Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
Tags: Canada, Elsipogtog, First Nations, fracking, harper government, idle no more, mi'kmaw, native protest, pamela palmater, rcmp, roger hollander, sarah lazare, six nations, southwestern energy
As I write this blog, Canada is at war with the Mi’kmaw Nation — again — this time in Elsipogtog (Big Cove First Nation) in New Brunswick. The Mi’kmaw have spoken out against hydro-fracking on their territory for many months now. They have tried to get the attention of governments to no avail. Now the Mi’kmaware in a battle of drums and feathers versus tanks and assault rifles — not the rosy picture painted by Canada to the international community.
The failure by the federal and provincial governments, as well as the Houston-based fracking company, Southwestern Energy, to consult with the Mi’kmaw and obtain their consent is what led to the protests all summer. According to their web page: “In March 2010, the company announced that the Department of Energy and Mines of the Province of New Brunswick, Canada accepted its bids for exclusive licenses to search and conduct an exploration program covering 2,518,518 net acres in the province in order to test new hydrocarbon basins.”
In response, the Mi’kmaw have led peaceful protests at hydro-fracking sites to demonstrate their opposition and protect their lands and resources. They have always asserted their sovereignty, ownership and jurisdiction over their territory. There has been relatively little coverage of their actions, but they have been active for months now. More recently, the company obtained an injunction to stop the protest and it was served on protesters today.
It is more than coincidental timing — it was obviously strategically calculated with the completion of the Governor General’s speech from the throne and the end of the United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya’s visit to Canada. Yesterday morning, we awoke to reports from the Mi’kmaw of swarms of RCMP dispatched to Elsipogtog to enforce Harper’s aggressive natural resource agenda. He has effectively declared war on the Mi’kmaw.
This is not the first time Canada has declared war on the Mi’kmaw. In 1981, law enforcement led an attack on the Mi’kmaw at Restigouche to stop them from controlling their own Aboriginal fishery. During this attack, Mi’kmaw suffered multiple injuries, some severe and numerous arrests.
In 1998, the government intervened in Listuguj because the traditional Mi’kmaw government shut down the logging company that was stealing timber from Mi’kmaw lands and because the Mi’kmaw started to harvest their own timber.
Between 1999 and 2001, Canada once again declared war on the Mi’kmaw Nation at Esgenoopitij (Burnt Church First Nation) in NB to stop them from fishing lobster. This was despite the fact the Mi’kmaw had proven their treaty right to fish lobster at the Supreme Court of Canada. Law enforcement rammed Mi’kmaw fishing boats, injured fisherman and issued numerous arrests.
All of these actions were done in violation of the numerous treaties between the Mi’kmaw and the Crown which were peace and friendship treaties intended to once and for all end hostilities and work together as Nation to Nation partners. Given that our treaties are constitutionally protected, Canada’s actions are not only tyrannical and oppressive, but also illegal.
Today, in 2013, the government has once again decided that brute force is the way to handle The Mi’kmaw women, elders, and children drumming and singing in peaceful protest against hydro-fracking at Elsipogtog. Media reports 200 RCMP officers were dispatched, some of them from the riot squad, armed with shields, assault rifles, batons, tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and snipers. Some of the RCMP, in full camo, hid in the woods, while the others formed a large barricade on the highway blocking any movement by protesters.
The Chief and Council were arrested, as well as numerous other protesters all while scrambling cell phone signals, cutting live video feeds and blocking media access to the site. Reports of RCMP pointing their assault rifles at elders and snipers aiming their scopes at children led to the burning of several RCMP cruisers. Yet, so far, the mainstream media has focused on the burning cars and not the acts of violation and intimidation by RCMP on the Mi’kmaw.
This heavy-handed deployment of heavily armed RCMP cops against women and children shows Canada’s complete disregard for our fundamental human rights and freedoms, and their ongoing disdain for Indigenous peoples. One RCMP officer’s comments summarized government position perfectly: “Crown land belongs to government, not to fucking natives.” The RCMP have it wrong — Mi’kmaw treaties never surrendered our lands and we are still the rightful owners.
Of course, this sounds eerily similar to the words of former Ontario Premier Mike Harris who was reported to have said of the protest at Ipperwash “I want the fucking Indians out of the park.”
And we all know what happened there — law enforcement killed a peaceful unarmed protester named Dudley George. One might wonder if history is going to repeat itself. If we look to the speech from the throne as any indication, Harper has sent Canada on a direct collision course with First Nations — all in the name of resource development.
Contrary to the Governor General’s introductory comments about Canada using its military force sparingly and that Canada responds “swiftly and resiliently to aid those in need”, the strategic wording indicates a much more ominous plan. Canada’s position vis-à-vis First Nations and natural resources is laid out as follows:
- First Nations are incapable of managing their own affairs and Canada will control them and make them accountable via legislation;
- Canada owns the natural resources and will sell them;
- Canada will make major investments in infrastructure to protect these natural resources;
- Canada will increase military strength to protect Canadian sovereignty; and
- Increased military will protect Canada’s economy from terrorism.
In other words, Canada does not recognize the ownership or rights of First Nations to their lands, waters and natural resources and will expend billions to ensure that no First Nations prevent the extraction of those resources. Canada and its military have referred to First Nations as terrorists before, and will no doubt be labeled as such when they defend their right to say no to mines or hydro-fracking, like in Elsipogtog for example.
This aggressive display of power and intimidation in Elsipogtog was not met with an equal display of violence. Instead, the women, elders and children continued to drum and chant and pray for the health and safety of their peoples, their Nation and the lands and waters for all Canadians. Instead of scaring people away, this unconstitutional show of force is being met with solidarity blockades all over Canada and the United States.
Listuguj in Quebec has blocked a bridge; Six Nations in Ontario has shut down a highway, there are protests outside Canadian embassies in New York City and Washington; and hundreds of rallies, marches, protests and blockades planned for later today and tomorrow. The horrific images of police violence at Elsipogtog inspired First Nations peoples all over Canada to collect supplies, send warriors and advocate for justice. Harper has inspired Indigenous resistance and action on the ground. There will be more First Nation protests and blockades in the coming days as well.
The Idle No More flame that he lit last year has never faded — it was just waiting to be fanned once again. The solution has always been there:
1. Respect the Nation to Nation relationship (our sovereignty and jurisdiction over our governments, lands and peoples);
2. Address the current injustices (crises in housing, education, food, water, child and family services, murdered and missing Indigenous women); and
3. Share the benefits and responsibility to protect the lands, water and natural resources like the treaties envisioned.
It’s Harper’s move now — more tanks and RCMP violence or a negotiating table?
© 2013 Pamela Palmater
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, First Nations, Women.
Tags: aboriginal women, Canada, child abuse, deluth, First Nations, great lakes, great lakes sailors, human trafficking, indigenous, minnesota, native education, native homelessness, native women, peter edwares, prostitution, roger hollander, sex slaves, sex strade, thunder bay
U.S. reports outline how native women and girls are trafficked to Great Lakes sailors, possibly through Thunder Bay.
