August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Monday, October 30, 2017

French Guiana Indigenous -- Before Reconciliation is Thinkable, You Must Admit Your Crimes


By Christine Prat

PARIS -- This year, for several months already, Natives of French Guiana have organized protests and strikes that ultimately forced the authorities and the media to notice them and report about them. The Indigenous Movement in French Guiana started long before, but it is only when the protests and strikes began to disturb the quiet life of settlers and authorities that they were forced to talk about it outside Guiana. Of course, the response of the French Government is totally inadequate. However, the existence of Indigenous Peoples "in France" has become visible. On October 14th, 2017, Christophe Pierre aka Yanuwana Tapoka, was among the speakers invited by the CSIA-nitassinan for their 37th Annual Day of Solidarity. You will find below my translation of Yanuwana's speech. The title was chosen by me, from his words, the responsibility for the choice is entirely mine.
Christine Prat

"Greetings to you all. My name is Christophe Pierre in the language of the colonialists, Yanuwana Tapoka in my mother tong.
To begin with, I think it is necessary to give a description, a short vision, of the situation and history of French Guiana, which is currently, in legal terms, a French 'département' [county], a French region like any other. What is French Guiana? French Guiana is in South America, it is a French Amazonian territory. It is 50% of the biological diversity of Europe, 80% of the biological diversity of France. It is about 300,000 inhabitants, including a handful of Native Americans who survived colonization; a handful: if we really have to give numbers, it's between ten to fifteen thousand, according to the last information. As compared to those ten to fifteen thousand, it is nowadays estimated that at the time when the colonialists arrived, there were 25 to 30 Peoples, now there are only six over. Among those six Peoples, there are the Kali'na, the Palikuyene and the Lokono, who live along the coast, and inside, there are the Teko, the Wayãpi and the Wayana. Problems are different, power relationships are different according to the geographical situation of the peoples, but the struggle is practically the same, since the 1980's.

Kanahus Manuel in Paris 'Secwepemc Unsurrendered'

