Category Archives: Indigenous Solidarity

Free Zapatista textbooks now available in English!

by , Intercontinental Cry

Put on your thinking caps because two of four Zapatista textbooks from last year’s widely popular escuelita (little school) have been translated to English.

For those who are not yet familiar, the Zapatista Escuelita (Zapatista little school), brought 1630 students from around the world to learn what it really means to be Zapatista. Contrary to what some might believe, there’s a lot more to the Zapatista than “smashing the state” or looking good doing it!

You can download the first two books, entitled, Autonomous Government I by clicking the corresponding linkd below. The remaining links will be posted here as they become available.

Autonomous Government I

Download now

Autonomous Government I

Autonomous Government II

Download now

Autonomous Gov II

Textbooks to follow

Participation of Women in Autonomous Government

(available no later than May 8th)

Participation of Women

Autonomous Resistance

(available no later than June 8th)

Autonomous Resistance

Reflections on the “Decolonization and Anarchism” Panel at the 2014 Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair

From Kurukshetra:

A few weeks ago was the annual Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair, which hosted a series of panels and workshops on various topics related to anarchism, anti-state and anti-capitalist organizing, and so on.  One of the panels was titled “Decolonization and Anarchism”, and whose purpose was to investigate the intersection of the decolonization struggle with the anarchist movement in the Bay Area.

What was noteworthy in and of itself was that the six panelists were all people of color–a rare event given that anarchism in the Bay Area seems (on the surface at least) to be dominated by White people.  I don’t think I remember ever attending an event related to anarchism in the Bay Area that was lead entirely by people of color.  The audience was also very large–at least a hundred people, if not more.

In general, the panel–which went on for about an hour and a half–was less about investigating the rigorous theoretical connections between decolonization and anarchism, than it was about the individual panelists talking about their own personal perspectives and experiences as revolutionary people of color.  There wasn’t much discussion about the practical steps around synthesizing the current anarchist movement with the theory and practice of decolonization that communities of color in the Bay are already engaging in, which was a bit disappointing; but it was still nice to hear something about the intersection, and the personal opinions of dedicated revolutionaries (even if the discussion was, in general, rather unstructured and somewhat scattered).

I want to emphasize that this reflection is heavily biased by my own preconceptions, and my own limited ability to take notes.  I took notes on what was interesting to me, and there are definitely subjects and issues that were brought up that I do not discuss here.  I might also mix up who said what, or even if certain arguments were said in the first place.  There is also a chance that I misinterpreted what was said–a consequence of both my own biases, as well as the unstructured and personal nature of the panel.

Ecological Limits and Indigenous-Diaspora Solidarity

The first person to talk was a man named Bryan.  He didn’t say much; he talked about how he personally was very interested in discussing and theorizing about the intersection of anarchism and decolonization, but also raised the question of whether there is an intersection in the first place, and the idea that perhaps anarchism was actually irrelevant to the decolonial struggle.

What really caught my interest was when he touched upon the idea that the ecological crisis is, in some ways, the ultimate limit of capitalism, and how this limit needs to be intimately tied with the struggle of indigenous peoples for their sovereignty and well-being.  He mentioned the connections between the struggles of First Nations in Canada against tar sands extraction, and the struggles of people in Richmond against the Chevron oil refinery.  I really appreciated this point, because the anti-carbon struggle in the Bay Area is something I have been investing a lot of energy into, and I really want to see more involvement of the radical community in this struggle (I’ve written a background piece about the nature of the oil industry in the Bay here, and a piece on the way that the struggle constitutes an anti-colonial struggle here).

Bryan also used the struggle in Richmond as a way to elaborate on the need for there to be more solidarity work between indigenous people, and people of the diaspora (immigrants).  There is a natural anti-colonial axis on which this solidarity could revolve around; both indigenous peoples, and people of the diaspora (especially Latin American and South-East Asian peoples) have suffered excessive amounts of violence at the hands of US colonialism and imperialism (and capitalism in general), and thus it makes sense for there to be closer solidarity work between the two groups of people.

