Friday, November 20, 2020

Why teachers, unions, and teachers unions should support 1492 Land Back Lane

Facebook friend Anthony Marco posted about a donation made to 1492 Land Back Lane on behalf of OSSTF District 21 (Hamilton-Wentworth) Political Action Committee (See: Statement of Solidarity).  He issued a challenge for other union locals to take similar action.


The flag of the Hamilton & District Labour Council proudly flies  at 1492 Land Back Lane, on a roadblock put up to protect people now being forced to occupy that land to stop its destruction by "developers" who falsely claim they purchased legitimate title to it.

I am a settler Canadian who has been following this issue closely. My wife and I are godparents, and I reached out to their father. He recently retired, but was actively involved in the teachers union. He has put me in touch with other people, and I hope this discussion will continue across a large web of relations.

While donations from more PACs would be great, I think having the discussion is important whether it results in a donation or not. I strongly believe building better relations with the First Civilizations of North America (AKA: Turtle Island) would make us all better peoples.

Check your western world views & privilege at the door...

If you are not already well versed in indigineous worldviews, I recommend to start with a primer by author Bob Joseph:  Indigenous Peoples Worldviews vs Western Worldviews.

The western focus on individuality pulls us out of time, and our thinking of land only for its resources and benefits to humans pulls us out of place.  We don't think of ourselves as the same peoples we were 7 generations ago, and we do not feel responsibility for those generations or toward the 7 generations yet to come.


A tiny slice of our shared history

Possibly back in 1192CE the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy formed their participatory democracy via the Great Law of Peace - their oral constitution.  This brought together the 6 nations comprising Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora peoples.

This is important to know that this is an advanced democratically governed civilization, and not only nations or tribes.  Far too many westerners believe that Europeans brought civilization and democracy from Europe.  We must realize that while the Haudenosaunee is a democratic civilization, at contact time the Europeans were merely subjects of Christian monarchs.

Westerners self identifying as progressive are trying to tackle problems in Canada including environmental degradation, massive income inequality, racism, sexism and sexual violence, LGBTQ+ and gender diversity. These are all systemic problems brought to North America by colonialism.

(If the part about indigenous sexuality peaks your interest, I recommend an interview of Dr. KIM TALLBEAR on Reviving Kinship and Sexual Abundance)

In 1784CE, Sir Frederick Haldimand signed a decree that granted a tract of land to the Haudenosaunee (AKA 6 nations) in compensation for their alliance with British forces during the American Revolution. The Haldimand Tract extended for 6 miles (10 km) on each side of the Grand River from its source to Lake Erie. First Nations across what is called Canada have remained aligned with the British and Canada and participated in the war of 1812 as well as volunteering during the first and second world wars (European vs European wars, dragging along allies), in order to protect the parties of those treaties.

The British parliament passed the British North America Act in 1867, and the Canada Act in 1982. After theoretically legislating a separate country into existence, the British have tried to wash their hands of any responsibilities in relation to British North America. Despite that, section 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act 1982 affirms the treaties First Civilizations made with the British as well as with Canada. While the Canadian government tries to avoid honoring its treaty obligations, the rule of law isn't on their side.


In the 1920’s the Six Nations of the Grand River applied for membership in the League of Nations (what later became the United Nations). The UK forced its colonies to block their entry.  If this type of blocking sounds familiar, we need to remember that Canadians like to be upset at China for doing similar with Hong Kong and Taiwan.

1924: A History of Governance at Grand River.

The ongoing Canadian protest against first civilizations

Fast forward a few more generations, along with the ongoing genocide by Canada against indigenous peoples (MMIWG, TRC, etc), to today.

You will find a tiny postage stamp within the Haldimand Tract for a "reservation". The Indian Act created bureaucracy (band council, which is accountable to the Canadian government and not the 6 nations, and thus doesn't have jurisdiction) offers a PDF map that you can zoom into.

The Six Nations of the Grand River reserve is the largest First Nations reserve in Canada by population, and the second largest by size.  Population density is very high, and they need room to grow for their civilization to be healthy.  This overcrowding is already a problem today, and will obviously be a crisis situation long before 7 generations into the future.  As they have relations with the land and each other that westerners wouldn't have, expecting them to just move away from their civilization is not reasonable.

