Classicists in Solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation

Classicists in Solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation

Cover picture: Detail from ‘Water is Life’ banner by visual artist Christi Belcourt. You can see more banners by Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch here

If you are a Classicist living, studying or working in North America and you wish to sign the solidarity statement below, you can still do so via this link. The group of Classicists behind this initiative thanks the authors of the University of Toronto’s Department of Geography and Planning Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en statement, on which the following text is based.

We, a group of classicists living, studying and working across North America, write in the spirit of solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, as they peacefully work to defend their sovereignty over their unceded territories. We express our support as scholars and students of the ancient Mediterranean world, whose work notably pertains to the study of ancient imperialisms and the historical link between modern settler colonialism and a Eurocentric understanding of Greece and Rome as the universally valid and inherently superior ‘Classics’. We understand our roles as educators, researchers and organizers to have specific responsibilities to Indigenous peoples’ efforts to protect their lands, waters, and peoples.

‘Water is Life: Protect the Sacred’ banner by Isaac Murdoch and Christi Belcourt. You can see more banners by these two artists here

We ask that Canadians honour the legal rights of every person in the country. Those rights include the right to peacefully assemble. In Canadian law, because of treaties and Supreme Court precedent, Indigenous peoples have a variety of rights that settlers/occupiers or immigrant Canadians do not have. In the case of the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en, these rights include land management within the traditional territory. Indeed, under Wet’suwet’en law, authority over the nation’s 22,000 square kilometres of unceded territory lies with hereditary chiefs from five clans in a system of governance that long predates colonization. All five Hereditary Chiefs reject the construction of the pipeline on their territory. We stand in solidarity with the Hereditary Chiefs who are protecting their traditional territories from oil and gas development. In the words of Gidimt’en spokesperson Molly Wickham (Sleydo): “We have a right and responsibility to be protecting our territory, to be protecting our water, to be protecting our future generations.”

We would also like to remind Canadians that most of the Indigenous peoples of British Columbia possess unceded territory, that is, land that was never given over to the Crown in a treaty. The courts have partially defined the rights of Indigenous peoples on unceded territory, and the actions of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs clearly fall within these definitions. With respect to the protests in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en chiefs, we understand that other Indigenous groups are concerned when they see the rights of the Wet’suwet’en being infringed upon by the Canadian State and corporations. Canada has a long history of favouring the interests of corporations and the Crown over the interests of Indigenous peoples. This is a fact of North America’s history that requires reconciliation, and we strongly support all conciliatory efforts which strengthen the relationship between settlers/occupiers and Indigenous peoples.

The inherent legal right of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs has been affirmed in the Canadian courts. The Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the Delgamuukw case, in which the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en were among the plaintiffs (along with the Gitxsan), defined the grounds for Aboriginal title in Canada. The ruling affirmed Wet’suwet’en land rights; recognized that Wet’suwet’en land is unceded and that the Hereditary Chiefs are the title holders to Wet’suwet’en traditional territories; and identified the need to reconcile colonial and Indigenous legal orders.

We are concerned with the use of militarized police forces and the arrests of Wet’suwet’en land protectors, including the recent arrest of Unist’ot’en matriarchs as they held a ceremony honouring their missing and murdered Indigenous sisters.

We urge the Canadian and British Columbia governments to uphold the United Nations’ Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which includes provisions recognizing the right to self-determination, the need to obtain the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous nations when development is proposed in their territories, and expressly condemns the forced removal of peoples from their lands and territories. British Columbia has passed legislation bringing the UNDRIP into law. We assert the need for Canada to respect its international commitments to Indigenous rights as endorsed by federal and provincial governments.

We urge the federal and provincial governments to adhere to the demands of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs as stated here:

  • That the province [of British Columbia] cease construction of the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline project and suspend permits.
  • That the UNDRIP and our right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) are respected by the state and RCMP.
  • That the RCMP and associated security and policing services be withdrawn from Wet’suwet’en lands, in agreement with the most recent letter provided by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimiation’s (CERD) request.
  • That the provincial and federal government, RCMP and private industry employed by CGL respect our laws and our governance system, and refrain from using any force to access our lands or remove our people.

N.B.: We encourage you to identify and acknowledge the tribal lands on which you live and work when signing the letter. Many universities now provide this information by way of land acknowledgments, but if you have a hard time locating the information on your own university or college website, the following digital project is a good place to start: https://native-land.ca/. As the pop-up will tell you, however, the map is a work in progress and does not at this time represent official legal boundaries—that information, as the developers state, is best acquired by contacting the tribes in question directly.