But in addition, it was argued that ultimately the diaspora should be following the example and fulfilling the needs of indigenous people first, due to the fact that in the end, this land is their land.  I have mixed feelings about this idea; on one hand, of course we of the diaspora should be engaged in the struggle of indigenous people–but at the same time, we should recognize the very fluid nature of what constitutes indigeneity.  The Ohlone people–the nation which lived in what is now known as the Bay Area–are undeniably the original occupants of the region.  But what about the Mexican peoples who came in during the 17th and 18th century–who themselves tend to be a mix of Spanish and indigenous Central American descent?   And does the fact that Latin America in general is an irreversible result of Spanish imperial conquest render all Latin Americans in the United States as “diaspora” rather than “indigenous”?  And just to be clear, this isn’t to invalidate the idea of privileging indigenous struggle–just that the term “indigenous” is a term that is arguably fluid and confusing, and deserves much more discussion around.

I am personally very interested in seeing more collaboration between the diaspora and indigenous peoples.  I’m of South Asian descent, so I’m very clearly part of the diaspora; and I definitely see a strong parallel between the experiences of indigenous peoples in the Americas facing off against American colonialism, and the experience of South Asians under British occupation.  I see strong parallels between the cultural and linguistic dynamics of the two regions; both have incredibly diverse religious and cultural traditions, a wide variety of languages and dialectics, and general diversity within their own populations.  Indeed, it is arguably still a mistake to homogenize the two regions’ populations under the term “indigenous American” or “South Asian”, given the vast differences in internal history, politics, and practices.  But of course, the parallels have limits; while tens of millions of South Asians were killed under the British Raj, the devastation does not come close to the violence and destruction that resulted from the European invasion of the Americas.

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A Colonized Ally Meets a Decolonized Ally: This is What They Learn

From Lynn Gehl:

1. A colonized ally stands in the front.  A decolonized ally stands behind.

2. A colonized ally stands behind an oppressive patriarchy.  A decolonized ally stands behind women and children.

3. A colonized ally makes assumptions about the process.  A decolonized ally values there may be principles in the process they are not aware of.

4. A colonized ally wants knowledge now!  A decolonized ally values their own relationship to the knowledge.

5. A colonized ally finds an Indigenous token.  A decolonized ally is more objective in the process.

6. A colonized ally equates their money and hard work on the land as meaning land ownership.  A decolonized ally knows that land ownership is more about social hierarchy and privilege.

7. A colonized ally projects guilt.  A decolonized ally knows it is their work to do.

8. A colonized ally projects emotions.  A decolonized ally knows Indigenous people have too much to deal with already.

9. A colonized ally has no respect for Indigenous intellectuals.  A decolonized ally knows Indigenous people have their own intellectuals.

10. A colonized ally has no idea they need to decolonize.  A decolonized ally understands they have to continually decolonize.

11. A colonized ally has no idea of the concomitant realities of Indigenous oppression.  A decolonized ally understands the many, layered, and intersectional oppressions Indigenous people live under.

12. A colonized ally speaks for Indigenous people.  A decolonized ally listens.

13. A colonized ally takes on work an Indigenous person can do and is doing. A decolonized ally takes on other work that needs to be done.

14. A colonized ally makes things worse.  A decolonized ally understands.

15. A colonized ally says, “It is time to get over it.”  A decolonized ally realizes one’s relationship to the harm is subjective.

16. A colonized ally appropriates another nation’s Indigenous knowledge.  A decolonized ally does the hard work to uncover their own Indigenous knowledge.

17. A colonized ally will loath this truth offered.  A decolonized ally will recognize the hard work telling this truth is.

Additional ally resources are available here and on Unsettling America here.


Picture Lynn Gehl is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley.  She has a section 15 Charter challenge regarding the continued sex discrimination in The Indian Act, and is an outspoken critic of the Ontario Algonquin land claims and self-government process. She recently published a book entitled Anishinaabeg Stories: Featuring Petroglyphs, Petrographs, and Wampum Belts, and her second book, The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin of the Algonquin Land Claims Process, will be published in March 2014.  You can reach her at lynngehl@gmail.com and see more of her work at www.lynngehl.com.

