Tag Archives: First Nations

#ProtectTheInlet: Massive Protest in BC as Thousands March to Stop Kinder Morgan Pipeline

“In our opposition to Kinder Morgan, we are many people paddling in the same direction.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 3-10-2018

“For Tsleil-Waututh Nation, the People of the Inlet, it is our sacred obligation to protect the water,” the tribe said in a statement ahead of Saturday’s protest. And while they said they will continue their legal battle against the pipeline company in the court, they added, “In our opposition to Kinder Morgan, we are many people paddling in the same direction.” (Photo: ProtecttheInlet.ca)

Disregarding an injunction won by the pipeline company a day before the planned protest, thousands of people marched in Burnaby, British Columbia on Saturday to protest the expansion of a Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline and export terminal that First Nations and climate justice campaigners say would threaten local waterways, erode Indigenous rights, and increase planet-warming carbon emissions.

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Indigenous people invented the so-called ‘American Dream’

Indigenous people invented the so-called ‘American Dream’

Lewis Borck, Leiden University and D. Shane Miller, Mississippi State University

The 2016 Standing Rock protest was only the most recent manifestation of the indigenous American values inherited by European settlers on this land. James MacPherson.

When President Barack Obama created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the 2012 program that offered undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children a path into society, for a moment the ideals of the American Dream seemed, at least for this group, real.

We call these kids (many of whom are now adults) “Dreamers,” because they are chasing the American Dream – a national aspiration for upward economic mobility built on physical mobility. Fulfilling your dreams often means following them wherever they may lead – even into another country.

The Trump administration’s decision to cancel DACA and build a U.S.-Mexico border wall has endangered those dreams by subjecting 800,000 young people to deportation.

But the notion underlying both the DACA repeal and the wall – which is that “illegal” immigrants, most of them from Mexico, are stealing U.S. jobs and hurting society – reflects a profound misunderstanding of American history.

On Indigenous Peoples Day, it’s worth underscoring something that many archaeologists know: many of the values that inspire the American Dream – liberty, equality and the pursuit of happiness – date back to well before the creation of the U.S.-Mexico border and before freedom-seeking Pilgrim immigrants arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620. They originate with native North Americans.

A Native American dream

The modern rendition of the American Dream can be traced back to 1774, when Virginia’s governor, John Murray, the fourth earl of Dunmore, wrote that even if Americans “attained Paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther west.”

The actual term “American Dream” was popularized in 1931 by the businessman and historian James Truslow Adams. For him, its realization depended on not just being able to better oneself but also, through movement and human interaction, seeing your neighbors bettered as well.

The first peoples to come to the Americas also came in search of a better life. That happened 14,000 years ago in the last Ice Age when nomadic pioneers, ancestors to modern Native Americans and First Nations, arrived from the Asian continent and roamed freely throughout what now comprises Canada, the United States and Mexico. Chasing mammoth, ancient bison and the elephant-like Gomphothere, they moved constantly to secure the health of their communities.

The indigenous communities of the Americas knew none of these modern-day national borders.

A more recent example of the power of migration reappears about 5,000 years ago, when a large group of people from what is today central Mexico spread into the American Southwest and farther north, settling as far up as western North America. With them they brought corn, which now drives a significant part of the American economy, and a way of speaking that birthed over 30 of the 169 contemporary indigenous languages still spoken in the United States today.

The Hohokam

This globalist world view was alive and well 700 years ago as well when people from what is now northern Arizona fled a decades-long drought and rising authoritarianism under religious leaders. Many migrated hundreds of miles south to southern Arizona, joining the Hohokam (ancestors to modern O’odham nations) who had long thrived in the harsh Sonoran desert by irrigating vast fields of agave, corn, squash, beans and cotton.

When the northern migrants arrived to this hot stretch of land around the then-nonexistent U.S.-Mexico frontier, Hohokam religious and political life was controlled by a handful of elites. Social mechanisms restricting the accumulation of power by individuals had slowly broken down.

For decades after their arrival, migrants and locals interacted. From that exchange, a Hohokam cultural revolution grew. Together, the two communities created a commoners’ religious social movement that archaeologists call Salado, which featured a feasting practice that invited all village members to participate.

As ever more communities adopted this equitable tradition, political power – which at the time was embedded in religious power – became more equally spread through society. Elites lost their control and, eventually, abandoned their temples.

America’s egalitarian mound-builders

The Hohokam tale unearths another vaunted American ideal that originates in indigenous history: equality. Long before it was codified in the Declaration of Independence,, equality was enacted through the building of large mounds.

Massive earthen structures like these are often acts of highly hierarchical societies – think of the pyramids of the ancient Egyptians, constructed by masses of laborers as the final resting place of powerful pharaohs, or those of the rigid, empire-building Aztecs.

But great power isn’t always top-down. Poverty Point, in the lower Mississippi River Valley of what’s now Louisiana, is a good example. This massive site, which consists of five mounds, six concentric semi-elliptical ridges and a central plaza, was built some 4,000 years ago by hunter-fisher-gatherers with little entrenched hierarchy.

