At the Sacred Intersection of Politics and War: A Discussion of Warrior Societies, Masculine Identity Politics, and Indigenous Resistance Trends in Canada

By LeBlanc, Rob | The Canadian Journal of Native Studies, July 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

At the Sacred Intersection of Politics and War: A Discussion of Warrior Societies, Masculine Identity Politics, and Indigenous Resistance Trends in Canada


LeBlanc, Rob, The Canadian Journal of Native Studies


As a youth, every Iroquois male is taught the arts of war, so that he'll be ready to defend his country and his people. This makes it unnecessary for the Iroquois government to have an expensive War Department with its high-salaried military echelon of officers of various degrees and ranks. It makes a standing army unnecessary who have nothing to do but sit around waiting for an order to go somewhere and kill some people.

- Louis Karoniaktajeh Hall, Warrior Manifesto, 1983 (2014)

The warrior society is the true power and heartbeat of the nation and willing to die for their people.

- Statement from Mi'kmaq Warrior Society, October 2013

The shale gas protests near Rexton in Kent County, New Brunswick, Canada during the summer and autumn of 2013 are a case study in not only the presence but also the importance of warriors in Indigenous resistance and protest action. Since the 1990 Oka crisis, warriors and warrior societies have become one of the primary means through which Indigenous resistance and decolonization efforts are organized and manifested. This has been traced to the tendency in Indigenous resistance to utilize the tool of the blockade (Repin, 2012, p.166), but in recent years, and in their conflicts with Canada, warriors have become much more of a multi-dimensional player. No longer simply a physical manifestation of resistance to colonialism, nor a one-dimensional reflection of the Red Power movement of the 1960s-1980s, the Indigenous warrior is a significant political force in contemporary relations between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian state.

Despite this shift, however, warriors and warrior societies face difficult challenges to their claims of being the legitimate and traditional sacred protectors of Indigenous interests. This essay suggests that these challenges are gendered and hinge on problematic notions of hyperviolent masculinity imposed upon Indigenous communities by a Canadian state determined to dilute the decolonizing potential embodied in the role of the warrior. This imposition of a colonial version of masculine identity is accomplished through a strategy which manipulates the false binary of the noble and peaceful savage, and the wild and wanton warrior.

Informed by sociologist Raewyn Connell's concept of hegemonic masculinity, and against the backdrop of Rexton, here we peer through the lens of critical masculinity studies in order to comprehend this dilemma more fully and consider what might be done about it. We begin with a look at the role of the Mi'kmaq warriors during the 2013 shale gas resistance at Rexton NB with an eye to making visible how the role of warrior in decolonization and resistance is changing. We then move on to uncover the rich complexity of the role of Indigenous warrior though an analysis of the warrior's role as established in the Great Law of Peace, and later expanded upon by leaders of the Red Power movement such as Louis Hall. After becoming familiar with the traditional role of the warrior, a historical narrative from the western expansion of the Canadian state, known as The Frog Lake Massacre, demonstrates how a dominant colonial version of history can undergird the manipulation of Indigenous masculine gender identity politics and undermine the political legitimacy of the warrior. Finally, we conclude with summarizing what is currently being done to address this dilemma, and what might be done in the future.

The Warrior Politics of the Shale Gas Protests

Before embarking on our exposition of how the traditional role of the warrior has been manipulated by the Canadian state through masculine gender identity politics, we will linger on some of the actions taken by warriors during the Rexton shale gas protests as a way to highlight their distinctly political character. Here we raise just two examples. The first is the example of the Mi'kmaq Warrior Society's illfated attempt to seek the protection of the Canadian military (Barrera, 2013). …

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