“Colonization & Decolonization” by Zig-Zag translated into German!

decol zigzag germanIn response to Unsettling America’s call for translations, our comp@s at the Translation Collective have translated “Colonization & Decolonization” by Zig-Zag into German!

(The original English version is also available from our accomplices at Quiver Distro: read PDF | booklet PDF)

Kolonisierung und Dekolonisierung

von Zig-Zag

dekolonisierung – PDF

Ein Handbuch für indigene Befreiung im 21. Jahrhundert

Zum Gebrauch dieses Handbuchs

Dieses Handbuch ist in vier Teile gegliedert. Der erste Teil definiert Kolonialismus, seine Methoden und Geschichte bis heute (z.B. Invasion und Besetzung des Irak durch die USA). Der zweite Teil beschreibt im Detail die Effekte des Kolonialismus auf indigene Völker, einschließlich der soziologischen und individuellen Auswirkungen. Der dritte Teil untersucht das Konzept der Dekolonisierung, der vierte Teil diskutiert die Dekolonisierung in Nordamerika. Es wird erkennbar, dass die Befreiung der indigenen Völker in Nordamerika eng verbunden ist mit einem globalen Prozess des Widerstands und des Überlebens. Dieses Handbuch ist sowohl für den Selbstunterricht als auch für die Verwendung im Unterricht gedacht. Die [im Anhang] folgenden Stundenpläne können in der Schule genutzt oder angepasst werden.

“Wissen macht eine Person unfähig Sklave zu sein” – Frederick Douglas

Einleitung

“Befreiung ist die Aufgabe, die uns durch unsere Eroberung und Kolonisierung aufgezwungen wurde.” – Chinweizu, The West and the Rest of Us, Seite 33

Kolonialismus: Die Praxis, andere Länder und Territorien zum Zweck der Besiedlung und/oder der Ausbeutung von Ressourcen zu überfallen.

Wenn eine Invasionsmacht auf eine indigene Bevölkerung trifft, die eine Territorium bereits besetzt hält, wird Kolonialismus zum gewalttätigen Konflikt zwischen zwei feindlichen und entgegengesetzten Lebensweisen, von denen die eine der anderen ihren Willen aufzuzwingen sucht. Dies ist eine Standarddefinition des Krieges. Kolonisierung kann als Krieg um Territorium verstanden werden, der alle Mittel der Kriegsführung einbezieht: militärische, politische, ökonomische, psychologische, diplomatische, kulturelle, etc.

Cecil Rhodes, der britische Kolonialoffizier, nach dem Rhodesien benannt wurde (heute Zimbabwe), formulierte die Motive und Ziele des europäischen Kolonialismus im 19. Jahrhundert:

“Wir müssen neues Land auftun, wo wir auf einfache Weise an Rohstoffe kommen und zugleich die billige Sklavenarbeit ausbeuten können, die durch die Ureinwohner der Kolonien verfügbar ist. Die Kolonien würden ebenfalls einen Schuttplatz für die in unseren Fabriken produzierte überschüssige Ware bieten.”

Aufgrund seiner Geschichte und Kultur ist der europäische Kolonialismus durch Praktiken des Genozids gekennzeichnet, inklusive Vernichtungskriege, Massaker an Nicht-KombattantInnen, biologische Kriegsführung, Politik der verbrannten Erde (Zerstörung von Nahrung und Unterkunft). Andere Gräueltaten sind etwa die Folter von Gefangenen, Vergewaltigung und Versklavung der indigenen Bevölkerungen. Diese Taten wurden von einer rassistischen und patriarchalen Ideologie (z.B. Christentum und weißer Überlegenheitsglaube) angetrieben, von Gier und einem psychopathischen Verlangen zu töten, anderen Gewalt und Leid zuzufügen.

Psychopath n. Eine Person mit einer antisozialen Persönlichkeitsstörung, die sich in aggressivem, perversem, kriminellem oder amoralischem Verhalten ohne Mitgefühl oder Reue ausdrückt.” – American Heritage Dictionary, Seite 1415

Stufen des Kolonialismus

Methoden und Geschichte der Kolonisierung sind aufgrund vieler verschiedener Variablen (Geographie, Bevölkerungsdichte, Ressourcen, etc.) in jedem Fall einzigartig. Dennoch gibt es ein leicht erkennbares gemeinsames Muster. In den Amerikas, Afrika und Asien bestand die Kolonisierung im Allgemeinen aus vier Stufen: Aufklärung, Invasion, Besatzung und Assimilation.

