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Devolution in Nunavut: Is this Really Namminiqsurniq (Self-Determination)?

Yellowhead Institute - Wed, 02/14/2024 - 17:54

Late last month, Nunaviummiut were surprised to learn that the long-discussed Nunavut devolution agreement has been finalized. The agreement in principle was signed in 2019, though there was little indication it was close to completion. This devolution agreement is meant to be the final chapter of what Inuit negotiated as part of the land claim process: first, the land claim agreement, then the formation of a new territorial government, and finally a devolution to more fully assume control of resources in the territory. 

The land claim creates certainty of rights on land, protects Inuit way of life (especially around hunting), and allows for input on economic, social, and cultural programs. The creation of the public government was seen as critical to expand this participation with mandated Inuit leadership across the territory. Then finally, the devolution agreement was seen as the last piece to realize Inuit interests. It is important to understand these pieces as stacking, and reliant on each other for optimal Inuit control in Nunavut and for Inuit to achieve self-determination.

In negotiating a self-determination package, Inuit wanted their lives to improve, their culture and language protected, and to be the decision-makers in all aspects of their lives. It is in this context we must look at the devolution agreement.

During the devolution press conference in Iqaluit, Prime Minister Trudeau hailed the largest land transfer in Canada’s history, referring to the two million square kilometres of land and water that is being transferred to the Government of Nunavut (GN). Meanwhile, Premier P. J. Akeeagok remarked that it is “one more step in the realization of the vision of a self-reliant Nunavut…Our people made many sacrifices in the name of Canadian sovereignty. In the past, too many decisions about us were made without us. With the signing of the agreement, we can now bring decision-making home.”

The decision-making may be in Nunavut, but is it self-determination? The Devolution Agreement outlines the transfer of responsibilities (also referred to as administration and control) for Nunavut’s public (Crown) lands, freshwaters, and resources from Canada to the government of Nunavut. It means that administration of these lands will transfer from the Federal government to the Government of Nunavut, including revenues from mining activity. Since, according to Natural Resources Canada, Nunavut’s mineral production is estimated to be worth $2.58 billion (the Government of Nunavut’s budget for 2020-21 was $2.35 billion), the territory will be expected to be self-reliant. As the Premier alludes to, Southern Canadians love to complain how dependent Nunavut is on handouts from the federal government. Canada was built on our land and resources. 

The news reports and opinions following the announcement, then, have been celebratory, hailing a new era for Inuit. But few have asked what the Agreement actually means for Inuit in tangible ways, and the surprise announcement has meant little analysis of that question. The biggest questions being whether it will offer long-promised self-determination; will it help to address the socio-economic challenges Inuit face; Will it help to protect our language and culture; will it transform the relationship between Inuit and Canadians? These questions are yet-to-be answered. There is very little real critical feedback.

That is a problem. 

Who is the Government of Nunavut for?

Most Canadians know that Nunavut is a territory in the federation of Canada. Because it is a territory, the legislative powers are delegated by the federal government. Unlike a province that has constitutionally listed roles and responsibilities. Canadians may also know that it is a public government, meaning it represents all who reside in Nunavut, Inuit and non-Inuit. While the Nunavut Agreement is meant to include Inuit in government decision making to reflect their population representation, since its creation, the promise of a representative territorial government has not been fulfilled. 

In fact, in contrast to benefitting Inuit, the territory has left Inuit behind in many important aspects seen through the social inequities. 

There are desperate housing shortages, extremely high levels of food insecurity, an increasing number of boil water advisories in communities, stagnant low Inuit employment levels, a healthcare crisis where health centres are forced close when nurses take holidays (less than half of the health care positions are filled), an absolute failure to deliver Inuktut language education, teacher shortages and now the heavy reliance on southern contractors to administer (or not) all of the above because the Inuit capacity is so low (there is a 38 per cent vacancy rate in government positions – this from a 2022 government study that has been since deleted from their website). 

This reality is embedded in the history of our collective relationship that emerged out of the assumption Inuit – like Indigenous people generally – were inhuman. Canada’s presumption of sovereignty itself flows from the Doctrine of Discovery: that they could steal our land in the first place because Inuit weren’t Christians. Even after the majority of Inuit converted to Christianity, Inuit still had to negotiate for decades to get some of their land back. Negotiations for the Nunavut Agreement were ruthless, leaving us with a mere 18-19 per cent ownership of lands and 2 percent of the subsurface. A very small percentage makes up municipal and other lands. The rest – or over 80 per cent is considered public or Crown lands.

These are the lands that have now been transferred to the Government of Nunavut, not to Inuit. Imagine having no or very little choice but to cede 80 percent of your homeland to have guaranteed rights in a country founded on your lands.

This history – and contemporary reality – is critical to consider when we ask who benefits from devolution. 

Is this Self-Determination?

The Government of Nunavut’s website on Devolution states “Devolution will bring decision-making closer to home, giving Nunavummiut a greater say in issues that affect them.” But, as outlined above, closer to home doesn’t necessarily mean the home of the Inuit, who are increasingly alienated from the territory. One example – and where we can track benefit and decision making, is around employment. Given the status quo, there must be a significant investment, political commitment, and will to act. 

While the Government of Nunavut has begun investing in training and education for teachers, nurses, managers, and lawyers, it has failed to address the stranglehold non-Inuit employees have exercised in management positions and attempts to prioritize Inuit hiring. Over time, it has become clear that non-Inuit prefer to maintain the power they have accrued in the years since the creation of Nunavut and now challenge hiring plans. There have never been anti-racist policies and measures that would create the atmosphere for meaningful inclusion of Inuit. The reality is that the territorial government has serious barriers to Inuit employment.

A Nunavut Inuit Labour Force analysis released in 2018 found Inuit account for 50 per cent of Government of Nunavut employees and 40 percent of Government of Canada employees in Nunavut (these are not typically policy and senior management positions that inform government action). The federal government has even lower employment rates. Many of the transferred responsibilities under devolution will be specialised professions, according to the human resource strategy on devolution released in 2020. The list includes regulatory and permitting administration in various land use scenarios. It is not clear how, with the history of ineffective Inuit employment strategies and approaches, the GN’s actions now will be different.

This constitutes a danger for the territory. If the training and employment issues are not dealt with, and non-Inuit continue to dominate the government, Nunavut is at greater risk of moving further away from Inuit values. This could serve to heighten the existing issue of unrestricted jurisdiction for mining and extractive industries in the territory. The current mining activities are in caribou calving grounds, which Inuit have sacrificed for job opportunities. (There is a clear tension here: if Inuit speak about wanting to protect wildlife we rely on for food, they are quickly excused as being anti-jobs). We are already allowing mining activities to take place without a Nunavut-wide land use plan, a departure from land claim agreement. 

There is a human resource strategy as part of the Devolution Agreement. But how is the government going to approach Inuit employment differently this time, to assure Nunavummiut that control over lands, waters, and resources will mean an Inuit say in how it is managed; as opposed to control by outsiders?

It is surprising Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. signed the agreement, given the history of taking legal action on the lack of action on Inuit employment by governments when it is unclear if there is political will and progress being made on Inuit employment.

A Missed Opportunity?

Speaking of Inuit organizations – by signing onto the Devolution Agreement, what additional benefits of rights have they, those responsible for representing rights holders, really accrued? In one view, they may have actually abandoned a major leverage for negotiating a self-government agreement – something that currently does not exist in Nunavut but which the Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. board has stated they want to pursue, through their resolutions. Could this not have been negotiated in part through devolution?

Instead, the GN’s Department of Devolution calls itself Namminiqsurniq, which means running our own affairs. It is a misnomer, this word should be saved for Inuit self-government or true self-determination and not a performative version of it.

Indeed, on the signing and celebration, most Nunavummiut did not know until the day before that the signing was to take place. The only people to partake in the celebration were those invited, and it seems they were sworn to secrecy. It was not a Nunavut celebration. This lack of transparency is all the more frustrating given the history of excluding Inuit.

Public dialogue and transparency should be critical for a territory claiming now to “run our own affairs” after years of colonial intervention. The secrecy cheated Nunavummiut out of partaking in not only celebrations but the critical piece of talking about what it means for us; if we truly believe it is an agreement worth celebrating. 

There will be opportunities for Inuit arising from Devolution. But given the failed implementation of the land claim agreement in many key areas, the Government of Nunavut’s drift away from commitments to Inuit, and the slow abandonment of Inuit self-determination generally, it remains to be seen if these opportunities for our political leaders will translate to Inuit values and interests are the future of Nunavut. That future imagines Inuit language thriving, hunting way of life as a livelihood, and Inuit are healthy and accessing their lands. 

Inutiq, Kunuk. “Devolution in Nunavut: Is this Really Namminiqsurniq (Self-Determination)?”. Yellowhead Institute. 15, February 2024.


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Categories: E1. Indigenous

NOA Responds to the Biden Administration’s Pause on LNG Approvals

Native Organizing - Tue, 02/13/2024 - 10:50

Recently, the Biden administration announced their decision to pause pending approvals for all exports of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). The pause will be in effect while the Department of Energy (DOE) conducts a public interest determination that will include an analysis of the impacts of climate change and the harms to Native communities. Too often, our Native communities and sacred places have had to bear the brunt of toxic messes and pollution created by the fossil fuel industry. 

This decision is a major win for our Tribes, Native communities, and grassroots advocates who have been organizing for government action on climate change. It is also a continuation of this administration’s proven historic efforts to curb climate change and phase out these harmful fossil fuels. Native Organizers Alliance (NOA) applauds the administration for their efforts toward regenerative energy to create a sustainable future for us all. 

Indigenous and youth organizers provided the political momentum to make this shift happen as well as the leadership behind the March to End Fossil Fuels and the Global Fight to End Fossil Fuels.

While this decision does not address the harms already caused by current and ongoing projects, it’s a critical step in the right direction to end reliance on fossil fuels. Pushback from fossil fuel supporters is already underway with a Senate hearing called last week to investigate the pause. 

We must not let corporate greed derail this moment. We will continue to press for the right decisions on behalf of Mother Earth. This includes shutting down DAPL, Line 5, the Willow Project, and more.

As the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairwoman Janet Alkire said, “As a matter of sovereignty, honor, and respect for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, we must demand that DAPL be shut down. Now. Shutting the pipeline down will also protect crucial water supplies for millions and reject the increase of greenhouse gasses responsible for disastrous climate change.”

“A just democracy for all requires transformational change,” said Tremayne Nez, NOA’s Policy Director, “We must prioritize Mother Earth and people before fossil fuel profits for a sustainable future for all.”

The post NOA Responds to the Biden Administration’s Pause on LNG Approvals appeared first on Native Organizers Alliance.

Categories: E1. Indigenous

Experts say India risks genocide of uncontacted island tribe with mega-port plan

Survival International - Wed, 02/07/2024 - 01:00
The Shompen live in the forested interior of Gt Nicobar Island. They won’t survive the destruction of their homeland. © Anthropological Survey of India
Categories: E1. Indigenous

"Raped and beaten": Prince Harry charity linked to horrific abuses in Africa - new investigation

Survival International - Sat, 01/27/2024 - 15:35
This Baka woman was raped by an African Parks ranger. ‘African Parks are very bad people. Everybody who works with them is really bad to us. That man was cruel, he was inhumane.’ © Survival
Categories: E1. Indigenous

Native Organizers Alliance 2023 in Review

Native Organizing - Fri, 01/26/2024 - 12:29

It’s a new year! And while we are preparing for the upcoming events of 2024, we also know it is important to reflect on the various accomplishments of the previous 365 days.

While so much of our organizing includes on the ground trainings, email campaigns, and education, Native Organizers Alliance was included in 26 panels, webinars, podcasts, interviews.

