Speech given by Angela Sterritt as part of a panel in support of the
Tyendinaga Mohawks. (Details on the panel are at
Ange is a Gitxsan woman who lives and works on Coast Salish Territory. She
is a grassroots indigenous organizer, an advocate for indigenous women and
girls, as well as an artist and writer.
I would like to thank Sue Collis for coming here today to talk to us about
Shawn Brant as well as express my gratitude and honor for those like Shawn
Brant whom have risked their freedom and lives for the freedom and lives
of others and for the future generations.
I also want to acknowledge that what happened to Shawn Brant, Harriet
Nahannee, John Graham and others is not only a terrible abomination and
explication of the tyrannical nature of the justice system but
representative of the refusal of the Klanadian government to remove itself
from its perpetuation and implication in the occupation and theft of
As the Olympics draw closer, we are seeing an acceleration of this
repression and criminal behavior from all levels of government. In the
same way that Mohawks have opposed corporate invasion and government
terrorism in Tyendinaga, there has been resistance in the occupied
Indigenous territories of BC from many Indigenous nations.
The Olympics- whose budget is close to 30 billion dollars for a 2 week
spectacle- acts as a microcosm for the way in which Klananda has oppressed
Indigenous people in order to gain access to rights and title to
Indigenous lands. It also asserts itself as a real threat to
Indigenous people and our lands, and likewise sees Indigenous people as a
real threat to its very existence.
On December 3, 1998, The Canadian Olympic Association chose Vancouver as
its candidate city. Vancouver was posited as the "security and safety"
candidate - ironic and insulting since most people know by now the large
number of Indigenous people imprisoned and killed by police; not to
mention the reality that over 60 women, many Indigenous, were taken from
the downtown eastside, murdered or never to be seen again.
As well, how secure do Indigenous people feel now that over 30 Indigenous
women and girls have gone missing or been murdered along highway of tears
in northern British Columbia? It is often the case that the Justice System
has protected the predators and killers of these women, while Indigenous
women have been ignored and over-policed. The Justice system has since its
inception of settler/colonial society used police forces, courts and
racist civil society to undermine and outlaw our Original sacred systems
and laws. It continues to imprison and kill our people to gain access to
It's also insulting to promote Vancouver as the security candidate given
the 'insecure' and uncertain nature of Indigenous lands and resources
targeted by corporations to be privatized.
Indigenous Resistance to the Olympic hegemony has been greatly
criminalized, in hopes to reassure the hungry visitors, or the tourists
that their stay will be safe. The attempts to silence us in jails and
through our death are cross-country efforts.
Like Shawn, Harriet Nahannee stood up against the theft of the land and
was punished greatly.
Harriet was a Pedechat Elder who had married into the Squamish Nation and
was protesting an infamous Olympic development, the Achilles heal of the
Olympics, the Sea-to-Sky Highway. She was sentenced to a provincial jail
for criminal contempt of court for her part in the Sea-to-Sky
Highway-expansion protest at Eagleridge Bluffs. She died of pneumonia and
complications at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver on February 24 2007,
just one month after her original sentencing. Nahanee had been weak from
the flu and asthma in January, and it was widely suspected that Nahanee's
condition worsened during her incarceration at the Surrey Pre-Trial
Centre, a facility set up predominantly for housing male criminals.
An independent public inquiry into her passing was called for in the
Legislative Assembly of British Columbia on March 5. Solicitor-General
John Les said the provincial government expressed "regret" for the passing
but denied any government responsibility and refused opposition requests
for an inquiry.
The expose of Harriet's plight helped to catapult many Indigenous people
in the city to act to oppose Olympic atrocities against our people and
compelled us to organize, educate and mobilize each other.
One of the more significant Indigenous struggles people in the city have
been working in solidarity with is the plight of the Secwepemc and
St'at'imc people to resist the expansion of ski-resorts on their lands.
Just last week The Austrian ski team arrived on Secwepemc lands to train
for the 2010 games. They will be the first to train on the new 3 million
dollar Nancy Greene International Race Centre at Sunpeaks built this
summer. Phase 1 has recently been completed and once phase 2 and 3 are
completed Sun Peaks will be able to boast a new dedicated lift and an
additional snow making capacity. The fake snow is made with reused sewage
water that pollutes Skelkwek'welt waters and depletes underground
Aquifers. Sunpeaks corporate mega-development development also continues
to destroy Secwepemc Land by clear-cutting whole mountainsides and
valuable hunting grounds, berry picking and medicine harvesting areas. Now
the Austrian Ski Team is at Sun Peaks promoting and training for the 2010
Not only does this kind of destruction of the land destroy Indigenous
cultures and relationships to the land by displacing Indigenous people, it
also has an impact on our identity as Indigenous people. The Olympikkks
like the Klanadian government uses Indigenous identities for their
expediency. They want the public to "imagine" a bourgeoisie's playground.
They use and abuse our cultures for entertainment, but our sovereignty is
simply an annoyance.
For example, a walk known as the "People walk together", which was
ceremonial blessed earlier this month, will showcase Aboriginal people to
walking across the Burrard Bridge in September 2008 to show off our
"color, culture, and vibrancy" under the umbrella of "reconciliation" as a
lead up to the 2010 Olympics.
Knowing that cultural genocide, land theft, criminalization and murder of
our people happens daily at the hands of Klananda, it seems far-fetched to
most that reconciliation is possible at this point. This tactic of
assimilation, with the use of culture as a cover, is text book
collaboration and utilized in an attempt to demand the "undivided
attention" of ALL to the 2010 games whereas the reality is they simply
divide oppressed communities more.
Optics and imagery are also used in other communities, namely poor and
marginalized women's. The Olympic city brothel was proposed as a co-op
brothel under the guise of making it safe for sex workers working in
Vancouver in 2010. When I first saw this I thought of predatory
capitalism. The trafficking of women, in which Indigenous women and
immigrant women are overrepresented, is one of the easiest illegal
"commodities" to move. A pimp makes about 250,000, per women or girl in
the illegal trafficking of human flesh.
The Olympics is infamous for utilizing the sex trade to accommodate
investors ,business men and other hungry visitors. An estimated 10,000 sex
workers plied their trade during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, many
imported from abroad. More than 40,000 women and girls were brought to
Athens for the 2004 Summer Games. For the 2006 World Cup in Germany, more
than 20,000 women were imported. Investors and Business men who come to
the 2010 games are inevitability on the look out for cheap lands,
resources, and women.
Some may defend the sex trade saying it's the oldest profession, but like
many parts of colonization and capitalism it presents itself as the oldest
oppression and one that needs to be ended, along with poverty, greed,
hatred and suffering.
These are some of the issues Indigenous Anti-Olympic Organizers have been
working on in the city and some of the ways in which we have shaped our
actions and campaigns. We urge you to learn more and take actions. The
Olympics destroys Native lands, Indigenous women, Indigenous communities,
and human dignity. The Olympics creates homelessness, abject poverty,
further violence and racism. End the Olympikkk Oppression Now!