Vol. 3, Is. 2: Indigenous Sovereignty
Winter Issue 2, 2011
The YU Free Press is happy to introduce the first issue of the winter term and the 2011 year: ‘Indigenous Sovereignty.’
Canada’s colonialist history is long and shameful. Although very early relations with Indigenous people were civil as long as trade was lucrative, European settlers looking to expand resorted to seedy tactics: trading blankets that had been infected with smallpox, tricking Indigenous people into signing treaties that were deliberately mistranslated. With the passage of the Indian Act, the ‘Indian problem’ was to be solved by isolating Indigenous people on reserves and leaving the populations to die out — death by deprivation.
Through the 19th and 20th centuries, residential schools were built for the purpose of teaching Indigenous children European language and religion. Social workers would kidnap children from reserves and dump them in the school system, where they would stay until they were 18. Children were abused, murdered, and forced to renounce their cultural heritage. When racial hygiene became a growing concern, girls would be forcibly sterilized.
Reserves have been moved and reduced, and are often located in areas that are dangerous to inhabit. Whole communities have been displaced due to oil production in the tar sands, while other communities nearby experience the toxic effects of Canada’s ever-
expanding oil industry in the form of cancers, respiratory problems, and contaminated drinking water.
Hundreds of Indigenous women have been disappeared in the past ten years alone, and yet little is ever done to acknowledge or search for those missing. There are incidents whereby police murder Indigenous people, acts which are somehow justified by referring to the victims’ mental health.
Depression, substance dependency, and suicide are at all-time highs among
Indigenous populations, and it is little wonder why: these are a people who have had to resist and survive genocide.
Similar to Canadian Indigenous people, the Maori population has fought for land rights, and is more prone than the rest of New Zealand to health problems. Mayans of Guatemala were subject to mass rape, torture, and massacre as early as thirty years ago. The effects of apartheid are still felt in South Africa. Palestinians and Tamils have been displaced and systematically deprived of resources while locked in conflict with their respective colonizers, Israel and Sri Lanka. Such issues and more are explored in this publication.
Our Features section showcases a gamut of works dealing with Indigenous issues at home and abroad. Maria Guadognoli-Closs’s ‘Aboriginal Women’s Health Issues’ describes the exclusion of Aboriginal women’s health from the study of women’s health in Canada. Her
article presents a detailed analysis of factors affecting the health of Aboriginal women like accessibility, sexuality and reproduction, and violence. In ‘The Canadian Aboriginal Reserve as Ghettos and Aboriginal Suicide Rates,’ Athena Goodfellow explores how the effects of historical colonization negatively impact Aboriginal youth today. David McNally’s ‘Night in Tunisia: Riots, Strikes, and a Spreading Insurgency’ delves into the recent political unrest in Tunisia and the implications of such successful activism on insurgencies and working class movements around the globe.
In ‘Remembering David Noble,’ an article in our Comments section, Gordon Shean writes in memory of Professor David Noble who was an engaged and thought-provoking activist and educator at York University. Jen Rinaldi and Samantha Walsh argue in support of Bill 83, the Protecting Vulnerable People Against Picketing Act, noting that the interests of people with disabilities must be upheld.
In our News section, Megan Kinch and Michael Romandel’s ‘Groups Protest Unholy Alliance between Jewish Defence League and English Neo-Fascists’ offers a first-hand account of the protests of anti-racist and human rights activists held against the JDL’s
blatant support of the English Defence League, a militant, extremist group known for its racist and anti-Islamic crusading. In ‘Racism between the Lines: Exposing and Opposing Racism Behind Toronto Star and Maclean’s Articles,’ the Filipino Canadian Youth
Alliance–Ontario provides a statement on the recent, racist publications in Maclean’s and the Toronto Star and highlight the importance of inclusive journalism in mainstream media.
Finally, our Arts & Culture section presents an article on Anishinaabe-Canadian artist Rebecca Belmore. Kristen Daigle recounts Belmore’s courageous art performance titled Worth–created as a response to a lawsuit against the artist’s rights to her own artworks. We also present a series of poems by Jorge Antonio Vallejos. ‘I Keep Walking’ paints the cultural ignorance of the disconnect between different Indigenous struggles across time and space. ‘The Great Crime’ seems to create a space of mutual yet alternate meaning through contrasting the reality of our corporate, colonizing present with that of the Indigenous past. Of course, poetry can be interpreted in countless ways and Vallejos succeeds in creating an explosion of meaning with few words.
We are at a turning point in history; as we reach the pinnacle of global integration, the existences of many local communities and Indigenous populations are threatened. The
extension of historical colonialism–corporate globalization–has destroyed and/or endangered oceans, forests, habitats, and many animal species. Inequalities plague the working class and we now begin to see a mass global uprising against existing conditions.
Insurgencies that began in Tunisia spread like fire to Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and Algeria. More and more nations are beginning to accept Palestinian sovereignty and statehood; the recent wave of Latin American countries like Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, Guyana, and Cuba recognizing Palestine have planted seeds of hope in the hearts of activists everywhere.
We need not look far for injustice, apartheid, and colonial oppression, for our own history is tainted with it all. However, we also need not look far for resistance and victories; our issue is dedicated not only to people indigenous to Canada, for colonialism is a global phenomenon–and it is more global today than it ever was. Once again, we are proud to showcase stories and narratives that are structurally excluded from mainstream media and discourse. Please do not hesitate to send us your critical feedback and responses. Lastly, we would like to thank all of our contributors and welcome Jenelle
Regnier-Davies as one of our newest Features Editors and Zahran Khan as our new Collective Administrator.
Thank you for reading the YU Free Press; we hope you cherish reading this issue and enjoy it as much as we have enjoyed delivering it to you.
YU Free Press Editorial Collective