Zibi – Allies, Bullies and Development

The location where the Zibi development is said to take place.

The location where the Zibi development is said to take place.

My original intention behind this post was to finally chime into the debate surrounding the Zibi project here in Ottawa. To be honest I was ignorant to what was going on, as I had not done my research into this development and the issues surrounding it. All I knew really was that this development was causing some divisive debate within the local Indigenous community and within the surrounding Algonquin communities. My only logical decision was to start researching the issue if I wanted to chime in and essentially choose a side. However, after doing some initial research and speaking to those involved I came to the realization that for me the Zibi development is a secondary issue to what I believe is a bigger issue. That is that bullying, lateral violence and shaming has become the norm in how disagreement is expressed with regards to this development issue. More specifically this ridiculous type of behaviour has prevented many people from expressing their own opinions over this issue.

Some have asked why many Algonquins have remained silent on this issue.

Can you blame us?

Who would want to feel ridiculed, shamed and talked about negatively for either supporting or not supporting this project? More specifically the amount of shaming coming from those outside of the Indigenous community towards Algonquins who support this project is utterly atrocious. These so called “allies” who feel the need to subjugate supporters of this project with their appropriated “traditionalism” need to back off. Way off. They are not helping. They are reinforcing Eurocentric behavioural practices that people like me are working on eradicating. What I mean by that is some allies have chosen to appropriate what they see as traditionalism and use that philosophy to denigrate Indigenous peoples who don’t fit into that model. This is what I will call the triple entendre of colonization. First, we have our ways stripped. Then we have our ways appropriated. Finally, we have our distorted ways used back against us to make us seem not “Indian” enough.

I find it extremely condescending that anyone from a non-Indigenous background would choose to shame an Indigenous person on a cultural and spiritual level. To degrade someone’s Indigeneity because they are expressing a desire to be financially secure and are looking out for the well being of their people is nothing but privilege being expressed at its finest. This essentially means that having not lived the life and struggles of an Indigenous person, one is in no position to criticize or morally condemn the decisions of an Indigenous person as it pertains to their well being.

These “allies” have also felt the need to co-opt the anti-development movement. Claiming to speak on behalf of the Algonquin people, these “allies” have overpowered and overshadowed whatever Algonquin voices exist within this movement.

While I am not sure where I stand with regards to the development as of yet, I can say that if I was to support the group which aims to preserve the land, I would be sure to inform our “allies” that we do not need people to speak on our behalf nor do we need saviours. Furthermore, I would be sure to inform them that if they disagree with the pro-development Algonquins; that they be sure to consider their privilege in society before making disparaging and insensitive remarks to Indigenous peoples. Some of us were not fortunate enough to have been born in a world where we hold power, wealth and security. Therefore, when we are presented with an option to escape the shackles of poverty, and take it, please do not make us feel like we need to live up to romantic ideals of Indigeneity to do so.

It is extremely frustrating to see how many “allies” have turned upon the people they once revered. It is as if some allies thought that all Indigenous peoples sing with the wind and dance among the stars.

Allies need to accept that we are a diverse people. If they are going to live with the concept that Indigenous sovereignty needs to be respected. Then they cannot simply avoid the fact that this means some of us may want to develop our lands in a way that may not be in accordance with their values and sensibilities.

That does not mean they can devalue one group as “corporate sell outs” and holster another group up as real “Indians”. We are all real “Indians”. If they respect one group’s sovereignty to say no to development, then they must respect the same groups ability to welcome development.

As for those of an Indigenous background who feel the need to shame their own brothers and sisters based on the fact that they want jobs and a brighter future for their families. Good Job (sarcasm). It is an awful tactic to get what you want. These people who support the development do not have bad intentions. They do not want a worse life for our people. So stop treating them as such. You may disagree with them. That’s completely fine, it does not warrant name-calling, rumours, shaming and ostracizing. It also does not warrant making anyone feel like they are somehow traitors to their people, their culture or their spirituality. The same applies to those who support the development.

Now I am sure at this point I have upset some people. But frankly, I do not care. Our voices should not be silenced. Regardless of which position we take. Indigenous people should not be fearful of what repercussions may arise by simply having an opinion. Indigenous people should not have to fear being shamed by our elders. Indigenous people should not have to feel like having an opinion could have a negative affect on their families back home. Indigenous people should not have to feel any less Indigenous because they hold an opinion that may be different then those who claim to be “traditionalists”. Finally, Indigenous people should not be afraid of Indigenous people.

2 thoughts on “Zibi – Allies, Bullies and Development

  1. Please say more about your research and “the people involved” that you spoke to. As a non indigenous ally to those supporting William Commanda’s vision I take the charge of bullying seriously. Please say more about what exactly has been said or done – by who and to who – that is being perceived as bullying. With respect and an intention to listen and learn.

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  2. Some interesting ideas here.

    I think some complementary thinking is contained in this excerpt from a new book on ‘allyship’: http://www.revolutionbythebook.akpress.org/a-critique-of-ally-politics-an-excerpt-from-taking-sides/

    From my understanding, five Algonquin First Nation chiefs have come out opposed to this development, and one in support (the one who is leading the Ontario land claim settlement process) … and of course there is the ongoing Asinabka vision of the late Algonquin spiritual leader William Commanda, who formed the Circle of All Nations to gather people of all cultures together for a better, more peaceful world that was at odds with the pro-corporate development agenda.

    Yes everyone has to make up their own minds, attacking others for their point of view is probably not the best way to do that, but hopefully some guiding principles will help this situation come to the best possible outcome.

    I think this quote from a former Ardoch Algonquin co-chief helps put the Native/non-Native situation in some perspective: “I think that the new colonialism is corporate colonialism, and we are all under this corporate colonialism,” said [Mireille] Lapointe. “Where we [Aboriginal people] have experienced colonialism over a long period of time, I think non-Aboriginal people are now experiencing this colonialism and they’re realizing that the laws that are on the books are not really protecting them nor the environment that they want to protect, and I think that a lot of people are bewildered and wondering how this could happen.”

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