Protect kaniaterawanon’on: We Report Back

By lako’tsira:reh Amanda Lickers

Background on the shit

The city of Montréal has been looking to do some highway renovations amongst its crumbling colonial infrastructure. Somehow the city is using this need for infrastructural repairs for a highway overpass as an excuse to dump a proposed eight billion litres of raw untreated sewage directly into kaniaterawanon’on:we, or the St. Lawrence River. This is the equivalent to 2600 Olympic sized swimming pools.This sewage includes medical and industrial waste as well as hard solids such as prophylactics, sanitary products and other residential waste materials. Many of you may not know that located on the east end of tionni’tiotiah:ke (so-called the Island of Montréal) is a SunCor refinery, as well as a huge industrial zone. All manner of petrochemical and carcinogenic byproducts and waste materials are included in this release as well.

The popular opinion was very clear cut, even the most iridescent Quebécois nationalists were against this dump. Unfortunately for us as onkwehon:we, the Mayor Denis Coderre was extremely stubborn and refused to head to Federal, Provincial or even International level backlash (a couple New York Senators came out against the dump) adamantly insisting this is “the best possible plan”.

The impacts of this dump are truly unknown. Many onkwehon:we communities will be feeling the impact emotionally, spiritually and physically for generations to come. The effect of toxic effluents within fish and marine populations mean an uncertain future for traditional peoples looking to subsist from fishing and trapping along the river. This includes Haudenosaunee, Metis, Innu, Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq, Abenaki and many other Nations. Further to this, our relatives such as the deer will not be able to read the “do not touch the water” signs now posted across kaniaterawanon’on:we.

This river is one of the most important bodies of water in the entire world, connecting the largest supply of fresh water to mother ocean and whose tributaries feed so many lakes and streams south of the imperial 49th parallel.

A full timeline of events up until the Mercier Bridge Blockades can be found here

Cease & Desist: Actions Escalate

October 6th, 2015

kahtihon’tia:kwenio – the women caretakers of the territory – sent a cease and desist notice to the  Mayor of the city of Montréal, notifying the settler colonial government that their plan to discard this raw sewage into the river of the original people violates kaianere’kowa, the Great Law of Peace. This notice of cease and desist cites wampum forty four of the kaianere’kowa, stating that the women are the decision makers and true caretakers of the territory as our faces yet to be born are carried through by our women and clan mothers. Shortly after this, a sacred fire vigil was set up at the foot of the Mercier Bridge.

October 16th, 2015

Press conference held at Adirondack Junction where rotinoshonni’on:we and supporters lit a fire at the edge of the train tracks as a warning to the Federal Minister of the Environment and the Mayor of the city of Montréal that if our notice of cease and desist is not headed we will be forced to escalate actions in order to protect kaniaterawanon’on:we – the river of the original people.

October 22nd, 2015

In light of a lack of commitment on behalf of colonial officials to stop the dump into our river, rotinoshonni’on:we and some settler supporters made good on our promise to escalate actions. Thursday, October 22nd at 9am we shut down the train tracks that run through Kahnawake, one of the main economic arteries, preventing both commercial and industrial train traffic from moving for over an hour, costing untold thousands of dollars for CN rail.

For a video of this Rail Blockade visit:

www.facebook.com/subMedia/videos/vb.199700056830375/718247161642326/?type=2&theater

Mercier Bridge Blockades

#StopTheShit

November 10th & 11th, 2015

On November 10th it was announced that the dumping will take place at midnight. rotinoshonni’on:we and settler supporters came to the Sacred Fire Vigil that evening to form a plan. As with all community spaces there are differing perspectives and experiences. Fortunately, Kahnawake has a rich history of resisting settler colonialism and imperial occupation. The community meetings up to this point and this evening were very intergenerational and we are very grateful for this. It is important to acknowledge the work and experiences of our Elders who have seen many more battles than those of us coming into young-adulthood, and there has been strong leadership coming from youths under the age of 20.

As rotinoshonni’on:we, within kanianere’kowa, we have a responsibility to the faces not yet born to protect our peoples, our lands, our lifeways and our water. The people who assembled at the Vigil and whose chose to take action are just that, common people. As rotinoshonni’on:we it is our birthright to protect the natural world and all that which sustains life.

The power is in the people and the people took the power on these nights. Folks from age 17 to 76 years-of-age were out blockading the Mercier Bridge, to show our collective strength to our colonial occupiers imploring them to stop the dump. Each night the bridge was blockaded until midnight. The entire time there were different speakers expressing their ideas, their strategies and their concerns for which tactics will be the most effective. Trying to navigate multiple perspectives in a horizontal style, where there is disagreement and also historical trauma is very difficult. However it was the younger folks who took the lead for action, after much discussion around the fire, and broke off and marched onto the bridge. Once the blockade was safely established, Elders and folks who were maybe a little shy decided to join. Many people stayed by the fire or moved to the side line to observe and show support.

