Decolonization and Arizona

Thoughts of Confronting Local & Global Realities

by Luke, Stronghold zine (PDF),  Survival Solidarity

An honest introduction

It’s amazing how easy it is, as a white, male-bodied individual, to ignore some obvious facts of life. Facts of life that demand my  immediate attention, but won’t affect me without it. While some of us sit on the thrones of privilege, those who exist and struggle at  the cost of these thrones can appear, in the most fucked up of ways, to not even exist. Even worse, if and when pointed out repeatedly,  many people often go through periods of denial before coming close to ever beginning confronting their place within humyn society,  along with their place on this Earth at large.

One of these obvious facts I speak of became more apparent to me after the move I made to Tucson, Arizona a few years ago. This  fact is that my existence on this land, both here and where I’m from back east, is the result of an ongoing massive genocide against  indigenous peoples and the Earth.

We all have to know this, of course. History books lie, no doubt, but there’s only so much one can do to manipulate the atrocities of history.

Sometimes there is no way of escaping a clearly demonstrated problem and solution. Our colonial existence on this land is our  problem, whether it was our choice to be born here or not. Our support of those resisting this and our own confrontations with it is a  needed solution. Hopefully this does not encourage guilt as a basis for action, which is probably the least constructive and sustainable  source of motivation. It is, rather, intended to encourage merely stepping up, acknowledging these realities, and moving from there.

While this article focuses on issues of colonialism and environmental issues locally, the history of colonialism on this land is  deeply connected to the similar histories of sexual domination, race domination and other forms of oppression experienced at different  levels of our culture’s hierarchies. People have been resisting domination for hundreds of years. The problem of individual and institutional authoritarian behavior is set in stone. It’s up to us to support and defend this resistance.

We have to locate and take notice of these obvious facts rather than deny and ignore how this history is not really history at all,  how it still haunts our surroundings.

North to south, south to north, a variety of examples of these realities can be named. Where border and immigration issues fall  into this discourse is up for discussion, and must, of course, be equally addressed. In order to take one step at a time, I am choosing to  focus on and clarify, for myself and others, how Arizona faces continued destruction and exploitation of the land at the hands of industry, while simultaneously further colonizing indigenous people’s territory.

A brief and incomplete rundown

Superior, Arizona-based company Resolution Copper has their eyes set on San Carlos Apache land to create the largest copper  mine North America has yet to see. Senators John Kyl and John McCain have introduced legislation that would allow Resolution Copper to exploit this land, which was previously protected in 1955 by Public Land Order 1229. While the Apache Leap, Gaan Canyon  and Oak Flat areas of Arizona are held sacred by the San Carlos Apaches, profit-driven suits can only see dollar signs in such destruction.

West of Phoenix, the proposed 8-Lane 202 South Mountain freeway extension route threatens to invade tribal land, destroy homes  of Ahwatukee and West Phoenix residents and ruin a portion of South Mountain. Gila River Tribal Council and District 6 have both  passed resolutions against the route. However, the Maricopa Associations of Governments (MAG) Transportation Committee voted  unanimously to approve the 8-lane 202 South Mountain Freeway extension in total disregard to the people whose land and homes this  will divide and ruin.

Further south, 65 miles of the US / Mexico border divides the Tohono O’odham reservation right in two, with no respect to any  notion of sovereignty. This subjects those who must travel through this border, as they and their ancestors had always done long before  colonization and the existence of such a border, to various types of harassment, violence and intimidation by border officials.

There is also the continued threat of environmental degradation on sacred O’odham land near the ceremonial grounds of Quito-  vac, Sonora. Just eight miles from this land, the company Centro de Gestion Intergral de Residuos has attempted to dump 45,000 tons  of hazardous waste into the Earth. They have been defeated twice, however the fight for permanent protection of Quitovac continues.

Meanwhile, it’s leading activist, O’odham human rights activist Ofelia Rivas, has faced severe repression. Last February, she was  imprisoned for four days in southern Chiapas while supporting Zapatistas due to false charges of crossing the border of Guatemala  without documents.

Up north, the indigenous peoples of Black Mesa have been resisting large and unjust coal mining operations along with the forced  relocation policies of the US government for decades. Their struggle for their lives and their land is actively opposing colonialism and  working to protect the Earth every single day that they get up and continue living their traditional lifestyle. Through the organization  Black Mesa Indigenous Support, there is a clear opportunity to support this struggle.

Outside of Flagstaff, the San Francisco Peaks are threatened by a full “build-out” of the Arizona Snowbowl, which includes new runs and lifts, and using 180 million gallons of “reclaimed wastewater” each year for snowmaking. Cultural rights are threatened. The  health of families is threatened. Future water supplies are threatened. Endangered plants and animals will be further disrupted. The  Save the Peaks Coalition is currently, and very actively, opposing this development.

As far as I can tell, I could never tell far enough. This is in no way supposed to be some sort of comprehensive list summing up all  anti-colonial and environmental struggles here in Arizona. The roots of colonialism continue to invade beneath all that is indigenous  and natural, in ways both large and small. These issues implicate government, industry, capital and the cultures of domination that we  perpetuate as a beast with many heads. It would be impossible to touch on every issue.

Like noted above, though, the overall problems are set in stone. As a person with white, male-bodied and settler privilege, I hope  to continue to seek out these issues, listen to those affected and try to figure out how I can support them. I have yet to even breech the  surface of this task.

A widening perspective

With the formation of the Arizona-based group Survival Solidarity, I was primarily excited about the recognition of inter-connected struggles. Tying in self-defense training, gardening and survival skills, prisoner support and support of all liberation struggles  makes sense to me as an integral part of decolonization. We cannot separate the aspects of struggle that, when thought out, are, or most  certainly will be if they are not currently, necessary for success and for survival.

During a benefit event here in Tucson for the O’odham Voice Against the Wall, an organization that advocates for the traditional  O’odham leaders of the O’odham communities in the Southern Territory of Mexico and the Northern Territory of the United States, we  had the opportunity to host indigenous author Ward Churchill.

Churchill ended his lecture on an uneasy note for some of us, I think, by clearly stating that colonialism is an issue that must be  regarded as a priority before sexism, classism, etc. while making a point to refer to the term “anti-authoritarian” in a condescending  manner. His reasoning being that no matter what we are struggling against, we are doing it on colonized land, and everything else must  wait.

In the introduction to this article I brought up how the histories of every form of oppression are interlocked. This includes co-  lonialism, racism, patriarchy and the rest. I would recommend the book “Conquest” by Cherokee author Andrea Smith, as it delves  much deeper into the harsh realities of this inter-connectedness.

I’m not entirely sure how others use the term, but for me “anti-authoritarian” is a blanket term to encompass this inter-connectedness of oppression. It is not a political identity; it is merely helpful in describing how all forms of oppression and hierarchy must be  fought simultaneously. If the entire world were decolonized tomorrow, according to Churchill’s logic, then, and only then, should we  move on to combating patriarchy. This is reminiscent of traditional socialist/leftist attitudes towards revolutionary politics; all libera-  tion struggles outside of the workplace must wait until capitalism is done away with.

To this attitude I say: You will never succeed. With one liberation struggle you need the comradeship of the other. We do, indeed,  need to face colonialism, and we need to do it right now. If we ignore the suffering of those on other levels of societies hierarchies, we  cannot do it together. Our perspectives need to widen.

With this ever-widening perspective, we can navigate through the local issues mentioned in this article. We can listen to and seek  to support the Indigenous people whose land we exist on. All the while, we can build our analysis and action towards decolonization and total liberation.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s