Category Archives: Decolonization & Unsettling

Rethinking Thanksgiving Toolkit

Artwork by Kandi White, Indigenous Environmental Network, CultureStrike and Micah Bazant

Artwork by Kandi White, Indigenous Environmental Network, CultureStrike and Micah Bazant

From the Indigenous Solidarity Network

Introduction

For many Indigenous People, giving thanks is a way of life. Among the Haudenushonne (Iroquois) Nations an opening address, or Great Thanksgiving, are the words spoken at start of day and before any important gathering of people commences its activity… Other Indigenous People also begin their days and activities with a prayer of Thanksgiving for all creation. We put our tobacco down as a gift of thanks. Thanksgiving, respect and reciprocity are core to our life ways.

– Barb Munson (Oneida Nation), Wisconsin Indian Education Association, Indian Mascot And Logo Taskforce

There are many different experiences we will have over Thanksgiving – some of us will have lots of food, some of us will struggle to have enough. Some will be surrounded by people and some will be alone or with just one other person. For many, it’s an important time of coming together with family. This day also gives us a chance to look at and change stories we have about our families and ourselves. Thanksgiving is based on myths that hide and erase the genocide that the United States is founded upon. What would it mean to tell a different story; an honest story?

This past year has been filled with an emboldening of white supremacy. At the same time, more and more people are working to create something different. We cannot expect that justice will ever come if we are not willing to face the injustices of our past and present. Holidays can be a time to connect and talk about these realities and touch people’s hearts in profound ways. This can be fertile ground for lasting change.

The Indigenous Solidarity Network has developed this toolkit geared for white folks to discuss settler privilege and Thanksgiving with family, friends, and broader community. Deep gratitude to Dina Gilio-Whitaker and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz for sharing the chapter “Thanksgiving Proves the Indians Welcomed the Pilgrims” from their book All the Real Indians Died Off: and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans. We need to talk about the history and ongoing reality of settler colonialism. (Meaning how European people violently took over lands and peoples for their own gains, and came to stay. In the US, this process of settling included enslaving people of African descent to build a country on Indigenous land.)

If you’re having these conversations with People of Color and/or Indigenous peoples, listen to what they’re bringing. It’s important to look at the complex ways that the colonization of Indigenous Nations went hand in hand with enslaving African people to work that land and how the violence is ongoing, as is Indigenous and People of Color led resistance. It can be hard for any of us to confront the ways we benefit from oppression and hard to talk about with people who do not agree with us. But this is how change starts and gives us the chance for real healing.

We invite you to take a moment to pause and breathe. What is happening in your body right now? How are you? Holidays are intense for many of us – whether they are filled with joy or sorrow and struggle, or a combination. Taking time to pause and notice how we are doing and what is happening can support us to continue to be in hard conversations.

As with any work in which we are acting in solidarity against oppression, we recognize that we do this work not ‘for’ Indigenous Peoples, but in partnership. We act out of mutual interest, recognizing that we are all facing the crisis of climate catastrophe and environmental destruction. It is Indigenous peoples who are fighting back most intensely and defending their lands. Supporting Indigenous protection of lands and waters ensures they will be protected for future generations.

Click here to read more…

The Indigenous Solidarity Network initially grew out of SURJ, Catalyst and other folks work at Standing Rock and following ongoing solidarity efforts with Standing Rock fighting the DAPL pipeline and to protect the water.  It has since become a network to share resources, and actions for non-native people to be in solidarity with indigenous struggles.  We host quarterly video calls, send e-mail updates, and action alerts.  Join the email list to keep updated by emailing anticolonialsolidarity@gmail.com.

Thanksgiving Is Dedicated to Erasing the Ruthlessness of English Settlers

Settler colonialism is based not on giving thanks but on the taking of Native life and land

By Joseph M. Pierce, Truthout

Thanksgiving is a colonial holiday meant to erase the ruthlessness of English settlers. In a way, Thanksgiving is the perfect American holiday: It is based on the erasure of Indigenous peoples, promotes a false vision of peaceful cooperation between nations, and has now become an excuse to indulge in the spectacles of hyper-consumption and football.

The historical record is murky about exactly when and where the first “Thanksgiving” was held. Most Americans say it was 1621 in what is now Massachusetts, when a group of Pilgrims and Indians gathered to celebrate the first harvest after the arrival of the Mayflower. Some point to when President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a federal holiday in 1863 as a way of reconciling communities during the Civil War. Both of those dates obscure the 1637 massacre of more than 700 Pequot men, women, children and elders in what is now Connecticut. The state governor celebrated that massacre with a Thanksgiving feast. There is a good case to be made that Thanksgiving is in fact a celebration of that genocide.

I have been thinking about the ruthlessness of this holiday and of what it conceals. Settlers are ruthless. Capitalism is ruthless. Patriarchy is ruthless. All of these were forced upon Indigenous communities without our consent. “Ruthless” comes from the old English word “rue” (to feel regret). Ruthlessness means having no regrets.

