Thursday, February 14, 2008
We recently served a meal at the “Take Back The Land or Die Tryin’” event held at the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal. The speakers were Kanahus Pellkey of the Native Youth Movement and Dustin Johnson of the Ts’mksi’yen Nation who are on tour to raise awareness about the devastating effects of the 2010 Olympic games on Native people and poor people in the Vancouver and outlying areas. The following article gives some background on the situation and the resistance to the upcoming games.
No to the 2010 Olympics!
Preparations are now underway for the 2010 Winter Olympics being held in and around Vancouver B.C. - on unceded Native land - creating a climate of outrage and protest from many Native groups and their supporters. The historical basis to the conflict, the dispossession of Native land and the cultural insensitivity of the International Olympic Committee during the bid process have led to some Native leaders calling on “the international world, including athletes and tourists, not to infringe on our Rights and Title, and stay away from the 2010 Games” (Sutikalh Camp, 2003). All those who support Native sovereignty, self determination and land rights should lend their voices to this increasing movement to cancel the Olympics and stop all related development on St’at’imc, Lil’wat, Squamish and Coast Salish territories.
Native Land and Corporate Takeover
The development of resorts related to the winter Olympics will mean major expansion of already existing ski hills, new resorts on undeveloped mountains, roads to accommodate tourists, hotels and electricity lines connecting them all in an area that has previously been pristine wilderness. Not the least of which is the “sea to sky” highway a massive 600 million dollar project (Sutikalh Camp, 2003). Canada, the Vancouver Olympic Committee and the corporate developers involved are in fact stealing and destroying Native land to use for the Olympics and massive economic development that will see this area become a major resort destination, unquestionably changing the land and the Native peoples of this area relationship to it forever. At issue here is a clash in understandings about the meaning and importance of the land. To many of the traditionalist Native people in the area, the land is sacred, intimately connected to their history, as a source of food, medicine and identity. Not only do massive resorts destroy wilderness habitats and eco-systems, the roads they require serve to open up the area to even more development and resource extraction. No surprise than, that the Native people who depend on the land for the survival of their traditional way of life are against this development. Many feel it is yet another example of cultural genocide that has been occurring here for the past 500 years.
The Political Dimension
Underpinning this conflict is the history of B.C. and the fact that many Native people feel that the 2010 Olympics are one more insult and one more way their sovereignty is being eroded in a province that is run by a government that they see as illegitimate. Most of B.C. is currently unceded sovereign Indian territory with some areas covered by what are considered the fraudulent numbered treaties and the Douglas treaties. Therefore, many Native people from around the world feel that the Canadian and B.C. government has no claim to the land let alone any rights to do business upon it. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 which was reaffirmed in the 1982 Constitution Act is seen as a reaffirmation of the fact that this land has not been given up because this legal document required that treaties be signed before and trade or settlement in the area could begin and treaties were not signed. According to Rosalin Sam of the Lil’wat Nation, the International Olympic Committee did not consult all of the bands who would be directly affected by the games but chose to speak to a few development friendly Native leaders and band councils and ignored all others, particularly dissenting voices (Naomi Klein, 2003).
The Resistance to the 2010 Games
Native people in the area - such as the Shuswap - have been fighting against resort development for years as B.C. attempts to develop the Whistler area, north of Vancouver, into a world renowned ski destination. Native groups such as the Native Youth Movement and community members have initiated opposition to resorts such as Sunpeaks and Cayoosh; they have set up protest camps on the land in question and waged a massive public information campaign including leafleting, speaking tours and website creation. The same thing has been done in the Melvin creek area to stop the development of the Olympic ski resort owned in part by former Olympian and International Olympics Committee member Nancy Greene Raine. A growing number of concerned groups and individuals are calling on supporters from around the world to boycott the 2010 Olympics and to attend a rendezvous instead – a convergence in Vancouver that will work to shut down the Olympics or at least make it more difficult for the games to proceed. A No to 2010 Committee has been formed to organize the convergence. Some of their materials read: ”No Olympics on Stolen Land, No social cleansing” (NYM, 2003). Olympics around the world are well known for the social “cleansing” that preceeds them – the host city usually wants to appeal to world tourists by removing homeless people from the streets and gentrifying neighbourhoods usually lived in by poor and working class people. Vancouver was notorious during Expo 86 for kicking extremely low income people out of the hotels they called home in the Hastings and Main district to make room for tourists who would pay exorbitant rates for the rooms. Opponents of the games are quick to point out the environmental and social costs of the Olympic Games and want these issues to be front and center now and during the games. For more information about the anti-2010 movement see www.2010.com.
Klein, Naomi. (2003, July 16). The Olympics Land Grab. Naomi Klein [online], retrieved November 20, 2007, from http://www.naomiklein.org
International Native Youth Movement Statement for Anti-Olympic Campaign (2003) [online], retrieved November 20, 2007 from http://mostlywater.org/nym_calls_for_boycott_and_cancellation_of_2010_winter_olympic_games
No Olympics on Stolen Land (2003, Winter). Statement from Sutikalh Camp [online], retrieved November 20, 2007, from http://www.no2010.com
2010 Olympics Website, retrieved December 1, 2007, from http://www.vancouver2010.com/en/OrganizingCommittee/MediaCentre/FeatureStories/2007/11/27/76537_0711271407-872
Posted by Malatesté at 3:00 p.m.