My name is Brad, I am Mi’kmaw from Taqmakuk. My community should be named Elmastogoeg, as was our old band name, but it still limited by its colonial name. And my band as recognized under the Indian Act is that of Qalipu. I live, as I have for nearly six year, on the lands of the Mississaugas and other Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee, and now the Chononton/Attawandaron (since I’m in so-called Guelph).
It has been a long, long month and I have already said much, elsewhere, on how I have been feeling. First, though, comes the sorrow of the things kept out of reach, for me, my language and the counsel of trusted elders (the latter, more due to having moved, the former due to colonial garbage). Second, comes the deep anger for all our relations caught in the colonial violence found in both the reserve system and in the cities, most especially for our peoples who cannot pass for white or hide among their colonizers like I can.
And then, the land itself… The exploitation of all that our world provides from Alton Gas to Site C to Line 9 to Muskrat Falls sits upon one’s chest–if one thinks of it too much. It is heavy upon me. But, this is what Canada is, a stripping away of the land, a maw of teeth and a belly of steel and fire. This is what Canada has always been. From long, long before today’s declaration of administrative changes in the Empire (ie. the British North America Act) to this moment, this country has been and is only violence. But, for the fragile settler, even talking negatively about Ryerson or Langevin (architects of the Residential School system) is often too far, too fast, too much. So, the violence continues while they smile and preen, while the State eats more of our peoples.
And we are not alone. Black lives are still treated with violent disregard as they have been since Africville to Andrew Loku. Muslim, Sikh, and immigrants of all faiths from the so-called Middle East and the South Asia are targeted day-in-and-out by Islamophobic attack. Migrant workers, who since settlers first arrived have been used as the expendable labour to build the Canadian white paradise. Queer and trans rights in this place are held together on the blood spilled and violence done to the most marginalized of these identities (while the white liberal man rises onward). And, in all these communities, women-identified and non-binary folks face murder–just as they do in ours. And, we cannot forget the countless people interlocking between these communities (including with our own nations). All such people, like us, shout Fuck 150 in their hearts–because they know as we do that this country has been pretty fucking bullshit.
This so-called country–founded by administrative decree, forged in colonial wars, and deeply shaped by amnesia and corporate branding–is all that one can imagine the colonial project to be. But, all us nations, we have and will resist. While we cannot forget that Canadian nationalism–with its love to self-efface and talk about slow, gradual progress-as-national characteristics–can literally co-opt anything and everything that breathes, we must continue to resist their desire to see us as part of their founding mythology. Something that even many of our own peoples (see: Phil Fontaine) can’t even manage.
That said, many of our peoples have been speaking these past months, better than I am here, and doing just this work of resistance. Yet, those Canadians and their self-effacing, aw garsh, shucks self-portrait seem to have troubling coping that their so-called nation is built on blood. Their nationalism of superior people being nice, of folksy hometowns, and of peace is a lie. When faced with that, they subject our peoples–right now–to further caustic attacks and acts, but indigenous folks continue for the good of our true nations.
Canada will not wither on its own. And while we all have different ideas–traditional and otherwise–about how to get there, we must. We cannot exist as a monolithic subset of some Great Canadian Delusion™ but gotta keep the fight for our own sovereignty and total liberation. Today, and every day, we have to assert beyond the colonial narrative, have to support our own nations and other allied indigenous nations in the material work of doing so, and keep the fire alive in our hearts for the day that our nations are free to be as they are meant to be.
As Arthur Manuel notes, in Unsettling Canada, on reflection upon time spent traveling between so-called British Colombia’s First Nations communities…
And as Franz Fanon says in Wretched of the Earth:
For a colonized people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity.
For Fanon also says that “[e]ach generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity” and if there is any mission before our generation now, it is this–the restoration of our lands. Not simply just our culture, not simply just our language and practice–but the land. It is in our DNA to ache for that freedom and, if this month has reminded me of anything, we ache and I feel it.
For a free Mi’kma’ki, a free Taqmakuk, and freedom for every territory and nation.
That is what I feel and what dream I hold close.
Wela’lin, my friends, wela’lin. And remember: