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.

#BlackOnCampusGuelph Report Back

black student protestors rallying and holding a banner that reads "we stand with students in Mizzou and Yale #blackoncampusguelph

by Galme Mumed

My name is Yasmin Mumed and I am one of the main organizers of the #BlackonCampusGuelph rally, which took place November 18th, at the University of Guelph. We started out with a rally where we had staff and students share their various stories of what it means to be black on campus Guelph which led into a march. The event was a part of a larger movement where Black Students took over social media and campuses internationally, to express our solidarity with black students resisting and fighting for the rights at Mizzou.

This created a space where black students could begin sharing our stories of being black on university and college campuses.

At the University of Guelph we saw stories from students who face anti-black racism in classrooms, residences, campus services, and within social spaces. This was so important for students who voices have been silenced front the moment they stepped on this campus. So many people shared stories of being entirely abandoned and ignored by the administration in dealing with anti-Black racism. We ended off the action by marching into the admin office to drop off a list of demands we are expecting to be met.

Post- rally we received an immense amount backlash from people on various forms of social media such as yikyak,liveleak, and Overheard at Guelph. Due to the several hundred immensely  racist comments from students at the university black students felt unsafe being on campus and in their classrooms and were left with no support.

The CJ. Munford Center, a club on campus that promotes racial diversity is the only space that supports Black students on campus. The Munford Center is seriously underfunded compared to other student groups on campus. The only paid staff at the centre was let go by the administration only a few years ago because of budget cuts. Black students are left to deal with the brunt of a legacy of anti-Blackness without any form of support from the administration.

The #BlackonCampusGuelph protest was an act of courage and a way for black students on campus to show the school administration that they were fed up with decades anti-black racism on campus. It is imperative for us not to view what is taking place in Mizzou in isolation. Students across Canada and right here in Guelph experience both subtle and overt manifestation of anti-black racism in every aspect of our education. We will no longer tolerate being silenced or erased. It is time the administration meet our demands and take accountability.


Galme Mumed

I was born in Hararge Oromia. I came to Canada when I was 8 years old but my heart and my memories are still in Hararge Oromia. I believe I am here in Canada for a reason and have a purpose to serve both here and in my home. I am proud to call myself Oromo and Muslim and Black. I feel like my ancestors have left me with many teachings and gifts that I’m constantly trying to listen to. I am a revolutionary because that’s the legacy I was born into.

Report Back From #OccupyINAC Toronto

by Carrie (Teyon-nanit-skwah-kwá:nyu’) Lester: Land Defender / Water Protector

Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk) through my mother and her mother, from Six Nations Grand River Territory.

May 2016

“YOU WALK AWAY? WE STAY!”

That was the chant that broke out from our determined group of about 30 disparate folk who walked into Toronto’s INAC (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada) office building on St Clair Ave East near Yonge St, in midtown Toronto, on that fateful day of Wednesday, April 13th, 2016,( the day before my daughter’s 26th birthday), as the Regional Director of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada walked away from us and our questions.

Little did we realize, but we were about to embark on a week-long (plus) occupation of the INAC office in Toronto, which would cause a ripple effect of similar occupations across Canada. We were ill-prepared for such an endeavour, as we had no supplies with us to sustain us for more than a few hours, let alone overnight, or more than a week!

So why did our small, but concerned, group of men, women, and children, (Indigenous and Allies, from Black Lives Matter, and other non-Native Settler folk, young and old(er), enter the office of Indigenous Affairs? Well, it’s because after 500 years of non-native settlers (Invaders!) arriving in droves to these beautiful lands, and more than 200 years of colonial domination and warring by the British and the French, and almost 150 years of Colonial Canada, things have not sat well with Native Folk.

