Posts tagged ‘indigenous sovereignty’

January 4, 2012

Moving Beyond a Politics of Solidarity Towards a Practice of Decolonization

By Harsha Walia

image by Josh McPhee

North America’s state and corporate wealth is largely based on the subsidies provided by the theft of Indigenous lands and resources. Colonial conquest was designed to ensure forced displacement of Indigenous peoples from their territories, the destruction of autonomy and self-determination in Indigenous self-governance, and the assimilation of Indigenous peoples’ cultures and traditions. Given the devastating cultural, spiritual, economic, linguistic, and political impacts on Indigenous people, any serious social or environmental justice movement must necessarily include non-native solidarity in the fight against colonization.

Decolonization is as much a process as a goal. It requires a profound re-centring of Indigenous worldviews in our movements for political liberation, social transformation, renewed cultural kinships, and the development of an economic system that serves rather than threatens our collective life on this planet. As stated by Toronto-based activist Syed HussanDecolonization is a dramatic re-imagining of relationships with land, people and the state. Much of this requires study, it requires conversation, it is a practice, it is an unlearning.”

It is a positive sign that a growing number of social movements are recognizing that Indigenous self-determination must become the foundation for all our broader social-justice mobilizing. Indigenous peoples are the most impacted by the pillage of lands, experience disproportionate poverty and homelessness, are over-represented in statistics of missing and murdered women, and are the primary targets of repressive policing and prosecutions in the criminal injustice system. Rather than being treated as a single issue within a laundry list of demands, Indigenous self-determination is increasingly understood as intertwined with struggles against racism, poverty, police violence, war and occupation, violence against women, and environmental justice.

Intersectional approaches can, however, subordinate and compartmentalize Indigenous struggle within the machinery of existing Leftist narratives: anarchists point to the anti-authoritarian tendencies within Indigenous communities, environmentalists highlight the connection to land that Indigenous communities have, anti-racists subsume Indigenous people into the broader discourse about systemic oppression, and women’s organizations point to relentless violence borne by Indigenous women in discussions about patriarchy.

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October 16, 2011

Letter to the Occupy Together movement

By Harsha Walia

I wish I could start with the ritualistic “I love you” for the Occupy Movement. To be honest, it has been a space of turmoil for me. But also one of virulent optimism. What I outline below are not criticisms. I am inspired that the dynamic of the movement thus far has been organic, so that all those who choose to participate are collectively responsible for its evolution. To everyone – I offer my deepest respect.

I am writing today with Grace Lee Boggs in mind: “The coming struggle is a political struggle to take political power out of the hands of the few and put it into the hands of the many.  But in order to get this power into the hands of the many, it will be necessary for the many not only to fight the powerful few but to fight and clash among themselves as well.” This may sound counter-productive, but I find it a poignant reminder that, in our state of elation, we cannot under-estimate the difficult terrain ahead.  I look forward to the processes that will further these conversations.

Occupations on Occupied Land

One of the broad principles in a working statement of unity (yet to be formally adopted) of Occupy Vancouver thus far includes an acknowledgement of unceded Coast Salish territories. There has been opposition to this as being “divisive” and “focusing on First Nations issues”. I would argue that acknowledging Indigenous lands is a necessary and critical starting point for two primary reasons.

Firstly, the word Occupy has understandably ignited criticism from Indigenous people as having a deeply colonial implication. It erases the brutal history of genocide that settler societies have been built on. This is not simply a rhetorical or fringe point; it is a profound and indisputable matter of fact that this land is already occupied. The province of BC is largely still unceded land, which means that no treaties have been signed and the title holders of Vancouver are the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Tseilwau-tuth, and Musqueam. As my Sḵwx̱wú7mesh friend Dustin Rivers joked “Okay so the Premier and provincial government acknowledge and give thanks to the host territory, but Occupy Vancouver can’t?”

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October 15, 2011

Occupations, Wall Street, and Strategies

By Coya White Hat-Artichoker

I have been enthralled watching what is happening on Wall Street and has spread to other parts of the country and globe. I am fascinated because of the large numbers of people I see in the streets, and the amount of discontent.  I appreciate the clarity that they are not disorganized but rather, since we are dealing with 99% of the population with a multitude of issues, you are going to see every different kind of protest and issue.

