Archives For First Nations

[Today journalist and Canadian correspondent Dodie Graham McKay shares an interview with a Alma Kakikepinace, a woman who was protesting living conditions on Sagkeeng First Nation.  If you enjoy articles like this, please consider donating to The Wild Hunt. We are now in the home stretch. You make it possible for us to continue to provide a platform for our communities’ important news. What better way to celebrate the October season: Donate to a news organization that supports your spiritual community. Donate to The Wild Hunt today.]

SAGKEENG FIRST NATION First Nation, MB – On Sept. 21, Alma Kakikepinace embarked on a hunger strike to protest the lack of safe and healthy housing in her community. In addition to not eating any solid food, she has set up a protest camp and moved into a tent on the land adjacent to the trailer that she once called home.

Alma Kakikepinace (photo by D.G. McKay)

Alma Kakikepinace [Photo by D.G. McKay]

Four years ago, her trailer was damaged by a storm, in which a sheer wind knocked it off of its foundation. Since that point, the trailer has not had electricity or running water. It has also become infested with black mold, which has been making her sick. For years, her band council has repeatedly promised to assist and to find a new home, but nothing has been delivered.

Kakikepinace is now waiting at her camp for Sagkeeng First Nation Chief Derrick Henderson to deliver the promised help. Delays and politics are long and complicated with any First Nations issues. Various levels of government and bureaucracy, from the federal Canadian government to the band chief and council, are involved.

These conditions are commonplace on many of Canada’s First Nations reservations, and the province of Manitoba has some of the worst conditions in the country. Government documents, obtained by The Canadian Press through Access-to-Information legislation show Manitoba has the second-highest percentage of First Nations people living in dilapidated housing in the country. According to a 2014 United Nations Human Development Index report, quality of life on Manitoba First Nations ranks the lowest in Canada.

The black mold in Kakikepinace’s trailer is a common problem in Sagkeeng. These shelters were not designed to withstand the climate. But they are cheap for the government to supply, and commonly used on First Nations land across the country. Kakikepinace explained how federal health inspectors visited her:

“My house was studied three times. And when the federal health representative came up, I said you know you have done this three times, why are you doing this, what’s the point, nothing has changed in four administrations. He told me ‘Every time we study your home, Sagkeeng gets a shot in the arm for mold repairs.’ So if I’ve been studied three times, why haven’t I been repaired at least once? This is typical of reservations all across Turtle Island. I can say whatever I want, it’s not a black eye to the chief and council; It’s a black eye in the way the government is held over the First Nation people.”

Kakikepinace lives on her ancestral land at Sagkeeng First Nation, located 125 KM (78 miles) north of Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 1871, her great-great grandfather was one of the chiefs who signed Treaty #1, the agreement between the First Nations people and the white settlers for the land of southern Manitoba. By 1968 the housing crisis was already out of control.

Kakiepinace’s father was speaking out publicly about the deplorable conditions at Sagkeeng and was featured on the national news program “W5,” describing how the government bought and then gave to his family a condemned 20’ X 16’ house. The newsreel shows Kakikepinace as a smiling six-year-old child in a white dress,with her parents and eight siblings, all crammed into the tiny house.

Sam Mann, father of Alma Kakikepinace, and six-year-old Alma (screen grab from W5 expose, 1968)

Sam Mann, father of Alma Kakikepinace, and six-year-old Alma [Screen shot from W5 expose, 1968]

Not much has changed since then. In an interview at her camp with The Wild Hunt,  Kakikepinace spoke of how her home community was just one example of the failure of the system around her: “Sagkeeng is representative of many, many First Nations in what we know as Canada. But in truth, Sagkeeng is representative of the housing and the politics and the conditions across what I prefer to call, in the elder legends, Turtle Island.”

She also has this special message for the leader of Canada: “Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada, Justin Trudeau – I need to speak to you, face to face. I have a message about the First Nation housing crisis. I need to speak it to your face. I trust in Justin Trudeau to receive this message, which was cut off by the mainstream media.”

Many people have come to her aid, offering moral, financial, and spiritual support. One such helper is Michelle McNeill, a Witch and activist from Winnipeg. “I first met Alma in June of 2013 at a Womyn’s Gathering of All Nations, spear-headed by the indigenous women who got the direction through a shake tent ceremony, with bones that were unearthed from an ancient ancestor on sacred land in the Whiteshell (a provincial park and heritage site). Alma officially became a clan mother at the end of that first retreat in 2013. In 2014, she returned to the 2nd Womyn’s Gathering of All Nations to continue to share her teachings and spiritual service. We bonded deeply at these gatherings as spiritual allies.”

In addition to being in regular contact with Kakikepinace for moral support, McNeill has been making the drive from Winnipeg to transport supplies and visitors to Sagkeeng. She also set up a funding campaign to raise money for additional supplies, such as firewood, tarps, and equipment to keep the camp running. She stresses that all of the money raised goes directly to this cause.

Kakikepinace's camp, with mold-infested trailer in background (photo by Dodie McKay)

Kakikepinace’s camp, with mold-infested trailer in background [Photo by D. G. McKay]

Chief Derrick Henderson did communicate with Kakikepinace on several occasions via phone and text. He also made some visits to the camp promising that the funds, which had been earmarked for mold repair, would be signed over to her. With those funds, he reportedly said, she could purchase a new trailer, and get out of the elements for the winter until a more permanent home could be arranged.

The days of her hunger strike stretched into weeks, and no settlement was forthcoming.

As her protest progressed, Kakikepinace found herself moving into a softer, more spiritual, trance-like place. She was able to receive guidance and teachings from the Creator. It was then that she began referring to her protest as a spiritual fast to reflect this transition.

Other visitors to the camp included two provincial politicians, Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs), Judy Klassen, MLA for Kewatinook, along with Dr. Jon Gerrard, MLA for River Heights and former Manitoba Liberal Party Leader. They promised to help carry her message to Ottawa, the capitol of Canada, and to Parliament.

By Oct. 5, and day 15 of her spiritual fast, Kakikepinace came to the conclusion that her beloved cat, Pootie, would need to find a new home. She could no longer care for him properly at the camp. She had rescued him from the local dump as a tiny kitten, but with the uncertainties she was facing, Kakikepinace felt that he deserved better. A post was made to the Facebook page for the camp on Pootie’s behalf. He now has a new home in Winnipeg.

