On April 23, 2010, the “Solidarity with Six Nations” posted an open letter “protesting the presence of anti-native ‘militia’ leaders” at the New Directions in Aboriginal Policy Forum at Mount Royal University on May 5, 2010. The open letter contains a link to a petition with a few hundred signatures.
The open letter is notable for three reasons. The first is the misinformation that it contains. Neither Gary McHale (CANACE), nor Mark Vandermaas (Caledonia Victims Project), is a member of any “militia”. Also, it is erroneously implied that McHale and Vandermaas were the perpetrators of the violence that occurred in Caledonia. It is noted that “Mr. McHale was from 2007 to 2010 banned from entering Caledonia due to bail conditions stemming from the eruption of violence…”, but it is not mentioned that it was Six Nations residents who were the perpetrators; McHale and Vandermaas were the victims. If you are curious as to why it was a victim of violence, rather than the perpetrators, who was banned from the community, you are not alone. Welcome to the bizarre world of “culturally sensitive” policing.
Secondly, there is the constant accusation of racism without one shred of evidence being presented. The spurious linkage of McHale and Vandermaas to white supremacists is made on the basis that “Paul Fromm, a high profile white supremacist leader, best known for his support of holocaust denier Ernest Zundel, has actively publicized McHale and his events on the neo-nazi website Stormfront. Fromm has been photographed at McHale led events, as have other members of neo-Nazi organizations such as the London, Ontario ‘Northern Alliance’ group”. But this is the result of the mistaken logic that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. Obviously, white supremacists would oppose movements for indigenous sovereignty, as the latter often assert the cultural (racial?) superiority of those who are not “White” (because of the alleged aboriginal “spiritual relationship to the land” and their “covenant with the Creator”). This, however, is unrelated to McHale and Vandermaas’ criticsm of indigenous sovereignty, which is NOT racially motivated; it is rooted in the LIBERAL value of equality under the law – something that tribal societies, with their kinship orientation, resist.
This distinction between liberalism and racism is lost on “Solidarity with Six Nations”. They even imply that my views are tainted by racist assumptions when I argue that “current demands for ‘aboriginal nationalism’ and ‘sovereignty’, because they connect land to ancestry, have more in common with the ideology of Nazi Germany than left-wing ideas”. So, to point out instances of racist viewpoints is to be racist? And what about the content of my argument? Is the attempt by some Mohawks to maintain “cultural purity” by evicting non-Mohawks from their land, and the comments by Chief Wayne Roan of the Ermineskin Band that “the moose and elk do not mate, that is the natural law …Our elders have always said Cree should marry Cree to preserve the culture and way of life” (Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry, p. 107), similar to the doctrines that were expressed in Nazi Germany? If there are any doubts, these ideas should be compared with some of the more pernicious statements in Mein Kampf.
“Solidary with Six Nations” argues that “we believe that the inclusion of McHale and Vandermaas in a discussion on Aboriginal Policy will serve to normalize racism, aggression, appropriation, and citizen-led militias as tools to solve localized conflicts over Indigenous lands, whereas what is needed is a recognition of Indigenous land rights, nation to nation negotiations and the peaceful settlement of land claims”. But how can this be determined? Why is it believed that “recognition of Indigenous land rights, nation to nation negotiations and the peaceful settlement of land claims” is “what is needed”? How can we know that this will achieve “peace and justice in Caledonia and Six Nations”? The plea for “nation to nation” negotiations, for example, is based on the erroneous assumption that groups of a few hundred people with no economic base or capacity to assert statehood are “nations” – a fabrication that cannot be challenged because of the Aboriginal Industry’s control over current policy discussions.
This brings me to the third, and most important, point – that the petition is an outrageous attack on freedom of inquiry within the university. The same people who correctly opposed the attempts to muzzle speech during Israeli Apartheid Week are now, in an unprincipled fashion, trying to prevent challenging viewpoints being expressed about Caledonia and Ipperwash. While the analysis of McHale and Vandermaas might be mistaken, none of us has perfect information or a monopoloy on truth. Therefore, actual scholars should promote the free exchange of ideas to determine how best to proceed with this very complicated and difficult policy area. Instead of promoting censorship and engaging in unwarranted smear campaigns, advocates for indigenous sovereignty should make their case on the basis of logic and evidence. With all the accusations of “racism”, “hate”, “white supremacy”, etc., rational thinkers who might question some of the nonsense that masquerades as scholarship on aboriginal policy are likely to keep silent, impoverishing our capacity to more fully understand aboriginal-non-aboriginal relations and to make informed efforts to achieve social justice today.