Adapting the Indian in the Child: The Settler Colonial Politics of Adopting Native American Children

Decolonization

by Joshua Whitehead

In June of 2015, Manitoba became the first province to apologize to survivors of Canada’s Sixties Scoop. For those unfamiliar, the Sixties Scoop refers to the removal of Indigenous children from their families, “scooping” them up, and placing them into foster homes with non-Indigenous families and/or residential/day schools. I also deploy the term Sixties Scoop with an awareness of its expansive and evolutionary nature, in that it branches beyond the sixties and moves well into the eighties; moreover, its remnants can be seen in Canada’s contemporary Child and Family Services (CFS). In light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Manitoba’s apology was a first step towards reconciling with survivors. As the child of a Sixties Scoop survivor, I am interested in how adoption functions within the larger framework of North American settler colonial practices[1]. While there is quite a bit of research on the…

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Poems for Palestine

Decolonize Palestine: End the Violence, End the War, End the Occupation. Solidarity from Turtle Island. #GazaUnderAttack

Decolonize Palestine: End the Violence, End the War, End the Occupation.

By Anne Champion

The Tent of Nations is an educational and ecological farm run by Christian Palestinian brothers in the mountains of Palestine.  They run a peace project that invites people from around the world to interact.  Despite the land being awarded to the family by the Supreme Court, they are not allowed to build and must live in caves.  The caves are painted in bright colors by Palestinian children who paint over their own shadows. Their guest tents have demolition orders on them, as they are considered a form of building, and their trees are routinely destroyed by the Israeli Defense Forces. 10,000 trees were destroyed and buried a few days before I arrived.

THE TENT OF NATIONS

If they won’t let us build,
we’ll live in caves
and if our children are merely
shadows, our children
will paint over their shadows
in vibrant primary colors
on the stoic rocks underground.
If our children die, they’ll frolic
on these rocks, embossed
on the earth, bound only to freedom.
If they say the land isn’t ours,
we’ll keep going to court.  If they cut
down 10,000 olive trees in a day
and bury them in a mass grave
like bodies, then we’ll mourn
like bodies. If trees take patience
and nurture, then peace takes
patience and nurture, and if we keep
holding out our hands?
If you block the road to us
with your tanks, the internationals
will climb the mountain to plant
and break bread, to trace
the children’s silhouettes, to gaze
over all of Palestine, to remember.

———

Military raids happen approximately once a week in Bi’lin.  This village has been targeted because its use of creative, nonviolent resistance has endured and captured the attention of people from all over the world.  American presidents, celebrities, and other world leaders have visited, and a documentary about the village, *Five Broken Cameras, *garnered critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination.  Raids are a common tactic of occupation, as it produces anxiety and inhibits sleep, thus giving Palestinians difficulty in everything from routine chores and schoolwork to demonstration planning and participation.

RAIDS
Bil’in, West Bank

Once a week, the soldiers rouse us,
alarm clock of rifle butts on midnight doors.
We pull the children from their beds.
They point their guns at our heads,
but there’s nothing like the bullet
of panic as they aim
at the children’s hearts.
Iyad’s daughter’s first raid
was at one week old. Now she’s six
and she’s learned to raise her arms,
half dreaming still, marching
like an automaton towards the moon.
She always looks at the sky,
never meets a soldier in the eye
as they tear apart her room,
her beads scattering on the floor
like the bullets shot into the night
air.  Someone falls down, someone’s
been hit.  A rubber bullet lodged in a throat
on the side of the road. I watch
the smoke hover above his head
before he slumps over; in seconds,
his neck blooms and pushes aside his face.
The men prop him up, the women call
to the soldiers for an ambulance.
The teenage soldiers high five each other
before calling for help.  And then
the tear gas canisters hiss
and the air strangles with its serpent snare.
Someone wraps a keffiyah
over my face and pulls me inside,
and I can’t see a thing. Even when my vision
returns, I can’t see anything anymore.

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Decolonizing the Black Bear Ranch Hippie Commune

bbr-finalBy Dina Gilio-Whitaker, Indian Country Today Media Network

The social revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s was a time of positive change for American Indian people and America in general. Indians got self-determination as official federal Indian policy, ethnic minorities gained a greater degree of civil rights, and the United States got out of the Vietnam War. On the negative side, hippies flocked to Indian reservations searching for Indian wisdom, in the process committing a form of theft Indian people now refer to as cultural appropriation.

During those turbulent times the hippies literally ran for the hills in their attempts to escape a spiritually bankrupt social system and set up communes, inspired to a great degree by what they perceived to be American Indian lifestyles and values. Many of them, such as Black Bear Ranch in Northern California, still survive today.

In 2006 a documentary was made about BBR.

The communes were well-intentioned enough, fueled as they were by a desire to transcend systems of greed, social inequality, and environmental degradation the hippies had inherited from their ancestors.

