Barron - Michigan State University

advertisement

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

In the Name of Solidarity: The Politics of Representation and Articulation in Support of the Labrador Innu*

Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 11(3): 87-112.

By Jennifer Barron In the December, 1996 issue of

CNS

Laura Pulido theorized cultural essentialism as a strategy for achieving ecological legitimacy. Her case study was

Ganados del Valle,

a Hispano community development group in northern New Mexico. I agree with Pulido that cultural essentialism on the part of oppressed ethnic groups can serve as a basis for moral authority and a resource of resistance against colonial domination. However, for the Labrador Inns, essentialist politics promoted by distant supporters has trot been without risk or consequence. That said, this article is not so much a direct response to Pulido but rather was inspired by her call to fertilize the political-economic analysis of environmental justice struggles with the insights of cultural studies.

1. Introduction

What follows is an inquiry into the politics of solidarity, involving the Innu First Nation of Labrador (Nitassinan) and their southern Canadian, non-Aboriginal supporters. As a member of a Toronto-based support group, the Voisey's Bay-Innu Rights Coalition, from 19971999, I was prompted to explore popular North American cultural _______________________ *I wish to thank Erik Leslie, Roger Keil, Catriona Sandilands, Larry Innes, and Lorraine Land for their stimulating conversations and helpful insights towards this article over the past year and a half. I am also grateful for support received from York University's Faculty of Environmental Studies, and a grant from the Northern Scientific Training Programme (NSTP) which allowed me to conduct research in Nitassinan. 87 narratives about "Native" people and "the North" in an effort to understand the ways they shape the discourse and interventions of Innu supporters. In this article I contrast two kinds of politics representational and articulatory -practiced in the name of solidarity. What I refer to throughout this article as a "politics of representation" are those attempts by Innu supporters, advisors and leaders to represent the Innu struggle in culturally essentialist ways by reference to popular cultural narratives - for example, myths of representation that essentialize Innu people as morally righteous but passive "keepers of the earth." I will describe where and why this politics of representation has developed, and offer as an alternative the concept of articulatory politics, with several suggestions as to what this looks like in the case of Innu support, and why it is emerging as an increasingly appropriate form of solidarity politics.

2. The Innu and Their Supporters

For perhaps as long as 4000 years, the Innu and their ancestors have lived and hunted in the region they call

Nitassinan,

literally meaning "our land." Today Nitassinan is home to approximately 16,000 Innu, 1,700 of whom live within the boundaries of present-day Labrador, the rest in present-day Quebec, along the North Shore of the St. Lawrence River. (Note that the Innu are a completely separate ethnic, linguistic, and cultural group from the Inuit.) The two Innu communities in Labrador (where I restrict my focus) are Sheshatshit and Utshimassit. Sheshatshit is situated at the west end of Hamilton Inlet only forty kilometers by road from the Goose Bay military base and adjoining civilian town of Happy Valley. The village of Utshimassit known to much of the world as Davis Inlet - is situated on Illuikoyak Island 250 kilometers to the north-east of Sheshatshit.2 Having never _______________________ 1 Innu history in Nitassinan may stretch back even further. In September,

1998

an Innu archaeological team led by Dr. Stephen Loring of the Smithsonian Institute, found the first evidence of Maritime Archaic Indian people living in the north Labrador interior more than

7,000

years ago. Whether or not they are direct ancestors of the Innu remains a topic of academic debate. 2 Some readers

will

be aware of the Davis Inlet community's years-long struggle to get the federal government to fund the relocation of their community back to the mainland, to a place called Sango Bay. Construction of this new community is well underway, with full relocation expected by the year 2002. The Davis Inlet (or Mushuau) Innu were originally settled on Illuikoyak Island in

1967

by the federal government, the site being chosen because it offered a convenient deep water port for supply boats.

But settlement on the island cut the Innu off from their traditional hunting

88

signed treaties, the Innu actively contest government claims to their land and are currently in negotiations with both provincial and federal governments over both land rights and self-government. While Innu social organization, traditions and language are testament to their traditional identity as a hunting people, and to the continuing centrality of the land in their culture, the Innu are in every sense also a contemporary people. In the past century or so, they have experienced the dispossession of much of their lands, a conversion to Catholicism, and the imposition of a colonial power. Through the last 30 or 40 years they have endured a very rapid government-sponsored transition to sedentary life and obligatory schooling, with devastating social impacts. They have struggled against developments that have compromised their land and way of life, including low-level military flying by NATO aircraft, massive hydroelectric developments on the Churchill River, large-scale commercial logging, and unprecedented mineral exploration since the discovery of a massive nickel deposit at Voisey's Bay. Increased recreational hunting and fishing by nonAboriginals, the extension of the Trans-Labrador highway, and a proposed snowmobile trail through the Mealy Mountains also compete for their energy and attention. Yet, in their fight for de-colonization the Innu continue to show resilience, ingenuity, and an impressive ability to challenge the social relations of power. Since the mid-1980s, when the Innu earned world-wide attention for their stand against NATO military flight testing on their land, the Innu struggle has been bolstered by an international network of supporters, who have collectively enhanced the strength of the Innu vis-a-vis the _______________________ grounds during freeze-up and break-up, isolating them for several months of each year and contributing to the demise of their self-sufficiency and morale. The island site has never had an adequate fresh water supply, and most homes remain without plumbing. 3 For more on Innu history and political struggle, see Camille Fouillard, ed.,

Gathering Voices: Finding Strength to Help Our Children

(Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1995); Georg Henriksen,

Life and Death Among the Mushuau Innu of Northern Labrador

(St. John's: ISER, 1993); Innu Nation Task Force on Mining Activities,

Ntesinan Nteshiniminan Nteniunan.

(Sheshatshiu: Innu Nation, 1996); Stephen Loring, "The Innu Hunting Way of Life,"

Journal of American Indian Higher Education,

7, 4, 1996, pp. 20-27; Josh Mailhot,

The People of Sheshatshit: In the Land of the Innu

(St. John's: ISER, 1997); and Marie Wadden,

Nitassinan: The Innu Struggle to Regain Their Homeland

(Vancouver/Toronto: Douglas and McIntyre, Ltd., 1991, 1996). See also the award-winning website of the Innu Nation, at www.innu.ca.

