On Defenders of the Land, Patriarchy and Pacifism

Viet Cong Womyn Warrior

April 1, 2013


Firstly, sorry for the long gap between updates. i have been out of the country for almost a week now and before that was busy moving, so i have not had much time or ability to put up new articles. In this time though i have been thinking on many things, and discussing them with comrads. One particular topic that has stuck out has been the recent joint call for a “Sovereignty Summer” by the petty bourgeois, reformist, academic/professional “official leadership” of IdleNoMore and the ostensibly grassroots onkwehón:we organization Defenders of the Land.

i’ve been thinking on this topic because it was not two years ago that the elitist, male leadership of DOTL were called out by womyn in “their” organization who had been side-lined within it for questioning the leadership, not just on questions of tactics, but their open collusion with the kanadian colonial state, particularly against those forces within DOTL who refused to accept the imposed line of pacifism (which even included a ban on wearing BDUs and masks and the flying of our flag, the Unity Flag). 

While it should come as a surprise to no person that the arch-neocolonial Assembly of First Nations has a history of cooperating with the kanadian colonial state, DOTL and other supposed onkwehón:we ”revolutionaries” such as Harrison Helkrow and Red Power United’s have open collusion with the state against other activists in the past should be a lesson and a warning to all who may be thinking of participating in any actions organized by them or their new allies in the “official leadership” of IdleNoMore.

As an exploration of DOTL’s previous cooperation with the colonial state, not to mention its other defects, Onkwehón:we Rising is sharing the following statement penned by the collective of onkwehón:we womyn who directly experienced and were victimized by DOTL. The statement itself is an elaboration on their reasons behind before that penning a tongue-in-cheek apology letter from the Organizing Committee of DOTL. The “apology letter” is included after the statement for background.

Indigenous Women of the Movement: Why We Wrote the Statement of Apology We Wish Had Been Written by the Defenders of the Land Organizing Committee

It has been seven days since we published a satirical “statement of apology”,  from the organizing committee of Defender’ of the Land. A group of women and grassroots land defenders wrote the statement, because our voices had been silenced. We feel that what we have to say here must be heard, and so we will continue to speak.

In Spring 2010, we blocked consensus of a “June 24th Day of Action” call-out for a march during the G20 week in Toronto. We were ignored and silenced. That march was the only indigenous-led event for that important week of public dissent. We had one day for our voices to be heard in the streets. We believe in consensus as a traditional way of guarding against elitism and privilege in our communities, and we believed that by blocking consensus, especially as a group of native women, we would at least be given the chance to speak and be heard. Not only were we ignored and silenced, but the organizing committee blocked communication between us and several native communities. We were told they were “afraid” of us, as though indigenous peoples need protection from each other when our voices speak different opinions.

We blocked consensus because we felt that the call out for the “June 24th Day of Action” (which was sent out by Defenders of the Land) would criminalize and disempower grassroots land defenders and erode our autonomy to defend ourselves and our land and communities. We felt that the heavy use of “non-violence” wording was a slippery slope toward co-operation with the Canadian government and police…who also desire us to be “non-violent” so that we are less of a threat to the realities that we face daily: our children being stolen, our lands being exploited for profit, murder and brutality at the hands of police and racist settlers, the disappearance and murder of thousands of indigenous women.

We felt that this was not an issue of semantics, that this was deliberately being taught to our peoples, our youth and our communities by the interests of government and corporations, who we began finding out more and more, were actually helping to fund well-paid activists who ran well-funded workshops, training and retreats on “non-violence” and “civil disobedience”. Some of this was traced back to funding which came from “ethical oil” strategies, and that’s when we started realizing the sickening accuracy of our premonitions.

The June 24th “Day of Action”, although well attended and successful in bringing people together to demonstrate resistance, was also extremely compromised. Undercover police and informants who came to the organizing meetings were “justified” in being there, people were told that because of “trouble makers”, we should cooperate with the police. These “trouble makers” were several indigenous people who were standing up and questioning the way the organizing was being increasingly straitjacketed.

“Non violence” was used to narrow the parameters of our ability to speak and express our struggle: we were barred from wearing camoflage, barred from wearing masks, barred from carrying the Unity flag or from any “warrior” images or symbols. On the day of the march, undercover police were permitted by the organizers to infiltrate the march, and those of us who had questioned the organizers were told that we would be turned over (by the march’s own security team) to the police.

Members of the Defenders of the Land organizing committee were present at these meetings, they helped to organize and promote the march and they did not speak up in defense of those who were criminalized and targeted, just as they did not listen to the voices of women who had blocked consensus of the original call out.

That has been our experience and involvement with the organizing committee of the Defenders of the Land, a network that began with the dream of a woman: a clanmother and Elder from one of the most exploited communities on Turtle Island which has been devastated by mercury poisoning and logging: Grassy Narrows.

We believe in honouring the dreams of women, in freeing ourselves from judgement and bias, decolonizing our minds and our hearts. We believe in being action-oriented, not paper-oriented. We don’t need Canada’s approval or consent, and we don’t need government or corporate funding. We have always had what we will always need: the Kaianerenkowa, the Medicine Wheel, our teachings, our clan systems, our languages, our ceremonies.

We can empower ourselves, we don’t need to wait for an NGO or a suit to tell us how to feel empowered. We aren’t the ones who need “non violence training”, the ones who need to stop using violence are the ones in power: police, government and corporations.

We absolutely believe in non-violence: when the cops lay down their weapons, the mining and logging companies abandon their industries, when the government returns the land to the people who belong to her, when racist settlers lay down their racism and patriarchy, when we vomit up the internalized racism from generations of abuse and torture at the hands of the government and can feel good in our own skin, can feel loved by each other, comforted, proud of and nourished by our beautiful brown skin, instead of vying for the attention of white thighs, settling for the white lie.