The 207 Longhouse showed its support of the people and was present while the blockades took place, whose presence helped to ensure the safety of community members.

The entire time we were given support from the drivers and people who were forced to re-route as a result of the blockade. We sang songs, chanted and raised hell as much as we could in the cold dark night. At one point even some pizza was ordered to us to keep us warm and fed. The act of blockading the Mercier Bridge was very controversial especially amongst Kahnawakeronon, as the historical trauma from the Protection of the Pines (“oka crisis”) is still fresh for many. These moves however were made by Kahnwake youth who felt a strong sense of urgency and took action in a way that was accessible and effective. Working through and dealing with community-based historical trauma is one of the many complex aspects of organizing within onkwehon:we contexts.

Kahnawake Survival School Walk Out

November 13th, 2015

After the bridge blockades many youth from Kahnawake decided to lead a walkout from the

Kahnawake Survival School to demonstrate against the dump.

The Shit Stops

November 14th, 2015 

The city of Montréal stops dump after four billion litres of sewage released into kaniaterawanon’on:we.

Although we were unsuccessful in preventing the entirety of this desecration into our river – the lifeblood of our territories – and really our own bodies, we were able to delay the dump for over a month’s time and Mayor Merde Coderre only let go four billion liters instead of eight billion liters. Is this a win? There is still shit in our river. It is important that although we are grieving our river and know that any desecration by the militarized occupation on our lands known as Canada or Québec is a form of biological warfare against our people and all members of creation, we must also see that the power remains within us and despite impossible odds we can make some kind of impact. There are many lessons to be taken away from this experience and our communities are constantly learning and adapting. We must fortify ourselves and our movements in order to ensure that next time we will only be successful in reaching our goals.

Protect kaniaterawanon’on:we

contact: reclaimturtleisland@gmail.com

Reclaim Turtle Island (RTI) is a grassroots, volunteer organization that survives solely on the donations of generous people. RTI has been one of the main sources for independent, indigenous run news from across Great Turtle Island and has been especially involved with the on-the-ground efforts to protect kaniaterawanon’on:we.


LAKO’TSIRA:REH AMANDA LICKERS

turtle clan seneca / tionni’tiotiah:ke livin

Amanda is a femme, 2 spirit spoken word poet, filmmaker and curator with Reclaim Turtle Island (@defendourlands), an all ndn grassroots media justice collective which focuses on anti-colonial cultural production and fanning the flames of the Indigenous insurrection, supporting grassroots land defense and sovereignty struggles.

Is This (Capitalist Settler Colonial Violence) Vegan?

Centralizing Anti-Colonial Theory in The Vegan and Food Justice Movements 

By Nicole Davis

I’m a white settler on stolen land, and I am a direct beneficiary of the systems of injustice and oppression I will go on to explore in this piece. I think it is incredibly important to make this assertion, because it is important to remember that whiteness is not ‘neutral.’ I believe any attempt to discuss issues such as food justice, food sovereignty, or equity, without acknowledging and attempting to grapple with my white, settler identity, would be dangerous—and wholly irresponsible. Acknowledging my whiteness is crucial to understanding my implication in systems that have destroyed—and continue to destroy—the food systems of Indigenous populations across the world. This piece should be read with the understanding that I am a white settler. This piece is largely about grappling with the violence inherent in this identity, and the importance of understanding this for all white folks engaged in food justice work.

Having been calling myself a vegan for the past six years, and trying to submerse myself in the food movement since then, my relationship to food has been central to a fair chunk of my adult life thus far. Recently, I have been grappling with the question of how I was able to have such a severe eating disorder for nearly ten years while I was trying so hard to connect my eating to its implications on a larger scale.

While making those connections has been central to my recovery, I have also come to realize how actively both the food justice and vegan movements were feeding into my disordered eating.

The food justice movement to which I am referring is that of Michael Pollan and Jamie Oliver. I am talking about the ‘local’ and ‘foodie’ food movement—whose spokespeople claim that everything from climate change to urban poverty to health issues can be solved by ‘voting with your dollar.’ This food movement encourages non-profit models, social enterprises, and ‘conscious consumerism’ to address social issues through food. Ultimately, the food movement encourages people to throw money at structural issues in order for individuals to feel absolved of the everyday structural violence with which they engage and from which they benefit.