On the docks of Duluth, Minn., it’s called “working the boats.”
It means working as a prostitute, sometimes shuffling from bunk to bunk, selling sex to sailors on ships working the Great Lakes.
Some prostitutes are as young as 10, fleeing broken homes in the U.S. and Canada. The average age of entry into the sex trade is 14, according to a 2011 report titled Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota. And a disproportionate number of Great Lakes sex slaves are impoverished First Nations women and girls.
Co-author Christine Stark recently told the CBC that on this issue, “there is a very strong link between Thunder Bay and Duluth.”
The report describes hearing of “Native women being trafficked to and from reservations and urban areas” and goes on to say that “92 per cent of women interviewed wanted to escape prostitution.”
The Canadian Women’s Foundation is working on providing that way out, through an ongoing task force on the trafficking of women and children in Canada.
Project director Diane Redsky explains that there are “specific vulnerabilities for aboriginal women and girls.”
“They are definitely targeted by traffickers,” she says of First Nations women. “It’s not surprising that Thunder Bay would be a city (portrayed) in that way.”
One of the goals of the task force is to help them escape violent, exploitative situations, she says, adding that housing and education opportunities can go a long way toward fighting trafficking.
But it’s a tough battle. Great Lakes sex traffic between Canada and the U.S. has gone on for generations and has its roots in poverty and discrimination, according to the Garden of Truth report, which draws from interviews with 105 aboriginal women conducted by the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition and Prostitution Research & Education.
Though noting the paucity of statistics, the report says up to 10 women and girls were prostituted by three traffickers on ships out of the port of Duluth in 2002 alone. The women may disappear onto the lakes for months at a time.
“Intergenerational harms persist, in that some girls whose mothers were prostituted on the boats were conceived during prostitution,” it says.
More than two-thirds of the women interviewed had family members who attended native residential schools, now notorious for abuse and neglect, and 77 per cent of the women interviewed had used homeless shelters.
It’s hard to know how widespread the Great Lakes sex trade is because victims are often reluctant to report crimes, says Sgt. Shelley Garr, of the Ontario Provincial Police headquarters in Thunder Bay.
“Human trafficking victims are often from extremely vulnerable populations,” Garr says, adding the OPP tries to work with the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency to combat human trafficking. Still, it’s a trade that often flies under the radar.
Chris Adams, a spokesperson for the Thunder Bay police department, said he was unaware of sex traffic on ships between his city and Duluth.
The Garden of Truth findings are troubling but not surprising to Canadians who have studied abuse and prostitution in First Nations communities.
That report supports a 2008 study by the Minnesota legislature that suggested Duluth has become a major hub for human trafficking because of the presence of a sizeable First Nations population and an international port.
A 2010 Duluth police report also describes the city as “a destination for trafficking victims who are brought on board ships for exploitation by the crew.”
A 2011 study for the economics department at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, found the average age of prostitutes entering the sex trade was 14, although some girls began as young as 10.
Prostitutes can generate $280,000 each in annual profits for pimps, Redsky says. “The financial gain is to the trafficker.”
She wonders: “Who is on these ships in the first place, and why is this allowed to happen for generations?”
According to the Garden of Truth report, organized crime groups, on and off aboriginal lands, play “a significant role” in trafficking native women. “Youth gangs in Indian country are proliferating.”
Homelessness and a lack of educational options help explain why some First Nations women are drawn into prostitution, said Kezia Picard, director of policy and research at the Ontario Native Women’s Association.
She notes that some 600 Canadian First Nations women are missing, many of them thought to have been murdered, including some who worked in the sex trade.
It’s not surprising the Minnesota report mentions a sex trade involving the Port of Thunder Bay, Picard said.
“It’s always transportation hubs where these things are more visible.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
Tags: Brooklyn Baptiste, canada environment, First Nations, idle no more, lauren mccauley, native protest, nez perce, omega morgan, roger hollander, tar sands, wild idaho rising
Over 250 protesters faced down police and a ‘megaload’ of tar sands equipment Monday evening on Idaho’s Highway 12. (Photo: Steve Hanks/ Lewiston Tribune, AP)
Calling tar sands development a project of “total destruction,” members of the Nez Perce tribe placed their bodies before a ‘megaload’ of extraction equipment for the second night in a row Tuesday, temporarily halting the convoy as it makes its way along Idaho’s Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands fields.
Roughly 50 protesters from the Nez Perce tribe, Idle No More, Wild Idaho Rising Tide and other environmental groups halted for over an hour the 255-foot long, two-lane-wide shipment—the bulk of which was a 322-ton water purification unit being pulled by a big rig.
The Spokesman-Review reports:
After gathering at a river access point a quarter mile from where the megaload truck stopped before dawn Tuesday, protesters began hiking westward along Highway 12 to a ramp where the roadway splits from Highway 95. At around 10:30 p.m., the Omega Morgan truck that had sat idle began to rumble to life, and a fleet of Nez Perce Tribal Police, County Sheriff, and Idaho State Police vehicles began moving toward a crowd of protesters blocking the roadway.
Law enforcement officers gave protesters 15 minutes to speak out unimpeded. At one point, tribal members were informed they were creating a public nuisance by officers. To which one protester responded, ‘We’re protecting our sovereignty.’
In an action the previous evening, a group over 250 activists linked arms in a human chain across the roadway, successfully holding up the parade of vehicles for three hours. According to Wild Idaho Rising Tide, the blockade was the longest lasting “since the first tar sands extraction modules rolled from Lewiston area ports on February 1, 2011.”
The blockade broke after a police car drove straight through the group of people, Earth First! Newswire reports. “Police used the usual tactics to break up the blockade, threatening people with mace, pushing activists, separating parents from children, and so on,” they add.
Nineteen individuals, including all members of the Nez Perce executive committee, were arrested Monday evening and released on bail Tuesday.
One of those arrested, Tribal Council member and Vice-Chair of the Nez Perce Nation (Nimiipuu Nation), Brooklyn Baptiste, told indigenous independent media site Last Real Indians that the action was taken because of tribal opposition to the economic and long-term environmental impact of the shipments—namely the development of tar sands oil which he described as “total destruction.”
“As leaders, elected or not, we need to be able to meet our ancestors in the spirit world and hold our heads up strong and answer them when they ask if we did all we could do to protect the people and the land. This is about our inherent sovereignty. We are sovereign because of this land, this water, the animals. What is sovereignty without them? We’re all waking up.”
According to Reuters, the load is one of two planned shipments by Oregon hauling company Omega Morgan.
The ‘megaload’ parked during the day. (Photo via @KXLBlockade/ Twitter)
A video of Monday’s blockade shows protesters chanting and banging drums in a face-off with police and the ‘megaload.’
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations.
Tags: alberta oil, beaver lake cree, canada environment, canada first nations, canada oil, canadian natural, cold lake, cyclic steam, emma pullman, environment, First Nations, martin lukacs, oil sands, oil spill, tar sands
Published on Sunday, July 21, 2013 by the Toronto Star
Oil spills at an oil sands operation in Cold Lake, Alberta have been going on for weeks with no end in sight, according to a government scientist.
