News and Articles

Indigenous Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter MTL
Black Lives Matter protest in Montreal on June 7, 2020. Photo Credit: MilesAstray
June 21, 2020

Each year on June 21st, we celebrate Indigenous Nations across Turtle Island and around the world. We honour the richness and diversity of our cultures, and the resilience and strength of our ancestors.  

We also recognize the ongoing legacy of colonialism, the sustained oppression of our peoples and the continued attempts to dispossess us of our lands and knowledges. We call out those systems which spawn marginalization, discrimination, and neglect.

This Indigenous Peoples Day, many Indigenous activists continue to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter in the fight against those same systems of oppression for the safety and prosperity of their communities. 

Although our histories are unique, our experiences with injustice are deeply connected. During a protest on June 13th in the Alberta town of Innisfail, Dieulita Datus affirmed this sentiment of common purpose:  “For the lives of all of those lost in the Atlantic slave trade … for the Indigenous people who lost their lives to sickness and famine and defending their land … for the lives lost in residential schools … for the lives lost to police brutality … for the Muslims who are targeted daily … in memory of all the stolen sisters, the murdered and missing Indigenous girls … in the memory of George Floyd.”  

For centuries, the imposition and manipulation of those structures which are meant to support Community—education, healthcare, the justice system— have served to dominate and suppress it for many. But just as colonial oppression is deeply rooted, so too are the forces that oppose it. While the murder of George Floyd brought increased global visibility to these protests, our activisms have profound histories.

During a 2018 panel exchange on Idle No More and Black Lives Matter, Yellowknives Dene scholar Glen Coulthard remarked that this activism is neither “shallow” nor “reactionary” but rather, has “incredible historical depth.“ Coulthard continued, “What is being targeted (…) are the structural violences and effects of capitalism, of anti-blackness, of displacement, of dispossession, and of course, of heteropatriarchy. Black Lives Matter and Idle No More have consistently been in a contest with those structures of violence.”

As Ciann Wilson, assistant professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and former principal investigator for the Proclaiming Our Roots project, has stated, “When Indigenous and black people have gotten together throughout history in the North Americas, they have staged some of the biggest threats to colonial rule,” referencing, for example, the partnership between our communities during the Haitian Revolution in 1791, and the Seminole Wars of the 19th century. 

This spirit of co-resistance continues today. In 2014, Idle No More issued the following statement in support of Black Lives Matter:

“Black Lives Matter and Idle No More/Indigenous Nationhood Movement — and the solidarities between them–are relevant all over Turtle Island, not just in zones demarcated by state borders. In both the Canada and the U.S., members of Indigenous, Black/Afrikan/Caribbean, and BlackNDN communities are most likely to be shot and killed by the police, have high incarceration rates, and face deliberate impoverishment and neglect by state institutions. Children from these communities are most likely to be apprehended, and disproportionate numbers of women/trans/genderqueer /two-spirit people are missing or murdered.”

Black Lives Matter has stood with our Nations, also, demanding justice for the suicides in Attawapiskat and raising funds and offering support for the protests at Standing Rock. Our activism has shown, time and again, that we are united in the fight to make our communities safe and our societies equitable and just. 

This is time for solidarity—for continued co-resistance. This year, on June 21st, we stand in our strength as Indigenous Nations, and we stand with Black Lives Matter.