Invasion Day is what the aboriginal people of Australia call it.
It is also known as Australia Day, a national holiday comparable to America’s Columbus Day, with a touch of Independence Day flair. According to wikipedia “On 13 May 1787 a fleet of 11 ships, which came to be known as the First Fleet, was sent by the British Admiralty from England to Australia”. The fleet would arrive on the shores of aboriginal Australia on January 26th, 1788.
To the aboriginals history might go a little like
This year, on January 26th 2013, Invasion Day was greeted with rallies and signs reading “Idle No More”. This is because Aboriginal Australia’s story is not very different from America’s.
In fact, the American invasions set the stage for what would happen on that great land.
A BRIEF TIMELINE OF MODERN INVASIONS
On October 12th 1492, Columbus- a British, Spanish funded explorer- washes up on the Canary Islands, thinking he is in India. Two years later, and Spain and Portugal lay “claim” to most of the “New World”.
A few years later in 1502 the Portuguese (also) begin to colonize India. Meanwhile, the Brits establish the East India Company in 1600 (the Dutch do too in 1602), and this drives the British and Dutch invasion of Asia and South Africa.
In 1660 the Royal African Company monopolizes the African slave trade (they loose the monopoly in 1689). Simultaneously, the French monopolize the fur trade in North America, but this is soon threatened when the Brits establish the Hudson Bay Company in 1670, which would drive the British invasion of northern North America (Canada).
By this time, most of the South American Indigenous have been enslaved, massacred, assimilated, and converted by Spain and Portugal; and the British, French, and Dutch have launched major colonization programs in eastern North America.
[The Mayflower washed up on Cape Cod in 1620]. During this entire time the trans-Atlantic slave trade is booming (one of the largest forced migrations in the history of the world).
A few French-Indian-Anglo-Dutch-wars & Indian massacres later, the 13 colonies are established by the Brits. Canada comes under British rule, and in 1763 the British (via the Board of Trade) Proclaim:
“And We do further declare it to be Our Royal Will and Pleasure, for the present as aforesaid, to reserve under our Sovereignty, Protection, and Dominion, for the use of the said Indians, all the Lands and Territories not included within the Limits of Our said Three new Governments, or within the Limits of the Territory granted to the Hudson’s Bay Company, as also all the Lands and Territories lying to the Westward of the Sources of the Rivers which fall into the Sea from the West and North West as aforesaid.”
Well, we know the colonists weren’t so happy about this, plus those bloody taxes, so the Declaration of Independence is signed July 4th, 1776 (the beginning the of USA).
Not long after Great Britain looses out on the 13 colonies, Invasion Day happens January 26th, 1788 in Australia. Their history is much like ours in terms of oppression.
Many indigenous people in America and Australia are wiped out initially by disease. This is followed by massacres, broken treaties (in most cases, no treaties), discrimination and displacement. [Meanwhile in 1805 the UK abolishes slavery]. In the Americas, leader after leader side with colonists, annexing Indian land, breaking treaties and displacing thousands, until nation after nation are either decimated, or forced onto small reservations- which keep shrinking].
In Australia, leaders also side with colonists and pastoralists. There is no bulk movement of reservations and treaties made; the aboriginals are simply chained and forced to obey and resettle at the white man’s whim.
[USA abolishes slavery after the Civil War in 1865]. In 1885, Geronimo of Apaches surrenders to the US [a sign of the end to Indian military resistance in the US]. On December 1890, 300 Lakota Sioux [Ghost dancers] men, women, and children are massacred at Wounded Knee, South Dakota [a massacre for which 20 Medals of Honour were awarded]. This is a sign of the “end” to Indian cultural resistance.
Then, in the 1870s, the American and Canadian governments begin kidnapping and sending Indian and Inuit [Eskimo] children to boarding/residential schools. In the words of Richard Pratt, the founder of the first of the American Indian boarding school (which would continue to dominate American and Canadian indigenous relations the entire 20th century, through 1996) during a speech in 1892:
“A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”
Meanwhile in Australia, from 1869 to through out the 1970s, widespread Child Removal policies are implemented (with very much the same attitude as Pratt); the government authorizes the kidnap of generations of aboriginal children, putting them in foster homes, Christian mission schools, and the like. [Child removal policies in Australia and North America subjected generations of children to abuse, molestation, violence, trauma, and assimilation].
[During this time black segregation is legalized in the US in 1876].In the 1900s the Australian aborigines were essentially enslaved (forced to work for rations) or moved on to “ration stations” and reservations. Meanwhile, other aborigines would remain at war with Australia until 1930.In the 1920s non-cooperation movements begin in India, and in 1947 the British pull out entirely.
