Thursday, June 28, 2007

June 29th: National Aboriginal Day of Action

Tomorrow is the National Aboriginal Day of Action, and it's something you will not have read about on this blog so far. Which is just because there's to much to say, and i'm likely not the person to say it, mainly because i'm not on top of it all!

For a good analysis of the initial call for a day of action, and critique of the reformist and neo-colonial agendas behind this call, see the Discussion Paper on: National Day of (In)Action Proposed by AFN.

While the Day of Action may have started as a neo-colonial containment strategy, giving people a harmless way to vent their anger in order to defuse growing Indigenous militancy, all such "diversions" also run the risk of turning against their creators. And this is clearly worrying some politicians, Indigenous and Settler alike, as much ink has been spilled over the past weeks regarding the fear that things might "get out of hand" tomorrow, that some people may "take things too far". The AFN's Phil Fontaine has pledged to work with the RCMP to clamp down on "illegal" resistance, and even ex-PM Paul Martin had joined the party pledging to devote the "rest of his life" to backing aboriginal rights, but all according to the "proper" channels.

The Mohawk national liberation struggle in Tyendinaga is being framed in the media as a likely flashpoint for resistance tomorrow. Quoting here from a June 27th article in the Bellevelle Intelligencer:

Tyendinaga Mohawks plan to target Highway 401, the town of Deseronto or the CN Rail Line - again - on Friday's national aboriginal day of action, says a local Mohawk protester.

Shawn Brant, the spokesman for a group that has occupied the Thurlow Aggregates quarry on Deseronto Road since March, said there will be activity, likely involving "one of the targets we identified back on April 22," he said. Those targets are Highway 401, the railway and the town of Deseronto.

"The Assembly of First Nations has called for a campaign of economic disruption, and we've committed ourselves to that campaign," he said.

Brant's group already blocked the major CN Rail corridor from Toronto to Montreal in April, stopping train traffic for 30 hours.

The Assembly of First Nations, for its part, is presenting a softer face on the day of action. It initiated the movement with a 2006 resolution, but its website stresses it is not a call for blockades. "We are reaching out to all Canadians and asking them to join us in peaceful rallies and events and call on the federal government to work with us to build stronger First Nations and a stronger Canada," the website reads. "We want to build bridges - not blockades - with Canadians."

But Brant said that should not be done at the expense of making a statement.

"We do see it as an opportunity for that, and as well I think the message has to be clear," he said. "June 29th is about saying to people that we will not live with these indignities, so in 10 years time we're not talking about the same crisis as we are now.

"We're a little bit weary of always making concessions. On that day, we're going to ask for the understanding of the non-native community."

Also perhaps relevant in this regard is this article from the June 28th London Free Press:

Native warriors across the country plan to keep a close eye on tomorrow's events near Deseronto in case police attempt forceful tactics to stop Mohawk blockade plans.

The political manoeuvring of Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine and other band chiefs to distance themselves from blockades has left the Tyendinaga Mohawks seemingly alone in the runup to the proclaimed native day of action.

"They are not alone," said one well-connected source outside Tyendinaga. "Warriors from across the country are keeping an eye on it."

Fontaine issued a news release yesterday calling blockade statements by Mohawk spokesperson Shawn Brant "isolated comments" that "do not reflect the position" of the AFN "or the First Nations across the country."

Highway 401, the CN rail line and the town of Deseronto are possible targets for the Mohawks. Deseronto is near Belleville between Toronto and Ottawa.

Despite the AFN's public disavowal, authorities should think twice before using force against Tyendinaga or any other native community, says Teyowisonte, secretary for the Kahnawake Mohawk Warriors society.

"If violence is used against the people at Tyendinaga or anywhere there is going to be fallout," he said. "We would not think too highly of (police use of force)," said Rarahkwisere of the Akwesasne Warrior Society, adding it is up to the clan mothers to decide on a reaction. "In the event someone gets hurt, the politics of the AFN go out the window and the grassroots people come together," said David Dennis, vice-president of the United Native Nations in B.C. and former member of the disbanded West Coast Warrior Society.

"The same thing happened at Oka, Burnt Church and Caledonia." Roseau River First Nations Chief Terry Nelson, whose community called off a rail blockade, said they will be watching events near the rail line. "We will react if there is violence against anybody across the country," said Nelson.

Just bits and pieces, sketchy thoughts (!), which i felt i should post just as some background, for those of you checking in...

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