DRUM­MING UP SUP­PORT

PressReader - Tke Channel - DRUM­MING UP SUP­PORT
Protesters voice op­po­si­tion against pipe­lines on Par­lia­ment Hill on Tues­day, join­ing dozens of ral­lies in Bri­tish Columbia, across Canada and in Europe to sup­port In­dige­nous demon­stra­tors ar­rested by RCMP when they tried to block a pipe­line com­pany’s ac­cess to un­ceded ter­ri­tory in B.C.“We ac­knowl­edge that we are stand­ing on un­ceded Al­go­nquin, Anishin­abek ter­ri­tory.”It’s a state­ment that seems ubiq­ui­tous at pub­lic events in Ot­tawa, from Par­lia­ment Hill to con­cert halls to school class­rooms.Protests over the RCMP’s re­moval of a block­ade on un­ceded Wet’suwet’en Na­tion ter­ri­tory in north­ern B.C. erupted across Canada Tues­day, in­clud­ing in Ot­tawa, where demon­stra­tors dis­rupted a talk by Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau.Even the owner of Gongfu Bao on Bank Street ac­knowl­edges it with a sign in his win­dow, not­ing his restau­rant is on un­ceded ter­ri­tory.“It’s im­por­tant to us to ac­knowl­edge this as a busi­ness be­cause it’s in line with us op­er­at­ing a so­cially re­spon­si­ble busi­ness model,” said owner Tarek Has­san, who came to Canada 22 years ago.“In build­ing my idea of what Cana­dian iden­tity means to me, a very im­por­tant part is iden­ti­fy­ing as a treaty per­son who takes on the state’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to­wards its treaties with the In­dige­nous peo­ple of this land.”But what does that mean, ex­actly, and what is the sig­nif­i­cance of ac­knowl­edg­ing “un­ceded Al­go­nquin, Anishin­abek ter­ri­tory”?It’s a sim­ple an­swer for Verna McGre­gor, an Al­go­nquin el­der from Kit­i­gan Zibi near Mani­waki, Que.“It’s ac­knowl­edg­ing that we’re still here,” said McGre­gor, who is fre­quently called upon to of­fer a tra­di­tional Al­go­nquin greet­ing and open­ing at events in and around Ot­tawa. “The ac­knowl­edg­ment is im­por­tant — that we’re worthy of be­ing on our own lands.”The Al­go­nquin are part of the Anishin­abek Na­tion, a con­fed­er­acy of about a half a dozen cul­tur­ally re­lated In­dige­nous Peo­ples in east­ern North Amer­ica. The use of the term “un­ceded” is no ac­ci­dent. Go back more than 250 years and you’ll find it above the sig­na­ture of King George III in his Royal Procla­ma­tion of 1763, which claimed North Amer­ica for Bri­tain af­ter the Seven Years’ War.“And whereas it is just and rea­son­able, and es­sen­tial to our In­ter­est, and the Se­cu­rity of our Colonies, that the sev­eral Na­tions or Tribes of In­di­ans with whom We are con­nected, and who live un­der our Pro­tec­tion, should not be mo­lested or dis­turbed in the Pos­ses­sion of such Parts of Our Do­min­ions and Ter­ri­to­ries as, not hav­ing been ceded to or pur­chased by Us, are re­served to them, or any of them, as their Hunt­ing Grounds.”In the cen­turies since then, treaties and land pur­chases have cleared up land ti­tle for much of Canada, whether fair or not (The Craw­ford Pur­chase of 1783, for ex­am­ple, se­cured the shore­line of Lake On­tario and the St. Lawrence River be­tween Brockville and the Bay of Quinte for some mus­kets, am­mu­ni­tion and “enough red cloth to make 12 coats.”)The ex­cep­tions are most of Bri­tish Columbia and a large por­tion of East­ern On­tario and Que­bec that is the tra­di­tional land of the Al­go­nquin. The Al­go­nquins, cen­tred in Kit­i­gan Zibi and Pik­wàkanagàn First Na­tion, near Golden Lake, Ont., 150 kilo­me­tres west of Ot­tawa, have never signed a treaty with the gov­ern­ment.It ap­pears that’s about to change with the mas­sive 36,000-square-kilo­me­tre Al­go­nquin Land Claim, cur­rently be­ing ne­go­ti­ated with the fed­eral and On­tario gov­ern­ments. The claim cov­ers a huge area fol­low­ing the Ot­tawa River from North Bay to Hawkes­bury, turn­ing south­west along the St. Lawrence val­ley to Gananoque, then cut­ting north­west along a jagged line that in­cludes nearly all of Al­go­nquin Park.An agree­ment in prin­ci­ple was reached in 2016 that in­cludes a $300-mil­lion pay­out and a trans­fer of about 48,000 hectares to Al­go­nquin con­trol, or about 1.3 per cent of the to­tal area in the claim. The Al­go­nquin claim is one of the largest in Cana­dian his­tory and en­com­passes 1.1 mil­lion peo­ple in 86 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, in­clud­ing Ot­tawa.What it doesn’t in­clude, how­ever, is the Al­go­nquin ter­ri­tory on the other side of the Ot­tawa River in Que­bec. That’s a stick­ing point with many who op­pose the claim. Di­vid­ing the Al­go­nquin along the Ot­tawa River is throw­back to the divi­sion of Up­per and Lower Canada by the Bri­tish in 1791 and will split the Al­go­nquin na­tion in half, said Vel­don Coburn, an Al­go­nquin from Pik­wàkanagàn who teaches about In­dige­nous is­sues at Car­leton Uni­ver­sity.