Yet another crisis had struck stricken one of our northern communities, Attawapiskat (northern Ontario Cree community, west side of James Bay, the lower part of Hudson’s Bay), in which despairing youth, who saw no future for themselves, had made suicide pacts with each other, and had just tried, unsuccessfully, to take their lives. On the weekend before we paid our visit to the INAC office, eleven Youth had attempted suicide. Several days later, while we were occupying the office, another thirteen had attempted suicide, but there was nowhere to treat this new group, because the hospital was still dealing with the other eleven, and so about half of these thirteen Youth had to be housed in the jail, under supervision, while waiting for room at the hospital.

Native Communities from across Turtle Island, aka so-called Canada and United States of America, have been suffering under the oppression of what became the dominant societies, living in squalor after the War of 1812, as bit by bit, we found ourselves rounded up and removed from our lands, and put onto patches of land deemed unfit for the never-ending hordes of New Comers from the Britain, the United Kingdom, and Europe. No longer needed by these New Comers to assist in surviving in this new territory, no longer needed to assist in military operation, our ancestors were relegated to be out of sight, out of mind, awaiting their expected demise. The Death of the Noble Savage.

Lands were stolen, held by greedy Land Barons, and sold off to fatten their bank coffers, cut up and sold again and again. Treaties were made with some of our people, to take the land, but our people were under the impression that lands were to be shared. Shared and looked after, as had been done since time immemorial. The new people did not know how to live on the land respectfully. They did not know how to learn the language of the land. They did not know how to take the time to learn the language of the land.

Over time, our people being restricted to these plots of land called Indian Reserve Lands, fell into different states of despair, and squalor. Impoverished for the first time ever, they were forced to take handouts from the Indian Agents who oversaw the goings-on on these Reserves, aka Prisoner of War Camps. Food and clothing rations would be handed out to the community members, as hunting and fishing became more and more restricted. There was a long period of time in which movement off these reserve lands was controlled by the Indian Agent, the Prison Warden, using a policy known as the Pass System, in which the Agent had the authority to either allow, or disallow movement on and off the Reserve with permission slips. If you were found off- Reserve without one of these permission slips, you’d be jailed and fined.

This system was set up to allow for the eventual ruin of our People, so that once we were fully assimilated or dead, ALL the lands across the territories would no longer be held by Indian Title or Treaty, and would all belong outright to the Crown for full exploitation and extraction of Resources, aka Gifts of the Land: the Tree-Beings, the Food and Medicine Beings, the 4-Leggeds, the Flyers, the Swimmers, the Crawlers, the Waters, aka our Relations.

Much of the Reserve Lands that our People were forced onto, were lands that were barren, and ill-fit for the European-style farming that was to be forced upon us all. Often times, as in the case of Attawapiskat, we were put onto flood plains. Flood plains were normally places that one would visit at certain times of the year, but never to live on permanently. Very few of our communities lived on specific lands permanently. We moved about with the seasons, and with our 4-Legged Relations; however, we would always come back to specific places each season. Those of us with winters had our Wintering Grounds, and our Summering Grounds. Over time, we had come to agreements with our neighbours for sharing of these Lands. In particular, here in what is now Southern Ontario, the Haudenosaunee and the Anishinaabek had made a Treaty with the Dish and One Spoon Wampum Belt, which determined the sharing of the lands and it’s food sources, by allowing us to:

1) use (or ‘eat’) only what was needed from the Dish; 2) leave enough for others in the Dish; and 3) keep the Dish (area) clean.

Without the ability to move about, coastal communities like Attawapiskat must endure almost yearly evacuations in the Spring due to the flooding that takes place. Attawapiskat has also declared several States of Emergency since 2006, five in fact, for water contamination, for flooding, for sewage contamination, for housing shortages and unfit homes due to black mold and lack of (clean) running water, and most recently for the Youth suicides. Since September of 2015, there have been about one hundred attempted suicides by the Youth of Attawapiskat. ONE HUNDRED: out of a population of about 2,000 residents. Their hospital has only fifteen beds; no full- time doctors, (there is not enough housing for the community, let alone the doctors!) who fly in four days per week, three weeks out of a month; two nurses on weekend duty; and no regular mental health workers over the past nine months, again, due to the housing shortage.

