- Blockades and Resistance: Studies in Actions and Peace and the Temagami Blockade of 1988-89
Ute Lischke and David McNab note in their introduction how advocacy, both for and against Aboriginal rights, is increasing in First Nations historiography. Blockades and Resistance falls within this trend as the authors of the various articles fall within the former camp. In defence of Aboriginal History, however, advocacy is apparent in many historical fields if one reads deeply and broadly enough. This work grew out of the 1998 Wanapitei Colloquium held on the shores of Lake Temagami to mark the tenth anniversary of the Red Squirrel Road blockade by the Teme-Augama [End Page 457] Anishnabai (TAA). It was a fitting venue for a gathering of scholars interested in Aboriginal resistance.
There is a tendency on the part of non-Natives to perceive blockades and other acts of Aboriginal resistance as violent. Lischke and McNab, however, note that resistance is based in peace. It is an effort by First Nations to have their rights and grievances recognized. These grievances, in my reading of the various articles, stem from one simple fact: First Nations are not a conquered people but have been treated as such by government. They were the allies and friends of Europeans, and signed treaties to symbolize that friendship. Governments have broken this faith, for historical reasons too complex to outline here, and First Nations have resisted both in court and on the ground ever since.
Particularly useful in this collection are the writings, opinions and reflections of TAA elders and leaders on the Red Squirrel Blockade and earlier times when the TAA were self-sufficient. Gary Potts's absence from this collection is unfortunate, though Bruce Hodgins's short piece on Potts is useful. Recollections by others, such as Hodgins and McNab, offer equally useful perspectives. McNab's insider's view of the Ontario government and its attempts to manage the blockade is an interesting part of the story. It is similar to his earlier work in Circles of Time.
Other articles outline various historical efforts at Aboriginal resistance. Telford's analysis of the Robinson Treaties is thorough. McNeil's analysis of the 1997 Delgamuukw decision helps to situate the shifting legal definition of Aboriginal rights. Campbell's study of the Longlac claim against northern hydro development highlights the tedious process of having rights and claims recognized. Hodgins's epilogue offers an excellent summation of events, and situates the Red Squirrel Blockade in a broader international context.
Conflict, legal or otherwise, over Aboriginal rights is a fixture in the Canadian political landscape for the foreseeable future. The recent Supreme Court decision regarding Mi'kmaq logging rights, and Mi'kmaq leaders' statements that the issue is not over, are a portent of future action. Blockades and Resistance offers insight into an issue that will not disappear any time soon. Aboriginal resistance is something that will continue for years and generations to come. [End Page 458]
David Calverley, Faculty of Education, Nipissing University