Visitors from Standing Rock with Kakikepinace (centre) Courtesy photo

Visitors from Standing Rock with Kakikepinace (centre) [Courtesy photo]

On Oct 14, visitors from Standing Rock, North Dakota and members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) came to lend their support to Kakikepinace. They brought with them two charred logs from the sacred fire at Standing Rock. They pitched in to help with chores and held a ceremony, joining Kakikepinace’s sacred fire to the one at Standing Rock.

On Oct. 19 and Day 29 of her spiritual fast, Kakikepinace was midway through her interview with us when she received a text from Chief Derrick Henderson. He was offering to give her a cheque, to settle her claim for mold damage. This would enable her to purchase a shelter to get through the imminent winter. With temperatures going down to freezing at night, this could not have happened soon enough. Through an exchange of texts, witnessed by TWH, an understanding was made that the cheque would be forthcoming by early the following week, Oct 23 – 29.

Based on this information and in good faith, Kakikepinace broke her fast that evening. After 29 days without consuming anything except lemon water and tiny amounts of bone broth, an exhausted, cold, and drained Alma Kakikepinace was able to eat food again. She was determined to maintain the camp and sacred fire until the funds were transferred, and the new winter shelter arrived.

The following day, her spokesperson, helper and adopted brother, Robert Peters, posted the following to Facebook:

Alma’s health has taken a turn for the worse, with issues around ending her month-long fast. An ambulance was sent to the campsite two hours ago, but she has refused medical care. She is determined to hear from Chief Henderson the words “Your cheque is ready.” He has been promising this for over a week now (when he last visited her at the camp), and still only sends her text messages saying “I am working on it.

Things became very touch and go over the next few days. A nurse who had frequently visited her in the camp throughout the spiritual fast went to check on her and assess her physical state. Kakikepinace accepted traditional medicine. This worked to balance out her medical problems that appear to have been a cardiac episode.

As of Oct. 26, Kakikepinace has accepted delivery of an 18-foot trailer, which is being winterized with help from her friends. She will not leave her ancestral land and is committed to staying for the winter in the trailer, which is now located beside the protest camp. Her fight is not just to secure her own housing; her fight is to draw attention to the unacceptable housing that First Nations people across the country are forced to accept.

How far will she go? How long will she fight? In her own words, Kakikepinace said:

‘Until I die’ – it was not flippantly said. I am willing to give my life. Tired of the status quo, tired of a dark world where indifference has become the norm, tired of my tribe being left out and imprisoned in a world of imbalance. Harsh words? Harsh world, from my perspective. My truth, many people’s truth. I’m sure there are many people who could say this in the world and be there, living it. So not to be using all the baser emotions, fear based, you name it – but if all the nations rise together at this time, and topple the lie that became truth, and put it back into perspective, this change that needs to happen, is not on a physical plane, and I’m not afraid to sound like a nutty case when I say that, there are many, many people who can relate to what I’m saying

The protest camp has been open to visitors from all paths and cultures. Kakikepinace has served as an elder and mentor for many people, indigenous and non-indigenous alike, who want to learn and understand the traditional ways of the First People of Turtle Island. Her thoughts are quoted in the introduction to the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission’s final report that was published last year:

The healing is happening – the reconciliation…I feel that there’s some hope for us not just as Canadians, but for the world, because I know I’m not the only one. I know that Anishinaabe people across Canada, First Nations, are not the only ones. My brothers and sisters in New Zealand, Australia, Ireland – there’s different areas of the world where this type of stuff happened…I don’t see it happening in a year, but we can start making changes to laws and to education systems…so that we can move forward.

Michelle McNeill sees this as an opportunity for Witches, Pagans and practitioners of earth-based spirituality to stand together. She said: “We are stronger when we are able to rise up together united as people of the earth who are here to honor and protect the earth. We all practice earth-based spirituality and are united in our mutual reverence for the earth, elements, and cycles. I honestly believe we all hold pieces of a much larger puzzle and when we are open to healing and sharing with each other the puzzle pieces start to come other and the teaching of our ancestors become more potent and powerful.”

michelle-alma

Michelle McNeill and Alma Kakikepinace [Courtesy photo]

At long last, on the anniversary of the fifth week of her protest at 5:00 pm, the moment Kakikepinace has struggled to achieve finally happened. Chief Henderson drove up the muddy driveway to the trailer. He delivered the long-overdue settlement cheque to Kakikepinace personally. It is not enough to purchase or build a new permanent home, but it is a start.

As per the agreement, Kakikepinace took down the “Housing Needed” sign that had marked the gateway to her camp. The tents will be taken down by a volunteer work party on Saturday. However, this is just the end of the first chapter in the long road of advocacy on which Kakikepinace has embarked. She will not back down in her fight to make sure the others in her community in need of clean, safe, and healthy housing get help. She refers to these neighbours as “The 500,” as she estimates there are at least 500 homes in need of repair or replacement. Many of The 500 visited her camp to offer support when she needed it, and now she will return the favour.

Funds are still being accepted by McNeill at the GoFundMe page, and updates on the protest can be found on the Facebook page.

 

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Author’s note:

Last year at this time I wrote about being inside an ancient burial mound in Ireland for Winter Solstice.

If anything, this essay is the shadow of that essay. 

I write it for the obscured, the displaced, and the massacred at Wounded Knee, and elsewhere, as well as all the other First Nations people whose lives and sacred sites are not honoured by Americans, Pagan or otherwise.

And this is also for Anthony.

Mound and Mountain Laid Low

I woke into world the bastard child of a slaughtering Empire. I woke into world in an old Shawnee town, but I am not Shawnee, and the town is their ghost.

The town, in Shawnee, is called Chalawgatha, which is also the name of the band of Shawnee who lived there. Wherever they settled, they settled in Chalawgatha, because they were the Chalawgatha, and so Chalawgatha was their town.

What is the ghost of their town is a sprawl of mid-western pavement called Chillicothe, Ohio.

Chillicothe sits alongside a dirtied river on the last plainslands before the land roils upward into the ancient soft-green Appalachian mountains. Chalawgatha was a small settlement upon that same river with much smaller, hand-built mounts rising from the earth. Once the Algonquin ancestors of the Shawnee traveled those time-worn mountains and buried their dead beneath raised hills. The hearts of those mountains are coal; the hearts of those mounds are bone.

It’s doubtful the Chalagawtha Shawnee suspected that one day both mount and mound would be laid low.