Here’s a look at just some of the projects we were involved in throughout 2023: 

 Training Program

Our Native Community Organizer Training is for Native leaders, nonprofits, and organizations both in rural and urban communities. During these in-person sessions, we share new skills and strategies that are vital for effective organizing.

In 2023, we held 1 National and 7 State-Based or Regional Trainings for a total of 245 total training participants.

Save Oak Flat

In Spring 2023, we were notified of a Trump-era deal, which would hand over Oak Flat in Arizona to a notoriously devastating mining corporation. We organized an email campaign that supported the San Carlos Apache and Apache Stronghold, who are on the ground and working towards permanent protections for Oak Flat. Thankfully, the Biden administration listened, pushing that approval.

The constant attack on Oak Flat is why we also have shown support for Rep. Raúl Grijalva’s Save Oak Flat from Foreign Mining Act. Let’s keep up the fight to protect Oak Flat for future generations!

Re-Indigenizing National Parks

At Native Organizers Alliance, we’re working with Tribes, Native communities, and grassroots organizers across the country to grow the movement to re-Indigenize and protect national parks. In 2023, we used social media and our email list to push for co-management legislation as well as programs that would teach the Indigenous histories of the land where these parks exist.

We also organized a letter program to President Biden establish a new national monument to protect the Grand Canyon. Tribal leaders and organizers were able to celebrate the years of work put towards this designation when the White House announced Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni:

“Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument will conserve nearly 1 million acres of public lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. The new monument protects thousands of cultural and sacred sites that are precious to Tribal Nations in the Southwest – including the Havasupai Tribe, Hopi Tribe, Hualapai Tribe, Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, Moapa Band of Paiutes, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Navajo Nation, San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Pueblo of Zuni, and the Colorado River Indian Tribes.”

The White House on August 8, 2023

Honoring Chaco Initiative

Many of our partners are fighting to protect Greater Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, a sacred place with deep cultural significance for Indigenous people. While steps have been taken to protect certain areas of Greater Chaco from industrial exploitation, more needs to be done to truly safeguard the safety and well-being of this cultural landscape and surrounding communities. We will continue to uplift this need and support The Honoring Chaco Initiative.

This legislation is a first of its kind effort to change the paradigm of public lands management in this sacred landscape and finally prioritize the health, economic and environmental justice, equity, and sustainability of the region.

All Our Relations Snake River Journey

Native Organizers Alliance was honored to be a part of the Indigenous-led 2023 All Our Relations Snake River Journey. Traveling through Washington, Oregon, and Idaho in September and October the campaign set out to build community and demonstrate the momentum of public support for restoring salmon to abundance and upholding treaty promises to Northwest Tribes.

Read more about our time on the journey here.

Free Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier is the longest-incarcerated political prisoner in our country. The fight for Leonard Peltier’s freedom continues to this day. In the fall, we brought together a coalition of organizations to bring renewed pressure on the Biden Administration to act.

We rallied for support via a petition with 70,000+ names that was then delivered to the White House by Congressman Raúl Grijalva.

Indigenous Futures Survey

The Indigenous Futures Survey is an annual survey that aims to capture Indigenous people’s voices, perspectives, and concerns for use in developing policy, understanding socio-economic trends, and highlighting important issues impacting Indian Country.

This information will help inform Tribal leaders and members of Congress about issues facing Indigenous People and inform so much for the upcoming Native Vote 2024.

The success of this year’s IFS is only possible because of the 10 fellows that worked in their communities with local organizations. Each fellow is part of our ‘moccasins on the ground’ approach and their work is important in the continued community and power building that makes grassroots organizing possible.

This year’s survey is co-led by IllumiNative and Native Organizers Alliance, with Kauffman and Associates, Inc. supporting the survey development and analysis.

DAPL and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement

After many years of delays and a fatally flawed Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) written by a member of the American Petroleum Institute — a clear conflict of interest — the Army Corps of Engineers is finally took public comments on this dangerous violation of the sovereignty of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Through our channels, we were able to submit over 101,000 comments on this DEIS. The fight against DAPL might have began in 2016 but we will continue to stand in support of Tribal sovereignty until this pipeline is no longer a threat to the area.


The post Native Organizers Alliance 2023 in Review appeared first on Native Organizers Alliance.

Categories: E1. Indigenous

The Genocidal “Civilized” vs the Erased Colonized: Gaza at the International Court of Justice

Yellowhead Institute - Tue, 01/23/2024 - 08:39

Where in the hell of Gaza is international law for Palestinians?

For months, UN experts and hundreds of international law and genocide scholars have been warning of genocide in Gaza: as schools have been transformed into field execution sites, homes and hospitals have been turned into mass gravesites, entire family lines have been annihilated, more than a million have been displaced into “safe zones” where they continue to be incinerated, and so many Palestinian children have been simultaneously orphaned and maimed that a new medical acronym – WCNSF, “Wounded Child No Surviving Family” – has had to be coined. 

The intensive mass killing (“homicide”), combined with the eradication of Palestinians’ means of physical and social reproduction via attacks on their homes (“domicide”), on schools, universities, libraries, journalists, and scholars (“epistemicide”), on ancient churches, mosques, cemeteries, and arts institutions – “everything beautiful” (“culturicide” and “memoricide”), on life-sustaining lands and environments (“ecocide”), on hospitals and other essential health infrastructure (“medicide”), and on children and pregnant women (“futuricide”): all signal an attempt to destroy the Palestinian people in Gaza as a people, “genocide.” 

And yet, it is South Africa’s complaint to the International Court of Justice challenging the obliteration of Palestinians that is impugned, by the same “liberal democracies” whose primary expertise on genocide is as its perpetrators.

Experts in Genocide of the “Civilized World”

According to US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, for instance, South Africa’s 84-page submission – which is based predominantly on reports by the UN and other humanitarian organizations – is “meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever.” Far more “meritorious” and “productive,” apparently, to persevere in supplying Israel with billions of dollars in military “aid” – “by 4 December, at least 200 American cargo flights were reported to have delivered 10,000 tonnes of military equipment to Israel,” according to a recent study reported on by the Guardian – without even the façade of a “human rights” review. 

Canada too has refused to support the “premise” of South Africa’s case, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron has condemned it as “nonsense” and “unhelpful” (“it is for the courts to define genocide not states” – what has South Africa done but appeal to a court?!), while Germany has announced its decision to intervene on Israel’s behalf – “in light of German history and the crimes against humanity of the Shoah [Nazi Holocaust], the German government is particularly committed to the Genocide Convention [and] we stand firmly against [its] political instrumentalization.”

How symptomatic of colonial modernity’s grotesquely inverted morality: “their” atrocities are a sign of their backwardness and inhumanity, while “ours” are a source of our superior enlightenment and moral authority. 

Incredibly, even with this self-identified special genocide expertise, Germany’s Foreign Minister has professed herself incapable of “detecting any [genocidal] intention by Israel.” This despite the relentless stream of incitement from Israeli leaders referring to Palestinians in paradigmatically genocidal terms such as “human animals” and calling for Gaza to be “erased,” “eliminated,” “flattened […] just like Auschwitz,” etc. in Israel’s “battle of civilization against barbarism,” as documented in eight full pages of South Africa’s submission. (The updated database of statements in this eradicatory vein compiled by Europe-based NGO Law for Palestine is now up to over 500). Just the day before the ICJ proceedings commenced, the Deputy Speaker of Israel’s Knesset reiterated his recommendation that Gaza be “burned.”   

Precisely how the Canadian, British, and German governments’ positions on Gaza square with their own recent Declaration to Intervene in the ICJ Rohingya genocide case – which states, for example, that “the Genocide Convention extends to […] acts causing serious bodily or mental harm, including torture and forced displacement,” and that “evidence that children have been targeted on a significant scale would be likely to preclude a defense that members of a protected group were targeted solely for certain other reasons, such as that they posed a “security threat” – remains unexplained.

Evidently, this “axis of civilization’s” preferred fate for Palestinians is to be consigned to the same graveyard of oblivion as the casualties of their own colonial atrocities, shrouded in impunity for centuries: the Indigenous nations of the “Americas,” genocided in the millions, who continue to be refused reparations or were even required by colonial legal systems to pay “reparations” themselves for their “depredations” against settlers; the enslaved Africans, whose descendants are also denied restitution, because their abduction, torture, and treatment as “property” was not illegal according to the “international” law at the time as formulated by Europeans; the Herero and Nama Namibians and the Tanzanians, Germany’s “first genocides of the 20th century,” deprived not only of legal redress but even the return of the remains of their dead interned in German institutions; the Marshall Islanders, involuntarily conscripted to serve as the US’s sacrificial testing zone for its nuclear weaponry, whose case to the ICJ was rejected in 2016 on preliminary technical grounds even as they testified that “women of the island have [been giving] birth to babies [with] no arms, no legs, no heads […] that look like blobs”; to name only some of the inhabitants of this graveyard of “civilized” barbarities. 

How to Defend a Colonial Genocide

Far from being an aberration, the condoned devastation of Gaza is an expression of the colonial present’s violent foundations: discursively erased and legally denied.

Encapsulated in Israel’s arguments during the first round of hearings on the Gaza genocide at the ICJ (held on January 11 and 12), are the various forms of epistemic violence required to project coloniality’s alternative facts as “reality.” 

Atomization – isolating and dissociating particular events from the structure of domination as a whole: ex. “[South Africa] declares that: ‘it is important to place the acts of genocide in the broader context of Israel’s conduct towards [the] Palestinians during its 75-year-long apartheid.’ Leaving aside the outrageous nature of that statement […] the immediate and proximate context for the specific allegations of genocide claimed by South Africa lies in the events of 7 October.” It is only by deleting Israel’s 75 years of apartheid, 57 years of illegal occupation, and 17-year-long strangulation of Gaza – implemented by blockade, in itself an act of war under international law – that the current onslaught could be presented as an act of “self-defense” against Palestinian aggression.

Minimization – obfuscating the scale of destruction: ex. “The Court is told of over 23,000 [Palestinian] casualties, as [South Africa] repeats; as many have, unverified statistics provided by Hamas itself – hardly a reliable source.”  In fact, the damning death figures have not only been validated as reliable by UN agencies, Human Rights Watch, and estimates from within Israel’s own military, but if anything are an undercountimpeded by Israel’s incapacitation of Palestinian health facilities, pending the identification of bodies immolated and mutilated beyond recognizability, and excluding deaths from the “slow violences” of siege-induced starvation, dehydration, suffocation under the rubble, and disease (predicted to far exceed even the bombing fatalities). Just 20 days into Israel’s campaign – more than 80 days ago – the Associated Press reported that “each Gaza governorate” already had “at least two mass graves.” 

Fabrication – obscuring severe international legal violations: ex. “Hospitals have not been bombed.” Gaza’s Indonesian Hospital, for instance, has been bombed 35 times; other hospitals assaulted by Israeli airstrikes include the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship cancer hospital, Al-Awda hospital (killing three doctors), Al-Nasr children’s hospital … when rescuers were able to return to Al-Nasr several weeks later they found the dead bodies of babies decomposing in their incubators. As affirmed by Human Rights Watch, “no evidence put forward [by Israel] would justify depriving hospitals and ambulances of their protected status under international humanitarian law.”

Inversion – reversing the balance of violence between the occupier and the occupied: ex. “What Israel seeks by operating in Gaza is not to destroy a people, but to protect a people, its people, who are under attack on multiple fronts.” 

Therefore, Hamas “proudly filming” its acts of violence against individual Israelis is “barbarism”; while Israeli soldiers posting videos celebrating their detonation of entire Palestinian villages and chanting annihilatory slogans are simply ignored. Hamas’s attack, which killed 1,200, is decried as “unparalleled” and “genocidal”; Israel’s military operations – which have killed more than 25,000 as of writing, including more children in three weeks alone than in all the world’s wars combined annually, more UN aid workers than ever before in the UN’s history, and several times more people per day in total than any other “conflict” in the 21st century, with a 70% civilian death rate praised as “tremendously positive” by a spokesperson for Israel’s military – are merely the “harsh realities” of war.

