Response to critiques of Red Braid’s Indigenous leadership

My Indigenous name is Ma Maa Tea, I am Nuu Chah Nulth and Irish. I am from the Wolf Clan, from my mother who is the oldest of her siblings in our family.

In the past 4 years that my daughter and I have been with the Alliance, we have lost Indigenous family members to overdose and alcoholism. In my lifetime, I have lost Indigenous men from being shot by a cop, being shot by gang members, shot and robbed; Indigenous women who have been stabbed, OD’d and cardiac arrest from drugs, AIDS. Indigenous youth who were held against their will in crack houses where cops did nothing to help them. Many Indigenous men who have been incarcerated because they were coerced by others to do acts where they had no choice. Indigenous women who were forced into deadly circumstances because they were trapped by partners in enclosed spaces. These Indigenous people were/are Cree, Nuu Chah Nulth, Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu Chah Nulth, Squamish, Cree, Cree, Nuu Chah Nulth, Coast Salish, Kwakwaka’wakw, Kwakwaka’wakw. I list Nations multiple times because it was more than one Indigenous person from the Nation. These are just a few.

In the Indigenous community, there are many Indigenous members, family members who lost their lives violently. What does this have to do with the squat? The common thread of these violent acts and deaths are 1) they are Indigenous and 2) they are low income. The newest threat on the block: Covid 19.

I will NOT name names out of respect to the families and my family. I will also not name names because the critiques do not merit to know their names based on arguments on the internet.

But I do know their names. I (we, my daughter and I) carry their names, narratives, lived lives, survived relatives, lost lives in our heart when we stand up for the most precarious and dangerous spaces of homelessness and poverty. The Indigenous people, communities, family members who are not housed, under housed, yes, even couchsurfing, trapped in violent situations are whom I stand with. I am humbled by low-income Indigenous warriors and leaders. Sharing their narratives will be treated with dignity and I will continue to fight for and with them.

When an argument is posted on the internet and individual Natives demand to know “who” they are, I will not tell you. I will NOT say their names just so you can “know” who they are for the satisfaction of a so-called political argument when you are posturing moral high ground.

Colonization is not an event that happened in the past, where Canada masks the lie and omission of violence in a narrative of benevolence; colonization is a process that continues, since the elimination process failed. Colonization is being homeless, surviving violence often through moment to moment acts, being criminalized by citizens and morally judged by our own Indigenous people. Colonization is losing OUR members to alcoholism, ODing from fentanyl, being abducted and turned out onto street corners, having our children stolen by Indigenous social workers into foster care, being surveilled by cops, social workers, and even our own people who took on the roles of state. Yes, even by our own people.

This has everything to do with Covid 19, the newest enemy on the block. Squat 2 Survive, even if it saves one life, one Indigenous life, and other non Indigenous lives, even if overnight, is worth the fight.

Red Braid is in fact non-Indigenous and Indigenous people. Yes, there are two of us actively in the Indigenous Leadership Council, which is in its infancy since December of 2019. Yes, there was a relaunch of our name, and our Basis of Unity was expanded on. I was part of the naming because I received Indigenous teachings as an inner city youth from an Indigenous elder, who taught me of a braid. This was a spark of clearly illustrating and exercising the working of two groups: Indigenous and working class. The Indigenous strand in the braid stands for low-income Indigenous people as protagonists in revolutionary change. The non-Indigenous working class is intertwined in the fight against colonialism.

When an argument on the internet, not in a reciprocal conversation with dignity, arises, it challenges the fight that both working-class and Indigenous low-income people stand together as one. Yes, both non-Indigenous and Indigenous people can fight colonialism. Even if there are Marxist frameworks, fighting capitalism without fighting colonialism recreates hierarchies of colonialism, therefore: two strands. The third strand is fighting imperialism. Fighting capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism, the robbing and raping of mother earth, is an Indigenous Law that is within many Indigenous beliefs and practices.

Saying that low-income Indigenous people have no voice not only erases low-income Indigenous leaders but says that low-income Indigenous people cannot be protagonists in urban centers for themselves and when standing with land defenders. It is especially sharp to hear this from other Indigenous people. This is ten fold so when Indigenous critics say that I am being used and I am so vulnerable that I need to be protected from Red Braid and I don’t even know it. When settlers say that Indigenous people need to be protected, it is beyond paternalism, it is racism, which is about power. When Indigenous people say that I am so clueless that I need to be protected from Red Braid, it is not only disrespectful but there is no dignity to me, who has been actively fighting for housing and alongside low-income Indigenous leaders across many regions.

The relationship that I, as an Indigenous leader, have with Red Braid Alliance is reciprocal. This includes the working class non-Indigenous people who fight alongside me and low-income Indigenous leaders.

Critics have quickly posted online moral statements guised as speaking for clueless vulnerable Indigenous people, who are in fact frontline leaders against colonialism in its most violent forms. Some questions are without a doubt worthwhile talking about: who are the non-Indigenous working class fighters who fight along Indigenous leaders, and how is this possible? I am telling you not only is it possible, it is also reciprocal.

Critics who have been invited to meet the Red Braid Indigenous Leadership Council have dismissed this dialogue, and pitied me as a helpless Native woman who needs to be protected, I will no longer talk to. However, if anyone is interested in a conversation where our Indigenous leaders are treated with dignity, I am more than interested in a conversation.

I will fight alongside low-income Indigenous leaders because my daughter and my family are them. I will fight alongside non-Indigenous warriors who fight colonialism. I will continue to fight colonialism which is a system of violence. I will not fight for policy change, I fight for change, revolutionary change. I fight for every low-income Indigenous person who has lost their life because colonialism is an ongoing act to maintain the Canadian lifestyle. I am on their side, the Indigenous brothers and sisters, grannies and grandpas, nieces and nephews, and cousins. I stand with my non-Indigenous brothers and sisters, working and low-income, because my Indigenous Law says life is sacred.

For context, please read our Q&A about Red Braid and the Stewart Squat.