Heironymous Rowe http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

Reconstructed Mound City, CC BY-SA 3.0 [Courtesy Heironymous Rowe / Wikipedia]

Homes of Hillfolk Upon Open Graves

Where I woke into the world is a beautiful, haunted place, forested hills whispering ancient truths from caves and streams, wildflower-strewn vales singing fairy-tale beauty into the souls of mortals. It is also a land trashed, paved-over, blown up to get the coal from the heart of the great mountain-spirits, razed to plunder the trees clinging to their face like verdant beards.

Where I woke into this world is sometimes filmed for European documentaries on American poverty, images of shoeless dirt-faced children montaged alongside shoeless dark-skinned children in Los Angeles.

I had shoes; my neighbors did not. Water poured from our tap, my neighbors drew from an arsenic-tainted well. Our sewer overflowed and opened, feeding tree-tall grasses and milkweeds; my neighbours shat in a shed.

We were poor. Others were more poor. The race to the bottom is an abyss mirroring the race to the top, smog-filled skies reflected in sludge filled pools.

The wealthiest can always have more wealth, the poorest can always have less.

Unlike others in those European documentaries, I was never filmed. I did not know my poverty except that I was told of it on television and from my violent and abusive father, who threw crumpled beer cans against a black and white television as Ronald Reagan told us how the Union fared. Then there were the commercials for colas, and shoes, and things we could never afford but others must could, because why would the television tell people to buy things for which they had no money?

When it rained, our clay yard turned slippery, light-brown slicks pooling water into drainage ditches along the rural highway gouged through those winding hills. It was sloppy, and clay is a relentless sort of mud, but I would play for hours. I liked the world best during those rains and just after, the air finally cleansed for a few hours from the moldy garbage-smell of the paper mill along the Scioto river and the rotten sewage smell from our overfilled sewer.

mead paper mill 1901

Paper Mill on Scioto river, 1901 [Public Domain]

The Chalagawtha Shawnee likely did not worry much over the smell of the paper mill. Nor did they wait like I did for the food trucks from the government, laden with brown paper-board boxes filled with processed cheese, dried milk-powder, and enriched rice. They did not clear space in their clay yards for each autumn’s delivery of blue-black coal for their wood-burning stoves. They did not pass by vales and hollows filled with rusting enameled machine-parts and used plastic diapers. The did not wonder at the strange pains and stranger thoughts entering their head from the nuclear plant just to the south.

We moderns, particularly the Pagan sort, are accused of romanticizing the past. I try not to make that mistake, but it’s difficult to imagine the slaughtered and displaced Chalagawtha Shawnee lived lives as miserable, as nasty, as brutish and as short as we’re taught to believe.

At least not until Empire came.

“Indians” like gods

I woke into the world as an ‘American,’ not as a Shawnee, a child of Empire and Capital, descended from displaced peasants from many other lands. From my father ran blood of Alsatians, Swabians, French, Irish and Welsh; from my mother came more French and Welsh and a bit of English.

I was formed from the blood and semen of peoples without title, wealth or trades. Displaced and impoverished people crafted the homunculus of me, mewling in an aluminum trailer. I was born the bastard heir of Colonialism, suckling not at the teat of imperial wealth pumps but upon rags dipped in the vats of government charity.

I knew none of this then. Empire was a thing elsewhere, wealth the currency of cities on the other side of those low mountains.

Slaughter of peoples, when you are a child, is for the story-books and the 3 channel-reception of the small glowing screen: cowboys shooting Indians, Romans burning Heathens and Christians, Hitler marching Jews to ovens. Ancient peoples and their gods were all over-ocean and under far-flung skies, not by the low mound by which I played and napped.

Ancestors from over an ocean settled in untouched forests, unwitting footsoldiers of Imperial reach, pushing the descendents of mound-builders ever westward, as if chased by an unseen, voracious monster from which all peoples knew to flee. Wars fought between the settlers’ government and the tribal confederacies always ended poorly for the defenders, but what became of these lands cannot be described as glorious or even civil.

The Chalagawtha Shawnee settled in towns nearby the burial mounds of their Algonquin ancestors. They were built during periods named in the American fashion, the Hopewell and Adena cultures, after the names of the settlers’ estates where their mounds were identified. The Chalagawtha town along the Scioto river was near a collection of mounds named now, in even more an American fashion, “Mound City.

From that Chalagawtha near Mound City by the Scioto river came the most famous Shawnee, and the most antagonistic to Empire, Tecumseh. Traveling with his brother, a prophet given to visions of coming storms and calamities, he led a resistance of confederated Creek and Shawnee tribes against that westward push.

Tecumseh was killed in battle in 1831, far from Chalagawtha. But he would return eighty-five years later to those mounds, at least for a few years, by way of an orphaned child of settlers who went on to burn cities to the ground.

Seven years after Tecumseh’s death, Tecumseh Sherman was born, later christened “William Tecumseh Sherman” by his adoptive mother. His father, a lawyer in Lancaster, Ohio, had developed a fascination for the Shawnee hero, gifting the name to one of his children but dying without giving them anything else. Raised by a wealthy politician instead, William Tecumseh Sherman later became the general who would order “Hard War,” the scorched-earth tactic which saw Atlanta and other southern cities become settlements of flames.

Soldiers from Camp Sherman training for the United State's first worldwide war of Empire

Soldiers from Camp Sherman training for the United State’s first worldwide war of Empire [Courtesy Ross County Historical Society]

General Sherman died in 1891 in New York City and was buried in St. Louis, Missouri, both far from Chalagawtha. But 16 years later, as the United States entered the first global imperial war, the Union he’d helped preserve built a training and supply installation along the Scioto River atop the mostly-flat plainsland.

Flat, except for a few small hills….

Mound City was razed to make way for global war, the birthplace of General Sherman’s namesake buried under a military fort. There, in old Chalagawtha, men trained to join an imperial power in fighting other imperial powers in trenches gouged into the land from whence the settlers who’d displaced the Shawnee came.

It’s Totemic, and also a really bad joke.

“Their graves turned into ploughed fields.”

250px-Camp_Sherman_Chillicothe_OH_1918

Soldiers make an image of Woodrow Wilson on an ancient burial ground, 1918 [Photograph by Mole & Thomas]

The mounds of Chalagawtha were later excavated and rebuilt—Camp Sherman was dismantled in 1920—and the remains catalogued and distributed. Some went overseas, kept as a sampling of colonized cultures in the British Museum in London, others displayed in the visitor center.