Even Palestinians’ statelessness – which Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly reconfirmed his dedication to maintaining – is represented as an anti-Israel weapon! Armed with the weapon of their mass dispossession (the only “WMD” Palestinians have, unlike their occupiers), Palestinians evade the inter-state jurisdiction of the ICJ as non-state actors, declaims Israel; yet Israel simultaneously denounces any recognition of Palestinian statehood in international institutions.

Whether as a state or non-state, Palestinians are damned either way. The nefariousness of the Palestinian “other” is enshrined as an “unfalsifiable” hypothesis: a hallmark of genocidal ideology.  

Demonization – expelling the victims from humanity: ex. “[Israel] is committed, as it must be, to demonstrate humanity, but it does so in the face of Hamas’ utter inhumanity.” As in colonial genocides of decades past, the inherent “inhumanity” of the colonized “enemy” is used to rationalize deploying inhumane means of virtually unlimited violence against them. Yet again, genocidal logic is reproduced, in the very submissions purporting to disprove Israel’s genocidal intent.

Projection – displacing responsibility onto the occupied for their own suffering: ex. “Yes – damage and harm have occurred […] But always as a direct result of Hamas’ abhorrent method of warfare.” Perversely, Palestinians’ “humanity” and “agency” is recognized only to blame them for their own deaths as Hamas’s “human shields.” Israel’s assertion that it is Hamas that forces them to bomb homes, churches, markets, and refugee camps by using them for military purposes is directly refuted by reports from Amnesty International, which “in a number of cases [examined] found no evidence of the presence of fighters or other military objectives in the vicinity at the time of the attacks.”    

The demonization of Palestinians is so complete in Israel’s submissions, that mere insinuation suffices to paint them as the authors of their own demise: ex. “the Court is told of widespread damage to buildings, but it is not told, for example […] how many buildings were struck by over 2,000 indiscriminate terrorist rockets that misfired and landed in Gaza itself.” Israel does not bother to tell us how many, either; nor how “2,000 terrorist rockets” could possibly account for more than a mere fraction of the more than 300,000 homes, schools, hospitals, food production facilities, and universities – also known in Israeli military lexicon as “power targets” – that have been fully or partially destroyed. Even to describe this as the “decimation” of Gaza is a euphemism, for decimation literally means a 10% destruction, while approximately 70% of Gaza has by now been laid to waste. 

Self-Sanctification – extolling the superior humanity of the occupiers: ex. “Israel’s practice of mitigating civilian harm – such as by forewarning civilians of impending action by the unprecedented and extensive use of telephone calls, leafletting and so forth – coupled with the facilitation of humanitarian assistance, all demonstrate the precise opposite of any possible genocidal intent.” 

In reality, Israel’s grossly partial “humanitarianism” has been the continuation of domination and elimination by other means – as apartheid in South Africa, French colonization in North Africa, and genocidal residential “schools” in the US and Canada also advertised themselves as exercises in “care,” “sincere love,” and “charity” for Indigenous populations. In Gaza, 24-hour “evacuation” orders, leaflets instructing Palestinians to leave or be presumed “terrorist” sympathizers, and water supplies strategically directed to corral and “super”-concentrate Palestinians dying of dehydration into ever-shrinking areas: all have served as instruments of ethnic “cleansing” and forcible transfer. 

Mere hours after Israel’s representatives boasted to the ICJ of having “co-ordinated the entrance of a United Nations delegation into northern Gaza,” UN Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths recounted to the Security Council the “scenes of utter horror” witnessed there by the few aid convoys permitted through: “Corpses left lying in the road. People with evident signs of starvation stopping trucks in search of anything they can get to survive […] Our efforts to send humanitarian convoys to the North have been met with delays, denials, and the imposition of impossible conditions […] There is no safe place in Gaza.” 

Legalization – “law-washing” impunity: ex. “Israel’s legal system ensures accountability. The IDF [“Israel Defense Force”] has a robust law enforcement system.” (See also Fabrication above). Particular accomplishments of this “robust” apparatus for “accountability” include a >99% non-punishment rate for soldiers accused of murdering, torturing, or otherwise harming (i.e. “self-defending” themselves against) Palestinians, as well as the sole conviction for Israel’s previous mass-casualty incursion on Gaza, Operation Protective Edge: of three soldiers for stealing the equivalent of $900. 

Externally, Israel exalts the superior capabilities of its own “justice” system to avoid coming under international courts’ jurisdiction; while domestically, claiming a lack of resources and capacity to justify the absence of prosecutions: a brazen contradiction. Yet, it is supposedly the Palestinians and South Africans who, by appealing to the Genocide Convention in a desperate attempt to curtail the current carnage, are the ones “weaponizing” and “abusing” the law. 

Legal Ways of (Not) Seeing

Cultural critic John Berger famously elucidated the “ways of seeing” that structure our perception. Illuminated in the fires of the Gaza genocide are the equally powerful ways of not seeing, that sustain (selectively) organized ignorance even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

The systematic invisibilization of structural brutalization has been accomplished through international law itself. From the Nuremberg Trials, where Allied prosecutors avoided setting precedents against the Nazis that could also be applied to their own white supremacism; to the Genocide Convention, drafted at the impetus of Global South states to rectify Nuremberg’s limitations, yet restricted by colonial powers to preserve their prerogative to forcefully inaugurate the “primitive and backwards” into “civilization”; to the Apartheid Convention, which remains unsigned by settler states like the US and Canada, warned by the Afrikaaners that they would be considered guilty of apartheid too “as a result of the existence of Indian reservations”: the shielding of colonial state violence is the predictable result, when it is the criminals who define the crime.

As Congo’s representative to the UN remarked in 1968: “[we are] not surprised to note the zeal with which the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the other colonialist countries were attempting to exclude apartheid from the draft convention [on crimes against humanity], for the African delegations had no illusions about the real motives behind the negative attitude of those countries.” 

Echoing in the denigrations of South Africa’s case to uphold the most basic protections for Palestinians, denounced as a “subversion of the rules-based international order” and “legal absurdity,” is the international legal system’s deeply-entrenched history of anti-Blackness and anti-Indigeneity – relegating those on the “other” side of the global colour line to a position of “legal subalternity.”  

However, those resisting this subjugation are the inheritors of another tradition: of an internationalist solidarity across the undersides of colonial modernity, premised on an understanding that our liberations are inextricably intertwined. This includes knowing, as Nelson Mandela said, that “our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” 

And so, it is the South Africans, survivors and rememberers of apartheid’s horrors, who have taken up the task of legally challenging Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. As before them, it was Haiti, Liberia, Ethiopia and other Global South states that bore the mantle of the long struggle against South Africa’s apartheid in international institutions – prevailing eventually in spite of the obdurate opposition by apartheid’s European, North American, and Israeli allies, and the apartheid regime’s accusations of “anti-European bias.” 

In 1946, the Black South African president of the African National Congress, Dr Alfred Bitini Xuma, implored the United Nations to counter apartheid and “adopt as their motto” not “Might is Right” but “Right is Might.” It took 48 years more for apartheid in South Africa to be formally abolished: a justice delayed by at least a decade, in the estimation of eminent international law expert John Dugard, by the ICJ’s dismissal of Liberia’s and Ethiopia’s complaint against the apartheid state.   

For the Palestinians, now, how much longer will the illegal occupation and obliteration to which they have been subjected be permitted to endure?

The ICJ is expected to deliver a preliminary decision this Friday on South Africa’s request for emergency “provisional measures”; but the final judgement on the genocide is still many years away.  The ICJ Statute claims as one of its sources the laws of “civilized nations”; how many more colonial genocides and apartheids, before international law lives up to the “standard of anti-colonial civilization” expressed, for example, in Indigenous concepts of care “for all our relations,” in the South African principle of ubuntu, the interconnectedness of all people, in Palestinian sumud, steadfast dedication to opposing injustice and oppression? 

Even as the hearings on the Gaza genocide were occurring at the ICJ’s “Peace Palace,” “intense Israeli bombardments from air, land, and sea continued,” hundreds more Palestinians were killed and injured – sequestered behind the shutters of yet another telecommunications blackout – while four more Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance workers were mourned and buried. In a recent press conference on the case, South Africa’s High Commissioner to Canada asked only for Palestinians’ forgiveness, for having allowed their suffering to go on for so long before this intervention. As for those who persist in perpetrating and facilitating the butchery, how can there ever be any absolution?

Kanji, Azeezah. “The Genocidal ‘Civilized’ vs the Colonized: Gaza”. Yellowhead Institute. 23, January 2024.


The post The Genocidal “Civilized” vs the Erased Colonized: Gaza at the International Court of Justice appeared first on Yellowhead Institute.

Categories: E1. Indigenous

The Violence of Justice Policy: Risk Assessments and the Criminalization of Indigenous People

Yellowhead Institute - Wed, 01/17/2024 - 06:51

There is widespread discrimination in the Canadian criminal justice system. 

Indigenous Peoples represent 4.5 percent of the Canadian adult population1 but 26.3 percent of new admissions to federal prisons.2 Compared to non-Indigenous offenders, Canadian Indigenous offenders are over-represented among those in structured intervention units (formally known as administrative segregation), released later in their sentence, and are often denied parole.3 Both legislative and judicial attempts to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples4 have been ineffective, as overrepresentation has increased since the late 1990s.5 

There is a similar overrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples in the criminal justice system in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand (with conviction or incarceration rates ranging from three to ten times higher than non-Indigenous Peoples).6 Although the culture and experiences of Indigenous groups vary widely between (and within) these countries, they all face similar challenges in learning how to maximize the fairness and effectiveness of a European-imposed justice system not suited to Indigenous histories, culture, language, and conceptions of justice.

Classifying “High Risk”

But how does this dynamic unfold?

Almost all decisions in the criminal justice system (e.g., bail, sentencing, parole, community supervision conditions) are influenced by a formal or informal assessment of an individual’s risk of reoffending. Risk assessment is necessary to apportion limited resources most effectively.7 As a prolific activity in the criminal justice system, offender risk assessment engages in the ubiquitous task of determining the likelihood of a future event. Although practitioners decide whether or not an offender should receive treatment, risk assessment scales are just one piece of the puzzle that informs reoffending.8 Risk assessments measure the probability of reoffending and can be understood as a prognostic tool. Hence, risk is determined by various factors that describe an individual’s risk as more or less danger

Existing risk assessment tools and core risk factors tend to predict recidivism better for non-Indigenous offenders but worse for Indigenous offenders.9 Furthermore, Indigenous offenders are more likely to be classified as high-risk.10

In many ways, this is the core of institutional discrimination in the system: Based on factors due to colonialism, Indigenous offenders are deemed high risk and, therefore, subjected to even more colonialism.

It is a cycle of criminalization that ensures the statistics at the outset endure. 

For example, a recent study by Muir et al. revealed that colonialism likely contributes to elevated scores on the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY) for young Indigenous offenders.11 Colonialism reduces opportunities for protective factors like cultural involvement, which reduces the likelihood of future criminal activity. While this issue may appear unique to the SAVRY, many Indigenous-specific protective factors are not included in most risk assessments for youth and adults. 

A Culturally Sensitive Risk Assessment?

Moreover, Indigenous scholars have criticized the neglect of culture in risk assessment.12 We are missing an essential piece of the puzzle, and assessment practices for Indigenous offenders — though better than nothing — are not good enough.

No risk assessment tool currently in use has been developed in a culturally responsive way or has considered the possibility of culturally specific risk factors for Indigenous offenders.

