Category Archives: colonialism

Towards an Understanding of Cultural Appropriation in Rewilding

Rewild Or DieFrom Rewilding with Peter Michael Bauer

Dear White Rewilders,

I’m white too. Clearly. No hiding that fact. I have pale skin, blue eyes, and a lot of facial hair. If you are reading this, you are probably white too, as this letter is addressed to you, and the majority of the rewilding community is, at the time of this writing, white. While I (and maybe you) don’t identify as a white imperialist, or identify with “whiteness” at all, I live in a culture of white imperialism and I receive all the benefits of living as a white male in a white imperialist culture. As a white rewilder, I have often been accused of cultural appropriation by both Native and Non-Native people alike. Some of these accusations have been true and some false. The more I learn about appropriation, the more respectful and learned I have become. Rewilding is so important to me, and to our future, that I want to do whatever I can to create deeper connections between Native people and Non-Native people as we rewild. I’ve traversed this road for a while now and learned some things that can help us all work together more effectively. This is an open letter about cultural appropriation, how to avoid it, educate yourself on it, and learn from other cultures in a sincere and respectful way that will create collaborative partnerships. This isn’t a definitive guide. This is an intro to a never-ending conversation about this topic that we need to be having regularly.

[For those randomly reading this: Rewilding is a subcultural movement of people returning to, or attempting to re-create, pre-industrial, pre-agrarian cultures and lifeways of hunter-gatherers and/or horticultural societies. Rewilding takes inspiration from the most modern interpretations of prehistory provided by anthropology, archaeology, and ethnobiology. It is an anti-civilization critique that encourages the un-doing of empire and the culture of occupation. We believe that civilization (not to be conflated with civil societies) is inherently destructive, has caused the sixth mass extinction, and is currently in a state of long-term collapse. We are a niche within a niche within a niche. Here in the Americas, the dominant, popular culture continues to rob and mine Native Americans for everything they can, while continuing to treat them like they no longer exist, or only exist as historical stereotypes. It makes sense then, that if we want to rewild, to create sustainable cultures, to reclaim the inherent indigenousity that exists within everyone, that we need to create understanding between rewilders and the Native cultures that have lived here in this way for time immemorial. Most importantly we need to tread lightly and learn how to be respectful, and mutually beneficial as we rewild.]

I should make it clear right out that I am not speaking for Native people. I’m speaking along side them, and sharing what I have heard and learned from close friends and strangers alike. Native people speak for themselves, if you listen. However, they do get tired of having these conversations over and over again, so I thought I would address them from what I understand. Also, I’ve been told that white people tend to listen to other white people so it’s important for us to talk to each other about these issues as well.

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From Truth Telling to Land Return: 4 Ways White People Can Work for Indigenous Justice

By , Everyday Feminism

It’s important that when talking about Indigenous justice, we talk in specifics because of how colonization has impacted different Indigenous people in varied ways.

This article will focus on the context of colonization in what we now refer to as the United States, and it is informed by the activism and expertise of one Dakota person, Waziyatawin, Ph.D.

Thus, while there are surely ways that this article can inform activism outside of this context, it should be understood to be limited in this way.

In their seminal work linking Critical Race Theory to education entitled Toward a Critical Race Theory of Education, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings and Dr. William F. Tate, IV explain how the United States is founded fundamentally on property rights rather than human rights.

If human rights were central to the constitution (rather than property rights), it would have been far more difficult for European colonists to continually legally justify slavery, genocide, and the theft of virtually every acre of land in North America.

Thus, the mark of success in the US constitutional system is ownership of property. Whether we’re talking abstract “assets” like stock, the ownership of people, or ownership of land, the longest-running “smart investment” for those legally and financially able to access it, property, drives wealth and prosperity in the US and most Western, capitalist societies.

As a result, any conversation about Indigenous justice threatens the positionality of all settlers — non-Indigenous people — because, in the words of Dr. Wazayatawin, “[W]ithin Indigenous worldviews, land is life. Colonization, in its fundamental sense, involved disconnecting [Indigenous people] from our homelands (so our homelands could be occupied by settlers instead).”