The vegan movement I am referring to is the mainstream vegan movement. It is the ‘single issue’ vegan movement of individuals and organizations who decry subsistence hunting by Indigenous populations. It is that of white vegans who protest and shame Black and Brown factory farm workers, displaced from their lands by extractive industries which ultimately work to make white vegans wealthier and more powerful. I am also addressing the ‘no excuses’ vegans, who maintain the wholly classist and ableist argument that if a vegan diet is easy for them to maintain, then it must be simple and accessible for everyone.

Both the food justice and vegan movements rely on healthist rhetoric to try and recruit new members into these ideologies. One of the first reasons I went vegan was because it was supposed to help me to lose weight. Ditto eating ‘local’ and ‘organic’. There is so much more to focus on with these movements, shaming people’s bodies and lifestyles is not something they should have to resort to for finally coming to understand how these movements that I thought were helping me improve my relationship with food, were simultaneously enacting a form of violence on my psyche, was truly central to my recovery. And once I first became critical of these movements, I came to understand just how deep the holes of these movements truly are. The extreme violence they enact upon other people, specifically people of marginalized identities. And I began to understand the ways these movements simultaneously justify all kinds of violence, while invisiblizing their own participation in violence.

Much of the food movement’s rhetoric around eating ‘local,’ ‘organic,’ and GMO-free, is about cleansing and absolving consumers of any guilt. Sure the produce you buy at your farmers market might be organic and local, but it was grown on stolen land, and most likely by white settlers of European descent. Sure the vegan chocolate chips you’re buying don’t have cow’s milk in them, but the palm oil used likely displaced hundreds of orangutans and Indigenous people from their Malaysian jungle homes, and the cocoa was most likely produced by child slaves in the Ivory Coast. As Judith Butler says, “We are all mired in violence.” It is not a principle, it is a claim. We cannot have a non-violent food justice movement, and it is impossible to have a non-violent vegan movement. We can only strive for an anti-violent one. A movement that centers inclusivity and marginalized voices and identities. One that is self-reflexive. One that aims to understand our implication as colonizers and settlers on stolen Native land.

 What would it mean to have a vegan movement that does not only call for animal liberation, but the liberation of all oppressed bodies? What would it mean to have a vegan movement, and a food justice movement, to which prison abolition and Palestinian solidarity were centralized? We must all work to understand that all animal lives matter, but what possibilities could be opened up if the mandate that Black Lives Matter became centralized in the vegan and food justice movements?

It is fundamental to understand how all oppressions are interconnected. It is fundamental that any movement towards justice—be it animal liberation, food justice, or environmental justice—fundamentally grapple with the violence in which we are implicated through our everyday actions of being in the different bodies and lives we occupy. The fundamental violence of colonialism, the rupturing and apocalypse that came with it, and the foundational shuddering our world has been grappling with since needs to be understood as central to any discussion of land, environment, and bodies.

How do we understand food justice if the legitimacy of farmers of European descent are called into question? How do we understand food justice if we question the land we occupy, from which many have been nourished, and from which many been displaced, and on which so much violence has been inflicted? For many involved in these movements, these questions are incredibly unsettling to ask—and they need to be. We need to be unsettled, to expose ourselves to these wholly unsettling questions and sit with our discomfort. How can we move forward with the food justice and vegan movements if they are founded on colonial, capitalist, patriarchal, and racist practices?

There is no simple or succinct answer for how to fix the problems embedded in these movements, but it most certainly involves reworking the frameworks and ideologies at their very foundation. And for white settlers (like myself) involved food justice and veganism, this must include unsettling ourselves. We must sit with unsettling thoughts and ideas, and notice how they make us feel, and try to ask why they might make us feel this way.

Our work within these movements must include a lot of actively listening to people of marginalized identities, and striving to center these people and their life experiences in these movement in any opportunity we have. The food and vegan movements already center the stories of middle class white folks. It is time to pass the microphone. White people—the most important and effective thing we can do right now is shut up and listen.

There is no such thing as a non-violent diet. The food produced in a colonial- capitalist food system is inevitably implicated in the suffering humans, non-human animals, and land. Recognizing this fact is fundamental for truly moving forward with our relationships with our food system, with non-human animals, the land, and each other. I think that a food justice movement, and a vegan movement, that could understand this and work towards fighting colonial, racist violence at their root, could be incredibly powerful and effective in creating truly meaningful change.


 

Nicole Davis
Nicole Davis is a white anti-zionist Jewish settler on Turtle Island, hailing from NYC and studying and living as a human bean in Toronto. Nicole is passionate about creating a more intersectional and holistic food justice movement, cooking cheap rad vegan food for people, eating, learning, and talking about food and plant magic, and doodling glittery piggies. She has previously been involved in organizing food justice-centered panels at the University of Toronto, has co-authored the zine ‘Complicating Veganism,’ and is currently an organizer for the UofT Food Policy Council.