Revolutionary Acts of Non-Violence Disempowers Opposition

Posted by on Jan 25, 2013 in Opinion

waneek

Violence is never simple; it is horrific and loaded with long-term devastating consequences. I know this from experience and have lived it up close and personal.

Imagine yourself standing on a highway as Canadian armed forces tanks roll towards you flanked by soldiers in full combat gear. Army helicopters hover above with men hanging out the sides; guns are pointed at you.

You watch as Warriors scream out in anger as the tanks roll closer and closer. Women are yelling at them to “get back!” and to us,  “stay calm!” Your heart is beating so fast, as your body tries to adapt to the adrenaline coursing through your veins. You wait, hold your breath, and listen for that sound, the gunshot that will start and end it all.

You are 14 years old, and your summer vacation has taken you to the middle of a war zone. You are scared, excited and not fully comprehending what is going on. The one thing do you know is, you are unarmed and those guns are pointed right at you. You suddenly understand completely that your life could end at any second, and you wait.

It is August 20, 1990, the Canadian forces have stormed right into the disputed land where a golf course is set to expand onto a traditional burial ground. The Oka standoff would last another 27 days. I would be witness to horrific acts of violence, psychological warfare and finally I would be stabbed in the chest, 2 cm away from my heart.

Memories from that summer have both inspired me to achieve and haunted me. As I write this, my hands begin to shake as I once again feel the adrenaline flooding into me, getting me ready to run or to fight.

Waneek Horn-Miller & her sister Kanietiio. This photo was taken 30 seconds after Waneek was stabbed in her chest. Credit: Associated Press

Waneek Horn-Miller & her sister Kanietiio. This photo was taken 30 seconds after Waneek was stabbed in her chest. Credit: Associated Press

I am writing this as an open letter. It is a window to my soul and my experiences. It is for anyone who even hinting at violent action. In the post 9/11 world, the consequences of violent action have changed. There are new terrorism laws that have extreme implications for not only the perpetrators, but for all indigenous people across North America.

I am reminded of watching a heated discussion on the last days of the Oka Crisis that violent action is not the solution. Some of the men wanted to shoot it out, guns blazing and the women where arguing against it, telling them to keep a cool head.  It was the women’s role to remind them, that in the great law, it does not state that you fight till you die, but rather you fight till you win. After a long heated summer of provocation I understood the anger those men felt, and the attractiveness of a martyred death, but I was terrified watching as my life or death was being debated. In the end the debate for life and our future won out.

Witnessing that made me understand as an indigenous person we are part of a larger community and we do not exist in a vacuum. All we do as individuals in peace and violence has a huge impact on all of us.

These memories, my new role as a mother and my overwhelming love of all our children have infected me with a need to ensure no other 14 year old has to face that kind of trauma. I think violent action is not the solution, and I have made it a life’s mission to look for alternate ways of making change. Ones based on peace, cooperation and inspiration.

Over the last few months we have witnessed an awakening of both indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, inspired to stand up, speak out, and act.  The power of Idle No More comes from the fact that; it is open to all who lend their voices for change. The potent combination of flash mob round dances, social media and teach-ins, has created a new generation of politicized people. It has done this because the essence of these acts is to raise awareness and because it is peaceful. People from all walks of life are drawn together, have engaged in dialogue and are personally inspired because of the simple message- that the peaceful future of this country matters to all of us.

It is hard to miss the understandable undertone of anger and frustration; I feel this to my core. I feel anger at the incredibly damaging impact of genocidal policies like the Indian Act, intentional mis-education of the Canadian public and resulting racism. Rage at how they have ripped at the very fabric of our nations, communities and personal lives. It frustrates me that the most damaging legacy left is; many of our peoples’ lack of self worth. How many see themselves only important for their anger, and their lives only worthwhile if given up in a fight.

I remember a conversation I had with a reporter during Oka who asked me if I was ready to die. I said yes because if I died today, maybe my life would mean something. Looking back 23 years later, I think I have contributed more with my life than I would have with my death.