And in my experience, any time we start talking about land return or reparations, White folks (those settlers like myself for whom this property-based system was built) collectively freak out.

If we’re going to talk about what justice actually can and must look like, we have to start talking about the decentering of settler identities and people and about the recentering of Indigenous people and struggle — no matter how uncomfortable that may make us.

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Counter Columbus, Confront Colonialism, Capitalism & Climate Crisis

v28 n4 OCT-DEC 2015 frontBy Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles/People Against Racist Terror (ARA-LA/PART)

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the US Civil War and the triumph of incipient industrial capitalism over earlier, deeply-rooted mercantile and slave-based and land-based forms of capitalism. It set the stage for what is coming to be known as the “Anthropocene.” This is a period of bio-geological development in which human activity is shaping the atmospheric, oceanic and planetary ecological systems in ways that the pre-existing natural systems can no longer contain or accommodate. The consequences of the ensuing 15 decades of intensive exploitation of carbon-based energy resources for warfare, agribusiness, industrial production, and transportation are becoming increasingly undeniable.

We are facing a climatological catastrophe, global mass extinctions, and a possibly irreversible environmental transformation that will mark the end of the 10,000 year period, the Holocene, during which human civilization, based on agriculture, has developed. Global warming, ocean acidification, melting of polar ice, sea level rise, extreme weather events including super-storms, floods and droughts, may soon make the planet unrecognizable, and possibly uninhabitable for humans and thousands of other species whose physical evolution and life cycles cannot keep pace with these transformations.

It behooves us, if we have any hope of staving off such calamities, or of surviving them if and as they occur, to analyze the roots of the social, political and economic behaviors and practices that have brought them about. We must also understand and undo the reasons for the failures of previous efforts to transform human society.

To do so, we must look further back in time, first to the birth of capitalism as a particular form of class society and of exploitation of nature and of humanity within nature, further into the beginnings of history and class society, and then into the entirety of the geological and biological development of earth including the emergence of our species. Doing that in a page or so of this newspaper, 2000 words, is an ambitious goal, so bear with me if what follows is particularly dense. It is also, though I begin by quoting Marx, not going to be the typical “Marxist” presentation of what purports to be class analysis or dialectical and historical materialism, because that has proven insufficient.

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Deceptive. Greedy. Murderer. Racist… Hero Who “Discovered” America?

Recently, eight U.S. cities have repealed Columbus Day. The holiday, however, remains a federally recognized holiday.

Recently, eight U.S. cities have repealed Columbus Day. The holiday, however, remains a federally recognized holiday.

Why More States, Cities Need to Repeal Columbus Day

By Sarah Sunshine Manning, Indian Country Today Media Network

Deceptive. Greedy. Murderer. Racist. Not exactly characteristics of a hero, and certainly not the makings of a man worthy of a national holiday.

Jig’s up, America. Christopher Columbus was a genocidal madman. America’s first and original terrorist. And as our global consciousness and awareness of humanity expands, it is time we give up defending Christopher Columbus as anything but otherwise.

Indigenous people have been protesting the Columbus Day holiday for decades. And for some, efforts have successfully resulted in change.

In 2014, the cities of Seattle and Minneapolis successfully abolished Columbus Day, replacing it with Indigenous Peoples Day. And recently, eight more cities have successfully made the change, too: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Lawrence, Kansas; Portland, Oregon; St. Paul, Minnesota; Bexar County, Texas; Anadarko, Okalahoma; Olympia, Washington; and Alpena, Michigan.

Yet it was actually decades earlier, in 1990, that the State of South Dakota made the first waves, declaring the second Monday in October, as Native American Day.  South Dakota is currently the only state to have eliminated Columbus Day.

Click here to read the full article…

RELATED: Who Could Possibly Be in Favor of Columbus Day?

