Early in 1964 Cherokee scholar-activist Robert K. Thomas warned, “As I look around at the Indian situation it looks like one big seething cauldron about ready to explode.” Though we say we look at history, we never really seem to learn.

Between 1964 and ’74, there was a series of demonstrations, roadblocks, land takeovers and building occupations from coast to coast. It was sparked by Native outrage against past and present wrongs. Issues concerned a higher mortality rate, alcoholism, malnutrition, a higher than average infant mortality rate, the highest youth suicide rate in the U.S., poor housing conditions and a perceived lack of government resolve to do anything about it.

Hotspots in 1964 included: In New York State, the Senecas were angered over the Kinzuadam project that flooded their valleys; Alaskan Inuit and Natives were challenged over their rights to water; Washington State game wardens were arresting Native fishermen in confrontations over fish and games laws; South Dakota Sioux groups resisted the state’s attempts to limit the power of the reservation police; and in California the Native American Church came underfire for use of peyote in its rituals.

The different Native responses were not coordinated at first, butquickly Natives began working together pooling experience and common goals. A Sioux activist named Richard Mackenzie declared that, “Kneel-ins, sit-ins, sleep-ins, eat-ins, pray-ins like the Negroes do wouldn’t help us. We would have to occupy government buildings.”

It was about this time AIM (American Indian Movement) came into being and they borrowed tactics from black militants. AIM became the symbolic confrontation group. By this, I mean the symbolic punching out of the adversaries of racism and oppression with the press present. It was a very real thing that saw two AIM members killed in a crossfire in the Pine Ridge clashes at Wounded Knee. Later on, two FBI joined the list of Pine Ridge fatalities.

The militants were often in conflict with those who believed in negotiation and institutional changes.

Militant heroes of confrontation were always in the news. The heroes of the negotiation didn’t get as much press. Often there were confrontations between the “militants” and “moderates” over the best ways to deal with issues.

Does all this sound familiar? Look around Canada and you’ll see a pattern of history repeating itself over and over again. You see the same problems that Canada will spend millions of dollars on while continuing with the same political process that doesn’t seem to get us anywhere. This is what leads to the frustration and militancy.

Here we are today in the news with Canadian Native groups fighting for land, control of resources, flooded out or threatened with dams or forestry. There is opposition to Native hunting from provincial game wardens that has lead to confrontation, Quebec and other provinces are attempting to limit reservation police in some communities. The Canadian symbolic confrontation group is obviously the Warrior Society. We have the confrontations, the blockades, the occupations, land takeovers and the guns on both sides.

We already have one law officer dead in Quebec and a Native dead in Ontario. With each death the anger and frustration grow on both sides of the Native question. Hardline stances are taken without regard to compromise. Already the army is being called for in B.C. The premier of Ontario refuses to answer Native requests to step in and defuse the situation. In Native communities like Kahnawake we see a people torn apart by the divisions of moderate and militant, traditional and non-traditional.

My basic question is now that we know this, where do we go from here? Will it take the same amount of pain, deaths and time that it took the U.S. to change things or will there be an attempt to change things for the better and make this a nonviolent change? I don’t know, but what I do know is that someone somewhere must start to address this problem and find solutions or all Canadians are in for a lot trouble, Native and non-Native alike.