lights camera sound actions | time-based contemporary art

Related to Graciously Pleased

In Uncategorized on February 7, 2017 at 8:09 pm

The following is copy published on the Facebook page of the Short Hills Reconciliation Activities, followed by unfinished notes. It is published here as background on my audio work, Graciously Pleased.

Reflection on Week One
November 21, 2016

At a recent event sharing Haudenosaunee perspectives, a man expressed concern about the word “reconciliation” because to Canadians it means, Get over it. I know that’s true for many. But for many other Canadians, reconciliation means – Oh Canada did that, I didn’t know. That’s not right, what can I do? Reconciliation is not an easy process and involves work on a personal as well as social and political level. Most of us settlers don’t know the history of genocidal policy because it wasn’t taught to us. It’s painful.

There is a significant opportunity in Niagara for settlers to engage in reconciliation and it is the annual Haundenosaunee hunt at Short Hills Provincial Park. The Nanfan Treaty of 1701 between the Haundenosaunee and the British Crown provides hunting rights in a vast area including where we live. These rights were included in the Canadian Constitution. A partnership between the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Haunenosaunee Wildlife and Habitat Authority resulted in an official hunt starting 2013. (This followed an earlier challenge by an individual claiming his right.)

For hundreds of years, our governments have broken many treaty agreements, and changed their intents. Observing treaties is a fundamental basis of the Nation-to-Nation relationship so recently affirmed by the Canadian government. Here in Niagara, we have an opportunity to break the cycle of broken promises by affirming the Haundenosaunee right to hunt. Reconciliation doesn’t happen when you pick and choose the parts that you like, that fit with your preconceived notions. We begin our reconciliation process by looking at our preconceived notions.

Another fundamental concept in the early treaties is sharing, a concept much more aligned to indigenous worldviews than that of the colonizers. Can we not share the park for 6 days a year with a people for whom the land represents so much more than a recreational sanctuary – for whom the deer are the lead animal providing food, clothing, musical instruments and ceremonial regalia for spiritual practice?

Supporters of the Haundenosaunee Right to Hunt have organized a series of family-friendly activities aimed at education and inclusion of community members for whom joining those at the barricade is not an option. The first activity was an opening on the day before the hunt started – Inviting peace and understanding: traditional opening and welcome to recognize the land and help us come together in a good way, led by Karl Dockstader, Oneida of the Thames Bear Clan. The Two Row Wampum beading workshop scheduled for the first day of the hunt was rained out. A powerful activity called The Blanket Exercise was held on the second day. This is a teaching tool developed by KAIROS to raise awareness and understanding of the Nation-to-Nation relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. It was facilitated by Donna Bomberry, Turtle Clan, Cayuga Nation, member of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, and Henriette Thompson, settler-ally, past KAIROS board member.

Historical facts from hundreds of years of genocidal policy against indigenous people here in Canada are read and symbolically enacted, using blankets spread on the ground to represent land. A group of about 24 indigenous and settler people did this together on Sunday, including a man who lived down the road. Niagara Regional Police permission had been obtained to carry out this exercise in front of the barricade but the Ministry staff on shift refused to allow it, citing “safety”. So we moved to a grassy area that is part of vinyard private property. The anti-hunt protestors called in complaints. We were not removed and completed the exercise but it was very powerful to experience these attempts to limit our use of these tiny parcels of land while carrying out the Blanket Exercise.

In addition to attending these afternoon events, I have also been at the barricades for the hunter morning entry and late afternoon exit where they face many anti-hunt protestors. While I stood there on occasion in 2013 and 2015, I have stepped up my involvement this year. I am committed to peacework. I believe the phrase, you must be the change you want to see. I believe that hate begets hate. It’s taken me a long time to have stability of calm mind in the face of hatred and even now I recognize I can still be thrown off centre easily, so I follow the strategy of mostly non-engagement with the anti-hunt protestors. I am working towards greater dialogue.

Many years ago I was part of a women’s drum circle, Winds of Change, and we experienced controversy because some of us were non-native. I am an artist, and in a performance called Song For A Blue Moon performed in 2004, a section was about a fishing rights conflict in New Brunswick and I sang, Singing the songs is my promise. That promise was to use the privilege of singing the songs for political change. It is my great joy to sing the songs I learned in a healing circle so long ago at these barricades, to experience the incredible strength of singing and drumming beside the anti-hunt people engaged in hatred, racism and confrontation.

There is a vocal anti-hunt group with the money to purchase full-page newspaper ads and some of them live in the wealthy homes bordering the park. Amongst them are animal rights activists who oppose eating animals (although one of them wears a Canada Goose jacket), and others just disagree with anyone hunting in the park. Deep racism manifested in disregard for treaty rights and cultural practice lies within them. Likely many of them have no awareness of the racist implications of their actions. Likely many of these people know nothing of Canada’s history of genocidal policy against First Nations and some of them don’t want to know because they prefer their hatred. (I believe this is one of the qualities of white supremacists.)

November 30, 2013

November 30, 2013

The first year of the hunt there was little support activity, but after hearing from some hunters from Six Nations about the abuse they were facing, on the last day, some indigenous and settler people lined Pelham Rd. with flags and cheers for the hunters as they exited the park. I was there. That was the year that I got to know Dylan Powell, because of my intense admiration that an animal rights’ activist would support the Haundenosaunee right to hunt. (I understand he paid for that.)

The second year I didn’t go. A few months later, the Brock University Indigenous Solidarity Committee organized a panel of speakers and I attended the packed room. Last year I made it to the barricades only once.

The anti-hunt group engages in tactics I consider wrong, such as lying, screaming abuse and obscenities in the face of a person speaking peacefully, making racist remarks (that are shocking to me only because of my own white privilege, my indigenous friends have heard it all before). When peacework attempts were made the first week, such as striking up conversations, they were usually met by refusal. I think these refusals are so firm because these people are afraid that they will feel wrong if they listen. No one wants to feel wrong.

Of course, these people consider me wrong, very wrong, such is the nature of conflict. Certainly the women I engaged with one day for whom any killing is wrong consider me a monster. It’s very likely that when the firekeeper smudges those engaged in direct conflict with the goal of cleansing negativity, they believe he is harassing them with smoke. They photograph licence plates and last year when I attended the barricade I felt a flash of fear about reprisals; that is the intent of course, to intimidate and make me stay away out of fear for my safety. This year, I have not felt that fear and I think it is because of the depth of my admiration for Celeste and Jodielynn, my happiness that they have provided the structure within which I can act, and my gratitude that my life took me on a direction leading to this.


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