Constructs, models, theories, and policies while never offering universal truths, serve humans in that they guide our emotions, thoughts, and practices as we move forward. All human groups need them. To be without them, is to exist in chaos and thus go nowhere.
After years of participating in the Algonquin land claims and self-government process in Ontario where experts were guiding the process, eventually it became apparent to me that I was situated in an awful context. Assisting state nationalism as they were, these so-called experts offered no real discussion, commentary, or teachings on the difference between the treaty process and the land claims process. Rather, they cleverly employed terms such as “government to government” versus “nation to nation”. Some even promoted the land claims and self-government process and the pitiful settlements through comparing the process to class action law suits against an employer such as the grocery store FRESHCO for example. Eventually, I realized these lawyers, anthropologists, and so called friends of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg were really serving Canada’s colonial agenda. I realized that the land claims and self-government process is about the government of Canada gaining access to and exploiting Indigenous lands and resources while at the same time giving Indigenous Nations mere crumbs and dirty water to subsist on. Canada does this, I learned, through unilaterally constructed and genocidal polices such as the Comprehensive Land Claims Policy and the Inherent Rights Policy. I was floored, as I had so hoped that the Algonquin land claims and self-government process would result in viable and meaningful self-government for the Algonquin. Not so. Recently the offer was tabled: 1.3% of our land and a $300 million one time payment.
Eventually I found I had to do something constructive with the knowledge that I gained from this awful experience and so I once again pulled myself off the floor, gathered some of my thoughts, and compiled them into my Ally Bill of Responsibilities. I felt the people assisting the Canadian state’s agenda needed to know that I knew full well that they are not really allies, but rather they are agents of a genocidal colonial agenda. I compiled my Bill quite some time ago, publishing the first version in Canadian Dimension magazine. Many allies have emailed me since this time to let me know that they found the Bill useful, and to tell me that they rely on it to guide them in their emotions, thoughts, and practices of allyship. Many Indigenous people have also informed me that they find the Bill affirming and useful in their work. Still further, students have emailed me to let me know that my Bill was a reading in one of their university courses.
While I know the issues put forward through the passing of Bill C-45 into law are not just an Indian matter, in my need to offer something constructive to the IdleNoMore movement I have taken the time to post a more recent and accessible version my Ally Bill of Responsibilities on many Facebook event walls as well as in groups. In my decision to do this I really have to credit Barbara Low for instilling in me the value of my Bill and for encouraging me to give it more currency. For this I am grateful. Posting my Bill on Facebook is a reasonable and constructive practice in that, after all, we have experienced a social media revolution. In fact, it is the social media revolution that is credited for the Canada wide, America wide, and now global wide IdleNoMore movement. Through this effort, once again I have been receiving positive feedback from both allies and Indigenous people who are finding the Bill useful in guiding their emotions, thoughts, and practices. Some people have even requested permission to translate the Bill into other languages. This makes me very happy and through this heart knowledge a flicker of hope is birthed. My Bill is available here at this link:
Other people, though, have pointed out that they do not like the words “behind” and “secondary” that are in my Ally Bill of Responsibilities. I address these concerns through explaining that in any social stratified society, people on the lower rungs of society – such as young Indigenous mothers and persons with disabilities − require allies to stand behind them in the process of collectively challenging oppressive regimes. Let’s face it, in a socially stratified society people are not equals, and real and effective change will only happen when people understand that those who are worse off require allies to stand behind them in their movement forward. It is my view that those people most denied need to lead the way forward, that is if emancipation for all is the desired outcome. I then point out that to stand behind and secondary to others is indeed a place of honour, and that they should reconsider their process of ascribing negative meaning to these words.
Further, although I do not use the terms “settler ally” and “descendant of settlers ally” in this Bill, I do hear these terms and I rely on them too. I have found that some people do not like these terms. I find this interesting and wonder why they once again ascribe negative meaning to these terms. Many people offer that they were born in Canada and that they are proud to be Canadians. They also say that their family has been in Canada for many generations. I do hear what these people are saying, and I do value what they are saying. In response, though, I also offer that when I hear people use these terms to describe their location in the Canadian mosaic, I attribute to them as having a critical perspective. That is a critical perspective of state nationalism, its limitations, and the propaganda that the Canadian state and its education system has so carefully planted in the hearts and minds of everyday Canadians as a measure to control their emotions, thoughts, and practices. I further interpret the use of these terms to also mean the door is still open for these people to return to the rituals and ceremonies of their ethnicity and their Indigenous knowledge. After all we are all Indigenous to the earth and we all have our own Indigenous knowledge that we can draw from to guide us forward. This interpretation of mine makes me feel very happy and helps me move forward to a dreamed future. These people who think of themselves as “settler allies” or “descendants of settler allies” offer me hope, and they lift me off the floor that Canada’s genocidal policies and practices have thrown me to.
When I think critically about how the Canadian state continues to undermine Indigenous people and our treaty rights, I realize that in passing Bill C-45 Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken on the action of an agent provocateur where his goal is to disrupt the ally relationship between Indigenous people and the average Canadian. What I mean by this is that while certainly Harper has passed legislation that will harm all Canadians, he has strategically placed Indigenous people and their ally relationship with settler allies at risk. In doing this Harper has shifted the real focus of Bill C-45 to being an Indian thing where consequently Indigenous people become targets of anger and racism. Through this process, Harper gains angry and reactionary support in fulfilling his economic political agenda.