When the violence against us stops, maybe then we can begin to return to a time of peace. But to adopt a strategy of non-violence during a time of war is suicide: and we already have enough children and youth killing themselves because their innate resistance to genocide is stifled by white Canadian education, media, foster homes, jails and poverty food. Native children and youth do not need to be taught how to defend themselves: they need to be given the freedom to do what their spirits already understand is necessary.

Nonviolence as a mass political strategy was never part of our traditional ways of being on Turtle Island. We laid siege to forts, we picked up arms, we mounted riots and uprisings and full scale guerilla wars against colonial governments, militaries, corporations. We ate the hearts of our enemies. We did not curry favour from rich white men, we fought and killed them.

The most successful military campaign against Amerikkka was waged and won by the Oglala Sioux at Little Big Horn in 1876 and in 1973, they defended it again against the FBI, military and goon squads. Our people were often were masked in ceremonies and in battle, just look at the indigenous Zapatista movement–”masking up” is a practice rooted in indigenous movements and indigenous resistance.

Non-violence may be one strategy, and true to our nature, if it works, we’ll use it. If it doesn’t, we won’t. The bottom line is that we defended our land and our families with whatever we could. We owe our very existence to our ancestors who resisted total extermination and genocide by fighting back, and we will continue to honour those who gave us life by resisting the ongoing colonization of our lands and our peoples. If we have breath, we owe each one not only to our ancestors but to the land they fought and died to protect, and to the next seven generations.

-Indigenous Women of the Movement

A Public Statement of Apology From the Organizing Committee of Defenders of the Land

April 22, 2011.

Ottawa (Sovereign Algonquin Territory)

***Please distribute widely***

A Public Statement of Apology From the Organizing Committee of Defenders of the Land

This April 22-25th 2011, ALL indigenous land defenders are warmly welcomed to join the 3rd ever Defenders of the Land Gathering in Ottawa. We want to especially honour the women who stand on the frontlines every day protecting our families, and the land and water and those who face racism and brutality by police, …military and settlers. We respect you, not just in our words, but in our actions.

This year, we would first like to publically apologize as organizers for the way we have disrespected and devalued women Elders, clanmothers and young women by silencing their voices when they didn’t agree with us, by taking over in leadership and by powertripping on our male privilege, and on the amount of attention we get from the activist community.

We would like to especially apologize for exercising our male and class privilege, by using “nonviolence” language that excludes and criminalizes those with no choice but to use whatever means they have to defend themselves and their ancestral homelands.

As the Defenders of the Land Organizing Committee, we would publically like to make a declaration of our support to ALL grassroots, frontline land defenders, whether they burn bridges or flags, whether they take up arms or take up a pen..we will be there to support you, recognizing that as indigenous peoples, we must use whatever means necessary, and because that is what real Warriors do.

If we have trampled on you in our haste to get on the 6 o’clock news, if we have silenced or denounced your voice in order to keep our funders happy, if we have in any way marginalized, oppressed or abused one of our own people, we would like to personally acknowledge, apologize, make amends and take action in every single case where this has happened, no arguments, no questions asked.

We also recognize that the way we have been organizing has been exclusive and hierarchical. We would like to abandon our posts at the top of the Native Activist Pyramid and give the power back to the people, where it belongs. New people, gatecrashers, radicals, little old ladies in combat boots, gun toting bush indians, urban homeless youth, ALL are welcome to the Defenders of the Land network!

We would like to ask, however, that white activists and settlers of colour begin to check their privilege at the door, and truly question of themselves if they are not being barriers to sovereign, indigenous-to-indigenous relations by constantly mediating and facilitating between indigenous peoples and communities.

In fact, we would like to ask that all white activists take a month’s sabbatical to reflect on their “solidarity” and to begin to organize other white folks and in order to effectively fight racism and white supremacy.

We would humbly ask that each and every person or community who has anything to say about this statement of apology gets in touch with us by phone, email, or come in person next time you see us, or you can visit the Indigenous Environmental Network office in Ottawa.

We will shortly be releasing a full disclosure of our structure, our decision making processes, and the concerns which have been brought to us in the past year (and which we have thus far ignored) so as to be fully transparent as a network to the people who put their trust in us to represent them.

To demonstrate our committed resolve to this new leaf-turnover, we will be burning our suits and briefcases in a cleansing ceremony on Parliament Hill.

Lastly, we would like to ask all peoples who have supported Defenders of the Land in the past and present, to vigilantly watch our actions, and the actions of the organizing committee of Defenders of the Land, and of the Indigenous Environmental Network, to be on guard for any of this kind of unacceptable action in the future.

If we disrespect women, we want to know. If we exclude or marginalize poor, female, two spirited or youth voices, we want to know. If we abuse our power in any way, we want to know. We want to be accountable to each and every community within the network, and that means we need your help in calling us out and challenging us. No act of oppression is too small! Never again do we want to venture down the path we’ve created for ourselves. Never again do we want to talk the walk, without walking the walk.

From now on, the Defenders of the Land Organizing Committee will be fully accountable to ALL voices in ALL the communities it represents and if we cannot succeed in that, we will voluntarily disband the network.


and with Mother Earth as our witness,

Corvin Russell

Clayton Thomas Mueller

Ben Powless

Indigenous Environmental Network
180 Metcalfe Street
Suite 500,Ottawa, ON, K2P 1P5
Ph: 613 237 1717 613 237 1717
Ph: (218) 751-4967 (218) 751-4967

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