[Soon after, the apartheid begins in South Africa in 1948]. In 1950 the US Civil Rights era sparks into action [inspired by the successful non-cooperation, non-violent movements in India].
Around the same time, in 1959 the Boycott Movement (against the South African apartheid) begins.
In 1957 the Aborigines Advancement League is founded in Australia, to create a more enduring body for aboriginal advocacy. In the US, Segregation is no longer legalized by 1965. Around that time in 1964, influenced by the Black Power movement, and all-aboriginal branch of the Aborigines Advancement League is established, which effectively conducts welfare and community activities.
However, in the 1970s, pressure to assimilate mounts and the Gibb Committee in Australia essentially declares the aboriginal cultures dead, and recommends they be fenced in.
“that in appropriate areas land be obtained by excision, or by sub-lease from the pastoralists for Aboriginal communities for limited village, economic and recreational purposes to enable Aborigines to preserve traditional cultural ties and obligations and to provide the community with a measure of autonomy; such land naturally needs access to adequate water supplies but in addition it should be of such an area and such a quality that some supplementary activities may be encouraged upon it, e.g. pig, poultry and fishing, gardening and artifact making, etc..”
The American Indian Movement (AIM) is founded in 1968 as an indigenous-sovereignty activist organization. Soon after, in 1973, 200 Oglala Sioux and AIM activists sieze the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota and control it for 73 days. This Wounded Knee Incident signifies the reemergence of massive cultural resistance among the American Indians.
In Canada in 1990, the Mohawk of Kanesatake establish barricades in protest of the Oka governments plans to use their traditional land and sacred burial ground for development and a golf course. The resulting standoff between the Mohawk and government forces, or Oka Crisis as it is known, lasts for 78 days.
[And in South Africa, the Apartheid ends in 1994.]
Meanwhile, federal and state laws continue to work at the assimilation of Indigenous peoples [of Americas and Australia], attack cultures, cede lands, and chip away indigenous sovereignty.
On February 13th 2008, the Australian government apologizes to the aboriginal people:
Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history. We reflect on their past mistreatment. We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were stolen generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history. The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.
We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians. We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.
To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry. And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry. We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation. For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written. We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.
A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again. A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity. A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed. A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility. A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.
That same year, on June 11th 2008, the Canadian Prime Minister Harper offers full apology on behalf of Canadians for the Indian Residential Schools system.
“….The government recognizes that the absence of an apology has been an impediment to healing and reconciliation. Therefore, on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I stand before you, in this Chamber so central to our life as a country, to apologize to Aboriginal peoples for Canada’s role in the Indian Residential Schools system.
To the approximately 80,000 living former students, and all family members and communities, the Government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize for having done this. We now recognize that it was wrong to separate children from rich and vibrant cultures and traditions that it created a void in many lives and communities, and we apologize for having done this. We now recognize that, in separating children from their families, we undermined the ability of many to adequately parent their own children and sowed the seeds for generations to follow, and we apologize for having done this. We now recognize that, far too often, these institutions gave rise to abuse or neglect and were inadequately controlled, and we apologize for failing to protect you. Not only did you suffer these abuses as children, but as you became parents, you were powerless to protect your own children from suffering the same experience, and for this we are sorry.
The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long. The burden is properly ours as a Government, and as a country. There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian Residential Schools system to ever prevail again. You have been working on recovering from this experience for a long time and in a very real sense, we are now joining you on this journey. The Government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the Aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly.
Nous le regrettons
We are sorry
In moving towards healing, reconciliation and resolution of the sad legacy of Indian Residential Schools, implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement began on September 19, 2007. Years of work by survivors, communities, and Aboriginal organizations culminated in an agreement that gives us a new beginning and an opportunity to move forward together in partnership…”
November 2012, the apologies ring empty. Attacks on indigenous sovereignty, treaty agreements, and land cessation continues, particularly in Canada where Parliament is pushing through a series of omnibus bills directly affecting First Nations sovereignty, culture, and land. Idle No More, a First Nations sovereignty movement, is founded by four ladies and rapidly becomes a unifying banner under which the non-violent struggle for indigenous justice continues – across North America, South America, Australia, and all around the world.
On December 11th Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation in Canada begins a hunger strike which will last 44 days, demanding new nation-to-nation relations between the Canadian government, the British Crown, and First Nation Chiefs.
On December 30th 2012 Prime Minister Harper’s apology is burned at an Idle No More rally.
On January 26th 2013, Idle No More meets Invasion Day in Australia.
The struggle continues. January 28th will be a day of Global Action; standing for Indigenous sovereignty, and mother Earth.
(Photos of Invasion Day Australia, from Idle No More Invasion Day)