On Burning Tires and the Mi’kmaq Anti-Fracking Resistance

Women warriors at a tire fire blockade on Hwy 11, Dec 2, 2013.

Women warriors at a tire fire blockade on Hwy 11, Dec 2, 2013.

by Zig Zag, Warrior Publications, Dec 4, 2013

After three women were injured by an SWN vehicle on Monday Dec 2, and 11 people arrested by the RCMP, Mi’kmaq warriors established several burning tire blockades on Highway 11.  The fires burned into the night and served to delay SWN vehicles from proceeding with their exploratory testing.  Because it has been an effective tactic, another burning tire blockade has been established today.

Establishing another tire fire blockade on Dec 4, 2013.

Establishing another tire fire blockade on Dec 4, 2013.

Many people are commenting on social media about the toxic effects of burning tires, and portraying this action as hypocritical for land defenders to engage in.  The vast majority of these people, of course, are not present at the blockades but sitting comfortably at their computer keyboards.    I doubt most have ever been in a serious confrontation with riot police or faced daily assaults as the Mi’kmaq have.

Piqueteros in Argentina establishing a fire tire blockade, 2000.

Piqueteros in Argentina establishing a fire tire blockade, 2000.

Tire fires are commonly used by resistance movements because they are effective in shutting down transportation routes, such as roads and highways.  The piqueteros in Argentina, for example, used tire fire blockades extensively in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  They would arrive at major highways, roads or streets, place tires in the street and set them on fire.  They would remain until police mobilized a large enough force that threatened the blockade and then disperse.  Through coordinated actions they were able to paralyze much of the transportation infrastructure during major mobilizations.

If you think the Mi'kmaq tire fires are bad, check out this massive one set by Red Shirts in Thailand, 2010.

If you think the Mi’kmaq tire fires are bad, check out this massive one set by Red Shirts in the downtown financial district of Bangkok, Thailand, 2010.

The main complaint being expressed by detractors of this tactic is that it is bad for the environment.   Some are clearly attempting to undermine the Mi’kmaq resistance by portraying this as a hypocritical act: fighting toxic pollution by lighting toxic fires.  But the effects of tire fires, while producing toxic fumes, is minor compared to the devastation that fracking would cause to land and water.

Tire fire blockade at Six Nations, April 2006.

Tire fire blockade at Six Nations, April 2006.

The idea being expressed, that the warriors don’t care about the environment, is laughable.  They have been fighting for months against SWN’s exploratory testing, enduring police assaults and arrests, pepper spray, and bean bag rounds.  They are doing this to defend their land and water.

Mi'kmaq warriors on Hwy 11, Dec 4, 2013.

Mi’kmaq warriors on Hwy 11, Dec 4, 2013.

There are many more serious causes of toxic pollution than a few dozen tires set on fire on a rural highway.  The daily commute of vehicles along highways, roads and city streets alone causes far more pollution than the Mi’kmaq tire fire blockades.  So too do many industrial practises, such as factories producing a wide variety of products from toilet paper to the Tar Sands in northern Alberta.  Before people start complaining and second-guessing the Mi’kmaq’s tactics, they should go out and stop some of these vastly more environmentally destructive practises.

Update: Shale gas protest closes Highway 11 again

Protesters burning tires, RCMP rerouting traffic

CBC News, Dec 04, 2013

Anti-shale gas protesters have blocked Highway 11 near Rexton again, say RCMP.

Burning tires and pallets are stretched across the highway.

RCMP have closed the highway between exits 57 and 64. Traffic is being rerouted and motorists are being advised to expect delays.

Police also arrested one protester for mischief earlier in the day. They say the man was in the middle of the road, impeding traffic.

On Monday, about 100 protesters blocked the highway for several hours with a tire fire after a judge agreed to extend SWN Resources Canada’s injunction to keep protesters from interfering with the company’s exploration work in the area.

