May 26, 2011

Mound supporters compared to violent protesters

More details on the story I covered in Bikers Ride Over Indian Mound:

Democracy” and the Desecration of Native Burial Sites

By Jacqueline S. HomanFor many years First Nations groups have tried to work with recalcitrant non-native city officials and BMX cycling enthusiasts towards getting the Snake Mound site protected from destructive activity. The city of Toronto previously posted “No Access” signage instructing BMX enthusiasts that no dirt bike riding is allowed in that section of the park. BMX bikers claim that there is no other place in Toronto that is perfect for their activity. Some BMX enthusiasts got belligerent and hurled racist epithets and rocks at Native people protesting the destruction to Snake Mounds caused by the man-made dirt bike ramps.

Aboriginal rights and cultural preservation advocates graciously offered to do the city’s job for them (without the good pay and benefits package that city employees get, of course): they made their peaceful presence visible at this contested site to deter further destruction caused by the BMX crowd, who repeatedly thumbed their noses at the law by mucking up the park in connection with their recreation.

Joe Warmington of the Toronto Sun falsely referred to the aboriginal rights advocacy and peacekeeping group encamped at Snake Mound as a “mini Caledonia” incident. Caledonia entailed a violent confrontation in the 1990’s between the Mohawk community and police over a fraudulent transfer of land title by non-native members of the town council to a private developer seeking to expand a high-priced housing development and possible golf course onto unceded Mohawk land. Warmington also said in his May 18, 2011 article that “there is no official archeological evidence” to back up First Nations people’s claims of an ancient burial site.

Paul Russell of the National Post quipped in his May 22, 2011 article that “there was absolutely no physical evidence” that Snake Mound is an ancient burial and/or ceremonial site. But where do these reporters get their facts? Did they get their info from the same source as the city of Toronto?

Toronto relied on the expert opinion of Ron Williamson, a Toronto archeologist who has not held his professional credentials and licenses since December 31, 2000.
Comment:  The layers of insult and attack go beyond the physical desecration of the mound. The bikers hurl racist epithets. The media claims there's no evidence and compares the Native guardians to violent protesters. The city has no credentialed archaeologist but won't get a replacement or listen to the Indians.

This may not be a coordinated campaign, but it's a campaign nonetheless. The strategy is to denigrate the Indians, deny their claims, and dismiss their concerns. The goal is to "vanish" the Indians politically the way we almost vanished them physically.

Why is this happening? Because the white man wants to stay in control. Acceding to the Indians' wishes means giving up control. It means acknowledging Native history and culture, which means revisiting Native land claims and treaty rights. The white man doesn't want to do that, so it's denigrate, deny, and dismiss.

Of course, the archaeologist's lack of credentials doesn't prove that he's wrong and the Indians are right. The article could've said more about why the Indians are sure Snake Mound is a burial site. Since the issue seems to be in question, that is.

For more on burial grounds, see Wamapoke Curse in Parks and Recreation and The Savage in Bonanza.


shichils said...

I read that column from Toronto Sun and some of the comments readers put up - until I could not stomach any more. Gack. The tone of the Sun columnist was incredibly prejudiced against Natives. No, he sure couldn't be bothered to ask the Natives at the park why they thought there was a burial and why it ought to be preserved! And the comments were awful - so much racism. Sad. And sickening.

Anonymous said...

Damn Canadians, so much for friendly and tolerant