“We get our backs up in Canada when we hear about sovereignty or sep­a­ra­tion,” he said. “Now the Al­go­nquins on the On­tario side are es­sen­tially vot­ing to se­cede from the Al­go­nquin na­tion and be an­nexed by the Bri­tish Crown ... The United Na­tions frowns upon par­ti­tion.”Still, com­pli­ca­tions of treaty ne­go­ti­a­tions aside, Coburn said he’s en­cour­aged to hear pub­lic ac­knowl­edg­ment that Ot­tawa sits on un­ceded ter­ri­tory, even if he’s not sure ev­ery­one fully un­der­stands what it means.“In some ways it might just be lip ser­vice. It’s not re­ally deal­ing with any­thing, but I do re­spect it at the same time. Ac­knowl­edg­ing that can be quite pow­er­ful for some­one like me, an Al­go­nquin man who grew up here on this ter­ri­tory.”“No­body in the Al­go­nquins is ask­ing any­one to ditch their houses and go back to where they came from. It’s more about liv­ing in com­mu­nity with one an­other. How to un­der­stand the just ar­range­ments.”But the state­ment has its crit­ics. In an Oct. 27 op-ed in the Ot­tawa Ci­ti­zen, teacher Pa­trick Mas­coe chal­lenged the ubiq­ui­tous rep­e­ti­tion of the ac­knowl­edg­ment he hears ev­ery day in his school — and thinks few peo­ple un­der­stand.“(This) has now be­come our na­tional pledge of al­le­giance (sim­ply in­sert In­dige­nous name) and if we say these mag­i­cal words enough, every­thing will be all right. These very words will have the power to erase white guilt and re­store In­dige­nous pride,” he wrote.“I don’t be­lieve that I per­son­ally owe any­one an apol­ogy, nor have I ever taken any­one’s land. I do know, how­ever, that say­ing sorry and not mean­ing it can only make mat­ters worse.”“Land ac­knowl­edg­ments are nei­ther mean­ing­less nor pa­tron­iz­ing if they em­body In­dige­nous le­gal tra­di­tions,” Anishi­naabe le­gal stu­dent Ash­ley Courch­ene wrote in a re­but­tal a few days later.The Ot­tawa-Car­leton District School Board be­gins each board meet­ing with an ac­knowl­edg­ment that it’s tak­ing place on un­ceded In­dige­nous land, but has not de­vel­oped a spe­cific pol­icy on the mat­ter, said spokes­woman Shar­lene Hunter. The de­ci­sion on whether to say an ac­knowl­edg­ment is left up to in­di­vid­ual schools, but “the vast ma­jor­ity” of them do, she said.Last Fe­bru­ary, Ot­tawa city coun­cil adopted a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ac­tion plan in re­sponse to the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion’s 2015 re­port into Canada’s res­i­den­tial school sys­tem. The plan, which was de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with Métis, Inuit and First Na­tions, doesn’t specif­i­cally men­tion land claims, but does af­firm the city’s com­mit­ment to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.The ac­knowl­edg­ment of un­ceded land is an im­por­tant part of that, said Som­er­set Coun. Catherine McKen­ney.“It’s part of speak­ing truth and rec­on­cil­ing our his­tory. It’s im­por­tant for peo­ple to un­der­stand that this is un­ceded, un­sur­ren­dered land that we’re on. And the goal of that is that it leads to real ac­tion. It doesn’t cost any­thing to say it, but it has to be fol­lowed by ac­tion.”Proper hous­ing is just one ex­am­ple of the ac­tion that’s needed, she said, since In­dige­nous peo­ple are “grossly over­rep­re­sented” among Ot­tawa’s home­less.“It all reaches back to the land,” McKen­ney said.“I think the ac­knowl­edg­ment has helped peo­ple un­der­stand that there is a greater is­sue than what is go­ing on to­day. It helps re­mind peo­ple that we are go­ing back cen­turies in terms of what we’ve done to the In­dige­nous peo­ple — from the re­serve sys­tem, the res­i­den­tial schools, to to­day with In­dige­nous chil­dren still be­ing re­moved from their fam­i­lies at a greater rate than the rest of the pop­u­la­tion,” she said.“The ac­knowl­edg­ment puts what’s hap­pen­ing to­day into a greater per­spec­tive to un­der­stand his­tor­i­cal wrongs and how that’s man­i­fested to­day,” McKen­ney said.“Part of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is truth and hon­esty,” McGre­gor said. “And truth and hon­esty is that we never signed away the lands here. So what is rec­on­cil­i­a­tion? Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is not throw­ing a lit­tle bit of money at us then say­ing, ‘Go away.’“Our lan­guage, our spir­i­tu­al­ity are tied to the land here. Our an­ces­tors stand with us. We have a long con­nec­tion to this earth, this land we stand on. That’s what un­ceded means.“We still have our con­nec­tion to the land. We didn’t give it up to a set­tler com­ing here and claim­ing the land.”No­body in the Al­go­nquins is ask­ing any­one to ditch their houses and go back to where they came from.

A sign ac­knowl­edg­ing tra­di­tional land at the Gungfu Bao restau­rant on Bank Street is in line with run­ning a so­cially re­spon­si­ble busi­ness, says owner Tarek Has­san.

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