Indigenous Sovereignty Week

INDIGENOUS SOVEREIGNTY WEEK 2011: November 14-20

(For ISW Toronto, click here. For Edmonton, click here. Other schedules TBA.)

Celebrating community victories - standing up to the Harper threat

Indigenous Sovereignty Week 2011, scheduled for Nov. 14-20, will be the third annual week of educational events on Indigenous issues called by Defenders of the Land, a network of First Nations in land struggle. This year we call on communities and supporters to celebrate, remember, and learn from community victories, recent and historic, while looking forward to discuss how best to organize against the threat to Indigenous Peoples posed by Harper’s anti-Indigenous rights agenda.

This last year has seen important victories and milestones for Indigenous Peoples across Canada. Here are some, but not all, of them:

  • The Mitchikanibikok Inik (Algonquins of Barriere Lake) got Cartier Resources to stop mining exploration on their territory
  • Grassy Narrows First Nation won a significant court victory saying that the province cannot authorize clearcutting and other activities on part of Treaty 3 lands if they infringe Treaty harvesting Rights.
  • In a historic referendum, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation voted 96% in favour of reject industrial development of the Big Trout Lake watershed, and to specify a protocol by which consent must be given for industrial development outside the watershed.
  • The Tsilhqot'in nation stopped a mining project that would have destroyed a life-giving lake on their territory (Teztan Biny/Fish Lake - although the mining company is once again trying to open the mine)
  • Indigenous Peoples affected by the tar sands, including communities like Fort Chipewyan, played a major role in a hugely successful 2 weeks of direct action at the White House aimed at stopping the Keystone Pipeline development that would boost oil production in the tar sands

These are only the latest stories of resistance, survival, and strength - stories that go back to the beginning of colonization by Europeans and continue with political, cultural, and spiritual organizing in the 20th and 21st centuries. Defenders of the Land is asking communities and supporters to bring those stories to a wide audience, so that we can remember them, honour them, and learn from them.

Many knowledge holders walk amongst us, and we have a responsibility to carry that knowledge forward for future generations. Many people are with us who have fought in the Indigenous Peoples movements for decades, and they have stories to tell about battles past, and what we can learn from them. Non-Native supporters also have a history of solidarity work and partnership, and knowledge that has been hard come by. This should also be honoured and remembered.

We need all our strength for the challenges that lie ahead. Stephen Harper’s government, in concert with the provinces, is planning the most dramatic overhaul to Indigenous Peoples’ standing in Canadian law since the Indian Act was first imposed on us. Now with a majority government, Harper will have the ability to pursue this agenda aggressively. This includes the further privatization and erosion of the Indian land base, the abolition of collective land rights, and the gradual assimilation of Indians through conversion of reserve communities into municipalities dependent on the provinces. The Harper government would like to devolve as much responsibility for Indian Affairs and lands to the provinces as possible. Under the guise of “abolishing the Indian Act”, Harper may introduce devastating measures to further promote the assimilation of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, while paying lip service to Indigenous rights.

We are asking communities and groups to organize educational events on these themes, according to their capacity, between November 14-20. Your community or group may organize your Indigenous Sovereignty Week earlier or later, if this is more convenient for you. Defenders of the Land may be able to provide materials for presentation, and may be able to make available or facilitate contact with speakers. If you need speakers or materials, please make your request as early as possible, as late requests may be difficult to accommodate.

As usual, we have in mind that this work will reach different audiences: Indigenous people living in communities, urban Indigenous people, and non-Indigenous people living in cities and towns. Events may take place on in community halls, urban community centres, on campus, in schools, or other locations.

The purpose of this week is to build local relationships between groups and individuals, disseminate ideas of Indigenism, and generally, contribute to building a cross-Canada movement for Indigenous rights, self-determination, and justice that is led by Indigenous communities but with a broad base of informed support.

There will be a range of events, including speaking events, bush trips, cultural or arts events, and ceremony where appropriate. Speakers will include activists and leaders of local and national struggles, elders, Indigenous intellectuals, and supporters.

For information and support, please email us at defendersoftheland@gmail.com

Non-Native supporters are welcome to organize events, but we ask that you respect the leadership of local Indigenous communities and organizations, and remain accountable to the Allies Basis of Unity found here and to the Defenders of the Land Basis of Unity found here.