Last week (Feb. 9), an all-white jury in Saskatchewan, Canada found a white farmer named Gerald Stanley not guilty for the murder of Colten Boushie, a Cree man. The case has spurred massive responses across Canada and indigenous communities throughout Turtle Island, the territory of what is now known as North America.
The verdict and aftermath of the trial has reminded us once again how colonial justice systems are designed to protect settlers from consequences of their violence and genocide. Instead of being held legally and morally accountable for the death of Boushie, Stanley walks free and is potentially being paid upwards of $160,000 by a GoFundMe campaign for slaying an indigenous man in front of his friends and family.
Details of the case conflict in Stanley and other witness’ accounts range from accusations of intent to steal Stanley’s vehicles to Boushie seeking help after his vehicle broke down nearby. One constant remains in the many arguments of defense for Stanley: He was protecting his property.
The concept of private property was introduced to Turtle Island upon the arrival of settlers. The foundation of settler colonialism lies in both the mythology that North America was uninhabited and the relentless operation of European settlers to turn land into profit. Settler colonialism has thus enacted a five hundred year genocide of the original people of this continent.
People rehash this tired narrative of Indigenous people “trespassing” on the land that our ancestors have maintained a relationship with for over 10,000 years whenever a justification for indigenous execution is needed. Land has become a weapon of settlers’ robust arsenal to enact violence on indigenous bodies, communities, and existence.
Indigenous epistemology and knowledge have informed us for generations that we inhabit the territories given to us through migration and creation stories. As Duane Champagne, a native sociologist from Indian Country Today Media Network, asserted: “People belong to the land; land doesn’t belong to the people.”
The death of Colten Boushie is the culmination of settlers’ attempts to erase Indigenous peoples from our territories. The justice system has not failed; it has succeeded in asserting settler dominance. The selection of an all-white jury and a white judge presiding over the case of a white farmer murdering an Indigenous man is the exact formula that the system was designed with, in order to place power in the hands of settlers.
Borders and land divisions are the only thing separating the Cree Red Pheasant First Nation and the indigenous peoples of the United States of America. As I navigate the Claremont Colleges in the wake of Colten Boushie’s death, I am prompted to confront the parallels of my people’s history and the history of First Nations in Canada.
Our prestigious colleges are nestled in the confines of a settler state that functions every day to erase Indigenous peoples. Yet, our Indigenous students and allies lead resistance by carving out spaces for us on campus; this week is no exception. Thursday, Feb. 22, the Queer Resource Center of the Claremont Colleges in collaboration with the Red Circle Project will hold a screening of “Two Spirits,” a film that coincides with the reoccuring tragedy of losing our Indigenous youth.
“Two Spirits” follows the beautiful and devastating journey of a Navajo teenager named Fred Martinez, who identified as nádleehí, a male-bodied person with a feminine spirit and nature.
The screening comes at a painful time for us Indigenous students that are being bombarded with racist, colonial media from coverage of Colten Boushie’s murder to random social media users inflicting violent stereotypes and language on our pages and accounts.
The QRC event will consist of a panel with myself and other Two-Spirit Indigenous peoples, hopefully spurring a conversation about recent events in Indian country on the international media stage.
I hold my hands up to Colten Boushie and the countless Indigenous peoples around the world that remain resilient.
Carolann Duro SC ’20 is a sociology major interested in decolonization and digital art. You can find them trying to beat Zelda on the Switch.