I went to the visitor center at Mound City, visited that mounded center of Chalagawtha. I remember looking at those relics, a child ten years of age, confused. There was lots of mica, some wood, a little copper, all from an age when ‘real indians’ lived and fought and died, before the coming of cities and cables.

That year—I do not remember if before or after my visit–I had learned there were still-living indians, though I could perhaps be forgiven for disbelieving it. Cable had just been lain along the ridge-line where I lived, so I’d now seen so many more stories of the killings of First Nations people that they’d become as mythic as unicorns or gods.

A real-life indian came to my school that year, dressed in white tasseled deerskin leather. I remember asking him—I had to, I’d been fooled before—if he were really an indian, because they were all dead.

He laughed, and smiled, and said ‘some of us are still alive.‘ But he looked a little sad, and very honest.

I hadn’t believed in indians, the way I hadn’t believed in gods. I’d read the stories of their existence, knew they’d once roamed the earth, but surely they’d all gone under the earth like Zeus and Apollo by now. And here was a real-life Indian, one who’d somehow survived the coming of settlers and refrigerators.

He was Choctaw, I remember. He made certain we knew this, that he wasn’t ‘from here,’ but from elsewhere.

The Choctaw were known as one of the ‘five civilized tribes’ on account of their early peace treaties and alliances with the United States. When the Chalagawtha Shawnee chief Tecumseh met with the Choctaw leaders and pleaded their help against the settlers and colonists, he was not only rebuffed but threatened by Pushmatah, the Choctaw leader, who vowed to fight those who fought against the United States.

In a transcribed speech to the Choctaw, Tecumseh warned their relationship with the new imperial state would not go well:

Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mochican, the Pocanet, and other powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man, as snow before the summer sun … Sleep not longer, O Choctaws and Chickasaws … Will not the bones of our dead be plowed up, and their graves turned into plowed fields?

Tecumseh was right. Pushmatah, who had organized Choctaw warriors to fight against Tecumseh’s Creek alliance, died 11 years after Tecumseh in Washington D.C., there to beg the government for redress against white squatters of Choctaw land. And six years after Pushmatah’s death, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed, granting the U.S. full control over all traditional Choctaw lands, despite their decades of alliance against bellicose natives.

I do not know if the Choctaw man who spoke to our class thought much on this matter, nor did any of us children know enough to ask on that tragedy. I do know now that he was not the first ‘real-life indian’ I’d met. Adjacent the clay-pit upon which my home stood lived my friends whose always-tanned skin, even in the heart of winter, was an embarrassment to them but a matter of fascination for me. And off the ridge, in the small ghost township called Knockemstiff, lived several families without running water, whose body odor was an unfortunate source of jeer and amusement to us elementary school children; their kids shoeless except in deepest winter when they walked clumsily in adult boots many inches too big for their feet.

Angry Lands, Haunted Peoples

It’s tempting to see the re-appearance of Tecumseh to the site of his birth in the form of Camp Sherman as mere co-incidence or accidental poetry. But the dead haunt us for a reason, and if we’re to have any hope of revolt, we cannot ignore these spectres.

Besides, the United States military has an intimate relationship to the slaughtering of First Nations peoples–the same military which Pagans begged to include Pentagrams and Mjolnir on headstones was responsible for the slaughter at Wounded Knee and the countless other slaughters of indigenous folk.

Ward Churchill has shown that the ‘yellow ribbon’ to ‘support our troops’ –those jingoistic magnets on automobiles traversing highways built over the corpses of buffalo– come from the scarves worn by U.S. soldiers during the ‘Indian Wars.’ Even now, the military names weapons and military vehicles after conquered peoples (as Noam Chomsky mentions,We might react differently if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy”), and the US military code-named Osama Bin Laden, “Geronimo.”

The United States is all one vast grave of slaughtered peoples. Our subdivisions, our malls, our kindergartens and Pagan bookshops are all lain over stolen land. And not just stolen, but currently-in-the-process-of-being-stolen. I live on stolen Duwamish land–and they, whose river is a Superfund site poisoned by industry and occupied by a war-machine manufacturer, are not even recognised as a tribe despite their very real existence.

Aerial_view_of_barges_and_warehouses_on_Duwamish_Waterway

Polluted river of the Duwamish [Public Domain]

In fact, like the homeless, like the sacred, like global warming, like the poisoned earth in places like Appalachia, Capital and Empire merely pretend its own apocalypse, its own slaughter doesn’t exist.

But so do we.

Our disenchantment is mere denial, springing from our separation from the land and ourselves. It’s horrifying to make a connection between the places we live and the rivers of blood and sagas of sorrow which cleared the land for our single-family homes and hipster restaurants, or even our sacred sanctuaries. This is Marx’s ‘estranged labor,’ expanded by Silvia Federici’s work, the way we separate aspects of our being, classify our activities, and Enclose certain experiences from other experiences, living disjointed, fractured existences, alienated from and terrified of interwoven threads of meaning.

Animism can shatter these categories. Paganism’s supposed to, but can’t if it continues to cling to the benefits of Empire.  Animist peoples know this, but we, bastard children of Empire, do not.

Being disenchanted, utterly disassociated from the land means we can’t even trace the threads between the ‘benefits’ of modern civilization and the slaughter of peoples.

Appalachia is the World

Nowhere is this more evident than Appalachia, the place where both Tecumseh and I were born.

Much of Appalachia is what some call ‘exclusion zones,’ and they are essential for the existence of Capitalism, as well as most of what makes modern life so (-called) ‘civilized.’

In exclusion zones, Capitalism functions precisely as it did when it first started, poisoning the water and air, raping the land for resources like coal and wood, and keeping the population in conditions quite similar to early 19th century peasants. There used to be many more such places in the United States, but in the last fifty years, as environmentalism took hold and terror of acid rain, smog-filled cities, cancer, and developmental disabilities finally took hold, Capitalists altered their behavior…slightly.

They didn’t stop wasting the planet, polluting the air and water, or making miserable the lives of people.  Instead, they just moved it elsewhere, hid it from the view of the consumers whose purchases give consent to all this exploitation. They moved this to exclusion zones, benefiting from (and propagating) myths about the ‘backwardness’ of the people in those areas, helped ensure those who didn’t see that damage never took seriously the accounts of people experiencing it.

Mills-top-down-excavation

Excavation and destruction of Adena mound, another sort of ‘mountain-top’ removal, 1901 (Public Domain)

Thus, in American discourse, Appalachians are stupid hicks, backwards, violent conservatives (or militants), uneducated, and not worth listening to.

