Separatism is the advocacy of separation or secession by a group of people or a person from a larger group. Separatist movements seek a greater autonomy with the majority of the separatist arguing that separation is by choice and may serve a useful purpose. Separatist movements are motivated by several factors including resentment and hatred towards the rival group, opposition to a decision, economic motivation, and preservation of a threatened religion. An active separatist movement is one with living, active members who are seeking greater autonomy and are people belonging to the conflict area. Below explores some of the active separatist movements in North America.
Anishinaabe refer to the culturally related indigenous peoples of Canada and the US such as Algonquin, Mississauga, Odawa, Oji-Cree, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi. The Anishinaabe speak the Anishinaabe language and have traditionally lived in the Northeast Woodlands and Subarctic. The word ‘Anishinaabeg’ translates to ‘the good human,’ and means those who are on the right path prescribed by their Creator Gichi-Minidoo. In Canada, the Anishinaabe of Manitoba has had a historical conflict with the Cree people. They have also opposed the Energy East Pipeline of Enbridge. The project was the basis of the declaration of the reclaimed sovereignty over the Ottawa River Valley by the Anishinaabe people in June 2015. The relationship between the Anishinaabe people and the US government has improved since the passage of Indian Reorganization Act. However, several communities still feel the tension with the government and non-American Natives.
Alberta separatism movement advocates for the secession of the Alberta province from Canada by either forming an independent state or union with other western Canadian provinces. The movement emerged in the 1930s from the belief that Alberta was culturally distinct from the rest of the country, especially central and eastern Canada, and that Alberta was economically disadvantaged by federal policies. Political events in the 21st century have led to growth in popularity of the Alberta separatism. However, the movement is still a minority in the province with no elected political parties or MLAs in Alberta favoring the secession as of 2014.
The debate on the legal status of Alaska surrounds its status in relation to the US. Alaska is considered to be one of the states of the US. However, its legal status has been disputed time and again, most recently by the Alaskan Independence Party. The party, led by Joe Vogler, advocates for an in-state referendum with an option of Alaska becoming an independent country. The AIP is the third largest party in Alaska after the Republican and Democrats with a membership of over 15,000. The AIP is a home to several secession-minded people and has from the beginning sought to investigate whether the 1958 vote by Alaskans authorizing statehood was legal.
Government Response to Separatists Movement
While the demand by the separatist movement is unique to every state and country, the response of the government is almost always the same. Governments of various countries have responded to their demands in several ways, including improving the circumstances of the separatist groups, adopting asymmetric federalism like in the case of Texas where the state has some form of relations with the central government, and suppression of the separatist movements in cases where the movements are considered a threat to the country. The government may also accede to the demands, especially if the demands are in the best interest of the whole country or state. However, this kind of a response is uncommon.