To Whom We Owe Apology, Accountability, and Awe


Four years ago this day, on a wavering radio signal from Cajamarca, Peru, I listened to my home province of (so-called) British Columbia elect the BC Liberal Party to rule, once again. Somehow, we as non-indigenous British Columbians found a way to reconcile in our minds that it is okay for non-indigenous persons to determine how stolen land is governed and that those who least experience any of the realities of oppression can know what is best. We are guests here. Tuning in upon the peaks of the Andes, my Quechuan friends sat with me, forming a circle. Together we listened to the results. This community — despite the full weight of international powers — continues to resist and survive the Canadian mining companies that have poisoned their waters, ripped the earth in which their ancestors lay, and rape their women and children. As the election results became clear, we cried. We cried together. The BC election, as they told me, was no less their concern than any ones. Borders are but illusions we indulge that make it easier for us to justify having privileges that come at the expense of others. As indigenous persons to Pachamama, they felt a particular kinship with the indigenous persons of the West Coast of Turtle Island. Together we mourned as we watched colonialism continue for 4 more years, in the name of ‘democracy’.

Today, British Columbians vote again. And I have a few things to say. Directed especially to the baby boomers, middle and upper classes, and those vying for the leadership of this province.

There may be no more fundamental truth in the field of social and environmental justice than that the pursuit of justice and liberation be led by those persons and communities most marginalized and used for others’ accumulation; upon whose backs and bones these citied landscapes are erected. Those we as a society most stigmatize are, truly… the great knowledge-keepers of our time, the resilient survivors, the experts of their experiences, the moral leaders of us all! To whom we owe apology, accountability, gratitude, and awe.

The extent to which justice is actualized is the extent to which the struggle has been led by and born from these communities. That is what we mean when we talk about “centering.”

To center these voices, however, requires that persons of racial, gender, economic and social privilege (primarily older white men) stop talking. For the soundscape is only one size. It is sacred and should be respected. When we choose to speak into it, we are in essence saying that our voice is more important than another’s.

So today, my beloved BC citizens, we have an opportunity to listen and be led by the remarkable communities and voices of this land. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs along with the multitude of frontline workers, organizations, people of colour, and younger generations are saying one thing, very clearly: Anyone But Clark. Vote for the person in your riding most likely to defeat the Liberal candidate. Yes, that likely means not voting for the Green party candidate with whom your conscience most aligns. No, our electoral system isn’t representative. (Until then, ABC.)

I wish I could say that most of us don’t get to decide and determine the conditions of reconciliation and justice because we don’t know what’s best which is the simple result of benefiting and living distanced from the dispossession of others. However, we do get to decide. Especially those of you of the baby boomer generation and middle class: you outnumber, have predominantly reaped the benefits of this land’s and people’s destruction, and will suffer the consequences of your actions much less.

So. Shut up and listen. It is good and a beautiful thing to listen. And in this way, come and join us. Be a part of the collective work for justice and peace. Come, so we can take one step further towards that more beautiful, just, and peaceful horizon.