Daily Archives: June 25, 2009

Understanding the Colonial Roots of Anti Native Activism

by Nancy April

The actions and words of Gary McHale are deeply rooted in colonial and racist understandings of Native peoples and Canadian history. Caledonia Wake Up Call materials, actions, and rhetoric clearly criminalise Aboriginal assertions of sovereignty. This criminalization trivializes and de-historicizes the very reasons Aboriginal nations across the country are pushed to make these assertions as they confront the continued theft of their land. McHale consciously uses the language of civil and human rights, and his reliance on ‘peaceful activism’ serves to distinguish between those who are civilized and those who are not. So while McHale and followers define the CWUC movement as rooted in peaceful activism, they cast the Six Nations reclamation as terrorist in nature.  This is a racist tactic and a very old colonial justification for violence against Aboriginal people.

In fact Caledonia Wake Up Call, the Caledonia Militia and CANACE are only the newest groups in a long history of anti-Native/anti-sovereignty organizing in Canada. Anti-sovereignty/Anti-Native groups are those groups defined solely or in part by their opposition to Aboriginal sovereignty and treaty rights. These types of groups have existed since the arrival of Europeans on this land. Today these types of groups and organizations often passionately employ language based in civil rights movements, calling for ‘equal rights for all Canadians’ and using the popular slogan ‘one law for all.’ The names of anti-sovereignty organizations also usually “combine patriotic symbols to evoke notions of political fairness and equality.”1 Tracing the history of anti-sovereignty and white supremacist movements Kim Goldberg writes that:

Like other anti-democratic movements before it, the anti-Indian movement cloaks itself in the populist rhetoric of “equality,” “democracy” and “civil rights,” thereby concealing its true agenda and netting a much wider following than it could otherwise obtain. Language becomes so distorted that anti-democratic proponents not only seek to deflect the damning but accurate labels applied to them, they shoot them back at their critics. So it isn’t the opponents of aboriginal self-government who are racist but rather the very concept of self-government along with those who advocate it.2

A report on anti-sovereignty organizing in Canada, entitled “Friends, F.I.R.E., and Aboriginal Rights”, contends the use of the populist slogan “one law for all” by these groups “is an attempt to deny the existence of aboriginal rights, and to undermine federal and provincial governments’ efforts at negotiating modern treaties with First Nations.”3

McHale styles himself as something of a civil rights leader, and categorically denies that he is a racist or white supremacist insisting that his mission promotes non-violent struggle. Alongside their professed commitments to liberal ideologies Caledonia Wake Up Call relies on and elicits highly racist ideas and actions.  While the slogan “One Law for All” began to be used by anti-Native groups in Canada in the early 1990s, it was previously popularized by the KKK in the early 1970s.   Though Gary McHale denounces any connections with overtly white supremacist groups and says he cannot control who shows up at his events, “dozens of open neo-Nazis have participated in events organized by McHale.”4  For example Paul Fromm, active white supremacist leader linked with Heritage Front and well known for his support of Canadian holocaust denier Ernest Zundel, attended one of McHale’s events and actively advertises McHale’s events on neo-nazi web pages.  In fact you can find many active threads positively endorsing McHale led events on explicit white nationalist websites. Although anti-Native movements and organizations may seem extreme, representing a fringe group of society, in both the past and present these groups have held prominent links to the political parties and economic interests that govern Canada.  In fact many of these groups are off shoots of Canadian provincial and federal parties.  McHale and the groups he leads are linked with the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and have the support of several Conservative MPPs. When both openly white nationalist/neo-Nazi groups and Canadian political leaders begin supporting the same groups/cause, its time we take a closer look at what is happening.

Describing Native reclamations as terrorist in nature and describing Natives as having an absolute willingness to commit crimes, the Caledonia Wake Up Call movement casts Natives as inherently violent and as ultimately savage. In fact this is what some scholars and historians have called the “new improved language of colonialism:”

…in a political climate where the worst accusation is one of anti-democracy, where terrorism lurks around every corner. The implication is that treaty rights are somehow undemocratic. It is the new nomenclature for what old-style colonialism called uncivilized and savage. 5

