Spring 2003,
Volume 24, Number 1

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New Warriors New Warriors
By Taiaiake Alfred
Photography by Rob Kruyt

In his forthcoming book, excerpted here, Taiaiake Alfred (above right) presents interviews with 13 people—young, old, white, native—from across North America who talk about their personal reasons for being involved in what he terms the “new warriorism” of resistance within native communities to colonialism. “I believe there is no one, right way to the future—only good questions and honest answers,” says Alfred, who holds the university’s Canada Research Chair in Studies of Indigenous People. He was born in the territory of the Mohawk Nation, raised in Kahnawàke, and as a young man served in the US Marine Corps. He holds a doctorate in comparative government and political thought from Cornell University.

There is a new warriorism emerging out of our surrender to colonial culture. The new warriorism is a movement to regenerate culture and reconnect the people back to their sources of strength. It is the practice of freedom.

These warriors live by the credo: when lies rule, a warrior creates new truths for the people to believe. They understand that colonialism is not an historical era, nor is it a theory, or merely a political and economic relationship. It is a total state of existence; a social and psychological state of domination-submission that has come to form the very foundation of our individual and collective lives. “Colonialism,” “modernity” and “globalization” are all tag words for the facets of the same vast unnatural and exploiting imperial reality that has been imposed on the world. They are the lie that must be confronted if we are to have any hope of living free and authentic lives.

We are all part of the problem, and we are all a part of the solution. And we can only ever be free of the legacy of colonialism if we all—Indigenous peoples and settlers—make a commitment to confront the injustice in a deep, personal sense. In this, we all have a role in transforming ourselves and transforming our society. But it is young, white Canadians who carry the heaviest burden of change. They are the ones who must not only confront the racist attitudes and assumptions that are their cultural heritage, they are the people who will change the pattern of their existence and construct a relationship with Indigenous peoples based on respect, or they will pay the heavy price of colonial dominion in an era of resurgent Indigenous pride and strength. As the ones who will, along with their Indigenous peers, live the future, their thoughts, hopes and fears are much more important than any politician’s.

Here is the voice of one such young warrior of the truth. Gabriel Haythornthwaite is a master’s student in the Indigenous Governance program and past-president of the University of Victoria Graduate Students’ Society.The gap right now between what people need and what is politically possible is astounding. It’s massive. I’m still trying to figure out how I can be remotely useful.

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