Signed by:

Katherine Blouin, faculty, University of Toronto, Dish With One Spoon and Treaty 13 Territory, and the traditional land of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples

Aven McMaster, faculty, Thorneloe University at Laurentian on the traditional lands of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek governed by the Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850

Kevin Solez, faculty, MacEwan University in Amiskwacîwâskahikan (Beaver Mountain House–Edmonton), Treaty 6 and Métis Territory

Craig Williams, Professor of Classics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, on the ancestral lands of the Peoria, Kaskaskia, Piankashaw, Wea, Miami, Mascoutin, Odawa, Sauk, Mesquaki, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Chickasaw nations

Zachary Yuzwa, faculty, St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan, Treaty 6 Territory and the traditional lands of the Nehiyaw and Métis Peoples

Victoria Austen-Perry, Instructor, University of Winnipeg, Treaty 1, the traditional homelands of the Anishinabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dené people, and home of the Métis Nation

Leah Bernardo-Ciddio, PhD candidate, University of Michigan, on land care taken by the Odawa, Potawatomi, and Ojibwe peoples

Elizabeth Bevis, PhD Candidate, Johns Hopkins University (Piscataway Conoy Land)

Clara Bosak-Schroeder, Assistant Professor UIUC on the lands of the Peoria, Kaskaskia, Piankashaw, Wea, Miami, Mascoutin, Odawa, Sauk, Mesquaki, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Chickasaw Nations

Karen Eva Carr, Assoc. Professor Emerita, History, Portland State University, currently living and working on Narragansett land

Joel Christensen, Associate Professor and Chair of Classical Studies at Brandeis University, Living and Working on the lands of the Massachusett Peoples

Jacquelyn H. Clements, living and working on the lands of the Piscataway, Nacotchtank, and Pamunkey peoples

Jody Ellyn Cundy, SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow Oxford/ Sessional Lecturer University of Toronto, the traditional land of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples

Alex Cushing, graduate student and instructor, University of Toronto, currently living and working on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank, Piscataway, and Pamunkey peoples

Katherine Dennis, graduate student, Princeton University, living and working on the land of the Lenape people

Stefani Echeverría-Fenn, adjunct lecturer of Ecclesiastical Latin, Jesuit School of Theology (with the further acknowledgement that the Jesuit order and the Catholic Church has historically been a lead perpetrator of anti-Indigenous violence worldwide and in CA in particular)

Jay Fisher, faculty, Rutgers University

Melissa Funke, assistant professor, University of Winnipeg, Treaty 1 territory and the homeland of the Metis Nation

Rebecca Futo Kennedy, Associate Professor of Classical Studies, Environmental Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies at Denison University, on land used historically by Adena, Hopewell, Potowatomi, Lenape, Shawanwa, and other peoples.

Dora Gao, MA student, University of British Columbia, on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people

Chelsea Gardner, Assistant Professor, Acadia University, located in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq nation

Matt Gibbs, Faculty, University of Winnipeg, Treaty 1 territory, the traditional territory of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation

Mark Golden, Professor of Classics (emeritus), University of Winnipeg

Charmaine Gorrie, Lecturer, The University of British Columbia, on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people

Shelley P. Haley, Edward North Chair of Classics and Professor of Africana Studies, Hamilton College on the ancestral lands of the Oneida Nation and the Haudenosaunee Federation

Rachel Hart, Lecturer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, living & working on the traditional land of the Lakota & Pawnee peoples

Elizabeth Heintges, PhD candidate, Columbia University, on the traditional lands of the Lenni Lenape peoples

Todd Hickey, Professor of Classics, University of California, Berkeley, working on the ancestral and unceded land of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, the successors of the historic and sovereign Verona Band

Jesse Hill, instructor and PhD candidate, University of Toronto, Treaty 13 Territory, the traditional land of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples

Nina Houle, 3rd year undergraduate student, Simon Fraser University, living and working on traditional unceded Coast Salish territory

Lisa Hughes, Associate Professor, Classics and Religion, Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta, which includes the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Piikani, and Kainai First Nations), the Tsuut’ina First Nation, and the Stoney Nakoda Nation (Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nations). Calgary is also home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region III

Kira Jones, instructor and staff at Emory University, Muscogee Creek Nation

Katie Kearns, Assistant Professor of Classics, University of Chicago, living and working on lands of many peoples including the Ojibwe, Miami, Odawa, Potawatomi