Caledonia Wake Up Call and its counterparts readily use distinctions between the civilized and the savage.   These groups insist that the human rights of innocent Caledonia residents are being systematically violated by what Gary McHale calls“ the absolute willingness on the part of Native People to commit crimes,”6 and the government’s willingness to allow it. The movement also claims that the government and the police are aiding and abetting terrorism against the very people they were sworn to protect (i.e.:(white) settlers, not Natives). Not only does the movement evoke the ‘war on terror,’ but with references to Armageddon and ‘evil doers,’ they evoke the ultimate battle between good and evil, between the Christian God and Satan.  The movement plainly describes the reclamation and assertions of sovereignty as ‘evil.’ Alongside the calls to stop the ‘terrorists,’ ‘extortionists and ‘criminals,’ are calls to stop the ‘evildoers.’ Describing Native people as inherently violent or as having an absolute willingness to commit violence or an inclination towards evil, is a very old phenomenon in Canada. It stems from the racist belief that prior to European arrival on this land Natives lived in a state of savagery. The idea of savagery is understood an inferior state of being, characterized as being without laws or organization, a being without civilization. This belief is a very common one in Canada, and is part of a story most Canadians are told over and over again—Europeans brought civilization to the “savages” that “roamed” this land.    Gary McHale equates Native reclamations with a descent into lawlessness and as landclaim terrorism, and for him recognizing Aboriginal sovereignty means to welcome savagery as the order of the day. This is a racist idea that at its roots understands the sovereignty of Aboriginal nations as something inferior to Canadian sovereignty. This understanding is rooted in the idea that Aboriginal people are inferior, and their governments do not have the same integrity as Canadian democracy.

Unfortunately Gary McHale’s ideas are not uncommon. Canada has long advocated these kinds of racist ideas and policies of genocide that created the rational for residential schools (the last of which closed less than two decades ago). Those who created, ran and supported residential schools probably did not think themselves racist either, though their actions and the ideas that guided their actions were undeniably racist.  Residential schools were created under the premise that Canada wanted to “civilize” Natives in order that they might participate fully in Canadian/civilized life.  Today much of the same logic is still rampant and is readily used by groups like Caledonia Wake Up Call and CANACE.  Instead of assimilation policies oriented around the mandate to “civilize”, today assimilation proponents use words such as “democracy” and “equality” claiming we should all be equal under one rule of law.  A report on Anti-Native movements produced by the Montana Human Rights Network indicates that:

the anti-Indian movement….in America is as old as the arrival of the first Europeans. For long periods of time, the anti-Indian movement successfully advanced a policy of genocide which was embraced by virtually all social and political institutions in the country. The modern anti-Indian movement advocates the continued elimination not by the murder of individuals, but by the termination of their structures of self-governance, the taking of their resources, and by defining them as part of the “rest of the country” through forced assimilation.7

Genocide, described as forced assimilation, is a key mandate of anti-sovereignty movements and has long defined Canadian policies toward Aboriginal peoples.

Though Gary McHale and those who support his cause claim they are fighting for equality and democracy, trying to protect innocent Canadians and the rule of law, there is a fundamental flaw in the logic of their cause—we do not all belong to the same nation. In fact the very foundation of the Canadian state and its laws come from recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty, as evidenced in the Treaties.  Treaties are the foundation of Canadian law, and so to uphold the rule of law we must as Canadians uphold these treaties.   Treaties and other agreements, like the Two Row Wampum, have been systematically violated by the Canadian government and its citizens. And this is part of what Six Nations are resisting. Six Nations are protesting the continued violation of both their own rule of law and Canada’s very first rule of law.

If as Canadians we want to protect the rule of law, then we must honour our agreements and obligations.  Therefore, if McHale and others are so concerned about the rule of law, they might begin by recognizing Six Nations sovereignty. If these individuals are so concerned about democracy and freedom, they might try to learn something from the diplomacy of the oldest living League of Nations and democracies on earth.  If they are so concerned about the protection of human rights, they might look to United Nations reports that have consistently admonished Canada’s treatment of Aboriginal peoples, the continued expropriation of Native land and the violation of basic human rights.  As Canadians we have decisions to make. Will we continue to support and allow vigilantism, theft and genocide in our names? Or, will we honour and reclaim the first laws of Canada, laws that respect the land and sovereignty of Native nations?


1 Kallen M. Martin. “Under His Authority: Slade Gorton and the New Terminators in Congress.” Native Americas 13.3 (1996): 22-9.

