Elsipogtog: The Realities of Abuse

Posted by on Oct 18, 2013 in Opinion


It is not surprising to Indigenous Nations that the RCMP invaded the site of a peaceful protest, using snipers, rubber bullets, threat tactics amongst women and children and elders and warriors.  It is not surprising that the mass media is painting our peaceful defense of Mother Earth as rebellion or radicalism.  It is not even surprising that so many people do not know what is happening outside of the social network circuits. 

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(Photo credit: M. Howe)

Abuse is a cyclical and silent entity, slow to show its face, silent in its makings and creation.  Abuse is adamant to hide itself ethically behind social curtains and excuses.  Abuse holds itself upright behind shrouds of people who accept it.  Abuse is manipulative and assertive, but at the same time, very sinewy, only showing itself when caught; and even then, its face is distorted behind multi-layered lies and a history of excuses and irresponsibility and unaccountability.

The people who support the abusers do so either by manipulation, or choice.  Either they do not want to accept that someone is being brutalized, or they do not want to accept the fact that they love the abuser, are involved in acknowledging the actions of the abuser, or that they are party to understanding that abuse is actually happening.  If they do, then a responsibility occurs.  Then there is accountability, and few people are willing to accept this.  This is what I see when I observe and understand what is happening in Elsipogtog, the Mi’kmaq Nation who has come under focus for many of us.  I see abuse, in no small terms.  I see power and non-responsibility and non-accountability.  I see all of the inner-workings of all of the abuse structures that have existed for hundreds of years, but yet, people still seem surprised at what is happening.  That says everything about the knowledge of historical Canada.  That expressed, there are still so many North Americans who have no idea what has been happening in Canada for the last 7 centuries or so.

Abuse is the best word to describe colonial Canada.  Abuse is the only word that might be recognized by people.

Leanne Simpson writes in Dancing on Our Turtle’s Backs that citizens need to act in a manner that is consistent with the treaty negotiations that have been implemented. She writes:

It reminds me of an abusive relationship where one person is being abused physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally.  She wants out of the relationship, but instead of supporting her, we are gathered around the abuser because he wants her to “reconcile”.  But he doesn’t want to take responsibility.  He doesn’t want to change.  Instead, all through the process he continues to physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally abuse his partner.  He just wants to say sorry so he can feel less guilty about his behaviour.  He just wants to adjust his ways that he is abusing; he doesn’t want to stop the abuse.  (21).

This is what has been occurring for centuries in Canada.  This is the top layer in which most Canadians stand on.  Who has worked to uncover the history of what has happened in Canada?  Who has worked and studied and accepted what has happened in colonial Canada?  I know many people who know what has happened, but are at work trying to juggle worlds, trying to make peace between worlds, but this is not what we need. We need a memory of our ancestors who have understood our roles and windings to this soil who knows more than we do.  I know many non-Indigenous friends who have no idea of this history of pure and complete abuse.  I know also that I have friends who question this, believing the media and their interpretation of Native Resistance as an act, rather than a display of continuum and protection.  That is alright, as long as I speak my truth as I know it inside of my lived experience, and my knowledge and recognition that we are in an ongoing cycle of every sort of recognizable abuse, and that the abuser will never stop.  The abuser wants our silence, and when they do not get our complete silence, than they believe that they must scare us into silence through what we saw yesterday in Elispogtog in scare tactics, terrorism, and threats of deadly violence.  Our silence is their power.

When we are silent and not standing up for our own, we are allies to colonial violence.

It brings me to the fact that many of our own Anishinaabe and Indigenous people are feeding the violence, are handing the bread to the Windigo that wants our spirits.  The very thing that encourages our distractions, wants us to feed on anything else than the goal of sustaining our continuance.  Our abuser makes us want their goals, distracts us toward false ideologies and thoughts, makes us pressured to gamble our first rights in the face of capitalism and selfishness.  Abuse makes us aware of what others are thinking, makes us care what the world thinks of us.  Our abuser makes us forget our own goals in the long and sinuous stretch of their own.  Our abuser takes our identity and entwines it slowly against its own, long and endlessly; so slowly and purposefully, that the succumbing is so gradual that we do not know that it is happening.

