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The Indigenous fight against colonial veganism

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There is even a ToolKit to support those rabblers who wish to pick up tools for the so called, "good fight." You know, the fight between the grain eaters and the meat eaters.

But what is this fight really all about? The right to choose what to eat? The right to dictate that choice to others?

The epic battle between the Grain Eaters and the Meat Eaters

As with everything else, culture and context must be taken into account when dealing with Indigenous communities, no matter how important you think your cause is. And while I've met my share of gentle vegans who are willing to listen, there are also these eager crusaders of animal rights that seem to sweep across the land to belittle and humiliate someone who choose to eat meat.

Lessons are taught through hunting, trapping or herding and then consuming meat which include learning to never let anything go to waste, that is an insult to the animal spirit: use all the different parts that the animal has to offer regarding leather, wool, sinew and items for decoration with.

Also remember the Indigenous custom of honouring the animal killed with prayers and tobacco or reindeer antler as offering -- or bear in the spring. The Bear Hunt is one of the most important ceremonies we Saami have.

Onward, forward, yea Vegan Soldiers

So a group of vegans find themselves on our land.

Yes, our clothes are a hybrid of cloth, reindeer and seal skin, wolverine and wolf pelt and under special circumstances bear.

I assume we would be quite a grizzly lot to lay your eyes upon. Houses made from reindeer hide much like a tipi but squatter and called a Lavvus. Or made from mounds of dirt, wood and leather to keep out the cold. There is nothing metropolitian or cosmopolitian about us.

I say this in jest, but I can close my eyes and imagine the ever eager, Vegan Evangelists, running down the snow slopes that protect the Siida (the family/the village). I am watching them coming down the hill, in clothing and footwear not fit for our climate.

I can hear them now shouting in unison: "Have you heard the Good News?"

The Saami at first keep their distance, in past experience some vegans are kind and gentle allies in our struggles against colonialism but others speak loudly of the spiritual uplifting experience they have felt by becoming a vegan at the expense of understanding that not everyone has to live an assimilated life.

But we are here to exchange. Dialogue. Learn.

Our vegan guests lay down things on the trader blankets, a cornucopia of fruits, roots, vegetables and seeds. And so the knowledge-exchange begins.

We then get about a ten minute lecture about the importance of giving up our feast of flesh, frenzied lifestyles and convert honesty to this new religion of Vegan Evangelism. They give out small samples of items found in this vegan diet to taste. They don't taste bad. It's just that they don't fit.

Culture and context, always!

They then motion to the blanket, asking us to consider buying their roots, shrubs and seeds.

"Please understand," the leader of our Siida, Atja, says. "Our climate up here, as you can see, is neither conducive to Christianity or Vegan Evangelism."

She places her hands together, kept warm in well-made seal skin mittens, and continues to talk. "We have heard some of your group's morality already, this epic battle between the grain eaters and the meat eaters."

"For us, as you can see these lands that we have lived on since the world began, these lands will not support most of the vegetation you suggest; the soil is too thin, the permafrost under it too hard and our seasons too brutal.

Our people are a reindeer people: 'What is good for the reindeer is good for us' as our saying goes.

We have lived this way since the Sun, our Mother, gave birth to us, and later, gave us half of the world's reindeer so that they could be tamed. We use every part of the reindeer for survival. You may call it hasrh, we call it home. And we call the treatment of our animals, fair, since we interact with them constantly with our own hands."

One of the excited vegan visitors jumps to his feet, one finger pointing towards elder Atja, "but eating meat is murder!" 

She shakes her head, "if you think we are using our climate or our history here as an excuse for murder, then you misunderstand. We are not what you would call colonized or civilized into your ways. We live in a circle. The reindeer die and we consume their flesh and when we die, they consume our bones."

Elder Atja ended calmly, "we are not going to move on the whim of a handful who would rather make demands than listen."

The vegan continues to protest, "But this is uncivilized, you sleep in huts made of reindeer, with blankets and clothes made of hide. What is there to be proud of here? We have beds, running water."

"And we sustain ourselves through our Sun's warmth when we go hunting, or lay traps, fetch water and harvest the few herbs that grow here. We have also mastered the art of Reindeer Husbandry. The reindeer trust us now, without us, there would be no reindeer and with no reindeer, there would be no us!"

"Now that you have asked your questions", Atja carries on, "in your veganism, how many of you are actually farmers, pickers of berries or wild mushrooms? Or do you buy your vegan righteousness through a store?"

Let's start the discussion from there.

Reprinted with permission from the blog Activist Comminque.

Krystalline Kraus is an intrepid journalist and veteran reporter for rabble.ca since its 2001 beginnings. She needs neither a red cape nor safety goggles to fly into her latest political assignment. She often live-tweets from events -- almost exclusively First Nations and environmental issues. You can follow her on Twitter @krystalline_k.

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