Bill C-10 is the latest in a long, long list of bullying attempts to make “First Nations” give up identity, rights and even existence. Every precedent indicates C-10 will not be the last; there will be more.
If there is such a thing as a miracle, then one of the biggest miracles is that most of the nations have not been made extinct like the Beothuk. And as the nations stand up more and more frequently in resistance against the slice and dice and crush of the assimilators so we see the attempts to criminalize the growing community-based economies.
One of the things about living a fairly long time is witnessing the repeating patterns of abuse and oppression. The camouflage nets under which the strategies are waged do change but the goal remains the same: assimilation.
Several decades ago I taught high school in Lachine and many of the students in my grade 8 and 9 classes were bussed in from what was then called Caughnawaga. I learned many good things from them starting from my very first day when I asked why so many of my kids were identifying as North Americans rather than as Canadians or whatever the other options were in the registration process. Thus, in the 1960s, I learned about the Mohawk people and was introduced among other things to a newspaper named Akwesasne Notes.
Fired from teaching in 1970 (insubordination had become my personal nation), I found myself in 1973 on Parliament Hill along with thousands of others facing RCMP riot squad and Canadian Army with fixed bayonets.
That day was certainly a day of reckoning and a consciousness-challenge for many of us non-aboriginal activists who were there as supporters of the “Native Caravan”.
From Grassy Narrows and Sandy Dog in the 1970s through Oka almost 20 years later and on then to Burnt Church and Caledonia and the Idle No More Movement, there is a powerful thread of resistance and community building.
And, be it never forgotten, always a powerful and relentless borg-like response from the agents and agencies of old empires and newer international corporations.
Obviously there is much more to C-10 than a simple attack on tobacco sales. C-10 fits into a stream of oppression, which is about the money – and about their willingness to do whatever it takes to control it all. For them there has only ever been One Row and the people are simply expected and required to toe the line, that thin red line of empire (old and new).
Recently I’ve been happy to receive some education about the Two Row and be able to co-operate in building a distribution system here in Guelph and Wellington County for the Two Row Times. So, although the community work in which I’m engaged today involves much less writing and opinionating than back in the 1970s, I do want to salute and “offer props” to the activists gathered in and around the Two Row initiative and particularly on the very recent information meeting on the Harper government’s Bill C-10.
The struggles continue! We must be as incorrigible as they are relentless.