December 14, 2023
From Socialist Project

Wilton Littlechild of Ermineskin Cree Nation brought forward a resolution at the AFN Special Chiefs Meetings calling for a ceasefire in Israel and Palestine. (Screenshot/CPAC)

Media coverage of the Assembly of First Nations’ (AFN) Special Chiefs Meeting understandably focused on Cindy Woodhouse’s election as the new national chief on Dec. 7.

But this focus came at the expense of covering a slew of policy resolutions electors endorsed, including one passed later in the day calling for an urgent end to Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza.

Cindy Woodhouse elected as AFN national chief

Cindy Woodhouse elected as AFN national chief

Each of the more than 630 First Nations represented by the AFN is entitled to send its chief, or an approved proxy, to the Special Chiefs Meeting to vote on resolutions on their nation’s behalf.

An emergency resolution advocating for a permanent ceasefire in Israel and Palestine, which recognizes the Palestinians as an Indigenous People under international law, passed unanimously.

As of Dec. 11, Israeli occupation forces in Gaza have killed more than 18,200 Palestinians, including more than 7,200 children, 134 United Nations workers and 56 journalists, and displaced 85% of the population since Oct. 7, when the Gaza-based militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel killing 1,147 Israelis and migrant workers, and taking more than 200 hostages.

Due to winter weather, overcrowding in shelters, dirty water, and scarce food and medicine, disease is running rampant in Gaza while half the population is starving. Dozens of UN experts have called on the international community to intervene to prevent a genocide against Palestinians.

The AFN ceasefire resolution was introduced by Willie Littlechild of Ermineskin Cree Nation in Alberta, who happens to be an expert in international Indigenous law.

Littlechild, who attended the assembly as a proxy for Chief Randy Ermineskin, served as grand chief of the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations from 2016 to 2019, sat on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and was elected as the first Treaty First Nations MP in 1988 with the Progressive Conservatives.

His resolution, which passed with four abstentions and zero votes against, consisted of four points:

  1. Calling for an “immediate ceasefire, an end to the occupation of Gaza and the liberation of all hostages, the unimpeded flow of immediate humanitarian access to all occupied Indigenous People’s territories, and full respect for international human rights law in all occupied Indigenous People’s lands,” including the West Bank and Gaza.

  2. Denouncing “all forms of violence against Indigenous Peoples” by supporting “an end to the violent, illegal occupation of all Indigenous Peoples’ lands.”

  3. Reminding states of their “Treaty, moral and legal obligations to fully respect human rights and law, and its norms and standards, including respect of international treaties, which call on states to achieve peaceful co-existence with Indigenous Peoples.”

  4. Instructing the new national chief to “immediately” send a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling for a permanent ceasefire.

When given the opportunity to speak before voting on his resolution commenced, Littlechild called scenes of death and destruction coming out of Gaza a “sad revelation” for the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island.

“We see and hear that thousands of children have been killed. We see and hear thousands of elders have been killed, sometimes used as human shields. This horrific tragedy impacts each of us, especially when it involves Indigenous Peoples,” he said.

Littlechild encuraged the AFN to join the chorus of international Indigenous voices, including the International Indian Treaty Council and Sámi Parliament of Norway, who have approached the situation in Israel and Palestine through the lens of Indigenous rights.

“When there’s dispossession of life, dispossession of language, dispossession of territory contrary to our international treaties, then we must say something.”

“Our own Treaty calls on us to promote peace and friendship, and under that context we can’t help but get up and speak out against something that’s contrary totally to peace,” he said, highlighting the importance of international solidarity among Indigenous Peoples.

“When there’s dispossession of life, dispossession of language, dispossession of territory contrary to our international treaties, then we must say something.”

The resolution was seconded by Chief George Ginnish of Natoaganeg First Nation in New Brunswick. In his remarks delivered over Zoom, Chief Ginnish referenced local health-care workers he spoke to who bore witness to the horrors in Gaza.

Chief Dylan Whiteduck of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, an Algonquin First Nation in Quebec, offered his full support for the “very important resolution.”

The resolution’s calls specifically for a permanent ceasefire and for the new national chief to write Trudeau demanding he advocate for one were included as a result of Whiteduck’s friendly amendments.

“What’s happening over there is colonialism, and taking over those lands and territories,” Chief Whiteduck said.

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The day after the AFN passed its ceasefire resolution, Iqaluit-based Inuk lawyer Beth Kotierk resigned from the Nutrition North Advisory Board to protest the Canadian government’s support for the “non-democratic, settler-colonial apartheid-state of Israel.”

“The settler colonial violence [that] we see in Palestine is intrinsically linked to the settler colonial violence carried out here in Canada against Indigenous peoples,” Kotierk wrote in her resignation letter to Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal.

While Israel’s supporters attempt to cast Zionism as an “Indigenous emancipation movement,” the founders of Jewish nationalism were under no such illusion.

Eyeless in Gaza

Eyeless in Gaza

Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism, wrote a 1902 letter to famed British colonialist and mining magnate Cecil Rhodes attempting to secure his support for the Zionist project, which Herzl proudly described as “something colonial.”

Ze’ev Jabotinsky, another Zionist founding father, explicitly compared Palestinian Arabs to the Aztec and Sioux peoples in his 1923 Iron Wall essay, in which he argued that Zionist settlers must prepare for inevitable conflict between themselves and Palestine’s Indigenous population.

“Every native population in the world resists colonists as long as it has the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being colonised [sic],” Jabotinsky wrote.

“That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that they will be able to prevent the transformation of ‘Palestine’ into the ‘Land of Israel.’”

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