Another Loss for Social Justice

Dacajeweiah (Splitting the Sky, also known by his colonial name John Boncore Hill) has passed away. He will not receive anything approaching the number of eulogies in print that the recently passed away Hugo Chávez received; however, that does not mean he shouldn’t receive as many. Reverence among progressives is not confined to leftist statesmen and women; it belongs equally with the people who slog hard and resist in the trenches.

I met Dacajeweiah at the Halifax International Symposium on Media and Disinformation.1 His appearance, with his solid frame and flowing mane, was – aside from the spectacles — fiercely indigenous. He was the most impressive orator that I have ever met or heard. He possessed a keen mind on the subject matter he discussed, and no one would nod off during such a fiery, encompassing presentation.

I only spoke to him in person during the long weekend of the symposium, but we corresponded by email now and then afterwards. He was an engaging and approachable person who seemed willing to share his knowledge and views to all people.

Dac, as he was called, lived a life filled with experiences that dwarf that of so many people who make a living with nary a concern for what happens outside their bubble.

He was the only person put on trial for the notorious put down of a prisoner rebellion at New York’s Attica State prison. Dac – a Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk) warrior — fought for Indigenous rights and eventually was involved in theresistance to the Canadian state’s clampdown on an Indigenous spiritual ceremony, the Sundance, in the unsurrendered Stswecem’c/Xgat’tem (Canoe Creek Band) territory of Ts’peten (Gustafsen Lake) in 1995. The provincial government (headed at that time by a so-called social democratic party, the New Democratic Party) brought the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in and militarized the conflict with armored personnel carriers, helicopters, tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, and — it is alleged – land mines.

Eventually the occupation at Ts’peten ended with the arrests of 18 Ts’peten Defenders. The provincial government brought the weight of the law against the Ts’peten Defenders abetted by a smear campaign launched by the RCMP to demonize the Indigenous resistance.

RCMP chief negotiator sgt. Dennis Ryan is caught on a RCMP management team video relating orders from supt. Len Olfert about the lawyer for the Ts’peten Defenders, Dr. Bruce Clark: “Kill this Clark and smear the prick and everyone with him.”2

Thirteen of the Ts’peten Defenders were found guilty. Former US attorney general Ramsey Clark had harsh words for the BC judicial process, saying of judge Nicholas Friesen: “The appearance of injustice in your conduct was atrocious. … Your own words expose both animus and imperious abuse of judicial power.”

The judicial process was also considered dubious in the United States as evidenced by the case of James Pitawanakwat, one of Ts’peten Defenders who was sentenced to three years in jail for endangering life. Pitawanakwat while on day parole crossed the border into the US. There he successfully fought extradition to Canada to finish his sentence, becoming the only “Canadian” ever granted political asylum in the US.

Dac’s activism, however, was not confined to Onkwehonwe (Original Peoples — Dac taught me that this was a proper term of respect to the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island). He was a social justice activist in the widest range of the meaning. He resisted the disinformation surrounding what happened on 9-11. He resisted the classism bound up in neoliberalism and the murder and pillage of foreign lands by hyperempire. He was a lone person who had the balls to attempt a citizen’s arrest of the mega-war criminal George W. Bush when the ex-president made an appearance in Calgary, AB, Canada. Dac said he would have attempted the same citizen’s arrest of the war criminal Barack Obama if the opportunity had arisen.

RIP Dacajeweiah.3

  1. See Kim Petersen, “Disinformation: A Crime Against Humanity and a Crime Against Peace,” Press Action, 17 February 2005. []
  2. This is viewable on the video titled Above the Law Part 2. []
  3. For more on Dacajeweiah see Kim Petersen, “The Struggle for Original People’s Title,” Dissident Voice, 7 April 2008.

    By all means read The Autobiography of Dacajeweiah [Splitting the Sky] John Boncore Hill: From Attica to Gustafsen Lake — Unmasking the Secrets of the Psycho-sexual Energy and the Struggle for Original People’s Title by Dacajeweiah (Splitting the Sky) aka John Boncore Hill with She Keeps the Door (Sandra Bruderer). []

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.