The desperation of the Youth of Attawapiskat really hit them hard during a nearly thirty-five year period of neglect by the Federal Government of Canada, while their pleas for help for their ill health, due to what was found to be diesel oil contamination under their elementary school, seemed to go unheard, but was really just government stalling and bungling. For many years the Youth and the teachers and other staff endured headaches and nosebleeds due to the vapours of the diesel fuel. Finally, a temporary band aid solution was set up, in which portables were brought up to take the place of the school, but they eventually became the permanent solution to the problem, as the Minister of Indian Affairs decided that they at least HAD a school, stating that some Reserves had NO schools.

So, all of this brought our group of like-minded people together on that morning of Wednesday, April 13th, to meet with the Director of Indigenous Affairs, and demand that they do their job of opening up their purse strings of the trillions of dollars held in trust which belong to all First Nations, and put pressure on the Federal Government to do their job and look after these issues of mental health, housing, water and flooding, and STOP with the quick fix band aid solutions.

Our arrival was a bit alarming for the receptionist at the desk in the office, as we came in with banners and signs, and some of us laid out on the floor of the office, spattering ourselves with red paint, to symbolize the deaths and attempted suicides of the Youth, as we held a ‘die-in’. We also lit a sage smudge to purify and calm the area, and the receptionist actually backed away from the smudge shell, seemingly unaware of its purpose and significance. This alarmed US! Why was this staff member NOT aware of the most basic symbol of our spirituality? This place was definitely in need of Cultural Training 101!

So, it took over three hours for Regional Director Mauricette Howlett to actually come out from her office to meet with us, after which she only gave us typical platitudes … such as, “we’re doing the best we can”, “we feel the same way you do”, “we’re looking after things”. When she finished with these pathetic words, we spoke up with questions … and she turned and left the reception area, going back to her office, refusing to take our questions, never to come out again that day. That’s when we spoke up with our chant of “You walk away? We stay!”

And stay we did. For almost nine days. We had no extra clothing, no food, no extra diapers for the 3 year-old child with us, no blankets, and no medications that some of us needed. Some of us had to call into our work places to let them know that we wouldn’t be in to work the next day, and more days as the occupation kept going. Some of us would leave as the days went on, choosing to take up space on the outside of the building to educate the passing public as to what was going on inside, and to act as support for food and clothing for those of us inside.

We had called for media to attend the initial entrance of our group to the office, but as time went on, more media arrived for the (non) meeting with the Director, and our surprising situation with what would become the occupation of the office.

Our first few days were chaotic with media interviews, getting media releases out, setting up a Facebook page, organizing food and clothing and medications, setting up the space for living in, child-minding, securing privacy spaces away from the prying eyes of police and security (initially, we were watched over by police for the first few days, but that job eventually fell to the building security team, many of whom became supportive of our cause), making sleeping arrangements (finding space on the floor, first with just the clothes on our backs, then as supplies arrived, we were able to use blankets under us and over us), calling home to families to let them know what we were doing and that we were ok, and having to deal with the ever-changing security conditions / human rights infractions that were being imposed upon us, such as washroom facility use: initially we were allowed to use the washrooms that were on other floors with police escort, but then that was curtailed, and a couple of slop buckets were brought up for us to use, along with toilet paper (ridiculously, we were allowed to empty the buckets in the very toilets that we were not allowed to use, along with police escort to make sure we didn’t take the opportunity to use the toilets!); the ever-changing electrical light and air circulation conditions, which we later realized was their energy use conservation system, (however, the lack of air circulation lead many of us to develop respiratory problems, such as dry throats, and for at least one of us, sore and bleeding mouths and swollen tongue); the ability to move about and get fresh air; the ability to practice our cultural and spiritual ceremonies, such as smudging, without setting off the fire alarms, and having our Pipecarriers and Elders (Grandmothers and Grandfathers) attend to our ceremonial needs.

