First Nations Activist On Trial for Defending Ancestral Land

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People even vaguely familiar with North American history have to admit that neither the United States nor Canada has upheld its obligations to and agreements with Native American and First Nations peoples. From the earliest treaties on record to the most recent legal agreements between the indigenous people of North America and the colonial governments, violating standing treaties and agreements is the standard, while actually fulfilling the obligations under these agreements is very rare.

All too often, Native and First Nations peoples have little opportunity for recourse after such treaty violations. However, some native groups take an active stance at pushing back against such imperialist mistreatment. One of the many ways that First Nations and Native populations push back against the erasure of their history and their culture is through organizing.

Idle No More is a protest movement and group that started in December 2012. Founded by three First Nations women and a non-Native ally, Idle No More has become a global movement aimed at empowering indigenous groups. The intention of the group is to promote social justice by raising awareness of the violations of treaties and other governmental abuses of Native and First Nations people.

One of those three founders, a member of the Canadian Cree Nation, Sylvia McAdam Saysewahum, is currently facing trial for her activism and attempts to protect her ancestral lands. She is an attorney and professor in addition to being a powerful activist and author.

Sylvia McAdam Saysewahum and her brother, Kurtis McAdam Saysewahum received notice from a Canadian parks officer on February 26th, 2017, that they had to vacate the lands they claim as ancestral. The siblings refused to comply, asserting that these lands belonged to them under Treaty 6 and that their family has lived on those lands since long before European settlers began claiming the land in North America. Refusing to leave is seen as violation of the Parks Act, and now both siblings are at risk of fines and jail time for criminal offenses.

Today, March 20th, 2019, Sylvia McAdam Saysewahum sat through her first day of trial, which is scheduled to last through Friday. Activism groups, including Idle No More and Defenders of the Land, are standing in solidarity with Sylvia McAdam Saysewahum throughout this process. Neither she, nor her brother, should face criminal charges for asserting their rights to their own lands.

Those who wish to support Sylvia McAdam Saysewahum and First Nation rights can donate to her authorized fundraiser here. You can also follow this trial and support indigenous people who assert their right of ownership over ancestral lands.

For previous Ladybud articles about indigenous rights, click here.