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INDIGENOUS ISSUES AT FOREFRONT OF PEOPLES’ SOCIAL FORUM 2014

INDIGENOUS ISSUES AT FOREFRONT OF PEOPLES’ SOCIAL FORUM 2014

Photo: Clayton Thomas-Muller took on the role of co-MC of the opening Unity March of the Peoples’ Social Forum.

Photo Essay from Activist and Photographer, Ben Powless

The Peoples’ Social Forum (PSF) took place in Ottawa (unceded Algonquin territory) August 21-24, 2014, with over several thousand people in attendance. The PSF is part of a larger global movement of social forums that have emerged at different levels since the first World Social Forum (WSF) was held in Porto Elegre, Brazil in January 2001. The idea is to create and curate public space for critical thought and action for social justice, sustainable development, international solidarity, and Indigenous issues with the goal of transforming the state of Canada as it exists today.

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The PSF had a focus on Indigenous sovereignty, land rights, environmental justice, and violence against Indigenous women.  The forum maintained an exclusive space called, The Indigenous Circle for Indigenous participants to gather, network, strategize, hold meetings, share food, and partake in Ceremony.

On Victoria Island, Traditional Fire Keepers kept a Sacred Fire burning for the four days of the PSF. There was also a Unity March and PowWow, as well as a concert called, The Winter We Danced which featured artists; Frank Waln, Moe Clark and Lawrence Martin. Workshop titles included: Traditional Medicines Wheel Teachings, Songs and Dances with Donna Powless; The Green Red Road: Mino bimadziwin, Natural Law and Indigenous Rights with Kevin Best; and RESIST: The Unist’ot’en’s Call to the Land. There were also screenings of Elsipogtog: No Fracking Way! and Karihstatsi Onienre: The Iron Snake and Honour Your Word: Behind the barricades in Barriere Lake.

Activist and Photographer Ben Powless was in attendance, and MUSKRAT asked him to send us his top moments from the PSF.  Check them out below!

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Derek Nepinak speaks to an assembly of participants in the Peoples’ Space.
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Miq’maq singers perform an honour song at the “Pow-Wow to the People” event
The Indigenous solidarity assembly was packed, with many Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants talking about moving forward together.
The Indigenous solidarity assembly was packed, with many Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants talking about moving forward together.
Chief Roger William from Xeni Gwet'in addresses the Water assembly about the role and relationship with water traditionally amongst First Nations.
Chief Roger William from Xeni Gwet’in addresses the Water assembly about the role and relationship with water traditionally amongst First Nations.
Bridget Tolley of Families of Sisters in Spirit talks to the audience about the struggle for justice of many families of missing and murdered Indigenous women. (This photo by Cherise Seucharan)
Bridget Tolley of Families of Sisters in Spirit talks to the audience about the struggle for justice of many families of missing and murdered Indigenous women. (This photo by Cherise Seucharan)
Frank Waln plays to the opening night crowd at the Peoples' Social Forum.
Frank Waln plays to the opening night crowd at the Peoples’ Social Forum.
Theland Kicknosway hoop dancing for the opening night festivities of the Peoples' Social Forum.
Theland Kicknosway hoop dancing for the opening night festivities of the Peoples’ Social Forum.
The Unity March was led by Indigenous women, in the end bringing nearly 5,000 people to Parliament Hill.
The Unity March was led by Indigenous women, in the end bringing nearly 5,000 people to Parliament Hill.
During the closing ceremony the Indigenous declaration was read by Susana Deranger.
During the closing ceremony the Indigenous declaration was read by Susana Deranger.
Al Harrington performs during the Peoples' Pow-Wow, held on Sparks St., near the main forum.
Al Harrington performs during the Peoples’ Pow-Wow, held on Sparks St., near the main forum.
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About The Author

Ben Powless

Ben Powless is a Mohawk citizen from Six Nations in Ontario, currently living in Ottawa, Canada. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. He has worked with the Indigenous Environmental Network, focused on climate justice and resource extraction in Indigenous territories, particularly the tar sands, and most recently Ecology Ottawa as an organizer against the Energy East Pipeline. He is also an organizer with the Defenders of the Land network, Idle No More, and was a co-founder of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. He enjoys biking and photography in his spare time.

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