Photos provided by a government scientist show the site of an oil spill in Cold Lake, Alta. The company that runs the operation says it is effectively managing the cleanup.
Oil spills at a major oil sands operation in Alberta have been ongoing for at least six weeks and have cast doubts on the safety of underground extraction methods, according to documents obtained by the Star and a government scientist who has been on site.
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has been unable to stop an underground oil blowout that has killed numerous animals and contaminated a lake, forest, and muskeg at its operations in Cold Lake, Alta.
The documents indicate that, since cleanup started in May, some 26,000 barrels of bitumen mixed with surface water have been removed, including more than 4,500 barrels of bitumen.
The scientist said Canadian Natural Resources is not disclosing the scope of spills in four separate sites, which have been off bounds to media and the public because the operations are on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, where there is active weapons testing by the Canadian military.
The company says it is effectively managing and cleaning up the spills.
“The areas have been secured and the emulsion is being managed with clean up, recovery and reclamation activities well underway. The presence of emulsion on the surface does not pose a health or human safety risk. The sites are located in a remote area which has restricted access to the public. The emulsion is being effectively cleaned up with manageable environmental impact,” the company said in a statement.
The documents and photos show dozens of animals, including beavers and loons, have died, and that 30,600 kg of oily vegetation has been cleared from the latest of the four spill zones.
The company’s operations use an “in situ” or underground extraction technology called “cyclic steam stimulation,” which involves injecting thousands of gallons of superhot, high-pressure steam into deep underground reservoirs. This heats and liquefies the hard bitumen and creates cracks through which the bitumen flows and is then pumped to the surface.
The scientist, who asked not to be named for fear of losing their job, said the operation was in chaos.
“Everybody (at the company and in government) is freaking out about this,” said the scientist. “We don’t understand what happened. Nobody really understands how to stop it from leaking, or if they do they haven’t put the measures into place.”
In response to emailed questions from the Star, Canadian Natural Resources said it was co-operating with the regulator.
“We are investigating the likely cause of the occurrence, which we believe to be mechanical,” the company said.
“Canadian Natural has existing groundwater monitoring in place and we are undertaking aquatic and sediment sampling to monitor and mitigate any potential impacts. As part of our wildlife mitigation program, wildlife deterrents have been deployed in the area to protect wildlife.
“We are saddened that unfortunately some animal fatalities occurred between the time of the incident and the deployment of our animal deterrent systems. All of the fatalities have been reported to the Alberta Energy Regulator.”
The company added that it has “taken appropriate steps to ensure no additional impact to wildlife or the environment and that the incident site is reclaimed.”
Canadian Natural Resources did not respond to the charge that they aren’t disclosing the scope of the spills.
Oil companies have said in situ methods are more environmentally friendly than the open-pit mining often associated with the Alberta oil sands, but in situ is more carbon and water-intensive.
“In the course of injecting steam they’ve created fractures from the reservoir to the surface that they didn’t expect,” said the scientist, who is speaking out over concern that neither the company nor Alberta’s regulatory bodies would properly address the situation.
On Thursday, the Alberta Energy Regulator confirmed there were four spills in the last few months, and ordered Canadian Natural Resources to restrict its steam injections and enhance monitoring at the operations in Cold Lake.
Regulator official Bob Curran said the latest spill is spread across 40 hectares.
Canadian Natural Resources disputed that figure Friday. “We have the mapped area impacted to be significantly less than 40 hectares with the area being reduced daily through effective cleanup efforts,” the company said.
Critics say such spills raise questions about the safety and viability of in situ extraction, which by 2020 is expected to account for as much as 40 per cent of Canada’s oil sands production, because many of Alberta’s deposits cannot be mined.
“This is a new kind of oil spill and there is no ‘off button,’ ” said Keith Stewart, an energy analyst with Greenpeace who teaches a course on energy policy and environment at the University of Toronto. “You can’t cap it like a conventional oil well or turn off a valve on a pipeline.
“You are pressurizing the oil bed so hard that it’s no wonder that it blows out. This means that the oil will continue to leak until the well is no longer pressurized,” which means the bitumen could be seeping from the ground for months.
The company said the process is sound and has a good track record over 30 years in Alberta. It said that nevertheless it is reviewing its wellbores “to enhance wellbore integrity and modify steaming strategies to prevent the remote possibility of these events in the future.”
The Cold Lake operations are on the traditional territory of the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation, which is pursuing a constitutional challenge that argues the cumulative impacts of oil sands industrial development are infringing their treaty rights to hunt, fish and trap.
As well, the First Nation says there are graves alongside the lake in the area affected by the spills, and that band members have been unable to access that area.
© 2013 Toronto Star
Emma Pullman is a Vancouver-based researcher, writer and campaigner. She is a campaigner with Leadnow.ca and campaigns consultant with SumOfUs.org.
Martin Lukacs is a writer and activist, and an editor with the Canadian grassroots newspaper the Dominion
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
Tags: Canada, canada government, canada indigenous, canada mining, environment, First Nations, idle no more, indigenous peoples, martin lukacs, roger hollander, rule of law, sovereignty summer, Stephen Harper, tar sands
In a boardroom in a soaring high-rise on Wall Street, Indigenous activist Arthur Manuel is sitting across from one of the most powerful financial agents in North America.
(Photo: Mark Blinch/Reuters)
It’s 2004, and Manuel is on a typical mission. Part of a line of distinguished Indigenous leaders from western Canada, Manuel is what you might call an economic hit-man for the right cause. A brilliant thinker trained in law, he has devoted himself to fighting Canada’s policies toward Indigenous peoples by assailing the government where it hurts most – in its pocketbook.
Which is why he secured a meeting in New York with a top-ranking official at Standard & Poor’s, the influential credit agency that issues Canada’s top-notch AAA rating. That’s what assures investors that the country has its debts covered, that it is a safe and profitable place to do business.
This coveted credit rating is Manuel’s target. His line of attack is to try to lift the veil on Canada’s dirty business secret: that contrary to the myth that Indigenous peoples leech off the state, resources taken from their lands have in fact been subsidizing the Canadian economy. In their haste to get at that wealth, the government has been flouting their own laws, ignoring Supreme Court decisions calling for the respect of Indigenous and treaty rights over large territories. Canada has become very rich, and Indigenous peoples very poor.
In other words, Canada owes big. Some have even begun calculating how much. According to economist Fred Lazar, First Nations in northern Ontario alone are owed $32 billion for the last century of unfulfilled treaty promises to share revenue from resources. Manuel’s argument is that this unpaid debt – a massive liability of trillions of dollars carried by the Canadian state, which it has deliberately failed to report – should be recognized as a risk to the country’s credit rating.
How did the official who could pull the rug under Canada’s economy respond? Unlike Canadian politicians and media who regularly dismiss the significance of Indigenous rights, he took Manuel seriously. It was evident he knew all the jurisprudence. He followed the political developments. He didn’t contradict any of Manuel’s facts.