But what they also inherited was a sense of settler entitlement to land based on that very system of capitalist greed they were trying to overcome. Most of them hadn’t thought twice that the lands they were buying were stolen from the very people they were trying to emulate; they were just looking for good deals. But what they did in the process was repeat the patterns of settler colonialism they were simultaneously condemning. (For more on the topic of hippie communes and Indians see the book “Hippies, Indians, and the Fight for Red Power” by Sherry L. Smith).

Black Bear Ranch was founded ironically on the slogan “free land for a free people,” apparently oblivious to the fact that the land was stolen in the first place. Some of the Black Bear Ranch people are beginning to see themselves as complicit with settler colonialism in their idealist visions.

Recently an open letter was written to the BBR members and “family” from a coalition of former BBR residents pointing out the ways the commune is founded on these contradictions. The letter raises the question, “can it be ‘free land’ if it is stolen land?”

Written by non-Natives calling themselves “Unsettling Klamath River,” the letter skillfully employs the language of settler colonialism:

“[We] are an open community collective of settlers, many us former Black Bear residents, living on the Klamath and Salmon Rivers working to understand and respond to the ‘elephant in the room’: the continued occupation of Karuk, Hoopa, Yurok, Konomihu, Shasta, and Shasta New River Homelands. While we understand that the values of settler society are the problem and not necessarily settler people themselves, we recognize that we have a responsibility to face our position as beneficiaries of settler colonialism (even though we have not intended to benefit in this way).”

Click here to read the full article at ICTMN…

Click here to read the full Open Letter to Black Bear Ranch Commune…

Seeking Settler Re-landing

“The Earth” (Zemliia) Painting by Bohdan Pevny, 1963, dedicated to the memory of the 1933 famine in Ukraine.

Illustration: “The Earth” (Zemliia)
Painting by Bohdan Pevny, 1963, dedicated to the memory of the 1933 famine in Ukraine.

By Pegi Eyers, Unsettling America

We as Settlers have abandoned the land.  We have successfully walled ourselves off.  The wind is something that howls outside, the rain bangs on the roof, the snow is an inconvenience that needs to be shovelled away.  The scents of spring blossom outside our sealed windows as we walk throughout our days on floors that were once magnificent forests.  We complain about the weather, and the so-called “perfect” sunny days are just a backdrop to activities that further our appearance, our ego, our need for acquisition, and the diligent daily machinations of capitalism we enact to perpetuate the goals of Empire.  And even though we have insulted Mother Earth in every way possible, she still nurtures us by providing the green growing things that end up in our tomb-like refrigerators, plastic packages, non-recyclable bottles and sealed cans.

And away out on the land, nothing human is moving, because nothing human is there. We as Settlers manage the land and leave the alterations and artifacts of our passing, but we have no interest in actually placing our frail and delicate bodies in natural spaces. From a bird’s eye view, houses sit like lifeless monoliths on the denuded landscape, with the occasional tiny human scurrying from car-pod to dwelling and back again. The creatures of the air have these ravaged territories to themselves – as does every animal, reptile and insect fully embodying their indigenous knowledge through all the vagaries of atmosphere, light, scent, burrow, and ground beneath their feet.  Blocked in by grids of roads traversed by death-dealing machines – the real life, the true life of Turtle Island keeps thriving to the best of its ability and authentic to its song.

Yet not all Settlers are oblivious to the call of the wild and the potential for indigenous knowledge.  Across all demographics and beyond all expectations contemporary movements1 are flourishing  that share “decolonization” hesitantly with Turtle Island First Nations activists and scholars, who maintain ownership of the term.2 However, if the most important activity of decolonization is rejection, a refusal to participate in Empire any longer, we must unsettle our core beliefs as we transcend the legacy of colonial identity, replace external authority with community, stop scarring the land, and begin to live as earth-centered peoples once again. Along with a self-guided critique of Settler-Colonialism in all of its misguided and toxic glory, we must confront the interloper and examine our status on the land.  How do we re-inhabit these places called “Canada” or “USA,” the ground of our being? Mother Earth is counting on us to get it right.

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(White) Settler Futurity with Bloody Hands on Stolen Land

unsettling.as.existence

Memory is short when it comes to your futurity [1]. Imagination is productive when it comes to your futurity, to your innocence.

Given who I am, I will only speak of white settlers. This is not to contribute to the erasure, but many discussions about non-whites folks on Turtle Island exist by (and for) POC & WOC. Check out Rita Dhamoon [2], for example.

