âpihtawikosisân a Metis originally from Northern Alberta and a podcaster add to that a lawyer living in Montreal. She has always been a an activist on the side of native rights. This a verbatim printing of her letter to you the settler.
"An Open Letter to “Angry Settlers”
Posted on February 26, 2020 by
- I’ve included this twitter exchange as context, and I’m addressing Claude, but Claude, in this case, is a stand in for all of the “angry settlers” who for the most part, claim to support Indigenous peoples in our struggles, just not when it “takes [them] hostage”.We all need to really think about what Claude is squirting out of his word-hole. He states that Indigenous people are putting his family’s well-being and safety at stake (risk). Let’s unpack that.Indigenous peoples are engaged in PEACEFUL actions. Where land defenders have stationed themselves outside buildings, providing information and putting pressure on policy-makers, these actions have been compared to labour actions, and in fact have been respected as such. Meaning, a number of unions have come out with statements that they regard these actions the same as they would a strike, and they will not cross that picket line. Dr. Glen Coulthard recently cited Harsha Walia as arguing the same consideration should be given to land defence.The labour comparison can take us further, because we have been experiencing a steady erosion of labour rights, rights that were hard fought for, and hard won. At the core of that steady erosion is the manipulation of public opinion, which invariably paints labour actions as “threatening safety”. How? By withdrawing labour, health workers “threaten” public health, striking teachers “threaten” the ability of parents to work and put students at academic risk, picketing construction workers “threaten” the economy, etc etc.More and more we have seen governments tabling back-to-work legislation, and criminalizing labour actions, all in the name of “public safety”. The particular bargaining unit in any given situation is demonized: they are greedy, lazy, paradoxically “essential” while also being completely replaceable and unimportant.I point all this out to show you that any segment of the population can be rendered “the enemy”, even those who are supposedly “protected” by unions. Those without robust labour protections are even more vulnerable to the rhetoric of “public safety”.Indigenous peoples have ALWAYS been scapegoated as a danger to settler society. Rooted in racist tropes of our savagery and unsuitability to the modern world, we are often portrayed as threat. And what is the threat we present at this moment? Some folks are refusing to be evicted from their land. In solidarity, other folks are blocking, or camping alongside railway tracks. No one is quantifying or qualifying what this ACTUALLY means in terms of real impact. In fact, we recently learned that the CN and Canadian Pacific had come together to broker a “work around” to keep essential supplies flowing.So at this point of Claude’s descent into angry settlerhood, the danger is only an existential threat. The railway is a symbol of Confederation in a tangible, but also very mythological sense. The “threat” people are responding to is mostly (I believe) based in the feeling that we threaten Canadian coherence.It is vital to remember, Indigenous peoples have not harmed anyone. We have not attacked, beaten, or threatened anyone. We have not pointed guns at Claude’s wife or children, not even at Claude. We have not removed Claude’s children and forced them into residential schools. We have not criminalized Claude’s family, locked up his relatives, administrated his poverty, created legislation to specifically discriminate against him and his family, nor have we engaged the media over centuries to vilify him and his family, then scold him for getting upset. We have not removed generation after generation of Claude’s family, forced them to speak another language, punished them for practicing their culture, physically or sexually abused them, sterilized them, sent them far away to hospitals where some of them simply disappeared.I could go on, for a long, long time. I hope you get my point. The violence that Canada is inflicting, right now, on Indigenous peoples is real. It is intense. It murders us, it pardons our murderers, it poisons us in the name of “the greater good”, it turns society against us.What Indigenous peoples are facing is no existential threat, it is a tsunami of death and pain and torment, every single day. It is REAL.Claude merely *imagines* what *might* happen if his fantasies about the savagery of the Indian play out. Claude wants us punished and harmed because he is afraid, because he has bad thoughts, and his fears consume him. Claude justifies his cowardice and racism by invoking the figures of his wife and child.Well listen, Claude, and the rest of settlerdom. You and your families are absolutely being harmed. You are at risk. And it has nothing at all, NOTHING, to do with Indigenous people.Your labour rights are being eroded by neoliberal governments. Your lives are becoming increasingly precarious as the quality of your labour protections are stripped away; you work longer hours for less pay, in more dangerous circumstances, and if you complain you risk losing even the scraps left to you. Your healthcare systems are being systematically stripped to make way for privatized healthcare. Doctors are leaving in droves, maybe you cannot even find a family doctor. Your health coverage means less and less each passing year, and as you age, you need more care, not less.Your environment is poisoning you. If you, like most Canadians, are located in an urban centre, environmental pollution is cutting down your life expectancy, and that of your children. It is bestowing upon you disorders, allergies, diseases. Outside the cities, the land and waters are still sickened. The animals are ill. It all affects you too.Your education system is being torn apart in the service of neo-liberalism. Your class sizes soar, and your children suffer, directly, in reality, not just in your fears. Housing is becoming a dream, a thing your children may never actually have for their own as they are priced out not just of home ownership, but even rentals. The “gig” economy has them stretched to the breaking point just trying to make ends meet, just trying to access minimums.Claude, if you aren’t absolutely terrified for the well-being and safety of your family over all this, then you are in deep, deep denial. But I don’t think you are unaware of all this. In fact, I think it leaves you sleepless sometimes.I think worrying about all of these realities actively harms your health, because it’s truly awful shit. And the worst part is, I think you feel helpless to keep your family safe, because these threats are hurtling towards you from every side. You don’t have a second to breathe because the hits keep coming.Indigenous peoples are not your enemies. Indigenous peoples are not threatening or harming your family. In fact, we are ALL being harmed by the things Indigenous peoples are fighting against. On top of that we are being harmed in ways you are not.When you paint us as a threat to your wife and kids, when you let all your pent up fear and stress and feelings of hopelessness coalesce into a fight response aimed at us, you relieve some deep down need in yourself to DO SOMETHING.But the rational part of you absolutely needs to recognize that you actively make your family more unsafe by doing this, by scapegoating us, and by ignoring the larger picture, the picture where you are only valued slightly higher than Indigenous peoples, because of your skin colour, your support for the settler colonial state, your health, your cishetero presentation, your socioeconomic class. And if you slip up, get sick, get too queer, slip down the rungs of prosperity, you’ll only slightly less reviled than we are.Ignoring all of this is the real danger to your family. If you love them as much as you almost certainly do, then you need to fight for a better now, and an even better future. You aren’t going to accomplish any of that by making us the enemy, “the threat”. Instead you actively shore up the power of the state that DOES. NOT. LOVE. YOU.êkosi."