I did a two-part post on AIM (American Indian Movement), and you can read about the movement itself and its members. AIM, according to the late founder Dennis Banks, was “formed to address the oppression of the native people living in the twin cities.”
In Canada, Indigenous people held their share of protests for aboriginal rights. Some were documented in books, others weren’t. I am still searching for one about the occupation of Anicinabe Park in Kenora, Ontario.
For this post, I’ll be recommending two books I’ve read on this subject, one taking place in my Treaty Area (meaning the First Nations communities who signed a Treaty with the British Crown) and the other in Quebec.
There are a few books on the incident at Oka, but I chose People of the Pines by Geoffrey York, Africa correspondent for the Globe and Mail, because I’d previously read a book by the author when I was a young girl. My dad, who forever shared his passion for reading and music with his children, passed the book The Dispossessed on to me. I loved Mr. York’s style, so when I was looking for a book about the incident at Oka, I went with an author I knew.
People of the Pines: The Warriors and the Legacy of Oka by Geoffrey York
Blurb courtesy of Amazon:
For 78 days in the summer of 1990, Canadians were transfixed by the dramatic images of Mohawk warriors in an armed standoff with the Quebec police and the Canadian army. It was a crisis that paralyzed an entire province, gripped the nation’s imagination, and forever transformed the politics of aboriginal people in Canada.
People of the Pines is the insider’s account of the amazing events at Oka and Kahnawake in the hot summer of 1990. Written by two journalists who lived at the warrior encampment in the final weeks of the military siege;
– It contains a memorable portrait of the strange and fascinating characters who plotted the warrior strategy.
– It explores the ideological training grounds of the Warrior Society and hotbeds of Mohawk nationalism that continue to supply hundreds of new recruits for warrior movement.
– It describes the 270 year dispute over the land at Oka and the stubborn men and women who led that fight, inspiring their grandchildren and great-grandchildren who stood together in the Pines in 1990.
– It investigates the little-known history of armed conflict and guerrilla warfare at Oka and Kahnawake.
– And it contains some surprising new revelations about gun-smuggling, psychological warfare, secret meetings and private deals at the highest levels of Canada’s political and military circles.
People of the Pines is an unforgettable saga of intense human drama and military intrigue. It tells a compelling story of the uncompromising idealists and powerful personalities who forced Canada to confront the new reality of aboriginal people in this country today.
I was very interested in reading the next book because my former job took me to many First Nations communities, and Grassy Narrows was one of them I had the privilege of visiting on a few occasions. I enjoyed working with the people and leaders.
Strong Hearts, Native Lands: The Cultural and Political Landscape of Anishinaabe Anti-Clearcutting Activism by Anna J. Willow
Book Blurb courtesy of Goodreads:
In December 2002 members of the Grassy Narrows First Nation blocked a logging road to impede the movement of timber industry trucks and equipment within their 2,500-square-mile traditional territory. The Grassy Narrows blockade went on to become the longest-standing protest of its type in Canadian history. The story of the blockade is a story of convergences. It takes place where cultural, political, and environmental dimensions of indigenous activism intersect; where history combines with current challenges and future aspirations to inspire direct action. When members of this semiremote northwestern Ontario Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) community took action to protect their land, they did so with the recognition that the fate of the earth and the fate of much more are tightly interwoven.
Anna J. Willow demonstrates that indigenous people’s decisions to take environmentally protective action cannot be understood apart from motives that Western observers have most often considered political or cultural rather than purely environmental. By recounting how and why one Anishinaabe community was able to take a stand against the industrial logging that threatened their land-based subsistence and way of life, Willow offers a more complex–and more constructive–understanding of human-environment relationships.