Avatar and the true Defenders of the Land

| January 14, 2010
Avatar and the true Defenders of the Land

After seeing the film Avatar, the recent release by James Cameron dealing with allegorical Indigenous Peoples on an alien planet that humans seek to colonize, displace and finally eliminate in order to access the rich resources in their territories, a few reflections emerge. The first is a more than passing resemblance to the actual reality of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and beyond, the bounty of whose land and resources have cost them great suffering at the hands of colonizers and would-be-saviours. The second interesting element is to reflect on the state of actual Indigenous-colonizer relations, and the state of Indigenous resistance to the colonizing project.

It is clear that the government is engaged in a head-on collision course to extinguish Aboriginal rights, to continue the work of assimilation, and expand the economic, environmental and cultural colonialism that Canada's history is based upon. Vancouver this November saw the gathering of a number of the Indigenous communities and leaders across the country that have banded together to confront the rising tide of colonialism coming from government and aided by its corporate partners. These attacks on Indigenous rights and cultures across Canada have sparked the beginning of a new grassroots movement across Canada, with the goal of connecting Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, under the banner of a group referred to as the "Defenders of the Land."

In the past year, many projects have been developed or expanded, with direct impacts on Indigenous Peoples, their livelihoods and environments. Chief among these is the expansion of the tar sands megaproject, which threatens to irreversibly destroy the land and pollute the waters in the Athabascan watershed of northern Alberta. Other famous and not-so-famous examples are springing up across Turtle Island, including the land reclamation in Six Nations territory, the resistance to mining in Big Trout Lake (Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug), or recent protests against the Olympic legacy and devastation arising from many Indigenous communities. These are only the tip of the iceberg in what for many years has often been a loose and disjointed movement for Indigenous rights and freedoms.

Government and corporate interests have made it increasingly clear that the stakes are life or death, as Indigenous communities find themselves on the frontlines of global struggles to access increasingly scarce resources such as oil, metals, even trees. In response, Indigenous leaders, men and women, elders and youth alike gathered last year for the first Defenders of the Land gathering, held in Winnipeg at the Native Friendship Centre, to begin working together in a united way to respond to the recent attacks on their human rights. This gathering in November brought together many of the same people from last year, totaling over 80 representatives from communities in struggle, as well as a number of allied NGOs and solidarity groups from across the country. There were a mix of elders present, male and female community activists alike, as well as a strong representation of Indigenous youth who have taken up the struggle as their own.

This recent gathering heard testimony of how land-claims are failing, of many communities in legal disputes with different governments, of leaders being sent to jail for practicing their sovereignty, of barricades and blockades being the only methods left at some communities' disposal. However, the real point from the gathering, after hearing many stories of desperation and depravation, was seeing how many communities had not given up, but were just starting the real work of educating their people, figuring out ways to work together, and planning grassroots strategies to protect their futures. Another sign of the times was the amount of grassroots support from solidarity groups and other civil society groups from across the country who were supportive of the project.

Over three days of feasting together, of group discussions, presentations, of tears and laughter, participants were charged with deciding on how best to collaborate in this movement. It was clearly seen that there was a need for something resembling a network to be formed, that could best represent the interests of the communities in question. Many felt that such a network needed to be structured to support those communities most in their times of crisis, such as when the blockades or bulldozers arrive, but also provide ongoing assistance to ensure that situations need not escalate to the point of crisis. This would be additional to the ongoing educational work, such as the "Indigenous Sovereignty Week" events held in dozens of communities across the country in October, and to be continued in the coming year.

A network is forming. A movement is being built. Indigenous and non-Indigenous are all coming together in an unprecedented manner to face unprecedented challenges. The circle is growing, as more and more begin to understand what is at stake, and how our struggles are related. The rising problems of violence, of education, of environmental degradation, of governance, of health, etc. all have common roots, and a common solution in the restoration of sovereignty to Indigenous Peoples, a long-term project which will require much hard work on the frontlines, in the classrooms, on the streets and in the home. The Defenders of the Land aim to be one part of this ambitious project, a crucial one bringing together the voice of the previously voiceless, the communities most at risk, those who have had their languages and lands taken.