He no doubt understood what Manuel was remarkably driving at: under threat of a dented credit rating, Canada might finally feel pressure to deal fairly with Indigenous peoples. But here was the hitch: Standard & Poor’s wouldn’t acknowledge the debt, because the official didn’t think Manuel and First Nations could ever collect it. Why? As author Naomi Klein, who accompanied Manuel at the meeting, remembers, his answer amounted to a realpolitik shoulder shrug.
“Who will able to enforce the debt? You and what army?”
This was his brutal but illuminating admission: Indigenous peoples may have the law on their side, but they don’t have the power. Indeed, while Indigenous peoples’ protests have achieved important environmental victories – mining operations stopped here, forest conservation areas set up there – these have remained sporadic and isolated. Canada’s country-wide policies of ignoring Indigenous land rights have rarely been challenged, and never fundamentally.
Until now. If it’s only a social movement that can change the power equation upholding the official’s stance, then the Idle No More uprising may be it. Triggered initially in late 2012 by opposition to the Conservative government’s roll-back of decades of environmental protection, this Indigenous movement quickly tapped into long-simmering indignation. Through the chilly winter months, Canada witnessed unprecedented mobilizations, with blockades and round-dances springing up in every corner of the country, demanding a basic resetting of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples.
Money is not the main form this justice will take. First Nations desperately need more funding to close the gap that exists between them and Canadians. But if Indigenous peoples hold a key to the Canadian economy, the point is to use this leverage to steer the country in a different direction. “Draw that power back to the people on the land, the grassroots people fighting pipelines and industrial projects,” Manuel says. “That will determine what governments can or cannot do on the land.”
The stakes could not be greater. The movement confronts a Conservative Canadian government aggressively pursuing $600 billion of resource development on or near Indigenous lands. That means the unbridled exploitation of huge hydrocarbon reserves, including the three-fold expansion of one of the world’s most carbon-intensive projects, the Alberta tar sands. Living closest to these lands, Indigenous peoples are the best and last defence against this fossil fuel scramble. In its place, they may yet host the energy alternatives – of wind, water, or solar.
No surprise, then, about the government’s basic approach toward First Nations: “removing obstacles to major economic development.” Hence the movement’s next stage – a call for defiance branded Sovereignty Summer – is to put more obstacles up. The assertion of constitutionally-protected Indigenous and treaty rights – backed up by direct action, legal challenges and massive support from Canadians – is exactly what can create chronic uncertainty for this corporate and government agenda. For those betting on more than a half-trillion in resource investments, that’s a very big warning sign.
Industry has taken notice. A recent report on mining dropped Canada out of the top spot for miners: “while Canadian jurisdictions remain competitive globally, uncertainties with Indigenous consultation and disputed land claims are growing concerns for some.” And if the uncertainty is eventually tagged with a monetary sum, then Canada will, as Manuel warned Standard & Poor’s, face a large and serious credit risk. Trying to ward off such a threat, the government is hoping to lock mainstream Indigenous leaders into endless negotiations, or sway them with promises of a bigger piece of the resource action.
But this bleak outlook intent on a final ransacking of the earth doesn’t stand up to the vision the movement offers Canadians. Implementing Indigenous rights on the ground, starting with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, could tilt the balance of stewardship over a vast geography: giving Indigenous peoples much more control, and corporations much less. Which means that finally honouring Indigenous rights is not simply about paying off Canada’s enormous legal debt to First Nations: it is also our best chance to save entire territories from endless extraction and destruction. In no small way, the actions of Indigenous peoples – and the decision of Canadians to stand alongside them – will determine the fate of the planet.
This new understanding is dawning on more Canadians. Thousands are signing onto educational campaigns to become allies to First Nations. Direct action trainings for young people are in full swing. As Chief Allan Adam from the First Nation in the heart of the Alberta oil patch has suggested, it might be “a long, hot summer.”
Sustained action that puts real clout behind Indigenous claims is what will force a reckoning with the true nature of Canada’s economy – and the possibility of a transformed country. That is the promise of a growing mass protest movement, an army of untold power and numbers.
© 2013 The Guardian
Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment, First Nations.
Tags: environment, First Nations, jacob chamberlain, keystone, keystone xl, piipeline, roger hollander, tar sands, tar sands blockade
Published on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 by Common Dreams
Week of anti-pipeline actions erupt across the country
- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
Climate activists on both sides of the U.S. and Canadian border are ratcheting up the fight against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline this week as the U.S. Senate ponders a recently proposed bill that would expedite its approval and “short-circuit” the State Department’s pipeline environmental review.
In the past week over 30 protests have taken place in dozens of U.S. cities as part of a “March 16-23, Week of Action to Stop Tar Sands Profiteers,” which has been coordinated by over 50 grassroots organizations.
So far, thirty-seven protesters have been arrested “for disrupting business as usual at TransCanada and their investors’ offices,” with more actions planned in the coming days.
“Organizers seek to expose green-washed corporations like TD Bank, a top shareholder in TransCanada, and force them to divest from the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline,” Tar Sands Blockade stated Wednesday.
“It’s encouraging to see people around the country taking action to stop tar sands profiteers,” said Ron Seifert, spokesperson for Tar Sands Blockade. “No longer will we allow them to build KXL and invest in toxic projects that endanger the health of low-income and communities of color. We will not allow ‘business as usual’ to continue.”
From the Tar Sands Blockade, below are a few highlights from the week of action so far:
Meanwhile, native leaders from both Canada and the U.S. took to the Canadian Parliament on Wednesday to urge opposition to both the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines—telling lawmakers that an alliance of native groups on both sides of the border are preparing to fight the pipelines in the courts and through unspecified direct action in the coming months.
Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said natives are determined to block the pipelines.
“It’s going to be a long, hot summer,” he said at a news conference.
“We have a lot of issues at stake.”
“We’re going to stop these pipelines on way or another,” said Phil Lane Jr. of the American Yankton Sioux.
“If we have to keep going to court, we’ll keep doing that,” said Chief Martin Louie of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation in northern B.C., adding that pipeline opponents will never back down.
“We’re the ones that’s going to save whatever we have left of this Earth,” he said.
“We, as a nation, have to wake up,” said Chief Reuben George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation north of Vancouver. “We have to wake up to the crazy decisions that this government’s making to change the world in a negative way.”
More actions are expected throughout the U.S. in the coming days including six more actions against TD Bank in New York City, Washington D.C., Montpellier, Vt., Newark, Del., New Haven, Conn., and Asheville, N.C., Tar Sands Blockade reports.
On Thursday, March 21 in Oklahoma, the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance is planning what is slated to be the largest action of the week. Activists have pledged to “physically stop KXL construction.“
Click here for a full list of actions and live updates from around the country. March 18 – Over 40 rally outside Michels Corporation in Kirkland, Washington (Alex Garland) March 19 – Banner Drop in Oklahoma Promotes Week of Action (Tar Sands Blockade)
Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Immigration, Race, Racism.
