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?”