I read with interest Anna Maria Tremonti’s “Could First Nations still stop the Northern Gateway pipeline?” It was the text version of Ms. Tremonti’s radio program “The Current Review” that aired on December 20, 2013, on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio One.
The subject matter of Ms. Tremonti’s article demonstrates the DOMINATION and SUBORDINATION patterning which best defines what it means to be defined as “indigenous.” Domination is accurately defined as “one nation or people exercising arbitrary control over another nation or people, and thereby making them subject to the will of those dominating them.”
The following sentence illustrates the pattern I am referring to: “An indigenous population, even when it constitutes the majority in a country, possesses all the characteristics of a national minority subjugated by a dominant society.” (Sadruddin Aga Khan and Hassan bin Talal, Indigenous Peoples: A Global Quest for Justice, A Report for the Independent Commission On International Humanitarian Issues, 1987, p. 9)
The key terms in that sentence—“indigenous,” “population,” “country,” “national,” “minority,” “subjugated by,” and “dominant society”—are drawn from the DOMINATION PARADIGM consistently used against nations and peoples termed “indigenous” (i.e., “dominated.”)
The following sentence from Ms. Tremonti’s article on the situation in the Canadian context clearly demonstrates the lack of power for nations and peoples termed “indigenous”: “After 180 days of hearings in 21 communities across B.C. [British Columbia] and Alberta, the [federal] Joint Review Committee signed off on the pipeline proposal yesterday.” Those being termed “First Nations” in Ms. Tremonti’s story are not the ones with the final decision-making with regard to their own lands and territories. Why? Because the final decision-making is characterized as being “up to” those who are termed “federal” decision makers in “Ottawa.”
“Ottawa,” is the name for the Canadian Capital—it is a name used for the Canadian system of government as a whole, which is considered to be the “ultimate” decision maker. The DOMINATION SYSTEM deems “First Nations” to be “subordinate to,” the decisions of those government officials in Ottawa, who are seated in the “dominating” position of power.
The First Nations are deeply concerned that the Northern Gateway pipeline will result in the poisoning and contamination of the waters and lives of the Original Nations of Great Turtle Island. But if the decision makers seated in Ottawa do not concur with the First Nations’ assessment, the DOMINATION SYSTEM deems the federal decision makers to possess the perfect right to ignore the Original Nations’ concerns by favoring corporate interests and the pipeline.
The system I am referring is designed so that the decisions and economic interests of those with the “superior decision making authority” always come out “on top.” That’s why they are called “dominant.” They consider themselves to be “the top dogs,” so to speak.
If and when such a decision has been made, I can just hear some imperious ass saying: “Those are the rules. You might not like them, but there they are.” So, as an experiment, let’s say those are “the rules.” That being the case, a question arises: “How in the hell did those rules and their DOMINATION-SUBORDINATION assumptions get started to begin with?”
Answering that question requires thinking back to the first establishment of the DOMINATION SYSTEM in the geographical region now commonly known as “Canada.” That system is not just the context for the debate over the Northern Gateway pipeline. It is the context for every key decision that has ever been made by “the Canadian government” regarding the Original Nations of Great Turtle Island.
What I am getting at is this: Answering the question about where the DOMINATION SYSTEM and its “rules” came from requires that we think back to the time when Christian Europeans first sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. They brought with them assumptions about their divine right to colonize (and dominate) any and all non-Christian lands and nations throughout “the Americas.” And we were all non-Christians back then.
Christendom’s invasive arrival was the genesis of DOMINATION on Great Turtle Island. Making this connection now is critically important, given that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a fundamentalist Christian. He is a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Alberta, Canada. Harper’s brand of Christianity is distrustful of science. Thus, it seems to be more than coincidence that Harper’s administration has burned, or thrown in landfills, archival materials on the environment. Such behavior is reminiscent of the facists in Europe in the 1930’s.
Such questionable behavior is in keeping with the first law of Christian fundamentalism which is found in the biblical book of Genesis: e.g., with its DOMINATION-SUBORDINATION language system: “Subdue the earth and dominate the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea and all the creeping things that creep upon the earth.” The words “subdue” and “dominate” in that biblical passage are carriers of the DOMINATION SYSTEM that Prime Minister Harper and the Canadian government system are using against Original Nations and Peoples that are being termed “Indigenous.” And even if you strip away its Christian origin, the domination patterning is still in place. The point is this: It’s time to call for the Canadian government system to stop behaving in patterns of DOMINATION toward the Original Nations and Peoples of Great Turtle Island.
Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008).