“The most revolutionary act we could do, is not visiting more violence on our communities, but rather to support our leaders in their fight by bringing the passion and power of Idle No More to the dismantling of the legacy of dysfunction, trauma and violence that plagues our communities.”

We will disempower our opposition by ending the lateral violence expressed on each other and finally unify our nations by acts of respect, love and peace.  If our ancestors could speak to us today, they would tell us that violent action will never be fully off the table, but for the sake of our children, it should never be the first option, but rather the absolute last.

Peace and Power to all My Relations.

- Waneek Horn-Miller

Follow Waneek on Twitter: @waneekhm

Waneek Horn-Miller (Mohawk) is an activist and Olympic Athlete. She has traveled across North America speaking about her experiences that took her from  the Oka Crisis to the Olympics.

 

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20 Comments

  1. Terry Miles
    January 25, 2013

    Would like to follow you, please keep me posted. Thanks!

  2. G. Thomson
    January 25, 2013

    Thank you. Your words are wisdom from the heart.

  3. Ang
    January 25, 2013

    Thank- You for these words of wisdom.

  4. karen bethune
    January 25, 2013

    Im am quite moved by your letter to all people as violence is not a cure and feel for the tragedy of your experience at OKA . Idle No More is educating not only our nation but the the world to open our eyes and minds. This movement will truly be a huge mark in history! I thank the FN people for having the courage to do begin the movement and applaud as a new generation will hope to stand stong and speak out for all of our rights, Thank you for this.

    With appreciation,

    Karen Bethune

  5. Wanda Longie
    January 25, 2013

    I am so sorry to hear about what happened to you, you were so young.May I ask was it one of the soldiers that stabbed you?If so was he prosecuted and put in prison! I hope he was dealt, and I glad that you are ok,or at least be ok after going through wht you went trough.And by the way let me say that you are a very beautiful women,you remind me a bit of my two daughters, who also have black hair and eyes so dark you almost can’t see their pupils, my husband is the same my son is lighter like me but he is handsome. So I just wanted to give you my support take care,best wishes,and thank you for telling your story!

  6. Susan
    January 25, 2013

    Thank you for writing this. I don’t look like it but my grandmother was full-blood. Something came up out of the wind and called to me as I watched the news that summer of Oka. I wept and wept and I thought it strange that I should cry so much for people I had never met. And a small voice, one that wasn’t afraid, like my conscious mind, to believe in ancestral memory, was that wasn’t afraid of being mocked for claiming kinship when I had never suffered for being of native blood, that voice said, “They are your family. That is why you weep.”

    Thank you for reminding us that no force in the world can withstand the determined and nonviolent will of the righteous. Keeping your own side of the street clean of violence and abuse means you carry no burden of shame or regret and all your energy can be focussed on moving toward the light.

    Peace be with you, sister.

  7. Linda Perry
    January 25, 2013

    Thank you for your strong and wise words. True strength is in controlling anger and rage and in turning it into vision and non-violent, positive action.

  8. Giselle Ruemke
    January 25, 2013

    Thank you for these wise and loving words. May your teaching reach deep to all the interconnecting roots of this movement, and ground us all in the truth. I remember that summer too, I was a few years older than you and in my home town of Victoria when the Oka standoff started, and I wanted to go and join you there. I was having a lot of difficulty comprehending the insanity of how a golf course was deemed more important than the sacred burial grounds of the Mohawk ancestors. I remember feeling such shock and sadness that a human being could do that to a brave 14 year old girl protecting her sister and standing up for her ancestral lands. This is when I really began to learn and understand a lot more about how abusive the Canadian government has been and continues to be to indigenous people. This drove home the point of how hard and how honourably your people have fought for the land in such an unfair fight with a government that fights dirty. This really woke me up and inspired me to become more involved in environmental and social activism… it really shaped me as a human being. Thank you for your bravery and for the lessons you have taught me and so many others.

    • Linda West
      January 27, 2013

      Giselle, I love it when the domino effect works in such a positive way as this. Most often we never know how profoundly we affect others, sometimes just by being who we are. So glad you had this platform to let her know!