89 state and helped enable earlier intervention into projects or plans that threaten Innu land and culture. Supporters have come largely from the peace and environmental movements, including members of many churches. The Innu have also drawn significant additional support from women's groups, human rights and Aboriginal rights organizations, and cultural survival advocates; their struggle is a point of convergence for many different networks of social mobilization. The majority of Innu supporters today live and work in central Canada, New England, and western Europe. Support has also come from individuals and groups in St John's, Halifax, Labrador City and a few other places, but for the most part, organized Innu support is not a local or even regional phenomenon. 4 In part this reflects the priorities of Innu leaders who have worked more actively to mobilize supporters in central Canada and Europe than to organize among their neighbors. But more significantly, this spatial dimension of support work suggests that local and distant politics build on different bases and play out in very different ways. Local support has been a challenge to build. Happy Valley-Goose Bay, as the regional center closest and most significant to the Innu, is a community historically dependent on the military base from which lowlevel flying is carried out, and a community that has benefited economically from the discovery of nickel at Voisey's Bay. Predictably, the Happy Valley-Goose Bay Town Council and local businesses enthusiastically promote low-level flying and mineral exploration. Moreover, local pro-development groups have historically been boosted and their influence inflated by substantial financial backing from the federal and provincial governments.5 Although local sentiment vis-a-vis _______________________ 4 Between 1985 and 1990 or thereabouts there was a very active coalition of groups in St. John's working in support of the Innu, or at least in opposition to low-level military flight training and the proposed NATO Tactical Weapons and Training Center (St. John's is the provincial capital of Newfoundland and Labrador). These included Project North (a national church-sponsored Aboriginal rights coalition); the Native People's Support Group of Newfoundland and Labrador; the North Atlantic Peace Organization (NAPO); Oxfam St. John's; the provincial NDP (New Democratic Party); The Peace Centre; Youth for Social Justice; Physicians for Social Responsibility; Project Ploughshares; the St. John's Women's Centre; Concerned Citizens Opposed to a NATO Base; and others. The Native People's Support Group still exists, nominally, but Innu support in Newfoundland today comes mostly from a handful of activists/academics. 5As just one example, between 1986 and 1990 the Mokami Project Group (a joint venture of the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the Labrador North 90

developments, land use and the Innu is not simple or unified, the political economy of this region is a significant force for the Innu to reckon with. Local support for the Innu is also limited or marginalized by the inter-group dynamics (racism and other fractions) that characterize ethnic relations on the North American "frontier." This is not to say that local support for the Innu does not exist, but that it requires tangible personal connections across (or in spite of) ethnic and socioeconomic differences. By contrast, distant support is marked, typically, by an absence of concrete connections across geographic and social distances. The lack of day-to-day contact between faraway supporters and Innu, and the (perceived) lack of a shared social, political and economic realm mean that the southern Canadian (or American, European) public tends to know the Innu more by way of representation - news accounts and/or media-inspired images of generic "Native" people - than by way of direct personal encounters. Says "Jack," an advisor to the Innu Nation, "the construction of Innu as an identity for a larger southern Canadian population is almost an abstract exercise ....It's identity politics played at a distance through a lot of intermediaries: spokespeople, media, support groups. Social and geographic distances notwithstanding, the support of the southern, urban, non-Aboriginal middle class has been much more important than local support for the Innu struggle. Forging connections across geographic and socio-economic distance/difference has allowed the Innu to play the "politics of embarrassment:" the mobilization of the larger mainstream voting blocs to gain the Innu political leverage when they have had little political power of their own. As Daniel Ashini has said, _______________________ Chamber of Commerce and the Mokami Regional Development Association) received more than $754,000 in public grant money for activities promoting military expansion and de facto public relations work for the Department of National Defence ("Chronology of Events Related to Military Flight Training Over Nitassinan [Quebec-Labrador] and Innu Opposition to It," http://www.innu.ca). 6 In conducting this research I interviewed several current and former non-Innu advisors to the Innu Nation, several active Innu supporters from Toronto, and several Innu spokespeople, chosen for their extensive experience on speaking tours outside Labrador. For the sake of both anonymity and clarity I have chosen to quote all interviewees using pseudonyms. 7 The phrase "politics of embarrassment" comes from Robert Paine, "Ethnodrama and the `Fourth World:' The Saami Action Group in Norway, 91 [I]f we have any power at all in Canada as colonized peoples, it is through our ability to win the hearts and minds of the general non-Aboriginal public, to put pressure on government people who make the policies that affect us and to take our issues to international publics.8 Consequently, politics that play to a distant audience have been preferred in the past, though they have at times actually served to inflame tensions between Innu and their non-Native neighbors. Distant support has also been much easier to generate, for it is facilitated by the appeal of the "foreign." The distances that separate Innu from supporters in places like Toronto, Vermont and Amsterdam help foster idealistic images of a relatively unknown people and place. And because most distant supporters lack familiarity with Labrador in general, representations of Nitassinan often summon up wishful myths of a pristine North, while stimulating the fantasy that somewhere, somehow, there exist still today a "primitive" people who have not yet been utterly corrupted by the colonizing forces of the dominant society. Here we should note that an important enabler of the alliance between non-Aboriginal activists and Innu people is the construction of _______________________ 1979-1981," in N. Dyck, ed.,

Indigenous Peoples and the Nation State: "Fourth World" Politics in Canada, Australia and Norway

(St. John's: Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), 1985, pp. 190-235, cited in Peter Armitage and John C. Kennedy, "Redbaiting and Racism on our Frontier: Military Expansion in Labrador and Quebec,"

Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology,

26, 5, 1989, p. 811. That the Innu employ the "politics of embarrassment" self-consciously can be seen in the words of former Innu Nation President Katie Rich. In the foreword to

Gathering Voices - the

report of an Innu people's inquiry into their plight and circumstances - she writes: "In January 1993, armed with a video camera, we tried to capture the hopelessness of our youth and how they are coping with their despair. We hoped these images would alert the world to our reality and shame the governments into helping us. The images we videotaped of six youths wanting to die from sniffing gas were shown around the world and made Utshimassit a symbol of the poverty that exists among First Nations in Canada" (Innu Nation,

