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Life Arts    H4'ed 5/24/10

Gord Hill, Indigenous Activist and Author of "500 Years of Indigenous Resistance"

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My guest today is Gord Hill. He is a member of the Kwakwaka'wakw nation and the author of 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance. Welcome to OpEdNews, Gord. This is the first work I've read by an Indigenous individual. So, I hope you will forgive my unfamiliarity. Before we get started, please clarify something for me. It says on the book jacket that your nation is on the Northwest Coast and you write about the colonization of the Americas. Do you consider yourself Canadian, American, or neither, just a member of the Kwakwaka'wakw nation?

I consider myself an Indigenous person from the Kwakwaka'wakw nation, which is how I identify with Indigenous people across the Americas. I do not consider myself a Canadian as this is a colonial identity which has been created through violent colonization and oppression.

Let's talk about those colonization efforts. Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States gave me my first taste of this subject. He does a number on Christopher Columbus. But your book goes much more in depth. How did you organize and such a massive amount of information and craft it into an intelligible document? And didn't you find that daunting?

Intelligence is the gathering of information from various sources, subject to analysis and comparison, in order to derive the clearest picture possible of an area, situation, person, etc. Organizing the information of centuries of Indigenous struggle can be difficult, but the historical story itself helps because you have a basic chronology that serves as a guide. In many ways, the story is there, it's a matter of finding the incidents, personalities and patterns etc., that best relate what happened. In anti-colonial historical writing, this task is more difficult because the voices of the colonized are most often erased, distorted, and/or interpreted by the colonizer. I didn't find it daunting so much, mostly because I didn't realize the extent of research, organization, etc., that would ultimately be necessary.

How long did it take you to put this all together?

It was written during the period 1991-92, and was originally published in 1992, so that's quite awhile ago. It probably took a few months altogether.

Interesting, I would have expected much longer. I understand that the contents of your book first appeared in the revolutionary Indigenous newspaper OH-TOH-KIN. Why has it taken so long for it to capture attention beyond Indigenous circles?

To some extent it was being distributed in non-Native movements throughout the 1990s after Arm the Spirit published the article as a pamphlet, but that is now out of print. Arm the Spirit was an anti-imperialist group based in Toronto that no longer exists.

How did you and PM Press get together? I guess my question is, why now after all this time?

I first met Ramsey, who runs PM Press, when he lived in Edinburgh, Scotland. At the time, he was running an anarchist distribution of books, zines and records, and before he had set up AK Press. I think they found the original pamphlet, produced by Arm the Spirit, to be a good seller and when it was out of print, he wanted to re-publish it.

What kind of response have you had since the re-publishing?

Right now, I am more focused on the 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book, published in April 2010, and doing promotional work on it. I haven't noticed any particular response other than some people are glad it is once again available.

You also go by the name Zig Zag. Where did it come from and what do you use it for?

Zig Zag was a 'code name' I used during the 1999 Cheam fisheries dispute when a Native Youth Movement security force helped Cheam fishermen oppose the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) enforcement of salmon fishing on the Fraser River. Code names aren't very useful once they've been used in such a campaign but I continued to use it as a 'pen name' afterwards.

You are an artist of breadth and talent. Can you tell our readers a bit about the various art forms you've been involved in over the years? Most authors/historians aren't so versatile.

I do a lot of black and white graphics for zines, magazines, and journals, as well as logos for groups. This also includes comics. I do some painting on canvas, mostly for sale, as well as lots of banners for rallies. I carve rattles, masks, miniature masks, plaques, as well as cedar boxes. I also silkscreen t-shirts, patches, etc.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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