BTL 2022

Resistance towards resilience: Suicide and the settler colonial state

Indigenous PoliticsHuman Rights

M. Koostachin and Sons General Store, Attawapiskat. Photo by 40rev/Flickr.

The community of Attawapiskat Cree Nation has called for a state of emergency over suicide attempts that have taken place en masse, a call that the Government of Canada has yet to respond to. We now have an OccupyINAC movement taking place in response with a potential regional spread across Canada. The takeover of the so called government Indigenous affairs offices are a consequence of the continued colonial legacy of the settler colonial state of Canada towards its indigenous peoples; a genocidal relationship legislated through the Indian Act, 1876.

The purpose of this article is to provide a perspective from Palestinian eyes to educate and awaken the Canadian and global conscience in solidarity and empowerment of the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island and the historic land of Palestine respectively.

The Palestinian connection

The Palestinian people are the indigenous peoples of the historic land of Palestine what is now known as Israel. The Palestinians have been and continue to be victims of settler colonial violence imposed against them by Israel. We have been ethnically cleansed from our territories in 1948 in events known to us as Al Nakba or the ‘catastrophe’-similar events which occurred in the Plains as well as the United States with Wounded Knee. The dispossession and displacement continues to be felt-most importantly through legislation and policy what has come to be known as ‘bureaucratic ethnic cleansing’-a process that exacerbated in this form from 1967 to the present.

The Indian Act, 1876 is a form of bureaucratic ethnic cleansing in itself. It is trying to cleanse the indigenousness out of the indigenous peoples through settler state subjugation and control of all their affairs. The recent statement made by former Prime Minister Jean Chretien about having the community relocate signifies this. The inability of indigenous peoples to control their own destiny due to settler colonial subjugation and domination of this form has dire health consequences- one being the breakdown in mental health and the destruction of healthy familial units.

The most recent violence campaign waged by the State of Israel against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip has caused the same level of seriousness when it comes to suicide ideation, attempts or successes. The Gaza Strip is an enclave territory that is under a potent and illegal blockade by Israel now going on ten years. Again, as in the case of Attawapiskat, the significant rise in suicide rates in the Gaza Strip has been among the youth. As in the case of Attawapiskat with the multiple calls out for a state of emergency, the Gaza Strip has called for an end to the blockade. Attawapiskat has a DeBeers diamond mine that extracts millions of dollars’ worth of profitable product that the community does not receive benefits from. The Gaza Strip has to rely on underground tunnels and an underground economy to survive with the said tunnels also coming under attack by the blockading settler colonial state and their allies with the use of flooding among other tactics.

Resistance towards resilience is the only way

Yet with the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip continuing for over ten years; a symbol and residue of settler colonialism and the Nakba that was executed in 1948 and exacerbated in 1967 a process all of which was planned over a century earlier; the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip continue to drill under tunnels in defiance of the injustice and belligerence of the settler colonial state. The OccupyINAC does hold and should hold the same significance- a refusal to be subjugated by oppression.

Therefore, suicide for indigenous peoples is not an option whether those on Turtle Island or on the historic land of Palestine. Suicide within this context is self-genocide-exactly what the settler colonial state wants so that the racialized fragility of the guilty conscience of the settler colonial state can be managed, comforted and rested. The existence of the community of Attawapiskat regardless of the circumstances becomes resistance in itself. The same goes with our situations as Palestinian people.

We must always exist; otherwise we are giving in to genocide. Justice must prevail as we are connected to our ancestors. When we heal which requires our existence, our ancestors will heal as well. We are lovers of life-the ultimate threat we have over the settler colonial state. We must not adopt the identity of the settler colonial state; a self-destructive life-hating way of being. This is why we must resist.

Ahmad Moussa is a Palestinian-Canadian writer, scholar and international human rights activist.


Delivering Community Power CUPW 2022-2023

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