Gathering Voices: Finding Strength to Help Our Children

[Vancouver/Toronto: Douglas and McIntyre, 1995], p. xiii). 8 Ashini was formerly the Vice-President of the Innu Nation, and also their chief environmental and land rights negotiator. Daniel Ashini, "Reflections on News Media Coverage of Aboriginal and Mining Issues in Labrador." Text of speech given to the Canadian Association of Journalists, St. John's, Newfoundland, May 18, 1996 (Source: http://www.innu.ca). 92

a discourse both can share. In this case, the discourse of solidarity with the Innu has been derived both from supporters' commitment to justice and from the popular belief that land stewardship by indigenous people generally may offer us all salvation from environmental crisis, or at least hope for sustainability. As long as that has been the case, it has been relatively easy to meld the ideological principles of environmentalist (or peace activist) supporters with the identity and place-based concerns of the Innu. But this marriage of concerns has been achieved typically through the establishment of a culturalist framework, which suggests that the basis of the alliance between Aboriginal people and environmentalists is a natural affinity of one group for the other, a taken-for-granted correspondence between both groups' concerns or agendas - something deep ecology critic Peter van Wyck has termed the "Native-Earth equivalence." This culturalism, as we will see below, has been a cornerstone of the politics of representation. Its power lies in the encoded meanings associated with Aboriginality in general, Innu cultural identity, and the presumably pristine quality of the Innu homeland, Nitassinan. Its appeals for support of the Innu rely (explicitly or implicitly) on the assertion that the Innu

represent

such things as wild earth, or the innocence and simplicity of a harmonious past to which observers might like to return; in short, all that is threatened by industrial development. Building self-consciously upon such popular representations of "Indians" and their relationship to the Earth has in the past been an effective way of consolidating moral authority and support in the struggle for environmental justice and selfdetermination. But as we shall see, it has also been risky, even counterproductive. That such representations have in recent years become increasingly hard to sustain in the public eye is only one reason why we must now critique the culturalist or essentialist discourses of solidarity that characterize the politics of representation.

3. The Politics of Representation

Social science has in the past ten years witnessed a "crisis of representation," a wracking self-absorption with critiques and practices of representation. But before taking up my critique of representational politics, 1 must make it clear that I do not suggest that we can avoid the problem of representation altogether; indeed, it is ultimately inescapable, for several reasons. First, on a micro level, representation is entailed whenever an English (or "akeneshau") word or cultural concept is used to stand in for an Innu one - for example, when the _______________________ 9 Peter van Wyck,

Primitives in the Wilderness: Deep Ecology and the Missing Human Subject

(Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1997). 93 word "bush" or "country" is used to convey, however inadequately, the Innu idea of

nutshimit.

Second, on a more macro level, representation of an Innu perspective through dominant (non-Innu) political and institutional discourses has been both a condition of negotiations with government officials, and a means of garnering much-needed public support for the Innu outside of Labrador. In representing their concerns through the English-language discourses of the environmental and peace movements, the Innu have attempted, as Larry Inner writes, "to describe the social, political and environmental consequences of successive encroachments on their land, culture, and identity

in ways that will be meaningful to Euro-Canadians."10

Finally, the mobilization of support for one side or another in politics

always

entails a struggle over representation, or in Jane Jenson's words, an attempt on the part of political actors "to create themselves and their protagonists by generating support for the formulation of their own preferred collective identity." I I Implicit in this view is the use of theater as a metaphor for political practice: in order to win the audience's attention, and to gain control over an ever-evolving script, actors have to convince that audience of the authenticity of their characters, in other words, the distinctness and legitimacy of their political identities. In talking about representation in politics, I therefore take it as a given that we cannot speak for others

in their voice;

this, however, does not mean that we cannot speak of their struggles and speak

with

them. To fail to do so would be to shirk the responsibility we have to act in the interests of justice. And so, given that politics invariably entails a struggle over representation, and given that no representation is perfectly mimetic, or politically neutral, and given that non-Aboriginal support groups are being

asked

to join the struggle, the challenge for support groups is not to avoid representation altogether, but to see that our politics, or discourse of solidarity, does not employ representational strategies that end up limiting the practical possibilities for justice and Innu self-determination. In Aboriginal politics and support work, the struggle over representation depends a great deal on the persuasive element of cultural

difference.

Visible differences (seen in such things as traditional _______________________ 10 Larry Inner, "Innu Political and Environmental Discourse" unpublished major paper prepared for the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Toronto,

1997, p. 13

(emphasis added). 11 Jane Jenson, "Naming Nations: Making Nationalist Claims in Canadian

Public

Discourse,"

Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology,

30, 3, 1993, p. 350.

94

clothing, drumming, material icons) act as helpful symbols and signals of the fundamental cultural and historical divide between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians generally, thereby helping Aboriginal political actors win space and attention in the universe of public discourse. When the James Bay Cree and Inuit were fighting Hydro Quebec over the development of the Great Whale hydroelectric project in the early 1990s, one of their most successful strategies (in terms of earning publicity and outside support) involved the construction of a boat they named the Odeyak (a canoe-kayak representing both Aboriginal traditionalism and Cree-Inuit co-operation), which several Cree and Inuit representatives paddled from James Bay right to New York City. Cree leader Matthew Mukash is reported to have commented later on this strategy, "we played the

Dances with Wolves

card." 12 However, as much as it is politically expedient, this kind of stress on historical and cultural

difference - the

politics of identity - can also be treacherous, for as Barri Cohen has noted, Aboriginal people are already "the Other of Canadian history

par excellence."13

The construction of an Aboriginal identity for a distant audience is already overdetermined by cultural narratives that run like currents through the public imagination, shaping, limiting and embellishing the representations that Aboriginal people make of themselves, and the claims and appeals we supporters make on their behalf. Consequently, the ways in which Innu identity, Innu culture and Innu concerns are represented by spokespeople, advisors, supporters and media tend to say as much about those who produce and interpret those representations as they do about the Innu themselves. By "cultural narratives" I refer mainly to three things: first, the centuries-old European tendency to view non-Europeans through the romantic twin lenses of projected fantasy and self-flagellation;14 _______________________ 12 Barri Cohen, "Technological Colonialism and the Politics of Water,"

Cultural Studies, 8, 2, 1994, p. 40.

13

Ibid,

p. 42. 14 Note that this romantic tendency has co-existed, paradoxically, with other, more frequently discussed European views of non-Europeans as inferior or barbarous. I apologize here for abridging a much longer discussion of Euro-American cultural narratives of Aboriginality. For more on the history of romantic European views of non-Europeans, see Henri Baudet,

Paradise on Earth: Some Thoughts on European Images of NonEuropean Man

(New Haven: Yale University Press,

1965);

Pascal Bruckner,

The Tears of the White Man: Compassion as Contempt

(New York: The Free Press,

1983);

James Clifford, "Of Other Peoples: Beyond the `Salvage'

