The fourth journal of the Comitee for territorial defence and decolonisation has just been published. The text below is the introduction. The whole journal is available in web version here. If you want to have it in paper form, or to distribute it in your community, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get your copies (everything’s free including shipping)
A world of forests
The territory known as 'Canada' is fracturing at the seams. Throughout the land, two clamours can be heard, rising in intensity. The first is the blaring sound of extractivism produced by the unbridled rhythm of the reproduction of capital. For centuries, the drive towards destruction and death has propelled the extraction of minerals, plants and animals for profit. As a conterpoint voices have emerged out of these manufactured deserts attempting to harmonise various ways of being that are grounded on the land in order to stand up for all life forms. Today, a resurgence that stems from a distant past, haunts the colonial world. This muffled clamour has already instiled terror in those who, sensing that the time of wanton destruction is nearing an end, hasten to eradicate forests, wetlands, streams, lakes and rivers. Meanwhile, the policy of annihilation waged for centuries and directed at Indigenous Peoples has been laid bare.
The eruption of rail blockades, which paralysed the Canadian settler colonial state during the 2020 Winter, was the latest expression of these rumbling voices echoing across the lands. In solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en and in opposition to the Trudeau government’s pipeline projects, thousands of people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, united and showed that the railway, one of Canada’s foundational myths, is nothing more than a mere thread that could easily be broken. The intensity of the blockades and the strength they projected were interrupted by negotiations between the hereditary chiefs and the Trudeau government. Also, the need to erect new blockades was rendered impossible amidst the policing of sanitary measures put in place with the spread of COVID-19. However, the standoff has only been temporarily halted, and Wet’suwet’en grandmothers are now issuing new calls to action.
During the fall, a short time before the COVID reconfinement, numerous struggles for the autonomy of Indigenous Peoples began to appear, each rooted in their own histories of opposition against extractivism, settler colonialism and the Canadian State. Since July 19, 2020, an encampment has been blocking a housing development project near Six Nations of the Grand River, the largest reserve in Canada grouping the Nations that make up the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. This reserve has been increasing in density within an enclosed territory plagued by pollution, all the while, Toronto, by comparison, continues its relentless and unabated suburban expansion 100 km beyond the city’s boundary. The site, renamed 1492 Land Back Lane, forms part of the land that belongs to the Six Nations community according to a 1784 Treaty (Haldimand Proclamation), but the developers of the housing project are determined to expropriate it.
Other Haudenosaunee Nations have also been struggling to recover traditional territories that lie beyond the reserves to which they have been confined. In this vein, an encampment was pitched in downtown Toronto in support of the Six Nations struggle, while another has been set up in Akwesasne. On the East Coast in mid-September, Mi’kmaq fishers from the Sipekne’katik First Nation in central Nova Scotia launched their first self-regulated lobster fishery. In the days that followed, rival White settler fishers showed up near the Taqmetek (Saulnierville) wharf in Digby County to steal fishing gear and slash the car tires of Indigenous fishers. On the water, settler fishers also tried to cause boating accidents and cut Mi’kmaq lobster trap lines. Later, on October 1st, one of the two lobster pounds storing Mi’kmaq catches was attacked by settlers and set ablaze. The Mi’kmaq living in so-called Nova Scotia have called for the respect of their right to hunt, fish and gather in pursuit of a moderate livelihood throughout the year, as granted in the Treaties of 1752 and 1760-61, the latter of which was affirmed by Canada’s Supreme Court in the 1999 Marshall decision. Similar to the struggle at Six Nations, there is a demand to respect the treaties, not only with the aim of reclaiming territory, but also as a call to everyone to live on the land with the right to subsistence.
This year, at the beginning of sport hunting season in the La Vérendrye wildlife reserve, the Anishinabeg blocked logging roads and pitched about a dozen camps to defend the dwindling moose population. Tensions quickly mounted, but ancestral sovereignty triumphed by imposing its own moratorium on moose hunting and by ignoring an injunction that urged the Anishinabeg to allow settler hunters to pass through. For a month’s time, the duration of the ‘legal’ hunting season, the roads – a colonial infrastructure providing settlers with access to the land – were rendered unserviceable by the blockades and used only for the purpose of defending animal life. The Algonquin-Anishinabe Nation had therefore set up camps at the centre of a site in which the catastrophic present and decolonial future converge.
The struggle of the Anishinabeg of La Vérandrye is a reminder that the forest remains at the heart of the Canadian and Québécois settler colonial project. The appropriation and control of forested lands have always been the initial steps leading towards other forms of exploitation – agriculture, silviculture, hydroelectric dams, mineral and oil extraction. In the symbolic and material power of the forest lies a threat to the project of modernisation and an obstacle to the assimilation of Indigenous Peoples.
The forests teem with a multitude of life forms and are constituted by a lattice of overlapping territorial logics and sovereignties. To halt the invasion and destruction of the forest also means thwarting the advances of extractivist economic projects. The forest is a frontline terrain of struggle for Land Defenders and Water Protectors. This fourth issue of CDDT considers the question of the destruction of forests that, yesterday and today, persists as a fundamental component to colonial dynamics.
In the following pages, you will find a collection of five texts and two interviews. The first two texts, The Last Forest – The Ya’nienhonhndeh and The Atikamekw Nehirowisiwok – Grandeur of the Nitaskinan, focus on forests that are threatened by large-scale forestry projects. Two interviews and a third text – Hunting the Hunt – concentrate on the struggle against sport hunting by the Anishinabew in order to preserve a healthy population of moose in La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve. The fourth text, What’s going on at the Terrain Vague? The Steinberg Woodland in the way of the extractivist economy? offers a broader reflection about what is at stake with a wasteland situated on the east side of Montréal Island. In opposition to perspectives that treat this situation as solely an urban planning issue, we reconceive of the space as a pawn in the colonial power’s chess game: the pursuit of mass resource extraction in the North. The last text, entitled How stop to the Mass Decimation of Forests? concludes with a proposal for a decolonial revolution along three paths: Resumption, Provocation and Alliance.