On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Jana-Rae Yerxa and Damien Lee talk about the work of the Biskaabiiyang Collective in the face of both longstanding and recently intensified racism and settler colonialism in Thunder Bay.
Thunder Bay is a small city on the north shore of Lake Superior, in northwestern Ontario. Like pretty much everywhere in Canada, racism has long been a daily reality for residents of the city who are not white. Like most communities with roots in resource extraction industries, the racism faced by indigenous people in the city has always had a particular charcter and intensity. In the last six months, though, there has been a significant upsurge in racism in the city.
Yerxa is from Couchiching First Nation and lives in Thunder Bay, and Lee is from Fort William First Nation, which is right next to the city. In response to this recent upsurge, they and a number other Anishinaabeg people in the city have formed the Biskaabiiyang Collective. They organized a teach-in for indigenous people in the city to discuss racism and settler colonialism and equip themselves to better respond to it in ways grounded in Anishinaabeg traditions, political orders, and philosophy. They have been providing some loose input to a group of settlers — that is, non-indigenous people in the city — who have been organizing separately to respond to the racism. And they have been clearly naming the inadequacy of the official responses, which have amounted to a focus on educating white people about indigenous people, with little or no attention to racism and white supremacy as structural things, and no mention at all of white supremacy as a tool of settler colonialism. Yerxa and Lee talk with me about the situation in Thunder Bay, about the work of the Biskaabiiyang Collective, and about what needs to happen to challenge white supremacy and settler colonialism.
To learn more about the Biskaabiiyang Collective, you can follow them on Twitter.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit the recently revamped website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.
Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.