It has been argued that commonly used risk assessment scales overclassify Indigenous Peoples as high-risk because they are assessed using risk factors potentially irrelevant to Indigenous offenders.13 Accordingly, risk assessment scales used by the Canadian correctional system are potentially harmful to and discriminate against Indigenous offenders. Over-classification results may be severe, as a lack of appropriate identification inhibits suitable treatment for Indigenous offenders.14 The overestimation of recidivism for Indigenous offenders may also neglect other important risk factors not included in risk assessment scales. 

This crucial gap in risk assessment research/practice takes on particular importance given a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling regarding the applicability of risk assessment tools with Indigenous offenders.15 In this case, a Métis federal prisoner contended that the risk assessment scales used by Correctional Services Canada (CSC) were not validated with Indigenous populations, rendering them harmful due to the potential for discrimination. During his trial, Ewert challenged five psychological and actuarial risk assessment tools, including the Hare Psychopathy Checklist–Revised (“PCL-R”), the Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (“VRAG”), the Sex Offender Risk Appraisal Guide (“SORAG”), the Static-99, and the Violence Risk Scale–Sex Offender (“VRS-SO”). 

This case has generated considerable debate and attention in Canada and internationally, and its exact implications have yet to be discovered. Still, one thing is clear: the Supreme Court mandates that risk tools must be appropriately validated for this population. Given that risk assessment scales are not working well for Indigenous offenders, we must understand why this is the case and how to improve risk assessment practices. 

An endeavour like this involves two core components: content and process. Examining the content of risk assessments will help criminal justice personnel understand risk factors for crime among Indigenous Peoples. This process may involve culturally specific risk factors (i.e., apply uniquely to Indigenous Peoples, likely due to the legacy of colonialism and genocide), culturally salient (i.e., more critical for Indigenous Peoples compared to non-Indigenous Peoples), or universal risk factors that need to be measured in more culturally informed ways. Conversely, the process of risk assessment consists of weaving existing research methods. Current risk assessment scales have taken an exclusively Western, colonial epistemological approach that has silenced Indigenous perspectives and research methodologies.16

Reconciliation and Criminal Justice Policy

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) developed 94 Calls to Action for our country to move forward with reconciliation and Calls to Action 30, 36, and 37 call for us to eliminate the overrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples in custody, provide culturally appropriate services to prisoners, and provide more support for Indigenous programming in community corrections.17  

That is not to say there is a “fair” representation of Indigenous Peoples in custody. In fact, the Calls to Action stated above are evidence of systemic discrimination against Indigenous Peoples, who are disproportionately populated in prison compared to their white counterparts. Indigenous Peoples experience the colonial weapon of racialized criminality.18 In other words, this problem is not new.

Indigenous Peoples are incarcerated in extreme numbers and have also experienced imprisonment since the formation of Canada. For many, prisons become the “new residential schools.” 19

Despite the federal government’s meagre attempts to address these injustices, these injustices thrive in Canadian society today and are entrenched in the criminal justice system as discerned with risk assessments.20 This fundamental insight cannot be discarded and must be foregrounded in any discussion of the impact of trauma and risk factors for Indigenous Peoples. A shift away from the language of “overrepresentation” could reorient the application of assessing the risks and needs of Indigenous Peoples. Although such a shift will not dismantle the colonial structures that identify our current understanding of Indigenous Peoples’ experiences in custody, a meaningful shift in the colonial production of Indigenous criminalization might lead to the questioning and rejecting of the violence of state justice policies. 


1Jamil Malakieh, Adult and youth correctional statistics in Canada, 2018/2019, Statistics Canada, December 21, 2020,

2 Public Safety Canada, Corrections and conditional release statistical overview: Annual report 2018, Public Safety Canada, August 2019, 

3 Public Safety Canada, Preliminary observations of the operation of Correctional Service Canada’s structured intervention units, Public Safety Canada, October 26, 2021,; Public Safety Canada, 2019; Office of the Correctional Investigator, Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator 2013-2014, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, June 27, 2014,

4 Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46) s. 718.2(e); R. v. Gladue [1999] 1 SCR 688.

5 Public Safety Canada, 2019.

6 Jake Flanagin, “Reservation to prison pipeline: Native Americans are the unseen victims of a broken US justice system,” Quartz, April 27, 2015; S.M Shepherd, Y. Adams, E. McEntyre, and R. Walker, “Violence risk assessment in Australian Aboriginal offender populations: A review of the literature,” Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 20, no. 3 (2014): 281-293; A. J. Tamatea, “Culture is our business: Issues and challenges for forensic and correctional psychologists,” Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, 49, no. 5 (2017): 564- 578,  

7 James Bonta and D. A. Andrews, The Psychology of Criminal Conduct: 6th Edition (New York: Routledge, 2017).  

8 Maaike Helmus and Kelly Babchishin, “Primer on risk assessment and the statistics used to evaluate its accuracy,” Criminal Justice and Behavior, 44, no. 1 (2017): 8-25,

9 Leticia Gutierrez, L. Maaike Helmus, and R. Karl Hanson, “What we know and don’t know about risk assessment with offenders of Indigenous heritage,” Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 3, no. 2 (2016): 97-106,; Letcia Gutierrez, Holly A. Wilson, Tanya Rugge, and James Bonta, “The prediction of recidivism with Aboriginal offenders: A theoretically informed meta-analysis,” Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 55, no. 1 (2013): 55-99,; Bronwen Perley-Robertson, L. Maaike Helmus, and Adelle Forth, “Predictive accuracy of static risk factors for Canadian Indigenous offenders compared to non-Indigenous offenders: Implications for risk assessment scales,” Psychology, Crime & Law, 25.3 (2019): 248-278, 

10 Maaike Helmus and T. Forrester, Construct validity of the Static Factors Assessment in the offender intake assessment process (Research Report R-309) , Correctional Service of Canada, February 1, 2014,

11 Nicole Muir, Jodi L. Viljoen, and Stephane M. Shepherd, “Violence Risk Assessment Tools and Indigenous Peoples: Colonialism as an Underlying Cause of Risk Ratings on the SAVRY,” International Journal of Forensic Mental Health 22, no. 4 (2023): 289-301, 

12 Tamatea, 2017.

13 Tamatea, 2017.

14 B. Perley-Robertson et al., 2019.

15 Ewert v. Canada [2018] SCC 30

16  Antje Deckert, “Criminologists, duct tape, and Indigenous peoples: Quantifying the use of silencing research methods,” International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice, 40, no.1 (2016): 43-62,  

17 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada [TRC], Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Winnipeg, MB: TRC, 2015).

18  Robert Nichols, “The colonialism of incarceration,” Radical Philosophy Review, 17, no. 2 (2014): 435-455,

19  Robert Nichols, “The colonialism of incarceration,” Radical Philosophy Review, 17, no. 2 (2014): 435-455,

20 Ewert v. Canada [2018] SCC 30

Kyne, Ashley. “The Violence of Justice Policy:  Risk Assessments of the Criminalization of Indigenous People”. Yellowhead Institute. 17, January 2024.


The post The Violence of Justice Policy: Risk Assessments and the Criminalization of Indigenous People appeared first on Yellowhead Institute.

Categories: E1. Indigenous

Brazil: Crisis in Yanomami territory, one year after operation to remove goldminers

Survival International - Wed, 01/17/2024 - 02:30
The Yanomami are suffering an acute health crisis, and hundreds of children are acutely malnourished. © Urihi
Categories: E1. Indigenous

Leading leather manufacturer announces Paraguay boycott of leather suppliers over fears for uncontacted Indigenous people in Paraguay

Survival International - Wed, 12/20/2023 - 03:29
Guireja, an Ayoreo woman, on the day she was first contacted in 2004. Her relatives are still hiding in the forest. © GAT/ Survival
Categories: E1. Indigenous

Brazil Congress overrides Lula’s veto of PL2903: Survival’s reaction

Survival International - Fri, 12/15/2023 - 01:36
Guarani people at the funeral of a family member. With the new law, many Indigenous peoples, like the Guarani, could be catastrophically affected. © Aty Guasu
Categories: E1. Indigenous

Breaking: European Parliament calls out Maasai evictions from iconic Serengeti landscape

Survival International - Thu, 12/14/2023 - 05:10
In May 2023, a delegation of Maasai representatives met European leaders in a bid to end the forced evictions and human rights abuses they are facing in Tanzania. © Survival
Categories: E1. Indigenous

Bill C-53: An Act (dis)Respecting First Nations Inherent Rights

Yellowhead Institute - Wed, 12/13/2023 - 13:53

On June 21, 2023  – Indigenous Solidarity Day – the House of Commons introduced Bill C-53, An Act respecting the recognition of certain Métis governments in Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan, to give effect to treaties with those governments and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. This Act follows the Ontario government’s recognition of seven historic Métis Communities in Ontario in  2017, and the 2003 Powley Supreme Court decision that created a test for the existence of historic Métis communities for Métis to access constitutional rights under Section 35. 

Adding to this timeline are the recent protests by First Nations in Ontario to this legislation. They have significant concerns with the legislation and its implications. 

First, the credibility of information to support the claims of historic Metis communities in Ontario is in dispute. Since 2020, multiple commissioned reports have outlined substantive errors in evidence supplied through the primary source: Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO).  Second, Canada has never initiated a process with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples to provide clarity on how to distinguish between the constitutional rights of each group or what happens in instances of disagreement, conflict, or invalid claim. The federal and provincial governments self-styled “distinctions-based approach” more often divides than distinguishes. Finally, and related,  Bill C-53 uses the language of inherent rights in a province where there are none; at least not tied to historic Métis communities. Instead,  the legislation effectively appropriates  inherent rights from the First Nations without free, prior and informed consent.

Offering more substance to these concerns, this Brief considers a First Nation – and specifically Anishinaabe – view on inherent rights and the place of Métis in the province. 

A Condensed Overview of Anishinaabe Inherent Rights

Among the Anishinaabe – whose territory spans parts of present-day Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Quebec in Canada and across parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota in the United States – there are original teachings describing how the first ancestor was lowered to the earth. This spirit being was the first Anishinaabe in human-form placed on Turtle Island (the Americas) at the beginning of time. Following the original instructions provided by Gitchie Manito (the Great Mystery), the first ancestor journeyed the earth naming all living things and all places on, below and above the surface of the earth, including the seen and unseen. 

In journeying, this ancestor learned of Anishinaabe kinship ties to all-our-relations and learned of the roles and responsibilities of each Anishinaabe. This ancestor provided Anishinaabe peoples with stories and teachings foundational to pre-/existing Anishinaabe inherent rights. These longstanding and enduring rights continue to be nurtured, practiced, and developed by the Anishinaabe over (at least) many thousands of years; and inherent rights precede the modern era nation-to-nation agreements with the newcomers having existed for a few hundred years (e.g., from the  gift diplomacy with the French Crown since 1615 to treaties with the English). The majority of Anishinaabe peoples consistently affirm that their inherent rights are not transferable, are inalienable, and no individual, collectivity, community, or nation can cede, take, or destroy them.

Anishinaabe inherent rights are foundational to self-government, and legitimize many other social, cultural, spiritual, and political aspects of Anishinaabe nationhood, including roles and responsibilities with more-than-human kinship relationships (e.g., as reflected in inclusive dodem structures of governance). The primary inherent rights holders among the Anishinaabe are members of the three fires confederacy: Ojibway, Odawa, and Potawatomi. These inherent rights holders repeatedly defended their rights militarily in conflicts against other First Nations, the British and the Americans. None of what is presented here is new. While there may be minor variation in details, there are numerous instances – in oral accounts, the written historic record, and in Anishinaabe mnemonic devices – providing ample evidence to support this overview.

In peacetime, the Anishinaabe continue the struggle to uphold their inherent rights, but Canada has endeavoured to eliminate and/or severely limit their inherent rights through agreements and colonial-settler legislative and judicial processes.

Where do Métis fit in this conceptualization of inherent rights?