  9. Colleen Armstrong
    January 25, 2013

    I am strongly advocating in my community against the call for the police to disband blockades and occupations. This call is a call for violence. It is clear that women can yield great change. This is why IdleNoMore has my support.

    You are a strong leader and have inspired me since I heard your story 2 years ago. The summer of Oka I weeped and my friends just didn’t get it..This year they are more open and most get it. This is movement. This is re-education. This will heal. This will bring justice. This will bring peace!

  10. Melody WhiteBuffalo Hawke Walden
    January 25, 2013

    My heart breaks for all you have lived thru but it also rejoyses for your life and words of peace and hope for all peoples.
    Blessings, Hugsss and Prayers, WhiteBuffalo Hawke

  11. Sonia W
    January 25, 2013

    Thank you, Waneek, for sharing this.
    Many blessings to you.

  12. Joanne Longboat
    January 25, 2013

    Nya weh for sharing. Thanks for your wisdom. I am glad Creator was taking care of you so that you could share yourself today. My dad is Lower Cayuga of the Six Nations of the Grand River, ON and mom was a beautiful Chippewa of the Thames, ON and I am Turtle clan.
    I felt the symptoms of PTSD as I read the experience you had. I felt my heart pound and my gut start to clench and the shoulders tense. I am a survivor with layers of witnessing and being the victim of violence; you inspire others by sharing your life; you share understanding. You are our gift from Creator to offer hope. Violence has no place in the home or society; it is not the option to deal with life or societal problems. You give me strength when I read this. Layers of trauma have taught me a kind of wisdom that some humans may not understand and a wisdom that is not taught in any text book. I lean on Creator everyday, those teachings we do not see in text books. Your voice, my voice is a peaceful, non-violent and non-judgemental way to give understanding. The cycles of learned behaviours and imbalance must end and the Turtles Island residents of all nations are waking; Mother Earth is singing. Our voice is strong nationwide. Chi Megwetch all my relations. When we do everything with a good heart, good will, good things follow. The story of healing is happening, our voice is our healers. The Original peoples communicated through story telling and sharing, and so we continue this approach. For those who do not know, soon it is time for Midwinter Ceremony for the Haudenosaunee, Longhouse Peoples. “The Great Laws of Peace” will be read and many days of celebration with a sacred feast before the ceremony starts, days of singing, drumming and games. This will be happening now as the full moon is upon us. http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/iro/parker/index.htm from time to time you will see a Baptist influence in the translating from Seneca to this English version, but I am happy I can read the message in English. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts.

  13. Brenda Crane Martin
    January 25, 2013

    Your words are powerful because they come from the heart and from the experiences that you had. With that you inspire people to stand for what they believe. Thank you

  14. Jeannie Namagoose
    January 25, 2013

    Peace, generosity and respect for all life is the way of our people. Thank you for your message in this time of change.

  15. Rachel May
    January 25, 2013

    Thank you for sharing the beautiful work your heart has made of such an ugly experience. I have lived long enough as a woman in the world to treasure this kind of work above all else. We can build peace and justice from the ashes of trauma and exploitation.

    peace.

  16. Rayleen Nunez
    January 25, 2013

    You are wise beyond your years because of your experiences. Are you Kahntineta’s daughter? I knew her slightly many,many years ago. She certainly put her life on the line many, many times, andwas always ahead of her time. Please let me know how she is doing. I always admired her.

    Rayleen G. Nunez

    Formerly Rayleen Bay

  17. Pat Robinson
    January 26, 2013

    You are amazing!

  18. Kaniehtiio
    January 26, 2013

    Good job big sistah!! Told you people would listen to what you have to say. I love you.

    And @ITALIAN WENDY: my sister was protecting me, my mother got separated from us because soldiers were pushing all of us everywhere. Dont act like you know what you would have done in that situation and dont speak about my mother like she is unfit.

  19. Maria Trevizo
    February 1, 2013

    Thank you my sister warrior.