Under the terms of the injunction, protesters must stay 20 metres away from the side of roads where the company is working and 250 metres away from the front or back of its trucks.

SWN Resources now has until Dec. 17 to complete its seismic mapping of the area.


Posted on December 4, 2013, in Defending Territory, Oil & Gas, Warrior. Bookmark the permalink. 43 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on HaifischGeweint.

  2. go warriors go if i had ways to deliver more tires for yas i would as i see no more ill effect on environment anywhere comparable to what fracking and oil corporations release to the air and ground on a hourly basis STAND TALL -STAND PROUD !!!!

  3. Reblogged this on The Uncontrollable Ones.

  4. Hello, I am posting a link to your story at http://www.cultureofclimatechange.org.
    Thank you for the powerful story.

  5. Assinine to pollute the air with filthy black residue. I suppose now the’ll blame the government for their bronchial attacks.

    • Maybe they could, since it’s the government sending in their pig police to assault them and which has given authorization to SWN to do its exploratory testing, all of which has led to this ongoing confrontation.

  6. We well never stand down cuz this is our home and noone gonna take that from all of as

  7. And thank u mike

  8. Considering today someone shared a racist quote saying that we white people take everything while others have none, it appears that they have in fact, made this quote null and void.

    I know someone who can’t afford 4 winter tires for her car. It now appears that there is an excess number of tires being burned, while she goes without.

    Shame on all of you.

    • This comment is ridiculous. Do you actually think the warriors are going out and buying up brand new winter tires to burn on the highway? Some of them can hardly afford socks and gloves. They are obviously using old, worn out and discarded tires. Shame on you for being so stupid.

    • I’d bet good money those tires are unfit to be put on a vehicle.

    • Anonymous coward troll makes a very good point on our behalf, so despite the fact that this troll does not have the courage to speak those words to my face or to any of the people you oppress, your comments being they are based on ignorance are honest and quite transparent. But at least you did make them, I encourage people to speak their minds all the time, just so I can get an accurate picture as to what, if anything, is going on between their ears. You see not being from the Canadian culture myself, I chose not to judge people on their appearance but what is in their hearts and on their minds. So let’s dissect.

      The cowardly troll statement, ‘Considering today someone shared a racist quote saying that we white people take everything while others have none, it appears that they have in fact, made this quote null and void.’ Human beings can be trained or taught to form a sentence but that in no way is any indication that the writer themselves having any intellect or their having any moral values or understanding of what they are attempting to speak about, as this sentence clearly points out. The troll is completely unaware of the actual definition of racism, and this is likely due to the writer being a racist. Racism is not saying or writing, ‘white people take everything while others have none’, that is a statement of fact based upon the racist beliefs and activities of anglo skinned people who have used their race based oppression to marginalize, kill, occupy, oppress, conquer, enslave and destroy non-white skinned people, and the planet. Therefore stating the fact that the racist culture is taking everything at the expense of all other life on the earth is not racist, it is a reflection of the problem we are all struggling against today and since they migrated onto other peoples territories, into their homes, lives and began to destroy them without reservation simply because they believe their skin pigment gives them the right. Oh and genitalia, they do not consider women of any value either which is highly disturbing.

      The fact that this apparently white person became so butt hurt by that statement shows us all how the spoiled privileged class who created the class system respond to non-harmful, fact based statements about their class oppression system. The reasoning of the coward troll seems to be this, despite the fact that I am part of a parasitical culture who uses racism and genocide to improve my privileged lifestyle at the expense of all other life I now see myself as so special it is not okay to hurt my superior race feelings in anyway, that that is unfair and not allowed. What is fair, apparently, is the ongoing enslavement and oppression that is serving their interests, while at the same time stealing resources from the people who own the land in order to fund their lives of privilege, but also subject the non-white and to a large extent, non-male human beings to lives of marginalization and misery, yet we are not suppose to be allowed to discuss this reality in order to try and create new fair and reasonable societies to replace the systems that only serve a few. Honestly, being a non-racist myself, I am concerned about the children of these people, about the anglo’s who are yet to be born. Those children do not decide to be born with what is described as white skin, it isn’t really, but they are likely to be condemned for it because of the egregious behaviour and due to the mistakes of their ancestors. I don’t believe in penalizing individuals for matters beyond their control, like their appearance and sex upon being born, but that is what the current culture promotes as reasonable and just. They fail however to understand that that culturally designed element can and likely will be flipped against them at some point therefore they would be wise, if they loved their children to work towards eradicating the very practice from their culture and our Mother, it is sick and stupid to keep it going.