2 Kim Goldberg.“Anti-indian movement on the rise in BC (Delgamuukw decision and Nisga’a treaty).” Canadian Dimension. Winnipeg: Sep 1998. Vol. 32, Iss. 5; pg. 6

3 “Friends, F.I.R.E., and Aboriginal Rights.” Quaker Aboriginal Affairs Committee. (2004):1-7. < http://cfsc.quaker.ca/pages/documents/FIRE-QAAC.pdf&gt;.

4 Tom Keefer. “The Politics of Solidarity: Six Nations, Leadership, and the Settler Left.” Upping the Anti.4 (2007): 107-123., p,115.

5 Neu, Dean and Therrien. Accounting for Genocide: Canada’s Bureaucratic Assault on Aboriginal People. London :Zed Books,2003 p177

6 Gary McHale. “Who are we?” Caledonia Wake Up Call. 14 June 2007 <http://www.caledoniawakeupcall.com/who.html&gt;.

7 “Drumming Up Resentment: The Anti-Indian Movement in Montana.” The Montana Human Rights Network. (2000):1-48. < http://www.mhrn.org/publications/ specialresearchreports/ DrummingUp.pdf>. p.5


Filed under Uncategorized

Why Non-Natives Should Support Six Nations Land Rights

1. Because their claim is just and right

Canada has a long and shameful history of mistreating First Nations peoples. Canada has broken treaty after treaty and has refused to fulfill its obligations to First Nation peoples, the Six Nations people included. Despite the fact that the Six Nations people have always been (and remain to this day) a national Confederation with whom the British crown entered into nation to nation agreements, the Canadian government imposed its own “Indian Act” by force upon them and encouraged the illegal sale and theft of land and revenue belonging to Six Nations. Respect for First Nations land and treaty rights and respect for indigenous sovereignty is a matter of upholding human rights, international law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Colonization and appropriation of other peoples resources is morally wrong and must be opposed, even if we or some of our ancestors have benefited from it.

2. Because the fault lies with the government, not the people.

The government knew that the Douglas Creek Estates (DCE) lands were contested when it allowed them to be sold. If the government had developed a comprehensive land claims settlement process and had negotiated in good faith with Six Nations from the start, this problem would never have taken the form it has. People from Six Nations occupied the Douglas Creek Estates to stop a housing development from being built on contested land. Now that the situation has been escalated, non-natives on and off the Haldimand tract can best resolve this issue by pressuring the Canadian government to establish a fair and comprehensive settlement of all outstanding land claims with Six Nations.

3. Because this situation will not be resolved by violence .

The time when the Canadian government or non-native vigilantes could drive first Nations Peoples off their land has passed. Any attempt to use force to resolve the reclamation of Douglas Creek Estates will only make matters far worse and will likely end in bloodshed and serious injury on both sides. As events at Ipperwash and Oka proved, native land rights are political issues that must be solved through dialogue and negotiation. These are political and not “law and order” issues, and the use of force or threat of violence will not resolve them. Might does not make right, and attempts to raise the level of tension through the formation of the so called “Caledonia Militia” will only make the situation worse and increase the likelihood of people being injured or even killed.

4. Because our lives and futures are tied together
The conflict over the Douglas Creek Estates and the future conflicts brewing over the Haldimand tract stem from the greed of real estate developers who are turning farmlands, animal habitat and countryside into suburban sprawl in order to enrich themselves. This way of life is not sustainable in the long-term and although it makes profits for the bankers, realtors and lawyers it does not benefit rural life or the average people in small towns like Caledonia. As suburban sprawl spreads small businesses are pushed out by the major chains and big box stores, farmers are pushed off the land and our natural environment is degraded. First Nations peoples have a long history of protecting the environment and of respecting nature. A recognition of their rights will ensure that the lands on and around the Haldimand tract are not ecologically devastated by further suburban sprawl or clogged up by excessive road traffic and smog.

5. Because it is the only way that Caledonia can heal itself
The people of Six Nations and of Caledonia live closely connected lives, sharing schools, workplaces, friendships and families. The tensions caused by this conflict need to be resolved. The people of Six Nations have made clear over and over again that they are not calling for the removal of non-natives from their lands. No non-natives living in Caledonia are at risk of eviction. What Six Nations wants is the compensation they are owed and recognition of their land and treaty rights. It is possible for natives and non-natives to live together in peace and harmony, but in order to have peace there must be justice.

Produced by the CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group
For more information contact 3903fnswg@gmail.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized