Aunty Emily took my Dad and Uncle in when they were young to work on her farm. Among other jobs, they were responsible for cleaning up after the pigs. Imagine walking into a stall and finding bwoot six inches deep. It is literally a pile of you-know-what.
The dung was compacted so tough it was hard to tell where to start. Aunty told them that there is no easy way around it. You go to the centre of the room and, “just start digging.” To successfully clean out a stall, dig a centre tunnel until you hit the floor. From there, it’s simple: just keep digging until the job is done. Eventually the stall fills up again, and you come back to dig again until the stall is clean.
I come from a long line of aunties and uncles who weren’t afraid to ‘start digging.’ Kahendineh, Deskaheh and countless others who learned that we have a responsibility as Haudenosaune people. We must consider the coming faces. Those Haudenosaune descendants awaiting birth depend on us to speak for their good.
Aunty Emily was an educator on the reserve until that calling demanded that she pledge allegiance to the British Crown. Her reply went something like this, “”…it is out of order for you to expect a member of the Six Nations to subjugate themselves in order to teach their own people in their own land.” Badass. Then they fired her.
One time, there was a panel discussion at the United Nations in New York City. Members within the U.N. are autonomous nations and their people were offered human rights protection and the right to self-determination by the UN Charter. During the question period Aunty Emily stood up and asked the panel, “Does that apply to us as Indian nations?” Her story goes that that panel at the United Nations gathered into a huddle and after giving her no answer, closed the meeting immediately.
I was reminded of these stories earlier this week when I was having a rather excellent conversation with one of my ‘cousints.’ He talked about how at times our plight seems impossible. Canada is so big and we’re so small. How do you fight?
Here’s what you do: you stand with the truth, and you resist.
Resisting assimilation just might be our defining war experience as indigenous people worldwide. It is a psychological war, and victory doesn’t always look like prosperity. Within this war we can choose to bring something out of our oppression, something beyond the understanding of our oppressors and their kin – the fellowship of suffering.
This fellowship breeds compassion, and it resonates beyond the borders of Townline and 54. It is the spark inside the human experience that fosters deep connection and everlasting change. Last winter it lit up like wildfire through the Idle No More movement. People of suffering around the globe stood out to support Onkwehon:we people across Turtle Island in acts of solidarity.
These declarations of autonomy, ridiculed by a smirking Harper, go beyond the comprehension of capitalist power structures. There is no measurable victory economically, therefore no success, therefore no threat. We are under the radar.
We now have a choice, to resist together – with one mind – and refuse to be buried as individuals beneath the compacted dung of our oppression. We allies within the fellowship of suffering have the power to stand collectively above the gunk, to honor one another’s differences and to “just start digging” together. Walking forward in hope, standing with the truth and resisting for the coming faces makes our victory possible.