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On Friday night I attend a talk by Andrea Smith who spoke about the racism that exists in North America around the Violence against Native Women and the struggle of indigenous peoples.

Andrea Smith is a Cherokee feminist and anti-violence activist who is the the  co-founder for INCITE! An aloquint speaker i found that I was really drawn into the points that she made around systemic racism that exists in our North American culture around peoples of colour.

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For a moment consider the following classic scenario.

A womyn is working at a work place and her male manager begins to making explicit derogatory comments towards his fellow employee (read: comments ranging from sexuality, having sex, or competency – choose your own adventure). Most often followed by physical gestures towards this individual (read: winking, pinching, touching, etc.)

There are laws in place to indicate that the manager is at fault, because in this way his actions are creating a dynamic that is oppressing this womyn in the workplace. Tragically this type of situation is still happening and encouraging inequality.

Forms of Oppression

These days forms of oppression can happen in many different facets be it verbal, physical, or even mental abuse (in the form of non-verbal).

Mental abuse is actually a harder action to trace back to its origin mainly because the action itself is displayed through non-verbal actions (walking away, disregarding peoples thoughts, ignoring, not attempting to solve conflict, etc). Understandably, statistics indicate that mental abuse is the hardest form of abuse to prove. In contrast, physical and verbal forms of abuse are far more tangible and present.

Society still struggles with recognising that this is a true form of abuse. What’s interesting is that in the example above there are actually two forms of abuse happening. The manager making a sexual comment to his employee and then winking is indicative of both verbal and non-verbal abuse.

Resolving Oppression

At the base of this all it’s really important to stop any form of oppression or abuse.

  • Tell people – It’s important to tell people around you what is happening to bring more awareness to the actions.
  • Talk to the abuser – Not always the easiest option. Sometimes impossible (sometimes it’s easier to just leave I know). But realising that it’s not going to change that person if you don’t talk to them about what is going on for you. Using a facilitator can be helpful to ensure that no further abuse takes place.

Enter stage left… (Solidarity is the key)

The concept of solidarity is to create a pact of common responsibilities and interests around issues.

  • A pact – Creating a pact with other people who could be affected in this situation too (coworkers, friends, etc)
  • Solidarity – Collectively demand an end to the action
  • Actions – Taking actions like work-to-rule, striking, collectively resigning, or demanding the resignation or leaving.

What’s interesting is that it’s not about taking one persons side, but more about trying to balance the table. Demanding that an action does take place. If the person being oppressed has taken action and the oppressor has not recipricated the power is still in their hands. The crux of the problem.

We are all human and do make mistakes, but we need to be responsible for our actions in life. Intentions are great but actions are stronger. Actions have brought this world to what it is today whether we agree with it or not.

(Thanks Sarah for your awesome insight in this)

This one has been bothering me for sometime now.

I went to an amazing festival this last weekend for three days (more on this later) called the Global Carnival. Amazing music, peeps, and dancing!

While at the Global Carnival this last weekend I went to a workshop where a womyn (sorry I tried to find her name online but was unable to do so) was speaking about the connections between various activist types and groups. I have to admit that she did a great job during her discussion and made me think about where I stand with my activist work.

During her discussion she relayed a story where she was working for the government. She met for dinner with a guy whom was an Indian Diplomat and as they were discussing what she was doing with her life and work she made some realizations. The details aren’t important though …

What was important is that during her relay of this conversation she broke out into an Indian accent. Broken english and all. Funny cause lots of activist types do that out here in OZ and it’s something that I’ve been having a hard time with these days.

So reign in your opinions I want to hear them.

  1. Is is racist to imitate another person’s use of the English language? My thought is that it is. Mainly because in either telling a joke or relaying a story that imitates another person’s accent you are making fun of them. Look at it from this perspective — what’s the relevance of using the accent? I found it interesting to me in Ecuador last year and be teased by Spanish people (some kind teasing and some not so kind) about my lack of Spanish knowledge. Pretty humbling experience that one…
  2. So if it’s not appropriate to make fun of languages (other races) does it make it acceptable to make fun of white western languages (or am I taking this to far?) Yah ok I’m sensitive to these things. I sorta feel like it’s the same thing as a black guy calling another black guy niger. It’s that they are taking back that name and using it amongst themselves. Clearly not appropriate for me. But for me to make fun of other people within my culture is totally fine I figure cause well there isn’t racism potential in that (or so I can see).

Fire me back with comments. I’m curious. Is that not contributing to oppressive language or not considering that someone isn’t being respected?

It’s funny because in Canada we don’t actually do things like that…well I haven’t been to conferences where people imitate individuals like that unless they are of the same race I suppose.