The REAL History Of Christopher Columbus

From The Young Turks

Monday, October 12th is Columbus Day, which we have celebrated in this country since the eighteenth century… and that’s probably long enough. When you find out the actual facts of what Columbus did when he got to America, you’ll find one of the darkest chapters in American history. Cenk Uygur and John Iadarola (Think Tank), hosts of the The Young Turks, break it down. Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

“Second, Columbus wasn’t a hero. When he set foot on that sandy beach in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492, Columbus discovered that the islands were inhabited by friendly, peaceful people called the Lucayans, Taínos and Arawaks. Writing in his diary, Columbus said they were a handsome, smart and kind people. He noted that the gentle Arawaks were remarkable for their hospitality. “They offered to share with anyone and when you ask for something, they never say no,” he said. The Arawaks had no weapons; their society had neither criminals, prisons nor prisoners. They were so kind-hearted that Columbus noted in his diary that on the day the Santa Maria was shipwrecked, the Arawaks labored for hours to save his crew and cargo. The native people were so honest that not one thing was missing.

Columbus was so impressed with the hard work of these gentle islanders, that he immediately seized their land for Spain and enslaved them to work in his brutal gold mines. Within only two years, 125,000 (half of the population) of the original natives on the island were dead.”

For more info, check out Columbus Day? True Legacy: Cruelty and Slavery

Celebrating Columbus? The Myths Behind the Man

 Christopher Columbus and his men hunted Natives with war-dogs.

Christopher Columbus and his men hunted Natives with war-dogs.

By Steve Russell, Indian Country Today Media Network

Cristóbal Colón aka Cristóvão Colombo aka Cristoforo Colombo aka Christopher Columbus has gotten lots of breaks from history. He escapes blame for the massive die-off of the peoples in this hemisphere on the theory he did not intend the spread of disease, but he also gets a pass on his barbaric personal conduct among the Taino people.

The exploration package he finally sold to the monarchs of what would be Spain (after failing to interest Portugal, England, Venice, and even his hometown of Genoa) involved making him governor of the lands he discovered and conjuring up a new title just for him. He had requested “Great Admiral of the Ocean” but he settled for “Admiral of the Ocean Sea.”

Note that Columbus was Genoan rather than Italian because Italy did not exist. From the fall of the Roman Empire to the middle of the 19th century, the peninsula was a land of warring and conspiring city-states. It was culturally rich but politically fragmented, like the Indians of North America.

Of course, there was no “Spain” either, but the marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon laid the geographical and political basis for a nation that would become an empire based on looting of the Americas by the conquistadores who followed Columbus. The miscalculation of the monarchs who turned down Columbus would be unmatched in history until Decca Records turned down The Beatles, but of course the Fab Four were not thieves.

Click here to read the full article…

Special decolonization issue of Geez magazine

Issue 39The Decolonization Issue
Issue 39, Fall 2015

“There are good and bad things in our society, successes and failures. But there is only one fundamental reality that remains unaddressed. That is the situation of indigenous peoples. This is the single most important issue before us, whether we are recently arrived in Canada or have been here for centuries.” – John Ralston Saul

In the midst of production for this issue of Geez, editor Aiden Enns sat down with guest editors Leah Gazan and Steve Heinrichs to get a sense of what readers could expect from an issue on decolonization. What follows is a brief excerpt based on their conversation.

Aiden Enns: What does decolonization mean to you?

Leah Gazan: For me, decolonization is about reconnecting back to land and place and an identity that was defined prior to colonization. We very often talk about building communities through economic development but there’s no greater poverty than poverty of the spirit. So I think decolonization means rejuvenating the spirit that’s rooted in land and ceremony and identity and relationships and an understanding of everybody’s role in that.

Steve Heinrichs: A simple metaphor many folks bring up is the guest-host relationship. It’s a bit simplistic but it rings true. You have people coming into another family’s home and occupying the space, with the original owners in the attic while the guests have the run of the house and dictate the rules.

Most of us non-native folks in Canada have not recognized our connection to host peoples and our obligation to honour our relationships with them. Decolonization is not just a fancy umbrella word for undoing sexism, undoing racism – the oppressions list. It is specifically talking about settler colonialism.