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Decolonizing Pipeline Resistance

An Interview with Freda Huson

By Lee Veeraraghavan, Occupy.com

As the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline intensifies in the United States, the Canadian province of British Columbia faces similar battles of its own. Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, if approved, would transport diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to the Pacific Coast.

Fracked gas from the northeast of the province is also slated to be piped: Chevron-Apache’s Pacific Trails Pipeline, which some consider a “trail-blazer” for Northern Gateway, was slated to begin construction in 2013. After being delayed for a year, the construction on PTP has now begun – and the next phase of resistance is gearing up in response. One of the key battlegrounds will likely be the land of the Unis’tot’en, Bird Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

Multiple proposed pipelines, including Northern Gateway and Pacific Trails Pipeline, are slated to pass through the land of the Unis’tot’en – land that was never ceded to the Canadian state. The Unis’tot’en, however, have vowed to stop all pipelines, and built a cabin and pithouse on the right-of-way. They have also reinstated a traditional protocol to pass into their land, to keep surveyors for pipeline companies out. Performed on a bridge over Wedzin Kwah, the pristine Morice River, the protocol consists of five questions: Who are you, and where are you from? Why are you here? How long do you plan to stay? Do you work for government or industry that are destroying these lands? How will your visit benefit the Unis’tot’en people?

The protocol indexes an important shift in thinking on environmental issues: a shift that recognizes control is in the hands of indigenous communities. Mainstream environmental activism is often framed as an ethical imperative based on a bottom line determined by scientific discourse. An unfortunate effect is that this can pit environmental groups against the (often indigenous) communities most affected by environmental devastation.

And yet around the world indigenous peoples are leading movements that view ecology as a result of the adoption of local practices long suppressed by colonialism. The indigenous perspective is often silenced, though: their words passed over in favor of environmental scientists and activists. I recently had the opportunity to visit the Unis’tot’en Camp and interview Freda Huson, spokesperson for the Unis’tot’en.

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Unsetting America and Oshkimaadziig team up to archive Radio Against Global Ecocide

¡RAGE Presente! (RIP)Unsettling America has previously featured content from Radio Against Global Ecocide (RAGE), particularly their interview with Waziyatawin, but much to the dismay of the show’s listeners, its demise included the online archives of the show. Thankfully, we’ve teamed up with our friends at at Oshkimaadziig.org (Anishinabek Confederacy to Invoke Our Nationhood) to (re)archive the show. Although we took this action in order to assure the decolonization-related interviews were archived and accessible online, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to archive the entire show in its entirety! Here are a few we find most poignant:

Colonialism is alive and well (with Waziyatawin): Parts 1a, 2a, & 2b

Also from Waziyatawin & RAGE: Indigenous People & Revolution & Holocaust, Collapse, & Dispair

Related: Relationship with Salmon & other stories…

Everyone Calls Themselves An Ally Until It Is Time To Do Some Real Ally Shit

EVERYONE CALLS THEMSELVES AN ALLY UNTIL IT IS TIME TO DO SOME REAL ALLY SHITBy Xhopakelxhit, Ancestral Pride [PDF]:

Every single time we speak publicly, or put ourselves out there we are always asked by other Indigenous Nations, settlers, and settlers of color: what can we do. We then go on to outline all the ways those who want to be potential allies can help us out in a tangible way, in a targeted way, and in a general way. Everyone takes notes, asks more questions, and seems really earnest. Then inevitably soon after something happens that we need to utilize these tools and reach out to our settler allies, guess what happens?! Not much. More understandably our indigenous friends and relatives who are resisting the forces of industrial occupation cannot usually leave their fight to join ours unless the situation is very dire. Yet settlers also seem to have problems with moving beyond the round dance rhetoric of the protest industry and organizing outside of that box.

