Summary 500 summary of the attached reading main concepts issues AS WE HAVE ALWAYS DONE Indigenous Americas Robert Warrior, Series Editor Chadwick A

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Summary 500 summary of the attached reading

main concepts


Indigenous Americas
Robert Warrior, Series Editor

Chadwick Allen, Trans- Indigenous: Methodologies for Global Native
Literary Studies

Raymond D. Austin, Navajo Courts and Navajo Common Law:
A Tradition of Tribal Self- Governance

Lisa Brooks, The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the

Kevin Bruyneel, The Third Space of Sovereignty: The Postcolonial
Politics of U.S.– Indigenous Relations

Glen Sean Coulthard, Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial
Politics of Recognition

James H. Cox, The Red Land to the South: American Indian Writers
and Indigenous Mexico

Brendan Hokowhitu and Vijay Devadas, The Fourth Eye: Māori Media
in Aotearoa New Zealand

Daniel Heath Justice, Our Fire Survives the Storm: A Cherokee
Literary History

Thomas King, The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative
Scott Richard Lyons, X- Marks: Native Signatures of Assent
Aileen Moreton- Robinson, The White Possessive: Property, Power,

and Indigenous Sovereignty
Jean M. O’Brien, Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians Out of

Existence in New England
Shiri Pasternak, Grounded Authority: The Algonquins of Barriere Lake

against the State
Steven Salaita, Inter/Nationalism: Decolonizing Native America and

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, As We Have Always Done: Indigenous

Freedom through Radical Resistance
Paul Chaat Smith, Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong
Lisa Tatonetti, The Queerness of Native American Literature
Gerald Vizenor, Bear Island: The War at Sugar Point
Robert Warrior, The People and the Word: Reading Native Nonfiction
Robert A. Williams Jr., Like a Loaded Weapon: The Rehnquist Court,

Indian Rights, and the Legal History of Racism in America


Indigenous Freedom
through Radical Resistance


Indigenous Americas

University of Minnesota Press | Minneapolis | London

The publication of this book was assisted by a bequest from Josiah H.
Chase to honor his parents, Ellen Rankin Chase and Josiah Hook Chase,
Minnesota territorial pioneers.

Title page art copyright Lianne Marie Leda Charlie

“Our Treaty with the Hoof Nation” and “Binoojiinh Makes a Lovely
Discovery” were previously published in Leanne Betasamosake Simpson,
The Gift Is in the Making , from the Debwe Series published by HighWater
Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission.

The interview by Naomi Klein was previously published as “Dancing the
World into Being: A Conversation with Idle No More’s Leanne Simpson,”
Yes! Magazine, March 5, 2013.

Billy- Ray Bellcourt, “sacred,” was previously published at https:// Reprinted with
permission of the author.

Copyright 2017 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in
a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior
written permission of the publisher.

Published by the University of Minnesota Press
111 Third Avenue South, Suite 290
Minneapolis, MN 55401- 2520

isbn 978-1-5179-0386-2 (hc)
isbn 978-1-5179-0387-9 (pb)
A Cataloging-in-Publication record for this book is available from the
Library of Congress.