In the final event of the film -- you might want to skip this part if you haven't seen it -- there's an all out, fight-to-the-death war between the humans and Indigenous aliens, as it becomes clear the humans will not stop their endless greed. The comparison is more than passing, as Indigenous groups around the world find themselves in the last places with resources of value, and must now act to protect themselves from the new waves of colonialism. In Peru this summer, I worked with a number of Amazonian Indigenous Peoples who lost loved ones trying to protect their environment, culture and sovereignty from foreign oil and mining companies. They live in a real life Utopia, threatened by the plundering of the bounty beneath their feet.

However, as opposed to the movie, this time it won't be the friendly white man who emerges as saviour, it will be Indigenous Peoples united, with the support of allies from all communities, representing the last and best hope for our collective future. This struggle is only really just beginning, and playing itself out in many different theatres, but we have not the time to sit back and watch. It is time for the true Defenders of the Land to take centre stage, and for everyone else to take on supporting roles.

Ben Powless is Mohawk from Six Nations in Ontario. He is currently studying Human Rights Indigenous and Environmental Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. Read his blog on  rabble.ca. For more photos of the Defenders of the Land gathering visit Ben's Flickr album.

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Thanks for introducing us to "Defenders of the Land" and pointing out the fundamental truth of "Avatar". To date, it seems only tribal people really understand what it takes to live on the land sustainably. The entire world is losing the potential benefits of their relationship with habitat, knowledge of natural remedies and distinctive world views.

The instance I am most involved in since Canada is to some extent responsble is West Papua (or "Papua") which remains one of the worlds two most ecologically and culturally diverse regions, comparable to Amazonia. Few people (outside of Australia/NZ) can tell you that West Papua is exactly half of the world's second-largest island, or that it contains one of the two largest tropical rainforests remaining.

Australian adventure tour guides guarantee you will meet someone from a tribe who has never seen a caucasian.

Forty-eight years ago, the Indonesian government took power by covert means from the Dutch who had been preparing Papuans for self-government. Since that time the Papuan people, Melanesians and mostly Christian, have been continually persecuted and subjected to crimes against humanity in a deliberate ethnocide.

Since ancestral homelands don't come with deeds, they are being cleared and plundered by legal and illegal logging operations at a rate of 1.5 million hectares per year*, conducted mostly (and openly) by the self-funding Indonesian military who also run illicit businesses resembling organized crime in other parts of the world.

In 2006, an International Solidarity Meeting was held by the Pacific Peoples Partnership and hosted by the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group (Cowichan First Nation) on Vancouver Island, welcoming Papuan Melanesians from five different tribes. The exact location could not be announced in advance due to the threat of Indonesian security forces infiltrating, intimidating the Papuans or lobbying to shut down the meeting and have participants arrested, as they had done in Australia and tried to do in the Phillipines the year before.

Papuans have been protesting peacefully for almost 50 years now, but no one takes notice of thousands of tribal people quietly praying in a place where reporters and human rights defenders are not allowed in. For more information, see etan.org, tapol.org or freewestpapua.org

Tom Benedetti, WestPAN: www.westpapua.ca

*World Wildlife Fund affiliate Telapak, 2001

Thanks for this, Philip. I agree it's bull. In the West Papua colonial example, it's Indonesians supported by multinational corps, which of course includes the white guys. But so what? It's always the same pattern no matter where you go or who is perpetrating it.

The question is, what exactly is this pattern and does it need to continue on its current scale towards ecological oblivion? If Avatar addresses that question, it must be worth a watch.


As a lot of people may have noticed, it was basically Pocahontas with blue aliens. http://www.treehugger.com/avatar-pocahontas.jpg <-- check that out for a comparison of storylines between the two films!








