(Isaac Murdoch sitting by a fire at Queen’s Park in Toronto issuing his call for people to “get out there and start reclaiming those traditional places that you have that you call home”)
Canada could be on the verge of another Indigenous uprising, according to a well-known Ojibway artist whose art has become a powerful force among grassroots people and movements across the country.
Isaac Murdoch, a traditional knowledge holder from Serpent River First Nation and a member of the Onaman artist collective, took to Facebook Wednesday night from the newly formed Justice For Our Stolen Children solidarity camp in Toronto’s Queen’s Park and issued a call to action.
“I encourage our Indigenous people to get out there and start reclaiming those traditional places that you have that you call home,” he said.
“I don’t believe in cede and surrender, I don’t believe that all this land should belong to Canada. So get out there and start making your own camps. Get out there and start taking land back.
“And if you’re in remote areas, start utilizing your land, because we know that when there are Indigenous people out there it makes a difference,” Murdoch continued. “And we need a bigger presence in our forests and on our land so we can do our due diligence in being stewards of our land, and doing water protection and land protection duties.”
Watch Isaac Murdoch’s Facebook call to action here:
In the 11-minute address, he linked the Indigenous child welfare crisis, violence against Indigenous women, girls, two-spirited, and youth suicide to the dispossession of Indigenous people from their lands.
“Right now there are thousands and thousands of children that are in care, and a lot of them were taken illegally,” Murdoch said.
“When Canada first became a country they inherited something called ‘The Indian Problem,’ which was free-roaming Indigenous people. So to contain the ‘Indian Problem’ they had to force everybody on to reserves or into the cities so that they could be colonized,” said Murdoch, whose traditional name is Bombgiizhik.
“And of course that meant taking children away from their parents…all because they wanted to have a free-for-all on resource extraction.”
Murdoch said the same government policies and tactics employed during the residential schools and Sixties Scoop eras continue today as the “Millennium Scoop”.
“This is still happening,” he said.
Last year Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott called the number of Indigenous children in care in Canada a “humanitarian crisis.”
In Manitoba alone, around 10,000 children are in state care, most of them away from their communities and culture.
“The future climate leaders are in care, and they’re going through mass assimilation”
In an interview with APTN News, Thursday Murdoch said the climate crisis has created a heightened urgency on Indigenous Peoples’ fight for liberation.
“Because we’re in abrupt climate change there’s a move to get our children back so that we can teach them the language,” he said. “There’s moves to get back on the land so that we can protect the land and waters. There’s moves to start investing into our young people and the education that they want, which is land-based education.”
The United Nations has warned for years how climate change disproportionately impacts Indigenous peoples.
“Indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, due to their dependence upon, and close relationship, with the environment and its resources,” according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) website.
In the north, Inuit are already feeling the impacts with melting ice that is making hunting and fishing unpredictable, which has caused danger and uncertainty for those who live off the land.
UNDESA also says climate change “poses threats and dangers to the survival of indigenous communities worldwide, even though indigenous peoples contribute the least to greenhouse emissions,” and that Indigenous peoples are often “interpret and react to the impacts of climate change in creative ways, drawing on traditional knowledge and other technologies to find solutions which may help society at large to cope with impending changes.”
But Murdoch is concerned that under present circumstances many Indigenous children and youth won’t be equipped to lead the fight against climate change rooted in their own cultures.
“The future climate leaders are in care, and they’re going through mass assimilation right now. It’s a genocide that’s happening to Indigenous people still.”
In his call to action Murdoch told viewers “the only thing that’s going to stop fossil fuel extraction is probably the Indigenous resistance. So be strong, stand up, stand your ground and get out there and do what you can.”
Governments and authorities working to shut down camps, resistances
Murdoch’s call came hours after the City of Burnaby issued an eviction notice to land defenders and water protectors at Camp Cloud who are fighting to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which, if built will triple the capacity of diluted bitumen flowing from Alberta’s tar sands, through unceded Indigenous territories to the coast.
“I encourage people to get out there and stand with Camp Cloud because we can’t afford to have oil reach international markets because that’s billions of barrels of oil that’s going to go into the atmosphere, so we need to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline.”
The Burnaby eviction notice expires Saturday.
Murdoch’s appeal also came days after RCMP arrested Secwememc Ktunaxa warrior Kanahus Manuel and kicked the Tiny House Warriors out of a B.C. provincial park in unceded Secwepemc territory, and one day before the Government of Saskatchewan applied for a court order to shut down the Justice For Our Stolen Children camp in Regina.
“There’s a tension in the air,” Murdoch told APTN. “Everything is all related: stolen children, the environment, the rekindling of our languages and culture. It’s all tied in together.”
The Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion stands at more than 150 First Nations.
Speaking with Nation to Nation in May, Serge Simon, Grand Chief of the Kanesatake Mohawk Council and a Treaty Alliance member, said if government prioritizes industry over First Nations’ concerns on their own territories, “you are going to see a flashpoint somewhere.
“I’m really hoping for my friends in B.C. that it doesn’t go that way for them.”
In May Nation to Nation host Todd Lamirande asked RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki how she thinks the Trans Mountain protests will unfold throughout the summer.
“I’m going to hope that it continues the way it has up to this point,” she said, “because up to this point the protestors have had the right to protest and the right to have their voices heard in a safe and secure manner, and I’m hoping that this will continue through the summer despite any decisions made.”
Lucki also said that rebuilding trust with First Nations “is a process, and it’s bigger than words.
“In building trust with our Indigenous people, and in our reconciliation efforts, we have to translate words into actions and create better understanding with our members,” she continued. “Because when we deal with racism, racism to me is a lack of understanding, so the members and employees need a better understanding of Indigenous people.”
Murdoch said he wants people to “be safe, but to get out there and to use your voices and use any means necessary to help reduce climate change that is happening — and also to make sure that the land and waters are pure and clean again.
“We only have one planet and this is going to take everybody to come together and make a difference.”