Domination and the Northern Gateway Pipeline

Steven Newcomb

I read with interest Anna Maria Tremonti’s “Could First Nations still stop the Northern Gateway pipeline?” It was the text version of Ms. Tremonti’s radio program “The Current Review” that aired on December 20, 2013, on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio One.

The subject matter of Ms. Tremonti’s article demonstrates the DOMINATION and SUBORDINATION patterning which best defines what it means to be defined as “indigenous.” Domination is accurately defined as “one nation or people exercising arbitrary control over another nation or people, and thereby making them subject to the will of those dominating them.”

The following sentence illustrates the pattern I am referring to: “An indigenous population, even when it constitutes the majority in a country, possesses all the characteristics of a national minority subjugated by a dominant society.” (Sadruddin Aga Khan and Hassan bin Talal, Indigenous Peoples: A Global Quest for Justice, A Report for the Independent Commission On International Humanitarian Issues, 1987, p. 9)

The key terms in that sentence—“indigenous,” “population,” “country,” “national,” “minority,” “subjugated by,” and “dominant society”—are drawn from the DOMINATION PARADIGM consistently used against nations and peoples termed “indigenous” (i.e., “dominated.”)

The following sentence from Ms. Tremonti’s article on the situation in the Canadian context clearly demonstrates the lack of power for nations and peoples termed “indigenous”: “After 180 days of hearings in 21 communities across B.C. [British Columbia] and Alberta, the [federal] Joint Review Committee signed off on the pipeline proposal yesterday.” Those being termed “First Nations” in Ms. Tremonti’s story are not the ones with the final decision-making with regard to their own lands and territories. Why? Because the final decision-making is characterized as being “up to” those who are termed “federal” decision makers in “Ottawa.”

“Ottawa,” is the name for the Canadian Capital—it is a name used for the Canadian system of government as a whole, which is considered to be the “ultimate” decision maker. The DOMINATION SYSTEM deems “First Nations” to be “subordinate to,” the decisions of those government officials in Ottawa, who are seated in the “dominating” position of power.

The First Nations are deeply concerned that the Northern Gateway pipeline will result in the poisoning and contamination of the waters and lives of the Original Nations of Great Turtle Island. But if the decision makers seated in Ottawa do not concur with the First Nations’ assessment, the DOMINATION SYSTEM deems the federal decision makers to possess the perfect right to ignore the Original Nations’ concerns by favoring corporate interests and the pipeline.

The system I am referring is designed so that the decisions and economic interests of those with the “superior decision making authority” always come out “on top.” That’s why they are called “dominant.” They consider themselves to be “the top dogs,” so to speak.

If and when such a decision has been made, I can just hear some imperious ass saying: “Those are the rules. You might not like them, but there they are.” So, as an experiment, let’s say those are “the rules.” That being the case, a question arises: “How in the hell did those rules and their DOMINATION-SUBORDINATION assumptions get started to begin with?”

Answering that question requires thinking back to the first establishment of the DOMINATION SYSTEM in the geographical region now commonly known as “Canada.” That system is not just the context for the debate over the Northern Gateway pipeline. It is the context for every key decision that has ever been made by “the Canadian government” regarding the Original Nations of Great Turtle Island.

What I am getting at is this: Answering the question about where the DOMINATION SYSTEM and its “rules” came from requires that we think back to the time when Christian Europeans first sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. They brought with them assumptions about their divine right to colonize (and dominate) any and all non-Christian lands and nations throughout “the Americas.” And we were all non-Christians back then.

Christendom’s invasive arrival was the genesis of DOMINATION on Great Turtle Island. Making this connection now is critically important, given that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a fundamentalist Christian. He is a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Alberta, Canada. Harper’s brand of Christianity is distrustful of science. Thus, it seems to be more than coincidence that Harper’s administration has burned, or thrown in landfills, archival materials on the environment. Such behavior is reminiscent of the facists in Europe in the 1930’s.

Such questionable behavior is in keeping with the first law of Christian fundamentalism which is found in the biblical book of Genesis: e.g., with its DOMINATION-SUBORDINATION language system: “Subdue the earth and dominate the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea and all the creeping things that creep upon the earth.” The words “subdue” and “dominate” in that biblical passage are carriers of the DOMINATION SYSTEM that Prime Minister Harper and the Canadian government system are using against Original Nations and Peoples that are being termed “Indigenous.” And even if you strip away its Christian origin, the domination patterning is still in place. The point is this: It’s time to call for the Canadian government system to stop behaving in patterns of DOMINATION toward the Original Nations and Peoples of Great Turtle Island.

Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008).

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rainbow's picture
Biblical scriptures describe the ancient Hebrew God, a God who would become the God of Christians, as a God of war, thief, ethnic cleansing and slavery. The Bible says that “God” commanded his “chosen people” to invade and occupy the land of the First Nations of Palestine, and to also dominate/subjugate them. What the European Christians did to the First Nations of the Americas is similar to what the Hebrews did to the First Nations of Palestine. "This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites." (Joshua 3:10) …While Joshua defeated many of the kings of these peoples, they were not entirely destroyed, as this reference from Solomon's time, three hundred years later, indicates: "All the people left from the Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, that is, their descendants remaining in the land, whom the Israelites had not destroyed -- these Solomon conscripted for his slave labor force, as it is to this day." (2 Chronicles 8:7-8)
rainbow's picture
The worldview that sanctioned people of a biblical-based religious persuasion [Christianity] to take the land, property, and very lives of other human beings because "it's God's will, and is therefore destined to occur" partially originated when "God told Abraham" that Palestine was to belong to him and his people and that they were to invade Palestine and use military force to take procession of the land that belonged to the area’s First Nations. …In the 1400s this ancient Hebrew biblical-based sanctioned, ethnic cleansing, belief was modified, and expanded to a worldview by the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. It became known as the Doctrine of Christian Discovery worldview and it was used to establish the colonizing, international laws of Western Christendom, which were then used to dispossess First Nations’ lands around the world, and also subjugate them. During the American colonizing of the "Wild West" the biblical-based ethnic cleansing belief was called "Manifest Destiny, which can be understood as an American application of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery. …This Christian doctrine provides the legal foundation for the most important US Supreme Court decision ever decided affecting the Indian tribes of this land, Johnson v M'Intosh. This legal decision says America’s First Nations people have no legal title to the land they lived upon for hundreds or sometimes thousands of years, only a mere right of occupancy, and that the tribes were no longer independent indigenous sovereign nations, or that their sovereign nation rights had been diminished. …To understand the ancient-Hebrew religious-influential connection to the origin of the Doctrine of Christian Discovery is an essential understanding if an informed person wants to act to contribute to the effort of dismantling this Christian Doctrine's heinous effects in the world. [by Thomas Ivan Dahlheimer]
rainbow's picture
President George W. Bush told an audience of his: "When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of [the Hebrew prophet] Jeremiah 51:10: 'Come let us declare in Zion the word of God.'" Bush also said: "The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan." …In a best-selling book about the history of the American West, Theodore Roosevelt wrote: "Many of the best of the backwoodsmen were Bible-readers. They looked at their foes as the Hebrew prophets looked at the enemies of Israel. What were the abominations because of which the Canaanites were destroyed before Joshua, when compared with the abominations of the red savages whose lands they, another chosen people, should in their turn inherit?" …Americans found the idea that they were God's new Israel so attractive because it helped justify their partial destruction and total subjugation of this land’s indigenous peoples.
metis22's picture
I studied philosophy and all three Judea-Christian bibles (Talmud, King James Version - Protestant and Roman Catholic) to try to understand why the people in the area I grew up could believe that 1st Peoples were not "full human." The closest I came was in Ecclesiastics 3, "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?" -even though just above this it says that man and the beasts are of one breath. ...the one side of my family didn't think it possible for us to go to heaven. Then I learned the early settlers had decided we/1st Peoples were not mentioned in the Bible so God had not created us human; Ham was the father of Africans, so they were "near human" but of sin...that one always got me too; Noah gets drunk and its all Ham's fault. anyway. Now the popular "spiritual" thing to say is "oh, you can't hold ancient hatreds and feelings, it only keeps you from the true spirit" - this from people like Laura Eisenhower, granddaughter of Nixon and self-proclaimed spiritualist. Just one more version of manifest destiny and "God meant for me, me, me to have riches and you should bow." Tricky Dick throwing in divine rights. Those men from Mars recruiting her should take her back with them. The question is how to work within the system quickly enough to effect any change and to work extra-system within legal means. All grass roots issues that have done anything began this way.
Richard Miller's picture
It is worth remembering that Canada uses the term "dominion" to refer to itself, i.e. the "Dominion of Canada." It is not too hard to see the connection between "dominion" and "domination."
Richard Miller