      The latter part of their statement, ‘it appears that they have in fact, made this quote null and void.’ is pointless to the reader. The reason that was written as such was for the benefit of the writer, they believe they are smart and are out to prove it. Ego and greed are the two harmful elements of colonialism and colonial people, they are driven by both in foolish selfish quest to prove to themselves and the rest of us that they are better than everything and everyone else and are destroying everything including themselves in the process. They got themselves more stuff than anyone else because they are smarter than anyone else due to this they are right and we are all wrong simply on their say so. One cannot communicate with closed minded arrogance, but we do have to be aware of it and not accept it. Don’t waste energy on these people, but do not ignore them either, let them speak and share their ignorance it is good to learn from the mistakes of others so human beings can learn and through learning mistakes of this magnitude won’t be repeated in the future.

      The middle sentence in this troll attack ventures into retardation on a new level that has already been addressed by our host. It was more snivelling from the spoiled and ignorant, nothing more.

      The closing sentence is nothing more than a good laugh considering the fabric of the two previous.

      Finally and most importantly I have to pass on my gratitude to Zig Zag, you not only make me proud to be Salish, you make me proud to be a human being. You give us all hope that despite our inferior species activities we can turn it around a bring ourselves out of the mire we have cast ourselves into. ?ul-nu-msh-chalap

  9. enough is enough dont you think what if they bring in the army and some people get kill by the army what will people do then the goverment dont care if we dont want them to not francking or to do it because they are going to to do what they want to do so people should just stoop protesting and setting fire on everything and just go on with there life

    • Thanks for your declaration of surrender, but thankfully you do not speak for all of us. If they send in the army, which is unlikely, and if there was a fatality among the people, you would most likely see a further radicalization of Indigenous resistance in this country. That’s why during Oka 1990, despite sending in the military, there was no use of lethal force because Canada feared it would spark an Indigenous uprising across the country. I’m sure the Mi’kmaq would love to “just go on with their life,” why don’t you to talk to SWN and the RCMP and get them the frack out of Mi’kmaq territory?

  10. John Fucking Smith

    Fuckin stupid indians, makes me want to burn my status card on the road. Its for your children! No its to stroke your ego, to make your self have a sense of purpose. Raise your kids, get a job, or even help clean up the drug problems in your community. There are causes out there that need actual attention, more than something as stupid as this, you’ve lost. In the beginning some were rooting for you, but now you have individuals doing dumb shit like this; if there is a need to dramatically explain your actions then change your tactics. If the majority of your people think you’re as big a joke as i do now, well good luck getting a government to take you seriously.

    • And along comes the most colonized Native; it’s ironic you chose to use the name “John Smith,” one of the first European colonizers on the Atlantic coast. You clearly do not comprehend the gravity of the situation, and as for the government–they are clearly taking the Mi’kmaq resistance very seriously. They wouldn’t spend $4.3 million so far on policing costs if they didn’t.

  11. People really dont get it do they!! Let’s stop fracking for even a week and see what happens we need oil for so many things people always wanna protest the enviromental bull shit but they don’t see both sides of it !!! Theres way worse things wrecking the damn environment and there working on a better way so relax!!

    • Uhh, I agree people really don’t get it, but I would include yourself in this statement as well. The only reason “there [sic] working on a better way” is because people stand up and resist the destruction of their land and water, just as the Mi’kmaq are doing.