95

secondly, the cultural baggage of celebrity Indians like Grey Owl and Chief Seattle (both also "imaginary Indians" born chiefly of European desire and imagination);15 and third, the set of assumptions so prevalent in colonial states, in which the struggle for Aboriginal rights is tied to notions of authenticity, authenticity to tradition, and tradition to obsolescence (as if Aboriginal rights can be made conditional upon Aboriginal people maintaining a pre-contact mode of existence). Such assumptions put pressure on Aboriginal spokespeople not to reveal the extent of either modern influences or cultural hybridity on their people's culture and lifestyle (not to mention political divisions within their communities). In short, they have put Aboriginal people on a pedestal from which it is impossible not to fall. Given this cultural context, the construction of distinctly Aboriginal political identities can lead to the reinforcement of the legitimacy=authenticity=traditionalism equation by Aboriginal people themselves, because the somewhat less telegenic truth is that while Aboriginal societies can still be defined as clearly distinct from the mainstream, the contemporary cultural differences that make them so are often very difficult to represent through video and sound bites - that is, difficult to convey given the marginal spaces in public discourse, and heavily stereotyped media frames that Aboriginal people have had to work within until very recently. The collective consequence of all of these cultural narratives is to re-inscribe the old Good Indian/Bad Indian dichotomy of the movies, such that today's Good Indian is the "white man's Indian," our essentialized, two-dimensional, earthkeeping "Other;" and the Bad Indian is a fallen Indian, either drunk or assimilated beyond redemption. Into this context enter the Innu, who have commonly been described as "the last hunter-gatherers in North America." With their remoteness, and their very recent transition to a more sedentary lifestyle, the Innu are all too easily type-cast as our fantasized Other on the political stage, and in _______________________ Paradigm," in Hal Foster, ed.,

Discussions in Contemporary Culture: No I Dia Art Foundation

(Seattle: Bay Press,

1987).

15 The stories and significance of Grey

Owl

and Chief Seattle are recounted in both Fergus Bordewich,

Killing the White Man's Indian: reinventing Native Americans at the end of the Twentieth Century

(New York: Doubleday,

1996);

and Daniel Francis,

The Imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture

(Vancouver: Arsenal

Pulp

Press,

1992).

Finally, see Philip J. Deloria,

Playing Indian

(New Haven, London: Yale University Press,

1998),

for a very intelligent analysis of North Americans' fascination with the Native Other as both an alternate identity and a character foil.

96

the minds of a distant public. In the words of "Diane," an advisor to the Innu Nation, [P]eople have in their mind this phenomenon of the Imaginary Indian. That somewhere there's The Good Indian. And that it's not any Indian that they have ever met or had to deal with - it's not the bum on the street ....He's a fallen Indian that [they] have no responsibility towards. But [an Innu woman on tour in Toronto] can be that Imaginary Indian. And she knows how to come across that way. A politics of representation was clearly at work during the heady days of Innu resistance to military expansion in the mid- to late-1980s. As explained by Armitage and Kennedy, fierce local political opposition by military expansionists meant that the Innu had to mobilize a distant audience to win support for their cause.16 They had to engage in the construction of a "public problem" that would have the cognitive and moral force to win this audience's attention, and to compel southern Canadians to join with the Innu in opposing military expansion. Armitage and Kennedy discuss the strategies used by the Innu in constructing this public problem - namely, the mobilization of ethnic symbols to create symbolic oppositions which communicate to the world that the Innu are a peace-loving people who respect elders, nature and tradition - a message that was mediated through the print and TV media. In May 1985, the Sheshatshit Innu organized an `Assembly' of Innu leaders at North West Point, about four miles from Sheshatshit. The gathering was held in an enormous Innu tent on a carpet of fir boughs that surrounded two centrally placed sheet metal wood-burning stoves. Innu families set up tents in the immediate vicinity of the main meeting tent and cooked bannock and caribou meat on outdoor fires. A `traditional' makushan or ritual feast of caribou meat and bone marrow was held at the end of the meeting. Innu leaders from two Labrador and four Quebec communities signed a declaration prepared by the La Romaine Band Council demanding a complete _______________________ 16 Peter Armitage and John C. Kennedy, "Redbaiting and Racism on Our Frontier: Military Expansion in Labrador and Quebec,"

Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 26, 5, 1989.

97

cessation of the military training activities in their territory. While the Assembly was being held, a North American Aerospace Defence (NORAD) exercise called `Amalgam Brave,' was being staged out of Goose Bay. It involved a large number of aircraft from the Canadian Armed Forces and U.S. Air Force. Military aircraft occasionally flew over the gathering site at a height of 600 meters, disturbing the relative tranquillity of the Assembly. While intended primarily as a vehicle to facilitate discussion among Innu leaders about the military expansion, the Assembly proved to be a media event of no small significance. The setting for the Assembly was perfect from a media point of view. The contrast between the `traditional' tents and cooking activities of the Innu, and the military jets flying by overhead provided the media with numerous high quality 'visuals' for their stories. The image emerged of a beleaguered indigenous people making their last stand in the face of insurmountable odds. The CBC `National' did another story on low-level flying, and this time was joined by other media such as the CBC French network and 'Le Point' in Quebec, the Montreal Gazette, and Canadian Press. 17 In this example, the political position of the Innu conveyed metaphorically. "The military aircraft are a metonym for powerful industrial society and the fearful arms race, while the tents are a metonym for `traditional' Innu culture and powerlessness."" The moral message is clear, but certainly not uncontested. As Armitage and Kennedy show, the moral/symbolic oppositions that the Innu wished to communicate were being at the same time attacked by military expansionists: opponents of the Innu sought both to discredit Innu statements and to denigrate the Innu as a people by claiming that the Innu were not, in fact, ecologically aware nor respectful of their elders, and that their claims about the devastation that low-level flying brings were not valid because the Innu didn't really possess an indigenous ("traditional") culture anymore. Thus, the politics of representation is being _______________________ 17

Ibid.,

pp. 803-804

.

18

Ibid,

p. 808.

98

however well-intentioned, even indispensable, it may have been in 1985 - also opened the door for mean-spirited ad

hominem

attacks, and invited a distraction that succeeded in obscuring the core issue of Aboriginal sovereignty over unceded land. 19 Such is the first and most obvious risk of a culturalist appeal. A second danger is that in appealing to the larger desires of the general public - the kinds of hopes and images bound up in popular imaginaries of the North and Aboriginal people - the politics of representation risks tying the Innu struggle to those very desires. "Jack," an Innu Nation advisor puts it this way: [T]he rightness of the Innu struggle is, I think, judged by many Canadians in terms of whether it protects some of those elements of their own desire. If the Innu construct themselves as defenders of the wilderness, that fits. If the Innu want to build a hydro dam, that doesn't. And in my work with the lnnu I run up against these desires all the time. Representational politics is thus forced to be narrowly selective. It draws from "real" Innu practices and values, thus asserting its "authenticity," but "real" Innu cultural identity - like that of any ethnic group - is not simple or necessarily coherent, and may be contradictory. Because there are many Innu positions (e.g., young, old, culturally protectionist, development-oriented, etc.), multiple representations of Innu are possible. But a politics of representation necessarily suppresses internal difference in an effort to create a coherent and unified picture of the whole. Its credibility depends on establishing and defending the essentialist identities and correspondences that the general public has been conditioned to expect. One advisor to the Innu wryly termed this practice "Chief Seattle- ization:" "I would write letters or articles or speeches for Innu Nation. I knew what the audience would _______________________ 19 In a most interesting example of derailment from the issues, Armitage and Kennedy also show how military expansionists engaged in redbaiting in an attempt to vilify the motives of Innu supporters. An editorial (in the form of a letter to God) in the

Northern Reporter

advanced this conspiracy theory: "Of course, communist and communist sympathizers are quick to pounce on the unrest among your Innu people. They infiltrate their encampments under guise of humanitarians, advisors and the like. They are skilled in manipulating the international media and convey the message at home and abroad that the white settlers of Labrador are crucifying the Innu and 'stealing their land'."