I probably should have broken the Lake Cowal episode into two points but I didn’t cause I was trying to deal with it I suppose.

There was still some points that I wanted to get off my mind but that last post turned more into some epic novel of sorts.

What bothers me in this day in age is that we are really focussed as countries (Canada/Australia) on trying to solve other countries problems like Iraq/Iran/[insert country here] and not spending much time dealing with our own internal problems. Why is it acceptable to ignore the rights of indigenous people here in Australia or even in Canada? Why is it that New Zealand seems to show the most respect (as far as I can tell) with regards to the development of relationships between the government and the Maori people. I mean Canada prides itself in being a peacekeeping country and goes around to other countries trying to ensure that there is less bloodshed, things can get resolved, etc. Yet like Australia or own country does very little to properly deal with the First Nations/Indigenous peoples land claims or at the very least demands for respect of sacred burial grounds. It upsets me that we would treat people that way.

I spent some time up in KohuKohu and apparently they were expanding the road up there when a worker cutting down a tree came across some bones that fell out of the tree stump. All the work was haulted, elders were called in to figure out how big the burial grounds were/bless things, and further discussions were done to figure out the next course of action. It means that everyone was equal at the bargaining table and that they figure out a solution together because they wanted to show respect for peoples that have been there long before New Zealanders settled. I don’t think that type of negotiation is that hard! Frankly, you’d have a lot less people protesting or having to occupy sacred grounds to prevent golf course expansions. Seriously folks don’t you think there is some compremise. We should be resolving these issues so that the children (your children) don’t have the carry the weight that we have all been carrying from the mistreatment of these people.

Native Rights Drawing

[I’m warning you this is going to be a loooooooooooooooooong post. Lots of stuff happened this weekend that I am trying hard to deal with]

Save Lake CowalAs some of you might know (or not know) this weekend I headed to Lake Cowal to support a 5 year running protest against Barrick Gold (gold mining company from Canada tragically) who has been exploiting the land at Lake Cowal in several ways.

My time at the camp during the three days was beautiful once we finally got there as it was spent with beautiful people from all over Australia and the world! These included a few different family of fun kids, indigenous people, and others from around Australia and the world. Tragically, Maurice, Andrew, & I received a few (read: 20 I believe was the last count) flat tires on our ride out to the site and finally gave up and had to call in backup vehicle support to come get us.

“Our Aboriginal People are being denied access to our sacred ground. Protestors from around the world are here to support our claim for access to our ancient lands. Australian Aboriginal Peoples have the oldest continuing living culture in the world. We Wiradjuri People are also being denied the right of spiritual and religious freedom under s.116 of the Australian Constitution,” Mr Williams said.

“Barrick is desecrating our sacred site and Dreaming Place and denying us access to our traditional lands. The company has moved or destroyed more than 10 000 artefacts including marked trees, damaging the integrity of the area forever.”

“Despite Barrick’s assertion that we are misleading people, what we are doing is our ancient cultural duty to protect our sacred Country for the generations to come. We are also raising awareness of the dangers of cyanide leach gold mining and the mine’s excessive use of precious water in the middle of the worst drought on record. The fullest dams, in the very parched countryside between Condobolin and the mine, are the toxic tailings ponds west of the open cut pit, which extends into the lakebed.”

I went there to help represent the indigenous people of this country (read: each area that is occupied by a different indigenous country in Australia is called a country here..which I love) .

The actions of the day were quite successful in bringing awareness to the fact that this issue is still taking place. I spent my day performing native dances, doing a sit outside the gates, and supporting other protesters who were entering the mines. Oh and at one point I became the food man bringing food around to people that I had stocked up before we left our camp. It would have been nice to see more people out there but I still think we had an impact (have a look at this rad video of the Tranny Minors that performed). I saw some really fuckin brave people out there getting arrested for what they believe in. It was kinda unfortunate I couldn’t have participated more although I feel my actions were useful too.

But really folks did you realize that cyanide is waste product in the processing of gold. It’s tragic that on such a special lake we would want to introduce a poison that will threaten many different species of birds. Especially, when this lake is recognized as a special place recognized as being one of Australia’s Important Wetlands. Alright so what can I do? Write a letter (pre-made and handcrafted right here!) to these folks here and make sure that your investments are contributing to this destruction. Barricks doesn’t care that they have depleted loads of the water on this lake already even during a massive drought or that indigenous people of this area don’t agree with the settlement made.

[Warning: This bit is quite long and more about the traumatic experience that happened to me while there…I’m still trying to deal with it all actually]

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