Introduction to Indigenous Solidarity: A Workshop

By Manahil Bandukwala

The Women’s and Gender Studies Students Society (WGSTSS) hosted their first “Intersectional Voices” workshop on Oct. 2, bringing attention to the struggles indigenous people face and how non-indigenous people can be allies to the movement.

Indigenous People’s Solidarity Movement – Ottawa (IPSMO) presented the workshop, entitled “Introduction to Indigenous Solidarity.” There were both indigenous and non-indigenous people in attendance.

“Every day we are on stolen Algonquin land. The municipal government, the provincial government, the federal government is operating on this territory illegally – according to Canadian law and international law, and Algonquin law,” said Matt Astronave, who conducted the workshop.

Before beginning the workshop, rules for creating a safe space were established, which included showing compassion and respect, openness, humour, and awareness of space.

There was an introduction to the terms used when talking about indigenous people, such as Inuit, Metis, and First Nations, and the attendees were split into smaller groups to discuss their views on indigenous people and indigenous solidarity.

Astronave then spoke about the “terms” that are used to divide indigenous people, as the Canadian government negotiates with and treats Inuit people as being separate from indigenous people.

According to Jocelyn, an indigenous woman present, “Aboriginal also means ‘not original,’ and that’s why when you know what it actually means, you don’t identify yourself as ‘not original’,” in response to the aboriginal label that the Canadian government imposed upon the indigenous people.

According to the Indian Act, an indigenous woman who married a non-indigenous person lost their Indian status, but a non-indigenous woman who married an indigenous person was granted the rights of the indigenous people. Bill C-31, which sought to address this gender discrimination, created resentment on the reserves because those who had previously lost their Indian status were still not granted the rights that were taken away from them. The population is still not receiving the funds to equal the increase, and this, whether intentional or not, created resentment.

Participants then split into groups again, this time to compile a timeline of colonial actions and indigenous responses.

The last activity of the workshop was to identify the causes, events, and aftermath of the indigenous people’s plight. Causes included colonialism, Euro-centricism, racism, sexism, greed, and white supremacy. The events included the Indian Act, lying, and residential schools. In the aftermath, there was a loss of culture, language, and religion, a lack of identity and unification, and a ‘soft’ genocide.

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