We are non-Indigenous supporters of Defenders of the Land, a network of Indigenous communities in struggle for land and self-determination across Canada, founded at a historic meeting in Winnipeg from November 12-14, 2008.
As non-Indigenous supporters, we are allies of Indigenous peoples asserting their rights and sovereignty. We offer our support for the demands of Defenders of the Land expressed in their Basis of Unity, a signpost on the path we walk together. We believe in taking leadership from Indigenous communities, who have the right to determine their destinies in accordance with their own beliefs, customs, laws, and traditions.
As non-Indigenous supporters, we recognize that the history of Canada is a racist and genocidal one, marked by the forced dispossession of Indigenous peoples' lands and resources, the suppression of their governments and laws, and the assimilation of their cultures and identities. In the bricks of residential schools and the borders of reservations, these ongoing policies are a long scar drawn cruelly across the land. Across the area known as Canada, Indigenous peoples' territories are subject to unbridled exploitation for profit - crisscrossed by railroads and highways, carved up by ski hills and subdivisions, polluted by mineral and oil extraction, and devastated by clear-cut logging and hydro-electric projects. Canada’s fundamental agenda remains the same as it was at the country’s birth: the assimilation of Indigenous peoples as distinct nations, and the extinguishment of their rights and title to the land.
As non-Indigenous supporters we bear witness daily to the violent severing of the connection between Indigenous peoples and their lands, and how it has resulted in the devastation -- socially, politically, economically, spiritually, and environmentally -- of Indigenous communities. Indigenous people disproportionately experience poverty, illness, homelessness, and imprisonment. Unprecedented numbers of Indigenous women have gone missing or have been murdered. Despite the traumas inflicted by generations of colonial policies, Indigenous communities have always been the first line of defense against destruction of the land. For their attempts to forge a more sustainable future for all of us, Indigenous activists have been criminalized by federal and provincial governments.
As non-Indigenous supporters, we have come from different places and we have come for different reasons. As multiracial settlers, migrants, refugees and descendants of slaves, we came across many oceans or continents, four hundred years ago or yesterday. Many of us feel deeply attached to places across Turtle Island, but we recognize that our homes are built on the ruins of others. We are on the lands of Indigenous peoples: lands unjustly seized, unsurrendered lands, treaty lands, and urbanized lands. This reality is visible in the names of our streets, our towns, our monuments - erasing the genuine identity of the Original Peoples of this land.
As non-Indigenous supporters, we affirm that when Indigenous peoples stand to defend their land and to protect Mother Earth, we will stand alongside them. We commit to doing our part to actively decolonize ourselves by recognizing our own complicity and taking responsibility to change this society that privileges us. Our role as allies extends to work within our own communities to oppose unjust practices perpetuated in our name and to develop customs and structures that will guide just relations with Indigenous peoples. We believe in the fundamental principles of social justice and equality, and strive to create a co-existence with respect for the autonomy and dignity of all groups and individuals. We welcome the promise of movements that are based on the recognition of Indigenous self-determination and build an informed base of support - ranging from anti-poverty groups to environmental justice mobilizations, from farmers to faith groups, from queer liberation to immigrant and refugee justice, from working class movements to anti capitalist and anti imperialist struggles globally.
With deep humility and gratitude, we thank Indigenous land defenders for their resilience and the knowledge they have kept alive – through ceremonies and struggle -- that has protected the places that we and future generations hope to share as our homelands.