Reflections from Tyendinaga: Solidarity with Wet'suwet'en

There's a little community camped out in the cold next to the train tracks. While being referred to as a blockade, the people in Tyendinaga* keep reminding us that they were not actually on the tracks. They camped out next to the track and asked CN to stop trains until the RCMP left Wet'suwet'en*. Solidarity across nations* because they are familiar with the continued colonial genocide.

As a settler here I decided to go and support the call out for more bodies. I am not as familiar with genocide, it's been a few generations for my people and the Portuguese didn't settle in Goa, they left. Living in Tkaronto* I do not feel the direct danger that many Indigenous people feel on a day to day basis. So as many settlers are now, I chose to help. The privilege of being able to choose when to be in danger. Vanessa Gray* often talks about how she has to be in this fight, it's life or death for her. The people of Aamjiwnaang* don't get to choose when to be safe and when to be in danger. I went to Tyendinaga for 24 hours and then I chose to recharge my body in the safety of my home. Privilege.

On a Thursday, someone forwarded me the Proud Boys* threat of violence on the Tyendinaga camp. They said they would be coming the next morning. I saw this around 9 pm. I decided it was late, that night was to be very cold, I'd had a long day, and I'm scared of violent white people who threaten people. There were 2 cars going up. I chose safety. Around 10 pm another friend messaged and said they were going. They also thought that the threat was just a fear tactic as it was no longer visible on Facebook, only the screenshot of it remained, to be passed around. Another friend offered me a ride. So I put on all my warmest gear, ate some food, packed some snacks, and blankets and headed out. We left late and got there around 2 am. We stood by the fire for a bit and then sorted some of the coffee stuff in the food area. Across the tracks in the distance were police and media. Around 4:30 am we started to settle in for sleep. It was cold and thankfully others had brought more blankets that they let me borrow. Later that blanket had a story. No wonder I slept so well. I woke up around 11 am.

Someone said they were going to head to the community center so I decided to join. We helped out a little bit. Then a meeting ended and a lot of people came into the room. We ate a lot of delicious food. I helped pack all the extra food to put in the freezer.

I was glad to be in the warmth there for a few hours. My warmest clothes were not warm enough for the outdoors.

We went back to the camp. Trudeau had told the camp to clear out in the next two hours or days. We weren't sure what that meant. I wasn't sure what to do to help. We talked and ate food together. Someone sang Water songs by the Sacred Fire*.

When I pack to go camping I think about my needs and wants. When I went to Tyendinaga they were mostly needs. When I was there I reflected on how to meet needs. How helpless I'd be without the system. I thought about the future, when food prices are high, or when civilization collapses, or when the zombies come. Some say the zombies came already. So I wonder now what would it all look like if the Two Row Wampum Covenant* had been respected. Can we decolonize the zombies?

I think Kanenhariyo believes that with a lot of patience we can remind them of the agreements. And rehumanize them. He gave a teaching to a few of the police officers on the Two Row treaty. I watched it online. The Mohawk Warriors believe in peace for as long as possible until there is no other option. As I write this the Mohawks are still peaceful.

The RCMP, OPP and TPS have arrested people. Eve Saint yelled "You are Invaders. You are not welcome here. We are unarmed. I am the daughter of Woos." Eve was arrested. (at Gidimt’en camp*) On the land of her people. Her father is Chief Woos*.

While in Tyendinaga I feared that the invaders - cops and/or white supremacists would come. Freda* (Huson of Unist'ot'en Camp*) says she doesn't fear anything. I don't know if I believe her. In that same video she says herself and other women in her family have done a lot of healing and that's why they're able to stand up against what they know is wrong. That part resonates with me. It answers my question to myself of why I'm doing what I'm doing and why I'm not doing what I'm not doing.

