual friendship & non-interference.
Those who sincerely hope to be part of defining a ‘new relationship’ must challenge the foundations of the nation-state, Western ideology itself, but do so in a way that is based on Indigenous political philosophies that have continued to advance collaboration and cooperation, seek accommodation and coexistence, and one that enables Original Peoples to live in dignity and respect. The process for defining this ‘new relationship’ can neither be defined by the colonial state nor those who understand this process as being driven by so-called Canada. If the process fails to engage the voices of the grassroots voices of Original Peoples then the process is corrupted and will continue to violate the rights, and duty, of the Indigenous, Original Peoples, of this great land. The new dialogue must acknowledge the unique identity and contribution of Original Peoples and embody processes of mutual learning and mutual sharing. In addition, it is critical that any process unleash the collective engagement of the ‘good mind’, using sacred knowledge for collective good, of both peoples, and that the process also address the recognition of Original Peoples as sovereign within the international law sense; embodying self-determination and the liberty of both the lands and the Original Peoples of the People’s Island.
Thunder Sky Waiting