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Seeing such appalling ignorance from a woman who is both indigenous North American and indigenous Jewish is damaging, but also a teachable moment and a learning moment for all of us

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Five days after Winona LaDuke told PBS Almanac that workers on the Line 3 pipeline was like workers at the gas chamber at Auschwitz, she mustered up a “That analogy is inappropriate” apology. (Photo hub.jhu.edu)

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As indigenous rights activists, it is vital that we educate ourselves not only in our own struggle for self-determination but in that of other indigenous peoples across the globe. When we discuss the issues in our communities it is important to be clear that we are not a political or ideological monolith and that in our communities there is often dissent. I also believe it is of paramount importance for us to consider our words carefully.

We do not need to exaggerate the issues our communities face while marginalising those of other communities, in fact unless calling out someone for doing that to us, we should avoid even mentioning the experiences of others to avoid marginalising what were very real and horrific experiences through comparison.

Recently an indigenous woman named Winona Laduke broke a lot of unwritten rules, first by pretending to speak for all indigenous peoples and second by making an abjectly ridiculous statement comparing all indigenous people who work in the resource field as being comparable to Jews who helped the Nazis during the Holocaust. Specifically “Kapos” who were Jews and generally given the most horrible jobs in the death camps.

Personally I would never judge such people because I have never been in a situation where I must choose between doing truly disgusting, odious horrific things or watching my loved ones perish before being killed myself. I cannot fathom the immense pressure of being in such a situation. Now Winona herself may carry Jewish blood, as well as Lakota, but that does not excuse saying something so absolutely tone deaf. Not only does what she said have an impact on Jews who may have heard it and been offended but other indigenous people who are guilty of nothing more than being gainfully employed in a region where employment is scarce.

A true activist does not need to play the oppression Olympics. Frankly I am personally appalled and offended and I know I am not alone.

I am Metis, I am from the far north in Alberta, I would say the vast majority of Native people who are employed in the area I live, are directly employed in the resource sector. My own family was extremely active in that sector with my father Mervin, running an oilfield services company, where he did pipeline and lease building, lease reclamation and reforestation. My Father also helped write the Metis Settlements proclamation and was heavily involved in cementing Metis land rights in Alberta. He has been involved in the struggle for indigenous rights for decades.

To compare him working in what was the only available employment sector in order to put food on the table for his family to a Kapo at Auschwitz, is not just insulting – it’s infuriating in its ignorance.

I left the north in my early 20’s because I did not want to work in resource extraction, and there was no other work for which I was qualified available in Northern Alberta at the time. I moved to Calgary, sold my vehicle to use public transportation, and did everything I could do to limit my carbon footprint. I got involved with Idle No More because I believed that we need to protect our lands and waters better and because

I truly believe that indigenous people have an important role to play in doing it. I do not believe in demonising other indigenous people though and having lived and living again in the far north, I understand how vital the energy sector has been for Canada and Northern Alberta in particular because I grew up in a community where over 90 percent of the people employed were employed in a resource field.

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I have spent the past decade building bridges between indigenous communities, both in North America, and internationally, focusing mainly on Jewish and Native North American communities. I have written a plethora of articles demonstrating the commonalities between indigenous people here and in Israel.

Seeing such appalling ignorance from a woman who is both indigenous North American and indigenous Jewish is damaging, but it is also a teachable moment and a learning moment for all of us. 

From the TV presenters on PBS who did not challenge Winona when she made such a statement, to the Media that apparently didn’t see this as a ” big enough” story, to the average Canadian and American who don’t seem to know enough about history to be offended.

Winona LaDuke owes indigenous people everywhere an apology, she owes the Cree and Metis and Dene people of the north an apology for making such a ridiculous comparison and she owes the Jewish people an apology for marginalising perhaps the most horrific event in the past century.

Maybe the Jewish community of the Midwest accepted her apology, but Winona LaDuke hasn’t apologized to the aboriginal pipeline workers she compared to gas chamber guards on PBS (Photo tcjewfolk.com)

I have seen what she considered an apology and it not only was lacklustre and feeble but came across as patronising. This was not just a poorly worded and ill thought out analogy, it was profoundly offensive.

Glossing it over and saying “let us work together for a better future for all” assumes that we will accept that lacklustre feeble attempt at an apology. How about LaDuke demonstrate some actual remorse? “I am deeply sorry for making such a ridiculous statement and I am profoundly apologetic and will work to educate people to prevent something like this from happening again?”

The results of careless words can be brutal and can derail not only our struggles but our bids to build bridges.

I understand that we are becoming more and more polarised politically but on some things, we cannot afford to be politically polarised, some things are simply about right and wrong not right and left. This is one of those things. 

Ryan is Metis, was born in High River, Alberta, and was raised in Paddle Prairie, Alberta. Ryan was one of the first people to put forward the Indigenous Argument in regards to Jews in the Middle East. His many articles have helped change the discourse.

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We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

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Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

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