Kahsatstenhsera: Indigenous Resistance to Tar Sands Pipelines

A 2013 film from submedia.tv, featuring stories from several First Nations bringing indigenous resistance to the construction of fossil fuel pipelines. Timely and ongoing, a continuation of 500 years of colonialism…

The “Line 9″ and “Energy East” pipelines threaten to bring tar sands “crude” from Alberta for export through ports in the Atlantic. These pipelines will traverse through many Indigenous communities and natural areas, threatening not only the health of the land but the sovereignty of these territories and their peoples. We have teamed up with Indigenous organizer Amanda Lickers to produce a Kahsatstenhsera: Indigenous Resistance to Tar Sands Pipelines. This video will focuses on Indigenous resistance and seeks to build capacity in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities by providing an educational and accessible resource to build awareness across communities. Featuring stories and perspectives from land defenders in Athabasca Chipewyan, Aamjiwnaang, Six Nations of the Grand River, Kanehsatà:ke, and Elsipogtog First Nations, this video will not only educates the public on the issues being faced by pipeline construction and expansion, but showcases Indigenous resistance and provide an anti-colonial lens for understanding environmental destruction.

Mi’kmaq Are ‘Conquered People’ Says Nova Scotia Government Lawyer

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A legal brief submitted on behalf of the province of Nova Scotia denies treaty rights and labels the Mi’kmaq as conquered peoples.

“To suggest that we are ‘conquered’ is a racist taunt,” wrote Millbrook Chief Bob Gloade in a media release. “At its worst, it has been used against Indigenous Canadians to perpetuate or justify a state of inferior legal, social or socio-economic conditions.”

The brief is part of a court case centred on consultation with the Sipekne’Katik Band over a natural gas storage project. The band asked for a judicial review of the provincial permits that approved the Alton Gas project. But a court case about whether the Crown meaningfully consulted with one band over a particular project, has brought up what many are calling offensive arguments about treaty rights that extend to all Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia.

Read the full story on APTN National News.

Recorder Op-Ed: Melody Walker Brook

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“The Indians mascot debases 500 Nations by treating us as all the same”

The Greenfield Recorder has just featured a column in their My Turn section, with Melody Walker Brook’s (Elnu Abenaki) perspective on the Turners Falls mascot/logo debate. A slightly different version of her thoughts appeared in the Montague Reporter recently and can be found in this post. I have reprinted the column in its entirety below; the Recorder’s original can be found here.

Quote:

As I tried to formulate my response to a sports team that continues to hold on to a caricature of an indigenous person as their mascot, I stepped back in order to understand the whole picture.

I looked up statistics surrounding missing and murdered indigenous women.

I looked up suicide rates.

I looked up statistics of heart disease and diabetes.

I looked up incarceration rates.

My Facebook feed this morning was full of images of the Dakota Pipeline Water Protectors and protests in Mi’kmaq territory surrounding natural gas storage sites, both of which are absent on mainstream media sources.

There was even a photo of football players in their Redskins uniforms raising their fists in support of Black Lives Matter and wearing a jersey that proves how others, even other marginalized groups, see indigenous people.

What does this have to do with a mascot in Turners Falls?

Everything.

These seemingly unrelated issues are connected to a theme of invisibility and a lack of empathy for indigenous people, one of the most marginalized populations on Turtle Island. The issues that plague Indian country are symptoms of a much broader problem that perpetuate them.

A mascot that debases more than 500 Nations into a single (and incorrect) stereotype represents more than 400 years of colonialism and is the symbol for a world that has never cared about their suffering.

The people advocating for the mascot do not see the faces of the indigenous children shipped to boarding schools.

They do not see the societies confined to reservations, outside of the public eye, struggling with substance abuse and health issues.

They do not see the constant attack to indigenous values or the bodies of all of those killed creating a country that people are proud to call home.

They see a caricature of an Indian with a headdress, the stereotypical Plains warrior of legend, doomed to fall. The warriors of the past long gone.

They may even think it is honoring them, but, to at least some indigenous people, this is a further affront to countless individuals and groups, shredding every last ounce of their souls to reclaim their past and secure a better future, one filled with pride and the possibility that every other American thinks they have — the pursuit of happiness. Most importantly, people are struggling just to be seen as human beings.

The Turners Falls mascot is a generic “Indian” with the Plains style headdress — in the Northeast. What does that message convey? It has nothing to do with the history of the area.

As a citizen of a local tribe, this mascot does not represent me. It certainly does not honor me. I am hard-pressed to come up with an example in the Northeast of a headdress style similar to the Plains region. It does not fit.

The generic “Indian” mascot, in essence, wipes out the identity of more than 500 Nations, because placing that image in a locale that has nothing to do with the Plains smacks of the message that it does not matter whether they depict local groups or Plains groups: They are all the same.

The regional piece is lost, and all Indians once again are painted in the typical vein of ambiguity and the fake image of the noble savage or the mystical warrior.