In Ontario, there is actually a single example from our history that speaks to this question. Events surrounding the signing of Treaty No. 3 and its adhesions provide a strong example of who carries Anishinaabe inherent rights, how those rights operate, and whose nationhood existed over the territories. The negotiations for Treaty No. 3 originated from the defiant Anishinaabe nation denying the Crown right-of-way access through Anishinaabe territories without first signing treaty. During negotiations of the main portion of the treaty, the Anishinaabe acknowledged and negotiated inclusion of Anishinaabe family members who were of mixed ancestry (i.e., referred to as “half-breeds”). Lieutenant Governor Alexander Morris, who was a primary negotiator of Treaty No. 3, submitted official government record confirming inclusion of the small number of families who lived among the Anishinaabe and were of mixed ancestry. For greater clarity, these half-breeds were recognized under Anishinaabe nationhood and not associated with the Manitoba Métis independence movement or any other distinct Métis movement. It begs the question: were and are these half-breed families a part of ethnic enclave of Anishinaabe-métis?

Potential Consequences of Métis Rights Recognition in Ontario

If Métis peoples are distinct and no longer have ties to their First Nations relatives and there is little evidence to demonstrate any real historic presence in Ontario, then inherent rights for Métis peoples here, do not exist. In summary, driven by poor research and hollow assertions of rights, the MNO and Canada are effectively abrogating First Nations inherent rights. This leads to one logical conclusion for the fate of Bill C-53: it should not pass, at least not until the Métis can demonstrate to the Anishinaabe, among others, who are the authority on inherent Indigenous rights in this region, that there is a strong case. This is the path to recognition. 

Perhaps it is possible that Metis from their historic homelands outside of Anishinaabe territory can exercise some general Section 35 Aboriginal rights in the province, but that rests on a strange move by the Supreme Court in the Powley decision. Drawing on the earlier Van der Peet decision, which created a test to confirm Aboriginal rights, the court excluded an Indigenous group’s need to demonstrate that Aboriginal rights “are those which have continuity with the practices, customs and traditions that existed prior to contact with European society.” In this sense, Métis rights would be the only rights that cannot be considered inherent; rather, they are dependent on the sovereignty of the Crown. 

These state granted rights will always risk abrogating Anishinaabe nationhood, thus requiring Anishinaabe involvement in determining limits. If the federal government pushes through its legislation, there is much potential for harm to First Nations.

For instance, what will new laws, new treaties, or self government agreements encompass; what happens when these arrangements conflict with First Nations treaty and inherent rights, UDRIPA, self-government agreements, or with unsettled land claims; what if there is First Nations opposition to development deals that have direct impacts on First Nations communities, their territories, or their jurisdiction? 

In the era of Truth and Reconciliation, the least we should expect is consultation on legislation that will impact our rights? Instead, the Federal Government has opened a new legislative front on the ongoing fight against colonialism. 

Debassige, Brent [Ahnungoonhs] & Josh Manitowabi. “Bill C-53: An Act (dis)Respecting First Nations Inherent Rights”. Yellowhead Institute. 14, December 2023.


The post Bill C-53: An Act (dis)Respecting First Nations Inherent Rights appeared first on Yellowhead Institute.

Categories: E1. Indigenous

Powley, Rights Recognition, and the Rise of “Métis Denialism”: A Response to First Nations’ Calls for Accountability

Yellowhead Institute - Thu, 12/07/2023 - 01:57

Earlier this year, provincial Métis organizations and Métis people across Canada proudly celebrated the 20th anniversary of a landmark Supreme Court decision on Métis constitutional rights. The 2003 ruling, R v Powley, 2003 SCC 43 (Powley), formulated a test to define what a Métis constitutional right is and who is entitled to exercise it.

Simultaneously, Ontario First Nations and their supporters gathered on the steps of Parliament1 in opposition to Bill C-53, An Act Respecting the Recognition of Certain Métis Governments in Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan, which would, among other things, see the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) and other provincial Métis organizations recognized as self-determining, self-governing Métis governments and Indigenous governing bodies.2

Central to this ongoing opposition is the government of Ontario’s recognition, in collaboration with the MNO, of six ostensible Powley rights-bearing historic Métis communities. In response, and without any actual verification of these six communities, the MNO has taken an aggressive stance, denouncing the “attacks” directed at it and “Ontario Métis” as a form of “Métis denialism” and accusing those who resist their actions of engaging in “lateral violence.”3

As evidenced by the tumult surrounding the introduction of Bill C-53, in the 20 years since it was decided, Powley has paradoxically played an outsized role in the progressive deterioration of the Métis Nation.

While provincial Métis representative organizations have leveraged Powley to great effect, bringing themselves unprecedented growth, financial benefits, and Crown recognition, the myopic, Powley-centred, and inherently colonial approach employed to achieve these ends has ensured that future generations of Métis will be burdened with the task of undoing the harm that has and will follow. 

What is the Powley Decision?

On the morning of October 22, 1993, Steve Powley and his son shot and killed a bull moose in the  Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, area. Neither of the Powleys had valid authorization from the government of Ontario to hunt moose. Later that day, conservation officers arrived at the Powleys’ residence and the Powleys were charged with unlawful hunting. The Powleys both entered pleas of not guilty, arguing that, as Métis, they had an Aboriginal right to hunt for food in the Sault Ste. Marie area pursuant to section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Section 35 recognizes and affirms the “existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the [A]boriginal peoples of Canada,” being “the Indian, Inuit, and Métis.” Through Powley, the Court established the test for how a person asserting they are “Métis” within the meaning of section 35 can prove they and their community have a constitutionally protected Aboriginal right. This test, a modified version of the Van der Peet4 test used to determine the section 35 Aboriginal rights of “Indians” to account for the post‑contact ethnogenesis and evolution of the Métis, has the following constituent elements:

  1. Identification of a historic rights-bearing community.
  2. Identification of a contemporary rights-bearing community.
  3. Verification of the claimant’s membership in the contemporary rights-bearing community.
  4. Determination of whether the practice was integral to the claimant’s distinctive culture prior to effective European control in the relevant geographic area.
  5. Determination of whether there is continuity between the historic practice and the asserted contemporary right.

At the Supreme Court of Canada (Court), the Powleys and their legal team were successful. According to the Court, the Powleys had met the Court’s test — soon to be known as the Powley Test — and had proved that, as Métis, they had a right to hunt for food in the area  of Sault Ste. Marie. As Aboriginal rights are communal, this right was extended to all members of the historic Sault Ste. Marie Métis community identified by the Court.

The Sources of Métis Rights 

From the moment it was decided, enterprising leadership of the various provincial Métis organizations and their advisors put Powley to work. Consultation guidelines were drafted, and broad harvesting laws and policies were put in place (including with respect to the territories of First Nations in British Columbia and Ontario that fall outside of the Métis Homeland), research into the identification of Powley rights-bearing historic Métis communities increased (particularly in British Columbia and Ontario), and the prioritization of our political and legal relations rapidly shifted from those with First Nations to one laser-focused on the Crown and industry.

For a people historically ignored by the Crown, the recognition Powley afforded us proved intoxicating and all-consuming, overwriting earlier and more powerful sources of our rights.

Métis history within the Métis Homeland is one of alliances, trade arrangements, treaties, and intermarriage with First Nations. The complex network of legal, political, and social relationships that resulted led to close alliances between Métis and First Nations peoples. Indeed, the diplomatic relations forged between Métis and our Cree, Saulteaux, and Assiniboine relatives were such that open conflict rarely occurred, and we often joined together to protect our shared interests. This complex network of relationships also functioned as a means of sharing land and resources between extended Métis and First Nations family networks.

Over hundreds of years and through these various legal, political, and social means, our Métis ancestors legitimized and solidified our rights and presence on the prairies and within our Homeland.

The Powley Test, which, as outlined above, focuses primarily on the court or Crown-determined existence of a historic and contemporary Métis “rights-bearing community,” doesn’t take any of this into account. 

Rather, Powley enables a Métis right to be established absent any consideration of the legal, political, and social context that always informed the existence (or non-existence), and valid exercise of that right. It also empowers Métis and non-Métis alike to conjure up historic and contemporary Métis “rights-bearing communities” by employing tactics such as simple assertion, the misrepresentation of unreliable census data and historical accounts, the co-opting of cultural markers, and the pointing to of contemporary association as evidence of historic community.

In my view, the Powley decision is also inconsistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as its application has led to the complete neglect and undermining of Indigenous law and jurisdiction in favour of a legal benchmark set by colonial courts.

The Powley Legacy

The implications of our obsession with Powley manifest in a variety of ways:

  • In British Columbia, a situation I have written on previously,5 both Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) and the BC Métis Federation (BCMF) have been accused of engaging in Métis colonialism by, among others, the First Nations Summit, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), and British Columbia Assembly of First Nations.6
  • The Assembly of First Nations passed a resolution at its July Annual General Assembly affirming that no land, air, or water-based inherent and constitutional Métis rights exist in Ontario or British Columbia.7
  • In September of 2021, the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) withdrew from the Métis National Council, citing concerns with the MNO’s citizenship registry, specifically the inclusion of non-Métis Nation citizens in their registry.8 Since then, they have voiced their support for First Nations in British Columbia and Ontario.9
  • The Presidents of Métis Nation Saskatchewan and, interestingly, MNBC, have written to MNO President Margaret Froh imploring the MNO to form relationships and build trust with First Nations and to deal with concerns raised with respect to the MNO’s citizenship registry and identification of the six ostensible Powley rights-bearing historic Métis communities.10
  • Controversy surrounds the entering of a memorandum of understanding between Canada and the NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) — formerly known as Labrador Métis Association and later the Labrador Métis Nation — in 2019, which, among other things, purported to recognize NCC as an Indigenous collective capable of holding section 35 rights.11 Both the Inuit of Nunatsiavut and the Innu Nation, supported by the Métis National Council and the Manitoba Métis Federation, reject the NCC’s claims as fraudulent.12

Amidst this turmoil, the unwavering dependence on Powley by provincial Métis representative organizations as the foundation of our rights stands out as a common thread. Further, despite the deep divisions and damage done by Powley, the federal and provincial governments continue to facilitate its exploitation. For example, Minister Marc Miller recently announced that Canada will provide up to $3.3 million in multi-year funding to support MNBC’s research into the existence of section 35 Métis rights in British Columbia,13 Bill C-53 continues to lurch towards becoming law with the federal government’s vocal support,14 and the Province of Ontario has defended its recognition of the six ostensible Powley rights-bearing historic Métis communities in court.15

The Myth of Métis Denialism

In proper context, it’s clear that so-called Métis denialism is largely a counterfactual political myth. Certain First Nations individuals may indeed deny that both Métis and our rights exist. However, as First Nations leadership in British Columbia and Ontario have frequently repeated, they do not deny the existence of us or our rights.16 What they do deny is an approach to the recognition of Métis rights that relies exclusively on Powley, violates their rights, and ignores and undermines the relationships that have mediated coexistence between Métis and First Nations since the Métis Nation first emerged.

First Nations are justifiably calling for us to approach the recognition of our rights with humility, accountability, and due regard for the historical legal, political, and social relationships to which those rights owe their existence (or non-existence), and valid exercise.

If we are genuine and non-rhetorical in our efforts to decolonize and revitalize our laws, systems of governance, and relations with First Nations, these caring calls are ones we should welcome and actively facilitate rather than loudly oppose with insincere, inflammatory, and hyperbolic accusations.

Métis rights unquestionably exist in Canada, but they exist despite Powley, not because of it. The uncomfortable truth is that it is far past time that our damaging veneration of and reliance on Powley come to an end.

Citation: Mussell, Stephen. “Powley, Rights Recognition, and the Rise of “Métis Denialism”: A Métis Response to First Nations’ Calls for Accountability”. Yellowhead Institute. 7 December 2023.