Printed in the United States of America on acid- free paper

The University of Minnesota is an equal- opportunity educator and

22 21 20 19 18 17 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1




Introduction My Radical Resurgent Present | 1

1 Nishnaabeg Brilliance as Radical Resurgence Theory | 11

2 Kwe as Resurgent Method | 27

3 The Attempted Dispossession of Kwe | 39

4 Nishnaabeg Internationalism | 55

5 Nishnaabeg Anticapitalism | 71

6 Endlessly Creating Our Indigenous Selves | 83

7 The Sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples’ Bodies | 95

8 Indigenous Queer Normativity | 119

9 Land as Pedagogy | 145

10 “I See Your Light”: Reciprocal Recognition
and Generative Refusal | 175

11 Embodied Resurgent Practice and Coded Disruption | 191

12 Constellations of Coresistance | 211

Conclusion Toward Radical Resurgent Struggle | 233

Acknowledgments | 249
Notes | 251
Index | 283



I am writing this chapter on a gray, wet winter day, in
the café in the sports complex at Trent University as my two
kids attend swimming lessons.1 The doors of the complex have
Trent’s logo on them— the French “explorer” Champlain’s
sword, jutting into waves, or as my elder Doug Williams often
cynically jokes, “the heart of the Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg.”2 My
kids pass the symbol with a casual “they should change that” and
“don’t have a fit, Mom.” They have grown up in their territory,
learning with a community of artists, makers, and elders, a luxu-
ry that not all of us, including myself, have had. Because of that,
I see a strength in them that I don’t see in myself. I see an abili-
ty to point out and name colonialism, resist and even mobilize
to change it. They know more about what it means to be Nish-
naabeg in their first decades than I did in my third. This intimate
resurgence in my family makes me happy.

Over a decade ago, I was listening to Doug speak to a group
of Canadians in a coffee shop in downtown Peterborough, a city
in central Ontario between Toronto and Ottawa. Peterborough
is known to be a conservative hockey town (really, a small city)
on the edge of cottage country. Doug wanted his audience to


know where they were, and he began by telling them what the
land used to look like. The non- Native audience was nearly si-
lent, transfixed by each sentence he spoke. So was I, because
as he was speaking, I was recognizing that the land I know as
my home has been devastated by settlement, industrial develop-
ment, the construction of highways and roads, the Trent- Severn
Waterway, and four centuries of dispossession. I understood
that the landscape I knew as home would be almost unrecog-
nizable to my Ancestors, and I hadn’t known previously that I
could barely even imagine the worlds that had already been lost.
In the weeks after that talk, I spoke with Doug about what he had
shared. As we drove around our territory in the months that fol-
lowed, he pointed out where the Wendat (Huron) villages used
to be, where hunting grounds were located, the former locations
of black oak savannas and tallgrass prairies. I began to start my
own talks with a narrative of what our land used to look like as a
quick glimpse, albeit a generalized one, of what was lost— not as
a mourning of loss but as a way of living in an Nishnaabeg pres-
ent that collapses both the past and the future and as a way of
positioning myself in relation to my Ancestors and my relations.
I want to do the same here in this book.

Nogojiwanong (the place at the end of the rapids, or Peterbor-
ough) is in the heart of the Michi Saagiig part of the Nishnaabeg
nation, and we call our nation “Kina Gchi Nishnaabeg- ogamig—
the place where we all live and work together.”3 Michi Saagiig
Nishnaabeg territory is along the north shore of Chi’Niibish, or
Lake Ontario. Chi’Niibish literally means “big water,” and we
share this lake with the Rotinonhseshá:ka.4 Michi Saagiig means
“at the mouth of the rivers,” and that name comes from our his-
tory as people that spent time at the mouths of the rivers drain-
ing into Lake Ontario.5 We are travelers, moving throughout our
lands rather than settling in one place. We are the eastern door-
way of the Nishnaabeg nation, and we have responsibilities to
take care of our relationship with the Rotinonhseshá:ka. We also
have diplomacy with the Rotinonhseshá:ka Confederacy; there
are at least four wampum belts (treaties) that remind us of those
responsibilities as well.6 There is also a wait- in- the- woods cer-


emony between the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and the Michi
Saagiig Nishnaabeg. Diplomatically, we have always had close
ties to the Wendat. They asked to live in our territory at different
points in history, and we made agreements with them so they
could. There are wampum belts made, and the oral tradition has
a lot of evidence that we lived together quite well: they lived in
longhouses and farmed, and we were hunting and fishing, ricing
and sugaring, traveling by the waterways.

