Rolihlahla==NELSON==troublemaker==missed by all

This was an enormously talented and wise man who accomplished an almost impossible task with courage, dignity, charm and an unbelievable lack of bitterness or hatred.

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1. Richard’s View

   Richard Wagamese

Thoughts on Mandela – My elders say that our loved ones never truly leave us. They are a part of the rain and the wind and are with us always. We need only stand upon the land and raise our faces to the universe to feel them with us. Voices are never silenced. They sing in the hearts of those who have heard them forever. Relationships never end. They just change. Mandela taught us the quality of freedom. Its definition was the example of his life. We were made more by his living. We are increased in spirit by the enduring essence of his time here. There is no color in the Spirit World. There is no time. Rest well, our brother. Until we speak again….

Mandela-trouble-makerrhollla sams-- triumphNelson-Mandela-SouthAfrica wedding with bookth6OFT05YO

2. Stephen Lewis Remembers Mandela And Graca.

wife 3-mandela_and_machel_jpg_size_xxlarge_promoNelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel at the naming of the Nelson Mandela Park Public School in Toronto, November 17, 2001.

I never really knew Nelson Mandela in his illustrious political role. I had certainly dealt with him on some important children’s issues when I was working with UNICEF, but my knowledge of Madiba, as he was known to everyone, emerged in a much more personal way.

I had the enormous privilege, back in the 1990s, of co-ordinating a study on the consequences of armed conflict on children. The expert for the study, appointed by the United Nations, was Graça Machel, a former first lady of Mozambique.

We became fast friends, and remain close friends to this day.

During the course of the study, the courtship began between Graça and Madiba . . . a touching, sublimely lovely courtship to which, on occasion, I was privy (dare I say it: they giggled on the phone like teenagers). On Madiba’s 80th birthday they were married. More relevant, for the purpose of this brief essay, was the extraordinary opportunity the friendship with Graça gave me to see Madiba up close.

On almost every visit I made to Johannesburg between 2000 and 2009 (Mandela began to decline physically in 2009 and was rarely available thereafter), I dropped by the Mandela household for lunch or dinner. Usually it was just the three of us; Graça would ladle food onto Mandela’s plate, make sure he had water to drink, and we would while away the time with friendly chit-chat.

The depth of the bond between them was immediately evident. If Graça left the room for any reason, Madiba’s shoulders would physically sag, his features would pale, and with great anxiety he would ask where she’d gone and when would she come back. When she did return, even after a few minutes, his whole being would come alive with confidence and affection. It was an instantaneous and amazing transformation. I often thought to myself that because of the famously fraught relationship with Winnie Mandela, the world never got to understand the depth of the love that Graça and Madiba shared.

What did we talk about? Almost always about Canada (as opposed, for example, to HIV/AIDS or the UN). He wanted to know everything about Canada, especially the political currents of the moment.

And therein lie my most vivid memories. For Mandela, Canada was the indispensable key to his freedom. And in his eyes, the man who turned the key was Brian Mulroney.

He was deeply taken with Mulroney; almost to the point of an endearing obsession. He knew that Mulroney hated apartheid, and was determined to see its overthrow. He knew that Mulroney, almost alone in the Commonwealth, had battled ferociously with Margaret Thatcher over his – Mandela’s – freedom. He knew that Mulroney had spoken eloquently at the United Nations, endorsing sanctions and even threatening to sever diplomatic relations if South Africa did not abandon apartheid, and had further used the Commonwealth Group of Eminent Persons (Canada was represented by the wonderful Anglican Archbishop Ted Scott) to apply tremendous pressure on South African president F.W. de Klerk for his release.

His regard for Mulroney, and thus for Canada, was truly genuine and intense. I remember his saying at one point early in our conversations: “Tell me, young man, how is my friend Brian? He’s been very good to me. Yes, Canada’s been very good to me.” It explains, I think, not only his constant curiosity about our politics and culture, but also his eager embrace of visiting Canada not long after imprisonment was left behind.

I should add that Mandela was invariably circumspect: he rarely discussed or passed judgment on international issues, with one exception. He clearly hated the Iraq war. He could never resist calling Tony Blair the “foreign minister of the United States.”