This is when the reality of doing something other than agreeing with us, reveals the struggle that settlers face when it comes to actually being an active ally; the word ally evokes images of rallies or marchers and bullhorns and social media call outs complete with said ally in the pic standing next to indigenous whoever with fists raised! It is colonized, pretty, and almost as hard to swallow as not having allies at all.

Ally is a verb it implies action, there are more ways that settler allies or hopefuls can participate and help in the indigenous struggle for liberation from the colonial genocidal regime than marching. Our freedom as humans rely on this relationship but it has to be looked at a different way and our life long learned behaviours have to be shed.

Lets forget for a moment all the new mythology of canada and what it presents as the relationship it has with the indigenous people here on this continent called north america. Strike from your memory the silver screen shaman and the great joining of the rainbow warriors. Forget the lie that this is an awesome country founded expressly for your people and remember that is in fact a country that was born on top of our nations and the birth was a bloody abortion of humanity. Now that we have effectively tried to eradicate the lifetime of untruths we have learned in schools and through media, and society, we can come to a place where we can work together but there is more for settlers to know. A great unlearning is happening at a fast rate right now because of the status of the human race and the plight of the planet. We have come to the end of the era of the power and consumption phase, civilization always collapses and we are here to help it! This ending is bringing many new people to the battle that we are waging against the state, but many of our own people are happy with the colonial status quo and only want to secure their rights as far as they can still shop at star bucks and use power. Many settlers do not even care or can fathom giving up their privilege on this continent. It is our job to leave them behind and be the van guard of a new way of being that is based on how our governance systems worked here for millennia.

There has always been a great many of us who are not OK with being assimilated. Last year we seen many indigenous citizens of canada get upset and staged massive protests (INM) from ocean to ocean to prevent something that happened despite the mass mobilization, in the end the omnibus bill was passed. This exercise however was useful in weeding out those who were only in it for the short term or weren’t invested. It also helped to point out those who are really trying to shed the colonial system from themselves, their families, and their lands and for us to connect with each other. It also was a massive waste of momentum and people power!

So now we are here, the dawn of a new winter and more threats against Mother Earth and our very beings.

A few things to remember: Indigenous activists are not super human mythical indigenous beings who are all knowing and all wise. We have problems, we are easily triggered, can be dysfunctional, some are addicted to sex, drugs, alcohol, and ego. We are the perpetrators of lateral violence as we denounce it. We pay rent, work for the man, go shopping and partake in mainstream culture more then we should. We beat our wives and husbands and ourselves there is much we have suffered in our generation and this cannot be undone. We want change, we aspire to change, and we are the change but we are inherently flawed. There is nothing wrong with that, it is a human condition and we are products of our enforced enslavement and colonization but we have to acknowledge these things in ourselves and you do in us as well so we can really do what has to be done. It does no one any greater disservice then to put them on pedestals and many a good movement has been waylaid because we are all too human and the mutual disappointments have caused things to slow to a trickle.

Once we are in the place where we have left our egos and acknowledged our short comings as indigenous now we can touch on the great failings of the settler nation. Many have read the awesome and plentiful articles on settler colonialism, and have gained some insight and now use terms like: unceded coast salish, (insert whatever Nations name whose land you are occupying with privilege) territories, or maybe you dumpster dive and hate consumerism, maybe you have a rosy idea of what indigenous governance means and that you will be welcomed here with open arms and be part of the rainbow tribe. These are the newest forms of mythology that are coming up and into existence because the settler nation no matter how many indigenous you know, how enlightened, and down to earth you are, in your world view there is no future here on turtle island that you are not here. We need to fix this mythology and live the reality of our task.

Think of how 500 years of genocide, colonization, residential school, forced assimilation, cultural appropriation, and land theft and destruction would affect you. Think of the break down of our houses, our families, and ourselves, and how you would deal with that. PTSD is a reality, suicide affects us all daily, violence against our women, human trafficking of our children, alcoholism, drug abuse, and murder are our daily battles, add to that trying to survive everyday and the state of being on our own homelands, poverty stricken, oppressed, and marginalized people that are considered wards of a colonial crown. Supporting indigenous causes isn’t pretty or something to add to the activism resume, it often means accepting fierce strong humans at face value, saying you are in solidarity with indigenous people and sovereignty means you accept our laws and reject the illegal laws of the military state that is actively occupying our lands. If being disciplined or dealing with warrior justice scares or offends you then you are NOT ready to be an ally or to smash the system.

