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Day 4 – Defenders of the Land, Indigenous Rights

I had fun today! More peeps came in from KW so it felt safer and generally more like a field trip. Laura arrived with Polly, Joe, Jen H, Larissa came, and Jacob fresh off the road from Yukon. Running hugs were in order.

Today was themed day of resistance on Indigenous rights and sovereignty. We started in Queen’s Park and there were thousands of people!!! I think estimates were about over two thousand. As I walked up to the crowd I could hear some of the Native musicians singing their songs and beating their cool drums. They are so cool. Music at these things is the key people!

There was also a massive yellow and black banner laid down on the grass, about the width of a four lane road and as long as two buses. It said Native Land Rights….something something. Sorry I forget. They needed lots of people to help hold the sides up (it was legible from birds eye view the best) and KW stepped up. Our crew were leading that shit! As in, holding the edges at the front. I think there were about a hundred people holding it. I ducked out so I could do my medic roaming, but every time I came back to the banner there was this great teamwork atmosphere going and lots of communication to¬†maneuver the banner through narrower spaces and manage the wind that was making it balloon. It was such an exemplar of an insta-community working together for a common cause and having fun.

The First Nations peoples across Ontario and beyond were REPRESENTING! There were indigenous people from Six Nations, Grassy Narrows, Barrier Lake, and even people from Alberta and BC. Since I’ve been here since Monday it’s really interesting to see the diversity of people coming out for the different issues. General activists and concerned citizens on Monday, the queer community on Tuesday, enviro justice people yesterday, Indigenous people today, and of course those who go to all of it, like me. Eggs in all the baskets.

Because the march was so huge, depending on what section of it you were in, the vibe was different. The No One Is Illegal Toronto crew are ON IT with their speaker phones leading chants. “Native communities under attack! What do we do? Stand up fight back! Migrant workers under attack! What do we do? Stand up fight back! Women and children under attack! What do we do? Stand up fight back!” Heh heh. Other sections of the march were more chilled out. Other chants included “Land, freedom, self-determination! Canada is an illegal nation!” in regards to how settlers stole the Natives’ land. “Hey hey, ho ho, Steven Harper has got to go!” which I enjoyed cuz ppl finally busted out the hey hey ho ho stuff.

There was definitely a lot of outreach happening to the bystanders on the sidewalks and people coming out of their offices for lunch. Bystanders were asking what the giant banner said and what was going on and activists were armed with leaflets. Lots of media again. This demo was explicitly geared to be family friendly and non violent, which was how it went down. Ok, small four-year old children reppin tshirts that say “Native Rights Human Rights” ¬†and lovin life is adorable. Hehe, babies.

The cops didn’t seem so numerous today. In all the previous marches so far there has been a continuous line of bike cops on either side escorting the march, but today there were long sections where there were no cops. But I just think because the march was so huge, the cops didn’t seem as numerous. It seems though, that the police were directing the march by forming bike lines when they wanted the march to turn. That is frustrating. When we started going too far south, the cops made us turn. When we were going too far north, the cops made us turn. Grr. At one point I saw cops waiting with hands full of gatorade and water. I ran up to one and asked “Are those for the people?” which I thought would be a great way they could maybe actually do that “people helping people” thing, but he said “Unfortunately, no.” Oh. FINE.

After, a bunch of us went to the Indigenous Council. I was so glad we went. For once I was sad to see no one from the corporate media, only alternative and indie media. Clearly Indigenous rights is not something the mainstream media is excited to put on the six oclock news. Anyway, the speakers were so candid about their experiences living with governmental oppression and environmental injustice, like say living downstream from the Tar Sands extraction project. So there is a network called Defenders of the Land which brings together First Nations people to fight against systemic oppression created by federal legislation that creates poverty within these communities. The point was made about how federal funding is just another way for the government to control and oppress the freedoms of First Nations because when the feds give money to a First Nation, there are strict regulations on what kinds of things they can spend the money on. Hegemony at its best my friends. Sigh.

Also, there was food and when they told people to line up, elders were told to go first, then women and children, then men. I had a moment where I thought, huh, look at that, that’s really cool. And then happily went to line up. Another note, we were at the White Person table. I dunno, I mean I understand that as non-Native people who are standing in solidarity, you don’t want to invade in a way, so we all just grouped ourselves together because we felt more comfortable that way. And naturally, I was at the White Person table. Frickin cultural assimilation. Hah.

So after that we kept hopping from event to event and leaving because there were too many people or cops. In the end we walked about 6 hours today and we were hurting. My backpack keeps the weight off my shoulders and on my hips, which is great for my shoulders, but eventually my knees start to hurt from all the weight. You just have to accept that gravity is a consistent pull and eventually, shit, you just gotta lie down.

It’s hard to decide what to go to because there is so much happening. It really IS like Laurier OWeek. You can’t go to everything or else you get exhausted. Though that’s what Icebreakers do. I kept thinking about how if we could channel Icebreaker-like energy into these marches, social change would happen so much quicker with much much more pep.

Anyway. We ended up going to a local bar where the very charming and talented Caleb Lance was performing with guest LalalaLarissa. It was great to go there and unwind and enjoy music. And Sean was there so it was great to see him too.

I think there is more I wanted to say but I can’t remember.

I love friends.