It’s true what they say of Mandela. In all of our various conversations, there was never a word of acrimony, of rancour. I’d be ready to rhetorically kill all and any of his detractors, past and present, and he’d smile indulgently, treating me, in the gentlest of ways, as a disgruntled adolescent. I could never get over the kindness, the decency, the generosity with which he viewed the world. All the world.

In my mind, I’ll always have the picture of Nelson Mandela strolling slowly through his garden at his home in Johannesburg, making his way into the living room, sitting down in the large armchair, and reading every single paper he could get his hands on, English and Afrikaans. Then would begin the procession: the never-ending flow of well-wishers and friends. There would be school-kids and potentates, soccer teams and movie stars, political allies from the trenches of yore, and clerics and parishioners who wanted only the touch of his hand.

Mandela would greet them all with an unselfconscious grace, immense warmth and irrepressible twinkle. He loved company. He loved to josh and tease. And even though his eyes, like his lungs, had been severely damaged by incarceration, he was always willing to take pictures, so long as the camera had no flash.

And then, when the visits were over, and inspiration dispensed, Graça would enter, and hand-in-hand they’d climb the staircase to seclusion, together.

Stephen Lewis, a former leader of the Opposition at Queen’s Park, served as Canada’s UN ambassador, 1984-88; deputy director of UNICEF, 1995-1999; and UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, 2001-2006. He is currently Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto.


mandela-obit-finnegan.jpgAbove, in what must have been a wonderful moment for him, at a non-segregated school in South Africa.
Mandela was the last of the twentieth century’s national liberators. He became a global symbol of righteousness and reconciliation. He led his beloved, tormented country from the howling darkness of apartheid to the promised land of democracy with shrewdness, courage, and visionary determination. It was a long and difficult trip, both for Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday, and for South Africa.When Mandela was born, in 1918, his parents named him Rolihlahla—“troublemaker,” in Xhosa. He got the name Nelson at a mission school, where teachers handed out the names of British imperial heroes. Raised in the Transkei, a remote, hilly territory on the Indian Ocean coast, he had an old-fashioned rural African childhood, herding cattle and sleeping in a round, thatched-roof hut. His father was an adviser to the royal family of the Thembu tribe; a renowned orator, he was illiterate, polygamous, and, in his son’s memory, a commanding figure. At sixteen, Mandela was shocked to hear a Xhosa chief rail against the treatment of black South Africans. “I was cross rather than aroused by the chief’s remarks,” he wrote, in “Long Walk to Freedom,” his autobiography, “dismissing his words as the abusive comments of an ignorant man who was unable to appreciate the value of the education and benefits that the white man had brought to our country.”

Mandela’s political evolution was gradual. At the University College of Fort Hare, his goal was to become “an interpreter or a clerk in the Native Affairs Department.” He was a country boy, a clotheshorse, a Xhosa chauvinist. He was also a natural leader and, while at Fort Hare, he made friends who would become lifelong political comrades, among them Oliver Tambo. Mandela was expelled from Fort Hare in a dispute over student rights, then fled the Transkei to escape an arranged marriage. He arrived in Johannesburg in 1941, worked as a night watchman on a mine, and then met Walter Sisulu, a political activist, who helped him get a job as an articled clerk at a law firm. He began to study law. Slowly, he was drawn into politics.

I cannot pinpoint a moment when I became politicized, when I knew that I would spend my life in the liberation struggle. To be an African in South Africa means that one is politicized from the moment of one’s birth, whether one acknowledges it or not.

Mandela became conscious of “an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people.” White-minority rule in South Africa did resemble, for its black majority, an open-air prison. Dispossessed, restricted in their movements, blacks toiled, voteless, at the bottom of a pitiless economic and political structure.

One of the few channels available for mass resistance was the boycott. In 1943, Mandela marched in an enormous bus boycott that succeeded in reversing a fare increase. Soon afterward, he joined the African National Congress. The A.N.C. had been campaigning for equal rights, to little effect, since 1912. Determined to inject new zeal into the old organization, Mandela, along with Sisulu, Tambo, and others, founded the A.N.C. Youth League. The Youth League tried, unsuccessfully, to expel Communists, whose intentions they suspected, from the A.N.C. The young men also mistrusted the propensity of their radical white, Indian, and mixed-race comrades to monopolize discussions and thus replicate the prevailing social order.

