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Unity is a powerful tool against the oppressor

by Suzanne Patles

Artwork by Gord Hill
Artwork by Gord Hill

As an L'nu, as a mother, and as a warrior it is my duty to maintain the vision of my ancestors: that our people will someday be free from the chains of colonization. Ignorance of our rights stands in the way of this vision. However, empowerment through knowledge is but one key to the emancipation of our Nations, as the oppressor has systematically created legislation that allows them to “legally” steal the ground and lifeblood from beneath our feet. To break free, we must find common ground and achieve unity.


Since their ships arrived on the shores of Mi’kmaq territory over 500 years ago, the goal of the oppressor has never changed. It has always been to steal from our land and provide monetary gain to the 'Crown.' Today, countless corporations work with our oppressor to attain control over our territories and “resources.”


The Pre-Confederation (Friendship) Treaties that my ancestors agreed to did not include a surrender of any kind: they did not give away our rights and lands, nor did they consent to the delegated authority that has been superimposed upon us. Since the British North America (BNA) Act of 1867 was penned, the oppressor has displaced my people in our homelands and attempted to legislate us out of existence.


Our rights are not derived from the Indian Act. The Indian Act is derived from section 91.24 of the BNA Act, which grants the federal government jurisdiction over my people. The Canadian Constitution entrenches our rights in Section 35, whereby our “existing Aboriginal Rights, and Treaty Rights are hereby recognized and affirmed.”  


In Mi'kmaq Territory, specifically in so-called Nova Scotia, there is an organization which is known as KMKNO (Kwlimuk Maw Klusuwaqnimnuk Negotation Office), which was formed by Indian Act elected representatives and their negotiators. This organization is currently undergoing extensive negotiations through a Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement in order to sign away our land and the rights to our territory with “certainty.” Our rights are being negated and abrogated, not only by our oppressor, but by our own people who claim to represent us. This Comprehensive Land Claim process is a dangerous step towards the complete elimination of our rights. It is paramount that we put a stop to these agreements.


In 2013, a significant moment in Mi'kmaq history took place. The Mi'kmaq people were at the forefront of a fight against Southwestern Energy (SWN), a multi-billion dollar corporation, which sought to extract and develop gas in our territory Si’kintuk, in so-called New Brunswick. The corporation and the government were adamant that this project would see completion; however, the Mi'kmaq people and our allies were just as adamant that it would not.


My words to the oppressor are simple; redeem my rights and gain my respect. I am a sovereign Micmac (Mi'kmaq/L'nu) woman who does not depend on any authority but the authority of my Creator. I am allowed to be in any inch of my territory and I will not allow my rights to be extinguished. I was born with my freedom and this freedom will continue on through the blood of my children and their children's children. My spirit will not be broken, nor will any government, police officer, or company inhibit my inalienable rights. These are the beliefs with which I began my journey to empower people to assert their rights and freedoms.


During the epic battle with the New Brunswick government and SWN in 2013, I was arrested more than once for asserting my beliefs. I not only witnessed the lengths the government will go to maintain colonial authority over our people, but also the lengths the Indian Act elected representatives will go in order to not bite the hand that feeds them.


We won the fight against SWN Resources the moment they stated they were leaving Mi'kmaq territory. However, the oppression we face from Indian Act elected representatives, negotiators, and government officials continues and goes largely unnoticed.


In 2013 we proved that when we stand united as one body against our oppressors, we can overcome their power and become the change makers the world needs. We, the people, boots on the ground, found our power. It was a fight that changed the course of the Indigenous rights movement. The world was awakened to the power of Indigenous peoples’ assertion of rights and to the urgency to protect sacred waters and territories from resource extraction.


With new threats to our territories (such as the Alton Gas Project in Sipekne'katik, Nova Scotia) the next great battle is to bring modern day Treaties to a halt. Consultation is not enough when it comes to the raping and pillaging of our homelands and the poisoning of our sacred waters. Our rights are non-negotiable and our land which contains the blood of my ancestors is not for sale. Our rights and responsibilities do not belong on any negotiation table.


United we are powerful and can defeat our oppressors. If we are powerful enough to defeat a multi-billion dollar oil company, it means that we are powerful enough to overcome anything. This is the time our Ancestors have been waiting for. It is time to Warrior Up, protect the sacred, and to speak out about the injustices we face from our political oppressor. Unity is the key after empowerment.

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