On December 5th 2009 at the Café Nagua in Québec City, comrades from the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) held their third meeting on First Nations struggles. Fifty people or so coming from different walks of life and nationalities gathered to hear Michelle Bédard, a Huron-Wendat, member of the Canadian Métis Council

Mrs. Bédard surprised the organizers by taking control of the conference: “What is important is to unite, to talk together about our experiences; it is useless if I speak alone.” This was a way to break the conferences’ conventional “face to face” style and to form a circle, symbol of a true discussion. “Yes, we see things differently, we have a unique experience, but we are not people impervious to others,” she added.

To break the ice, Mrs. Bédard briefly talked about her passions: “I started to be interested by the legislation on protection of ancestral burial grounds. In fact, there were laws on this matter, but they didn’t applied to us, Native people. That is why I worked to change the municipal Act on Burial so we could have the right to bury our loved ones without fear of having their bodies stolen! Imagine, without respect for our rights, we weren’t considered as human beings. The law was finally modified in 1991. So according to the Canadian government, we then became human people! Even so, our people do not have control on these laws. You know, they vary depending on the governments’ mood.”

“Later, with the Canadian Métis Council, I busied myself with protecting our language. It is then that I learned a lot about my ancestors. For example, I discovered that language is not so much a communication tool as it is a way to inscribe oneself in the world.”Afterwards, Mrs. Bédard gave to others time to speak. Here are the main lines of the discussion:

On solidarity

A young man came up with the first question: “How can we help you in your fight?” Michelle Bédard answered: “Well, start by not believing in all what you read in books! According to Ontario school manuals, the Huron-Wendat have disappeared since a long time now. As far as I know, my heart is beating, and not only mine. What you can do to help is speak to us, try to understand what we live.”

On language and culture

A woman asked: “How do First Nations youth today learn their language?” “That is a simple question, but the answer is complex. Youth today tend to be distracted. That is dangerous, especially when they are distracted by video games!”

At that moment, a Native man took the floor: “If I may, I wish to say something. I am pursuing a doctoral program on First Nations languages. The valorization of language differs between nations, as between urban and rural reservations. At one time, the Oblates [the religious congregation that administrated most of the residential schools in Canada] managed to attack First Nations culture: many youth were then rebuffed by their own language. But today, there’s a return to First Nations culture and education undertook, this time, by First Nations people.”

Another person continued, answering the previous speaker: “I find what you just said about the valorization of language quite relevant. The more a nation is isolated, the more it conserves its language. Otherwise, the language is out of context, because it enters in contact with neo-European culture. What is peculiar with First Nations is that they transmit culture by speech, not by writing. Today, education takes on a brand new place in the life of youth.”

On First Nations’ viewpoint

Another man asked Mrs. Bédard: “What is your view of the 1990 Oka Crisis?” “For me, what happened in 1990 is the result of a tension between Québec sovereignty, hydro-electric trades and First Nation resistance. Those are what led up to the confrontation. There has been an eruption of strength that surprised everyone: the Natives were rebelling! More than 30 years of organization and accumulation of forces led up to what you call the Oka Crisis: that was nothing less than a people taking up arms and resisting. For Native people, 1990 means the end of the darkness.”

The discussions ended on the question of mass struggle waged by Indigenous People in India; it is necessary to link struggles undertook elsewhere in the world with the ones undertook here.

The people who took part in the event were enthusiastic and smiling, their minds filled with new ideas. Comrades from the RCP in Québec City are now planning to hold another event later this Fall, this time in Wendake, to discuss connections between the national liberation struggle of Native people and the proletarian revolutionary struggle.

G. Lamy
e p D T F s