White Settler Futurity  [1] is the most important future that is catered to, in the world, and on Turtle Island. It is the everyday upholding of the privileges created from colonialism and continued occupation that white settlers/occupiers [3] nervously “enjoy”. It is the comfort of knowing that you are stable today and that you will be tomorrow. And so will your kids be. It is the comfort of knowing that environmental pollution will probably not affect your community right now, it is knowing that your…

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An Open Letter to Black Bear Ranch Commune

bbr-finalBlack Bear Ranch is a commune started in 1968 in the mountains of the very rural Salmon River watershed in so called “Northern California.” The commune has a history of radical politics and was an early experiment in what became the “back to the land” movement. The Salmon River encompasses parts of the Karuk, Konomihu, Chemafeko (New River) Shasta, and Shasta Homelands. The genocidal “Gold Rush” ushered in settler colonialism in the area and Black Bear Ranch itself was historically the richest gold mine on the Salmon River. Despite the massive violence, murder and theft, Indigenous people not only survived in place but continue to revitalize their cultures and fight for their land base. This letter is written by Unsettling Klamath River, a group of settlers working to “unsettle” ourselves and attempting to put into practice the truth that “settler emplacement is incommensurable with decolonization.”

unsettling klamath river

To the residents of Black Bear Ranch, current and former, and to all of the Black Bear Family,

Some of you may have heard of the coming of this letter and/or the group delivering it. Many of you have not and this may come as a surprise to you. We want to acknowledge from the beginning that the group of people we are addressing is a diverse one; from original bears, to current and all in between. As a group we are also diverse; in our age, gender, background, and in our relationships to all of you and the land we call Black Bear Ranch. Our commonality lies in our love for life and our deep desire to see it continue and thrive. We come to you from our hearts, our love for the land and for each other. This letter is written from the place within us all that…

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Decolonization Not Inclusion

Indigenous Resistance to American Settler Colonialism

By Erich W. Steinman, Department of Sociology, Pitzer College, Claremont, CA, USA, via Sage Journals

American Indians experience forms of domination and resist them through a wide range of decolonizing processes that are commonly overlooked, misidentified, or minimally analyzed by American sociology. This inattention reflects the naturalizing use of minoritizing frameworks regarding tribal members and ethnic rather than political conceptions of American Indian nationhood, membership, and identity. Drawing upon a settler colonial framework, the author uses an analytic typology to identify particular dimensions of settler colonialism, their manifestations, and indigenous action addressing those forms of power. Implications for race and ethnic scholarship and for indigenous participation in racial politics are considered.

Click here to read more…

We Can’t Trust White People: On Blood Quantum and Identity Appropriation

Just over 500 years ago, there were these white European explorers who, in the name of god, gold, and glory, sailed west in search of delicious and shiny new things.

After several months at sea, they “discovered” the Americas and claimed them in the names of their Western kings. The problem with their “new world”, besides the fact that it wasn’t all that new to begin with, having been discovered at least forty thousand years prior, is that it was already inhabited—by millions of Indigenous peoples whose love of bathing, science, mathematics, and non-Judeo-Christian spirituality deeply offended the newcomers’ “civilized” sensibilities.

This of course was intolerable to the European emigres; these champions of Manifest Destiny spread a blanket of disease and “democracy” across the continent, transforming the lives and genealogy of Indigenous people forever.

Despite everything, we are still here. Since 1492 we have endured systemic oppression, cultural alienation, genocide, displacement, environmental destruction, banning of our spiritual/traditional practices, hate crimes, rape, and barriers to equal opportunities–atop this, the appropriation of the very identities denied to us.

Identity appropriation, at its best, is a nuisance, whereby people make frivolous claims like “my great grandmother was Pocahontas.” At its worst, it results in non-natives’ unsubstantiated claims to Indigenous heritage in an ad hominem effort to justify anti-indigenous actions and rhetoric.

I’m talking about white people who justify running around in “Native American” headdresses, that they bought at Party City, because they’re allegedly 1/16th “Native American.”

Indigenous appropriation not only belittles our experiences as Indigenous people, it drowns out our voices amidst a sea of non-natives who undermine those concerns with the justification that they have Indigenous heritage and are therefore authorized to to speak on indigenous issues. Indigenous appropriation victimizes and invalidates Indigenous peoples’ voices, which carry the weight of real concerns for our communities.

It’s important that I be clear. I am–not–stating that people with mixed or non-indigenous ancestry cannot claim Indigenous identities. Furthermore, I’m not saying that all people who claim possible Indigenous descent are not entitled to do so.  As an indigenous person of mixed ancestry myself, I understand full well how the issue of identity appropriation is frequently conflated with that of blood quantum: both sensitive topics amongst many Indigenous people.

To understand why these issues are so important and controversial to many of us–let’s talk culture and historical context.

Click here to read the full article…

Decolonizing Permaculture

Herb spiral built during a permablitz in Micmac country near Presque Isle, Maine

This article was originally printed in Permaculture Design Magazine (formerly Permaculture Activist) issue #98, Winter 2015. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this issue.