Featured Artwork: Audie Murray


1 Shari Narine, “Ontario chiefs’ rally turns up the heat on Métis self-government legislation,”, September 21, 2023, 

2 Parliament of Canada, Bill C-53: Recognition of Certain Métis Governments in Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan and Métis Self-Government Act (Ottawa, ON: Parliament of Canada, November 2021),

3 Metis Nation of Ontario, “Responding to First Nation Attacks on Ontario Métis and Métis Denialism,” Metis Nation of Ontario, June 19, 2023, 

4 R v Van der Peet, [1996] 2 SCR 507.

5 Stephen Mussell, Yellowhead Institute, accessed online at

6 UBCIC, “UBCIC Unanimously Passes Resolution Rejecting and Denouncing Métis Colonialism in BC and the Crown’s Past and Ongoing Facilitation of it,” UBCIC, June 13, 2023,

7 Assembly of First Nations (AFN), 2023 Annual General Assembly – Halifax, Nova Scotia, Final Resolutions (Ottawa, ON: AFN, July 2023),

8 Manitoba Métis Federation, “MMF withdraws from MNC – Focus on being the national voice for the Red River Métis,” Manitoba Métis Federation, September 29, 2021,

9 See Manitoba Métis Federation, “MMF supports First Nations in denouncing Métis colonialism in British Columbia,” Manitoba Métis Federation, June 28, 2023, and Manitoba Métis Federation, “MMF supports First Nations in denial of Métis communities in Eastern Ontario,” Manitoba Métis Federation, June 18, 2023,

10 See Chiefs of Ontario, “MNS Correspondence,” (Toronto, ON: Chiefs of Ontario, 2023), < and Chiefs of Ontario, “MNBC Correspondence to MNO,” (Toronto, ON: Chiefs of Ontario, 2023),

11 See Crown-Indigenous Relationships Canada, “Memorandum of Understanding on Advancing Reconciliation,” (Happy Goose Valley, NL: NunatuKavut 2019), and Brett Forester, “Former Indigenous Relations minister was warned against signing 2019 MOU with Labrador group,” CBC News, October 11, 2023,

12 Brett Forester, “Former Indigenous Relations minister was warned against signing 2019 MOU with Labrador Group,” CBC News, October 11, 2023.

13 Metis Nation British Columbia, 2023 Annual Report (Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops: September 2023),

14 See Fraser Needam, “Liberals introduce Métis self-government legislation just before Parliament rises for summer,” APTN National News, June 22, 2023, and Brett Forester, “Minister blames ‘misconceptions’ for concerns over Métis self-government bill,” CNC News, November 30, 2023,

15 Whiteduck v Ontario, 2023 ONCA 543

16 For example, accompanying UBCIC’s resolution denouncing Métis colonialism was a quote attributed to Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC President, which stated in part: “First Nations in BC take no issue with the Métis Nation, the Métis people, or their struggle to protect and advance their rights within their historic Homeland.” Similarly, in testimony before the House of Commons Indigenous affairs committee in Ottawa regarding Bill C-53, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler noted that “Métis in Canada do have rights and do have a rich history in this country…It just didn’t happen in our territories.”

The post Powley, Rights Recognition, and the Rise of “Métis Denialism”: A Response to First Nations’ Calls for Accountability appeared first on Yellowhead Institute.

Categories: E1. Indigenous

Indian ministries set to approve mega-project that will destroy uncontacted island people

Survival International - Thu, 12/07/2023 - 01:16
The Shompen live in the rainforests of Great Nicobar. If their forest and rivers are destroyed, they will be too. © Anthropological Survey of India
Categories: E1. Indigenous

Carbon credits fever “now as big a threat to Indigenous lands as logging and mining”

Survival International - Fri, 12/01/2023 - 03:20
Survival’s exposé of the flagship carbon credits project run by the Northern Rangelands Trust in Kenya revealed major deficiencies in a project used by Meta and Netflix to offset their carbon emissions. © Beckwith & Fisher
Categories: E1. Indigenous

Kenya: Are carbon credits behind Ogiek evictions? NGOs release statement in run-up to COP28

Survival International - Wed, 11/29/2023 - 02:34
An Ogiek house burned down during a previous series of evictions. © OPDP
Categories: E1. Indigenous

The “Civilized World” and its Genocides: Gaza’s Colonial Precedents  

Yellowhead Institute - Thu, 11/23/2023 - 09:27

What has the world been witnessing in Israel-occupied Gaza? Not a “humanitarian catastrophe,” but a human-engineered atrocity: an entire population being bombed, starved, dehydrated, “voluntarily emigrated,” and blockaded into collective death and submission – a continuation of the decades-long ethnic cleansing of Palestine – while Canada and other “liberal” democracies refuse to call for a ceasefire and the US continues to supply the “precision” bombs. Even in the hours preceding a promised temporary four-day “truce” set to begin Friday morning, Israel has persisted in unrelentingly “bombing 300 targets” in Gaza, attacking hospitals, journalists, and refugee camps, and arresting the director of Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa.

The presumed legitimacy of mass Palestinian death is so pervasive that for some of its more recent school-bombings, Israel hasn’t even bothered to put out an excuse.

Yet still, political leaders like Canadian Defence Minister Bill Blair have maintained the obscenely transparent fiction that Israel is abiding by international law and exercising “maximum restraint.”    

The international community was shocked when one far-right Israeli politician suggested simply dropping a nuclear bomb on the Palestinians. Instead, their liquidation – “Nakba 2023,” as promised by Israeli Minister Avi Dichter – is being permitted to proceed one thousand, ten thousand deaths at a time.

How to characterize the carnage? For weeks, UN Experts and hundreds of international law and genocide scholars have been warning the situation is approaching the legal definition of genocide. To Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it is “the battle of the entire civilized world” against “the modern barbarians.” Meanwhile, this “civilized world’s” self-anointed European and North American spokespeople have shielded Israel with the same rationalizations and evasions used to immunize their own states’ rapes, tortures, enslavements, and massacres for centuries.

Eliminating “Barbarians” and Other “Civilized” Pursuits 

The same essential formula is reiterated once again: 

Demonize and “sub-humanize” the targets. ex. “I would encourage the other side to not so lightly throw around the idea of innocent Palestinian civilians … I don’t think we would so lightly throw around the term ‘innocent Nazi civilians,’” US Congressperson Brian Mast. For their part, Israeli officials have overtly reverted to the old colonial terminology of branding Palestinians as “savages,” “human animals” and, in the case of Palestinian children, “little snakes.” This signals that they are operating according to the same genocidal and ecocidal hierarchy of existence under which, for example, the US Chemical Warfare Service equated the Japanese with “insects, rats, bacteria, and cancer” in advance of their nuclear obliteration, the French denigrated colonized Algerians as “rats” and “vermin” subject to “annihilation” (unless they “crawl at our feet like dogs”), and Anglo-American settlers marked Indigenous children for elimination because – in the words of the settler slogan – “nits make lice.” 

Fetishize the inherent superior humanity of the “civilizers” – regardless of the far greater volume of their violence. ex. “I know that [Israel] is taking every precaution to harming civilians in direct contrast to the terrorists of Hamas,” UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak; “[Israel is] a country that is bound to human rights and international law and acts accordingly. Therefore, the accusations against Israel are absurd,” German chancellor Olaf Scholz. At one time, the claimed marker of colonizers’ innate supremacy was their Christianity; now, it’s their professed allegiance to “human rights” and “democracy”: the updated mantras for genocidal “benevolence” by another name.  

Authorize unfettered force against the colonized as “self-defence” and “necessary” – erasing the pre-existing context of occupation and colonization. ex. “Is there any limit what Israel should do to the people who are trying to slaughter the Jews? The answer is no. There is no limit,” US Senator Lindsey Graham, when asked about Palestinian civilian deaths; “[A] model resolution expressing ‘support for Israel’s right to pursue without interference or condemnation the elimination of Hamas’ […] has been accepted by legislatures in at least eight [US] states,” the Guardian. In fact, Israel’s long-standing “self-defensive” targeting of even paradigmatically non-violent acts by Palestinians corroborates that to present a threat, “all the native has to do is stay at home.”

The transmutation of Palestinians into invaders, aggressors, and occupiers on their own lands is comparable to the feats of reality inversion involved in previous centuries’ colonial luminaries impugning Indigenous people’s “thick” heads for damaging the Spaniards’ swords attempting to decapitate them, or decrying “savage” non-Europeans’ bodies for continuing to assault the British bullets fired at them, “even [after having been] pierced two or three times.”

Against Palestinians, again, the favourite canard that it is the colonized who are incapable of respecting “civilized” limits – physical, legal, or moral – functions to greenlight virtually unlimited violence against them.

Disguise, minimize, and rationalize the resulting brutality. ex. “I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed,” US President Joe Biden – although other US officials have subsequently acknowledged that Palestinian casualties are likely even higher than reported, especially now that Israel’s destruction of Gaza’s hospitals impedes the count. The repeatedly debunked allegations about Palestinians faking, inflating, and manipulating their own deaths and suffering participate in the long tradition of colonial genocidaires lying about the colonized being “natural liars,” to sustain the lie of their own beneficence. 

Blame the “barbarians” for their own deaths. ex. “[Hamas] shouldered the responsibility for exposing Palestinians to terrible consequences,” French President Emmanuel Macron; “[T]his started with horrific murders on October 7, and if Hamas are hiding in these hospitals then Israel has to do something about it,” UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. Perversely, Palestinians’ humanity is acknowledged only to accuse them of acting as “human shields” – supposedly forcing Israel to kill Palestinian children and elders by building their schools, refugee camps, homes, and hospitals in the way of Israel’s bombs. (Evidence to the contrary, as well as Israel’s own long-documented history of using Palestinians – including children – as human shields, are ignored.)

Likewise, for instance, American soldiers attributed their massacres in US-occupied Philippines to the Filipinos’ “Mohammedan religion and custom [which] made it necessary to fire in the direction of women and children,” while European philosophers like Georg Hegel asserted that when Africans were “shot down in the thousands in their wars with the Europeans,” this was due to the Africans’ own “lack of respect for life” and “contempt for humanity.” When “they” kill “us,” it is proof of their barbarism; and when “we” kill “them,” this is also proof of their barbarism: enshrined as a rationality-resistant “unfalsifiable” hypothesis.  

Repeat as desired, until the “extermination of the brutes” is complete. ex. “How many [dead Palestinians] will be enough?” “All of them,” US lawmaker Michelle Salzman

Who can be surprised, then, at the forms of “total warfare” that ensue? In reality, such “total wars” are not actually “wars” at all – since war implies a situation in which both sides may legally kill and be killed – but a claimed unilateral license to brutalize and control. Or as the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt preferred to call it, “social pest control,” in which those on the receiving end are treated not as enemies to be defeated but “parasites” that must be eradicated.   

Practices of “Social Pest Control”

To that end, Israel’s serial slaughters of the Palestinians under its military occupation have included Operation “Summer Rains” in 2006 (416 Palestinians killed, 11 Israelis), Operation “Cast Lead” in 2009 (1,390+ Palestinians killed, 13 Israelis, including 4 in “friendly fire”), Operation “Pillar of Defense” in 2012 (167 Palestinians killed, 6 Israelis), Operation “Protective Edge” in 2014 (2,200+ Palestinians killed, 68 Israelis), Operation “Guardian of the Walls” in 2021 (233 Palestinians killed, 7 Israelis), Operation “Breaking Dawn” in 2022 (49 Palestinians killed, 0 Israelis), and now Operation “Swords of Iron” (at least 13,000 Palestinians killed as of writing, 1,200 Israelis). 