I also appreciate the critiques brought forth by my other indigenous brothers and sisters, both within and outside the US, highlighting the use of the word “occupy”; asking folks to recognize and acknowledge the colonial legacy and history in using settler language to frame what is hopefully a mass people’s movement for liberation. The words of Audre Lorde echo for me here: “the master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house”.  It’s important to acknowledge that there are communities who have been living under occupation for over 500 years.  And when we talk about occupation, why aren’t we also talking about the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Puerto Rico, or Guam?

I love that people chose Wall Street to start these protests, and I love that we are talking about the accumulation of wealth by a small percentage of people and what it looks like for the rest of the people who do not share those resources or can access resources of that type.  I also feel that we need to acknowledge the history and legacy of the mass accumulation of wealth within the United States to begin with, and therein lies the ability to talk about colonization and capitalism.  The United States became one of the richest countries in the world because they slaughtered First Nations people for land and imported slaves for labor.  It’s really easy to build the wealth of a nation, when you have stolen land and imported labor that is completely exploitable.

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October 12, 2011

Dispatches from Indigenous People’s Day: Part 2

By Saara Azadi

I had spent Monday afternoon at Occupy Wall Street at a working group meeting.  Wandering with a friend, we heard the conch shell call and drums from a Mixeca group of dancers that had assembled in a corner of the park.  As the dancers began to offer blessings and tributes to our ancestors and the earth, a circle of onlookers formed around them. Some were taking photos, others were ensuring that a safe space was created around the dancers.  Wary of the police and potential disrupters, the dancers had sent an email to the People of Color Working Group earlier that day, asking us to come and “protect and support our danza circle tonight. Many of our folks… would feel safer knowing that there’s an outer circle having our backs during the ceremony.”  A young curly-haired woman of color nosed in between myself and my friend and said, “Wow, the energy feels really good here.”  As we linked arms – strangers, friends, family – you could feel the energy and spirit created by the dancers, the drumming, and our collective power.

While we ‘occupied’ the area under the Red Sculpture, the General Assembly (GA) was well underway in the area by the library.  The dancers continued – one explained that this was not a performance – that they were here to offer blessings to our ancestors, the earth, the elements, and to this movement and the many indigenous and global communities in resistance.  She went on to declare that they would finish when they were done.  I didn’t quite know what she meant; the dancing, drumming, and prayers continued….

Photo by Marina Ortiz

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October 12, 2011

Dispatches from Indigenous People’s Day: Part 1

By Thanu Yakupitiyage

[Above]: Flipcam video footage I edited of the Mexica danza group’s ritual in honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, October 10th, at Zuccotti Park/Liberty Square

I’ve been going to Occupy Wall Street almost every other day now. I can’t help it. I think this is an important moment, and as much as I have criticisms, I do think that the kind of space that has been created at Liberty Square (Zucotti Park) has opened a multitude of possibilities for public education, democratic processes, and for people to learn from each other about the kind of world we want to live in and what our alternatives are. That’s why I go and that’s why I have become invested.

Organizing with people of color to grow our presence at Occupy Wall Street and have our communities be heard in regards to our histories and the specific impact of the economic crisis, of globalization, of the greed of the financiers, of colonization, has become a specific priority of mine and many friends who have made it a ritual to head down to Wall Street in the afternoons and evenings, when we can. We cannot march and chant, “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out” without for example noting that it was largely urban communities of color in New York and across the country that were devastated by foreclosures and the housing crisis. We cannot yell, “We are the 99%” without considering the often invisible labor of immigrant workers, constantly scapegoated for a bad economy, who are being deported in outrageous numbers, while the private prison industry profits from their detention. And we certainly cannot presume that this public outrage that has boiled over is new; this frustration has been felt for decades (centuries even) by oppressed people. As this movement continues to grow, it is critical that we insert these realities and histories. This movement means nothing without it. It is limited without it.

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