SLEEP OF REASON
From: Deborah Simmons
I bring terrible news that Dave Brophy, member of the Winnipeg Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement, member of the New Socialist Group, and dear friend, has suddenly died. I first met Dave at a political study group in Winnipeg in the summer of 2004. He had been a supporter of the blockade against clearcutting in Grassy Narrows territory since its inception in December 2002. He was clearly outraged by injustices that he had witnessed in building solidarity with the Anishinaabe people of Grassy Narrows, and was struggling to come to grips with what history and theory can teach about strategies for social change that could address oppression and environmental destruction. He came to the conclusion that the system of profit and competition that is capitalism is the root of these destructive forms. His knowledge of indigenous communal traditions inspired him to fight for an alternative society.
Dave's dedication to both activist movement building and the battle of ideas was remarkable in a milieu where it has been the fashion to adopt radicalism as individual lifestyle choice rather than a collective way of making history. Dave was an outstanding and passionate organizer, always willing take on the thankless behind the scenes tasks. For this he was much appreciated by his women comrades. If he believed in a political event, he would work tirelessly to making it a rousing success regardless of whether others were able to help. One of his great successes was the Winnipeg launch of Sheila Wilmot's book Taking Responsibility, Taking Direction: White Anti-Racism in Canada on April 29, 2006. Dave was determined to use the book as an occasion to carve out a space for discussion and debate about strategies for building solidarity, so he single-handedly raised funds to bring Wilmot to Winnipeg, and postered the entire city to promote the event. His hard work paid off; more than fifty people packed the room, and there was a lively discussion that built new bonds of trust and solidarity among a unique mix of anti-racists. This was a critical counterpoint to the increasing racism being stirred up by the media and police under cover of an anti-crime campaign in the city. Dave was highly respected by many indigenous activists in the city, who knew they could always rely on his support when needed.
I very much regret that Dave was not able to attend a Wasáse gathering. This new radical indigenous movement was a dream come true for Dave, who recognized that true solidarity in the battle for indigenous self-determination is only possible under the leadership of a radical indigenous movement. And he was very much honoured that Taiaiake Alfred invited him to mentor other young solidarity activists at the founding gathering of the Wasáse movement. Dave would have been a strong champion of the strategic discussions now taking place among Wasáse members and supporters about anarchist and socialist strategies for addressing oppression, since such discussions would shed light on his own political experiments.
Most importantly, Dave wanted to bring together his political life and his personal life. He was conscious of his positioning as a white person and a man, and made special efforts to practice respect for others. As a friend, he was generous to a fault. I've been wishing that I could recruit him to work with me in the Northwest Territories, where I knew that he'd be instantly liked by my indigenous collaborators for his humility, sense of humour, and willingness to work hard -- physically and intellectually. It is rare to find a non-indigenous person who has such an ability to bridge cultural and social divides.
Dave was wrestling with dark demons in the months before his death. The lonely burden of building radical movements during this period of apathy, quiescence and despair was often too much to bear. He was one of those countless people in Manitoba -- and in Canada -- who fell through the cracks of the underfunded social welfare system. This is despite his great capacities and talents. He was excessively modest, so I had to learn about several of his achievements from his mother. He was an outstanding basketball player and athlete; he played guitar; he was an accomplished academic who had recently completed his Masters Degree based on fieldwork with indigenous communities in Peru. He had hoped to return to Peru to present the results of his research to the communities.
This is a time for mourning the loss of a great comrade whose candle burned too bright and too brief. But it is also a time for those of us who share his politics to renew our commitment to building the kind of radical resistance and solidarity that Dave dreamed of -- the kind of collective resistance that can lead to revolution. In this way we will keep alive Dave's memory, and the memory of countless other victims of this brutal capitalist system.
Condolences can be sent to [email protected] please cc: [email protected] The attached photo of Dave preparing signs for the Winnipeg Caledonia protest is from The Drum. Dave's three-part series of articles about Indigenous struggle in what is now known as Northwestern Ontario can be found online. The first article, in the Feb/March/April 2005 issue of New Socialist Magazine, provided some history of the relationship between the Anishinaabe and the Canadian state during the years leading up to and following the signing of Treaty 3 in 1873, including the Canadian state's violations of the agreement and the state-led campaign to destroy the Anishinaabe's indigenous economy. The second article, in the May/June 2005 issue of NS, examined how the Canadian state continues to undermine the livelihoods of the Anishinaabe and the political factors that are shaping Grassy Narrows' present fight for their lands. The final article, in the July/August issue of NS, looked at the Friends of Grassy Narrows, the group now called Winnipeg Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement, which works in solidarity with the Anishinaabe. A summary of Dave's Masters research in the rural Indigenous community of Choquecancha in the region of Cuzco, Peru entitled North-South, First World-Fourth World Engagement: Working towards Solidarity is posted on the University of Manitoba Environmental Conservation Laboratory site. Dave's article on the Seventh Generation Earth Day Walk: Celebrating Mother Earth and Her Caretakers and Protectors that took place on April 22 was published online by Winnipeg Indymedia. His article analyzing the politics of the recent Assembly of First Nations Day of Action June 29th: Day of Action or Launching Pad for Sustained Campaign of Political Confrontation? was published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (Manitoba office) Youth Voices.