Gord Hill is from the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nation on northern Vancouver Island and is the great grandson of George Hunt, a collaborator of pioneering German anthropologist Franz Boas. Gord Hill operates the No2010.com website and works with the Olympics Resistance Network. Am Johal, Chair of the Impact on Communities Coalition, interviewed Hill at Cafe Calabria in Vancouver.
Am Johal: How did you get involved with anti-Olympic organizing?
Gord Hill: I first got involved before the bid was announced. I was mostly raising awareness of what they had done in other places. I had been staying near Mt. Currie and trying to stop a ski resort and near Sun Peaks. We were opposing the expansion of ski resorts.
We put out a statement and opposed the bid and urged Vancouver to reject the bid. The bid was won by Vancouver. There was explicit Vancouver resistance. We opposed the unveiling of the Olympic clock much later. I grabbed a microphone at the ceremony and I was arrested.
AJ: Aboriginal activist Harriet Nahanee passed away after being arrested at a protest to protect Eagle Ridge Bluffs and I know it generated a lot of resentment in the aboriginal community. On the other hand, the Host First Nations are supporters of the Olympics. What is your view of this division between activists and the band leadership?
GH: In regards to the Indian Act Band Councils, they are in coalition with the Canadian government and carry out its policies at the band level. They are already in collaboration with the government. The Indian Act band councils and are not legitimate representatives of the aboriginal people.
The combined population of the host First Nations is about 6,000 people. The aboriginal population in Metro Vancouver is close to 60,000 people. They are getting land deals and money. The overall impact on aboriginal people is, however, negative. The aboriginal people are over-represented amongst the homeless. There has been a 270 per cent increase in homelessness. The Olympics don't help aboriginal people. It creates division amongst aboriginal people. The Musqueam had internal disagreements over resources that were given to them by the Olympics.
One of the main problems is the high level of government funding of aboriginal political, social and youth organizations. Most of the opposition has come from grassroots aboriginal people.
Harriet Nahanee died on February 24 in 2007 after blockading the Sea to Sky Highway. Her death had a big impact on our movement. Her death was clearly related to the Olympics. Her position was related to the sovereignty of lands going back to the 1800s. They took the position that it's stolen land including the 1763 Royal Proclamation. It motivated a lot of people to get involved in the anti-Olympic resistance.
AJ: Can you speak to the significance of the imagery of the Warrior that is used in anti-Olympic resistance both symbolically and culturally?
GH: Warriors are part of aboriginal cultures to defend people, territory and culture of our people. Colonialism tries to crush warrior societies. The military aspect seeks to defeat aboriginal people. They try to suppress the culture. Today aboriginal people are still trying to defend territory, people and culture. The Mohawk Nation showed us that warriors defend their culture.
We've incorporated that as a positive aspect of Native society by using the Warrior flag in rallies and different aspects of the culture to emphasize and promote that fighting spirit. Without that fighting spirit, we can't resist.
One of the great myths of Canada is that it's a great human rights defender in the world. It is propaganda. That is the reason we oppose the Host First Nations are collaborators. The reality of the situation is that aboriginal people in Canada have the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, suicide rates, murdered women across the country including the Highway of Tears.
These Olympic deals are lies and propaganda from the government. They are just going through the motions. The reality is that the government doesn't do enough. They actively try to assimilate indigenous peoples and undermine social movements. We want to break that illusion. Not only is there resistance, but the government is trying to portray a false image.
AJ: Here in Vancouver, opposition groups have totally been left off the table whether they opposed the Games or even if they were mildly critical. There really seems to be a general agreement amongst inner-city groups that the Olympics have been a failure in Vancouver in terms of meeting social goals and community economic development goals. Could you speak to your perspective on this?
GH: There needs to be respect for a diversity of tactics. We have different classes, different levels of political commitment and perspectives. These methods of experience and organizing is important. Some people are very religious, some people are not. We have to allow different conversations to take place. Otherwise we will be fighting each other. The differences between us are far less than what unites us.
AJ: There has been an expansion of ticketing by police forces and use of city sanitation workers to harass homeless people in the inner city. Have you experienced the impact of security forces as well?
GH: One of the things about surveillance is that it strives to be as covert as possible, especially through technological means, any kind of internet activity you do. People have been approached by the Integrated Security Unit, CSIS and the Vancouver Police Department. It's part of the reality of organizing in this environment. Our basic position is that people shouldn't talk to the police, they are under no obligation to do so and they shouldn't partake in this unnecessary oppression.
There is an element of fear that police forces bring in by taking this approach. After APEC, the RCMP changed their training. What we're seeing today, the police are interrogating people and trying to recruit collaborators. In reality, this is a form of repression.
Am Johal is a Vancouver-based independent writer.
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