Native warrior societies are defending indigenous territories and they aren’t going away.
“They block roads, stop trains and fight the cops. Men and women dressed in camouflage, boots and bandanas. They come from reserves, wave red flags, set fires, tear up roads and declare sovereignty for their tribes. They are the so-called ‘Warrior Societies’ and they mean business.”
They even award themselves ranks such as general and lieutenant, insisting a military wing is a part of any sovereign nation. Many aboriginal rights activists consider themselves as members of a sovereign people, separate from Canada.
Kris Sims wrote the above in a 2013 Sun Media article, where she complained that warrior societies Exist.
Sun Media did a Poll asking Canadians “Do you think militant Natives are becoming a problem in Canada?”
Sims also wrote about the 2013, standoff between members of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society and RCMP —where six police cruisers were torched in Rexton, N.B., over the rights of indigenous land. Many arrested were members of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society.
At the time, Susanne Patles (Mi’kmaq warrior) dressed head to toe in combat fatigues, was released on a $400 bond and talked to reporters outside court and explained where their anger was coming from.
“(Warrior societies) are the boots on the ground to emancipate people, to have the people rise up,” Patles said
“We are a nation. We are above Canada. We are above it all, because we are a nation. Canada is a corporation, we are a nation, and when we signed on to our pre-Confederation treaties it was on a nation-to-nation basis, and we signed it with the British nation, not Canada.”
And, while the claims, though rooted in history, might be spurious to many across the country, Canada’s security agency have taken warriors seriously for a long time.
Initially connected to the militant Native movements in the U.S., such as Red Power and the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the 1970s, the Canadian movement really took root in the 1980s.
Most Canadians first saw the red warrior flag during the Oka crisis in Quebec in 1990, when Mohawks — and their warriors — blocked access to a burial ground set to be developed into a golf course.
Many of the people who became involved in the warrior society movements on the east and west coast have cited the 1990 Oka crisis as a turning point in their lives, and the watershed event of this generation’s political life. Indeed, in terms of providing inspiration and motivation for the militant assertion of indigenous nationhood, the Mohawk Warrior Society’s actions in 1990 around Kanesatake, Kahnawake and Akwesasne stand alone in prominence in people’s minds and effect on the later development of movements across the country.
A November 2008 CSIS report warned: “Multi-issue extremists and aboriginal extremists may pursue common causes, and both groups have demonstrated the intent and the capability to carry out attacks against critical infrastructure.”
Douglas Bland, a retired lieutenant-colonel with the Canadian military, offered similar warnings in his 2009 political thriller, Uprising.
Bland says warrior societies are paramilitary organizations with easy access to weapons and explosives and believe they have the moral high ground.
“Whether they are very competent or not doesn’t matter — they are an element and they are something we have to deal with,” Bland said. “What if a small militant group shut down the railways for three months?”
The reality is such a scenario is not out of the question.
“We have the warriors that are standing up now that are willing to go that far. So we’re not here to make requests.”
The Idle No More movement, that shook up the Canadian economy with rolling blockades and other damaging protests in 2012, showed the disruptive power of Native militants.
“The Idle No More movement has the people and the numbers that can bring the Canadian economy to its knees,” Derek Nepinak, the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, boasted in January 2013. “It can stop Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper’s resource development plan and his billion-dollar plan to develop resources in ancestral territories. We have the warriors that are standing up now that are willing to go that far. So we’re not here to make requests.”
The truth is warrior societies are needed for survival:
Warrior societies among indigenous peoples in the modern era is one element of a larger struggle of indigenous peoples to survive. Warrior societies are a means by which indigenous peoples take direct action against colonization.
Warrior societies have a sacred and powerful place in Indigenous culture and resistance. While colonial culture has and continues to undermine and deride the role and reality of Indigenous warriors, warrior societies have continued to form and function in order to resist the destructive and dangerous effects of occupation and settler-colonial culture.
Sakej Ward sits down with Radio-BED for a conversation on the contemporary warrior and warrior societies.
Sakej states that warriors have a sacred responsibility to manage the land and that nature is taken care of, but when there is a threat that will impact everything around you somebody needs to stand up, and it is the responsibility of these warriors to take action.
Notable defense of indigenous rights and territories by warrior societies:
- 1995 – Gustafsen Lake, B.C.: Confrontation between the RCMP and the Ts’peten Defenders, who believed that the privately owned ranch land on which they stood was both sacred space and part of a larger tract of unceded Shuswap territory. One of the most costly events, involving 400 police officers and Canadian Military.
- 1985-1993 – Clayoquot Sound, B.C.
- 2000 – Sun Peak, B.C.: Protests surrounding the creation of a year-round ski resort to the detriment of native lifestyle.
- 1992-93 – Chippewas of the Nawash, S. Ont.
- 1994-95 – Revenue Rez, Toronto
- 1993 – Ipperwash, Ont.: Members of the Stoney Point Ojibway band occupied Ipperwash Provincial Park in order to assert their claim to nearby land which had been expropriated from them during WWII.
- 1997 – Constance Lake, Ontario
- 2001 – Days of Rage Protest, Akwesasne, Ont.
- 2001-03 – Aroland First Nation blockades, N. Ont.
- 2002-04 – Red Hill Valley Occupation, Hamilton, Ont.: Protest against the building of the Red Hill Valley highway
- 2003-present – Grassy Narrows, northern Ont.: Protest against decades of mercury poisoning in their northern Ontario community.
- 2006 Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, Northern Ont.: Confrontation with the Platinex mining exploration company at Big Trout Lake.
2006 – Caledonia, Ont.: Six Nations of the Grand River took control of a parcel of land being developed for a residential subdivision, claiming that the land belonged. The site is part of a 385,000-hectare plot of land known as the Haldimand Tract, granted to the Six Nations in 1784 for their use as a settlement. One of the longest continuous Aboriginal occupation in Canada.
- 1990 – Oka Crisis: Land dispute between a group of Mohawk people and the town of Oka, Que.
- 1991-92 – James Bay Cree, Que.
- 2013 – Rexton N.B.: Anti-fracking protests by Elsipogtog First Nation members
- 1999-2000 – Burnt Church N.S.: A conflict between the Mi’kmaq people of the Burnt Church First Nation and non-Aboriginal fisheries in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The Mi’kmaq claimed the right to catch and sell lobster out of season, while non-Aboriginals claimed it would deplete the stocks and deprive them of income.
The “warrior flag” was painted by Mohawk artist Louis Hall in the 1970s. Hall was born in Quebec on January 15, 1918. His writings include the Warrior Handbook which calls on all First Nations to band together and assert sovereign rights.