(Northern Reporter,

August 6, 1986), cited in Armitage and Kennedy, 1989,

op. cit.,

pp. 811-812. 99 want so I tried to craft it that way. I had a knack for it." But representing the Innu and their concerns in ways that will suit popular myths and conceptions is problematic in that it may cater to the audience at the expense of both the actors and the advancement of their goals. One advisor "John" recalls, A couple of times I had to call up people who had written support group literature and say, `Look, this is causing problems. It isn't like that. It comes back to haunt Innu later, because many people know this isn't the case. Then the campaign loses credibility.' Above all, the danger of representational politics is that it may ultimately undermine the very goals of the movement it seeks to support. Representational politics is increasingly a vulnerable politics, particularly in the late 1990s, when popular and simplistic conceptions of First Nations as living in poetic passivity with nature are being imploded all across the country. Consider the road blockades in the summer of 1998 by "Native loggers" in New Brunswick, who were challenging government claims to "Crown" land by asserting an Aboriginal right to log the land commercially. Or consider the case of the Inuvialuit in the North West Territories, who have reneged on their endorsement of proposed national park boundaries in order to allow Canadian mining giant Falconbridge to develop the mineral potential of some of these lands.20 To the extent that phrases like "Native logger" still carry an oxymoronic ring, it is possible that events like these may be blown out of proportion by the media. Still, as Fergus Bordewich writes, they seem to be part of a historical sea change across the political landscape of North America: [First Nations] are being forced to come to terms with the practical nature of their relationship to the land, to decide as a matter of policy whether the earth is primarily a form of wealth to be converted into goods, services, community welfare, and personal income, or whether it is something wholly different, as much a thing of spirit as it is plant and mineral. It is a debate that touches upon the disquieting question of what it means to be an Indian, and to behave like an Indian, in modern America.21 _______________________ 20 Heather Scoffield, "Natives Back Falconbridge Deal for NWT Mine,"

Globe and Mail Report on Business,

October

21, 1998,p.

B1. 21 Fergus Bordewich,

1996, op. cit

., pp. 135-36.

100

Of course, it is not just that the "Native/earth equivalence" is becoming less credible; it is also becoming less necessary, for the positive side of these developments is that, backlash notwithstanding, the notion of Aboriginal title and land

rights

(as opposed to

claims)

is gaining broader acceptance. Particularly since the Supreme Court of Canada's

Delgamuukw

decision, there is a growing sense that industrial developments in the North require Aboriginal consultation, and in some cases, consent, which entails the affirmation (rather than the extinguishment) of Aboriginal title. After years in opposition, some First Nations are finally gaining a modicum of power. They do not need to "play the

Dances with

Wolves card" in a tactical maneuver for justice.22 This, of course, should not be read to imply that First Nations people such as the Innu do

not

have a special relationship to the land. To the contrary, I believe that title, use, and protection of the land remains fundamentally important to the continuing vitality of Innu culture in the modern day. Moreover, I believe that the Innu discourse of environmental protection is legitimate and meaningful; Innu concerns about land and wildlife should in no way be regarded as suspect. The critique of representational politics simply means that popular, unrealistic constructions of "Indianness" ought not to be used to box people in, nor to put limits on justice. It means that we should engage increasingly in a more nuanced, less essentialist politics that can engage a skeptical and increasingly informed public, a politics that is appropriate to a political climate in which First Nations are both more assertive and more solidly positioned than they were a decade ago.

4. An Alternative: The Politics of Articulation

To understand the possibilities of a politics of articulation it is necessary to first consider articulation as a concept and then apply it _______________________ 22 As an unfortunate qualifier to this optimistic assertion, I must note that in August

1999,

the Canadian and Newfoundland governments released their responses to the completed environmental assessment of the proposed Voisey's Bay mega-mine. Both governments have refused to adopt the assessment panel's most important recommendations, namely that there be an Innu land rights settlement, as well as a negotiated Impact Benefits Agreement with Voisey's Bay Nickel,

before

any permits for the mining development are issued. This refusal by the state to endorse the recommendations of the panel they helped put in place has prompted outrage from both Innu Nation and supporters. A court challenge is already underway. 101 metaphorically in the specific case of Innu support work. While the verb "to articulate" is most often associated with speech, its primary meaning in cultural studies has to do with connecting, in which the notion of a joint, or flexible connection, is key. Building on this notion of jointedness and the process of making connections, we can think of an articulation as "the form of the connection that can make a unity of two [or more] different elements, under certain conditions ...a linkage which is not necessary, determined, absolute and essential for all time." 23 Articulation as it applies to politics locates itself in the conviction that neither the identities of political actors nor the meanings of any given struggle exist a priori; rather, they are constituted discursively through the political process - i.e., the definition of interests and the elaboration of strategies. To put it in the terms of Laclau and Mouffe, there are no essential categories of subjects (i.e., identities premised on differences in gender, race, class or nationality). There are only subjectpositions (e.g., environmentalist, peace activist, Innu rights activist) the meanings of which are established by the ways they are articulated (linked) to other subject-positions (see below). In saying that identities are constituted discursively, and that relations are subject to continual negotiation, I do not mean to suggest that everything can be reduced to discourse. All things are not possible just by being spoken. Rather, I am taking the position that no practice exists

outside of

discourse, although discourses are conditioned by their historical and material contexts, and are subject to the limitations of structured relations of power.24 The concept of articulation also suggests that none of these linkages among subject-positions are predetermined. No "natural" correspondences can be assumed. Rather, within a given social _______________________ 23 L. Grossberg, ed., "Stuart Hall, `On Postmodernism and Articulation: An Interview with Stuart Hall,"'

Journal of Communication Inquiry, 10, 2, 1986, p. 53,

cited in Jennifer D. Slack, "The Theory and Method of Articulation in Cultural Studies," in David Morley and Chen Kuan-Hsing, eds.,

Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies

(London, New York: Routledge,

1996), p. 115.

