What does it take to turn colonial apathy into human empathy? We share the same planet, the same air, the same water, the same moon, and the same sun. We also share the same burden of imminent, catastrophic, human-induced climate change, as well as the greatest loss of planetary biodiversity in human history. The last years of the Anthropocene will not be kind, as humanity must either exit center stage by choice or by Vaudeville hook.
Pre-dating and following the imposition of state borders by foreign empires, Indigenous peoples have carefully observed, managed and protected their diverse homelands. It is through prolonged and localized interaction with the land, and a strict intergenerational transmission of information, that Indigenous Peoples have forged an intimate understanding of their homelands. These bodies of knowledge undoubtedly constitute some of the greatest unbroken chains of empirical evidence known to humanity.
Many oral traditions can easily elaborate on events that took place many thousands of years ago, and it is not uncommon for these oral histories to be reinforced by archaeological and geological studies. Yet, within Canada’s framework of reconciliation, this scientific validation means everything and nothing.
It is a cruel irony that many Canadians discount Indigenous knowledge for a “lack of scientific evidence,” while ignoring our scientific evidence due to a lack of interest. From the beginning, Indigenous tribes have appropriated western scientific methods within Indigenous paradigms. There is no absolute dichotomy between our worldviews and “western” sciences, there is only apathy and a racialized segregation of knowledge that favors Eurocentrism. It has never been about the truth. It has always been about power and control.
Despite centuries of assimilation, criminalization and forced removal, our efforts to protect our homelands have never ceased. The root of this resilience is our countless millennia of ancestral experiences on the land and the transmission of these experiences from generation to generation. In places like Unist’ot’en, Mauna Kea, and Standing Rock, we are being silently complicit in the attempted destruction of both Indigenous knowledge and connection to homeland.
The Canadian state continues to discredit and dismantle Indigenous governments, languages and knowledge transmission in its efforts to assert dominance over Indigenous territories. Canada has proven it is willing to overlook its own laws, permit requirements and climate science in order to expedite a natural gas pipeline that will destroy the homeland of the Unist’ot’en who are completely against it. Where is the outcry as Indigenous people suffer, sovereign Indigenous land is cleared, and pipes are laid?
The odds have always been against us, but we have always trusted in the knowledge of our ancestors and truth of our ways. I plead, look for the truth, study history, look at our humanity, and just maybe we can move past the pervasive colonial apathy regarding this land and its Indigenous Peoples. All we ask is that you scrutinize TransCanada as you would a band council and respect our humanity as you would a human being.