Gentle reminder: To identify as Two-Spirited is to identify as NativeAmerican and outside the gender binary. Please do not disrespect that it is a part of being First Nations and queer and that identity is important to us.
A less gentle reminder: Spirit Animals are fucking sacred, don’t use them for just anything. I don’t care how much you identify with the thing, unless you are using the term properly you are being disrespectful.
PSA by a First Nations person, thank you for your time.
Please help me get the story of the displaced Waterhen Anishinaabeg out there. Don’t let a corrupt policing system and a corrupt Chief get their way and paint the displaced families in a criminal light. Help us get justice.
In December, 1992, some residents of the Waterhen reserve demanded more financial accountability from their leaders, who had cloaked their dealings in a blanket of secrecy. The following year, the dissidents elected a majority of councillors to the band’s government who promised to address these issues.
The Chief, who was re-elected, refused to work with the new quorum. It took a year and a half, but the council majority finally got what it wanted. On March 23, 1994, the Regional Director of federal Department of Indian and Northern Development Canada (DIAND) convened a meeting of the Chief and council, where a band council resolution calling for an independent audit of the Waterhen band passed. The department then appointed a third-party manager for the band.
That should have ended the issue. But DIAND refused to provide the quorum with details of the band’s funding agreements and the Chief’s supporters then broke into and occupied the band office. The RCMP were called to assist, but did nothing. They stated: “As to who has the authority of the band has to be determined by DIAND.”
In April, 1994, at its own expense, the council quorum obtained a court order against the Chief and his supporters and removed the band’s records. A month later, the group obtained another order appointing them the legitimate representatives of the band. Served with these documents, DIAND’s lawyer repeated that the department took no position in the band’s internal matters, the same response it had made for years to the many letters and petitions from band members demanding accountability.
This official neutrality had devastating consequences.
On or about May 17, 1994, frustrated by official disregard for court orders, the quorum attempted to enter the band office and was forced away by the Chief’s supporters, who set up barricades. The councillors returned to court and obtained an order to have the barricades removed. They came down, but the third-party manager cut off all payments for the dissidents, including their honorariums. He refused to work with or even meet with the quorum unless the Chief was present and refused to assist them in preparing the mandated audit.
Finally, in November, 1995, DIAND Minister approved a new band election. The quorum and their supporters were told “that it is going to be payback time” and were harassed and threatened at the polls. The Chief and his supporters were voted back into power. By February, 1996, all control of funding had been returned to the Chief.
But the genie was out of the bottle. During their brief period of control, the quorum had distributed the band’s books among their supporters, whom they tersely dubbed “the people.” In February, 1996, the Chief obtained a court injunction ordering the council quorum and unnamed “supporters” to return the books. The Chief said he could not do band business without them.
Frustrated by his opponents’ refusal to staunch the flow of information, the Chief adopted new tactics. Early in April, 1996, with the assistance of the RCMP, the Chief removed his supporters from the reserve, leaving the rest of the band members to fend for themselves. At band expense, the Chief’s group stayed in paid lodging in and around Dauphin, Manitoba. The crisis reached a point of no return on April 24 when the Chief obtained an interlocutory court injunction order against the dissidents, and against unnamed members of a notorious aboriginal gang, the Manitoba Warriors, whose role in the affair remains murky to this day.
The RCMP barricaded entrances to the Waterhen First Nation, which is mostly surrounded by water. Police in airboats patrolled the reserve, at times setting off explosives and firing teargas. The RCMP and the members of the force’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) entered the reserve at night, and were observed flat on the ground crawling about. Helicopters roamed overhead with bright spotlights illuminating the reserve sky. Street lights were smashed and dogs on the reserve poisoned. The reserve was under siege.
Over the weeks before the Chief’s faction fled and the barricades went up, violence against the dissidents had been growing, with the Chief’s supporters brandishing guns and threatening to declare war. Verbal and physical assaults occurred and tires were slashed. The displaced families insist that they did not respond in kind. Even after the barricades went up, they limited their protests to picketing with posters calling for justice and protesting band corruption.