Patrick Wolfe says settler colonialism is not an event, it is a structure. It’s not simply a history which we’re trying to become aware of and lament and then move toward respectful relationships. It is a structure, so that means this relationship continues. It means fundamentally reworking our relationship into a place of mutuality and respect.

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A Settler Reflects on Organizing for Palestine on the Oregon Trail

Chehalis First Nations people of so-called

Chehalis First Nations people of so-called “British Columbia”, 1910 (Source: Wikipedia)

By Sara Swetzoff,

After living in Portland, Oregon, I finally came to understand the meaning of “the Western frontier.” Removed from my East Coast hometown and associated mythologies of belonging, I learned to see myself as a settler for the first time. A white settler heading west, as so many have before me. From metropolis to frontier, like an Israeli moving from Tel Aviv to the West Bank settlements.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, the settler projects called the United States and Canada are especially young. With a low settler population density, Native pride and sovereignty is more visible in this region, especially amongst the First Nations of British Columbia (Canada). In fact, Portland has one of the biggest populations of Native Americans of any American city.

Here, on the frontier, the settler state is stretched thin, and all around me I see its criminal logic with startling clarity.

A new economic era brings new branding: instead of promising parcels of land for orchards and cattle ranches, the frontier now lures predominantly urban pioneers with trendy restaurants and mountain holidays. Buzzwords like “sustainable” and “local” adorn every amenity. This is the neoliberal version of Manifest Destiny, camouflaged with a hip veneer of clean living and conscientious consumerism.

In Portland, this newest wave of settlement is pushing the Native population to the fringes, once again. In recent years, the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) relocated from the city’s central Mississippi Avenue district to the industrial outskirts of North Portland; elders remember the area as the Chinook fishing village of Neerchokikoo. Next-door is a giant parking lot of Caterpillar bulldozers – the same ones that knock down Palestinian homes thousands of miles away.

Despite its branding, the underlying logic of the settler project in Portland and beyond is clearly anything but local. It is deeply embedded within the matrix of global capital and extraction economics. Nike, Intel, Microsoft, and a plethora of Internet start-ups intentionally employ the most successful, mostly white newcomers to Portland and Seattle. The rest of the population works in the low-wage service industries that keep the affluent fed and entertained.

To the north of us in British Columbia, this same insatiable pattern of development and growth drives the metal mining that swallows First Nations land and poisons their salmon runs. Midwestern extraction industries plot to lace the Northwest with coal, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and tar sands transport corridors. China has already built the refineries – they need the fuel to make our phones.

As settlers moving west, we are modern-day seekers of the American Promised Land. But there are many more frontiers of colonization across the country, in both urban and rural locations, and not all stakeholders are white. Assimilationist multiculturalism opens up more and more opportunities for people of color to reap the benefits of settlement, even as the state continues to enslave and exploit others from the same communities.

The mechanisms of settler colonialism are complex and insidious: just as the white Ashkenazi elite in Israel pits Mizrahi laborer against African refugee against Palestinian farmer, so does American white supremacy sow divisions amongst its most oppressed in order to prevent them from recognizing they share more with each other and local Indigenous Peoples than with the white settler establishment.

Each of us must examine our complicity together with our community and strategize accordingly. As students, we have to recognize that our universities are by default bound up in the economic dynamics of the colonizer state. We cannot undermine Israel – a client state settler project bankrolled by the United States – without also working for decolonization here in the heart of the empire.

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Hawaii: Building an indigenous coalition for radical resistance to colonialism

We talk with Kanaka Maoli David Maile about indigenous coalition The Red Nation’s efforts to unite different native people in radical resistance to colonialism, and how Native Hawaiians can stand in solidarity with other native peoples.

By Will Caron, The Hawaii Independent

Yesterday, indigenous rights and decolonization coalition The Red Nation issued a statement of solidarity with the Native Hawaiians currently protesting the development of the massive Thirty-Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. This statement of solidarity is in line with The Red Nation’s goal of building unity between indigenous peoples around the world and teaching these people effective methods of radical resistance to colonial-capitalist systems of oppression.

