Replicating Colonialism in the Struggle Against Line 9
The Swamp Line 9 blockade of Enbridge’s North Westover Terminal has come to an end, and though there is still much work to be done on the legal fallout of this action and the ongoing struggle against Line 9, a moment of transparency and self-reflection seems appropriate at this time.
Over the course of the past week it has been made clear to Hamilton Line 9 (the organizers who initiated Swamp Line 9) that many people from the Six Nations of the Grand River have been weary of the blockade due to the lack of communication on the part of organizers. Some people have expressed outright anger with the lack of consultation, and also with some of the language that has been used in our documents. While this blockade was intended in part as a solidarity action with the Onkwehonwe (or Native) communities who have not given free, prior, informed consent to Enbridge’s pipeline expansion project, and while several of the people who participated in and got arrested for the action were Onkwehonwe people, it is simultaneously true that Swamp Line 9 has offended some people from the Six Nations of the Grand River.
The organizers from Hamilton Line 9would like to issue a formal apology to those who have felt excluded from, or tokenized by this action. We recognize that colonialism takes many shapes and forms, and that to organize a political occupation within Onkwehonwe territory without due consultation is to replicate colonial behaviour.
We see this moment as a learning opportunity, and as a valuable chance to be making connections with our Onkwehonwe neighbours . Solidarity must be founded on tangible and meaningful relationships, not on blanket rhetoric. In recent days a great deal of effort has been made by some of our allies to introduce us to community leaders on 6 Nations, and to help us build bridges between our communities.
What we have been hearing from these voices is that many people from Six Nations of the Grand River share our concerns with the pipeline reversal/expansion: that it is a dangerous and destructive project; that it would allow for the expansion of the tar sands; and that it is happening without the consent of the communities who live along its route. Perhaps the strongest thread between us is our shared love for this land that we are acting to defend – the Beverly swamp, the Spencer Creek, and Cootes paradise are our sanctuaries, and there is a shared recognition that the health of our lives is inherently connected to the health of this watershed.
We have also heard a great deal of admiration for what we initiated in Westover, and have received gratitude for pushing this issue into the limelight. Most people we’ve talked to would have been really excited about Swamp Line 9 and might have even participated in the action had they been consulted beforehand. In failing to reach out to the people on whose territory this action was taking place, we missed an enormous opportunity.
Though there is no excuse for this sort of colonial behaviour, we can also see this blunder as a blessing in disguise. We are meeting new people, and learning new ways to organize. We are being forced to engage in nuanced and messy conversations that we have formerly evaded. As the struggle against Enbridge and the Tar Sands continues, we need to be forging powerful alliances, and this moment seems to be opening up those possibilities in a very real way.
We would like to thank all of those people who have taken the time to communicate these frustrations with us in a patient and respectful manner.
-Hamilton Line 9
(June 28th, 2013)
Please check in with us soon for a detailed report back from the Swamp Line 9 action, and updates about the legal fallout.