24 Taken to the extreme, this position might suggest that we could not even speak of "Innu" or "non-Aboriginal people" in any meaningful way. Of course, this would make discussion of this subject extremely awkward. Instead, I suggest simply that we use the less essentialist idea of subjectpositions to remind ourselves to suspend our assumptions about what "Innu" or "non-Aboriginal people" represent in any absolute sense, and to seek such understanding from the context, event or individual in question.

102

formation (say, a social movement or advocacy network), both the character of the elements - for our purposes, the identity of the political actors - and the relations among them are non-necessary or non-fixed. As Laclau and Mouffe write, "All struggles have a partial character, and can be articulated to very different discourses. It is this articulation which gives them their character, not the place from which they come." 25 To relate this to the concrete case at hand, the meaning of the Innu struggle varies according to the discourse of which it is a part: the Innu struggle looks a little different depending on what else it is associated with and by whom. "Jack" remarks that, Low-level flying was a cause that could be spun in a variety of ways, and was, by a lot of groups with a lot of agendas. The peace movement adopted it because it was anti-war. The environmental movement adopted it because it was protecting the earth. The Aboriginal rights constituencies adopted it because it was an issue of self-determination. The communists adopted it because it was anti-NATO ....It was a complex role that was played in many different ways. Given this brief sketch of articulation as a concept, let us consider the distinctive characteristics of a politics built on the metaphor of articulation. First, it is obvious that a politics of articulation is much less dependent on established identities than a politics of representation tends to be. Recognizing the partiality of all subject-positions, a politics of articulation refuses the drive to discursively fix a total identity. It strives, as Donna Haraway suggests, to be a "regenerative politics for inappropriate/d others," that is, a politics for those who refuse the mask of the Other, those who are "dislocated from the available maps specifying kinds of actors and kinds of narratives."'-6 A politics of representation would tend toward the discursive construction of a singular "authentic" Innu identity - or subject - compatible with supporters' desires, a politics of articulation allows for a range of _______________________ 25 Laclau and Mouffe,

op. cit

., p. 169

.

26 Donna J. Haraway,

op. cit., p. 299.

Haraway notes that the term "inappropriate/d others" was coined by Trinh T. Minh-ha, and comments that "Trinh was looking for a way to figure `difference' as a `critical difference within,' and not as special taxonomic marks grounding difference as apartheid." See Trinh T. Minh-ha,

Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism

(Bloomington, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press,

1989).

103 different Innu subject-positions (all of them "authentic") and acknowledges that contradiction is inherent in anyone's identity. A politics of articulation thereby takes the debate away from questions of "authenticity" (recall the ad

hominem

attacks on Innu traditionalism) and toward the merits and validity of the concerns and arguments Innu pose. In re-casting the debate, a politics of articulation separates the issue of justice from the maintenance of an idealized image, thus resisting the temptation to gloss over the rough edges of reality. For example, Innu supporters might acknowledge the element of truth to accusations that Innu leave garbage in their hunting camps, and counter these accusations not with feeble excuses or defensiveness, but with claims about the environmental damage done by mines and dams and roads, which puts the act of littering into perspective. Second, in refusing essentialist identities, a politics of articulation avoids taking the Innu as symbols, and acknowledges them as actors in their own right instead. It replaces the ventriloquist act of representational politics with the metaphor of conversation, in which each participant's contribution is distinct and audible. Instead of subsuming Aboriginal perspectives into the environmental cause, for example - "saving" the Innu because they are part of "wild earth" articulatory politics works with the Innu as allies in (un)common cause. It does not assume a homogeneity to our concerns, but works for mutual understanding and synergy between actors admittedly different in outlook and position. Instead of making assumptions about what the Innu stand for, articulatory politics works with the specificity of particular situations, in which strategic alliances are formed around specific shared goals, issues and concerns. A politics of articulation adopts the discourse of a moving target. For example, the Torontobased Voisey's Bay-Innu Rights Coalition (VBIRC), following the lead of Innu Nation, does not take the position that the Innu are categorically against development. Rather, VBIRC has opposed irresponsible development that does not respect Innu rights and sovereignty. The primary condition for a project to meet with approval is that it have Innu consent. Such a position does not assume (as a politics of representation might) what the conditions of Innu consent might be. Articulatory politics therefore allows the Innu latitude to make the choices that

they

deem right for their people at this time. Third, because of this attention to particularity, a politics of articulation also has the potential to make inroads locally - for example, in Labrador (unlike a politics of representation, which is very much mediated through the southern /central Canadian urban middle class). It could potentially allow Innu concerns regarding the military to 104

be articulated to the recent experiences of "downsized" workers at the military base in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Says "Nick," a supporter living in Happy Valley, There's no question that there was an arrogance in this community: `We don't have to listen to the Innu, because we have the federal government behind us, we have DND [the Department of National Defence]. We have healthy paycheques' and all that. But when that happened [the downsizing], the interesting thing is that people here who worked on the base - the union and that group - experienced a betrayal that they had never experienced before. And it's a betrayal that's very akin to what the Native communities have often experienced. So what a wonderful opportunity there is to build on that. Our governments, and employers, can be fickle. And what you felt was secure can be pulled out from under you. A fourth notable characteristic of articulatory politics has to do with the channels it pursues for social change. The idea of an articulated connection means that articulatory politics is fundamentally coalition politics. The political kinship of coalition partners is built around a third element, the joint these partners share - whether that be NATO's low-level flying or Voisey's Bay or hydro development on the Churchill River. Partners in such coalitions are not fused to one another, but act by flexion and extension around a moveable joint, taking advantage of our respective