Poverty Point: a city built on cooperation.
Herb Roe/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Originally, archaeologists believed that such societies without the inequality and authoritarianism that defined the ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Aztec empires could not have constructed something so significant – and, if so, only over decades or centuries.

But excavations in the last 20 years have revealed that large sections of Poverty Point were actually constructed in only a few months. These Native Americans organized in groups to undertake massive projects as a communal cooperative, leaving a built legacy of equality across America’s landscape.


The Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, offer a more modern example of such consensus-based decision-making practices.

These peoples – who’ve lived on both sides of the St. Lawrence river in modern-day Ontario and the U.S. Great Lakes states for hundreds, if not thousands, of years – built their society on collective labor arrangements.

They ostracized people who exhibited “selfish” behavior, and women and men often worked together in large groups. Everyone lived together in communal longhouses. Power was also shifted constantly to prevent hierarchy from forming, and decisions were made by coalitions of kin groups and communities. Many of these participatory political practices continue to this day.

The Haudenosaunee sided with the British during the 1776 American Revolution and were largely driven off their land after the war. Like many native populations, the Haudenosaunee Dream turned into a nightmare of invasion, plague and genocide as European migrants pursued their American Dream that excluded others.

Native Americans at Standing Rock

The long indigenous history of rejecting authoritarianism continues today, including the 2016 battle for environmental justice at Standing Rock, South Dakota.

There, a resistance movement coalesced around a horizontally organized youth group that rejected the planned Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Native American pioneers continue to fight for the same ideals that inspire the American Dream, including equality and freedom.
John Duffy/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

The movement centered on an environmental cause in part because nature is sacred to the Lakota (and many other indigenous communities), but also because communities of color often bear the brunt of economic and urban development decisions. This was the indigenous fight against repression and for the American Dream, gone 21st century.

Redefining the North American dream

Anthropologists and historians haven’t always recognized the quintessentially Native American ideals present in the American Dream.

In the early 19th century, the prominent social philosopher Lewis Henry Morgan called the Native Americans he studied “savages.” And for centuries, America’s native peoples have seen their cultural heritage attributed to seemingly everyone but their ancestors – even to an invented “lost” white race.

America’s indigenous past was not romantic. There were petty disputes, bloody intergroup conflicts and slavery (namely along the Northwest Coast and American Southeast).

But the ideals of freedom and equality – and the right that Americans can move across this vast continent to seek it out – survive through the millennia. Societies based on those values have prospered here.

The ConversationSo the next time a politician invokes American values to promote a policy of closed borders or selfish individualism, remember who originally espoused the American Dream – and first sought to live it, too.

Lewis Borck, Archaeologist, Leiden University and D. Shane Miller, Prehistoric Archeologist, Mississippi State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Inspired by Standing Rock, First Nations ‘Tiny House Warriors’ Protest Pipeline Project

“As Kinder Morgan tries to force through a pipeline without our consent—risking polluting the land and poisoning our rivers—we are rising up to create a resistance rooted in family, community, and hope.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-8-2017

Greenpeace Canada helped build the first of 10 tiny houses in the path of the pipeline, which will cross through hundreds of miles of First Nations territory. (Photo: Ian Willms/Greenpeace Canada)

First Nations and allies in British Columbia, Canada, are protesting an expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline by building 10 tiny houses in its proposed path, which runs through more than 300 miles of Secwepemcul’ecw, unceded tribal territory.

“We, the Secwepemc, have never ceded, surrendered, or given up our sovereign title and rights over the land, waters, and resources within Secwepemcul’ecw,” tribe leaders said in a statement, adding that they “have never provided and will never provide our collective consent to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Project. In fact, we hereby explicitly and irrevocably refuse its passage through our territory.” Continue reading


What can be learned from the movement to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline?

Why indigenous civil resistance has a unique power.

By Molly Wallace. Published 8-17-2017 by openDemocracy

Stand With Standing Rock Nov 11-15 2016. Credit: Flickr/Leslie Peterson. CC BY-NC 2.0.

2016 saw the emergence of a powerful movement against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, through land vital to Native communities, especially the Standing Rock Sioux. For non-Native people who have not been paying attention to indigenous rights struggles over the past several decades, the #NoDAPL movement may have served as a wake-up call to some of the injustices still confronting these communities.

For others, as Tom Hastings points out in “Turtle Island 2016 Civil Resistance Snapshot,” in the Journal for the Study of Peace and Conflict, #NoDAPL is simply another in a long line of civil resistance struggles Native communities have mobilized, often successfully, to claim their rights. Continue reading


‘Bombshell Revelations’ Point to Ongoing Poisoning of Grassy Narrows People

Environmental volunteers and The Toronto Star uncover mercury contaminated soil around shuttered plant, amounting to ‘more than enough of a smoking gun to require a full investigation’

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-13-2017

The angled photograph on the right shows an area he initially circled for the Star and where he believed the barrels were dumped. This circle drawn by Glowacki has been overlaid on an aerial map of the area from 1968. Aerial photo is from 1968. Archives of Ontario ref. RG 1-429-7. (Sources: Mapbox, Ministry of Natural Resources Aerial Photography at the Archives of Ontario, Map by William Davis)

An investigation by environmental volunteers and The Toronto Star has uncovered the “bombshell revelation” that soil surrounding an old paper mill is contaminated with mercury, amounting to what many are calling a “smoking gun” in the ongoing poisoning of the Grassy Narrows First Nation community.