They join the many other shining moments of similarly asymmetrical bloodshed in the “civilized world’s battle against the barbarians” – such as the US’s recurrent anti-Indigenous massacres, Germany’s “pacification” of the Maji Maji anti-colonial uprising in Tanzania (1905-07: 250,000 Africans killed, 15 Europeans), Britain’s mass shootings of peaceful Indian protesters as at Amritsar (1919: 379-1,500 Indians killed, 0 British soldiers), France’s strafing of Algerians at Setif and Guelma (1945: 45,000 Algerians killed, 102 French settlers) …   

Although the Algerians were gunned down just months before the Nazis were to be tried at Nuremberg, “this was such a common occurrence that no one then thought of judging the French government as the Nazis had been judged,” Jean-Paul Sartre remarked

Under this colonial paradigm, the gross “disproportionality” of Israel’s transformation of Gaza into an open-air execution chamber is not an accident or aberration but officially declared Israeli military doctrine since at least 2008. The collective starvation, strangulation, and annihilation of Palestinians in Gaza recalls previous such “civilizing” initiatives as the French and British creation of special open-kill “death zones” for Algerians and Kenyans, the Canadian government’s mass starvation policies to “clear the plains” of “the Indians,” and Germany’s infamous extermination order against the Namibians, under which the Indigenous Hereros were given the choice of being shot on sight or driven into desert concentration camps to starve to death. 

Somehow, in a remarkable feat of guilt transfusion, even the culpability for Europe’s own foundational internal genocide – the Nazi Holocaust, primed by centuries of European antisemitic pogroms, persecutions, and portrayals of Jews as “devils,” “plagues,” “snakes,” and other “pestilences” – has been transferred to the Palestinians to justify the genocidal violence against them. Lest we forget, Canadian officials had also managed to dismiss Jewish refugees attempting to flee Nazi Germany as akin to “hogs [at] feeding time when they are all trying to get their feet into the trough.”  The same states that executed and enabled the Holocaust now add yet more blood-prints to their butcher’s bill by condoning another genocide in the name of expiating the sin of the first.   

How to Hide a “Humane” Massacre 

While the term “holocaust” originally referred to a religious animal sacrifice, these “civilized” genocides are not sacrifices – which entail a certain valourization of the victims – but massacres, as historian Tzvetan Todorov explained. “Unlike sacrifices, massacres are generally not acknowledged or proclaimed, their very existence is kept secret and denied.”

Even when the evidence is undeniable and overwhelming, as with Gaza, the official willful “ignorance” finds a way to be maintained. International legal norms regarding war, genocide, etc. were in the first place formulated by colonial powers to protect their own lynchings, ethnic cleansings, civilian bombings, and other “civilizing” practices from consequence. And when even these permissive rules are violated – as Israel has done flagrantly against the Palestinians for decades – it is not the violators who are punished by states like the US and Canada, but those who dare to call their crimes by their designated legal names: illegal occupation, apartheid, genocide

Even mainstream human rights criticisms of Israel are being quietly silenced or explicitly banned. Emblematic of this institutionalized reality-curation, for instance, on Tuesday a McGill University students’ motion supporting Palestinians’ rights was blocked by the Quebec Superior Court via injunction – also the legal instrument of choice wielded against Indigenous land and water defenders in order to enforce the settler status quo. 

The colonized are damned as “barbarians” when they don’t uphold international law, and damned as “haters,” “racists,” and “extremists” when they do: a colonial catch-22.     

Instead of rights and justice, therefore, the most that Palestinians are accorded is a perhaps slightly mitigated oppression wrapped in the label of “humanitarianism.” No freedom and safety for the Palestinians, but “humanitarian corridors”: the “safe” passageways for their forced march into death or exile. No peace, only “humanitarian pauses”: so that they may obtain some bread and medicine, before their slaughter is authorized to resume. No reparations, just “humanitarian aid”: through which the international community assumes the bill of repeatedly rebuilding Gaza (largely to the profit of Israel’s economy), only so that Israel may destroy it again.

Grotesquely, even the invasion of Gaza’s hospitals – “soldiers are everywhere, shooting in all directions,” as an eyewitness reported to the BBC from Al-Shifa Hospital on November 16 – is being advertised as a humanitarian intervention. To quote Joe Biden, “They [the Israeli soldiers] are also bringing in incubators or bringing in other means to help people in the hospital.” If only Israel hadn’t also cut off the power to the entire territory, so the incubators might have been of some use to the dying babies.

Gaza reminds us that when it comes to the “sub-humanized,” there is almost no obscenity that cannot be packaged as an act of “humanity” – continuing in the venerable genealogy of the Spanish conquistadors’ “charitable” and “loving” genocides of Indigenous nations, Britain’s “merciful massacres” of enslaved Jamaicans, France’s “humane torture” of the Algerians, and the Belgian King Leopold’s “philanthropic” mass enslavement and mutilation of the Congolese. Indeed, “when ‘civilized’ troops make war on ‘uncivilized’ peoples,” as US Army Captain Elbridge Colby opined in a 1927 article for the American Journal of International Law, “the inhuman act thus becomes actually humane.” 

Forging the Future from the “Zone of Non-Being”

Illuminated in the Gaza hellfire once again is coloniality’s basic but (now) unspoken organizing principle: to those relegated to its “zone of non-being,” the realm of the colonized and “uncivilized,” entirely different rules, logics, and languages apply, under a façade of universalism. “The colonial world is a world cut in two,” as Frantz Fanon observed.  

Thus, Palestinians killing Israelis, whether civilians or soldiers, is “terrorism”; Israel killing many times more Palestinian civilians is merely “the price of waging war” (Joe Biden). Hamas forcing Israelis to hide inside their own homes is “terrorism”; Israel wiping out Palestinians’ homes, not to mention the families inside them, is Israel’s “right” (former Israeli chief justice Aharon Barak).

Palestinians are castigated and condemned to death en masse for using violence, or even non-violence; while for Israel and its companions in “civilization,” their own greater violence only serves to somehow justify yet more violence on their part. 

To defend its current operations in Gaza, for instance, Israel invokes the massive civilian death tolls of the US’s “war on terror,” which itself invoked Israeli court decisions legitimizing extrajudicial killings and torture, alongside precedents from apartheid South Africa, French and British colonialism in Algeria, Ireland, and Kenya, and the US’s own genocidal “Indian Wars” and occupations of Cuba and the Philippines. 

As former head of the Israeli military’s International Law Department Daniel Reisner explicated, “The whole of international law is now based on the notion that an act that is forbidden today becomes permissible if executed by enough countries […] If you do something for long enough, the world will accept it.” What nightmares will be made “permissible” and “acceptable” tomorrow, by what is being “executed” in Gaza today?   

It is not only new legal weapons of domination being forged in the colonial conflagration, but physical weapons too. Since October 7, Palestinian doctors have been reporting treating patients with horrific injuries unlike any they have ever seen before, “injuries in which the skin is described as having been melted straight through to the bone.” This indicates Israel’s use yet again of Palestine as a necro-laboratory for experimentalizing new instruments of debilitation and death; as previous innovations in areas such as aerial bombing and chemical gassing were born on the colonial killing-fields of decades past. 

Far from being consigned to the “waiting rooms of history,” the colonies have in reality been the testing rooms, where the next technologies of subjugation are devised.   

What is the world is witnessing in Gaza, then? Not an exception to the “civilized” world order, but an expression of its eliminatory foundations, as well as a preview of possible colonial futures to come: no peace, only “pacification”; no freedom for the dominated, except to consent to their own domination; and the perpetual depopulation of the “pests” from the earth, to make way for “civilization’s” reign. 

And yet, despite the extreme violence applied to subjugate and erase them, Palestinians and colonial modernity’s other designated “sub-humans” not only continue to exist, but resist the genocidal premises of their inferiority and disposability, and illuminate the paths to a future organized on fundamentally different terms. 

Even in the face of powerful apparatuses of state repression, Palestine solidarity marchers continue to gather in streets around the world in the thousands and millions, Palestinian poetry persists in “teaching life” in the midst of so much death and devastation, and people mourn the precious Palestinian lives wrongfully taken with a Qur’anic verse – inna lilahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un, “from God we all come and to God we will return” – that reminds us of the contingency and temporality of all human-created systems of oppression. In these protests, poems, and prayers – all acts of profound decolonial love – what we are seeing is the collective prefiguring of a world less “civilized” and therefore more liveable for all who inhabit it, inshallah.   

Citation: Kanji, Azeezah. “The ‘Civilized World’ and its Genocides: Gaza’s Colonial Precedents”. Yellowhead Institute. 23 November 2023.

Photo credit: Victoria Ransom

The post The “Civilized World” and its Genocides: Gaza’s Colonial Precedents   appeared first on Yellowhead Institute.

Categories: E1. Indigenous

End the legacy of broken promises in Chaco Canyon

Native Organizing - Fri, 11/17/2023 - 10:23
End the legacy of broken promises in Chaco Canyon

The Department of the Interior has taken initial steps to protect Chaco Culture National Historical Park by issuing a 20-year administrative withdrawal that bans new oil and gas drilling and fracking on unleased federal lands within a 10-mile buffer. 

While steps have been taken to protect certain areas of Greater Chaco from industrial exploitation, more needs to be done to truly safeguard the safety and well-being of this cultural landscape and surrounding communities.

That’s why we’ve join with partners, including Navajo Nation, Diné C.A.R.E., Sierra Club, and Friends of the Earth, in support of the Honoring Chaco Initiative (HCI) which would end all new oil and gas drilling and fracking from the region, phasing out existing extraction activities, and establishing Tribal co-management strategies for the future.

“Native Organizers Alliance stands in unity with the Greater Chaco Coalition in their call on the Department of Interior to recommit to the Honoring Chaco Initiative. The DOI must respond with action immediately to stop permitting new extraction, restore our lands, and put Tribal co-management at the center of a just transition and sustainable economic future. Ending the harmful resource extraction, which has significant impacts on the health of local Native communities across generations, will have long-lasting positive improvements if the DOI actively engages Native communities who live and work in the Greater Chaco region to establish an effective Tribal co-management plan.”

Carol Davis, Managing Director of Native Organizers Alliance

Looking ahead, the HCI will continue to advance the following core goals:

  • Stop permitting new oil and gas drilling and fracking, and phase out existingextraction, across the Greater Chaco Landscape.
  • Develop and implement Tribal co-management strategies for the region’s public lands and resources.
  • Fully protect and restore the air quality, ground and surface waters, and healthy lands of the region.
  • Allocate resources to enable communities to achieve economic security and sustainability, including massive clean up efforts of failing oil and gas infrastructure.

Learn more and sign on to urge the Department of the Interior as well as Secretary Haaland.

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Categories: E1. Indigenous

Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline!

Native Organizing - Fri, 11/17/2023 - 09:57
Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline Now!

A fully operational Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is projected to bring 570,000 more barrels of oil to market, resulting in the yearly release of over 100 million metric tons of CO2 — a greenhouse gas responsible for accelerating climate change. This is equal to the annual emissions of nearly 30 coal plants, or over 21 million cars.

But this isn’t just about health and safety, it’s also about Tribal rights. Sovereignty, honor, and respect for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is being denied each day that the pipeline continues to have oil flowing through it.

We must protect Mother Earth. We cannot choose to increase our dependence on extracted oil, rather than developing renewable resources.

The Standing Rock Sioux should have been consulted concerning this abrogation of unceded and sovereign territory rights. Sovereignty, honor and respect for the Sioux Nation is being recklessly denied each day that building of the pipeline continues.

Read more and send your comment demanding the Army Corps of Engineers shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline now.

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Categories: E1. Indigenous

Settler Moves to Indigeneity: From Canada to Israel

Yellowhead Institute - Tue, 11/14/2023 - 06:34

The week leading up to CBC’s Fifth Estate documentary investigating Buffy Sainte Marie’s claims to Indigeneity was tense with anticipatory grief, anger, and anxiety. Our conversations were dominated by what might be revealed about the internationally recognized singer and beloved community member. 