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Support Spiritual Decolonization Training at Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp!

Help Anishinabek youth in Southern Ontario come together to receive elder-guided spiritual training on our path to decolonization!

ACTION (Anishinabek Confederacy to Invoke Our Nationhood) is a union of sovereign Anishinabe individuals, communities and allies of other nations who are restoring our Anishinabek institutions in assertion of our sovereignty on our collective territories.

We have established the Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp, a reclamation site on illegally occupied lands in what Ontario calls Awenda Provincial Park, at a traditional Anishinabek Council Rock where we have lit and preserved an Anishinabek Council Fire. This camp is a spiritual base camp for our program of re-establishing clan governance, inter-tribal agreements, and other forms of traditional society; counselling, land-based skills training, storytelling and ceremonial life; and prophecy teaching, decolonization workshops, and unity-building towards emancipation from illegal Canadian policies.

We also have a growing community of Anishinabek and brothers and sisters from other nations in Southern Ontario – mainly Toronto. We are asking for support funds to run a spiritual decolonization training program where Anishinabek can visit Oshkimaadziig, receive spiritual training from guides and elders, and develop a decolonization framework for future actions.

We are centered around the idea that national consciousness and decolonization efforts first need spiritual health and focus as a starting point.

This project is a small, but vitally important, step towards rebuilding indigenous governance and decolonizing part of Turtle Island. This is the first stage, guided by careful elder teachings and Anishinabek prophecy, of a much larger project we hope all nations will see a role in.

Since we founded the camp, our efforts have been noticed all over Turtle Island by indigenous and non-indigenous people. Indigenous-led decolonization, rooted in the reawakening of traditional governance and adapted to our current situation, will re-establish nation-to-nation relationships and work to end centuries of colonial genocide.

We want to expand the camp’s impact, and bring some of our programming to other communities in the region.

We would love to see you at one of our workshops – please help us grow this movement, for settlers, migrants and indigenous alike!

Click here to read more & support Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp…

Miigwetch!

Settler Ally vs. Settler Brother/Sister

ACTION is a union of Sovereign Anishinabe individuals, communities and allies of other Nations who are restoring our Anishinabek Institutions in assertion of our Sovereignty on our collective territories.By Giibwanisi, Anishinabek Confederacy to Invoke Our Nationhood

I’ve been struggling over this term “ally” for a long time now. Many “light skinned” people have approached me, wondering how to improve relations with me, and my Nation, and other possible other Onkwehon:we Nations. On the ACTION website, we have a little heading titled “Settler Allyship”. We didn’t write any of the material in the heading, it was completely borrowed from other people/organizations that have written about this term “allyship”. I initially put that heading up, to give some people guidelines to follow, because many people began asking me about this term “ally”. I’ve given this several months of thought, and I’ve finally derived an answer. Allow me to begin by quoting the 4th Fire Prophecy as described in Eddie Benton Banai’s The Mishomis Book:

The Fourth Fire was originally given to the people by two prophets. They come as one. They told of the coming of the light skinned race.

One of the prophets said, “You will know the future of out people by the face of the light skinned race wears. If they come wearing the face of brotherhood then there will come a time of wonderful change for generations to come. They will bring new knowledge and articles that can be joined with the knowledge of this country. In this way, two nations will join to make a mighty nation. This new nation will be joined by two more so that four will for the mightiest nation of all. You will know the face of the brotherhood if the light skinned race comes carrying no weapons, if they come bearing only their knowledge and a hand shake.”

The other prophet said, “Beware if the light skinned race comes wearing the face of death. You must be careful because the face of brotherhood and the face of death look very much alike. If they come carrying a weapon … beware. If they come in suffering … They could fool you. Their hearts may be filled with greed for the riches of this land. If they are indeed your brothers, let them prove it. Do not accept then in total trust. You shall know that the face they wear is one of death if the rivers run with poison and fish become unfit to eat. You shall know them by these many things.”