Tags: abby zimet, anti-immigration, dream act, First Nations, genocide, Immigration, native american, racism, roger hollander
A bumper sticker being sold outside Milwaukee
Staging his own small, fierce, truth-telling protest, a Native-American man pushing a baby stroller confronted anti-immigration zealots at an Arizona rally by furiously pointing out that they are the real “illegals” for invading his country. Enough, he said, with their race-baiting, flag-waving “bogus arguments.” Meanwhile, young immigrants loudly interrupted a staid Congressional hearing on immigration, protesting GOP opposition to the DREAM Act by chanting, “Undocumented and Unafraid.” They were thrown out by security officials as legislators snickered.
“We didn’t invite none of you. We’re the only native Americans here,” he yelled. “That’s what (the American) flag stands for – all the Native Americans you killed to plant your houses here. That’s the truth.”
Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Idle No More.
Tags: Canada, canada indigenous, First Nations, gerald taiaiake alfred, idle no more, indigenous, indigenous nationhood, roger hollander, theresa spence
Published on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 by Taiaiake
Our collective action in Idle No More has shown that there is support among Canadians for a movement that embodies principled opposition to the destruction of the land and the extension of social justice to Indigenous peoples. When we as Indigenous people have a political agenda that’s consistent with our Original Teachings – to have a respectful relationship with the land and the natural environment and to have a respectful relationship among all of the nations that share this land – we have seen that this is a powerful draw for many people in our own nations and
in the broader society.
But it is clear too that the movement has plateaued. Much of the passion, urgency and attention Idle No More generated is dissipating in the wake of Chief Theresa Spence’s fast and the “13 Point Declaration” supported by Chief Spence, the Assembly of First Nations and the two Canadian opposition parties – which to many people in the movement represents a cooptation of the movement’s demands by the chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations in support of their ongoing negotiations and long-running bureaucratic processes.
The question in the minds of many people in the movement who are committed to more serious and transformational goals is how do we revive the momentum driving us towards fundamental change that we had at the start of the movement? I think that the only way to keep this movement going is for us to see our actions in Idle No More as part of a larger and long-standing commitment to the restoration of Indigenous nationhood.
We need to focus our activism on the root of the problem facing our people collectively: our collective dispossession and misrepresentation as Indigenous peoples. Now is the time to put ourselves back on our lands spiritually and physically and to shift our support away from the Indian Act system and to start energizing the restoration of our own governments. Our people and our languages and our ceremonies should be saturating our homelands and territories. Our leaders should answer to us not to the Minister of Indian Affairs or his minions. Our governments should be circles in which we all sit as equals and participate fully and where all of our voices are heard, not systems of hierarchy and exclusion legitimized and enforced by Canadian laws. Restoring our nationhood in this way is the fundamental struggle. Our focus should be on restoring our presence on the land and regenerating our true nationhood. These go hand in hand and one cannot be achieved without the other.
Idle No More has been a good and necessary thing. Like thousands of others over the last couple of months, I am proud to have been a whole-hearted participant in educating the wider public, making the connection between our Native rights and the democratic rights of all citizens, and arguing for the protection of the environment under the Idle No More banner. But the limits to Idle No More are clear, and many people are beginning to realize that the kind of movement we have been conducting under the banner of Idle No More is not sufficient in itself to decolonize this country or even to make meaningful change in the lives of people.
Those of us in the movement need to ask ourselves this hard question: what have we accomplished through Idle No More? There’s been politicization of some Native people. There’s been some media attention. There have been rallies and demonstrations. Great art and music has been produced. These are all good. But in terms of meaningful change in the lives of people and the struggle for justice, things are no different now than when this whole thing started. The federal government has not responded or felt the need to address in any way the challenge we’ve presented so far. We are in danger of becoming institutionalized and predictable as a movement, or worse, becoming kind of a giant Facebook rant that like all Facebook rants is a closed circle easily ignored which has no real relation to things actually happening in people’s lives. What this means if we are committed to making change and achieving justice for our people is that we need to alter our strategies and tactics to present more of a serious challenge on the ground to force the federal government to engagement our movement and to respond to us in a serious way.
I believe that what our movement needs is a mobilization of people on the basis of Indigenous Nationhood, led by traditional chiefs and clan mothers, medicine people, elders and youth, to start acting on our inherent rights on the land and to demand respect for our traditional governments. In practical terms, we need to go beyond demonstrations and rallies in malls and legislatures and on public streets and start to reoccupy Indigenous sacred, ceremonial and cultural use sites to re-establish our presence on our land and in doing so to educate Canadians about our continuing connections to those places and how important they are to our continuing existence as Indigenous peoples.
If we do this we can, once again, make the Assembly of First Nations, the mainstream media, the opposition parties hear the true voice of Indigenous people in this country and if we are strong and tenacious in demonstrating our commitment to these goals, we can force the federal government to take us seriously.
Now is the time to transgress, reoccupy, rise… as Original Peoples.
© 2012 Gerald Taiaiake Alfred
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
Tags: archana rampure, Canada, Canada Conservatives, canada government, common causes, environment, First Nations, Free Trade, idle no more, neo-liberal, political protest, roger hollander, Stephen Harper
Roger’s note: there is an old Canadian political saying that goes like this: the NDP are Liberals in a hurry. The truth is that Conservatives are Liberals in a hurry (as Republicans are Democrats in a hurry). In a hurry to what? In a hurry to protect and expand the rule of capital over living human beings. It is not just the Harper agenda but rather the agenda of Capital that we are talking about. Replacing Harper’s Conservatives with either Liberals or watered down NDP will not stop but only slow down the agenda. The Idle no More Movement and the passionate radicalism of large elements within the First Nations peoples are important and hopeful signs. Such movement should not be diluted by believing that electoral politics is a solution to the destruction of our human rights and of the very planet we inhabit.
Published on Monday, January 28, 2013 by Rabble.ca
by Archana Rampure
Stephen Harper has an agenda and it is all about turning Canada into a resource-extraction economy. He would like to make sure that nothing and no one stands in the way of exploiting the oil and the gas, the minerals and the water.
When Aboriginal people stand up for their rights and demand that they be consulted before natural resources are ripped out of the earth, the racist rhetoric begins to fly. When environmentalists suggest that this is a short-sighted, unsustainable and one-time-only plan, they are called radicals and terrorists. NGOs that network with the Global South peoples whose resources we exploit find themselves replaced by mining companies.
The list goes on: trade unions are demonized as big labour and compared to big corporations as though there is any real comparison between the power and influence wielded by corporations and that of the union movement. Aboriginal communities are abandoned by a Federal government which accuses their leaders of financial mismanagement.
These are the smoke-screens being put up to obscure a neo-liberal agenda that will brook no opposition. What I remember from my first anti-free trade protest more than a decade ago still rings true: deregulation, privatization and globalization is still the name of the game.
