All was quiet around Tyendinaga Sunday morning. Getting off at the Shannonville Road exit, I expected to see warriors on the roads and a heavy presence of police officers on standby, watching their every move. But nothing. So I drove around the reserve, expecting to see a group of warriors somewhere doing something. But nothing. Where did they go? Are they still here planning their next move? Did they go home? These were the thoughts that were going through my mind as I travelled the small Mohawk territory near Belleville.
After chatting with Shawn Brant’s parents for a few minutes, I realized I wouldn’t be speaking to Brant himself, that day. He was exhausted from the past few days and had just been released from jail that morning.
Understandable. One man shouldn’t have to fight this battle alone. This is a fight that involves us all. The last count of missing and murdered Indigenous women was 824. That’s 824 women who have been silenced, who have been robbed of their voice. It is our duty on behalf of all the women we have lost to violence, to be their voice, and to stand up for these women and tell their stories.
So this is it? Did the warriors lack manpower to keep this blockade going? Were there just too many police officers that the warriors felt intimidated? I was expecting this blockade to go on for weeks, if not months: however long it takes for Harper’s government to stop treating Natives as the ‘Indian Problem’ and start working with them to help find solutions. Many Natives feel that a public inquiry into why so many Native women are dying as a result of violence or disappearing at alarming rates, will help provide those solutions.
How many hundreds of years have Native people been suppressed and oppressed? Culture, language, tradition, and identity have been methodically stripped away. As a result, our people suffer from depression, suicidal thoughts, feelings of hopelessness, fear of the future, violence in the home, sexual/physical/spiritual abuse, alcohol and drug abuse. And as a result of that, Native people are dying unnatural deaths by the thousands: car accidents, accidental drownings, suicide, neglect, overdose, and murder.
Families are being torn apart as a result and for some, the grief will never end. The pain and the torture of having a loved one die a sudden and tragic death, will never end for some. Others will struggle to live with the pain, and will spend the rest of their days trying to forget what happened because that’s the only way they can cope.
Last Saturday, which also marked International Women’s Day, four warriors were arrested in Tyendinaga who were there to support calls for a public inquiry into violence against Native women. One warrior who was arrested lost his daughter last April. Within hours after she fell from a highrise apartment in Toronto, police ruled her death a suicide without doing a proper investigation. Where is the justice in that?
What does that say about the federal government? Will they every call an inquiry? Will they ever acknowledge Native people and the struggles they’ve had to endure as a result of colonialism? Will they ever stop treating Natives as the ‘Indian Problem’? One thing is for certain, Natives will never go away, they will never disappear and they will never assimilate into Canadian society. If the government does not want to deal with Natives now, they are only leaving this battle for their children and great grandchildren to fight. And believe me, Natives will be preparing their children and great grandchildren for this battle and will keep doing so as long as Canada refuses to work with Natives instead of against them.