Day of Action, or Dead on Arrival?
AFN DOA: Day of Action, or Dead on Arrival?
By Warrior Publications
Warrior, No.3, Summer 2007
“Act when it is beneficial, desist when it is not.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has called for a ‘National Day of Action’ to occur on June 29, 2007. The purpose of this is to pressure the federal government into providing more funding for Native programs & services. Specifically, it is in response to the recent federal budget, which did not allocate enough funding for Native peoples, according to the AFN.
While Indian Act chief Terrance Nelson of the Roseau River band in Manitoba has called for 24-hour blockades of railway lines, AFN grand chief Phil Fontaine has been downplaying the call for militant action, saying that the ‘day of action’ is meant to consist of peaceful protests by Natives across the country. But he can’t control what individual chiefs & bands choose to do, he added.
Fontaine’s distancing from blockades and other actions may be due to government threats to cut funding to bands that do engage in economic disruption, such as blocking railways or highways. Ovide Mercredi, a former AFN grand chief & current band council chief, also released a statement saying direct actions would be counter-productive and lead to a loss of public support for Native peoples.
The AFN, which is comprised of Indian Act chiefs from over 600 bands across Canada, is especially vulnerable to funding cuts since it is a government funded organization.
As noted, the AFN’s main goal in its ‘day of action’ is to gain more funding, which it claims is necessary to making Natives equal citizens in Canada. This is indicative of the assimilation that the AFN promotes. Like the band council system it is based on, the purpose of the AFN is to control Native peoples and to administer government policies. Canada’s strategy has always been to assimilate Natives, and this is why it established the band councils and, later, the AFN.
Part of the band council’s & AFN’s ability to control Native peoples is to appear as an oppositional force against the government. This creates the illusion that they truly represent the interests of the people, and not the government that created & sponsors them. The AFN’s attempt to portray itself as more aggressive in its relationship with government may stem from a recent rise in Native militancy, including the 2006 Six Nations land reclamation in Caledonia, Ontario.
At the same time, the AFN & chiefs really are engaged in a struggle with the government, not only for more money but also for power & authority. They use genuine Native resistance & the threat of an uprising as political leverage, promoting themselves as the ‘rational’ alternative for negotiated settlements that, if ignored, will lead to violence & chaos.
Sometimes, the chiefs and band councils even sound militant, advocating direct action and resistance. In the end however, they never really do anything, and certainly not in a way that challenges the colonial system. Last year, chief Nelson also threatened a train blockade on the same day, but backed out in the last minute.
According to Sun Tzu, before we make alliances we must know the strategy & intentions of any potential allies. In the case of the AFN, we already know what this is. It isn’t liberation or defending the land, it’s assimilation and capitalism, which is all about oppression and resource exploitation.
It would be a mistake to engage in any actions on July 29, 2007, as this will only serve to legitimize the AFN and the Indian Act chiefs. If there are protests & blockades across the country, people here & around the world will think the AFN is strongly supported by Natives. Many Natives may even believe this.
As it is, because the AFN and band councils do not have widespread support, there will likely be little direct action taken, and only a handful of protests across the country. This is probably why Fontaine & the AFN have also distanced themselves from actions such as chief Nelson’s proposed train blockade. If nothing happens, everything went according to plan (peaceful protests). If there are blockades & occupations, then it will bolster the AFN’s ‘bargaining’ position with the government.
Either way, our struggle will not be advanced. Instead, it will only add to the level of confusion & misunderstanding perpetrated amongst our people by groups such as the AFN. Already, many well-meaning but naive citizens & Natives alike have expressed support for direct action, apparently without knowledge of what the AFN’s role is (for example, media-activist Naomi Klein).
Considering the recent history of indigenous resistance in this country (i.e., Oka, Gustafsen Lake, Burnt Church, Six Nations, etc.) it seems revealing that of all things for the AFN to declare a national day of action around, it’s to get more money from the government! Not even the police killing of Dudley George at Ipperwash in 1995 moved the AFN to call for a day of action (instead, they appealed for silence and submission).
Some people say the AFN’s proposed DOA should be supported, because action is needed and so too is unity. But we don’t need the AFN or the band councils to organize us into ‘action’. We know when it’s necessary; people put their lives & freedom on the line when the time comes to do so. Not for money, but to defend our people and the land.
We do not need simplistic calls for ‘action’ for action’s sake (or for more money); we need a resistance movement capable of taking action to defend our land & peoples. While unity is necessary, how can we unite with collaborators whose very purpose is to promote assimilation within our communities (and whose very existence is a form or division)?
In a struggle for liberation, we must make a clear distinction between ourselves and our opponent, including those who collaborate and act as neo-colonial agents for the enemy. We must not let our struggle be determined by traitors & sell-outs, Aboriginal capitalists with no principles but the accumulation of more wealth & power, the local agents for a corrupt & oppressive colonial regime.
In the Spirit of Total Resistance:
BOYCOTT the AFN’s ‘National Day of (In)Action’