Toronto Warrior Society
The Toronto Warrior Society (TWS) was affiliated with the American Indian Movement (AIM), which emerged in the United States in the late 1960s to defend First Nations activists and to promote Native pride. TWS was strongly committed to socialism, and to anti-capitalist endeavours. Estimates of its membership range from twenty active members to 200 formal members.
TWS founder Vern Harper was born in the Cabbagetown area of Toronto (which later became Regent Park), went on the serve in the U.S. military as a paratrooper, and subsequently became active in the American Indian Movement. In the 1960s he moved back to Toronto and was the leader of AIM’s Toronto branch.
In 1974, Harper and the Toronto Warrior Society worked with the Ojibway Warrior Society of Kenora (led by Louis Cameron) and the Regina Warrior Society (led by Wayne Stonechild) to create the Native People’s Caravan, a cross-Canada trek to raise awareness of broken treaties and grievances against the Canadian government.
Vern Harper was a regular speaker at anti-racist rallies, and he encouraged unity among all racial minorities, while advocating collaboration with white progressive groups.
The Toronto Warrior Society organized support for Leonard Peltier, a Native activist and long-imprisoned political prisoner, locked up for what many saw (and see) as trumped-up charges for the murder of policeman.
In 1976, the TWS occupied the Royal Ontario Museum for five days, forcing the institution to change its policies regarding the protection of archaeological burial sites and bodies when conducting studies of sites on Indigenous territory. The immediate impetus for that action was a recent incident in which a museum archaeologist had dug up a body near Grimsby and brought it to the museum. Some of the occupiers of the museum threatened to “put the shoe on the other foot” by digging up the bones of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister.
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