    • This link suggests that human rights groups condemn those who burn tires at blockades. Are you serious “b”? We need to keep things in perspective; a few burning tires is not comparable to the burning of thousands of tires which would obviously cause substantial toxic effects on the environment.

      • come on Zig Zag … to quote his one sentence after paragraphs of outlining facts re impacts of tire burning: ” So my question to all Human Rights Organisations, Environmentalists, Amnesty International UK and Health Awareness groups, why are you not coming down hard on these tire burners in the same way that you do with the security force of Bahrain …”

      • Because this sentence reveals the authors reactionary intent in detailing the toxic effects of burning tires as a means of undermining the resistance in the streets. Again, burning some tires on a highway is minor compared to the dangers of fracking or say, the Tar Sands, or the repressive actions of the security forces in Bahrain. If Natives around Fort McMurray established burning tire blockades to shutdown the Tar Sands, would you be so idiotic to say that they were “as bad” as the corporations running the Tar Sands? Should we extend this ridiculous argument and say that the Mi’kmaq shouldn’t drive cars to transport warriors to the blockade because that also creates pollution, and therefore they’re as bad as SWN?

  12. and yes, i have been an activists for over 30 years; and yes, i had to learn a lot re what DA tactics to use and had to change many of times; and yes, i have many violent confrontations with ‘authorities’ in several countries; and yes, i do support all other aspects of your action and hope you will stay safe; do realize that the argument ‘others have done so’ does not make burning tires less toxic (really, anything you say does not make it less toxic or ok to burn tires) – and, the toxic effect will be passed on to your future children and affects wildlife, plants, trees, water (surface and underground) for many years to come. so, maybe you can find another material/prop

    • As has been said before, why don’t you go and stop all the commuter traffic flowing in and out of a major city located near to you before you start criticizing the Mi’kmaq for using what means are available to them? One daily commute of thousands of vehicles causes more pollution than a few tires burned. The link you posted from Lex Birch calls for human rights groups to condemn people who burn tires at road blocks. As an activist for “over 30 years” you agree with that BS? You suggest the Mi’kmaq find other materials to burn, well let’s hear what your suggestions are. You’re not there, you’re not facing the RCMP assaults, so unless you have real practical advice I would suggest you re-direct your energy to stopping the RCMP and SWN activities if you truly are in solidarity with the Mi’kmaq.

      • too bad you are only reading/paraphrasing one part or the article – my point was the quite well researched and summarised health effects – i guess you do not speak spanish? the Peruvian article also points to the dire health effects …
        as well, what is/was your goal with the DA? to draw attention to fracking and get support to stop it? or to ‘vent’ your anger against the injustice (social and environmental) that fracking creates? if the former, you have lost that. if the latter, you have probably succeeded but unfortunately harmed yourself, your future children and non-human life in the area of the burns. re if i agree with Lex Brich’s call for HR groups to condemn the tactic: i am against ‘condemning’ any people/activists who put their lives on the line (whether literally or symbolically), but do think that talk including respectful critique, around tactics should be encouraged so we can learn from each other, even if that means that a particular tactic might have to be ditched in the future.
        Re “why don’t you go and stop all the commuter traffic flowing in and out of a major city located near to you before you start criticizing “: i actually have blocked highways/commuter flows via DA many times in several cities/countries – unfortunately only for hours at a time until we were arrested/those who did not want to get arrested (for whatever reasons incl. not believing in the justice system) stepped away. I have put myself in front of trains carrying nuclear waste, blocked dirty industry gates (and had to deal with aggressive thugs hired by industry in addition to redneck cops) among many many other actions …. Please show some respect and do not right away think negatively of a person just because they comment on a DA tactic. if i would not care about the injustice towards FNs/indigenous ppls and the enourmous destruction of the environment by a few capitalists, why would i take the time to research, comment?
        and ” One daily commute of thousands of vehicles causes more pollution than a few tires burned.”: 20-30 years ago maybe; now, no: have you looked at the toxic cocktail that is created when tires are burnt? have you researched the health effects ppl (and in particular their children) in the Middle East, India etc have had to deal with from burning tires (it is a very heavily used protester tactic there, used by all sides not just eco-activists /anarchists there too)?
        sometimes, we have to capitulate for the moment when we do not have the right props to continue a DA, and use the time to be creative and find ways to come back stronger.
        last not least, you do realise that if the RCMP wants to, they have vehicles eg snowploughs available that could easily remove a tire fire from a street?

