Monday, 6 October 2014

"Walk for Change" and Other Less Disruptive Ways of Advocating Against Violence - No Roads Blocked

In the previous two postings I reported on the Men's Fire blockade of Highway 6 at 4th Line to bring awareness of missing and murdered aboriginal women to the Harper Government.  Clearly this action inconvenienced local residents and visitors, but accomplished little if anything.  I thought that I would contrast this approach or tactic with the method used in another recent protest involving Six Nations residents - who used an entirely different approach to increase awareness of violence against aboriginal people (although in truth violence against women is a world - wide problem not confined to Canadian let alone Six Nations "aboriginal" women).

1)  On Saturday, 27 September 2014 the 3rd annual "Walk4Change6NAY" took place at the intersection of 4th Line and Chiefswood Road on the Six Nations Reserve.  Here participants walked from the four directions into Veteran's Park.

According to an article in "The Sachem" of Thursday 2 October 2014 entitled, "Walk for Change promotes ending violence", the goal of the march was to promote, ending violence against women, men, children and youth, partner violence, bullying, violence in sports, cyber - bullying, elder abuse, sexual assault or any other form of violence.  The article does not appear to be online at this point, however I found an excellent description in "The Brantford Expositor" seen here.

Part of the chant by the participants was "Ganonhkwasra" in English "love among us".  The entire process is embedded in traditional practices.  A sign carried by marchers noted, "respect, caring, sharing, kindness, peace, good mind".

So here all people who are concerned with what is obvious to anyone who lives in the area - that violence in many forms is a serious problem that must not be swept under the carpet or blamed on "colonialism" or other such abstract entities - came together in a positive way to increase awareness of the problem and seek community solutions.  The violence is prevalent and needs to stop.  A wonderful positive message was sent out to the community, and in a way that did not disrupt anything - except perhaps the mindset of perpetrators of violence.  As Elected Chief Ava Hill said, it is up to us to come up with an action plan to combat violence.  No one was playing the blame game here.  All realized that solutions come from within the community, not a Canadian government enterprise.

The march was supported by Ganonhkwasra Family Assault Support Services (GFASS), a non-profit group offering services to those at Six Nations who have experienced family violence.  Their focus is to get clients to "accept personal responsibility" for their own change, and to make these changes within the context of traditional healing methods.

2)  "Never to be forgotten vigil" taking place in Hagersville, and adjacent lands on the Mississaugas of the New Credit Reserve, finally moving to the Community Hall at New Credit on Saturday 4 October 2014.  The highlight perhaps was the display of the 1200 faceless dolls representing the missing and murdered aboriginal women of Canada.  See the article in "Two Row Times" here.

However, what was disturbing was when a Six Nations speaker took to the podium and went off on playing the "blame game" about colonialism and the Harper government.  This militant stance took away from the message as the issues were deflected elsewhere.  She spoke of her own family where violence was a way of life when growing up.  So she doubtless carries the scars of this experience as do millions of women around the world - including unknown numbers of women who are members of other communities in Canada.  Acknowledging that the root cause was dysfunction within her own family, she reported that she is a survivor of violence and molestation within her own family.  Somehow she believes that the hated Harper government should be stepping in to conduct redundant inquiries.  It is extremely odd that she would not recognize that she had put her finger on the source of the problem.  Specifically, the inaction within aboriginal communities to address this urgent problem that stems from dysfunction within, not from "colonialism" or other convenient sources of blame. Taking personal responsibility and effecting local changes is the route to change - but it is a great deal easier to blame, blame, blame - which has become a way of life for many across the board.  A community will never heal until it recognizes how it has contributed to the suffering of its members.  Address substance abuse and domestic violence and you are well on your way to finding the solution.  How can an external body or a Canadian Prime Minister impact what is essentially a local, family and community issue?  This I have never understood.

