This message of solidarity was written by Ellen Gabriel, known as the Katsi’tsakwas from the Kanehsatà:ke Nation. She is a prominent Indigenous human rights activist and leader in the fight against the Energy East Pipeline.
Currently there are some dedicated grass root initiatives being conducted in Ottawa to send a clear message to Canada’s newly elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Under the name of “Climate Welcome” a diversity of people will gather in Ottawa to send a message to Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberal government to halt tar sands expansion: protect the water and begin forging a new relationship with Indigenous peoples through respecting Treaties, implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Reconciliation and Restitution for the acts of genocide of the Indian Residential School system; and 2 independent inquiries into the human rights violations of Indigenous women committed by policing authorities: the Surête du Québec and the RCMP.
Oppression and subjugation of Indigenous peoples’ collective and individual human rights has been normalized by Canada’s archaic laws, like the Indian Act, which normalizes the cruelty and persecution of the First peoples of Turtle Island. The police, condoned by the state, attack the most vulnerable of Indigenous peoples communities: Indigenous women and children, Indigenous Defenders of the Land. Seemingly all for the same reason: the legitimization of the theft of our lands and resources by continually attacking women – the foundation of the family unit. So “change” must be multi-level: education of Canada’s colonial history and continued oppression; and must include a process of “decolonization” of government, its authorities, but even amongst Indigenous peoples themselves whose divisions are forged upon centuries old cultural shaming and religious ideology.
The Science of Climate Change supports the urgency of grassroots peoples’ actions in pressuring states like Canada to act now, not 20 or 30 years from now. However for many generations, our Elders were way ahead of scientists in alerting states to stop the destruction of our lands and contamination of our waters. Life they told us is far more precious than money and it is our responsibility to ensure that the children and future generations are given a future that they can enjoy and they should not be destined with cleaning up the present generation’s mess.
Climate Change action this weekend is important. Even if you can’t be there, the choice to change the status quo of oil and resource companies hijacking of our quality of life is in everyone’s hands. Changing how we consume pressures the government of Canada in how it deals with industry. Educating Canadians on their colonial history and their imperial agenda of Indigenous peoples’ land dispossession, institutionalized racism and paternalism must contextualize the discussions of the kind of change we want for the future. Change must built upon the pillars of respect, honour, human and environmental rights. Halting projects like Tar Sands’ pipelines, mining and shale gas exploration requires a concerted effort by all and history has shown us that governments cannot be trusted with our future.
We as Indigenous peoples are grievously worried about the future of Mother Earth: our environment our legacy for the future. But so are millions of other people around this beautiful planet. Prime Minister Trudeau will be held to account if no real change evolves and the status quo remains. We must remain vigilant, alert, but include ourselves in the problem, and be part of the solution, for the sake of present and future generations. That’s why I will be there this weekend.