The other day I had a conversation with an elderly gentleman and ally to Indigenous people – Colin Stuart − about my frustration with the upcoming KAIROS reconciliation event scheduled for the end of May and beginning of June 2015 on unceded Algonquin territory, Ottawa, an event that is ignoring what is happening to the very land the event will take place on. Although he could relate to my sorrow he wanted to know where were the other Algonquin voices on the matter of the Algonquin land claims process. Colin mentioned a few names to which I quickly responded that one of them was only adopted whereas another could not prove they were Algonquin and these were barriers. The third person I said is just too busy working and taking care of their home and children.
Colin then asked, “Do you think, Lynn, this is the place where allies need to step up and speak for the Algonquin?” My response was, “Yes it is.” Then he said, “Well Lynn, the problem with that is that often times allies who step up are challenged by Indigenous people who ask such things as, who asked you to do this as you are not Algonquin?” With this comment it was clear he was suggesting that allies are afraid of being accused of interfering. To this I said that allies have a responsibility to become well informed and then confidently stand behind someone who is informed and knowledgeable on the topic.
I added, “Allies have to suck it up and deal with these situations the best way they can. They need to be brave,” I continued. “All people, Indigenous and settlers, need clean land, water, and air.” We need to protect all of these from corporate Canada and the limitations of the state nationalist agenda. With this I was pointing out that allies need to respond in a way that speaks to their own needs too. After all, they are people too and it is only the return to Indigenous knowledge philosophy and practices of collective stewardship that will assure all of our needs are met.
While not comprehensive, here are some of the reasons I have discerned as to why the Algonquin are not speaking up about the pitiful land claims process that will extinguish their rights and jurisdiction:
1. they are trying to pay their bills
2. they are taking care of their children
3. they are struggling to eat
4. they are dealing with depression, suicide, and drug addiction
5. they are taking up other issues such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Men
6. they are afraid to speak up due to issues of lateral violence
7. having been educated through Canada’s curriculum they are assimilated
8. they do not want to take on the responsibilities of political awareness and effort
9. they are trying to be happy
10. they have been pushed out of the territory and can’t relate to the issue
11. they don’t understand why the leaders at the table are not speaking up and as such assume the deal is a good deal when in reality these speakers are prevented from speaking up
12. they don’t value Indigenous knowledge
13. they don’t have allies and a support system
14. even the chosen outspoken advocates are avoiding the Algonquin of Ontario issue
15. the Algonquin people are divided
Lynn Gehl, Ph.D. is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. She has a section 15 Charter challenge regarding the continued sex discrimination in The Indian Act, and is an outspoken critic of the Ontario Algonquin land claims and self-government process. She has three books: Anishinaabeg Stories: Featuring Petroglyphs, Petrographs, and Wampum Belts, The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin of the Algonquin Land Claims Process, and Mkadengwe: Sharing Canada's Colonial Process through Black Face Methodology. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and see more of her work at www.lynngehl.com.