And If you’ve followed anything at all about the recent protests over the murders of unarmed Black men in the United States, you’re probably seeing a parallel. The same that is said of people in exclusion zones in the United States is said of People of Color, and this is not by accident.

The plight of the Appalachian whose water is poisoned by coal mining is similar to the Midwesterner whose water is poisoned by fracking, and both are similar again to the plight of the Black family living in Detroit or Baltimore in abject poverty, with their water being turned off.  And the similarities don’t end there–lack of resources, lack of education, high crime rates, indifferent and often oppressive government representatives, and a great silencing of their voices constructed through prejudices regarding education, lifestyle, culture, and family structures.

And these groups are all similar to those living in exclusion zones around the world, where the overwhelming amount of damage and destruction wrought by Capitalism is displaced. Razed forests, poisoned rivers, dried-up wells, toxic waste, abject poverty, unbreathable air–these are the foul spirits birthed by Capitalist greed, but we don’t see it.

The same process which keeps us from seeing the Dead, the spirits, the fae, and the gods keeps us from seeing the Chlnese labourer attempting to kill herself rather than make another iPad, from seeing the connection between our automobiles and U.S. Imperialism, our electricity and mountain-top removal, our comfortable lives and the constant wars in the Middle East.

It feels like we’re waiting for an inheritance we’ll never get and we are not owed. Empire’s slaughter cleared land for the coming of displaced Europeans like my own family, but it doesn’t care about me, only my submission, only my silence.

It also doesn’t care about you, either, except that you buy what it’s got to sell, stare at screens on your way to your jobs, and keep denying the connections between your security and all the people that have to die to make you feel safe.

The dead Black kid in the street is also the slaughtered Lakota at Wounded Knee, and they are both also the drowned Syrian refugee, the shoeless cancer-ridden Appalachian, and all die in the name of Empire.

Perhaps we, Empire’s bastard children, will finally take their side instead.

 *   *   *

This column was made possible by the generous underwriting donation from Hecate Demeter, writer, ecofeminist, witch and Priestess of the Great Mother Earth.

Buffalo-Skulls-1870

Collected Buffalo Skulls, 1870. The U.S. Government and private corporations encouraged the slaughter of Buffalo to starve First Nations peoples.

(this is for the dead)

Fighter jets are flying overhead; their screeching rage punctuating the rumbling roar of heavy-tread machines behind me. Particles of dust and exhaust cling to sweat-drenched skin in the searing sun. Everything feels dry, desiccated, as if all the shadowed life of this place has been swept over by a sudden desert.

My attention’s drawn to something unexpected–four red strokes against white, crimson vivid as blood, pasted against a steel pole. It’s a glyph, a sigil, with a power steeped in terror.  I need to leave this place to find a friend, but my attention is held. Something hardens in me as I stare, a sorrow awakening in veins constricted by anger.

I cannot believe what I am seeing. I look around myself to see if others note it. Women wearing head-scarfs are gathered nearby, speaking to each other quietly next to buildings which soon, too, will become rubble to be hauled away. It’s unlikely they’ve seen this mark.

I scrape it off the pole. No one seems to note my actions, neither the uniformed man who watches the gathering of Arabs a hundred feet from this pole, nor all the others passing by. It peels off easily, and I slip it into a pocket to show others, just as another aerial machine-of-death makes a second pass over where I stand.

“Indian Country”

I’m standing on a street corner in Seattle, not the Middle-East.

There’s a naval celebration going on–those jets are The Blue Angels a military performance troupe. I’m not in the middle of a declared war-zone, but I am in the middle of an occupation. And the sticker? It was three K’s, placed on a light pole in the middle of a traditionally black neighborhood undergoing massive gentrification. The bulldozers behind me are tearing down old homes and shops to make room for high-priced condominiums.

This was not far from the house I’m staying at. My host has been a First Nations man who was adopted out as a child to a white family who actively worked to keep him disconnected from his indigenous past. Neither of us have ancestral connections to Seattle, though he’s got closer claims to actually being on this land than I.

Also, he’s gay, like I am. Seattle’s a remarkably “tolerant” place for sexual minorities who play the middle-class games.  It’s one of the reasons why I’ve stayed here so long, why I returned here after being gone for a year. I was elsewhere, searching for home, but this place called me back.

But by being here, I’m helping to displace the people who lived in this neighborhood before. In fact, this was one of the few places where blacks could live in Seattle due to redlining and other practices. I’ve met folks who still remember when it was called “coon town.”  They’re younger than you’d think.

White, mostly liberal folks, flooded this area after the recent housing-price collapse, buying up foreclosed homes. Many of those evicted were black. Many, from the stories I’d heard, had taken out equity loans on houses that their grandparents were born in and found the sudden inflation of rates meant they couldn’t pay it back. Real estate agents harassed the residents who hadn’t lost their homes; My neighbor and friend complained of still getting unsolicited offers from white realtors several times a week. The poor, mostly minorities were pushed out, and bourgeois entered.

Blacks were hauled over in slave ships to help white people make money in America. Immigrants were brought in to build the railroads and then vehemently oppressed when they were finished.  And all these groups helped displace the indigenous First Nations before them.

Did I just say displaced? I’m sorry. I meant slaughtered.

You used to be able to get money for “Indian” scalps. The U.S. government once encouraged people to shoot buffalo to help starve the First Nation resistance to westward expansion. Freed-slaves who joined the army were heavily involved in the Indian Wars and called Buffalo soldiers. And even today, “Indian Country” is U.S. Military slang for enemy territory.

But because of all that violence, the smallpox blankets and massacres and starvation, this open, tolerant, liberal city I live in has space for me. I’m “free” to practice my Pagan religion now, and the same military which killed natives now officially recognizes both my religion and my sexuality. This is all supposed to be “progress,” except I just saw a KKK sticker in a traditionally black, gentrifying neighborhood, and we’re all on stolen, conquered, and occupied land.

We Inhabit The Past

buffalo 4What we know and believe that the past and our histories greatly determine how we encounter the present. Without knowledge of slavery, for instance, I might be inclined to see the poverty of minorities in America as some sort of problem inherent within their cultures or, worst of all, intrinsic to their very nature.  And if I am ignorant of that past, I might encounter all the anger, rage, and despair of minority communities as unwarranted, unjustified, and dangerous.