Mandela became a lawyer in 1952. He and Tambo opened the country’s first African law firm. The political landscape had become dramatically harsher, though, after Afrikaner nationalists, propounding a fiercely racist program that they called apartheid, won a whites-only national election in 1948. The dispossession of black South Africans accelerated. The Communist Party was outlawed. The state took over the education of blacks, with malign intent and ruinous consequences. Resistance leaders, including Mandela, were “banned”—a peculiarly South African punishment under which a person could not be quoted, speak publicly, write, travel, or associate with more than one person at a time.

In 1956, Mandela, along with a hundred and fifty-five other dissidents, was charged with treason. Their trial lasted more than four years. Although it ended with acquittals, Mandela had grown disenchanted with the law.

I went from having an idealistic view of the law as a sword of justice to a perception of the law as a tool used by the ruling class to shape society in a way favorable to itself. I never expected justice in court, however much I fought for it, and though I sometimes received it.

The A.N.C. was outlawed in 1960. Mandela’s first marriage and his law practice had already fallen victim to the rigors of his political involvement. Now he, along with many others, was driven underground or into exile. In 1961, the A.N.C. launched an armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). Mandela, convinced that there was no peaceful alternative, became its first commander. He travelled through Africa and Europe, seeking support. He underwent military training in Ethiopia, and then returned, in secret, to South Africa, where he was captured on August 5, 1962.

Mandela, Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, and six others were charged with sabotage, a crime that carried the death penalty. They announced beforehand that they would not appeal a death sentence. Mandela gave a four-hour speech from the dock, tracing his own evolution from tribalism to African nationalism to a belief in nonracial democracy. He admitted to being the commander of Umkhonto we Sizwe but denied that he was a Communist. He praised “the ideal of a democratic and free society” and concluded, “It is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” He and his main co-defendants were given life sentences.

Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison, including eighteen years on Robben Island, an infamous penitentiary near Cape Town. He was forced to work for years in a lime quarry without sunglasses, which permanently damaged his eyesight. He later contracted tuberculosis from a damp cell. For companionship, he had most of the A.N.C.’s senior leadership, including Sisulu and Mbeki. An influx of new political prisoners arrived after the uprisings of 1976. Most of them had grown up with little knowledge of Mandela or the A.N.C., whose words, ideas, and even images were banned in South Africa. Robben Island became known as Nelson Mandela University. The confluence of activists of different generations, and the lively debates between them, created new alliances and, with the eventual release of some of the younger leaders, reinvigorated A.N.C. networks. In 1985, the regime offered to release Mandela if he would renounce violence as a political instrument. He replied that it was the government that needed to renounce violence, and he declined the offer, issuing a statement through his daughter Zindzi, saying, “Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”

The pressures on Pretoria, both internal and external, grew. Black communities were in full revolt from the mid-eighties onward. A financial crisis began when international banks, after a cold reassessment of the country’s stability, refused to roll over major loans to South Africa. The anti-apartheid movement gained traction globally. Economic sanctions and the divestment campaign, although opposed by conservative Western leaders, including Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, who continued to call the A.N.C. a “terrorist organization,” began to take their toll. The collapse of the Soviet Union and its client tyrannies in Eastern Europe stripped the apartheid state’s self-proclaimed anti-Communisist stance—its main claim to Cold War legitimacy—of any last shreds of credibility. Mandela was released near Cape Town on February 11, 1990, to worldwide acclaim.

It took four years of tumultuous, bitter negotiations to produce the country’s first democratic election. Amid continuing violence, Mandela had to keep a fractious, diverse coalition together while horse-trading with his Afrikaner adversaries over the terms of the historic transition. He travelled the globe, enlisting support, drawing vast crowds—he received a ticker-tape parade up lower Broadway—and personally thanking those who had supported the A.N.C., including Fidel Castro and Muammar Qaddafi, whom he considered, to the horror of many well-wishers, true comrades. In 1993, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, together with F. W. de Klerk, the State President of South Africa and his negotiating counterpart, though no love was lost between the two men. Mandela had worried, while in prison, that he would become a “political fossil” after being out of circulation for so long. And he was, in fact, like a leader from another era, the pre-television era, with his courtliness, his seriousness, his indifference to the camera. Yet he seemed altogether up on current events and left few audiences unwowed.