Photo copyright Christine Prat

Kanahus Manuel in Paris Secwepemc Unsurrendered

Recorded and transcribed by Christine Prat in Paris
Censored News

Photo copyright Christine Prat
I am from so-called 'British Colombia, Canada'. But I want to make it clear that we don't call it Canada. It's an illegal, dirty, evil, invading country. We have been fighting Canada for the past 150 years: this year Canada is actually celebrating its 150th birthday. When that invasion first happened, they started making 'land agreements', really illegal treaties, from the east coast to the west. But once they reached the Rocky Mountains, west of that, no treaties were made. So, our lands still remain unsurrendered and unceded territories.
Our territory is located in what is now called the south-central interior of B.C. It is approximately 180,000 square kilometers, the size of the UK. What Canada has done in this process of colonization has not been good. The impacts: like my brother said, we had the schools, the Indian residential schools, that did the same things, taking the children away from their homes and forcing them into these Church run schools, to strip the language from our people. In some of these schools, the priests and nuns raped 90% of the children. The sexual trauma on those children – my grandparents and so on – has had intergenerational impact that even affects the generation that have not gone. I am myself, as the first generation in my family, out of the residential schools' system. I am a mother of 4, and I gave birth to all of my children outside of the system, I refused to go to the doctors or hospitals to give birth, and I refused to register my children with the Canadian government. My oldest son is now 15 years old. And I cross international borders with them, I cross into the U.S., into Mexico, I brought them to Zapatista gatherings. So, anyone who thinks that you need a white man's I.D. as an Indigenous person to travel… I am just trying to prove to everybody that we do not need the white man's system to exist.
In the beginning of time, our people say that the Old Ones sent the Coyote, the chief Coyote, down to create our world. He created the world to what we have today, the salmon, the glaciers, the mountains, our lakes, night and day, the seasons, the way we conduct ourselves and our Nation. These are our laws that we follow. They come from the stories of the Coyote. From the ways of decision making to consensus among our Nations. We have markers throughout our traditional territories that show those agreements that we originally had, with our responsibilities. For example, the way that we are continuing to look after our salmon, one of our most important food sources. Our responsibility is to continue to look after the salmon, and in turn, the salmon will give us his life so that we can continue to eat, and we give back to the salmon and the salmon gives to us. Those agreements go for every living thing in our territories. From the very first drop of water as it melts of the glaciers, as it flows and touches everything, the roots, the mushrooms… Everything down into our mountains, all the way down to our rivers, is sacred.
Five of the major rivers, in so-called 'British Columbia', are forming our territory. When we go to the glaciers, it's so loud that you have to scream, because there is so much water. I don't know if you can see that little picture, but you could see it's blue, ant it's all the water, not even all the water, which is marked out on this map of our territory, it's how much water we have.
Another very harsh reality and impact of colonization, is the Reservation system and the Indian Act system. When the government came to force our people off our national territories, to a little 0.2 % on Indian Reserves. What Canada did was to force all of us Indigenous people to 0.2% of our traditional land base, while Canada became wealthy out of the other 99.8%. It became a super power and a wealthy country, out of blood and bones, sweat and tears of our people. At the same time they were forming the Indian Reserves, they invented this. They call it the Indian and Northern Affairs of Canada, we call it INAC, which is invented by government to really control the Native people. They receive federal funding, and in the past, it was an Indian agent that came around to every Reserve to make sure that they weren't starving to death. They had housing that was very inadequate, people were still starving, people did not have housing.
We see that colonization, through the displacement off our lands, created dependency on a colonial government, and when our people stand up against this oppression and fight back, we are criminalized and repressed. From 1927 to 1951, it was illegal for Native people to even talk about the land issue, (if I had been here, they would have arrested me and put me in jail, if I had been even here, like right now, and talking about our land issue), it was illegal to hire lawyers to deal with that unsettled land issue. But our people continue to resist and fight back.
Through poor housing and through our children being taken, apprehended, all the women started to organize. They occupied Indian agents' offices and forced them out of our communities. And it was since then that Canada made up dirty little tricks on how to continue to colonize our people, by reinventing elected systems that would be imposed on the Indian Reserves, where they would elect a Chief and Council. But this is not our traditional governance structure. Just to make it clear, if you ever travel to Canada and you hear that someone is a chief or a counsel for an Indian band, they are still agents of the state. Unless they are the traditional hereditary chiefs, or matriarch chiefs. It has to be really clarified where the lineage is coming from.
We had different uprisings in our territory, that ended up being the last armed standoff in Canada, in 1995, with the Gustafsen Lake standoff. This was over land, about title to a territory. And it was there that 18 of us, Secwepemc, stood there at a sacred Sundance area, and when asked to leave, just said "No, who owns that land?" And they ended up being surrounded by 550 RCMP officers that deployed. They set up landmines, they deployed armored personal carriers, and, at one point, during the end of the standoff, in one day they shot off in excess of 70,000 rounds on my people. One of our most respected elders ended up doing 6 years in jail for his action there. He is one of our war heroes. He just recently passed away, a year-and-half ago. If he was here, he would be at my side right now.
In 2001, our people stood up against a massive ski resort development. We had around 100 arrests, of Native youth and mainly of elders and women. This was an area that was really important to our people, the high open area where we hunt all of our moose.
Both of these had major repercussions. Every time our people stood up, the police would raid their homes, arrest our people, charge them with bogus charges and hold us without bail.
In 2014, we had one of the world's largest mine tailings disaster happen in our territory. The tailings impoundment area broke and dumped billions of gallons of toxic mining waste and heavy metals, and processing chemicals, into our lake, which is the deepest fjord lake in the world. We took many actions, we set up a ceremonial fire, right there, at the entrance of the site, a couple of days after the disaster. We maintained presence there, we monitored everything and took interviews, from all the workers that were whistle blowers there, at the company, from all the local hunters and people who came to join together for a ceremony over water and to figure out whatever to do about that massive disaster that just still was flowing, and they had no way of stopping it. We call this area (by a name) that refers to the breaking of a woman's water when she gives birth. Because it is an area where the salmons return to lay their eggs and the salmon breeding ground.
Currently, we are battling a 518 kilometers pipeline, proposed to go through our territory, called the Trans Mountain Kinder Morgan pipeline. And right now, what we are dealing with is Canada's trick. They are still trying to trick us, give us little trinkets for lands, and one of the ways is forming that illegal process called the 'B.C. Treaty Process', which is a modern-day treaty, no, not a treaty, it's a modern-day extinguishment process, because it's not even a treaty with the federal government or the Crown. It's actually a treaty just with the provincial government, so it's not a binding international treaty, it's very illegal, in the sense that they are asking Native people to freely sign this document for extinguishment, to relinquish all our titles to our lands, and they would grant back Natives a piece of land that any Canadian can rent or buy.
What Canada is doing right now… People around the world need to take notice that Trudeau and the Trudeau government, Justin Trudeau, is not a friend to us, Indigenous people. His father has really tarnished their name, and his father Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who groomed his son to be a slimy bastard like himself, Justin Trudeau's father thus, was one of my grandfather's enemies, and he was really pushing to exterminate us, Indigenous people. Through that 1969 White Paper policy. So, when Justin Trudeau got in as Prime Minister, we already knew we were up for another battle, another fight, facing up with the Trudeau family. Right now, they are trying to buy out this leadership, these INAC chiefs and councils, by giving them millions of dollars, to form our "traditional" government structure, which is enraging our people at this time. We, as Secwepemc People, we still maintain our traditional government and our decision making, and that we are the rightful title holders in our own territory. And when we say 'no' to those destructive projects in our land, we demand respect. You may hear words, as my brother here said, about reconciliation, Canada really loves to use that word, 'reconciliation', but one thing we always say is that there will never be reconciliation without our land - 100% of our land - back, and our control.

Copyright Kanahus Manuel, Censored News
Photos copyright Christine Prat
No portion may be reprinted without permission of Kanahus Manuel

Dennis Banks Passes to Spirit World

From his children

"Our father Dennis J. Banks started his journey to the spirit world at 10:10 pm on October 29, 2017.

As he took his last breaths, Minoh sang him four songs for his journey. All the family who were present prayed over him and said our individual goodbyes. Then we proudly sang him the AIM song as his final send off.

Our father will be laid to rest in his home community of Leech Lake, MN. Presiding over traditional services will be Terry Nelson. We welcome all who would like to pay respects. As soon as arrangements are finalized, we will post details.

Still Humbly Yours,

The children and grandchildren of Nowacumig

Tashina Minoh Banks Arrow Banks DeeDee Banks Tokala Win Banks Glenda Roberts Darla Banks Tatanka Banks"

Dennis Banks on Standing Rock Spirit Resistance Radio

Dennis Banks

Dennis Banks, cofounder of the American Indian Movement, live on Standing Rock Spirit Resistance Radio.
Broadcast by Govinda of Earthcycles, producer of Standing Rock Spirit Resistance Radio.
Watch video interview from the radio van at Standing Rock below.

American Indian Movement leader Dennis Banks, center, talks to press conference of his and fellow AIM leader Russell Means, left, attempts to help in food distribution on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 1974 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as efforts to effect the release of kidnaped Patricia Hearst continue. At right is AIM attorney William Kunstler. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Dennis Banks, cofounder of the American Indian Movement,
at Wounded Knee '73.

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