Eventually things began to settle down, the media left us as we had suggested they pay attention to the Youth, and we set about trying to figure out how this would end. We needed to connect with the Youth of Attawapiskat, and even the Chief, Bruce Shisheesh. We had attempted to connect with Chief Shisheesh several times before even going to the office without success. The night before we went to the building, we were able to find an article from the Youth of Attawapiskat which gave a list of their demands, which we could use as our demands for our eventual departure. These included things that we here in the south take for granted, like a youth centre, a library, a parenting centre, a recycling system, a movie theatre, an arcade, a skate park, a (new?) church, Traditional Teachings, and dry land, among other things. Pretty basic stuff, eh? Oh, and one of the items on the list was also a visit between the Youth and the Prime Minister, who is also the self-appointed Minister of Youth!

We found assistance in our dilemma with lack of contact with the Youth in a person who eventually arrived on the scene, and who had been born in Attawapiskat, but who had moved away to the city for most of her upbringing. She was able to connect us with the youth from the Youth Council, who advised us that the list was not quite a list of demands, it was more of a brainstorming exercise. The Youth Centre was still a priority, but they also wanted the mercury contamination to be cleaned up (effluent from the nearby DeBeers diamond mine), a breakup of the monopoly that the only store in town, the Northern Store, had on the community, where prices of the most basic items would be out of reach of any southern community ( twenty dollars for a case of pop, thirteen dollars for a carton of juice, forty dollars for thirty rolls of toilet paper, one thousand dollars for a mattress, forty dollars for diapers), and Traditional Elders to help get back to the Teachings of the Land.

Since we chose as our main focus initially as the meeting with the Prime Minister, and the promise of the building of the Youth Centre, we kept to that, along with the promise of the other items to be addressed as quickly as possible. However, we all know that these issues are not new, nor are they isolated to this Reserve. There are about one hundred Reserves with boil water advisories, some of which have been in states of emergency for this issue for over ten years, and issues of deplorable housing conditions.

On Monday, April 18th, a delegation of politicians, including NDP MP for the region, Charlie Angus, Minister of Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennett, and even Regional Director Mauricette Howlett flew up to Attawapiskat to meet with the Youth and the community (Howlett initially refused to go up because, as she stated to us, she couldn’t leave her staff alone without her! After we held a lengthy and transformative Sharing Circle with her, we convinced her that surely her staff has worked without her before, and that she MUST attend the meeting on the Monday). After the meeting, the Youth let it be known that they were satisfied with the promises made, and wanted us to stand down, and take the spotlight off of them. They let us know that they didn’t mind if we stayed if we were to support the other occupations that had developed across the country: Winnipeg was first, then Vancouver, after all offices across the country shut down, and then in Regina and Edmonton encampments took place outside. There were also Sacred Fires lit, such as in Halifax, and demonstrations in Ottawa, and a couple of band offices were taken over as well.

Once we were satisfied that the Youth were satisfied with the meeting, and after contacting the other Occupations in Winnipeg and Vancouver, we set to working out our exit strategy and timing. By Wednesday, our discussions with our fellow Occupiers were done, and we had had an agreement with Mauricette Howlett to keep in touch, we let it be known that we’d be leaving the following day. We set to work on organizing our belongings and the incredible bounty of food that had been donated to our cause which sustained our eight and a half day occupation for the coming exit. The next afternoon, Thursday, April 21th, we departed the office and met with our supporters on the outside who had organized another rally to greet us, and said our goodbyes to the Security Staff who had befriended us.


Carrie Lester
Carrie Lester (Teyon-nanit-skwah-kwá:nyu’), Mohawk (Kanien’keha:ka) through her mother and grandmother from Six Nations Grand River Territory; grew up and resides in Toronto (Tkarónto); mother of two grownchildren; by day, works with school children with Learning Difficulties and Autism; Land Defender / Water Protector.