He became South Africa’s first democratically elected President on April 27, 1994. De Klerk, by agreement, became one of two Deputy Presidents, and Mandela went out of his way to reassure businesses and white citizens generally that they were welcome in the new South Africa. Ambitious programs to combat poverty, illiteracy, and inequality were launched. Long-cherished A.N.C. plans to nationalize banking, mining, and other industries were shelved. Mandela established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which gave victims of apartheid violence the chance to tell their stories and offered amnesty to those who testified about their crimes, and chose Archbishop Desmond Tutu to lead it. Its two years of public hearings produced tales even more horrifying than many South Africans had expected. Some victims and grieving families were bitter about the amnesties granted to killers and torturers. De Klerk sued, successfully, to have the commission’s findings about his personal responsibility redacted. The A.N.C., over Mandela’s objections, also tried, without success, to have testimony about abuses in its external training camps suppressed.

While the A.N.C. dominated politics and government under the new dispensation, the opposition parties and the press remained sharp critics. In 1999, Mandela expressed his exasperation to Anthony Sampson, his authorized biographer. “He attacked the ‘Mickey Mouse’ white parties,” Sampson wrote, “to which Tony Leon of the Democratic Party replied that Mandela was ‘running a Goofy government.’ (Some weeks later, Mandela was visiting a hospital where Leon was recovering from an operation, and called out from behind the curtains: ‘Mickey Mouse, this is Goofy!’)”

Mandela’s long marriage to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, which had produced two daughters before his imprisonment, and had helped him endure the decades in jail, ended in divorce in 1996. Winnie, banished and persecuted by the apartheid state, had become a political force in her own right, but went off the rails in the nineteen-eighties. She publicly endorsed the grisliest type of mob justice, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission later found her security detail directly responsible, with her close involvement, for numerous murders, abductions, and assaults.

In 1998, on his eightieth birthday, Mandela married Graça Machel, the widow of Mozambique’s first President, Samora Machel. A distinguished educator and humanitarian, she is the first person to have been First Lady of two countries. Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada attended the wedding, as did Christo Brand, one of Mandela’s former prison guards, who by that time ran a Robben Island gift shop in Cape Town.

Mandela served one five-year term as President, then retired. He continued to work and travel at a hectic pace, devoting himself to peace campaigning and charitable work, particularly children’s welfare and the fight against H.I.V./AIDS. He was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, among many other decorations and honors. In 2004, at nearly eighty-six, in frail health, he told a gathering at his home in Johannesburg that he was “retiring from retirement.” He wanted to read more books, live quietly in a house he had built in his ancestral village, and enjoy his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and doting wife. “Thanks for being kind to an old man,” he told his guests, “allowing him to take a rest even if many of you may feel that after loafing somewhere on an island and other places for twenty-seven years, the rest is not really deserved.” He promised to stay in touch. “Don’t call me. I will call you.”

Above: Mandela visiting a mixed-race high school in Johannesburg, 1994. Photograph by Ian Berry/Magnum.

Read more of The New Yorker’s memorial coverage of Nelson Mandela.


A Fourth View

Of course, the challenges of centuries of exploitation are not over yet for South Africa.

Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel.

Dear revisionists, Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel. Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. You will try to hide his anger from view. Right now, you are anxiously pacing the corridors of your condos and country estates, looking for the right words, the right tributes, the right-wing tributes. You will say that Mandela was not about race. You will say that Mandela was not about politics. You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. “Let’s get together, and feel alright.” Yes, you will do that.

You will make out that apartheid was just some sort of evil mystical space disease that suddenly fell from the heavens and settled on all of us, had us all, black or white, in its thrall, until Mandela appeared from the ether to redeem us. You will try to make Mandela a Magic Negro and you will fail. You will say that Mandela stood above all for forgiveness whilst scuttling swiftly over the details of the perversity that he had the grace to forgive.
You will try to make out that apartheid was some horrid spontaneous historical aberration, and not the logical culmination of centuries of imperial arrogance. Yes, you will try that too. You will imply or audaciously state that its evils ended the day Mandela stepped out of jail. You will fold your hands and say the blacks have no-one to blame now but themselves.
Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it. And perhaps the greatest tragedy of Mandela’s life isn’t that he spent almost thirty years jailed by well-heeled racists who tried to shatter millions of spirits through breaking his soul, but that there weren’t or aren’t nearly enough people like him.
Because that’s South Africa now, a country long ago plunged headfirst so deep into the sewage of racial hatred that, for all Mandela’s efforts, it is still retching by the side of the swamp. Just imagine if Cape Town were London.  Imagine seeing two million white people living in shacks and mud huts along the M25 as you make your way into the city, where most of the biggest houses and biggest jobs are occupied by a small, affluent to wealthy group of black people.  There are no words for the resentment that would still simmer there.
Nelson Mandela was not a god, floating elegantly above us and saving us. He was utterly, thoroughly human, and he did all he did in spite of people like you. There is no need to name you because you know who you are, we know who you are, and you know we know that too. You didn’t break him in life, and  you won’t shape him in death. You will try, wherever you are, and you will fail.

