We Are Not Alone

We Are Not Alone

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A few things are clear from the events of the past week. The first is that we are not alone. The Mi’kmaq who are standing against fracking for natural gas in Elsipogtog do so not just with the courage of their own convictions but also with support from places diverse in geography, culture and ethnicity.

Social media have made it much easier to reach across time and space. We are connecting with our Native relations from the Mohawks to the Lakota, but also the Paiute, Ojibwe, Kumeyaay and hundreds of Native people familiar and unfamiliar to us all. We may not form an ever-ready unified military force, but that is not where our strength will ever be—nor should it.

Our strengths are in each of the territories or regions that we live. For some, it is seizing the moment to take our own stand on a parallel issue that strengthens the fight for each. For others, it is simply using whatever field of play we find ourselves in to raise awareness, make a statement and build support.

As I wove the information on the raid at Elsipogtog into my previously arranged interviews in Albany, N.Y. on public radio and cable news, I was surprised at the interest that was piqued.

And as I listened to public radio on my drive back across the state from Albany to Cattaraugus, I was moved by an interview with a local non-Native elected official in New Brunswick who said,

“God bless the First Nations.” This gentleman went on to describe how municipal leaders had voted almost unanimously for a moratorium of shale gas exploration in New Brunswick because of their concerns with hydrofracking.

He suggested that only the Native protesters were having success fighting this affront to land, water and the life of the region, because his own federal government was working against the interests of the municipal governments. These local elected officials were standing side by side with the Native protesters, quite literally in some cases. The one official I was listening to on the radio took a shot to the leg from one of the RCMP’s “non-lethal” weapons while at the site.

While we face many enemies in our fight for sovereignty, more and more non-Native activists are coming to the conclusion that as Pamela Palmater once stated on my show, Natives may be the last best hope for anyone interested in saving the planet.

Many of us hold onto some very specific iconic images from events of the past. There’s the Warrior vs. soldier faceoff from Oka, and Richard Nicolas standing with a rifle raised in his hand on a flipped over SQ van from the same conflict. But images these days come quicker than ever, and they travel the globe at lightning speed. Think of the images coming from the Elsipogtog conflict: among them are some of the most compelling images of the last few decades. My good friend Gregg Deal may have helped immortalize one of them with his latest poster created for the “Honor the Treaties” project from the photo image of a woman holding an eagle feather kneeling in front of a line of heavily armed RCMP. Gregg, a Pyramid Lake Paiute, worked feverishly to get this new creation completed and posted on social media as soon as possible.

From Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal to cities across New York State and the US, activism on various platforms of social media has taken hold. As I sit here banging on my keyboard I see a picture pop up on a Facebook post from Hollywood, California of actor Adam Sandler holding a sign that reads, “We Support Elsipogtog.”

We don’t need to win everyone over, but as more people from outside our Native communities come to realize they need us, we gain both increased support and an increased responsibility.

We are not alone, and in the words of Uncle Ben Parker, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Our people are still looked at in racist and condescending ways, as the mainstream coverage of Elsipogtog shows. Those with solid control of the mainstream media are among them, but social media gives us a fighting chance to even the playing field. If we play it right and refuse to let anyone hijack our message or misappropriate our power and responsibility, we may yet see major shifts in policies.

The Mi’kmaq of Elsipogtog have made us all proud. And I for one feel stronger than ever when fighting for our land, water, women and children.

– John Karhiio Kane, Mohawk, a national commentator on Native American issues, hosts “Let’s Talk Native…with John Kane,” ESPN-AM 1520 in Buffalo, Sundays, 9-11 p.m. He is a frequent guest on WGRZ-TV’s (NBC/Buffalo) “2 Sides” and “The Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter” in Albany. John’s “Native Pride” blog can be found at www.letstalknativepride.blogspot.com. He also has a very active “Let’s Talk Native…with John Kane” group page on Facebook.

About The Author

John Karhiio Kane, Mohawk, a national expert commentator on Native American issues, hosts “Let’s Talk Native…with John Kane,” ESPN-AM 1520 in Buffalo, Sundays, 9-11 p.m. Eastern Time. He is a frequent guest on WGRZ-TV’s (NBC/Buffalo) “2 Sides” and “The Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter” in Albany. Visit: letstalknativepride and join fb.letstalknative follow @letstalknative

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  1. Sands Pippen

    Very well written and said … Miigwech to all of OUR WARRIORS through-out Turtle Island – the Warriors of Protection and our Warriors of the books and papers … the ones trying to even up the playing field through THEIR education system … All of our names that represent Indigenous Nations translate to mean “Original Man”, or “True Human” .. Every one of ours .. ANd that is the truth …aho

  2. Anne Mullett

    To abandon one group of people to the confront the issue of #Ecocide, is rather rich. #EndEcocide, all have to contribute. Admire these activists immensely, stress must be dreadful.

  3. Alicia

    Obviously the author isn’t the first person to use “Native” as a skin colour/cultural indicator. Check any government form, census, etc. Where it says race you’ll see “Aboriginal” or “Status Indian” or “Non-status Indian” or on my father’s birth certificate “Red” or any other number of words that amount to the same thing. I understand that it’s very hard for you as a white person to see how skin colour affects people of colour every single day because that’s not part of your daily experience. You don’t have to worry about how other people will treat you based on your skin colour, whether you’re not getting that apartment you applied for because of your skin colour, whether the drug store’s “nude” foundation actually matches your nude skin colour.

    These are not things that are your fault and I’m not saying they are. But for you to deny this experience of the world exists for other people of colour — including and especially Native people — just because you don’t look for it seems to me rather insensitive. It’s great that you want to see beyond skin colour. Unfortunately not everyone feels that way. It’s unfair of you to expect people who have to interact with those that don’t feel the way you do to be 100% on board with you. And when they don’t greet you with open arms because their trust has been broken so many times, it’s unfair for you to treat them like they’re terrible people because of it. Them seeing you as being like them isn’t fair either, but to be fair you’re making a lot of assumptions about the author’s beliefs based on their skin colour and one article they wrote. Assumptions happen, it’s human. Working past those assumptions to get to truth is the tricky part.

    Try to sympathize a bit, you may surprise yourself. Once people see that you do sympathize, that you are different from other, hurtful white people, you’ll see cliques open up, I promise you.


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