Black Lives Matter Toronto Tent City: Reportback

by Galme Mumed

On Sunday March 19th 2016, Black Lives Matter Toronto organized a rally at Nathan Phillip’s Square, in protest against anti-Black racism in Toronto and specifically in response to the special investigations Units decision not to charge the police officer involved in the shooting and killing of Andrew Loku last July, it was also a response to the reduction of Afrofest to one day. Hundreds of people from various communities showed up to demand justice and to protest the continued erasure of Black people in Toronto. We stood at Nathan Phillip’s Square with members of our community as we honored, mourned and celebrated the lives of those we have lost but whose spirits live on.

CI-BLM BLM rally at Toronto Police HQ on March 27, 2016.
Uploaded by: willoughby, serena

I stood in the crowd and listened to Black storytellers put words to feelings all of us have felt but have not been able to express. I watched our elders lead us in prayer and reconnect us with our ancestors. I watched as Black people danced fearlessly and freely, even if it was just in that space for that period of time, to Music that has come out of Black struggle; the true sounds of resistance. A few hours later the rally was coming to end and the crowd was getting smaller, my self and about six of my friends drove from Guelph because we received a message from the organizers saying they needed more bodies for the tent city.

It was getting dark and really cold, some of the organizers and community members who have decided to stay the night got under blankets and start to prepare for the long night ahead. We had a fire going and we all joined in singing our favourite old school tracks and the many freedom songs as a way to keep our spirits high and pass time. About an hour after we started getting comfortable the organizers told us that police in riot gear and were about to move in on us and we needed to make a decision weather to stay or move to another location. The decision was made to pack up our tents and our fire and move to Toronto police headquarters on College Street.

We packed up our tents and those of us who had the capacity to move to the next location made a decision to continue on. Something told me that I needed to go and be apart of this. At this time nothing could have prepared me for how transformative and healing this decision was going to be for me, I don’t think any of us knew what we were about the take part in or how long this was going to be, we just knew we needed to be here and not anywhere else. We arrived at the police headquarters super late at night. We built our tents and prepared to go to sleep for the night. That first night was brutal that I could feel the cold in my bones, there was not enough blankets at all. Three of my friends and I held each other super tight hoping that our body heat would keep us a bit warmer. That was not the case because the whole night I was afraid to lay down and  sleep because I actually thought I would freeze to death, but I made it and realized that this was not about me it was about something bigger.

The morning was beautiful we all cuddled under blankets around the fire and sang songs, shared stories, laughter, and a space where we all felt safe and loved, most of us had never met before this occupation but it felt like we knew each other. We had Black and Indigenous elders stop by to give us some words of encouragement. We had Indigenous elders in the space keep the fire going, smudging the space and praying with us, it was after we were in the space we realized we were right beside the Native youth center, which was clearly not accidental at all. It was not until I am writing this I’m realizing that that whole day was preparing us for the violence and trauma we would have to face later that night.

On Monday March 21st at about around 10pm we got word that the police were going to come and try to make us leave. We all linked arms and formed a huge circle around our tents and the fire that has been keeping us warm. We stood there fearlessly and waited, we waited as we watched about over twenty police officers walk and form a straight line overlooking us in front of the police building. The head of police made an announcement stating that we can stay but we can’t have the tents nor the fire, we made a decision to not move and that their fear tactics will not work on us. There were police, firefighters, and men all types of uniforms. The pigs were mostly white men, they were all tall and huge. On our side we were mostly Black woman, there were also children, elders, disabled people forming the circle around the fire and the tent. I remember standing there as firm as I could to protect our tents and within seconds I watched police officers charge at us, they pushed us, they kicked us, they punched us, and they sexually harassed us. They flung the barrel of fire down to the ground near children, they destroyed and grabbed the tents from our hands and they threatened to shoot! All I could hear is creaming crying and but we were also fearless. They put our fire out but they sparked another fire in us that they can never kill. A pig grabbed me and threw me down on layers of fire wood, I have always known that we were not human beings in their eyes but that moment made things real. I cried like I have never cried before not because I was in physical pain, but I cried for every black person in that space and globally whose lives are not valuable and whos lives don’t matter and who are disposable and whose skin colour has been a target of violence.