3)  The Murdered and Missing Women's Vigil at Six Nations (see here for further information from an article in "Two Row Times").  Also this past weekend, a host of speakers spoke about the MMIW matter spoke at Veteran's Park.  Here, Approximately 80 community members gathered to honour Onkwehon:we women with a candle light vigil and feast on Sunday evening at Six Nations Veterans Park.  While the approach was great and some of the speakers spoke with knowledge of the roots of the problem, once again there were those who were there to foster militancy and play the blame game - including the woman noted above (who is a lawyer, and very bitter).  It gets tedious to constantly point fingers at Prime Minister Harper, when the reason why the problem continues to exist is all around them.  Another speaker followed suit, saying, “I’m getting sick and tired of begging for assistance from a government that is not my own, and all I get are excuses. Harper is turning a blind eye".  Granted that one speaker noted that men have an important role to play since they are often the perpetrators of the violence.  I doubt that anyone, except those with an obsession about the ills of the Federal Government (alas there are many whose mind set lies in this direction).  At least there is a glimmer of light in a number of corners which will place the blame squarely where it deserves to be centered. 

It occurred to me that any of these grassroots approaches, especially when the organizers and speakers do not simply engage in "group think" where all have agreed beforehand that the villain here is the Harper Government.  Any approach, other than disrupting the lives of innocent people, will hit the target audience far more directly than blocking a local road and expecting that miraculously the Federal Government in Ottawa would accede to various demands.



  1. DeYo, there is no question that many problems in aboriginal communities have resulted from the stereotyping of natives, welfare dependency, colonization and the residential schools, but, regardless of the cause, each individual has to look at himself or herself and say, how can I help to make things better for me, my family and my community—now?

    As I explained in my “Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian” ( post, February 11, 2014, Section D.1, I witnessed an aboriginal woman who was attending university get propositioned by a couple of men in a bar because they wrongly assumed she was a prostitute. This was not the first or only time I saw an indigenous woman treated in an exploitative manner. So, yes, I am sure there are systemic issues that need to be addressed to stop this sort of stereotyping. But change also has to come from within the individual.

    As I said in my “Caledonia and Six Nations” post, May 21, 2012, “[m]any of the best solutions to the aboriginal situation originate with aboriginals who realize that changing things for the better is a two-way street. They acknowledge that all the blame for native woes cannot be placed on non-natives’ shoulders.”

    The initiatives you describe in your post, that show how some residents of Six Nations and the Mississaugas of New Credit are taking action to effect change on a personal and community level, are examples of this two-way street approach. Waiting for the government to take action, or blaming the government for what is happening now, deflects attention from what the community can do immediately to correct the dysfunction. The healthier the community is, the more likely they will be able to constructively address the systemic issues.

    On October 1, 2014, I co-hosted the CHRW 94.9 FM “Body, Mind and Spirit” radio show with host (registered nurse) Patricia Kennedy, and featured guest, Tsimshian Calvin Helin, who is a “best-selling author, international speaker, entrepreneur, lawyer and activist for self-reliance.” The interview is about 57 minutes long. At about the 48-minute point, I asked Helin what he thought about the missing and murdered aboriginal women inquiry issue. You can hear his approximately two-minute response (to about the 50-minute point) at Go to “Shows & Events,” then “Body, Mind & Spirit,” and you will find the show listed under “2014 Radio Shows.”

  2. As usual Counterpoise, a very insightful posting!

    I did indeed listen to the radio broadcast which you noted above, and it is excellent. Helin is an amazing person who is more focused on the future than wallowing in perceived ills from ages past.

    Forward momentum can only occur with the realization that the key ingredient to success is not playing the blame game, but taking personal responsibility for one's own life and forging ahead. The whiners of the world get nowhere because wallowing in self pity leads only to at best spinning one's wheels. Everyone faces hurdles or barriers of one sort or another (I could provide a long list pertaining to myself). I resolved to overcome these issues and make the best of things, and see where it all led. Worked for me. Goal oriented behavior - it has must to commend it. Stumble and fall - forget about blaming others, find a plan B and continue full speed ahead. Alas, I see far too little of this among the conservative element hereabouts. "Tribalism" drags one back to a non existent romanticized past. If you fancy becoming a Bay Street investment consultant or a pediatric oncologist, for example, it is not going to happen with obsessive rumination on "genocide", "colonialism", and such buzz words which in this neck of the woods is characteristic of those who would rather swim with anger than meet with success. DeYo.