Defenders of the Land is a network of Indigenous communities and activists that stretches across Canada. It includes Elders and youth, women and men, was founded in Winnipeg in 2008.
According to the group’s website, Defenders is the ‘only’ organization of its kind. The group is:
- Free of government or corporate funding
- Dedicated to building a fundamental movement for Indigenous rights.
From their website:
“We reject the extinguishment of Aboriginal title through treaty, and any interpretations of historical treaties which falsely claim, against the united voices of our elders and ancestors, that we have extinguished title to our traditional territories.”
On June 24, 2010, the day before G20 summit in Toronto, Defenders of the Land and other Indigenous groups, marched in protest against the hosting of the summit on stolen native (Mississauga) soil and made the following demands:
1. Canada must adopt and fully implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
2. Canada must change its Comprehensive Land Claims policy
3. Canada must stop criminalizing Indigenous Peoples for defending their rights
4. Canada and the provinces must take coordinated action to investigate the ongoing murders and disappearances of Aboriginal women
5. Canada must comply with our right to say no to all activities on Indigenous territories that commodify the sacred: air, land, water, animals, plant and genetic materials, and our traditional ecological knowledge.
The march drew some media attention, but ended up being overshadowed by the G20 riots. The use of media by Defenders (a website, You Tube postings) has been met with limited public engagement. Despite the group’s ambitious agenda, Defenders of the Land is not widely recognized in Canada. Some in the left wing media, impressed by the activist agenda of this group, have tried to increase the profile of Defenders; however, this type of publicity and promotion has not been very successful. The group is a good illustration of how unconventional Aboriginal groups can end up being marginalized by the mainstream media.