5. His Own View

Mandela-love versus hatred


winny going to the trial _57391618_rivonia_ap224x299
… But the violence which we chose to adopt was not terrorism. Four forms of violence were possible. There is sabotage, there is guerrilla warfare, there is terrorism, and there is open revolution. We chose to adopt the first method and to exhaust it before taking any other decision.

‘So-called hardships’

I have always regarded myself, in the first place, as an African patriot. I was born in Mthatha, 46 years ago. My guardian was my cousin, who was the acting paramount chief of Tembuland, and I am related both to the present paramount chief of Tembuland, Sabata Dalindyebo, and to Kaizer Matanzima, the chief minister of the Transkei.

As I understand the state case… the suggestion is that Umkhonto was the inspiration of the Communist Party which sought by playing upon imaginary grievances to enrol the African people into an army which ostensibly was to fight for African freedom, but in reality was fighting for a communist state.

Winnie Mandela going to the trial The Rivonia trial electrified South Africa.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the suggestion is preposterous. Umkhonto was formed by Africans to further their struggle for freedom in their own land.

Our fight is against real, and not imaginary, hardships or, to use the language of the state prosecutor, so-called hardships. Basically, we fight against two features which are the hallmarks of African life in South Africa and which are entrenched by legislation which we seek to have repealed.

These features are poverty and lack of human dignity, and we do not need communists or so-called agitators to teach us about these things.

South Africa is the richest country in Africa, and could be one of the richest countries in the world. But it is a land of extremes and remarkable contrasts. The whites enjoy what may well be the highest standard of living in the world, whilst Africans live in poverty and misery.


  6. From a friend in Ghana

Femi Adeniyi-Omotoso

Baba Mandela, you have played your own part in an exceptional way. You have created a record that may be difficult to break by any one else. You were a valiant and the great father of black race of all time. Baba, I wish I could immortalize you. You were more than an ordinary person, more than a hero. You are the greatest man of all time. Remain the greatest in the world beyond. You are the great rock that refused to be broken. The brilliant light that refused to be deemed. You are so wonderful, Baba. You remain a brilliant star, even in your grave.

Love and miss you, till world without end.

Rest well, Baba Mandela.






Leanne Simpson. The other half of the Elsipogtog story.

((Leanne’s fourth book, The Gift is in the Making, a collection of Nishnaabeg stories is now available from the Debwe Series, Highwater Press. Her first book of short stories, Islands of Decolonial Love is forthcoming fall 2013 from ARP Books and is accompanied by a full length spoken word album.))

In the mid-1990s I moved to Mi’gma’gi to go to graduate school. I was expecting to learn about juvenile Atlantic salmon on the Miramichi River. I was naive and misguided. Fortunately for me, the Mi’kmaq people saw that in me and they taught me something far more profound. I did my first sweat in the homeland of Elsipogtog, in the district of Siknikt. I did solidarity work with the women of Elsipogtog, then known as Big Cove, as they struggled against imposed poverty and poor housing. One of them taught me my first song, the Mi’kmaq honour song, and I attended her Native Studies class with her as she sang it to a room full of shocked students.

I also found a much needed refuge with a Mi’kmaq family on a nearby reserve. What I learned from all of these kind people who saw me as an Nishnaabeg in a town where no one else did, was that the place I needed to be wasn’t Mi’gma’gi, but in my own Mississauga Nishnaabeg homeland. For that I am grateful.

Nearly every year I travel east to Mi’gma’gi for one reason or another. In 2010, my children and I travelled to Listuguj in the Gespe’gewa’gi district of Mi’gma’gi to witness the PhD dissertation defense of Fred Metallic. I was on Fred’s dissertation committee, and Fred had written and was about to defend his entire dissertation in Mi’gmaw (Mi’kmaq) without translation — a ground breaking achievement. Fred had also kindly invited us to his community for the defence. When some of the university professors indicated that this might be difficult given that the university was 1300 km away from the community, Fred simply insisted there was no other way.