Michi Saagiig Nishinaabeg are salmon people. Doug tells me
Chi’Niibish had its own resident population of salmon that mi-
grated all the way to Stoney Lake to spawn. We drank directly
from the lakes, and that was a good, healthy thing to do. There
was a large population of eels that also migrated to Stoney Lake
each year from the Atlantic Ocean. There was an ancient old-
growth forest of white pine that stretched from Curve Lake
down to the shore of Lake Ontario, which had virtually no un-
derstory except for a bed of pine needles. There were tallgrass
prairies and black oak savannas where Peterborough stands
today. The lakes were teeming with minomiin, or wild rice. The
land was dotted with sugar bushes, the lakes were full of fish.

It sounds idyllic, because compared to now it was idyllic.
Our knowledge system, the education system, the econom-
ic system, and the political system of the Michi Saagiig Nishi-
naabeg were designed to promote more life. Our way of living
was designed to generate life— not just human life but the life
of all living things. Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg were travelers; we
rarely settled, and this was reflected in our politics and gover-
nance, in our diplomacy with other nations, and even in the pro-
tection of our land. Stable governing structures emerged when
necessary and dissolved when no longer needed. Leaders were
also recognized (not self- appointed) and then disengaged when
no longer needed. It was an emergent system reflective of the
relationality of the local landscape. I think of our system of gov-
ernance as breathing— a rhythm of contraction and release.

There was a high degree of individual self- determination in
Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg society. Children were full citizens
with the same rights and responsibilities as adults. They were


raised in a nest of freedom and self- determination. Authoritar-
ian power— aggressive power that comes from coercion and
hierarchy— wasn’t a part of the fabric of Michi Saagiig Nish-
naabeg philosophy or governance, and so it wasn’t a part of our

People were expected to figure out their gifts and their
responsibilities through ceremony and reflection and self-
actualization, and that process was really the most important
governing process on an individual level— more important than
the gender you were born into. In the context of gender fluidity
and sexualities and relationship orientations outside of colonial
conceptualizations, I see this idea of freedom as one that perme-
ated the fabric of precolonial Nishnaabeg society.

When Champlain visits us and refers to the freedom our chil-
dren have within our society, and our nonpunitive, attachment-
based parenting, it’s his white male way of acknowledging that
freedom and authentic power.7 His sword did not pierce the
hearts of the Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg. We are still here.

Over the past two hundred years, without our permission
and without our consent, we have been systemically removed
and dispossessed from most of our territory. We have fought
back as our homeland has been stolen, clear- cut, subdivided, and
sold to settlers from Europe and later cottagers from Toronto.
The last eels and salmon navigated our waters about a hundred
years ago. We no longer have old- growth white pine forests in
our territory. Our rice beds were nearly destroyed. All but one
tiny piece of prairie in Alderville has been destroyed. Most of
our sugar bushes are under private, non- Native ownership.

Our most sacred places have been made into provincial
parks for tourists, where concrete buildings cover our teaching
rocks. Our burial grounds have cottages built on top of them.
The rivers have lift locks blocking them. The shores of every one
of our lakes and rivers have cottages or homes on them, making
it nearly impossible for us to launch a canoe. Our rice beds have
been nearly destroyed by raised water levels from the Trent-
Severn Waterway, boat traffic, and sewage from cottages.

We live with the ongoing trauma of the Indian Act, residen-


tial schools, day schools, sanatoriums, child welfare, and now
an education system that refuses to acknowledge our culture,
our knowledge, our histories, and experience. At the beginning
of the colonial period, we signed early treaties as international
diplomatic agreements with the crown to protect the land and
to ensure our sovereignty, nationhood, and way of life.8 We
have fought against the gross and blatant injustice of the 1923
Williams Treaty and its “basket clause” for nearly one hundred
years, a treaty that wasn’t a treaty at all within our political prac-
tices but another termination plan.