Most everyone, though, knows about slavery and has at least a vague understanding of the slaughter of First Nations people on this continent, so the matter is less what is actually known than what is actually believed about those things.

As I’ve mentioned before, belief affects human actions, not just human perceptions. Our accepted histories are not mere narrative. They rise to the category of belief precisely because they determine the way we encounter the present.

One of the most difficult problems in our histories is the notion of “progress;” the Enlightenment notion that we have moved beyond the past into a better present. This Progress Narrative is a way of divorcing and disconnecting our present from all the atrocities of the past while justifying our actions now. Once, Americans held slaves and treated minorities as less-than-human, but now, we are equal. Once, Americans slaughtered indigenous peoples on this land, but now we’ve passed to a more progressive, enlightened state.

It’s a narrative of the past, certainly, but it defines what we think of ourselves now. Post-Colonial, Marxist, and Anarchist scholars have variously noted how Western civilization creates a conception of itself which poses all other present and former societies as primitive, existing in a less (politically, economically, and socially) evolved state. That is, it “others” all societies besides itself, positions itself as the most-evolved form of society humanity has yet attained, and then sees all societies (including itself) through this filter.

A particularly pernicious effect of this, though, is that parts of our own society that do not fit this narrative become ignored, made invisible by the story we tell about ourselves. We see moments of crime against sexual, religious, and racial minorities as aberrations to the liberal, tolerant society in which we live, as if all the past is behind us and all the blood of scalped and starved natives, of tortured slaves, of murdered immigrants do not, even now, fertilize the ground upon which we plant our organic gardens. And when we look at our past, we disconnect those events from the present in which we live. The displacement of peoples, slavery, First Nations genocide–those happened then, but we live in now.

But history is full of processes, not just events and presences, which continue to haunt and continue to not just shape but inhabit our modern interactions with each other.

The post-colonial historian, Dipesh Chakrabarty, writing about European mode of disenchantment and secularism, noted:

what allows historians to historicize the medieval or the ancient is the very fact that these worlds are never completely lost. We inhabit their fragments even as we classify ourselves as modern or secular (Provincializing Europe, p112).

This has a terrifying consequence. Our notion of being different and removed from the atrocities of the past is utterly false, even more so when those atrocities are unacknowledged and unrepaired. White Americans do not currently own African slaves, but the conditions of slavery continue to affect the descendants of those slaves and the wealth derived from slavery continues to benefit the descendants of those owners and American society. The land taken from indigenous peoples through violence is where we all now live. We’re not just the inheritors of atrocity–we are also the beneficiaries and the continuation of them.

We can look at our present through this lens and start to understand much of our current political, racial, and economic crises and how we, willingly or more often inadvertently, continue the atrocities of the past into the present. The United States of America was birthed in colonization with the oppression of peoples. Is it any wonder that our government supports other governments doing similar things?  It took a very long time for the U.S. Government to stop supporting Apartheid in South Africa precisely because “European settlers on non-European land” looked awfully familiar.  We can see the same thing in the Middle-East, as well. Regardless of what one thinks of that conflict, it should give us pause that the U.S. Government has given more military aid to the Israeli government since the second World War than to any other country in the world.

“Not in My Name”

leviathan_hobbes_cropped_03

From the frontispiece of Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes

Speaking of governments, one of the other legacies of The Enlightenment besides Capitalism, Nationalism and Democracy, is the notion of complicity. Like egregores, the modern state demands a shared identification of its people. That is, since sovereignty no longer derives from the land or the gods and now is said to derive from “the people,” it’s become difficult to separate the actions of a government from the people whom they are said to represent.

This is different in other countries though. I first noticed it with a German friend. She and I had been talking about American CIA involvement in the overthrow of socialist governments in the Middle East and South America. I’d said to her something regarding how “we claim to believe in Democracy, but will undermine it when the people vote for someone we don’t like.”

“Why do you keep saying ‘we?'” she asked me.

I didn’t understand the question.

“We?  Why ‘We’?  You weren’t there, and you didn’t do it. The government did. Americans often say ‘we,’ and I don’t understand why. Germans don’t do that.”

I’d noticed this, but had thought it was merely a linguistic difference. “You never say ‘we’ when talking about Germany?”

“That’d be silly,” she replied. “I’m not Germany. I’m German, but I’m not Germany. You’re not America, either.”

I still think on that matter. It was relieving to understand that I was not personally responsible for everything the U.S. government had ever done. It was also terrifying, because I began to understand the meaning of implicit consent; how people in power were bombing children in Afghanistan and Iraq as if they represented my interests, and I was helping to pay for it with taxes from my paltry wages.

Before I’d understood this, my reactions to the founding (and foundational) violence of America were most often ones of disbelief. Sometimes I’d accuse the historian of such horrors of lying, or twisting facts towards an agenda.  But I realized I was mostly just being defensive, because I couldn’t believe “we” had done such a thing.

Thing is, “we” didn’t. Others did, just as others do now. But they did it in “our” name, just as they do now.

I’m a vehemently anti-racist Pagan Anarchist. On what grounds could a government ever have thought I’d want them to kill indigenous people? Or buffalos? Or allow and encourage people to own slaves?  And how could they possibly think that they’d be accurately representing my will by dropping bombs on children in the Middle East?

The answer’s awfully obvious. No government such as that could ever speak on my behalf.

There’s another side to this idea of sovereignty and complicity. If the actions of a government are a reflection of the will of the people, then it makes perfect sense that our government was wrong to attack us directly.  For any government to attack the people for whom that government is a mere proxy. After all, governments just do what they’re elected to do, right?

Many Gods, No Masters

So here I am, a gay Pagan living on stolen land. I didn’t steal it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was stolen. Not having been directly responsible, I cannot personally make amends, nor can I, with all the magic of the gods and spirits, hope to resurrect the dead, to undo those crimes.

More difficult, I have little choice in this matter. I live where I can; where I can afford; where things are open to me; where I feel safe. And I’m bound by the citizenship conferred to me at birth. I cannot merely “go back to Europe,” to my ancestral lands, because I have no legal claim to do so.

I guess I could perhaps do what many people do, which is ignore the whole thing, tuck the horrors away into a neat little envelope called “past” and pretend like these things don’t still happen. The more I work with spirits, though, the more I realize the dead don’t just go away like that. Besides, the horrors continue.  Poor minorities are still shot dead on American soil by city militia. The descendants of slaves continue to live in deep poverty and are thrown in prisons now, instead of slave ships.  And the government which claims to represent me, which derives sovereignty from my “consent,” slaughters people in other countries, too.

