the Anti-Colonial Thanksgiving Dinner
Friday, October 5, 20070 Comments
Anti-Colonial Thanksgiving Dinner poster, 2007
This Wednesday evening over 70 people came out to Dublin St. United Church to celebrate the third annual Anti-Colonial Thanksgiving (A.C.T.). The event was put on by the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement (IPSM), a group who supports indigenous struggles for self-determination and control of their traditional territories. The group expresses solidarity through a weekly discussion group, speakers' panels, demonstrations, and gathering supplies and financial donations for aboriginal groups involved in resistance struggles.
The A.C.T dinner took place near the October 8th Thanksgiving holiday intentionally. It means to remind people that a history wherein Canadian settlers and indigenous peoples had relationships of equality is a lie. Currently Thanksgiving covers up what a genocidal past Canada has so the A.C.T seeks to acknowledge and expose this.
Cailey Campell, one of the A.C.T.'s co-organizers and a member of IPSM described the purpose of the event as; "We wanted to create a space to talk about colonization in Canada and celebrate ongoing resistance."
"It is important to debunk the myths of Canada, that we are or were peaceful." Said Galya over a plate full of salad, soup and grains. "It is not that colonialism 'happened', it's on-going that land, culture, and freedom are being stolen."
A vegetarian meal, spread out over three tables, was provided free of charge through the efforts of volunteers. Once attendees had finished eating the tables were removed and the chairs arranged in a large circle. Three women and one man from different aboriginal backgrounds drummed and sang. Then two of the women, Heather Majaury and Valerey Lavergne, addressed the group.
Heather talked about history, and how her people (and other established nations) had occupied the 8.2 million acres along the Kichesippi River (Ottawa river) pre and post contact. The government of Canada, she explained, uses/used the Indian Act to eliminate aboriginal people legally from the landscape which essentially made them "squatters in our own territory." She drove this point home in the powerful finial lines of a song she wrote: "Parliament is squatting on Algonquin/my grandmother's/my grand children's land."
She explained that the practice of "consult not consent" means even though the Algonquins never gave up their original title to the land, the government is still trying to exploit their resources. Specifically she related this to the proposed uranium mine on Ardoch Algonquin and Shabot Obaadjiwan territories where the government never asked for permission before selling the land to mining developers (Frontenac Ventures Corporation). In response the Native inhabitants created a blockade which is still in place despite a court order forcing them to vacate the land and a lawsuit from FVC for 77 million dollars in damages.
"It is time to wake up", she says. Uranium mining has deadly effects and it's played out so that Algonquin's are protecting Canadian citizens, who signed away mining rights to their land generations ago, from their own government.
Valerey, an Algonquin of Pikakanagan, spoke about the emotionality and spirituality of land claims. She is suspicious of the Canadian governmentÃs efforts to wrap up land claims as soon as possible: she advocates for more time to make these decisions which could legally end her peoples rights (within the Canadian system of law) to reclaim their traditional lands. She has been active in negotiations for years and says it is difficult for everyone at the bargaining table to agree when there is hurt and dysfunction, a direct result of colonization within and between many tribes. In fighting, discrimination because of mixed heritage (inner-racism), and addiction inhibit positive decision making. Also, her people are still struggling with systematic oppression; the denied access to land, food, safe drinking water, and racist government actions, like residential schools and the 60's scoop. From her perspective the government is trying to settle claims unfairly with people who need more healing and education before being able to make unified decisions.
After the speeches, those who remained formed a tighter circle to ask questions and talk. The discussion continued along the topic of uranium mining. A long time activist brought up some scary aspects of the effects of uranium on humans and said; "coal and uranium function as the lungs and liver of the earth, they should remain underground". Uranium mines were discussed in more depth, with the general consensus being that they kill communities through cancers and birth deformities, poisons watersheds, and destroy ecosystems.
Also discussed was the connection that all people, not just natives of this land, have with rivers. One man described them as 'family trees of life' that were blood and trade routes. It was also said that they are what truly defines the people who are dependent on them. The event wrapped up at around 10 o'clock. A suggestion was imparted that people who celebrate thanksgiving could bring up the issues of past and present colonialism in to raise awareness and support for all peoples fighting for a fairer life.
Attendees were offered 'zines (a self published small magazine) of a transcribed interview with Bob Lovelace, a retired Ardoch Algonquin chief. Bob describes the varied negative risks of the proposed uranium mine within it. An audio recording of the interview is available or paper copies can be requested if you email IPSM at ipsm.guelph.com. Donations were accepted and all proceeds are going to support the Ardoch Algonquin blockade of which Lovelace speaks.