In the case of Elsipogtog, abuse was manifested in a volatile and immediate way.  The minute that the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous people was done his observation, Canada stepped in to show their power against the peaceful protests and rightful protection of the ahki.

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(Artwork: Gregg Deal (@the_lame_sauce) / Original photo: Ossie Michelin

Power was displayed abusively and aggressively, attacking children, elders, women and warriors.  They sent men with guns to try to aggressively dissuade and to dismantle Indigenous voices, providing the promise of no media and no UN involvement.  It became a free-for-all, a space to attempt to scare with snipers and false bullets the lives and intent and protectivity of Indigenous people.  They believed that we may not have been resilient enough to withstand pressure.  This expresses the lack of knowledge that they have toward our Nations in a general sense.  They have no understanding that we are intricately woven together and have a memory within us of opposition.  They do not recognize our position of peace.  They do not understand it.  They do not understand the mentality of continual abuse and how the victim of such abuse, has the ability to withstand the most dire of circumstances and still survive.

I believe that it is part of our sustenance.  This cycle of abuse does not steal our power because we are inside of it all the time.  It is the cusp of our daily experience.  We know how to react and to build strength through the worst confrontations.  We know how to look our abusers in the eyes and to hold them accountable.  We know how to stand up after any attack again and again and again and again while the abuser is used to a lain body, silent.  Indigenous people are the most resilient on earth, because we can taste the future generations somewhere in our spirits.  We can counter the abuse because we understand the experiences of our ancestors.  We remember every single story that our grandmothers whispered to us, and if we didn’t, it sits inside of us like a dream that may someday decipher.  We know the abuser’s tactics.  We taste the skin of oppression every morning.  We can feel the movements of our loved ones no matter where they are.  We wake to the screams that lay inside of the earth, and we suckle onto them because it is our birthright.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 9.37.17 AMElispogtog.  In solidarity.  This is the manifestation, once again of the rampant abuse in Canada.  You are part of the great resistance.  Dudley George, Oka, our women who were sterilized, raped, murdered, and silenced.  You are the splaying and naming of abuse.  When the colonial hand lifts itself, we are not afraid because our grandmothers took the first beatings.  They laid their bodies down and knew that we would survive.  We knew our spirits took the shape of our bodies and that we could outlive the hatred.  Abuse teaches us about surviving and prolonging.  All these centuries and we are thriving.  Our voices, our survival, our continuum.  Those hands, those power structures, those methods.  They are the same through centuries, but we keep getting up.  Abuse cannot annihilate us.  We keep on raising.  It only makes us stronger.

Elispogtog.  RCMP and Colonial Brutality will not stop us.  Abuse is driven by the weak.  Alive and screaming centuries later.  We no longer shake when you confront us.  Elsipogtog.  We are here, remembering and enduring.  Solidarity.  Indigenous Nationhood, memory, and resilience.  Our lands, our bodies, our ancient reaching.  No matter which territory we stand on, the abuse is the same, and we recognize this.  We are there with you.  Our resistance is built on the pillars of violence, but we remain peaceful with the warriors on our skin, their songs as thick as the water that birthed us.  Our names and songs are the future.  Abusers don’t understand the way we rise after they left us for dead.  That fear when we keep standing, that rising.  Elispogtog.  The cedar is bending and covering the nations, and the abuser’s hands are not as strong as memory.


Follow Lesley on Twitter: @LesleyBelleau

Lesley Belleau is an Anishnaabekwe writer from the Ojibwe nation of Ketegaunseebee Garden River First Nation, located outside of Bawating/Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.  She is a Ph.D student in the Indigenous Studies Department at Trent University, and is focusing on studying Indigenous literature.  Currently she is teaching Indigenous Literature at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie. Lesley enjoys writing fiction, essays and poetry and is the author of The Colour of Dried Bones, a collection of short fiction published by Kegedonce Press, as well as other publications both nationally and internationally. Lesley is currently awaiting the release of her second novel, Sweat, a full-length fiction novel, due to be launched in September, 2013. Currently, Lesley resides in Peterborough, Ontario, with her four young children. 


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