Newcomb: Unbaptized stuff and the ;Right' of Christian discovery

Some thinkers in Western Christendom regarded pagan or unbaptized peoples as existing in a non-legal state, or as having what he referred to as, "an existence sine juribus." Essentially, this means "an existence without rights," or with very few inferior rights, in western law and political thought.

Categorizing indigenous peoples as essentially inhuman "unbaptized stuff," resulted in an automatic inference: Christians are paramount over all non-Christians. It was this idea that led to the pope's claim of "sovereignty over the whole earth," a claim that led Pope Alexander VI to purport to divide the globe by the famous line of demarcation, whereby the Vatican granted Portugal the right of conquest over one half of the globe, and the Spanish monarchs the right of conquest over the other half, so long as the "discovered" lands were "not possessed by any Christian prince." This is the famous papal bull Inter Cetera (four such bulls were issued in 1493) that called for the "subjugation" of all "barbarous" non-Christian nations. The 1794 Treaty of Tordesilla between the two monarchies formalized the demarcation line.

The cognitive system of Christendom did not disappear as the generations passed. It merely morphed into a more secularized expression of the same religious mentality. Thus, Lieber wrote: "The English and Americans have not wholly discarded the idea that the white man, at least, if not the Christian, is entitled to this earth, if not cultivated by the colonizer. So our Supreme Court decided by an opinion of the Chief Justice of the United States [John Marshall]." Here Lieber was referring to the 1823 Supreme Court ruling Johnson v. McIntosh, which he considered the "jus divinum" (divine law) of the United States.

In the Johnson decision, Chief Justice Marshall wrote that whenever "Christian people" "discovered" lands inhabited by "natives, who were heathens," this achievement gave the Christian "discoverers" the right to assert "ultimate dominion" over the "discovered" lands. The Christian assertion of "ultimate dominion" may also be phrased as the assertion of an ultimate sovereign power, or what is most often referred to today as federal plenary power over Indians.


http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/archive/28212089.html ( idloa)

BTW: Flanagan is Harper's lackey..well paid I suppose..lol or possibly first dibs on lakeshore properties when Indians are kicked off the land as per the 1969 WHITE PAPER, Canada's un offical "covert" policy..

Update: The conservative solution to Aboriginal land claims seems to be to encourage them to sell off the rest of their land.

Guess what? The Conservatives want us to “sell” our homeland to help us get out of the poverty they’ve put us into. That’s what would-be comedian Tom “who’s-a-scalawag-like-his-zero-hero-Sir-Walter-Raleigh” Flanagan, a University of Calgary professor, said recently on the CBC. Did he ask us? No. “Selling reserve land could help solve poverty”, he said.

I wonder if Flanagan also thinks some firewater and beads would be a fair price.




UBC: Books:::https://circle.ubc.ca/bitstream/2429/568/1/Trade_S05.pdf

Now for a bit of history of geopolitical theory.

For the record, the ideas that Brzezinski has promoted in his written works have been around, relatively unchanged, for an entire century. They were first formulated in 1904 by British geologist Halford MacKinder, who wrote that: "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; Who rules the World-Island commands the World."

According to Unocal's John Maresca, something else significant happened around that very same time: "About 100 years ago, the international oil industry was born in the Caspian/Central Asian region with the discovery of oil." Now that's certainly an odd coincidence, isn't it?

Considering that MacKinder was one of the foremost geologists of his day, he was most certainly aware, at the time that he formulated his Heartland theories, of the discovery of oil in Central Asia and of the birth of the international petroleum industry. It is entirely possible then that a covert goal of his geopolitical gameplan was from the beginning, and continues to be today, to seize control of the planet's energy reserves.

In the Summer of 2000, Parameters, a quarterly publication of the U.S. Army War College, published a review of MacKinder's theories of geopolitics and the effect those theories have had on the formulation of U.S. foreign policy.

The author of the article, Christopher J. Fettweis, wrote that MacKinder's "theories [had] influence throughout the century, informing and shaping US containment policy throughout the Cold War.


google McKinder & Heartland theories & you'd be amazed ( or not) how many O&G board Condlezza Rice is on..lol

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