Some people tell me to rest up. It's much easier to tell others that than to do it. I'm back and I want to constantly be occupied so I don't have scary thoughts that fill the unknown. The unknown scares me. The power of the colonial state scares me. It is hard to heal when you aren't rested - when you aren't letting yourself rest. My friend reminds me of all I've done in the past 2 years, and I realize I need to value it. Valuing the things the colonizers don't value is an important step. Doing things I'm passionate about is decolonizing work. It is hard to heal when you are watching live streams not knowing if the police are about to kill someone. Watching live stream also meant seeing an expression of sadness and anger followed by an eagle flying overhead. Healed people on the frontline are needed. Healing happens on the frontline.

I reposted the meme several times "Rail blockades could see cities run out of all the things currently denied to most First Nations."

Settlers are so used to clean water, reasonable food prices, travelling in cars and trains, being able to see their family when their schedule allows it, being employed. Reserves have boil water advisories, or cannot drink the water at all. Some Indigenous communities have shower water that causes rashes. High food prices in Northern communities. Indigenous people have been placed on reserves, been displaced to make way for roads and railroads, been separated so some could be taken up north so Canada could claim more of the arctic. Passes, residential schools, 60s scoop*, child apprehension* rates 7 times higher than for non indigenous children. CN Rail was planning layoffs a few months ago, but are now blaming their layoffs on the blockades in support of Land Defenders*. People forget about the racist hiring that goes on today. Too much irony.

Some say it angers supporters of your cause but really what do Indigenous people have to lose? What were the supporters doing for them in 2019?

Sitting around at camp I realize Indigenous people are stuck between a rock and a hard place. But at camp, we go back to the basics of surviving together. There, as a settler, I can start to dream of what it will look like when the wampum belt treaties start to be followed again. I know others have already been dreaming and going backward and forward in time. Like the Black Lives Matter Tent City* there is a reclaiming of the beauty of a culture. To decolonize and to reroot ourselves as we start to settle into our cultures. There at camp, we can share stories and knowledge, whatever of our culture we know. And we share the desire to survive together.

I wonder how some people can be so brave. And then I think, for Indigenous people, what's the difference, is subtle oppression any better than overt oppression? Do the fear of the system and all its players feel any different to them today than any other day?

Some people ask me if this is all about the pipeline. It's not. It's been a few years since I cared so much about the pipeline. It has gotten so much bigger than that. White people are marching on the street saying Indigenous people need their land back. Some of them might not really be thinking about what that would look like. But some are. Indigenous people across Turtle Island are in solidarity with each other in ways now visible to the state.

Will we be forced back into living off the land? Or will we fall in love with it all over again and choose to? Will the settlers on Turtle Island who come from all over the world learn their roots so they can bring back a balance of beautiful Red, Black, White and Yellow?

I watch live stream of land defenders getting arrested. I can't tell if it's anyone I know. I don't know how they'll be treated in jail. I've heard stories. And a few days later I watch videos of the warriors describe how they were treated. The uncertainty goes away and now knowing what happened, I'm just as sad. And I watch as people are putting their lives on the line for this. So that their life won't be on the line on a daily basis.

Tresanne is a a babysitter and birth doula, and a member of the Conscious Minds Co-Operative that meets at Anarres Apothecary. She recently initiated an Apprenticeship at Anarres. Stay tuned for her new article in The Peak about gardening and decolonizing and reconnecting to roots coming out in a week or two. Tresanne will be back in Tyendinaga in warmer clothing.

Note that these links are intended to be little windows into the sense and meaning of terms that Tresanne has used. Please continue to explore and learn.




Vanessa Grey


Proud Boys

Sacred Fire
You can learn more about Sacred Fires by going to support Indigenous Communites who are asking for help. If there is a Sacred Fire there, ask about and follow the protocols.

Two Row Wampum Covenant

Unist'ot'en Camp

Chief Woos

Freda Huson, Unist’ot’en spokesperson and camp founder.

60's Scoop

Child apprehension

Land Defenders

Black Lives Matter Tent City

Conscious Minds Co-Operative

Learn More:

Solidarity Across Nations:

Kanenhariyo talking about the Two Row (real people's media feb 11)