26 May 2015
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY: Aboriginal Justice Team
changes its name to Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team
The Christian Peacemaker Aboriginal Justice Team has
undergone a transition to a new team name, after much deliberation and
discussion. Although the mandate and vision for the team remains the same, the
name change represents an effort to maintain currency within Indigenous movements
for self-determination, and the team feels Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team
better captures the desired scope of its work. The team has floated this change
past some of its Indigenous friends and partners who have welcomed it.
Still in popular use, the term “aboriginal” refers to First
Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. However, as Mohawk scholar Taiaike Alfred
and Cherokee professor Jeff Corntassel (2005) indicate, while some Indigenous
people have embraced this label, “this identity is purely a state construction
that is instrumental to the state’s attempt to gradually subsume Indigenous
existences into its own constitutional system and body politic” (p. 598). In
2008, the Union of Ontario Indians and later Grand Council of Treaty #3
representing the Anishnaabek passed resolutions and launched a campaign to
eliminate the inappropriate use of the term “aboriginal.” To many,
“aboriginalism is a legal, political and cultural discourse designed to serve
an agenda of silent surrender to an inherently unjust relation at the root of
the colonial state itself” (Alfred & Corntassel, p. 599). To the chagrin of
many First Nations, in 2011 Canada’s Conservative government changed the
minister and department title responsible for “Indian Affairs” to “Aboriginal
Affairs and Northern Development,” embodying this discursive tactic.
Of course, you may still hear the team referring to the
constitutionally recognized Aboriginal and Treaty rights that many Indigenous
leaders and organizations have struggled for over the decades. That said, for
all other intents and purposes, the team will continue to strive to use
whatever identifier is preferable to its partners in the context where it works,
but more generally, the team will use the term Indigenous.
This term “Indigenous” has gained political traction in the
last thirty years as part of a growing international movement for the rights of
Indigenous peoples, and as an alternative identifier to colonially delegated
terms (e.g., Indian, Aboriginal) from which these inherent rights emanate.
While Indigenous people cannot be lumped into a homogenous cultural category,
“the struggle to survive as distinct peoples on foundations constituted in
their unique heritages, attachments to their homelands, and natural ways of
life is what is shared by all Indigenous peoples” (Alfred & Corntassel,
2005, p. 597).
Additionally, “Peoples” acknowledges the existence
of nations or land-based, people groups with collective rights to culture,
land, self-determination, and livelihood. And, “solidarity”, is a
historic term in common use within various movements to highlight the type of
relationships the team seeks to foster across geographic, ethnic, and
Please update your address books and contact lists!