We are living in exciting times, with large numbers of people clearly fed up and taking action, no longer content to wait for the right moment or the right ideas or the right leadership to tell them what to do. Whether we think of Occupy, the Arab Spring, or the current Idle No More upsurge, spontaneity and taking a stand seem to be the order of the day. For those of us have lived through less exuberant times, it is a welcome change. That said, this new environment that clearly comes with its own potential pitfalls and weaknesses.
In order to try and understand this better, i asked some questions of Zig Zag, also known as Gord Hill, who is of the Kwakwaka’wakw nation and a long-time participant in anti-colonial and anti-capitalist resistance movements in Canada. Gord is the author and artist of The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book and The Anti-Capitalist Resistance Comic Book (published by Arsenal Pulp Press) and 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance (published by PM Press); he also maintains the website WarriorPublications.wordpress.com.
Here is what he had to say…
K: What are the living conditions of Indigenous people today within the borders of what is called “canada”?
ZZ: Indigenous people in Canada experience the highest levels of poverty, violent death, disease, imprisonment, and suicide. Many live in substandard housing and do not have clean drinking water, while many territories are so contaminated that they can no longer access traditional means of sustenance. In the area around the Tar Sands in northern Alberta, for example, not only are fish and animals being found with deformities but the people themselves are experiencing high rates of cancer. This is genocide.
K: Dispossession has been a central feature of colonialism and genocide within canada. Can you give some examples of how people have resisted dispossession in the past?
ZZ: Well in the past Native peoples had some level of military capability to resist dispossession, which ended around 1890. More recently there have been many examples including Oka 1990, Ipperwash 1995, Sutikalh 2000, Six Nations 2006, etc. At Oka it was armed resistance that stopped the proposed expansion of a golf course and condo project. At Ipperwash people re-occupied their reserve land that had been expropriated during WW2, and they still remain there to this day. At Sutikalh, St’at’imc people built a re-occupation camp to stop a $530 million ski resort. They were successful and the camp remains to this day. At Six Nations they re-occupied land and prevented the construction of a condo project.
K: The canadian state has an army, prisons, police forces, and the backing of millions of people – not to mention the fact that it is completely integrated into world capitalism, both as a major source of natural resources and as an imperialist junior partner, messing up peoples around the world. What kind of possibilities are there for Indigenous people to successfully break out of this system, and resist canadian colonialism? What is the strategic significance of Indigenous resistance?
ZZ: Indigenous peoples must make alliances with other social sectors that also organize against the system. The strategic significance of Indigenous peoples is their greater potential fighting spirit, stronger community basis of organizing, their ability to significantly impact infrastructure (such as railways, highways, etc, that pass through or near reserve communities) and their examples of resistance that can inspire other social movements. Continue reading