September 14, 2009

Natives = "pirates" and "outlaws"

Can't Win For Trying

Anti-Industrial Actions By First Nations Militants Threaten The Canadian Economy. We Won't Achieve Peace Until We Stop Giving Into "Warrior" Demands

Kevin Libin
When Mohawks blocked and threatened border agents at Cornwall Island this summer, apparently unhappy that the officers' newly issued sidearms might disrupt bootlegging operations, Ottawa capitulated, relocating the crossing. When Terrance Nelson himself was chief of Manitoba's Roseau River First Nation in 2007, his threat to blockade rail lines prompted Ottawa to gift his band 75 acres of Winnipeg land. More unlawfulness, Nelson knows--as do the 57 bands backing him for AFN chief--provokes bribes, not enforcement.

And so things will get worse. First Nations are bursting with waves of young, often unemployed, disaffected members reared on a sense of grievance. A 2006 Compas poll found 61% of aboriginals predicted more anti-industrial actions ahead. There's no shortage of targets. "There's hardly a road, a railroad line, a transmission line or oil pipeline that doesn't go through some disputed property territory," former Ontario premier David Peterson warned in 2007. The economic stakes are steep.

If Canadians weren't so (understandably) sensitive about stigmatizing disadvantaged First Nations, we might call this ransoming business something like piracy. True, bands do sometimes have legitimate cause to believe they're getting shafted. But then, so do pirates hijacking ships on the Gulf of Aden, with Western nations having ravaged their sea stocks and dumped nuclear waste off their shores. We don't accept those excuses for illegally disrupting international shipping. Having decided that paying ransoms only worsens things, we've responded with warships. We invite only more disorder by indulging excuses here. Canada enjoys a reputation as a stable place for investors because of our reliable rule of law. Disputes belong in courts, like it or not, and we've grown a powerful industry of lawyers just looking for credible land-claim suits. Governments may have resisted forcing native outlaws to play by the rules, fearing another Oka or Ipperwash. Permitting more lawlessness may bring them something worse.
In a Racialicious posting, Jessica Yee responds:
  • First off it’s quite interesting the author bothers to dabble into the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) electoral results right off the bat of this article and attempt to analyze them as if he understands even a SMIDGEN of First Nations governance with Chief and Band Councils.

  • Oh, the misuse and misunderstanding of the term “warriors” yet again. When will these ignorant closeted bigots realize the English language translation kind of fucked it up for the real meaning of the word.

  • Piracy? We’re pirates? For real? Or are YOU the pirates seizing the land?

  • As if this is really about industry for us “poor, young, unemployed Natives.” More like it’s industry for THEM. I think White people in this type of situation just can’t STAND the fact that we have our own rule of law--which is actually to take care of the environment--and preserve the land they are trying to stomp all over and denigrate for this young population he speaks of. Or more to the point--they just can’t stand it when they CAN’T do something.
  • Comment:  The main thing to note here is Libin's characterization of Indians as angry activists: "warriors," "pirates," and "outlaws." In other words, as modern-day uncivilized savages.

    He takes the same hard line that US settlers took when Indians fought back against their invasion of Indian land. Attack them, imprison them, kill them if necessary. They're pirates and outlaws--I'm surprised he didn't call them terrorists--which means they've forfeited their human rights.

    Libin's "solution," for what it's worth, is "disputes belong in courts." I sense he has no clue whether Indians have already tried fighting these disputes in courts. Or whether the power elite has imposed structural barriers to prevent them from doing so. It's a fiction that everyone has equal access to the courts and the courts will decide every case fairly.

    Below:  An "Indian" (Johnny Depp) as a pirate--i.e., a savage among savages.

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