100 Dolls to promote a vision of the Aboriginal women who are missing or have been murdered, to one of dignity and honor. British Columbia must stop housing conditions that are conducive to Native Women being hunted down and killed.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Woman's War Cry

Angela Sterritt was a young woman who made a presentation yesterday as part of the First Nations Program within the World Peace Forum 2006. Another woman was Annita McPhee who's passion showed with her clear, very concise, unrehearsed presentation of colonization and it's war like effects.

I did not get Annita recorded - but I damn sure wish I did. It's hard not to get angry when you hear the injustices from such insight, said and given with such conviction.

These were Angela's words:

I would like to thank the Musqueam People and their ancestors for having me on their territory Today. And I want to thank the organizers of this event for inviting me to speak today. It is an honor to be here today. Hamy’ya.

Today we come together to embrace in the idea of peace, but we also come together to embrace in opposition the current forces of colonization, racism, classim, sexism, and agism.

We embrace in oppostion the violence inflicted on us and the occupation of our lands.

Some people may think this globalization is a new threat that has ravaged the lands and lives of many, but to us, to indigenous people, it is nothing new, it is colonization that has expanded, developed, and exploited more.

In all the world we see injustice, we see war, we see greed. This is what we want to end. We want to reclaim our freedom. Peace. How can we imagine peace when our territories are occupied by a foreign and violent government that began its stay on our lands with the fearfull idea that they needed to oppress us in order to make their place in society.

Claiming that they did not conquest us but came to a peaceful understanding, set out the type of war the canadian government has waged on us for the last 200 years. A war that has attempted to kill indigenous people through cultural genocide, assimilation, massive sexual and physical abuse, isolation, genocide, imprisonment and criminalization.

The legacy of this occupation, and imposition of the Canadian judicial system on Indignous lands and people is shameful as we see the high number of Indigenous peoples in the prison system, beaten, bruatalized, raped and killed by police forces and as we see an over-representation of Indigenous children in the wardship of the ministry and homeless. Indignoues youth who escape the iron hands of the Canadian judical system continue to be oppressed on their own traditional territories through environmental and economic racism.

Youth who stand up for their rights are targeted and criminalized. Indigenous youth, in particular girls are victims of contemporary Canadian society which views them as disposable. This has become more and more evident with the growing number of murdered and missing Indigenous girls along hwy 16 and more generally across Canada. This state of violence against Indigneous women, men, youth and children is a deadly serious issue that we, indigenous people are tackling nationally.

The government claims that canada is a peacful country with a vast track record of human rights and environmental standards. Other countries have talked about canada as the ElDorado or the paradise of the world. But welcome to a world where poor indigneous women and girls are forced into the sex trade due to extreme poverty and forced to give up their children because they cannot feed them. Welcome to the reality, much different than the claim of peace. There are more children in the ministry today then the totally number of indigneous children in residential school.

This ugly face of colonization rears its head more forcefully today and it is the indigneous women and girls that bear the brunt.

The colonial government that committed atrocities against our people, put us on reserves, in residential school, and committed genocide are the same government that continues to set racist social policy in an attempt to keep us locked up, locked up in state abuse, locked up in fear, locked up in prison, locked up in beaurocractic systems and locked up in poverty.

The war on indigneous women and children in canada is like the war waged on all other nations of the world, if they keep us locked up they can take our rights, take our land, and take our traditional roles. Keeping us caged, also works to produce a symbol of the arbitrary ability of the federal government ofCanada to repress the legitimate aspirations to liberation of indigenous peoples within its claimed boundaries.

To quote Gail K. Horii of the Strength in Sisterhoodsociety “Too many Aboriginal youth, women and men languish in penitentiaries, prisons, jails, remand centers and holding cells across this country and in this province. Too many are brutalized by policing agencies. To consider that finding respite from concrete cells -- to take comfort in a ceremony of elders is further punishable by shackling is beyond vindictiveness. It is cultural genocide at best. This is only one example of many in which the colonial forces that be, continue to suppress our constitutional right to self-determination, our human rights and our right to be free without colonial molestation. More recently the solicitor general has began talks about the building of further prisons for our people, the so called “segregated jails”. We see this further accommodating of Indigenous people in prisons as contradictory to so called efforts to lower the number of Indigenous people in jail. It is ourgoal to free our people from this racist and oppression system not make the prison system more“Aboriginal friendly”. Simialrily, the youth jail has recently boasted of its use of “aboriginal” art in the youth jail. Is the use of the art an attempt to make the prison institution more culturally relevant toIndigneous people? This is sick. The entire prison system needs to start spenidng its resources on dealing with its systemic racism instead of making the prison more accomadating for Indigneous people. When will the police admit the wrongs.

To quote Gail K. Horii of the Strength in Sisterhoodsociety again “It does not go unnoticed by the international community how this government has quickly seized and copied the totems and artwork ofAboriginal, Metis & Inuit cultures, how freely this government utilizes these assets to promote beautiful British Columbia while they lock up and brutalize their First Nations’ peoples”. She continues, “If a face of every missing Aboriginal youth and woman and a face of every Aboriginal, Metisand Inuit person behind bars accompanied every CoastSalish, every Haida, every Metis symbol and every“inunnguaq” published from now until 2010, perhaps then, this government would be shamed enough to treat every arrested and incarcerated Aboriginal, Metis &Inuit person with dignity, with respect and would grant them equal rights before and under the law".

In some Indigenous communities, in what is know called Canada, children’s bodies are covered with sores from contaminated water sources(Kectewan and Kanawake for example). Other youth see their sacred sites being bulldozed in order to make way for development (Skwek’welk’welt, Cayoosh Creek). More and more corporations are entering our communities and ignoring the national laws that our people have fought relentlessly for decades. Youth that challenge destructive corporate operations such as logging, mining, pipelines and dam projects on their territories are forced on the very margins of societies.

To silence Indigenous people, and to create divisions among us, corporations offer programs and sponsorships to Aboriginal organizations, bands, and individuals. This is an attempt to ‘even out’ their unethical and devastating practices. So corporations like Weyerhauser, Shell Canada and Encana corporation, who are responsible for destroying a number of Indigenous communities give money to the Aboriginal Achievement Awards and other organizations and work to co-opt the support of Indigenous people who have critiqued and resisted their destructive activities and developments.

So this makes it difficult for is to educate youth and create an awareness about how corporations suppress our rights, and devastate our lives and land, and violate constitutional and human rights. While the government locks up our people and perpetuates oppression and demonstrates their colonial occupation on Indigenous lands, corporations work with that government to pollute minds and life onIndigenous lands.

There is hope, we have to come together and not get sucked up into the divisions or into individualistic notions of power.

Although the issues above are vast, we understand that all are linked to a colonial legacy that governments and corporations work to continue today. We know that through networks, campaigns and actions, change will come - slowly but step by step, if we are strategic, surely.

Each of the campaigns I discussed were initiated and carried out just by one or two people and the force of movement behind each has been immense, we plan to meet with different Aboriginal organizations who have received corporate sponsorship in an attempt to get them to seek and receive ethical sponsorship.

On the prison front, we have received support from pockets of people, every day and the movement to change that system is growing. It is never a hopeless situation; we just need to keep on moving, exposing injustices and building support in order for the movement and change to continue. I have heard some say you cannot change the system or people, but that’s what we have been doing and will continue to do.

4 Comments:

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I hope many, many people have a chance to read this speach.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

very strong words, thank you

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