To me, much of this comes down to the sharp new focus on bilateral trade agreements that this Federal government has made its trademark. Free trade agreements and foreign investment promotion and protection agreements seem to be the Harper Conservatives answer to every problem we are facing. Their relentless drive to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU is emblematic of their mistaken policies: at a time when Canada`s industrial heartland is struggling with the loss of unionized manufacturing jobs, we are deep in the final stages of negotiating an agreement that might open up other sectors of our economy to transnational competition.
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a“next generation”free trade agreement that Canada and the EU have been negotiating since 2009. Make no mistake about this — it might not be called a free trade agreement but it will be Canada’s most expansive free trade initiative since NAFTA. It will impact the ability of our elected governments to regulate and it will have a huge impact on how municipal and provincial governments use procurement for local economic development or for environmental sustainability. As far as we can tell from the leaked documents that have been made public so far, the provisions that it will include on investor-state dispute resolution will once again allow foreign corporations to bypass our legal system and appeal to secretive tribunals. The EU’s demands around intellectual property translate into billions of extra dollars for brand-name pharmaceuticals.
And the Canada-EU CETA is only one among the stack of free trade deals that the Harper government has tied itself to: there are now on-going negotiations on free trade between Canada and India, Japan, Korea, Morocco, the Ukraine, the Dominican Republic and a number of other countries. There are also multi-lateral trade agreement negotiations that we are participating in such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Investment promotion and protection agreements are another key feature of this government’s foreign policy initiatives: in 2011 and 2012 alone, FIPAs have been negotiated between Canada and the Czech Republic, Romania, Latvia, the Slovak Republic, Benin, Kuwait, Senegal, Tanzania, China – the now infamous one! – and Mali.
At a time when Canada is supporting a resource war in Mali, and when we “partnering” with multinational mining corporations as part of our international “development” work, it hardly surprising that this government is so enthusiastically supporting Canadian “investment” and “investors” in places such as sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe.
This foreign policy — where the ultimate goal is to extract resources — is a mirror reflection of Harper’s economic roadmap for Canada. What the Global North exported to the Global South has now come home to us all: if we do not form Common Cause to stop this government, our home on native land will continue to experience the consequences of a single-minded drive for resource extraction combined with an attack on universal public services. It is more than time for us to come together, to act now, for ourselves and for those with whom we have Common Cause — aboriginal peoples, immigrants and migrants, environmentalists, trade unionists, students, seniors, the poor and the marginalized, activists — anyone who still believes that there is an alternative to the neo-liberal model of life. We cannot wait till 2015. We have to act together now.
Today, I will be standing up against Harper and his neo-liberal vision for us all as part of a joint day of action called by Idle No More and Common Causes. I hope it will be the first of many actions that Common Causes is part of, that it sparks the kind of committed, continuous action that will help us build a better Canada, and a better world.
© 2013 Archana Rampure
Archana Rampure works as a researcher for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, First Nations, Genocide.
Tags: c38, c45, Canada, canada mining, canada petroleum, canadian government, Damelahamid, First Nations, genocide, history, idle no more, indigenous, merv ritchie, roger hollander, sacred circle
By Merv Ritchie (about the author) Permalink
OpEdNews Op Eds 1/22/2013 at 18:41:38
The Cree, the Sioux, the Apache, and the Iroquois have nothing to do with the descendants of Demalahamid, Temlaham. Nor does; the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), the AFN (Assembly of First Nations), the Idle No More Movement, or Attawapiskat Chief Teresa Spence. None represent the Tsimshian, the Gitxsan, the Haisla, or the Tahltan. It would be difficult to find anyone in Ottawa, Indian or otherwise, speaking for any of the Nations of Northwest BC, the Sacred Circle.
Indians living elsewhere in Canada, or anywhere else in BC outside of the Northwest, have virtually nothing in common with Damelahamid outside of being original, evolving inhabitants on the land.
The Northwest Coast was, and is, an identity all to itself. The first explorers and traders, followed by the missionaries, all described these people as having a unique but similar ‘Tsimshian’ language. This unifying tongue is still spoken and taught today.
The general population, except for those living directly in Northwest BC, reference the totem culture only with the Haida Indian and Haida Gwaii; the islands most still call the Queen Charlottes. Almost none know of the peoples residing on the land west of the Omineca Mountain range through to the Pacific Ocean; the people of Damelahamid.
Original Map from the BC Knowledge Network with an addition to reference the region discussed by BC Knowledge Network
Most do not even know where the Nisgaa territory is, yet there has been a signed modern-day treaty for twelve years.
The area is so remote if you were to ask residents of B.C. about a lava bed from a volcano anywhere nearby, 99 percent would laugh and excuse this as a ridiculous notion. This stands true even for some living within 100 miles of the Nisgaa Lava Memorial fields.
As this location is a full eight-hour drive east-northeast of Prince George, remote is almost an understatement. The highway into the territory is named the Highway of Tears after the numerous accounts of missing and murdered women from the Nations of Damelahamid along this often-deserted stretch of road. To add to the tragedy for these people it was primarily the women of the Sacred Circle who were taken off the streets of Vancouver by Willie Pickton to be murdered on his Pig Farm, Piggies’ Palace.
The following attempts to address why these people still suffer in silence. Why they are not represented at the Chiefs’ Table or featured in the Idle No More movement, even though the atrocity is so well documented. It is difficult to unite in common purpose as the wounds are still raw, the emotions still at the surface; less than a generation has passed since some lived without roads or electricity. Yes, even in BC, Canada, not 30 years ago some tribes had no direct link or contact routes. It was only 150 years ago when this region was even entered to explore.
These were not nomadic people. Huge 1000-sq-ft homes built of cedar along with settlements of dozens of these structures formed municipalities belonging to each Nation. Seasonal travel for harvesting and extensive trading was engaged in with neighbouring tribes. North and east trading with the Carrier and Dene tribes, and to the south by huge 50-foot canoes with others. Grease trails were recorded as protected trade routes throughout all of these Nations territories. They knew their land and they owned their land. Totems and Feast halls marked their territories. Nation-to-Nation territorial treaties were commonplace. Trespass could mean death, especially if you harmed any life form within the recognized territorial boundaries. Yet other areas were recognized as neutral lands and water where all Nations could meet and share without territorial conflicts.
Totem Poles at the Core of the Sacred Circle, Damelahamid by Terrace Daily News
Maybe this is why the Tsimshian, Haisla, Gitxsan, Wetsuweten, Tlingit, Haida, Tahltan, and Nisgaa are ignored; as long as no one knows this special place exists their territories can still be quietly stolen.
It is specifically about these peoples’ lands the Canadian Government passed its recent legislation, Bills C38 and C45. They did this to justify their continued assault, which began with the deliberate genocide of these peoples by germ warfare. The Canadian government wishes to conduct a final solution on these people for the Mining and Petroleum industries.
While the Cree, Sioux, Apache, Iroquois, with the AFN, the UBCIC, and others achieve media prominence, the Sacred Circle genocide and social dysfunction continues.