When this prophecy was given the word used to describe the “Light Skinned” race/nation was “Brother”. They didn’t not have a concept for “ally” back then. Which brings me to my thinking of the present. If I/we are truly going to live this Biskaabiiyang, or “decolonization”, then I/we must begin reviving the context in who we really are.

The term ally, in a literal term means friend. It is a word with huge inter-relational barriers. Who came up with term anyhow? Ally in its origins comes from the french word “alien”. History as proven that the “Light Skinned” race came bearing the face of death. And now we find ourselves in the disastrous times of the 7th Fire. This era of the 7th Fire is a battle ground, and many conflicts are occurring and will continue to occur.

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Mumia Abu-Jamal “Some Who Feel No Reason For Thanksgiving”

“Some Who Feel No Reason For Thanksgiving”

To this day, I can hardly bear to think of that quintessentially American holiday—Thanksgiving.

When I do, however, I do not dwell on Pilgrims with wide black hats sitting to sup with red men, their long hair adorned with eagle feathers. I think not of turkeys or of cranberries, foods now traditional for the day of feast.

Unlike millions, I dont even think of the days football game. And not thinking of it, I dont watch it.

I think of the people we have habitually called Indians, the Indigenous people of the Americas; those millions who are no more.

I think of those precious few who remain, and wonder, what do they think of this day; this national myth of sweet brotherhood that masks what can only be called genocide?

Several years ago, I read a thin text that was pregnant with poignancy. It was a collection of Native remarks from the first tribes who encountered whites in New England, and down through several hundred years. Throughout it all, the same vibration could be felt, no matter what the clan or tribe—a profound sense of betrayal and wrong from people who were treated like brethren when they first arrived.

In New England, the name Powhatan (ca. 1547-1618) is still recalled (even if that wasn’t his name, but what the English called him). Known as Wahunsonacock by his people, he headed a confederacy of 32 tribes and governed an area of hundreds of miles. He was the father of Pocahontas, the young Indian maiden who saved the life of Capt. John Smith. A year after sparing Smiths life, the white captain threatened the great chief. This is some of his response given in 1609:

Why should you take by force that from us which you can have by love? Why should you destroy us, who have provided you with food? We can hide our provisions, and fly into the woods; and then you must consequently famish by wronging your friends. What is the cause of your jealousy? You see us unarmed, and willing to supply your wants, if you come in a friendly manner, and not with swords and guns, as to invade an enemy. I am not so simple, as not to know it is better to eat good meat, lie well, and sleep quietly with my women and children; to laugh and be merry with the English; and, being their friend, to have copper, hatchets, and whatever else I want, than to fly from all, to lie cold in the woods, feed upon acorns, roots, and such trash, and to be so hunted, that I cannot rest, eat, or sleep. In such circumstances, my men must watch, and if a twig should but break, all would cry out, Here comes Capt. Smith; and in this miserable manner, to end my miserable life; and, Capt. Smith, this might be soon your fate too, through your rashness and unadvisedness. I therefore, exhort you to peaceable councils; and, above all, I insist that the guns and swords, the cause of all our jealousy and uneasiness, be removed and sent away. (Blaisdell, Bob, ed., Great Speeches by Native Americans. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Press, 2000, p.4.)

That great chiefs sentiments would be echoed for over hundreds of years, but injustice would just be piled on injustice. Genocide would be the white answer to red life.

Centuries later, what can Thanksgiving Day mean to Native peoples?

Thank you for stealing our land? Thank you for wiping out our people?

Thank you for placing a remnant of our once great numbers on rural ghettoes called reservations?

Thank you for abolishing most of the ancient traditions?

Thank you for poisoning what little Indian lands remain with uranium?

Thank you for poisoning the lands now inhabited by the whites?

Thank you for letting Indians fight in American wars against other people?

Thanks.

The real tragedy is that millions of Americans don’t know, and don’t want to know about Indian history and traditions.

Today, the names of rivers, lakes and landmarks bear indigenous markers of another age.

The people, except for an occasional movie, are mostly forgotten, out of mind, the easier to replace with false images of happy meals and turkey dinners. Happy Thanksgiving.

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