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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ


BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash Jun 18, 2020

I owe a lot of my healing, well-being, best activism days, resilience and strength to the Black community. I owe a lot of my knowledge and education to Black creators, from the poetry and books I read, the music I listen to, the clothes I wear, to the movies I watch and the memes I share. Every single time I speak out about Indigenous rights, the Black community is always there to support me. Black women have taught me how to organize and to protect myself while defending my rights. 

Most likely, it’s the same for you, whether you know it or not, because the contribution of the Black community to society is huge although often erased. 

The uprising over police brutality around the world is also great news for Indigenous peoples. I’m not going to be part of the gang that is bitter because the Black community gets more media coverage than us right now. That’s because we will most likely benefit from this. And from my own experience, Black people have always made space for us in their movement. 

When we’d organize events for Native women, they always showed up. From the start, Black Lives Matter has acknowledged that we are also among the populations that are more likely to die at the hands of cops. It’s now our turn to acknowledge that some First Nations have done harm to Black people.

We tend to forget the fact that Native Americans from the “Five Civilized Tribes” also owned slaves and how the constant use of the N-word in our communities still shows how little respect some of us have for Black people. We still have work to do, and it’s easy to see when we look at the words that we use in our own languages to describe them. 

Ideas that were deemed too radical are now being seriously considered. Finally, we can discuss defunding and dismantling the police. Many police forces have little training on how to de-escalate a situation or how to deal with vulnerable populations. Add weapons and racial bias to the equation, and you get the perfect recipe for disaster. 

The current situation is absurd. Doctors and nurses are running out of protective gear during the Covid-19 pandemic while heavily armed cops and tactical units shoot on protesters with weapons that are internationally banned in warfare. In Canada, the RCMP keeps promising that they’ll do better, but what are we really expecting from a police force that was created to terrorize and control Indigenous people?

The Black community is speaking, and we must listen and reflect on how we can support them. Feeding divisions is exactly what colonizers want. For people saying, “All lives matter”, all lives will not matter until Black lives matter. 

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Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash is Cree from Waswanipi, and is the Nation’s newest columnist. She is an activist and writer who also has a regular column in Montreal’s French Metro Newspaper.