I have learned there is the need for Indigenous people to nurture our relationship with allies. In my needfulness and hope that more and more Canadians are waking up to the methods of propaganda that the Canadian government uses to control their emotions, thoughts, and practices, I asked “allies”, “settler allies”, and “descendants of settler allies” to send me their photographs as IdleNoMore supporters. I offer this collection here for others to experience.
Please take the time to like, tweet, and share this blog.
1/28/2013 12:20:18 am
Thank you Dr. Lynn Gehl for creating this unifying depiction. WE are all INM :)
1/31/2013 11:20:47 am
You are welcome.
1/28/2013 01:45:38 am
Thank you so much for this, Lynn, and for all your work. The slide show is awesome. I carry the Ally Bill of Responsibilities around with me to contemplate when I have a free moment. It is a good way to live. Be well.
1/31/2013 11:21:28 am
Thank you and glad you like the Bill.
1/28/2013 09:13:49 am
My name is Robert Bowen. I am a third generation Canadian. I love this country and it's diverse people's. Everything I have I have because of this great country. For too long I have had an underlying feeling that something is wrong. It's not something I can pinpoint but my soul knows it exists and it is relentless. It's time to heal my soul and I am happy to say that as of now I support Idle No More and would prefer to support those who see the beauty of Canada and not just ways to exploit it. I humbly give myself to thee and would rather live under Indigenous Law.
1/31/2013 11:22:11 am
Thank you. Your words are special.
1/29/2013 04:04:15 am
Wow. This lifts me up from all the negative reporting & comments out there. Watching Canadians holding their signs of support fills me with hope, joy and optimism. Hy'ch'qa for this beautiful message. I will run it on my screen all day :)
1/31/2013 11:23:04 am
Thanks. I agree it is uplifting. Please share it.
1/30/2013 03:15:30 am
Thank you Dr. Gehl. Being an ally with Indigenous people brings its own rewards plus 'special' push back from other White and non-Indigenous folks (being called a race traitor, etc.) and it is nice to have the work of allies recognized. I understand it is our work to do and that the impacts are not remotely the same as the experience Indigenous people have. White allies need other White ally role models and this video has made it clear that our numbers are increasing and that is very encouraging. Thank you!
1/31/2013 11:23:56 am
Thank you for read and watching and for the kind words.
1/30/2013 01:58:46 pm
From Quebec City.
1/31/2013 11:24:46 am
Yes, we do need more dialogue. Thanks for the kind words.
2/1/2013 08:03:08 am
Je suis d'accord avec toi, c'est le cas en Ontario aussi Gene! Si jamais Dr. Gehl donne la permission de traduire ses documents, ça me ferait plaisir de t'aider.
2/1/2013 08:13:23 am
Je vous remercie pour votre générosité et de l'affirmation. Je ne suis pas familier avec les services de traduction. Par exemple, ce qu'il faut rechercher dans un traducteur. Je pense que je vais devoir prendre un certain temps et pensez à votre offre. Lynn
2/1/2013 08:00:18 am
Dr. Gehl, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on genuine solidarity, and how to be an ally to the Idle no More movement. I think that some of us who are not of Indigenous ancestry really want to be in genuine solidarity, but are not always sure how. We feel stupid asking, or even just awkward, and we (at least some of us) really want to be respectful. By putting it out there, and sharing your thoughts and knowledge on this, you are making it so much easier for us. But then of course, there are those of us who in our zealousness to help, forget to stand behind, to allow First Nations people to lead, or who feel that we are not doing anything unless we do lead. It is so much a part of our culture.
2/1/2013 08:14:07 am
You are very welcome. Lynn
2/2/2013 02:34:07 pm
"the door is still open for these people to return to the rituals and ceremonies of their ethnicity and their Indigenous knowledge."
10/28/2013 12:42:20 pm
Line I have come to relize your soul knows where home is . I have a friend who is black and dreams of winter and celtic rituals. she did her dna on ancestry and found her distant people come from Viking country. her draw towards celtic stuff made since now so you never know truly where home is.
3/3/2013 02:44:23 am
Excellent post Lynn,
3/3/2013 08:54:02 am
11/1/2013 12:06:37 am
I stand in support of Idle No More & the Native people. This land belongs to you. All of it! I wish I could be there with you all now & maybe soon I will be. When the oppressors are finally done, I hope to see the lands returned to their rightful protectors.
Sheryl Ann Wilson
11/3/2013 07:06:26 am
I'm thankful for all you do; I'm beside you in spirit. I to, if I could do French would type the translation for you, but I don't. I'll hold you in prayer for the angels to lead your way so it's easy and you make the waves necessary for change. Namiste, Metisangel
12/20/2013 09:50:27 am
11/14/2013 06:06:50 am
Thanks so much, Dr. Gehl, for this insightful blog, and for providing some answers in your Ally Bill of Responsibilities to help me refine my own strategy as a settler ally, which I put out there in my latest blog entry. Ask and you shall receive! I especially appreciate #'s 2, 5, & 16. This is an affirmation for me. I have much to learn, and I'm committed to doing so.
7/13/2014 03:06:59 am
Apologies: I cannot comment on the First Nations MI'Q Maq current situations as it has only been recent knowledge for me.
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