Building Indigenous Solidarity Workshop Notes

These are my notes from the disorientation “Building Indigenous Solidarity” workshop. Feel free to comment to ad your own notes if you were also there. 

Indigenous solidarity is a concept in activist work, a new field of study. Questions in this field include: what is the right model, framework to do the work? How to decolonize yourself, your movements? Mostly the field is made up of non-native perspectives.


Indigenous issues have been popularized over the last twenty years, since Oka, especially since 2006 when the douglas creek estates were reclaimed – arrests, barricades. Crisis event “this is happening”, influx of people to reserve wanting to support, people saying “I’m here to help, put me to work”.


Big idea: how do non natives relate to indigenous people?


“taking leadership from indigenous people”


Interim solution: put non-native people to work doing dishes


Problem: huge anti native rallies against reclamation, racism, neo-nazis. Non-natives on reserve felt need to organize against whole anti-native rallies, but debates over “taking leadership” persist.


Around 2006 lots of coalitions formed, directed in support of specific indigenous groups. Coalitions were dominantly white, organized big rallies in Toronto, Hamilton etc… Native people became forefront of anti-Olympic organizing in Vancouver, anti G20 protests. NGOs working with indigenous peoples, such as Rainforest Action Network, Green Peace.


A lot of papers have been written on indigenous solidarity coming from the Ontario Ottawa-Toronto area.


Question: If you are a coalition, who from the community do you support? There is a division within native communities. For example: Six Nations has 20 thousand people and various leaderships – the band council system, the traditional confederacy system, traditional religion, the code of chanson lake, the mohawk workers. Lots of groups with different ideas. So who do you support? And how, beyond blockades? Suicide issue? Support women? Support farming? Support workers? What about the privilege of non-natives supporting natives, given their strength depending on who they support could change balance of power in communities, could “tip the scales”.


Worse – sometimes campaigns unwittingly undermine indigenous struggles. E.G. Greenpeace’s anti-fur campaign hurt indigenous communities in Tar Sands area, resulted in those communities becoming more dependant on tar sands industry for work.


Another problem: Tokenizing: i.e. recognizing stolen native land, having a sacred fire, but not doing native solidarity as part of the substantial work – there is a debate over this.


Relationships – big difference between solidarity with individuals vs with communities vs with groups.


Finger pointing – lots of “you’re doing indigenous solidarity work wrong


Education – how much do we know about the peoples of the land that surrounds you? And the treaties? Knowing the details is not enough, but part of the process of indigenous solidarity.


A simple history lesson:


Prior to colonization, the indigenous nations were at war with each other. A great “law of peace” came to be in 15th-16th century. Not a law as we think of a law, but a process for maintaining peace. A process, an ideology, a perspective.

-women raise chiefs, choose chiefs

-chiefs don’t have a voice, are the voice of the clan

-spirituality – how the decisions we make affect everyone

-a meditative state, all the time, the practice of peace

-clan mothers decide when to go to war because they suffer the most, maintain peace until the last moment


Six Nations could not decide what to do when the American Revolution – some fought with Americans, some against. Inter marriages tied groups to different sides. Six Nations was strong at the time, 17 thousand of their soldiers died in support of the crown in 1812, Britain would have lost if not for indigenous support.


1812 re-enactment invited indigenous groups, cancelled their time slot at the last minute to make room for the Governer General.


1924 indigenous delegation from six nations went to the Queen in England, was shut out, went to the league ofnations with support of Sweden and Holland, toured Europe. Delegation was kicked out of Canada. Band council subsequently installed by force, stole wampon belts.


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