By Jesse Watson, originally published by Midcoast Permaculture

Exploring the Intersection of Permaculture and Decolonization

This article is meant as a primer on decolonization in a contemporary North American context, written specifically for permaculture designers, teachers, activists and gardeners. It is offered so that we may think critically and philosophically about “sustainability” and our role in our culture as designers of novel ecosystems.

In this article we will seek to answer the following questions: What is decolonization? Why should permaculture designers care? What is my experience with this topic? We will attempt to make a clear critique of settler colonialism here in industrialized North America, and demonstrate how we can simultaneously be both victims and perpetuators of settler colonialism. As a bridge to the challenge of bringing a decolonization framework into permaculture practice and pedagogy, I would like to start by mapping those same questions onto permaculture itself.

As a quick thumbnail sketch, permaculture is an ecological approach to the design of whole systems. It is an ethically bounded framework of ecological design that can be used to design everything from landscapes and farms to business enterprises and other cultural projects, on nearly any scale. On the surface, permaculture is often about designing eco-groovy, perennially edible landscapes, gardens and farms. On a deeper level, permaculture is about the conscious design of ecological cultures. As a design process, permaculture can be used to design both outer and inner landscapes, using observation as the preeminent tool for understanding. We would do well to reflect on our role as ecosystem designers and designers of ecological culture, and to think of ourselves in our design and organizing work as “culture jammers.”[i] What then, are some responsibilities here (vis a vis EarthCare, PeopleCare, FutureCare)? How we behave and interact with our ecosystems matters.

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Indigenous Peoples and the Politics of Water

Call for Submissions for a special issue of Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society:

“…we seek contributions that foreground critical historical, theoretical, and empirical approaches to understanding the politics of water. We contend that struggles over water figure centrally in salient concerns about self-determination, sovereignty, nationhood, autonomy, resistance, survival, and futurity that drive Indigenous political and intellectual work. In recent history, we have seen water assume a distinct and prominent role in Indigenous political formations. Recent examples range from the August 2015 Gold King Mine Spill, which dumped over three million gallons of toxic waste into the San Juan River and devastated Navajo farming communities in the northern part of the Navajo Nation to the continuing water struggles in California, and the water security issues that face First Nations peoples dealing with resource extraction in Canada. Indigenous peoples around the world are forced to formulate innovative and powerful responses to the contamination, exploitation, and theft of water, even as they are silenced or dismissed by genocidal schemes reproduced through legal, corporate, state, and academic means.

We also recognize that the politics of water is deeply intertwined with contemporary water security and policy issues that affect both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples around the world. The responses and efforts to control water in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities have been consistently designed to serve the imperatives of settler colonialism. Indigenous analyses of these global issues in water politics are key–whether at grassroots, institutional, or governmental levels– to challenging, refusing, and revising the violence of such imperatives and building a better future.

This special issue stages a timely intervention into this urgent state of affairs, focusing on how water is taken up in fields of power conditioned by settler colonialism, normative Indigenous nationalisms, (neo)liberalism, Indigenous resistance, and capitalism. As an undisciplinary, open access journal dedicated to material struggles for decolonization, Decolonization is uniquely positioned for convening a collection of articles concerned with the invigoration of efforts to decolonize the genocidal politics of water. We seek contributions that address the politics of water in any number of diverse historical, political, tribal, or regional contexts. We also seek a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds, including environmental science, social justice, policy, literary, grassroots, activist, historical, and artistic approaches. However, we seek contributions that are characteristically rich in theory, research, critique, and analysis. Whether articulated through a politics of refusal, a critique of water law, or engagement with Indigenous epistemologies, we also seek contributions that advance a sustained and critical engagement with the idea and practice of decolonization. While you may choose to employ existing decolonial frameworks in your manuscript, we also welcome arguments that challenge the appropriateness of decolonization as a framework for understanding/interpreting water politics. Given the dearth of critical writings about this subject, we envision this issue as a landmark source for critical Indigenous perspectives on water that will generate vibrant discussion well into the future. Join us!”

Decolonization

Download a shareable PDF of this Call for Submissions here:

The Politics of Water- Special Issue – Decolonization


Title: Indigenous Peoples and The Politics of Water

Editors: Melanie K. Yazzie (University of New Mexico) and Dr. Cutcha Risling Baldy (San Diego State University)

Abstracts Due: April 4, 2016

Submissions Due: August 31, 2016

                                               

Call for Submissions

Overview

[Feb 3, 2016] Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society invites articles from scholars, artists, activists, policy makers, and community members for a special issue of the journal exploring Indigenous peoples and the politics of water. Water is an ancient and sacred element of Indigenous epistemologies and ways of life. Water sustains, builds and inspires. In the contemporary context climate change, water security, and environmental destruction have captivated popular attention. A proliferation of scholarly and public works, as well as (inter)governmental working groups and summits, have emerged to address these interrelated issues. We acknowledge…

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