Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

almost there...

One more exam, English 395 (Literature of the First Peoples) at 7pm tonight! Wish me the swiftness of your favourite deities, spirits or animals.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Film Review: Kanesatake: 270 Years of Resistance

another assignment, this one for English 395:

When the “Oka Crisis” came to national attention on July 11th, 1990, I was 17 years old. I distinctly remember an overwhelming desire to grab my father’s old 30-30 rifle and jump on a bus to join my brothers and sisters in arms. Admittedly, I was not very politicized at the time and not particularly strong in my indigenous identity either, but like my good friend Terry likes to say, “I was born at Oka.” 16 years later, and Alanis Obomsawin’s documentary film, Kanesatake: 270 Years of Resistance still manages to evoke a powerful, visceral response. The dispute over the Pines at Kanesatake encouraged crisis solidarity unseen since the 1969 White Paper and created significant political space, resulting in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and in British Columbia, a billion dollar treaty process.

The actions of the Mohawks also inspired a new generation of warriors and radical indigenous political thinkers. Obomsawin’s imagery and narrative inspire indigenous people to stand up and fight and non-indigenous people to question not only their governments but also the very nature of the country they live in. We are presented with jarring visual juxtapositions: familiar moments of humanity and family, against the cold, unfeeling apparatus of the state. While the David and Goliath nature of the struggle is not lost on the viewers, Obomsawin also manages to contrast the very tangible humanity of the indigenous protesters with the inhumanity of the state law enforcement, military and political institutions. The death of Corporal Lemay and the occasional interaction with various Canadian soldiers are brief exceptions, but the overwhelming impression presented is that of reasonable indigenous families compelled to act and an unreasonable, draconian, and faceless state.

Despite the truth-telling nature of documentary filmmaking, and the even-handed impression enhanced by Obomsawin’s calm, unassuming narrative, this is not an objective piece of work. She is clearly telling the story from the point of view of the Mohawks and it is a story that needs to be told. Ironically perhaps, the Oka Crisis occurred around the same time as the first Gulf War, which ushered in a new era of information warfare and media manipulation. Films like Kanesatake: 270 Years of Resistance are more important than ever, in preserving the point of view of the oppressed, and providing inspiration for anyone who desires peace, dignity and justice.

Friday, December 01, 2006

the father of liberalism and us po' indians

an assignment from my POLI 300B class:

“God gave the world to Adam and his Posterity in common,” states John Locke in Chapter V of his Second Treatise of Government. With man’s dominion over the world and its bounty divinely granted the stage was set for the subjugation of Indigenous peoples and the theft of their lands. Locke’s view on property is rooted in man’s inalienable property in his self and his labour. By extension, “Whatsover…he hath mixed his Labour with…thereby makes it his Property." Locke goes beyond the previously accepted doctrine of Terra Nullus. His views on property, dominion and appropriation were an advance in colonial thinking.

Like many of his contemporaries, Locke believed that America was a land of unlimited plenty. He uses the analogy of one man drinking from a river and the negligible impact on another’s ability to drink from the same river. Further, Locke believed that man’s right to subdue, cultivate and improve the earth through his labour granted him the right of appropriation. And while his logic recognized the Indian’s right to that which he hunted or fished, Locke believed that the Indian of the Americas wasted the land he occupied. He believed the Indigenous ways of life and political organization to be inferior to that of the European stating, “There cannot be a clearer demonstration of any thing, than several Nations of the Americans are of this, who are rich in Land, and poor in all the Comforts of Life; whom Nature having furnished as liberally as any other people…”

Interestingly, this rationalization did not prevent the forced removal of the semi-sedentary, corn-farming Kanienkeha people who once lived where the city of Montreal is now located. This is indicative of the circumstantial nature of all colonial rationalizations. Despite thoughtful philosophy and the damage caused and/or justified, one cannot ignore the reality of colonial “necessity.” The modern reality and legacy of colonialism is that it has become increasingly inconvenient, morally and economically, for state governments in the Americas to truly reconcile with Indigenous people.