APTN provided an aerial view and some closer maps of the disputed lands "sold" that required 6 nations occupation in 2006 and 2020 to protect.

Looking at the maps you can see that Caledonia is a close neighbor.  The city is constantly attempting to expand closer and closer to the postage stamp sized reservation, putting settlements on land that the 6 nations need to house their own people.  While land disputes are ongoing in the courts, the municipality sells as if they had been granted title. After dishonestly and deliberately initiating a dispute, the municipality will call in the OPP to enforce illegitimate court injunctions (biased courts that exist on the tract, judges living on tract, mayor who bought a house intended to be built on disputed land -- all obvious personal conflicts of interest).

After the OPP commits violence, they and the media that repeats their statements without investigation will falsely claim it is the 6 nations that are violent. It is rubber bullets and tasers so far, but the police have murdered land defenders before. In this round of disputes the OPP themselves send out biased edited footage, not acting as law enforcement but as a partisan political entity.

Every time the media reports the indigenous people as protesters, they are reporting the issue backwards as it is the Canadian government and uninformed Canadians that are doing the protesting against the constitutionally protected legal rights of First Civilizations.

The OPP arrested journalist Karl Dockstader who was instrumental in reporting what is really happening, in contrast with most other media that was repeating extremely biased statements from the mayor and police. (See: tweet from fellow journalist Jesse Brown who has been doing great coverage, CBC indigenous, Canadian Association of Journalists)

The arresting of a journalist is another reminder of horrible things Canada does with little political consequence, and yet Canadians complain when China does the same. Given what happened at Ipperwash with the killing of Dudley George, with a lack of media presence recognized as part of the problem, allowing journalists on-site will save lives!

Money is not the real issue

It is part of the dishonesty of the Canadian governments that food donations and financial support is required for this camp at this time.  While embarrassing to the honor of Canadians, it is a fact we need to deal with today in order for these peoples to have opportunities to receive justice in the future.

Common with other First Civilizations, the Government of Canada owes the 6 Nations of the Grand River a considerable amount of money. Some of that money is held in Six Nations Trust Funds, being controlled by the Canadian government. While these funds are intended to be for the benefit of 6 nations, Canada has instead been using it as a slush fund for government projects such as McGill university and the Welland Canal.

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada hosts a booklet submitted by 6 nations which offers some context. This provides an appropriate overview of the financial obligation that Canada owes to 6 nations, as well as the climate action and other policies that the nation wishes to push forward.

To quote from the purpose section introducing the booklet:

Six Nations of the Grand River understands that Canada does not have enough money to bring historic land issues to resolution under the existing land claims policies.

This booklet is an explanation of Six Nations’ land and financial grievances against the Crowns of Canada and Ontario and the need for the establishment of a new perpetual care and maintenance mechanism. A mechanism that would benefit the Six Nations Peoples and their posterity to enjoy forever, while continuing to share the Haldimand Tract lands and resources with our neighbours.

As a reminder to Canadians afraid of the concept of Land Back: They don't want your pool. They don't think with European worldviews, and while they are owed more money than the Canadian economy is worth they have no intention of having Canada declare bankruptcy or filling ships to send people back to the places where they are indigenous.

A talk by Phil Monture given at the University of Waterloo (which sits within the tract) as part of 2017 lecture series can offer additional insights.



Why teachers?

Given how much education around what Canada is most Canadians are missing, the role of teachers is obvious to me.  I know there has been improvements from when I was in high-school in the 1980's, but we have far to go as a young country (whether we consider it created in 1867, 1982, or some other date). It wasn't only in residential schools were a biased western worldview was taught.

Why unions?

While westerners tend to have tunnel vision caused by individuality, unions are one of those exceptions where westerners will come together on an ongoing basis for common cause. This is most important when political action extends beyond labour disputes with fellow western institutions (western corporate employers).  The 6 nations land dispute is an opportunity for unions to build relations with a First Civilization.  It is the learning and building good relations that is the most important, although meeting Anthony Marco's challenge would also be great.

Note: I've written my Ontario MPP and Canadian MP about these issues approximately once a month.  I posted the first letter, but I have learned so much more about the 6 nations since. I encourage others to do the same.

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