When we as a society marginalize and shape human beings into caricatures, we are complicit in the violence against them, metaphorically and literally.

What happens when people are reduced from personhood, and they are no longer seen as human beings? What happens when real human beings are left out of the media or ignored by most people in dominant society? Society can continue to treat them as they always have, while symptoms of what was broken remain in their communities.

Mascots could be a visible reminder of people often forgotten, and yet you do not see their real faces. The mask of what you want Indians to be shields you from the realities of indigenous life.

Misrepresentation is a dishonor. It is more than that. It is a travesty and it is no wonder that in this world, indigenous women are stolen and attacked at higher rates than other populations.

It is no wonder that indigenous people have little to no media coverage of efforts just to be able to have clean drinking water or to safeguard their sacred sites from those looking to turn a profit. Apathy begins when people are young and is perpetuated by those who do not place value on all walks of life.

All “Indians” are just generic warriors or a dying race of people without identity. To mainstream society, they are not people.

We can do better. Change the mascot and teach students how to be responsible citizens in a world desperately in need of them.

*****

Melody Walker Brook is a citizen of the Elnu Abenaki Tribe and is an educator, activist and artisan. She has served on several state level committees, including two terms as the vice chair of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs and as a member of the Waolwozi N.H. Minority Board of Health Steering Committee. She earned a master’s degree from the University of Vermont in history and currently teaches and works at Champlain College.

Brattleboro Historical Society Podcast e72: First Peoples Part 2

More background toward understanding the story behind “How did we all end up in this situation?”  – as I often repeat, it’s all connected.

Thank you to Joe Rivers and Reggie Martell at the Brattleboro Historical Society, for your interest, commitment, and technical skills, in putting this together. It is an honor to work with you toward restoration for the indigenous people, the Abenaki and their ancestors, to their rightful and relevant place. In Aln8ba8dwaw8gan: Askwa n’daoldibna iodali – we are still here.

I appreciate this photo (by Reggie), with our guardian mountain Wantastiquet behind and the provincial flag of Quebec on my shirt, repping for my grandfather, both aspects of the motivation behind this journey of understanding.

 

Alton Gas: Elnu Abenaki Support for Sipekne’katik, Mi’kmaki

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Elnu Tribe of Abenaki has confirmed its support for the Mi’maki community at Sipekne’katik on the Shubenacadie River in Nova Scotia, as they stand in solidarity against the Alton Gas salt cavern storage project. A letter has been sent to the Grandmothers expressing unity and understanding, and upholding the shared responsibilities of the Wabanakiak in their homelands, N’dakinna.

See this post for more background.

Treaty Truck House Against Alton Gas, Mi’kmaki

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Alton Natural Gas Storage Limited is  developing a huge storage site for hydrocarbons (natural gas and others) in Brentwood, Colchester County, Nova Scotia.  They will use water from the Shubenacadie River to flush out underground salt deposits. “During construction of the caverns, brine will be released into a constructed channel connected to the Shubenacadie River where it will mix with the tidal (brackish) river water to maximize dilution.”¹  It will be directly discharged into the  Shubenacadie River through the channel.  The amount of salt from these caverns amounts to over 8 million cubic yards – 500,000 dump truck loads, depending upon how many caverns are created.

This is of great concern to Mi’kmaq citizens, fishers, local landowners, environmental organizations and allies since this unique river ecosystem is home to several endangered and at risk species. The discharge site is near the mouth of the Stewiacke River, one of the last breeding grounds for striped Bass and also habitat for endangered Atlantic Salmon. Despite continued outcry and court challenges from First Nations, local landowners and fishers regarding the lack of consultation and meaningful environmental assessments, the company has received all necessary approval.  An overruling by the Minister of Environment, Premier or Federal Critical Habitat designation could still stop the project before the brine dumping takes place.

Learn more about this immediate significant threat to indigenous rights in Mi’kmaki, on the north central Acadian peninsula.

Maine Senators Collins, King Announce Grant for Wabanaki Women’s Coalition

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U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King announced today that the Wabanaki Women’s Coalition received a total of $336,976 from the Tribal Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalitions Program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.

Read the full announcement.

Mi’kmaq Crisis Counseling Service Launches in Nova Scotia

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‘Reconnection to our culture again is part and parcel of healing,’ says counsellor Robyn Hazard. [Full story at cbc.ca]

Two Mi’kmaw sisters are launching a crisis counselling service for people living on reserves in mainland Nova Scotia. Alsusuti Aboriginal Crisis Counselling Services will combine mental health support with traditional spiritual practices. “Our goal is to try to make sure that we are incorporating our culture at all times,” said Robyn Hazard, who lives in Lunenburg.

Native Groups Demand Protection of Gulf from Oil and Gas Development

The St. John’s Telegram notes a Native alliance formed to oppose exploration and drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with Quebec’s recent lifting of its moratorium. Chiefs from the Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Nations are demanding that federal party leaders tell voters whether they will protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence’s unique and vital ecosystem..