different

positions vis-a-vis the joint. For distant supporters this means speaking from the center (or wherever we are) rather than trying to speak from the margins. It means choosing interventions that act on the conditions of our own lives to relieve the oppression of theirs. If we take the government or mining industry to be our articulating link, then it is to the government or INCO that we and the Innu both direct our politics. This is hardly a new idea. Said one Innu leader to supporters at a solidarity gathering in 1990, "You need to focus on what the government is doing to us. It is the government which is illegally occupying our land. This is your problem. I don't care if this upsets you." Moreover, it is also true that activists since Day One have been encouraging a sympathetic public to "write to your politicians." The difference here is that a politics of articulation makes our location with respect to the problem much more visible. It articulates by connecting the conditions of our lives to the conditions of theirs, much in the same way that recent campaigns against multinational clothing manufacturers 105 (Nike, Disney) have linked first-world affluence to poverty and poor working conditions in places like Indonesia and Haiti. In short, a politics of articulation is different from some other kinds of intervention in that its prime directive is not the salvation of the Other but the reform of our own society, as "Heather," herself a Toronto-based supporter, explains, [T]he real end focus of the work is on the nonAboriginal society, and the ways that it is functioning in a broken way, that does not create space for Aboriginal people to deal with the issues and find the solutions and frame the analysis that they have to do. The distinction I am making here may seem like hair splitting, but I believe it important to differentiate between the kind of support motivated by a shared, and perhaps unexamined image of what or whom is to "be saved," and a different kind of support, motivated by the ideal of making space for Aboriginal people to be or become something as yet unknown. A fine example of articulatory politics can be seen in the interventions of Voisey's Bay-Innu Rights Coalition member Audrey Tobias, who for three years running has used her position as an Inco shareholder to pressure the company from the inside. I quote with permission excerpts from her address to CEO Michael Sopko in 1997: At Voisey's Bay, site of huge nickel deposits, there is the spectre of untold wealth - and we shareholders anticipate sharing in it. But on whose land is this projected mine? Who should profit from it? I speak of the Aboriginal peoples of Labrador. I personally do not want to profit at the expense of a vulnerable people. I want to see a just land settlement first. The fifth and probably most important characteristic of a politics of articulation is that it is nothing if not contingent. Recognizing that there is no "natural" or necessary affinity between activist supporters and Innu, it does not assume that our agendas and priorities will be identical. The Innu are not "our original environmentalists" nor anyone's "original pacifists."27 Moreover, differences and divisions _______________________ 27 Tangential to this point, I feel compelled to add the comment of one of the Innu men I interviewed, on the tendency among some Canadians to refer to "our native people." He said, "...We're not your people, you know, we're our own people. Like the non-natives too, they're their own kind. We don't 106

exist within Innu communities, no more or less than any other communities. As a result, political unity -both within and between Innu communities and support groups - is not assumed, but achieved with some effort (and invariably some dissent). Consequently, our alliance is

contingent

in that they and we are both actively creating subject-positions for ourselves, and that solidarity requires that we be able to articulate these to one another. To describe what I mean by this process of creating subject-positions, I will borrow the structure of an argument by Slavoj Zizek and re-cast it in terms specific to this case.28 Zizek's argument is in fact a re-presentation of Laclau and Mouffe's concept of the subject

in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy,

which proposes (against the classical essentialist notion of the subject) the idea of subject-positions whose meaning is not fixed in advanced, but changes according to the way they are articulated to other subjectpositions in a sort of temporary equivalences.29 Let's take a series of equivalencies pertinent to Innu support to see how this works. Instead of a single, essentialized Innu identity we can imagine an Innu subjectposition as follows: insofar as the Innu determine that sovereignty and self-determination demand the cessation of low-level flying over their territory, they are positioning themselves against militarization; to be Innu under these circumstances is to be against militarization. Similarly, insofar as Innu determine that the protection of their culture and identity necessitates protection of their land from industrial development and the continued use of the land for hunting, they are establishing a subject-position incommensurable with mining. In the fall of 1998, at the environmental assessment hearings over Voisey's Bay, an Innu man testified that many Innu people who had been working at Voisey's Bay have resigned because they wanted to be Innu and not miners.30 The key to understanding this and all subject- _______________________ call them our Canadians, or our whites. This is one of the biggest problems I think we have, is that everybody calls us "our native people," "our Innu" - it makes you feel almost like a dog! "It's MY clog! "' 28 Slavoj Zizek, "Beyond Discourse Analysis," in Ernesto Laclau,

New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time

(London, New York: Verso,

1990), p. 250.

29 1 have paraphrased Zizek, op. unnecessarily opaque.

cit., p. 250,

as I find his own words 30 The Innu speaker was an audience member - later to become president of Innu Nation - David Nuk, who rose to the microphone after a presentation by a Metis woman from Saskatchewan, who had been brought to the hearing by a consulting firm hired by Voisey's Bay Nickel. She told the panel that as hunting and fishing are no longer viable in Saskatchewan, Native people 107 positions is that they are radically contingent identities. That is, it is possible to imagine other subject-positions that the Innu could take: some could choose armed struggle (if push came to shove)31; some could and do take wage employment with industry if they feel it can be compatible with cultural protection and social well-being. Likewise, supporter identities are not fixed; their ideological commitments cannot be presumed, nor taken to be homogeneous or unchanging. As "Jack" noted, There are supporters and there are supporters. Some people are supporting a generalized Aboriginal rights agenda, on the basis of justice. Other people are supporting a protect-the-land agenda. Other people are supporting a Innu-as-an-authentic-traditional- culture [agenda]. I've met the epitomes of all of these supporters along the way ....1'm sure if you put them all in a room, they'd get on like cats and dogs in some respects. But insofar as a peace activist finds out by experience that there is no peace without justice for Aboriginal people; insofar as the Aboriginal rights activist finds out by political action that land rights require environmental protection; insofar as environmentalists find out by experience that environmental protection encompasses social, economic, and cultural well-being, then we can imagine a unified _______________________ there want work in the mining industry. She urged people in Labrador to take the same step. Nuk replied by saying, "As I'm standing here I have a 13-year-old son who is in the bush, who ...I won't be seeing him until Christmas because he's practicing his own way of life. And I'm awful proud of him. And I sometimes wonder like, for example, when you talk about Voisey's Bay, the Innu are at the edge with respect to industries, particularly Voisey's Bay. And I'm not going to be in the position to allow my people to be pushed over the edge. They probably have done it in the west; they're certainly not going to do it in Labrador." As reported by Todd O'Brien on CFGB-FM, October 23, 1998 (Goose Bay regional radio). 31 0ne Innu participant in the 1990 Atlantic solidarity gathering at North West Point hinted at this possibility when he told supporters, "We are not abandoning civil disobedience and non-violence ....0ur actions have been very successful; they drew media attention. But, will my `friends' be with me or will they stab me in the back if these actions become violent because some see no other way? Will the support change?" Uhuniat Mamuitun-Atlantic Innu Solidarity Assembly (unpublished summary report of a solidarity gathering between Innu and Innu supporters at North West Point, near Sheshatshit, from June 29-July 1, 1990, p. 9), (author/compiler unknown). 108