All of the following material was compiled by researching online. The following are three links to much of the source material:
From HistoryLink.org the Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History
From the University of Victoria – Writings on vaccination vs inoculation regarding Small Pox in the area. – click here
Words directly attributed to Dr. Helmcken – http://bcheritage.ca/salish/trad/jshelm.htm
This is a collection of evidence, extracts, to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that the first settlers at Victoria, specifically the ‘white’ government of the day, targeted the Indians of the Sacred Circle for extermination.
At the present rate of mortality, not many months can elapse “ere the Northern Indians of this coast will exist only in story.” The Daily British Colonist, June 21, 1862, p. 3.
The Hon. John S. Helmcken, photographed by William J. Topley, circa 1854. by Wikipedia
After most of the northern tribes were forced from Victoria, the (Victoria) Daily Press published an editorial titled “The Indian Mortality.” It said in part:
“… What will they say in England? when it is known that an Indian population was fostered and encouraged round Victoria, until the small-pox was imported from San Francisco.
“They, when the disease raged amongst them, when the unfortunate wretches were dying by scores, deserted by their own people, and left to perish in the midst of a Christian community that had fattened off them for four years – then the humanizing influence of our civilized Government comes in – not to remedy the evil that it had brought about – not to become the Good Samaritan, and endeavor to ameliorate the effects of the disease by medical exertion, but to drive these people away to death, and to disseminate the fell disease along the coast.
“To send with them the destruction perhaps of the whole Indian race in the British Possessions on the Pacific …. There is a dehumanizing fatuity about this treatment of the natives that is truly horrible … How easy it would have been to have sent away the tribes when the disease was first noticed in the town, and if any of the Indians had taken the infection, to have had a place where they could have been attended to, some little distance from Victoria, until they recovered as they in all probability would have done with medical aid.
“By this means the progress of the disease would at once been arrested, and the population saved from the horrible sights, and perhaps dangerous effects, of heaps of dead bodies putrifying [sic] in the summer’s sun, in the vicinity of town … The authorities have commenced the work of extermination – let them keep it up …. Never was there a more execrable Indian policy than ours.” (Daily Press, June 17, 1862 in Boyd, p. 182-183, endnote 7).
Full Knowledge of the Consequences
In June 1862, The Daily British Colonist, noting the devastation of the Indians up to that time, stated the obvious inevitable consequences of these escorted canoes. Referring to a group of Haida who recently departed Victoria, the newspaper wrote:
“How have the mighty fallen! Four short years ago, numbering their braves by thousands, they were the scourge and terror of the coast; today, broken-spirited and effeminate, with scarce a corporal’s guard of warriors remaining alive, they are proceeding northward, bearing with them the seeds of a loathsome disease that will take root and bring both a plentiful crop of ruin and destruction to the friends who have remained at home. At the present rate of mortality, not many months can elapse ‘ere the Northern Indians of this coast will exist only in story.’” (The Daily British Colonist, June 21, 1862, p. 3; Boyd, p. 173, 229).
The Smallpox Vaccine
The smallpox vaccine was discovered in England in 1798 and first used in the Puget Sound area in 1837. On March 18, 1862, when The Daily British Colonist published confirmation of smallpox in Victoria, the paper made the following statement:
“[W]e advise our citizens … to proceed at once to a physician and undergo vaccination … from the loathsome disease …” (The Daily British Colonist, March 18, 1862, p. 3).
Between March 18 and April 1, 1862, The Daily British Colonist reiterated to the citizens of Victoria at least five times the importance of getting vaccinated. The paper estimated that by April 1, one-half of the “resident Victorians” were vaccinated. In 1862, Victoria, the largest town north of the Columbia River, had a white population of from 2,500 to 5,000. The nearby Indian population was about the same size. There were probably at least 2,000 Northern Indians [all whose origins were from the coastal communities between northern Vancouver Island and Alaska] camping on the outskirts of Victoria, plus at least 1,600 local Indians who lived nearby.
Initially no demands were made to vaccinate these local groups. By March 27, 1862, Dr. John Helmcken (1824-1920), Hudson’s Bay Company physician, had vaccinated about 30 local resident Songhees Indians, who constituted less than 1 percent of the nearby natives.
The Songhees Were Saved
On April 1, 1862, 18 days after the Brother Jonathan departed, the first reports were published of an Indian, who lived in town, with smallpox. The Victoria authorities and residents did not react. As the virus spread it would be more than two weeks before the local newspapers reported local Indians receiving additional vaccines. On April 16, Dr. Helmcken vaccinated another 30 Indians. By April 25, The Daily British Colonist reported that since the outbreak Dr. Helmcken had vaccinated “over 500 natives” (April 26, 1862, p. 3).
Apparently, the doctor distributed most of his vaccine to the Songhees, a local tribe that resided near Victoria. Soon after smallpox symptoms emerged at the Northern Indian encampment, the Songhees departed their Vancouver Island village(s) en masse to a nearby island in Haro Strait. Because of the vaccinations and the tribe’s self-imposed quarantine, the Songhees survived the epidemic with few deaths (Boyd, 176, 177, 183).
Was There a Shortage of Vaccine?
It is unknown how large a supply of the smallpox vaccine was kept at Victoria. Boyd states that the vaccine was “available, though in short supply” (Boyd, p. 172). Possibly there was a shortage of vaccine when the smallpox epidemic started.
According to Boyd, Anglican missionary Alexander Garrett stated in his Reminiscences that there was not enough vaccine “within seven hundred miles to go around” (Boyd p 178-9).
Still, during the entire run of the epidemic The Daily British Colonist did not mention a vaccine shortage at any time. On the contrary, during the last half of March, after the first smallpox case was discovered, the paper mentioned numerous times the availability of the vaccine. In mid-June, about when the Indian epidemic along the coast reached its height, The Daily British Colonist (June 14, 1862) asked why “our philanthropists” and “missionaries” had not started “vaccinating the poor wretches” in mid-April?
If there was a vaccine shortage, it was just temporary. Apparently, by May 1, 1862, at the latest, there was plenty of vaccine to go around. During the first half of May 1862, Father Leon Fouquet, a Catholic Missionary, reportedly vaccinated 3,400 Indians along the lower Fraser River. At the same time, other missions along both sides of the Strait of Georgia and in Puget Sound received supplies to vaccinate nearby tribes people. The ravages of the epidemic bypassed these vaccinated groups (The Daily British Colonist, March 18, 26, 27, 28, 1862, April 1, 1862, June 14, 1862; Boyd, p. 183-184).
The Epidemic Could Have Been Stopped
In the spring of 1862, the government body that administered authority over Victoria was the House of Assembly of the Colony of Vancouver Island (in 1866 Vancouver Island merged with the mainland colony of British Columbia). The town of Victoria had not incorporated, so had no town council and no mayor. At least two members of the House of Assembly, along with the Governor of the Colony, undoubtedly were aware of the obvious consequences of not immunizing the Indians, and not placing them under quarantine.
