First Nations on the Move — the Idle No More movement

Idle no more posterThe willow that weeps no more

by , The McGill Daily, 17 January 2013

Τhe air was cold, sharp, biting. A medicine man was burning sage in a cleansing ceremony and a sacred fire burned in my peripheral. An elder called forth all the women who knew the Willow Song to come share their voices. In my Torontonian grade school, Canada’s history begins with the so-called discovery of the Americas. The Willow Song, as well as many other Indigenous traditions, was never taught. As the beat of my heart blended with the beat of the drums, I began to understand the immensity of the history I did not know. So I took some notes from the Willow Song: willow trees bend by the force of the wind. They do not break.

Through the smoke of the fire, I could see the slow rush of the Ottawa River and on its noble cliff, Parliament Hill. Samuel de Champlain wrote in his journal on June 14, 1613: “the savages call it Asticou, which means kettle.” The waterfalls that gave the land its name are no longer there. Today, most call this Algonquin territory Victoria Island, home of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence. A woman who, through her hunger strike – still ongoing at time of writing – is inspiring thousands of people to march for Indigenous rights in the social movement now known as Idle No More.

The grassroots movement brings to light three main goals: the decolonization of Indigenous peoples by the federal government, the reversal of omnibus Bill C-45, and the union of Indigenous people and their allies in a collective, nationwide movement. Omnibus Bill C-45 amends 64 acts or regulations, including the Indian Act and several acts regulating natural resource extraction. Many of the reforms will allow the federal government to streamline projects and profit from Indigenous territories.

idle6***

A fellow Daily editor and I arrived on the island the morning of January 11 – one month after Chief Spence began her hunger strike. There was a demonstration planned for that day and buses were already arriving from all over the country with people ready to walk the short distance to Parliament Hill. The Ontarian band chiefs had convened the day before in Ottawa’s Delta hotel to discuss whether or not to negotiate with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This was our second attempt at getting past the camp gates. A media blackout that began the previous Monday had kept journalists like us out. The following day, we came as students instead, without recorder, notebook, or camera. (Thus, I won’t be talking about the demonstration inside the camp.)

Before entering the camp, my colleague and I spent a good ten minutes idling among the parked cars, unsure how to respectfully approach a movement we felt was not ours. A woman wearing traditional indigenous regalia approached us and introduced herself. She laughed with us and chatted amicably about where she was from. “Go make your observations inside,” she said. Continue reading

On the legacy of colonialism and the struggles against oppression today

[Nearly 50 years after the death of Frantz Fanon, the author of “The Wretched of the Earth,” this essay traces his legacy and relevance in the oppressive realities and struggles today.  Nigel Gibson, the author of this essay, presents a profound review of the reality of the imperialist stamp on the countries and peoples who have won national independence–but not social or human liberation.  The thinking and orientation of Frantz Fanon contributes much to people who are inexorably driven to challenge their ongoing oppression in the so-called “post-colonial” world.  The essay is long, but deserves attention from all whose lives and possibilities are framed by these questions. — Frontlines ed.]

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50 years later: Fanon’s legacy

by Nigel C Gibson

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/78860, Issue 564, 2011-12-21

When I was asked by Dr. Keithley Woolward to address the question of Fanon’s contemporary relevance, I was reminded of a blurb on the back of my recent book Fanonian Practices in South Africa: From Steve Biko to Abahlali baseMjondolo which reads, ‘This is not another meditation on Fanon’s continued relevance. Instead, it is an inquiry into how Fanon, the revolutionary, might think and act in the face of contemporary social crisis.’ My comments today should be considered in that spirit.

Frantz Fanon

‘Relevance’ ­ from a Latin word ‘relevare’, to lift, from ‘lavare’, to raise, levitate ­ to levitate a living Fanon who died in the USA nearly 50 years ago this coming Tuesday in cognizance of his own injunction articulated in the opening sentence from his essay ‘On national culture’: ‘Each generation must out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it’ (1968 206). The challenge was laid down at the opening of this year of Fanon’s 50th (as well as the 50th anniversary of his ‘The Wretched of the Earth’) which began with revolution ­ or at least a series of revolts and resistance across the region, known as the Arab Spring.

Fanon begins ‘The Wretched’, as you know, writing of decolonisation as a program of complete disorder, an overturning of order ­ often against the odds ­ willed collectively from the bottom up. Without time or space for a transition, there is an absolute replacement of one ‘species’ by another (1968: 35). In a period of radical change such absolutes appear quite normal, when, in spite of everything thrown against it, ideas jump across frontiers and people begin again ‘to make history’ (1968: 69-71). In short, once the mind of the oppressed experiences freedom in and through collective actions, its reason becomes a force of revolution. As the Egyptians said of 25 January: ‘When we stopped being afraid we knew we would win. We will not again allow ourselves to be scared of a government. This is the revolution in our country, the revolution in our minds.’ What started with Tunisia and then Tahrir Square has become a new global revolt, spreading to Spain and the Indignados (indignants) movement, to Athens and the massive and continuous demonstrations against vicious structural adjustment, to the urban revolt in England, to the massive student mobilisation to end education for profit in Chile, to the ‘occupy’ movement of the 99 percent.

And yet, as the revolts inevitably face new repression, elite compromises and political manoeuvrings, Fanonian questions ­ echoed across the postcolonial world ­ become more and more timely. (How can the revolution hold onto its epistemological moment, the rationality of revolt?) Surely the question is not whether Fanon is relevant, but why is Fanon relevant now? Continue reading