Jayden Lloyd, PhD Student, the University of British Columbia, on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people

Ian Lockey, PhD, Friends Select School, Upper School Latin teacher, school on ancestral lands of Lenni Lenape

Carolyn MacDonald, Assistant Professor of Classics, Univeristy of New Brunswick, in the traditional and unceded territory of Wolastoqiyik

Brody W. Manquen, Undergraduate Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison, on ancestral lands of the Ho-Chunk people

Irene Soto Marin, Wissenschaftliche Assistentin, University of Basel, Switzerland

Rachel Mazzara, graduate student and instructor, University of Toronto, living and working on the traditional land of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples

Andrew M. McClellan, Postdoctoral Fellow in Classics, San Diego State University, living and working on the lands of the Kumeyaay people

Denise Eileen McCoskey, Professor of Classics and Affiliate in Black World Studies, Miami University, a university that now seeks to work in partnership with the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma

Arti Mehta, faculty, Howard University, living and working on the lands of the the Piscataway, Pamunkey, the Nentego (Nanichoke), Mattaponi, Chickahominy, Monacan, and the Powhatan cultures.

Samantha Meyer, graduate student, University of Texas at Austin, traditional lands of the Lipan Apache, Comanche, and Tonkawa peoples

Peter J. Miller, assistant professor and acting chair, Department of Classics, University of Winnipeg. I live, work, and raise my family on Treaty 1 land, the traditional homelands of the Anishnabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dené people; homeland of the Métis Nation

Helen Morales, Argyropoulos Professor of Hellenic Studies, University of California at Santa Barbara, living and working on the lands of the Chumash people’s

Caitlin Mostoway Parker, BAH in Classics, University of Winnipeg. Proudly indigenous. (Swampy Cree, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation) living and working on Treaty 1 land

Dimitri Nakassis, Professor of Classics, University of Colorado Boulder, living and working on land within the territories of the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho peoples

Dan-el Padilla Peralta, Associate Professor of Classics, Princeton University, living and working on the lands of the Lenni Lenape peoples

Lucy Parr, Student, Oberlin College

Aneirin Pendragon, Graduate Student, Villanova University, living and working on the ancestral lands Southern Paiutes (Nuwu) and Washoe (Wa She Shu) Peoples in Nevada and studying at an institution on the lands of the Lenni Lenape Peoples

Amy Pistone, assistant professor, Gonzaga University on the ancestral homelands of the Spokane Tribe

Melanie Racette-Campbell, faculty, Memorial University of Newfoundland, living and working on the ancestral homeland of the Beothuk

Chris Renaud, Professor of Classics, Carthage College

Pauline Ripat, associate professor, University of Winnipeg, Treaty 1, the traditional homelands of the Anishinabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dené people, and home of the Métis Nation

Melissa Harl Sellew, Professor Emerita of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, University of Minnesota, on the ancestral and current land of the Dakota

Karuna Sinha, first year student, University of Toronto, Treaty 13 Territory, the traditional land of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples

Ethan J. Speigel, graduate student, University of Toronto, living and working on the traditional land of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples

Allyson Spencer-Bunch, Latin teacher for JFK Middle School, on the land of the Nipmuc Nation

Taylor Stark, graduate student, University of Toronto, living and working on the traditional land of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples

Mark Sundaram, faculty, Thorneloe University at Laurentian on the traditional lands of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek governed by the Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850

Sarah Teets, Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer, College of Arts and Science, University of Virginia, on the ancestral lands of the Monacan Nation

Christina Vester, faculty, University of Waterloo; I live and work on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee people

David Wallace-Hare, J. E. A. Crake Fellow, Mount Allison University on the ancestral lands of the Mi’kmaw people

Liz Warman, Instructor, Thorneloe University, living and working on the traditional territory of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples

Erika L. Weiberg, Assistant Professor of Classics, Florida State University, living and working on the land of the Mvskoke community

Richard Wenghofer, Associate Professor, Classical Studies, Nipissing University, in Robinson-Huron Treaty territory and the land on which we gather is the traditional territory of the Anishnaabeg People and, specifically, the Nipissing First Nation

Liv Mariah Yarrow, Associate Professor of Classics, City University of New York, living and working on the lands of the Leni Lenape Peoples

A Tribe Called Red – Land Back Ft. Boogey The Beat & Northern Voice

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