Amongst the trauma and anger there was something magical happening something bigger than all of us. Minutes after the pigs left every single one of us in that space hugged in a huge circle and started chanting “I Believe that we will win” and it was powerful. One image that I have held on to and have not been able to forget was of an Indigenous couple and their baby in a stroller stand between us and the police, to protect us and to let the pigs know whose land this is and that they will not touch us. I was in tears as I watched them wave the Six Nations flag to let us know that Black lives Matter on Indigenous land. That night we all sat together sang freedom songs like our various ancestors did and we knew we were protected. We were sitting in the stolen front year of our enemy and we had no fear, because we were connected to something more powerful than this system.

The next morning our communities from various parts of Toronto and across Canada showed up! Everyone came strapped ready to go to battle, ready to build, ready to heal. They came offering anything they had to offer weather they were healers, artist, writers, cooks, business owners, Black people from all walks of life came to let us know they see us and if they come out tonight they might as well get ready for war. The place that brought us so much trauma and violence became our home because that is what we are capable of taking something that represents so much trauma and turning it into a world that we can all safely exist without fear. The donations were coming in like floods. There were mountains of blankets, the food was endless, we had hot dinners almost every night. We were able to feed our homeless communities and provide shelter for them. We were able to take care of our own, I can’t even explain how that felt being able to provide the people in our communities who have been fucked over by the system the most these basic things.

We lived amongst each other for fifteen days. We woke up the warm kisses, hugs and prayers of our indigenous elders. I watched them smug the whole space with sage. People who usually never share space shared space with each other, we spoke about how our struggles are connected how important it is that we continue to work with each other, how critical it is that we learn from each other and build meaningful relationships with one another. Indigenous organizers and black organizers were able to share knowledge and be in the same space infront of police headquarters! Like what the fuck? How powerful is that? How dangerous is that for this system that has been built on the back of our communities. I wonder why they never tried that shit again for the next fifteen days we were there. That space was transformative it was us reimaging together. Prior to this experience I heard a lot about transformative justice and Tent City showed me and example of what that looks like even if it was a very simple and small example. I stayed at Tent City every single night except one or two nights because I needed to be home, it was my community, I was protected, I was loved, I was cared for, I felt and believed that everyone in the space knew my live mattered and it was valued and it was important. We affirmed one another. We spoke about revolution, we talked about liberation, and we asked each other what ways we can show up for each other. We shared skills and we began a process of healing and building trust with one another. In the fifteen days we watched the space transform into a different space that reflected each day. There was an art station where artists can come and visualize our experiences, there was a medic station with everything we needed, there was a healing space where Black and Indigenous elders setup message beds and performed spiritual healing, there was the food station where our elders fed us foods that they know to be good for us. I imagined this is probably the closest thing to show me what living in a decolonized world would look like. I learned that Indigenous folks are not fucking around and that we have a lot to learn from them. We had addicts who became clean due to our elders working with them, we deescalated intense situations without involving any outsiders, we all lived together without any issue for fifteen days. we held members of our communities who are the most vulnerable the closest and did not shun them away no matter how “problematic” they were, I understood that none of us disposable to each other that we all need each other, we might be disposable outside of Tent City, but not here amongst our people.

Until we are all free and we will be, I will hold on to the small taste of freedom that tent city was for me. I will stand behind indigenous people in their struggle to reclaim their land and I know they are ready to stand beside behind us and beside us in our fight for our liberation the Universe has brought us all together for a reason. Let’s do this shit!


Galme Mumed
I was born in Hararge Oromia. I came to Canada when I was 8 years old but my heart and my memories are still in Hararge Oromia. I believe I am here in Canada for a reason and have a purpose to serve both here and in my home. I am proud to call myself Oromo and Muslim and Black. I feel like my ancestors have left me with many teachings and gifts that I’m constantly trying to listen to. I am a revolutionary because that’s the legacy I was born into.