Thursday, December 31, 2009

Olympic Torch Relay Stopped at Six Nations Relay re-routed off Six Nations' Territory

Olympic Torch Relay Stopped at Six Nations Relay re-routed off Six Nations' Territory
by Alex Hundert

Ohsweken, Grand River Territory--Yesterday, as reported in many mainstream
media outlets, organisers from Six Nations of an action against the Olympic
Torch Relay declared the day a success. Their goal of keeping the torch and
the relay caravan out of the "heart" of their territory was set in order to
prevent the Torch Relay from being used to paint a benevolent image of
Canada's relations with First Nations, and to prevent a violation of their
territorial sovereignty as well as of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) "Great
Law of Peace."

While the entire territory spans beyond the full length of the Grand River,
the declaration made by the Hoskanigetha and Agongweh (Men's and Women's
Councils) as well as youth and other "concerned people" referred, rather, to
boundaries of the Six Nations reserve. The Torch Relay caravan as has
proceeded through most other scheduled stops did not even enter the reserve.
Rather, a few vehicles drove the torch around the reservation and entered
"through the back door" for a torch celebration on the edge of the reserve.

Spokespeople for the action made it clear that the intention of blocking the
torch from crossing the territory was not about sports or about confronting
their "own people" or preventing them from celebrating. Accordingly, there
was no disruptive demonstration at the Torch Celebration site. Instead, a
group of 30-40 people gathered at a point on Hwy. 54 which they had declared
the torch would have to go around, even after the celebration had been
moved. The Torch Celebration's original location had been scheduled for a
location right in the centre of Ohswken, the town sitting at the centre of
the reserve. That plan had been called off before noon and announced
officially at a press conference shortly after 1pm.

At that press conference, local event organizers tried to claim that the
re-routing had nothing to do with planned protests, and that they felt that
the Olympics should not be made political. When pressed by reporters
however, organizers admitted that the scheduled actions against the relay
contributed to the decision.

Spokespeople for the action, like activists across the country, however,
were quite clear in their statements that the international context of the
Olympics inherently makes the torch relay political, especially with respect
to Indigenous sovereignty and land rights (Canada is one of only three
developed countries that have not signed the International Declaration on
the Rights of Indigenous Peoples). Olympic organizers and sponsors were
accused of using the Torch Relay and the Games as a propaganda campaign to
change their image and Canada's image on a global stage.

Spokespeople for the action also talked about solidarity with Indigenous
Peoples in so-called British Columbia who have spurred a national
anti-Olympic movement. In both Toronto and Montreal, the main message of and
the primary chants of the rallies have been "No Olympics on Stolen Native
Land." They cited the issues of unceded territories, land destruction, and
the displacement and criminalization of the urban poor in Vancouver, and
Canada's ongoing colonial and assimilationist policies and practices, as
just some of the reasons why activists across the country and in Six Nations
have mobilized against the Olympics, and why the 2010 games are being
viewed as in principle, a violation of the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace.

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