      • No one is debating whether or not tire fires are toxic, what is being debated is that of scale; a few burned tires versus stopping an industrial project that will permanently destroy a region’s water and contaminate the land.
        What are the goals of the Mi’kmaq tire fire blockades? Well, the two options you suggest are typical of liberal reformist types, as if direct action is only carried out to “get support” or “vent one’s anger.” Hey, here’s a novel idea: direct action to actually stop something, in this case SWN’s exploratory work.
        You’re suggesting that the Mi’kmaq stop the tire fires because they don’t have the right “props” for a direct action is basically saying they should surrender. Clearly for many of them that is not an option.
        As for the RCMP, do you realize that if it was so easy for the RCMP to drive a snowplough to the blockades and remove them then that is exactly what they would do? Obviously it is not so easy. And if they did another tire fire blockade could be easily set up at another location. It is because tire fire blockades are so quick and easy to establish, by people with little resources, that they are so common.

  13. tell ya what – whoever is concerned about burning tires, why don’t you get your butt out there and stand beside the warriors protecting your rights…and stay there for as long as the Warriors are there. Chances are greater than NOT, whomever y’all are, are too cosy to really take a stand, aside from spewing bullshit assumptions and opinions and yes, we are all entitled to an opinion but justifiably sit your on pompous ass, rationalizing aristocratic ideology back and forth, while the Warriors are being arrested, harassed and risking everything they have for you, so you can sit on your ass and wait to vote? Interesting… while you are waiting to vote for all YOUR freedom and rights, WOMEN, youth, Elders and men are standing up for your rights! I HAVE A WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE on and about the frontline warriors throughout the WORLD and there are many, check it out, sacredspiritofwater.com and http://www.sacredspiritofwater.com, so, with all due respect, please politely pull your head out of your ass or get off your high horse and put your body on the front line, as thousands are doing throughout the WORLD and the WORLD is watching and if your pompous ass knew what you were talking about, you would see #Elsipogtog is cheered on Globally and #Elsipogtog is a LOVED AND SUPPORTED by Globally, albiet, not so much by some cozy Canucks arrogantly justifying covert racism and out right bullshit while the Warriors are freezing and risking their lives for y’all! Have a nice day and cup a tea folks and hey, while I’m at it, FRACK OFF…you really just don’t get it do ya? No prob, we was raised different…respecting ppl means standing up for your rights, for the earth, water, future generations so, like the warrior women, youth, Elders and men are, and many of the ppl in your region…if all you can contribute is your drivel – practise what you preach and show some respect!!! jus saying….

    water, anti-fracking, reject Omnibus bills, no bill 45, no bill 38,
    3 minutes ago · Like · Remove Preview

    Morningstar Maengun FYI, with no funding, I produced the film in the homepage, if you have time in your busy schedules, watch the film, it might help ya…
    about a minute ago · Like

    water, anti-fracking, reject Omnibus bills, no bill 45, no bill 38,
    about an hour ago · Like · 1 · Remove Preview

    Morningstar Maengun the reason I usually do not engage in debates, 1. I don’t have time 2. I rather remain focused on honoring and encouraging the warriors on the frontline and all those behind the scene and there are many..throughout the world.. keeping it real

  14. i recommend Taiaiake Alfred’s Wasáse: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom. for example: He situates his politics of contention close to Gandhi’s strategy of non-cooperation. Clearly, the state cannot be defeated on violent (military) terms, but its authority can be contested. To control the anger and frustration that many Onkwehonwe feel, the ethics of the true warrior must prevail: restraint and mental discipline and the “ethics of spiritual and physical courage” (p.54).

