Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Short Assignment #1

I have been relatively quiet on Kumtux these days...perhaps it is due to my recent return to the (virtual) halls of higher learning. I am taking IGOV 384: Indigenous Resistance and Renewal, an online course at the University of Victoria. Below is a copy of my first assignment:

Question 1. What do you think Taiaiake Alfred means when he states that most anti-colonial struggles to date, including our own, have ignored the “inextricable bonds between means and ends” (p. 51)? What does this imply for our decolonization efforts?

As a former member of the disbanded West Coast Warrior Society, I am intimately familiar with both the strategic and ethical considerations regarding the use of force as a means to further decolonization. In stating that most anti-colonial struggles have for the most part ignored the “inextricable bonds between means and ends” (Alfred 2005, 51) Taiaiake Alfred is basically saying that how you fight the war largely determines who you become when the war is over. Bob Overy echoes with a similar sentiment, “the choices made by a liberation movement at the start can determine the kind of society that eventually emerges” (Overy 1984, 14). These thoughtful considerations challenge some of the attractive rhetoric of historical leaders such Malcolm X and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, but I believe they are necessary if we are to seriously pursue a decolonizing path that not only acknowledges our Indigenous values but also seeks to bring about a future of true peaceful co-existence with the settler society.

One need only observe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to envision the perpetual cycle of violence that emerges when an Imperial power is engaged in a guerilla war-like conflict for liberation (or annihilation). In particular, this perpetuity is enhanced when the conflict is a result of resistance to “Internal Colonisation” (Tully 2000, 37) because both parties feel they are fighting for their homes. The argument that “we are all here to stay” while distasteful when utilized to justify the negation of historical injustices, remains an important consideration when peaceful co-existence is a long-term goal. The Zapatistas clearly understood this in January 1994 when after 10 days of military conflict with Mexican authorities, agreed to a ceasefire and began a new (non-violent) phase in their campaign for liberty, justice and democracy. While maintaining a right to self-defense, Taiaiake in conversation, has quoted Max Weber who stated that the “State has a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force.”

Taiaiake Alfred also points out that violence can be “seductive and intoxicating in the short term” (Alfred 2005, 51-52), particularly for young males I would add. My own experience with the West Coast Warrior Society and reflecting on the experiences of other similar groups (AIM, Native Youth Movement) has led me to determine that future initiatives, if they are to be successful must be led in much stronger numbers by Indigenous women. Any initiative that is too narrow is bound to fail Indigenous people who are historically are less inclined to compartmentalize issues but rather take a holistic or interconnected worldview.

As emerging Indigenous leaders it remains our responsibility to learn from historical struggles, our own and those of other Indigenous peoples around the world. A better understanding not only of our Indigenous principles and values, but of imperial power, patriarchies, the cycles of violence and long-term goals of peaceful co-existence point us in the direction of being more creative in our action-oriented deliberations. Instead of evolving as a war-ravaged society, always on edge, we can opt to challenge the legitimacy of the colonial powers with non-violent contention, revive our true Indigenous principles and emerge as strong, powerful and peaceful Indigenous nations.


Alfred, Taiaiake. Wasase: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom. (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2005).

Overy, Bob. 1984. A Radical Peace. The New Internationalist. 136: 14.

Tully, James. “The Struggle of Indigenous Peoples for and of Freedom”, in Duncan Ivison, Paul Patton, and Will Saunders (eds.), Political Theory and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Press, 2000), 36-59.