Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, June 29, 2007
HONOR THE DEAD, FIGHT FOR THE LIVING, HARRIET NAHANEE AND SHAWN BRANT
This was presented by Ange Sterritt [Gitxsan Nation] on November 15 ’07 [in Coast Salish Territory, Vancouver], as part of a West Coast speaking tour to support the TYENDINAGA Mohawks.
I would like to thank Sue Collis for coming here today to talk to us about Shawn Brant as well as express my gratitude and honor for those like Shawn Brant whom have risked their freedom and lives for the freedom and lives of others and for the future generations. I also want to acknowledge that what happened to Shawn Brant, Harriet Nahanee, John Graham and others is not only a terrible abomination and explication of the tyrannical nature of the justice system but representative of the refusal of the Klanadian government to remove itself from its perpetuation and implication in the occupation and theft of Indigenous lands. I say “Klan”adian to reflect the white supremist nature in which the illegal nation we live under the burden of operates.
As the Olympics 2010 draws closer, we are seeing an acceleration of this repression and criminal behavior from all levels of government.
In the same way that Mohawks have opposed corporate invasion and governmental terrorism in Tyendinaga, there has been resistance in the occupied Indigenous territories of BC from many Indigenous nations. The Olympics, whose budget is close to 30 billion dollars for a 2 week spectacle, acts as a microcosm for the way in which Klananda has oppressed Indigenous people in order to gain access to rights and title to Indigenous lands. But it also asserts itself as a real threat to Indigenous people and our lands, and likewise sees Indigenous people as a real threat to its existence.
On December 3, 1998, The Canadian Olympic Association chose Vancouver as its candidate city. Vancouver was posited as the “security and safety” candidate – ironic and insulting since most people know by now the large number of Indigenous people imprisoned and killed by police not to mention the reality that over 60 women, many Indigenous, were taken from the downtown eastside, murdered or never to be seen again.
As well how secure do Indigenous people feel now that over 30 Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been murdered along the Highway of Tears in northern British Columbia. It is often the case that the justice system has protected the predators and killers of these women and girls, while Indigenous women have been ignored and over policed. It’s also insulting to promote Vancouver as the security candidate given the ‘insecure’ and uncertain nature of Indigenous lands and resources targeted by corporations to be privatized and exploited. The justice system has since its inception of settler/colonial society used police forces, courts and racist civil society to undermine and outlaw our Original sacred systems and laws. It continues to imprison and kill our people to gain access to our lands.
Indigenous Resistance to the Olympic hegemony has been greatly criminalized, in hopes to reassure the hungry visitors, or the tourists that their stay will be safe. The attempts to silence us in jails and through our death sentence are cross-country efforts.
Like Shawn, Harriet Nahanee stood up against the theft of the land and was punished greatly.
Harriet was a Pedechat Elder who had married into the Squamish Nation and was protesting an infamous Olympic development – the so called Achilles heal of the 2010 Olympics – the Sea to Sky Highway. She was sentenced to a provincial jail for criminal contempt of court for her part in the Sea-to-Sky Highway-expansion protest at Eagleridge Bluffs. She died of pneumonia and complications at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver on February 24, just one month after her original sentencing. Nahanee had been weak from the flu and asthma in January, and it was widely suspected that Nahanee’s condition worsened during her incarceration at the Surrey Pre-Trial Centre, a facility set up predominantly for housing male criminals. An independent public inquiry into her passing was called for in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia on March 5. Solicitor-General John Les said the provincial government expressed “regret” for the passing but denied any government responsibility and refused opposition requests for an inquiry.
The expose of Harriet’s plight helped to catapult many Indigenous people in the city to act to oppose Olympic atrocities against our people and compelled us to organize, educate and mobilize each other. One of the more significant Indigenous struggles people in the city have been working in solidarity with is the plight of the Secwepemc and St’at’imc people to resist the expansion of ski- resorts on their lands.
Just last week The Austrian ski team arrived on Secwepemc lands to train for the 2010 games. They will be the first to train on the new 3 million dollar Nancy Greene International Race Centre at Sun Peaks built this summer. Phase 1 has recently been completed and once phase 2 and 3 are completed Sun Peaks will be able to boast a new dedicated lift and an additional snow making capacity. The fake snow is made with reused sewage water that pollutes Skelkwek’welt (Secwepemc territory) waters and depletes underground Aquifers. Sun Peaks corporate mega-development development also continues to destroy Secwepemc Land by clear-cutting whole mountainsides and valuable hunting grounds, berry picking and medicine harvesting areas.
Now the Austrian ski team is at Sun Peaks promoting Secwepemc land to the world and training for the 2010 Winter Games!
Not only does this kind of destruction of the land destroy Indigenous cultures and relationships to the land by displacing Indigenous people, it also has an impact on our identity as Indigenous people. The Olympikkks like the Klanadian government uses Indigenous identities for their expediency. They want the public to “imagine” a bourgeoisie’s playground. They use and abuse our cultures for entertainment, but our sovereignty (which is often delineated though our songs and dances) is simply an annoyance.
Ironically a walk known as the “Reconciliation Walk” (http://www.peopletogether.ca/), which was ceremonial blessed earlier this month will showcase Aboriginal people walking across the Burrard Bridge in September 2008 to show off our “First Nations, Métis and Inuit” “color, culture, and vibrancy” under the umbrella of “reconciliation” as a lead up to the 2010 Olympics. This is the same bridge that two Indigenous men were taken down on in 2005 when it was discovered they were carrying legal hunting rifles for an Indigenous youth traditional skills camp. Knowing that cultural genocide, land theft, criminalization and murder of our people happens daily at the hands of Klananda, it is far fetched to think that reconciliation is possible at this point. This kind of tactic of assimilation, with the use of culture as a cover, is text book collaboration and utilized in an attempt to demand the “undivided attention” of ALL [“cultures”] to the 2010 games whereas the reality is they simply divide oppressed communities more by tokenizing some voices (they want to hear) and by silencing others (they don’t want to hear).
Optics and imagery are also used in other communities, namely poor and marginalized women’s. The Olympic City Brothel was proposed as a co-op brothel under the guise of making it safe for sex workers working in Vancouver in 2010. When I first saw this I thought of predatory capitalism. The trafficking of women, in which Indigenous women and migrant women are overrepresented, is a key feature of the Olympics as it is one of the easiest illegal “commodities” to move. It also helps to accommodate Olympic investors, businessmen and tourists who will come to the Games to spend and “experience”.
An estimated 10,000 sex workers plied their trade during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, many imported from abroad. More than 40,000 women and girls were brought to Athens for the 2004 Summer Games. For the 2006 World Cup in Germany, more than 20,000 women were imported. Investors and businessmen who come to the 2010 games are inevitability on the look out for cheap lands, resources and women.
Some may defend the sex trade saying it’s the oldest profession, but like many parts of colonization and capitalism it presents itself as the oldest oppression and one that needs to be ended, along with poverty, greed, hatred and suffering.
These are some of the issues Indigenous Anti-Olympic Organizers have been working on in the city for years and some of the ways in which we have shaped our actions and campaigns. We urge you to learn more and take actions.
The Olympics destroys Native lands, Indigenous women, Indigenous communities, and human dignity. The Olympics creates homelessness, abject poverty, further violence and racism.
End the Olympikkk Oppression Now!