    • Taiaiake’s “Wasase” movement promotes Gandhian nonviolence while neglecting to consider some important facts. In India, the Indians were a huge majority population compared to a small elite of British rulers and military forces. They could through strikes and boycotts etc shut the economic and political system’s down. This is not the situation in Canada. He also neglects to mention, as do many pacifists, that alongside Gandhi’s peaceful protests were radical and militant groups, armed resistance, large-scale riots, sabotage and rebellion. India’s “liberation” in fact occurred after the widespread destruction that Western European colonial powers experienced as a result of WW2, after which they were faced with armed rebellions that they could no longer contain. If you’d like to read more critiques of Wasase and the myths perpetuated by pacifists, you can check these links out:

  15. hey, those are 2 excellent analyses, well researched and supported by valid arguments. I see his book as a call to the assimilated indigenous ppls, and interpreted his particular method of action, resistance, and insurgence too be based on something like martial arts philosophy – you use your physical ‘know-how’ as a defense mechanism, and your spiritual and intellectual wisdom and knowledge for guidance, self-preservation, collectivism/community building/mobilisation efforts. and i understood his reasoning as mainly a self-preservation act, as we all know that the state (here Canada) reserve the right to the monopoly of violence to be in the hands of the state only – everyone else will be crushed.
    you do realise that i have been against burning tires because of the health impact on the Activists and surrounding non-human life? similar to blowing up an oil pipe, or an industrial or nuclear plant. it will cause too much damage to innocent humans and non-humans to be used as a tactic, one has to come up with smarter ideas. i have not said anything re tire burning or road blocking equating to violence against the industrialist types or RCMP but see it as self-inflicted violence – it will affect the activists who inhaled the smoke even if it is just for an hour.
    thanks for pointing me to the 2 analyses – 2 very good reads!

    • Well if the Mi’kmaq want to burn tires as a tactic to stop SWN and the potential fracking of their land, in their territory, that’s up to them. It’s not for us to judge them or their actions, instead we should be carrying out solidarity with them. Publicly denouncing the tire fires for whatever reason only undermines their resistance, even if you believe you have good intentions. I don’t think anyone disagrees that tire fires are toxic and dangerous to your health, but clearly the Mi’kmaq warriors have decided that it is a risk worth taking to defend their land and water.

  16. Seriously I hope Harper shuts down the reservations, removes native status and our military comes through and shuts this bs down!

    • Seriously, I don’t think you have a clue as to what you’re talking about. The government’s long-term plan has always been to “shut down” the reservations and remove Native status, it’s called a strategy of assimilation. As for the military being deployed, Canada tried that in 1990 and faced a potential Native uprising across the country. That would make a few burning tires on a highway seem very small in comparison, and the Canadian military would be unable to contain such an uprising.

  17. enough is enough dont you think what if they bring in the army and some people get kill by the army what will people do then the goverment dont care if we dont want them to not francking or to do it because they are going to to do what they want to do so people should just stoop protesting and setting fire on everything and just go on with there life

    • Ok chicken little, perhaps you should put more thought into the situation yourself. If fracking wells are set up the water and land will be contaminated. People will get sick from the toxins involved in fracking, and people will die as a result of these toxins. How can people “get on with their life” if they live in a toxic environment? Instead of being such a demoralizing voice of defeat, why don’t you educate yourself about successful campaigns of direct action. Do you know about Oka 1990? They did call in the army and no, the army did not kill people.

  1. Pingback: Native Warrior Societies, ‘No’ They Aren’t Going Away | RED POWER MEDIA

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