Meaghie Champion: Stop using "decolonization" as a fig leaf for Hamas
Methods of resistance for First Nations peoples have been predominately peaceful
By: Meaghie Champion
The recent brutal terror attack on Israel and Israel’s ongoing military strikes in Gaza are, of course, global news, and people are rightly paying attention. But there is an important element to this story that has real bearing on the lives of North Americans. I am deeply concerned about the increasingly casual and widespread use — I’d say “misuse” — of the term "decolonization" in relation to new war. As a '60s Scoop Indigenous woman from Canada, "decolonization" for me as a term has meant the profound struggles of Indigenous peoples to reclaim our rights, lands, resources and heritage. Its use in the context of the recent Middle Eastern atrocities by Hamas is deeply inappropriate and hurtful and indeed even damaging to Indigenous people in North America.
It's essential to differentiate between the Indigenous struggles in North America and the Israel-Hamas conflict. Our primary methods of resistance, such as the Oka standoff, Gustafsen Lake and railway shutdowns, have been predominantly peaceful.
First Nations have never resorted to extreme violence in the name of “decolonization.” We demand rightful recognition and that Canada abide by its own laws and Constitution as well as international law, and we use non-violent tactics in pursuit of those honourable aims. Our movement is about reclamation, not revenge. Decolonization is not about rape, kidnapping, hostage taking, mass violence and child-murder.
Anyone trying to justify violence against civilians, especially women and children, using our Indigenous legacy is, at best, misguided. Our cause is about healing, justice, and resilience. It is not about perpetuating violence. If you aim to involve us in the Middle Eastern conflict bring waged against helpless civilians with the utmost brutality, be aware: such actions will find little support among those of us whose "Snu'wuy'ul" (traditions/teachings) are still intact. It's critical that our stance is understood: we will defend our history, our legacy, and the true meaning of "decolonization" from those who would attempt to co-opt the term for their own political purposes.
In the traditions of my people, The S'amun'a of Cowichan Tribes, I am only allowed to speak on my own behalf in this regard. But I am speaking up, in defense of my Jewish neighbors and friends. The recent actions by Hamas demand global condemnation. Linking their actions to the Indigenous cause distorts our genuine, peaceful efforts. Further, equating our protests with violent agendas is not only misleading, this connection has and will be used to undermine and de-legitimize First Nations people and our efforts.
For example, back in the 1990s and 2000s, Native Youth Movement warriors who peacefully occupied B.C. Land Surveyors offices were painted by critics as being equivalent to Palestinian suicide bombers of that era. It did not work then, to try and smear our land and water defenders with that brush. I pray it does not work now.
If "decolonization" is to become nothing but a fig-leaf for the kinds of evil that Hamas engaged in this past week, I am of the opinion that it is better that word should be abandoned. This would be a setback to Indigenous peoples in North America, but it may be one forced on us by those trying to excuse and justify Hamas’s crimes. Why should we have to pay a price for a misguided effort to sanitize mass rape and murder?
I may not be a significant player in "Indian Affairs" politics. I may just be one voice that shakes with anger after past week. But I want to put it on the record: If this is what "decolonization" actually means to the academic and activist world, and the people within it, I'm having none of it. And I will do whatever I can, in whatever capacity I am able, to persuade my relatives to similarly follow suit. I reject your use of this term, and I ask you to stop before you hurt us further.
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