He insisted because his dissertation was about building a different kind of relationship between his nation and Canada, between his community and the university. He wasn’t going to just talk about decolonizing the relationship, he was determined to embody it and he was determined that the university would as well. This was a Mi’kmaw dissertation on the grounds of Mi’kmaw intellectual traditions, ethics and politics.

The defense was unlike anything I have ever witnessed within the academy. The community hall was packed with representatives from band councils, the Sante Mawiomi, and probably close to 300 relatives, friends, children and supporters from other communities. The entire defense was in Mi’gmaw lead by community Elders, leaders and Knowledge Holders — the real intellectuals in this case.

There was ceremony. There was song and prayer. At the end, there was a huge feast and give away. It went on for the full day and into the night. It was one of the most moving events I have ever witnessed, and it changed me. It challenged me to be less cynical about academics and institutions because the strength and persistence of this one Mi’gmaw man and the support of his community, changed things. I honestly never thought he’d get his degree, because I knew he’d walk away rather than compromise. He had my unconditional support either way. Fred is one of the most brilliant thinkers I’ve ever met, and he was uncompromising in his insistence that the university meet him half way. I never thought an institution would.

rexton---the women march1394352_10151916870188959_1762282314_

All of these stories came flooding back to me this week as I watched the RCMP attack the non-violent anti-fracking protestors at Elsipogtog with rubber bullets, an armoured vehicle, tear gas, fists, police dogs and pepper spray. The kind of stories I learned in Mi’gmagi will never make it into the mainstream media, and most Canadians will never hear them. Instead, Canadians will hear recycled propaganda as the mainstream media blindly goes about repeating the press releases sent to them by the RCMP designed to portray Mi’kmaw protestors as violent and unruly, in order to justify their own colonial violence. The only images most Canadians will see is of the three hunting rifles, a basket full of bullets and the burning police cars, and most will be happy to draw their own conclusions based on the news – that the Mi’kmaq are angry and violent, that they have no land rights, and that they deserved to be beaten, arrested, criminalized, jailed, shamed and erased.

The story here, the real story, is virtually the same story in every Indigenous nation: Over the past several centuries we have been violently dispossessed of most of our land to make room for settlement and resource development. The very active system of settler colonialism maintains that dispossession and erases us from the consciousness of settler Canadians except in ways that is deemed acceptable and non-threatening to the state. We start out dissenting and registering our dissent through state-sanctioned mechanisms like environmental impact assessments. Our dissent is ignored. Some of us explore Canadian legal strategies, even though the courts are stacked against us. Slowly but surely we get backed into a corner where the only thing left to do is to put our bodies on the land. The response is always the same — intimidation, force, violence, media smear campaigns, criminalization, silence, talk, negotiation, “new relationships,” promises, placated resistance and then more broken promises. Then the cycle repeats itself.

This is why it is absolutely critical that our conversations about reconciliation include the land. We simply cannot build a new relationship with Canada until we can talk openly about sharing the land in a way that ensures the continuation of Indigenous cultures and lifeways for the coming generations. The dispossession of Indigenous peoples from our homelands is the root cause of every problem we face whether it is missing or murdered Indigenous women, fracking, pipelines, deforestation, mining, environmental contamination or social issues as a result of imposed poverty.

So we are faced with a choice. We can continue to show the photos of the three hunting rifles and the burnt out cop cars on every mainstream media outlet ad nauseam and paint the Mi’kmaq with every racist stereotype we know, or we can dig deeper. We can seek out the image of strong, calm Mi’kmaq women and children armed with drums and feathers and ask ourselves what would motivate mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters and daughters to stand up and say enough is enough. We can learn about the 400 years these people and their ancestors have spent resisting dispossession and erasure. We can learn about how they began their reconciliation process in the mid-1700s when they forged Peace and Friendship treaties. We can learn about why they chose to put their bodies on the land to protect their lands and waters against fracking because setting the willfully ignorant and racists aside, sane, intelligent people should be standing with them.

Our bodies should be on the land so that our grandchildren have something left to stand upon.


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