Heralded as the “first modern- day treaty,” it resulted in
eighty- nine years without hunting and fishing rights. My grand-
mother grew up eating squirrel and groundhogs because if her
parents were caught hunting deer or fishing, they were criminal-
ized. In the fall of 2012, as a result of a civil suit, the province of
Ontario sent us a letter indicating that it will recognize our trea-
ty rights secured in the earlier, 1818 treaty over a hundred thou-
sand acres in southern Ontario. We will see. We have been living
our understanding of our rights, and nearly every year since the
treaty was signed, people are charged by conservation officers
for hunting and fishing “out of season.”9

This is the context within which I experience resurgence.
This is the very real urgency of resurgence. Michi Saagiig Nish-
naabeg, like other Indigenous peoples living in the most urban
and industrialized parts of Canada, have virtually no land left
to be Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg. There are very few places to
retreat to the bush, and almost none where you can’t hear the
rumble of traffic or run into a cottager or tourist. My kids regu-
larly remind me of this. On their first visit to Yellowknives Dene
First Nation territory, they remarked that they could be more
Nishnaabeg in Dene territory than in their own. They asked why
there were no police or white people watching us fish, a hundred
kilometers off grid outside of Sombe’ke (Yellowknife). Settler
surveillance for them is a normalized part of being on the land.
They expect it.

They also expect that we will be there anyway, in spite of
environmental destruction, despite the violence of surveillance


culture, because they were born into a centuries- old legacy of
resistance, persistence, and profound love that ties our struggle
to other Indigenous peoples in the Americas and throughout the
world. It is not happenstance or luck that Indigenous peoples
and our lands still exist after centuries of attack. This is our stra-
tegic brilliance. Our presence is our weapon, and this is visible
to me at every protest, every mobilization, every time a Two
Spirit person gifts us with a dance at our powwows, every time
we speak our truths, every time we embody Indigenous life. It is
visible to me in the Unist’ot’en camp, in the hearts of Moosehide
Tanners Against Fascism in Denendeh, in the work of the Native
Youth Sexual Health Network, in the forty years of mobilization
against mercury contamination and deforestation at Grassy Nar-
rows First Nation, in Elsipogtog, Kanehsatà:ke, Listuguj, and
of course in the phenomenal mobilization against the Dakota
Access pipeline in Standing Rock, North Dakota, by the Stand-
ing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Oceti Sakowin (The Great Sioux
Nation).10 It is visible to me when we refuse to replicate trans-
phobia and anti- Blackness in our territories. It is our Ancestors
working to ensure we exist as Indigenous peoples, as they have
always done.

From this standpoint, it doesn’t matter who is president or
prime minister, because our most important work is internal,
and the kinds of transformations we are compelled to make, the
kinds of alternatives we are compelled to embody are profound-
ly systemic. I am strongly interested in building an Nishnaabeg
presence, an Nishnaabeg present, that embodies and operation-
alizes the very best of our nation because this is what we have
always done. My Ancestors struggled, sacrificed, and fought
much worse than I have to get me here, and I have the same
responsibility to my future relations.

I Am Not a Nation- State

During the winter of 2013, Idle No More organizers in Toron-
to recognized that although Indigenous peoples have been
talking about nationhood for years, the idea of Indigenous na-
tionhood is a concept still very misunderstood by Canadians.11


In response, the Toronto organizers launched a dialogue called
“Nation to Nation Now— The Conversations,” which took place
at the end of March in Toronto. They invited speakers from both
the Rotinonhseshá:ka Confederacy and the Nishnaabeg nation
to come together and share about what nationhood means to us
from within our own political practices. Nishnaabeg curator and
artist Wanda Nanibush moderated a discussion between my-
self and Nishnaabeg elder/artist and language speaker Robert

Robert and I were on first. I got up very early and drove into
the city on the 401, following the north shore of Lake Ontario.
I remembered our old stories of what the land used to look like,
and I wondered if my great- great- grandmother would even rec-
ognize her homeland with the nuclear plant, the condos, and
the six lanes of traffic that never stop day or night. I wondered if
she were here with me, in the car, driving as the sun came up, if
she would feel home. It struck me at that moment that our na-
tionhood, my nationhood, by its very nature calls into question
this system of settler colonialism, a system that is such an over-
whelming, violent, normalized, and dishonest reality in Cana-
da and so many other places. It is the force that has removed
me from my land, it has erased me from my history and from
contemporary life, and it is the reason we currently have thou-
sands of missing and murdered Indigenous women and Two
Spirit/queer people in Canada.