Another line of discourse focused on the timing. It seemed like a convenient distraction from Israel’s total siege and unrelenting bombardment of Gaza since the Hamas surprise attack on October 7.

There isn’t much to laugh about these days, but I did chuckle at Darcy Lindberg’s X (formerly Twitter) thread baiting users with the caption: “My thoughts on Buffy, a thread” only to find: “The state of Israel is undertaking genocidal actions right now to Palestinians, and we can’t look away. If there are shreds of humanity in nation states, they would be calling for a ceasefire and a path to end the occupation.”1 

Lindberg continued: “this isn’t flippant towards the shock, anger, etc., from the CBC story, or a measuring of griefs. But sometimes a forest is on fire while a garden needs tending, while a loved one needs nurturing.”

This is a call for a social triage system, of sorts, to establish the urgency of needs and required care. To this, I’m inclined to believe that bodily threats constitute an emergency requiring immediate attention. This is not to suggest that the matter of ethnic fraud is not important. Race-shifting belongs to an ecosystem of settler colonial violence present in both the Canadian and Israeli context. It is possible to bring our most urgent attention to mounting deaths while examining the implications of ethnic fraud.

The questions raised about the veracity of Buffy’s claims to Indigeneity are not mere distractions but direct us toward a crucial dimension of settler colonialism in both the Canadian and Israeli contexts. Sustained solidarity with Palestine requires critical engagement with Israel’s military occupation, as well as the settler nation’s moves to Indigeneity in order to lay claim to the land.  

Colonial Governance: ‘planting a new people’ 

But comparing the two cases is difficult. There are considerations of geographic context, distinct histories, and social characteristics of respective populations. Nevertheless, there are similarities in the concealed colonial dimensions and dynamics and existing connections in the two settler contexts. 

The establishment of the state of Israel can in large part be attributed to Zionism, a nationalist movement that emerged in the nineteenth century to establish a Jewish homeland. According to Noura Erakat, Palestinian human rights lawyer and professor, this objective first required Zionists to transform Judaism into a unified political community and, second, “obtain from a colonial power a territory to settle.”2 At the turn of the twentieth century, Erakat observes, colonial governance had not yet been discredited, and “Zionists sought to collude with, rather than resist, colonial domination in order to establish a Jewish state.”3

Throughout the twentieth century, there are many examples of Zionists freely drawing on colonial discourse to justify and strategize the establishment of the state of Israel. 

Palestinian scholar, Steven Salaita shares the words of David Ben-Gurion who is considered the father of Israel, “Look what the Americans did, they took this land that was filled with savages and filled with swamps and they displaced the savages and drained the swamps and they ended up building this great civilization and that’s what we’re trying to do.”4 Ben-Gurion also stated in 1947, “we adopt the system of aggressive defense; with every Arab attack we must respond with a decisive blow: the destruction of the place or the expulsion of the residents along with the seizure of the place.”5 

The first president of Israel, Chaim Weizmann stated that Palestinians, “are in the country, and have been there for ages. We are the newcomers and have to become part and parcel of the country. We are planting a new people in the country.”6

The Post-Colonial Pivot  

With the post-colonial movement in the mid-twentieth century came the decline of overt colonial rhetoric. This shift coupled with growing Indigenous socio-political movements has prompted settler societies to develop new colonial tactics. 

This brings us back to Buffy Sainte Marie and race-shifting. 

‘Playing Indian’ is a settler tradition older than both Canada and the United States.7 In recent years, settlers have also begun appropriating Indigeneity as an identity to inhabit on a full-time basis. Israel and Canada both rely on a colonial strategy that I’m calling the settler move to Indigeneity.8 The settler move to Indigeneity describes systemic ethnic fraud in late-stage settler colonialism. 

Ethnic fraud is the fullest extension of settler colonial dispossession. After disappearing, dominating, and dispossessing Indigenous peoples, the settler becomes the Native. 

In Canada, Indigenous calls for justice and restitution compel Canadians to reflect on their role in colonization. This is deeply uncomfortable and drives a faux Indigenization among those seeking to evade responsibility for wrong-doing and ‘legitimately’ claim their place as the rightful owners of the land. 

Meanwhile, the Zionist move to Indigeneity seeks to maintain sole ownership over contested land to the point of erasing Palestinian presence altogether. Take for instance the popular Zionist phrase, “a land without a people for a people without a land.” 

In the attempt to claim the rightful Indigeneity, Zionism also erases the presence of Jewish people already living in historic Palestine and other parts of the Middle East. This goes back to Erakat’s point that Zionism constructs Judaism as a unified polity to establish a pseudo-Indigenous nation-state. It draws on imperialist logics of possession and ownership and narrow interpretations of Indigeneity in religious text on the Promised Land.

In both cases, moving to Indigeneity is a strategy to legitimize colonization. 

First Nation-Israel Friendship Ties

While distinct in so many ways, these moves to Indigeneity in Canada and Israel have actually come together. In particular, Zionist moves to Indigeneity have involved strategic alliances with First Nations people in Canada.

In 2006, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) participated in a large mission to Israel, ostensibly to learn about Israeli culture and languages. 

Co-chaired by Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) National President Ed Morgan and AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine, the six-day tour brought seventeen First Nations leaders on an all-expense paid trip to Israel. The CJC-funded trip estimated to cost a total of $72,000 took place from February 17 to 22, 2006.9  

The itinerary planned for visits to sites of historical, religious, and cultural significance, but the subtext was sovereignty, governance, and international diplomatic relations. 

Phil Fontaine is reported to have shared with then-President Moshe Katsav, “We see what you have accomplished. It is a lesson for us. We strive for identity and we want to reclaim our land – not all of Canada, but the land that we need to survive and thrive.”10

In response Katsav claimed heritage was central to the creation of the State of Israel, but that the nation-state continues to face threats from Iran and Hamas.11 Here, Katsav failed to acknowledge Israel’s militarized suppression of the Second Intifada and Palestine’s previous resistance efforts.12 

This was not lost on activists who were paying attention. In an open letter to Fontaine from forty-seven grassroots groups, they describe the trip as a ploy to conceal, “Israeli atrocities committed against the Palestinian people.”13

Fontaine responded to criticisms by saying that, “our interest is in building bridges, not turning groups away.”14 Without responding to charges of Israeli occupation, ethnic cleansing, or genocide, Fontaine simply concluded, “Israel and the First Nations share a common interest and goal in rebuilding from inflicted harms and commemorating catastrophic pasts.”15  

Norway House Mission to Israel

More would go to Israel. Between 2012 to 2016, members of my community, Norway House Cree Nation, participated in three separate missions to Israel under the leadership of Ron Evans, former chief of Norway House Cree Nation and grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.    

Evans was inspired to organize the mission after his own trip to Israel in 2010. With the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg (JFW) organizing the itinerary, Norway House Cree Nation funded at least one of the missions through a series of fundraising activities.16 

The first 10-day mission trip, which included 30 young people and a band councillor, departed on April 29, 2012.17

Community Relations Director of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, Shelley Faintuch observed, “For most of the young people, and possibly all of them, this was the first time they had even been overseas.”18 

Faintuch’s expression of charity inadvertently gestures toward the economically exploitative nature of these missions, which requires First Nations young people to fundraise and ultimately contribute to a booming tourist industry.19 That same year was described as a ‘record year for incoming tourism.’20

There are layered enactments of settler colonialism in these types of trips. 

While not explicitly Zionist, the aims of these trips were to build relationships between Israel and First Nations to better concretize Zionist claims to Indigeneity. Like the 2006 AFN trip, the socio-political context is evacuated. When presenting First Nations people the opportunity to travel to one of the holiest sites in the world, Zionist organizers exploit the systemic Christian indoctrination of First Nations as part of state-funded, church-run Indian residential schools designed to assimilate and eliminate.21

The language of Indigeneity and collective oppression is deployed to justify Israeli occupation and genocide of Palestinians. Israel’s creeping proximity to First Nations is absolutely a settler move to Indigeneity and an example of ethnic fraud across two settler colonial nation-states. 


First Nations leaders have been quick to condemn Palestinian resistance and assert Israel’s right to defend itself with little consideration of the preceding 75 years of Israel-Palestinian relations.22 Meanwhile, at the grassroots, a cross-section of Indigenous political leaders, activists, academics, artists, and community members have taken an opposing stance in support of the Palestinian struggle.23 

We understand violence, assimilation, and dispossession. We know what it’s like for others to claim our lands and our very identities. For our struggle in the Canadian context to have any integrity at all, we must call out the dynamics of settler colonialism in contexts elsewhere; to challenge moves to Indigeneity that threaten us all.

How we show up for Palestine reveals a lot about how we show up for ourselves as Indigenous peoples.

Citation: Scribe, Megan. “Settler Moves to Indigeneity: From Canada to Israel”. Yellowhead Institute. 14 November 2023.

Photo credit: John Paillé


1 Darcy Lindberg (@Darcy13Lindberg), “My thoughts on Buffy, a thread,” X, 27 October 2023, 1:49 PM,

2 Erakat, Noura. 2019. Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine. Redwood City: Stanford University Press.  27-28.

3 Erakat, 28.

4 Salaita, Steven. “On Colonization and Ethnic Cleansing in North America and Palestine.” In Speaking of Indigenous Politics: Conversations with Activists, Scholars, and Tribal Leaders, edited by J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, 264. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018.

5 Flaphan, Simha. “The Palestinian Exodus of 1948.” Journal of Palestine Studies, 16, no. 4 (1987), 3-26. 

 6 Litvinoff, Barnet, ed. 1983. The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann, Vol. 1. Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press. 486. 

7 Deloria, Philip J. 1998. Playing Indian. New Haven: Yale University Press.

8 This phrasing is inspired by Janet Mawhinney’s concept ‘settler moves to innocence’ found in Tuck, Eve and Yang, K. Wayne. “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1, no. 1(2012), 1-40.

9 Sault Star, “Jewish Congress Paid for Fontaine Trip: Forty-Seven Grassroots Group Protest,” Sault Star, March 9, 2006, B4.

10 Cashman, Greer Fay. 2016. “Canada’s Indigenous Groups Seek Ties with Israel.” Jerusalem Post. February 22. 

11 Cashman, “Canada’s Indigenous Groups Seek Ties with Israel.”

12 Adam, Ali. 2020. “Palestinian Intifada: How Israel Orchestrated a Bloody Takeover.” Al Jazeera. September 28.

13 Sault Star, “Jewish Congress Paid for Fontaine Trip: Forty-Seven Grassroots Group Protest,” B4.

14 Lungen, Paul. 2006. “Native Groups Rejects Criticism of Trip.” Canadian Jewish News. March 16.  

15 Lungen, “Native Groups Rejects Criticism of Trip.”

16 Love, Myron. 2016. “Aboriginal Trip to Focus on Israeli Innovation.” Canadian Jewish News. February 21. 

17 Hasten, Josh. 2013. “Natives of their Land.” Jerusalem Post. June 13.

18 Love, Myron. 2012. “Aboriginal Leader Looks to Israel as Role Model.” Canadian Jewish News. May 18.

19 This is further compounded by charges of financial mismanagement by Evans. See: Blackburn, Mark. 2013. “Former Manitoba Grand Chief Linked to Draining of Education Fund.” APTN News. June 19. 

20 Ministry of Tourism. (2012). 2012 – A Record Year for Tourism. Embassy of Israel in Croatia. Israel: Ministry of Tourism.

21 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Ottawa: Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 

22 Hopper, Tristin. 2023. “First Reading: The Indigenous Rejection of Massacres as ‘Decolonization.’” National Post. October 25. 

23 See IndigenousScholarsStatement. (@Indigenous1948), and Indigenous Solidarity with Palestine,,to%20resist%20colonialism%20and%20genocide.

The post Settler Moves to Indigeneity: From Canada to Israel appeared first on Yellowhead Institute.

Categories: E1. Indigenous


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