Thoughts and links about Indigenous auto-ethnography, occupy movements, and social media distribution

Instead of just clicking “like” I thought I would try and explain why I like the following articles and media that I have recently come across through Facebook posts.

This article, From Gustafsen Lake to Fish Lake: No Place for Violent Stand-Offs in Era of Youtube and Facebook, (written by Damien Gillis, 17 November 2011) got me thinking about how the “Occupy” movement is progressing and how it “could” progress further.  The editorial piece is about an ongoing conflict in British Columbia between a First Nation (the Xeni Gwet’in – Tsilhqot’in) defending its Aboriginal rights in the face of the government upholding the rights of a multinational corporation to mine in their un-ceded territory.  As Gillis writes,

… in addition to that [protests and blockades], they will have the cameras ready to roll, the iPhones and laptops set to upload to the world the reality of the injustice being perpetrated upon them. And in the era of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the social media-fueled Arab Spring, Occupy Wall StreetKeystone XL and Enbridge protests, the world simply has no stomach for watching cops beat up good people standing up for the right values.

I am hoping Damien is right, that the world  has no stomach for watching people’s rights be squashed – but it does depend on people circulating the “stomach turning” documentation through Social Media.

The Doig River First Nation, a group I have worked collaboratively with, has been engaging in auto-ethnography and collaborative ethnography since the late 199os when they began using digital video to document their cultural traditions and their changing landscape – majorly impacted by oil and gas developments.  Some  examples of this kind of auto-ethnography can be seen in these multimedia projects.  While they have been well received by the public, I would not say that they have gone “viral”:

Click on link to the right to watch "Black Blood" courtesy CTV.

So I was glad to see a link to this documentary, Black Blood: Tainted Land, Dying Caribou, produced in 2010 for CTV’s “First Story,” recently posted on the Facebook page of my Doig River “friend” April Askoty. I “shared” April’s link to the documentary on my Facebook page and got quite a few comments about it there.  And so the circulation/distribution continues here.

I think that Black Blood provides some of that “stomach turning” material that could mobilize people to keep distributing the documentary through social media, and give it, and the Doig River First Nation’s concerns, a wider audience.  The documentary is about the struggle and frustration that the Doig River First Nation has experienced as their concerns about ecological and health effects from oil and gas extraction practices in their territories of northeastern BC have not been taken seriously.

Amongst other issues, the documentary points out how the mandatory “consultation” with Aboriginal stakeholders that is part of the environmental impact assessment for oil and gas developments in Canada, is merely a hoop to jump through for the developers, and that the concerns about the documented environmental impacts from the developments on their Aboriginal and Treaty rights are not taken into account by the government as they continue to issue permits to developers to continue industrial work which impacts the land and its ecosystem.

I hope that by pairing this type of stomach turning documentation with articles like this one, How Aboriginal Rights Could Stop Enbridgeby Martin Lukacs (Huffington Post, Jan 19, 2012), the public will come to recognize how Indigenous Rights in Canada, when upheld by the courts, “trump” the rights to extract resources.  The article refers to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline in particular, but the concept could be applied to all oil and gas, and other forms of industrial impacts as well.  As Lukacs writes,

The lands over which the pipeline would cross, and indeed most of the province, were never ceded by First Nations. Their claims were affirmed by the historic Supreme Court of Canada Delgamuukw decision in 1997 that recognized First Nations still held Aboriginal title. …

Government and industry have only partially succeeded in ignoring the courts and regaining the upper hand. They’ve spent 15 years entangling B.C. First Nations in dead-end negotiations whose goal is to ensure these rights are never given life. But the rulings have still created enormous uncertainty over land rights. “Our title underpins this fight,” says Chief Thomas. If the Enbridge review hearings rubber-stamp the pipeline, or Prime Minister Stephen Harper pushes it through, expect a First Nations lawsuit to kill it. Even former federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jim Prentice, now a corporate pipeline backer, has conceded First Nations have a “very strong case.”

Indigenous rights have thus reshaped the debate over the pipeline. But if these rights are one day implemented on the ground, they could reshape the country’s very geography. An upsurge of Canadians calling for their enactment could tilt the balance of power away from corporations and back to First Nations, transforming the management of our lands and waters. This means that supporting Indigenous rights is not simply about paying off Canada’s enormous debt for generations of crooked dealings: it is also our best hope of saving entire territories from endless and senseless extraction and destruction.

So, let’s occupy and maintain our land by occupying social media with auto-ethnographies about what is going on.  Over and out from my WordPress soapbox.


Comments (1)

  1. Thanks for posting these good comments and observations Amber. It is so true that social media can help get the message out that Indigenous people having been trying to make heard for a long time — oil and gas development in the Peace River area they have noted was doing damage for a long time. It is time that their voice is heard! This does have relevance for Enbridge!

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