Knowing all that, I cannot look away.

This, too, is why it’s impossible for me not to see conflicts elsewhere as part of the same legacy of which we, in America, still re-enact. Watching the conflict in Israel/Palestine, I cannot help but think both of the plight of the people in the occupied territories and their poverty as being similar to what the indigenous people around me suffer. Simultaneously, I cannot help but identify with people in Israel who did not themselves choose to steal land from others. Many of them are the descendants of people who moved elsewhere, some are also people who fled from violence and hatred elsewhere.

Besides thinking Capitalism is the worst thing we’ve ever come up with, this is why I’m an Anarchist. The foundational violence which haunts every “freedom” in America was perpetrated by people who were not me. The violence which America still enacts in the world is committed by people who falsely claim to be acting on my behalf. I did not consent to those horrors, nor do I consent to them now, nor will I allow them to do those things on my behalf.

Anarchism doesn’t stop at rejection of a government. Recognizing that the suffering of other people relies on my implicit consent, I cannot allow that violence to occur. Governments who claim to represent my interests and who extract money from me in order to commit atrocities must be toppled, and the conditions which have allowed them to thrive must be changed so that they no longer may do so.

My Anarchism, however, is also my Paganism. The gods and spirits we’ve pushed out of our present continue to exist, as do the dead. Just because I live in the present, I am not absolved from my inheritance, nor of my legacy.  I cannot perform rituals on stolen land without working to have it returned, I cannot worship gods of place and people without fighting those who’d poison those places and sever those people from their gods.

There’s something really liberating about this knowledge, though. The notion that the past is dead is false, and this means we Pagans who are attempting to reconstruct ancient worship of ancient gods are still living among fragments of those religions. We don’t need to prefix what we’re doing with “neo-,” even if what we come up with, guided by our gods, is a different configuration from what our ancestors had.

That is, if the past is not ever truly gone, it can be rewoven, reshaped. It’s around us now. Processes which started centuries ago and continue to this day can be ended and amended. Fragments buried in plain sight under our illusion of being modern can be teased out from their hiding places.

We only need to stop claiming that the past is over, so we can own up to the past that is still with us.

I’d like to start off this Friday with some news items from Native and indigenous communities that may be of interest to readers of The Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt has always urged respectful solidarity with Native and indigenous causes, seeing many of their struggles and interests as overlapping with our own. I’m hoping that Indigenous Updates can become a semi-regular round-up feature here, much as Pagan Community Notes and Unleash the Hounds has.

Pagans and Solidarity with Idle No More: The Wild Hunt has reported before on Pagan involvement in the Idle No More movement, which largely centers on issues of treaty rights and sustainable development for First Nations peoples in Canada, but has also broadened into other areas and issues as well. Claire “Chuck” Bohman, a seminarian and Reclaiming Witch who has spent time and practiced solidarity with the Idle No More movement, has written a helpful guide for Pagans interested in participating with Idle No More.

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“We must learn to follow the leadership of first nations people. This is a movement led by First Nations people. Those who are most directly impacted by decisions made by people in power must be leading this movement. Part of how colonization and white supremacy works is by instilling in white people the belief that their opinions and voices are more important than others. Too often, I have seen white people get involved with justice struggles led by people of color and quickly begin speaking loudly and often in meetings and decision making processes. Part of being an ally is learning how to be a follower. This is not our movement to lead, this is a movement in which we are to follow. This is not to say that our voices are not important or that we should be silent. Just check yourself as you get involved and keep checking yourself. We must be humble, connect with the earth, and listen to our brothers and sisters.” 

I recommend reading the whole thing. There’s also a more general version written by Bohman at Tikkun Daily. Updates on Idle No More can be found at their official site.

The Ongoing Fight To Protect Sacred Sites: This site has chronicled several fights over the preservation of sacred sites, an ongoing issue in Indian country, where encroachments and construction on sacred lands are often done in the arbitrary name of economic development, or sometimes just for simple convenience (to non-Native folks of course). As such it can be a highly-charged political issue, with the latest flashpoint being protests from American Indian activists and tribal leaders over President Barack Obama’s nomination of Lynne Sebastian to serve on the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP). Sebastian has worked with mining companies to give paid testimony that would allow them to mine on contested lands, something that understandably makes activists nervous about her placement on a government preservation council.

Oak Flat recreational area in Arizona.

Oak Flat recreational area in Arizona.

Suzan Shown Harjo, president of The Morning Star Institute, has paid attention to Sebastian’s Quechan and Pechanga dealings, telling Indian Country Today Media Network that tribal consultation was sorely lacking in this nomination process. “If anyone in ACHP or the White House had consulted even a tiny bit, they would have learned of Native experiences with Lynne Sebastian,” she said. “Now they will have to assure her recusal from all deliberations and decisions on Native issues and we will have to monitor microscopically future ACHP vacancies and consultation on them.”

 Meanwhile, Native activists are trying to stop mining development in the Oak Flat recreational area in Arizona, saying that “the destruction and desecration of Apache lands” needs to stop.  The National Congress of American Indians passed a resolution opposing the land transfer for mining. All part of the ongoing, often unseen, struggles to protect the last pieces of sacred Native lands, often controlled by our government rather than tribal nations. 

40th Anniversary of Wounded Knee: February 27th of this year saw the beginning of the 40th anniversary of the Wounded Knee occupation on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. A 73-day standoff that pushed AIM (American Indian Movement) and Native issues to the forefront, part of a larger movement advocating greater sovereignty for American Indian tribes, an end to government-backed corruption in tribal governments, and demands that existing treaty agreements be respected.  National newswires like the Associated Press paint a mixed picture for how far things have progressed for the Pine Ridge Reservation and American Indian rights in general in the last 40 years.

[Faith] White Dress and others gathered Wednesday to remember the fatal 71-day standoff. During gunfire to mark the anniversary of the start of the occupation, she said the Oglala Sioux Tribe is still struggling. “Unemployment is so high and the oppression is still so bad,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to take violence. It’s going to take a gathering to determine how to bring jobs here. We need libraries. We need more of our children to have a better future.”