subject-position of Innu supporter in which peace, justice and environmental protection are taken to be co-necessary. Again, contingency means that this supporter identity is in Zizek's words, "the result of a symbolic condensation, and not an expression of some kind of internal necessity according to which the interests of all the abovementioned positions would in the long run "objectively convene." 3z It is quite possible, in other words, for there to be Innu supporters for whom environmental protection is not a necessary part of Aboriginal rights, or for whom justice does not require non-violence. If we accept this model of subject-position formation, we can see that there is nothing necessary or "natural" about the affinity forged between supporters and the Innu. Rather, affinity is contingent on Innu decisions to articulate their struggle for sovereignty and decolonization to the concerns of the activist networks, e.g., militarism, environmental sustainability. This is not, as some may suggest, merely a matter of strategy, not merely utilitarian or cynical on their part. I think of it as a way of expressing the many facets of meaning in the Innu struggle, building on the many dimensions of "authentic" identity. Affinity is also contingent on supporters being able to articulate their care for the land, their passions for the North, or for justice among peoples, to the Innu struggle. "John" has noted, [I]f I knew that helping Innu to gain control over the land was just going to result in the same kind of exploitation, but just by people of a different culture who had been the original owners of the land, then I wouldn't put my efforts in that direction ....The ecological impact doesn't depend on who the exploiter is, but rather what is done on the land. The point is that support is not unconditional. Or, better put, the active involvement of supporters is conditioned to some degree by Innu choices, and that the support base may be expected to change from issue to issue, without calling supporters' sincerity into question. After all, it is one thing to support self-determination in principle, and quite another to help advance the specific directions that self-determination may bring on. I think it helpful to consider support as a negotiation between the principle of self-determination and other, legitimate principles, values, and priorities of supporters. Says Innu supporter "Katrina," [W]hether they want to modernize or not is none of my business. What is my business is what I choose _______________________ 32 Zizek, op. cit., pp. 250-251. 109 to throw my energy into. And I choose to throw my energy into being a helper to those who want to maintain that part of their tradition that is protective of the land, the environment, the deep knowledge of the land and its history. Finally, because of the need to articulate one group's concerns to another's, a politics of articulation recognizes the existence of a shared vocabulary to represent the Innu struggle, but does not mistake the vocabulary for the thing itself. This aspect of articulation was effectively made clear to me by "Heather" who described the relationship of the Innu struggle to the discourse of the peace movement with the memorable imagery of flesh on bone, I think like any conceptual or theoretical framework, peace and non-violence is simply the skeleton on which you hang the flesh of the analysis. And so I don't doubt that the Innu had the values, about ways of relating personally and communally, that obviously shaped how they responded when they came up against the low-level flying situation. But then the conceptual framework that was put in their face both by the activists and by the institutional powers of the state and the military, who were used to dealing with that analysis, was the peace framework. And so it became a matter of hanging the Innu `flesh' on that skeleton, and it was a skeleton that basically was what allowed you to talk to other groups. That was the common conceptual framework.

5. Conclusion

Given the characteristics I have attributed to articulatory politics its acknowledged partiality of perspective, its attention to particularity, the distinction it makes among elements in conversation, the importance of linkage by way of a flexible joint, the emphasis on acting from our respective locations, and the radical contingency of both identities and meanings - we can now consider what the strengths and weaknesses of such a politics might be. The most obvious strength of articulatory politics lies in the way it conceives of the identity/difference relationship. By cultivating a care for multiple differences, it avoids the essentialized Otherness of more representational politics. It calls for conversation among equals that can admit some disagreement. It encourages political attention to coalition members' respective locations vis-a-vis the issue; and it foregrounds 110

social and economic interconnections between Innu and their supporters. Most importantly, in its refusal of essentialist subjects, of fixed moves and symbolic taken-for-granted correspondences, articulatory politics supports the possibility of livable identities. However, insofar as it does not easily whip up widespread public sympathy and support, a politics of articulation may be somewhat weak in and of itself. Unlike a politics of representation, a politics of articulation neither puts its stock in seductive images nor ties itself to the cultural narratives and larger desires of the southern non-Aboriginal public. This means that articulatory politics depends on the Innu already having established their legitimacy as political actors with space in the universe of public discourse in order to be able to say

"Not without our consent"

and be listened to. On the positive side, the emergence of a more articulatory approach in Innu politics, far from being a risk or liability, may well signal the development of a political standpoint that the Innu did not have in the early days of fighting low-level military flying when their struggle gained attention primarily by being articulated to,

and expressed through,

the discourses of the peace movement. One challenge brought on by articulatory politics is that it requires an understanding of contingency, and of the nature of coalition work: one must expect and accept that the political alliances established as one moment of a discursive articulation do not necessarily persist for all time, nor under all circumstances. Even with such understandings, there is the potential for confusion and ill-feelings on both sides when the conditions that created the alliance between the two groups change. Says "Heather," [T]here is a capacity for such tremendous disillusionment ...when the mega-projects that everybody's fought against go ahead and happen, and are modified in ways that Aboriginal people hope will benefit their communities, but go ahead nonetheless ....People don't know what to do with it; once a project goes ahead, where does the solidarity work invest itself? The contingent solidarity that articulatory politics makes possible demands both a keen respect for the other's perspective, and a continual effort to listen to the meanings we co-create. "Jack" notes, And if there are reasons to part, well you trust that [supporters] will have enough sense that they will not try to shoot you down. You trust that they will recognize that even though you've taken a turn that 111 they no longer can support, that... it's still a legitimate direction to go. In the Innu struggle for environmental justice, solidarity between environmentalist or peace activist supporters and the Innu has been manifest in both representational and articulatory types of politics. I have characterized a politics of representation as being based primarily on culturalism, or essentialized identities, symbolism, and correspondences. I have characterized a politics of articulation, by contrast, as being marked by latitude in subject-positions, distinct linkages between allies, and contingency - a politics that involves no necessary, presumed "natural," correspondences between supporter-and Innu concerns.33 I have argued that for all its admitted potency and potential mass appeal, the politics of representation is limiting, vulnerable, and increasingly inappropriate for Innu support work. I have argued in favor of articulatory politics on the grounds that it is more nuanced, discerning, and in step with the times. Yet there is more than maturation or sophistication to set one kind of politics apart from the other. What most distinguishes articulatory politics as I have presented it is an admittedly post-structural quality: its emphasis on the negotiation of political identities and the discursive construction of political alliances. Given the growing tendency for the more essentialist politics of representation to constrain (even marginalize and discredit) support for the Innu, articulatory politics offers a liberating view of political possibility: the potential for a more just and productive alliance between the Innu and progressive political groups. The promise of articulation, then, is a politics of solidarity that must be, and can only be, actively created around specific issues, as part of a conversation bounded by the historical, cultural and material differences that situate us all. _______________________ 33 While I have compared the two kinds of politics for contrast, I do not wish to leave the impression that they are entirely mutually exclusive. The metaphors they derive from are theoretically intimately connected. Every social practice is an articulatory practice. Representations of the Other can be seen as articulations that have become fixed. (In arguing for an articulatory politics I have tried to un-stick them.) Likewise, articulatory practices (including the construction of political identities) are always overdetermined; they have meaning only as part of the social-symbolic order. 112

Download