When I arrived at the conference venue several cups of cof-
fee and two traffic jams later, I wasn’t thinking about my grand-
mothers anymore. I was thinking about what I wanted for my
own great- grandchildren. It was very simple. It is very simple.
Indigenous freedom. I include it here because Indigenous free-
dom is a guiding vision or manifesto for what follows, and it starts
with being very clear about what I want out of the present and
what I expect from the future. What does it mean for me, as an
Nishnaabekwe, to live freedom? I want my great- grandchildren
to be able to fall in love with every piece of our territory. I want
their bodies to carry with them every story, every song, every
piece of poetry hidden in our Nishnaabeg language. I want them


to be able to dance through their lives with joy. I want them to
live without fear because they know respect, because they know
in their bones what respect feels like. I want them to live without
fear because they have a pristine environment with clean wa-
terways that will provide them with the physical and emotional
sustenance to uphold their responsibilities to the land, their
families, their communities, and their nations. I want them to
be valued, heard, and cherished by our communities.

I want my great- great- grandchildren and their great- great-
grandchildren to be able to live as Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg un-
harassed and undeterred in our homeland.

The idea of my arms embracing my grandchildren, and their
arms embracing their grandchildren is communicated in the
Nishnaabeg word kobade. According to elder Edna Manitowa-
bi, kobade is a word we use to refer to our great- grandparents
and our great- grandchildren. It means a link in a chain— a link
in the chain between generations, between nations, between
states of being, between individuals. I am a link in a chain. We
are all links in a chain.

Doug calls our nation Kina Gchi Nishnaabeg- ogamig, the
place where we all live and work together. Where Nishnaabeg
are in deep relationship with each other. Our nation is a hub of
Nishnaabeg networks. It is a long kobade, cycling through time.
It is a web of connections to each other, to the plant nations, the
animal nations, the rivers and lakes, the cosmos, and our neigh-
boring Indigenous nations.

Kina Gchi Nishnaabeg- ogamig is an ecology of intimacy.
It is an ecology of relationships in the absence of coercion,

hierarchy, or authoritarian power.
Kina Gchi Nishnaabeg- ogamig is connectivity based on the

sanctity of the land, the love we have for our families, our lan-
guage, our way of life. It is relationships based on deep reciproc-
ity, respect, noninterference, self- determination, and freedom.

Our nationhood is based on the idea that the earth gives and
sustains all life, that “natural resources” are not “natural resourc-
es” at all, but gifts from Aki, the land. Our nationhood is based
on the foundational concept that we should give up what we can


to support the integrity of our homelands for the coming gener-
ations. We should give more than we take.12

It is nationhood based on a series of radiating respon-

This is what I understand our diplomats were negotiating
when settlers first arrived in our territory. This was the impetus
for those very first treaties— Nishnaabeg freedom, protection
for the land and the environment, a space— an intellectual, po-
litical, spiritual, artistic, creative, and physical space where we
could live as Nishnaabeg and where our kobade could do the

This is what my Ancestors wanted for me, for us. They want-
ed for our generation to practice Nishnaabeg governance over
our homeland, to partner with other governments over shared
lands, to have the ability to make decisions about how the gifts
of our parent would be used for the benefit of our people and
in a manner to promote her sanctity for coming generations. I
believe my Ancestors expected the settler state to recognize my
nation, our lands, and the political and cultural norms in our

My nationhood doesn’t just radiate outwards, it also radi-
ates inwards. It is my physical body, my mind, and my spirit. It is
our families— not the nuclear family that has been normalized in
settler society, but big, beautiful, diverse, extended multiracial
families of relatives and friends that care very deeply for each

This is the intense love of land, of family, and of our nations
that has always been the spine of Indigenous resistance. The fact
that I am here today is a miracle, because it means my family, like
every Indigenous family, did whatever they could to ensure that I
survived the past four hundred years of violence. For my kobade
to survive and flourish the next four hundred years, we need to
join together in a rebellion of love, persistence, commitment,
and profound caring and create constellations of coresistance,
working together toward a radical alternative present based on
deep reciprocity and the gorgeous generative refusal of colonial