In 1862, Dr. William Tolmie (1812-1886) and Dr. John Helmcken were both legislators in the Vancouver Island Assembly, Helmcken serving as Speaker, one of the highest elected positions in the Colony. The Hudson’s Bay Co. hired William Tolmie in 1833 and John Helmcken in 1850 as physicians.
In 1837, reports reached Fort Vancouver of smallpox in northern British Columbia. Before the disease reached Puget Sound, Hudson’s Bay Co. dispatched Tolmie to vaccinate the Indians near Fort Nisqually. By mid-July 1837, he had inoculated all the women and children and probably most of the men. In 1853 Tolmie again helped vaccinate “large numbers” of Indians near Fort Nisqually during a smallpox epidemic centered along Washington Territory’s Pacific coast (Boyd, 170). John Helmcken also served as HBC physician for a number of years, and then continued in private practice until he retired in 1910. They were both well aware of the issues surrounding smallpox.
Governor James Douglas Proposes Action
Shortly after the smallpox outbreak, James Douglas, the Governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island, submitted a proposal to the House of Assembly regarding smallpox. James Douglas had arrived on the coast in 1826 and was familiar with two previous Indian epidemics on the coast (1836-37 smallpox and 1847-48 measles). In his March 27, 1862, proposal to the Assembly he noted that because “several cases” of smallpox had occurred it “is desirable that instant measures should be adopted to prevent the spread of the infection …” and “strongly recommended” that the House immediately appropriate funds to build a hospital in a isolated location for all cases of smallpox (Journal of the Colonial Legislatures … vol. 2, p. 350).
Dr. Helmcken and Others Oppose Action
Four days later, the nine-member House of Assembly, including Speaker Helmcken and Tolmie, met and considered the Governor’s proposal recommending a smallpox hospital and “compelling” all patients to be sent there. According to a newspaper account, Speaker Dr. Helmcken stated he was against a fully staffed hospital and against forcing all cases of smallpox to go there. The doctor expressed concern about the cost of establishing and operating the hospital and that it would interfere with the liberty of the patients. Helmcken went even further and chastised the Governor for being an alarmist about the disease.
The majority of the other members agreed with Mr. Helmcken. The members did vote to construct a “suitable building” near the present hospital for white smallpox patients, but did not require them to go. The Assembly also rejected the establishment of a quarantine for the same reasons – cost and restricting liberty. Apparently only one member, Mr. Burnaby, spoke out in favor of a fully staffed Smallpox Hospital and the quarantine. The newspaper account did not mention any discussion about what to do to prevent smallpox from infecting the Indians (The Daily British Colonist, March 28, 1862, April 1, 1862).
This inaction of the Assembly and other government officials sealed the fate of nearly every group of Northwest Coast Indians from Sitka to northern Vancouver Island and south into the Puget Sound area. Robert Boyd estimates that from April 1862 to about the end of year, more than 14,000 Indians died of smallpox and untold hundreds of survivors were disfigured for life. Boyd states unequivocally: “This [Indian] epidemic might have been avoided, and the Whites knew it” (Boyd p 172).
The paper remarked on the consequences of the authorities’ intentional refusal to act to vaccinate and quarantine the Indians:
“Were it likely that the disease would only spread among the Indians, there might be those among us like our authorities who would rest undisturbed, content that the small-pox is a fit successor to the moral ulcer that has festered at our doors. … [But] chances are that the pestilence will spread among our white population [because] … [t]he Indians have free access to the town day and night. They line our streets, fill the pit in our theatre, are found at nearly every open door … in the town; and are even employed as servants in our dwellings, and in the culinary departments of our restaurants and hotels” (The Daily British Colonist, April 28, 1862, p. 2).
In the doctor’s own words:
“Hyder [Haida] women and men came in flocks, to go away ruined forever, Indians from the North West coast met with the same fate, from which they have never and never will recover. In process of time Chinese women came and they in some measure took the business of the local Indians, Haidas, Chimpsehans [Tsimshians] and so forth and to end the matter the small pox and local demands drove them home in their own canoes, and hundred perished on their way to their own country. I may say here they nearly every Indian attacked with small pox died, whether he was taken care of in the Indian small pox hospital or not, and it was also said whether he had been vaccinated or not.
“I do not believe the last assertion because the Songish [Songhees] Indians kept comparatively free from the disease and many of them at various times had been successfully vaccinated by me, arm to arm.”
Has the prevailing attitude changed much today?
Allowing and continuing to name anything in Victoria, the Capital of BC, after this man (ie Helmcken Road General Hospital, Helmcken Memorial in Clearwater) is akin to naming things in Germany after Dr. Joseph Mengele.
Did he know better, or was it intentional?
He was hired aboard the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Prince Rupert as a ship’s surgeon on its 1847 voyage to York Factory, Rupert’s Land. After completing his certification at Guy’s Hospital, he travelled to India and China. He had intended to join the Navy, but was persuaded instead to join the HBC in 1849 as a physician and clerk on to be stationed on Vancouver Island. On the long voyage, smallpox broke out aboard ship, but Helmcken handled the situation ably, and only a single life was lost.
Hmmmm, one can only wonder. Consider this – His success in preventing the spread of smallpox among the whites on the ship was a dozen years prior to his failure to take measures to stop the spread of the disease among the Sacred Circle natives. Only one conclusion can be had – His and the government he was the ‘speaker’ for, considered the highest post, - had but one intention, the death and destruction of the Northern tribes.
Still today these people from the Nations of the Sacred Circle are relegated to the shadows, their tragedies ignored. While Indians across Canada stand up and demand recognition for the harm done over the course of the last 300 to 400 years, the harm in the Sacred Circle is so fresh it remains difficult for the surviving elders to speak of it. Those who had their children abducted, their villages burned, their daughters raped and murdered, are still alive living with the pain right now.
It remains an ongoing tragedy that the efforts of the Idle No More movement east of the Ominica Mountain Range does not come close to addressing. The genocide continues today. These are not; Cree, Sioux, Apache, or Iroquois. They are the people of Demalahamid, Temlaham. They are the; Nisgaa, Tahltan, Gitxsan, Wetsuweten, Haisla, Haida, Tlingit and the Tsimshian. The once most respected and admired traders in the Pacific Northwest. A unique totem culture based strictly on a Matriarchal, Matrilineal hierarchy with government structures based on feasting and decency. Something the British and Canadian governments abhorred and continue to destroy today.
The only reference to address the source of the women in the recently released government report on the missing and murdered women from the Vancouver Downtown Eastside, was encouraging a transit bus system along the highway of tears. These women were the potential authority, the matriarchs. A bus? The government offers these women who had their children ripped from their arms, their communities burned, their ancestors graves disturbed, are offered a bus?
The systemic tragedy continues as the government leaders continue to claim there is no money, even for the bus. It seems alright, still today, to not only rape pillage and plunder the land and resources, but also the people.
Mid 50 year old male. Generally a blue collar worker. Heavy duty mechanic by trade, later, Diesel electrician, then alternative energy systems importer, seller, designer and installer. Then a home construction general contractor and now a web (more…)