For those who want to learn more about the Wounded Knee stand-off the PBS documentary “We Shall Remain” has a good run-down of the events. For Native perspectives 40 years later, see this round-up at Indianz, this post from Last Real Indians, this video of the anniversary, photos from Censored News, and more. As seen by Idle No More, and ongoing activism, the struggle continues.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

Pagan Living TV Launches: Pagan Living TV, a non-profit media organization that seeks to create a world “where Pagan spirituality and philosophy is an influential voice in mainstream culture,” has launched their weekly video news program “The Pagan Voice.”

“Pagan Living TV is a charitable non-profit organization that produces a weekly news program that discusses the issues of today from a Pagan perspective.  This is the first professionally produced broadcast program that is produced in a multi-camera television studio, and is distributed on both the internet and on local cable channels in some major cities.”

As you can tell from watching the video, the production values are considerably higher than previous Pagan video-news efforts (no insult to those worthy efforts, merely an observation) showcasing Pagan Living TV’s ambition in raising the bar. As Pagan scholar Chas Clifton notes: “Although it’s still just talking heads in the studio at this point. At least there is a studio, not a sheet tacked to the wall.” I’ll be watching the growth of Pagan Living TV, The Pagan Voice, and future shows with interest.

Pagan Involvement With ‘Idle No More’: Last month I posed the question of whether modern Pagans should involve themselves with the growing indigenous/Native activist movement known as Idle No More. Since then, some high-profile figures within modern Paganism have visited the camp where where Chief Theresa Spence, of the Attawapiskat First Nation, is holding a hunger strike, or gotten involved with Idle No More actions. First, Pagan philosopher Brendan Myers, who lives near Victoria Island in Canada visits Chief Theresa Spence’s camp and share’s his observations.

Chief Theresa Spence's Camp

Chief Theresa Spence’s Camp

“Of all the many social groups which comprise Canada’s social fabric, the First Nations, the Metis and the Inuit have a special place in our identity.They gave to “us”, the visitors on this land and their descendants, a gift so precious and so valuable it’s likely that nothing we could give them in return could possibly compensate them. That gift was the land on which this country was built. Without one or two other ethnic groups in our history, we would have a different country, for better or worse; without the First Nations, we would have no country at all. Therefore, Canada has special responsibility, it seems to me, partly arising from the various treaties which the Crown signed with the First Nations, but also arising from the ‘economy of honour’ that surrounds gifts of that magnitude. Canada’s moral obligation, at minimum, to ensure that the living standards of First Nations people are at least as good as that of the average middle-class non-native Canadian person – and that’s not impossible, and that’s perhaps only the least of what Canada should do.”

In addition to Brendan Myer’s impressions, Shelley TSivia Rabinovitch, co-author of “An’ Ye Harm None: Magical Morality And Modern Ethics,” and co-editor of the “Encyclopedia Of Modern Witchcraft And Neo-Paganism,” has also been visiting Chief Spence’s camp and attending Idle No More actions urging Pagan solidarity with this movement: “I feel wonderful. And I will do it again. And again. AND UNTIL STEPHEN HARPER HEARS that he cannot sell out this country.” Also of note, author and teacher T. Thorn Coyle attended an Idle No More solidarity action in Oakland, California and shares her thoughts:

“On Saturday, I joined a couple hundred people in solidarity with Idle No More. Chief Theresa Spence has been on hunger strike for more than 25 days now, challenging the Prime Minister of Canada to a meeting regarding the sanctity of the earth and indigenous sovereignty. Idle No More is standing up – singing, drumming, dancing, and blockading – for the rights of free waterways, and land unpolluted by dangerous fracking. I want to support this challenge, this attempt to afflict the closely held privilege of the short sighted governments and corporations that are only seeing the immediate need for profit or even more insidious: an upholding of a level of comfort that we’ve come to think of as a need. We don’t need to use as much fossil fuel or natural gas as we currently do. We could instead adjust our lives to use less, or more wisely. But most often we don’t, because we – as a society – like our comforts. Idle No More has the ability to challenge, not only the governments and corporations, but to challenge our own assumptions about what it is we need. They are doing the job of comforting the afflicted of the land and the people and creatures on the land, and afflicting the comfortable – the prime minister and those of us who want to consume all the things we are used to.”

For the latest updates on Idle No More, check out their website. I will continue to monitor Pagan responses to, and solidarity actions with, this movement.

In Other Community News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Earlier this December a new movement began when a coalition of indigenous and non-indigenous women in Canada came together out of concern for bills put forward by the Canadian government (specifically Bill C-45) that they feel are attacks on the environment and sovereignty rights of First Nations peoples. Dubbed “Idle No More” the movement has gained high profile attention thanks in part to an ongoing hunger strike by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who wants Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper and representatives of the crown to sit down with First Nations leaders.

“Conceived in November by four Saskatchewan women frustrated with the Tories’ latest omnibus budget bill, Idle No More is a First Nations protest movement looking to obtain renewed government guarantees for treaty agreements and halt what organizers see as a legislative erosion of First Nations rights. The movement’s most visible spokeswoman is Theresa Spence, chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation, the Northern Ontario reserve struck by an emergency housing crisis last year. Since Dec. 11, Ms. Spence has been on a hunger strike while camped on an Ottawa River island only a few hundred metres from Parliament Hill, vowing not to eat until she has secured a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Since early December, protests spurred by Idle No More have included a 1,000-person demonstration on Parliament Hill last week, a blockade of a CN rail spur near Sarnia that continued for a sixth day on Wednesday and a variety of brief demonstrations and blockades across Canada and parts of the United States.”

In the wake of these events Idle No More and Chief Spence’s actions have gained worldwide attention, sparking a wider call towards respecting the sovereignty rights of all indigenous peoples alongside greater attention to environmental and sustainability concerns.

idle no more image aaron paquette

“Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth.”

Given the themes of responsible environmental stewardship and respect for indigenous rights this is a movement that seems custom-made for Pagans to support and get involved in. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, solidarity with native and indigenous peoples is a natural stance for those trying to revive, reconstruct, and re-imagine pre-Christian faiths (so long as we do so with integrity). Of course not all Pagans will want to involve themselves for a variety of reasons, but it’s rare for a global movement to emerge that is so in line with our stated values. So in the months ahead I plan to look for, and document, Pagan reactions and involvement with Idle No More, and hopefully chart how this movement changes the narrative of indigenous sovereignty rights, a topic often ignored in global politics.

For those interested in learning more, and getting involved, here’s a link to a resource page. If you are a Pagan already involved, please contact me with your thoughts, and how you see your Pagan values lining up with Idle No More’s values. For my readership, what do you think? Should Pagans Idle No More?