This vision for a present has the potential to create Nish-
naabeg futures that categorically refuse and reject dispossession
and settler colonialism and the violence of capitalism, hetero-
patriarchy, white supremacy, and anti- Blackness that maintains
them.13 To me, Indigenous nationhood is a radical and com-
plete overturning of the nation- state’s political formations. It is
a vision that centers our lives around our responsibility to work
with our Ancestors and those yet unborn to continuously give
birth to a spectacular Nishnaabeg present. This is a manifesto to
create networks of reciprocal resurgent movements with other
humans and nonhumans radically imagining their ways out of
domination, who are not afraid to let those imaginings destroy
the pillars of settler colonialism.

This is my beginning. This is my radical resurgent present.



Gilbert drove the kids from the reserve into town for
school every morning, and sometimes when we would come to
visit, he would drive another lap around the reserve to pick up
all the Elders in his yellow and black bus, driving us to the treat-
ment center or out to the community trapline on the edge of
the reserve. I was in my midtwenties. Young. I didn’t yet know
which things in life are rare and which things happen all the
time if you remain open and happen to be in the right place at
the right time. Over two years, spending time with a group of
twenty- five Elders who had known each other and their land for
their entire lives was an extremely rare situation. One that in the
next twenty years of my life wouldn’t be repeated with the same

I’ve gone back to this experience over and over again in my
head and in my writing because it changed the way I think in a
fundamental way. It changed the way I am in the world. I want
to reconsider it here because this experience is foundational to
my work on resurgence and to who I have become. I considered

parts of this story in the short story “lost in the world where
he was always the only one,” published in Islands of Decolonial
Love, although somewhat fictionalized, as a way of linking our
current reality to the Nishnaabeg sacred story of a little boy who
is taken to the skyworld to learn from seven Elders and then re-
turned to the earth to share his new knowledge with the Nish-
naabeg.1 Meaning, we all have to be, in some way, that little boy.
Like that boy, those Elders that I learned from for those two
years actually gave me something that has propelled my writing
and thinking ever since. It was the greatest gift.

I was working with Professor Paul Driben, an anthropolo-
gist from Lakehead University at the time. We had been hired by
the Effects on Aboriginals from the Great Lakes Environment
(EAGLE) project of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) to
work with the Anishinaabeg reserve community of Long Lake
#58, located in the boreal forest of northern Ontario, about
three hundred kilometers northeast of Thunder Bay, to create a
land- use atlas. The band council sent us to the Elders. This was
not a unique project in the 1980s and 1990s. Traditional Eco-
logical Knowledge was in its heyday in the eyes of white policy
makers, academics, and even Aboriginal organizations. The idea
was that if we documented on paper the ways that we use the
land, policy makers would then use the information to minimize
the impacts of development on our lands and ways of life. The
idea was that clearly documented land use would bring about
less dispossession, as if dispossession occurs by accident or out
of not knowing, rather than being the strategic structure it is.
The project was to gather the individual cognitive, territorial
maps Elders held in their heads into a collective, a visual re-
mapping and translation of some aspects of Indigenous Knowl-
edge into a form that would be recognized by industry and
the state.

Of course, I don’t think the Elders involved in these studies
were naive. I think what I saw, and perhaps what they saw, was a
process that could be used as a tool to generate cohesion, pride,
and rebuilding within our own communities when our own
people saw visually and so clearly what dispossession, displace-


ment, encroachment, and industrial extractivism look like over
our territories across time. Laid out in a visual way, the magni-
tude of the loss cannot be explained away, the strategic nature of
colonialism cannot be ignored. The driving force of capitalism
in our dispossession cannot be denied.

I was suspicious of Dr. Driben in the beginning. He wasn’t
Native, he was an anthropologist of all things, but he had created
these maps before with other Nishnaabeg communities. Sitting
in his windowless cement office …

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