“This is the final showdown between the force of greed and the power of love. Either we are going to stop this extraction, or we are going to perish.” The Dandelion Insurrection – a novel by Rivera Sun
It is not an exaggeration to say that Canada and the United States are facing an invasion of extractive energy corporations. They seek to conquer these occupied territories just as the early Europeans did and extract the resources while subjecting the populaces to genocide. This may sound like strong language, but that is only because the public discourse on this subject has been anemic, at best. When the continued use of fossil fuels threatens extreme regional environmental degradation, severe health consequences for local communities, and also the extinction of the entire human species due to carbon-emission induced global warming leading to catastrophic climate change, even the language of “invasion” and “genocide” is inadequate to describe the reality.
In light of this crisis, our nation-to-nation relations become of extreme importance. The people of the United States, Canada, the First Nations and the tribal governments within the US all face this threat together.
When my Occupy Radio co-host, David Geitgey Sierralupe, and I interviewed Heather Milton-Lightening, the co-director of the Indigenous Tar Sands Resistance out of the Polaris Institute in Ottawa, ON about the historical and present-day relations between the First Nations and Canada, she told us that respect between indigenous and non-indigenous people is fundamental to building a successful resistance to extractive energy industries. (listen to the podcast)
Transnational corporations, like Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron, exist dangerously outside the jurisdiction of any single nation-state. Protected by layers of trade agreements and corporate-controlled courts, they have little accountability for their actions or tangible consequences for their abuses. They disregard the democracies of even the most powerful nations, and abjectly ignore the rights of First Nations and tribal governments.
When the people of any nation say “no” to extractive energy companies, the governments either sell them out (as in the case of Navajo Nation, where tribal officials strike deals to continue coal and uranium mining) or the industry invades their territories using the military might of the US or Canada to back up their questionable legal claims. When appealed to, international law has done little to effectively halt the corporations or sanction the nations that support them. So, the situation boils down to on-the-ground resistance of tiny indigenous nations and local communities struggling to defend themselves from the invasion of powerful, militarized entities.
Sounds familiar, hmm? History is filled with repetitions of this story: Tibet and China, Latvia and the USSR, Hawaii and the United States . . . the cycle of invasion and conquest includes the Vikings, the Romans, the Aztecs, the Comanche, the Spaniards, and the present day Israelis, among many others.
The silver lining of this history is that humanity has also developed some tools for dealing with invasion and occupation. One of these is violence; the other is nonviolent action. Developed collectively from people of many nations, cultures, races, and spiritual faiths to overcome oppression, occupation, invasion, injustice, inequality, and tyranny; nonviolence has proven to be a very useful set of tools, particularly in the cases of small nations challenged by much larger nations.
When diplomacy, negotiation, and political process have broken down and an invasion is taking place, the peoples of all nations have the right to resist. This fundamental right applies not only to the First Nations, whose sovereignty is acknowledged by the Canadian Constitution and the United Nations, and the tribes of the US (whose legal status is as “sovereign territories” of the United States), but also to all US or Canadian citizens when faced with a military coup or factional take-over of their government.
With the very real invasion of mega-corporations threatening the continuation of all peoples on Earth, can the citizens of our nation acknowledge the uncomfortable truth of our past and the challenges of our present to help us strive for a common future?
History is a story that we constantly tell and retell. Successive waves of awareness and ignorance sweep the rocky shores of public perception. The story of North America, or Turtle Island, as it is called by many indigenous peoples, is a painful story, but if we can learn from both the shameful and powerful aspects of our past, we can use “history as a weapon” to protect our common future on this planet. As transnational corporations surge forward into a new chapter of exploitation, perhaps we can work together to make this the last chapter of domination and colonization, and the first of a new era of respectful relations between all human beings on planet Earth.
Author/Actress Rivera Sun is a co-founder of the Love-In-Action Network, a co-host on Occupy Radio, and, in addition to her new novel, The Dandelion Insurrection, she is also the author of nine plays, a book of poetry, and her debut novel, Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, which celebrates everyday heroes who meet the challenges of climate change with compassion, spirit, and strength. www.riverasun.com