The reporting, published Thursday, said that soil samples collected by volunteers from the organization Earthroots as well as The Star reporters were found to contain “hundreds of times the level of mercury found in a nearby uncontaminated site,” the organization said Friday. Continue reading


Buoyed by DAPL Fight, Canadian Chiefs Launch Legal Battle Against Enbridge Pipeline

Oil pipeline will face fierce opposition in Canada as well as in the United States, where the permitting process is currently underway

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-30-2016

“Just as Indigenous Peoples are showing unwavering strength down at Standing Rock, our peoples are not afraid and are ready to do what needs to be done to stop the pipelines and protect our water and our next generations,” Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, pictured here, said after the Enbridge Line 3 expansion was announced.(Photo: Derek Nepinak/Facebook)

Buoyed by the success of Indigenous resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a coalition of Canadian First Nation chiefs have launched legal action against the Trudeau government for its recent approval of the Enbridge Line 3 expansion.

Derek Nepinak, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, wrote on Facebook Wednesday that the group’s legal team filed an appeal in federal court challenging the approval, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced late last month in tandem with the expansion of Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. Continue reading


In Blow to Enbridge, Canada to Ban Oil Tankers Off Northern B.C. Coast

Moratorium on oil tanker traffic off British Columbia’s North Coast could be last nail in coffin for Northern Gateway Pipeline

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-7-2016

Diesel leaches into tidal pools after a spill in the Great Bear Rainforest last month. (Photo: April Bencze/Heiltsuk Nation)

Diesel leaches into tidal pools after a spill in the Great Bear Rainforest last month. (Photo: April Bencze/Heiltsuk Nation)

Canada Transportation Minister Marc Garneau made headlines this weekend when he announced that by the end of the year, a long-promised ban on oil tanker traffic will be put in place off the North Coast of British Columbia—weeks after the government was harshly criticized for its bungled response to a spill in that same region.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to institute such a moratorium before the Liberals won a majority of votes and put Trudeau in office in 2015, but as of a mere three weeks ago Trudeau appeared to be backtracking on that promise, after months of refusing to offer a timeline on the ban. Continue reading


Study Confirms Tar Sands Poisoning Air in First Nations Community

The air quality has ‘been a cause for concern for the people of this community since 1966,’ says Fort McKay First Nation chief

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-22-2016

The toxins discovered in the air include "hydrogen sulphide and carcinogens like benzene," writes the Canadian Press. "Ozone and sulphur dioxide were 'frequently' above long-term health thresholds." (Photo: Kris Krüg/flickr/cc

The toxins discovered in the air include “hydrogen sulphide and carcinogens like benzene,” writes the Canadian Press. “Ozone and sulphur dioxide were ‘frequently’ above long-term health thresholds.” (Photo: Kris Krüg/flickr/cc

Confirming what a First Nations community surrounded by tar sands development has claimed for decades, new research says the reserve in northern Alberta is suffering from air pollution that is sometimes “at levels above what is recommended for human health.”

That’s according to Alberta’s chief health minister, Karen Grimsrud, as reported by theCanadian Press.

The provincial health ministry, industry regulator (which is industry-funded), and the Fort McKay First Nation all cooperated on a study released Thursday that finally confirmed what those in Fort McKay had long asserted: air pollution from nearby tar sands mining and refining has been sickening members of their community. Continue reading


Canada Finally Launches Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women

Long-promised independent commission will investigate ‘national human rights crisis’ of violence against Indigenous women and girls

By Nika Knight, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-4-2016

Photo: Pinterest

Photo: Pinterest

Canada’s federal government announced Wednesday that it will finally launch a long-awaited inquiry into the country’s murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.

Al Jazeera reports: Continue reading


Victory in Canada as Court Strikes Down Northern Gateway Pipeline

Opponents “said ‘no’ to Enbridge 12 years ago when it first proposed the project. And now that ‘no’ has the backing of the courts.”

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-30-2016

Canadians protest against Enbridge in May 2014. (Photo: Chris Yakimov/flickr/cc)

Canadians protest against Enbridge in May 2014. (Photo: Chris Yakimov/flickr/cc)

Environmentalists and Indigenous rights advocates celebrated on Thursday after a judge struck down the Canadian government’s 2014 approval of a controversial pipeline project in a landmark ruling.

The court found (pdf) that the government had not done enough to consult with First Nations communities that would be impacted by the building of the Northern Gateway pipeline, approved under then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Continue reading