How might we begin to imagine reconciliation beyond inclusion or loss – and instead as a transformed order of social relations? How might we come to recognize models for this transformation in what we typically understand as closed chapters or barriers? These models are articulated in treaty agreements and other nation-to-nation relations as understood in Indigenous traditions of diplomacy. Whether bonds of territorial, commercial, or political alliance and exchange, these pacts are ones for which we all inherit responsibility – Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike. When we, as settlers, misunderstand treaties as the lawful means by which Indigenous peoples “gave up” land for settlement and exploitative development, we legitimize what is in fact a history of theft and dispossession; when we misapprehend our position as one of inevitable ascendancy and belonging, we efface what might more productively be understood as one of profound failure: the failure to uphold historical agreements governing peaceful interactions between sovereign political bodies and their citizens. Against the nation-to-nation model, the story of “inclusion” and of “accommodation” has become the official story that gets told about our relation to one another, and about how reconciliation might work as “the ‘new’ way for Canada to relate to Indigenous people”. This is a continuation of colonial violence, as well as a dangerous violation of our own capacity to imagine and enact something different.
And so I think about barricades: the barricade as apparent threat, the barricade as unfathomable assertion, the barricade as the unwanted obstacle that stretches to its limits the tenuous fantasy of settler belonging. What if we instead understood the barricade – both as a physical barrier and as a practice of symbolic signification – less as an obstacle and threat, and more as something erected to protect “all of us”? In her recent interview alongside activist-thinkers Russell Diabo and Lisa Monchalin, non-Indigenous Idle No More activist Sheelah McLean gives the example of grassroots land protection struggles from Oka to Grassy Narrows and observes that, through such struggles and their mainstream representation, “The Canadian public are socialized to believe that barricades are violent”. As sites of seemingly irreconcilable conflict between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, the barricade is mistaken in the mainstream as the violent embodiment of this impasse rather than an opportunity for its transcendence. After all, there is no violence inherent to the barricade itself; its threat stems from its capacity to highlight the violence inherent in the colonial nation-state. Like the example of the Buffalo Commons map, then, the barricade could provide an opening onto a different relationship to land and to one another – one that both acknowledges the violence of settlement and resource extraction, and that affirms shared obligations to care-take the land for the wellbeing of future generations.
- Allison Hargreaves and David Jefferess, Always Beginning: Imagining Reconciliation Beyond Inclusion or Loss
This quote is taken from the remarkable collection The Land We Are: Artists and Writers Unsettle the Politics of Reconciliation