The Red Nation was envisioned by two Ph.D. students at the University of New Mexico, Nick Estes and Melanie Yazzie, and is comprised of both indigenous and non-indigenous activists, scholars, educators and community organizers—all working toward the liberation of indigenous peoples from colonialism. The coalition seeks to center native peoples’ agendas and struggles through advocacy, mobilization and education about ways of working outside the these subversive systems (hence, radical).

To learn more about The Red Nation, native coalition building, and these radical methods of native resistance to colonialism, we talked with David Maile, a Kanaka Maoli and 2006 graduate of Kamehameha Schools , and a member of The Red Nation who is currently a Ph.D. student in American Studies at the University of New Mexico.

Click here to read the full article…

Why Racial Justice Work Needs to Address Settler Colonialism and Native Rights

By , Everyday Feminism

“To recognize one’s own role in the oppression of others is not about blame but about opening our eyes to see how power works and how we can redirect it so it doesn’t diminish us all.” —Shona Jackson

I am Taiwanese American, and I still struggle to make sense of what that really means. My relationship to nationhood and to space has been about trying to seek belonging and acceptance.

I am not seen as fully American, yet when I visit Taiwan, it is clear that I am not Taiwanese.

One thing I am clear on: I am not white – though some white folks don’t immediately read me as a person of color.

Most often, I am invisible. I am always from somewhere else.

While I typically self-identify as a second-generation Taiwanese American, there are already a few issues with that identity marker. For example, even though my generational status marks my family’s recent immigration history – which is a critical part of my Taiwanese American ethnic experience – it erases histories prior to contact with the United States. 

By I prioritizing my US citizenship, I am demanding to be a part of an imperialist system that literally needs my membership to toot its horn as a “multicultural melting pot.” Yet, my membership as an American citizen is still contested.

Consequently, I am racially categorized as a “perpetual foreigner” – as an Asian American, my belonging on this land, to this nation, and in this space, is constantly in question.

White supremacy has never completely accepted the presence of Asians in the United States and history demonstrates this through institutionalized exclusion, internment, objectification, and hate crimes.

Yet despite knowing that I am unwanted, I still find myself thinking – hoping – that if I can change the “non-American” parts of myself, I can finally experience the benefits of belonging.

And so, I attempt to remove my “Asian-ness.”

In the classroom, I over-perform my version of “American-ness” because I am frustrated when professors confuse me with Asian international students – who get stereotyped as not being able to speak English and, as a result, have to deal with learning from impatient and xenophobic professors.

In order to avoid this, I have found myself betraying members of my community by trying to prove I’m not just “one of them”.

When I am asked the question, “Where are you really from?” I purposefully erase my roots and reply that I am from the United States.

The ways I’ve learned to survive and belong in a country that marginalizes and labels me as a foreigner is rooted in the legacy of oppressing others.

But it’s taken me a while to even understand this phenomenon.

I do racial justice work to address identity-based oppression, and through this work, I’ve started to learn more deeply about colonialism.

I’ve realized that the way I’ve been taught to construct my identity and prioritize my “American-ness is dependent on the impact of United States’ colonial history and current oppressive practices towards Indigenous and Native communities.

And that is just one of the ways anti-racism work often colludes with colonialism. To truly do racial justice work, we, non-Native people of color, can’t solely focus on just the ways we’ve been marginalized or oppressed.

As people of color living in the United States, while we experience many forms of oppression, we are also still complicit in ongoing projects of colonization.

Colonization involves the extension of domination of one group over another, targeting Native groups from US “states and territories,” from places impacted by global capitalism, and groups Indigenous to lands they were stolen and/or displaced from.

While most people of color have experienced forms of colonial control, being a person of color does not automatically carry a direct colonial history.

We – especially those of us doing racial justice work – need to start looking at all the different forms of oppression and how they’re related to one another.

Settler colonialism and racism are connected and co-dependent, but they are not the same thing. Their impacts are experienced differently across communities.

We erase each other’s unique struggles and legacies when we appropriate each other’s oppressions and that’s not accountable racial justice work.

Here are some of the places I’ve started to think through racism and settler colonialism

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