But what appeared to be a well-organized series of events made quorum supporters look like criminals. The acts ranged from petty vandalism to serious acts like arson. Two houses, including the one assigned to the Chief, burned to the ground. The dissidents warned each other not to go near the burning homes, for fear they could be blamed.
Who did it? Today the displaced families and their friends wonder if these acts were not in fact the work of the Manitoba Warriors. They had observed known members of the gang entering and exiting the barricades with impunity at all hours of the day and night, apparently with the knowledge and consent of the authorities. Waterhen Chief held court for the media outside the barricades and attributed the criminal acts to his opponents.
Subsequent events are forever seared in the memories of the dissidents. In the early morning hours of May 19, the RCMP and the ERT, armed with machine guns, stun grenades and vicious attack dogs, stormed the reserve and terrorized the residents. They invoked the Chief’s interlocutory order and removed everyone, including women, children, elders and youth, from the reserve at gunpoint.
Heavily armed men kicked open doors of sleeping residents and ordered women, children and adults to drop to the floor with automatic weapons pointed at their heads. The attack dogs were allowed to bite many of them. Witnesses say the police had no pity, even though the people showed no resistance. They were handcuffed, with some loaded into waiting police vehicles and others into buses. The children were apprehended by a native child care agency chaired by none other than the Waterhen Chief. Their parents were taken to jail.
Two days later, the RCMP allowed the Chief and his supporters to return to Waterhen. Then destruction ensued. Two more houses were torched, this time ones belonging to quorum supporters, and many others looted and ransacked. Vehicles belonging to dissidents were pushed into water-filled ditches. In spite of a continuous, 24-hour police presence on the Waterhen that lasted for 30 days after the Chief’s faction was restored, the RCMP made no arrests.
Of the people dragged from the Waterhen reserve, thirty-five people were charged and many convicted of mischief, intimidation and various related charges. They couldn’t afford lawyers and lacked any knowledge of court processes, but appealed the convictions, some all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada. None of the convictions stuck. Most of them, however, were never allowed to return to the reserve.
The Waterhen’s people are forever divided, a tragedy that could easily have been avoided had Waterhen’s Chief been accountable and opened the band’s books to reserve members, or had DIAND exercised its authority to clean up the band’s finances when the majority quorum on its council repeatedly requested help.
But just imagine if you backed the wrong political faction in your neighbourhood and then had your home and possessions and your livelihood seized. In Canada, this should not be allowed to happen.
It seems like whenever natives aren’t being treated like freeloading drunks on and nearby reservations we’re being treated like mystical cryptids whose sighting will give you blessings for like 100 years or something
I try really hard to just sort through the submissions and keep my mouth shut so that this blog will be about tattoo imagery and only tattoo imagery because I know that’s why you’re all following it. And I’d rather just be that silent entity working behind the scenes; it’s less work for me. But, y’all, there is a limit to the amount of poorly-drawn, hypersexualized, racist nonsense I can put up with in one submission without my head exploding, and some of y’all are pushing it today. Please stop this.
Ok, I’m going to back to what I was doing.. Thanks for your time.
wish there was some way to tell that white guy having a powwow isn’t code for coitus?
how about that girl who’s jealous bc you “look like pocahontas”?
is someone’s best attempt at “honouring you” to immediately jump to wearing a tan suede bikini w/ fringe?
or, a personal favourite, do people like pharrell, lana del rey and gwen stefani and other non native offenders still feel the need to emulate your identity?
if you’ve been called terms such as (but not limited to): exotic, pocahontas, tribal, or squaw,
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The medzins used will leave you and your harrasser with an “I just smudged” light fragrance, and promises to help you on your way to a holistic sense of self and security.
order within the next full moon and we’ll send you not just the bottle, but a pocket sized spritzer. on top of that, we’ll also throw in my cousin’s new roundie mixtape. This offer can’t be ignored.