Click here to read the full article from Truthout…

Joseph M. Pierce is associate professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature at Stony Brook University. He is the author of Argentine Intimacies: Queer Kinship in an Age of Splendor, 1890-1910 (SUNY Press, 2019) and co-editor of Políticas del amor: Derechos sexuales y escrituras disidentes en el Cono Sur (Cuarto Propio, 2018). He is also one of the editors of the Syllabus project “Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee Citizenship, and DNA Testing,” published by Critical Ethnic Studies. He is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

The End of American Thanksgivings: A Cause for Universal Rejoicing

By Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report

The mythology that Thanksgiving nurtures is itself inherently evil.

“The Mayflower’s cultural heirs are programmed to find glory In their own depravity and savagery in their most helpless victims.”

Nobody but Americans celebrates Thanksgiving. It is reserved by history and the intent of “the founders” as the supremely white American holiday, the most ghoulish event on the national calendar. No Halloween of the imagination can rival the exterminationist reality that was the genesis, and remains the legacy, of the American Thanksgiving. It is the most loathsome, humanity-insulting day of the year – a pure glorification of racist barbarity.

We at BC are thankful that the day grows nearer when the almost four centuries-old abomination will be deprived of its reason for being: white supremacy. Then we may all eat and drink in peace and gratitude for the blessings of humanity’s deliverance from the rule of evil men.

Thanksgiving is much more than a lie – if it were that simple, an historical correction of the record of events in 1600s Massachusetts would suffice to purge the “flaw” in the national mythology. But Thanksgiving is not just a twisted fable, and the mythology it nurtures is itself inherently evil. The real-life events – subsequently revised – were perfectly understood at the time as the first, definitive triumphs of the genocidal European project in New England. The near-erasure of Native Americans in Massachusetts and, soon thereafter, from most of the remainder of the northern English colonial seaboard was the true mission of the Pilgrim enterprise – Act One of the American Dream. African Slavery commenced contemporaneously – an overlapping and ultimately inseparable Act Two.

The last Act in the American drama must be the “root and branch” eradication of all vestiges of Act One and Two – America’s seminal crimes and formative projects. Thanksgiving as presently celebrated – that is, as a national political event – is an affront to civilization.

Click here to read the full article from Black Agenda Report

This article first appeared in the November 27, 2003 issue of The Black Commentator.

Thanksgiving and the African Revolutionary

, Hood Communist

Well, it’s that time of the year, comrades when we are gravitated by guilt back towards our family for the Colonizer’s Holiday Season. The first Holiday is Thanksgiving, where the resources of the working class are pocketed by farmers and airlines.

Thanksgiving has a special place in the hearts of Colonized Revolutionaries. It either speaks to a time where you witnessed a family member exposing the colonial holiday for its brutal genocidal nature or you were that family member that did the exposing. I remember I learned about the natives being the first people of this land in first grade. No matter how nice my teacher tried to make the story about them three ships sound, I was very clear on who the bad guys and good guys were. I made an announcement on that Thanksgiving how disgusted I was by this story.

We should all know by now that Thanksgiving is nothing but the celebration of stolen land by way of murdering millions of indigenous people. It’s giving thanks for the bedrock of colonialism which birthed capitalism, which is white people’s life support. How do white people become the parasites of the human race and the planet and then find special days to celebrate that inhuman relationship is beyond me.

Click here to read the full article from Hood Communist

Leonard Peltier’s 2019 Thanksgiving Message: “Walking on Stolen Land”

Published November 23, 2019 – Native News Online

(Listen via Prison Radio)

COLEMAN, FLORIDA – Leonard Peltier, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, who is incarcerated at the U.S. Penitentiary in Coleman, Florida, for his 1977 conviction in connection with a shootout with U.S. government forces, where two FBI agents and one young American Indian lost their lives.

Peltier, who is considered a political prisoner of war by many, released this statement on Thanksgiving through the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee:

The year of 2019 is coming to a close and with it, comes the day most Americans set aside as a day for Thanksgiving. As I let my mind wander beyond the steel bars and concrete walls, I try to imagine what the people who live outside the prison gates are doing, and what they are thinking. Do they ever think of the Indigenous people who were forced from their homelands? Do they understand that with every step they take, no matter the direction, that they are walking on stolen land? Can they imagine, even for one minute, what it was like to watch the suffering of the women, the children and babies and yes, the sick and elderly, as they were made to keep pushing west in freezing temperatures, with little or no food? These were my people and this was our land. There was a time when we enjoyed freedom and were able to hunt buffalo and gather the foods and sacred medicines. We were able to fish and we enjoyed the clean clear water! My people were generous, we shared everything we had, including the knowledge of how to survive the long harsh winters or the hot humid summers. We were appreciative of the gifts from our Creator and remembered to give thanks on a daily basis. We had ceremonies and special dances that were a celebration of life.

With the coming of foreigners to our shores, life as we knew it would change drastically. Individual ownership was foreign to my people. Fences?? Unheard of, back then. We were a communal people and we took care of each other. Our grandparents weren’t isolated from us! They were the wisdom keepers and story tellers and were an important link in our families. The babies? They were and are our future! Look at the brilliant young people who put themselves at risk, fighting to keep our water and environment clean and safe for the generations yet to come. They are willing to confront the giant, multi-national corporations by educating the general public of the devastation being caused. I smile with hope when I think of them. They are fearless and ready to speak the truth to all who are willing to listen. We also remember our brothers and sisters of Bolivia, who are rioting, in support of the first Indigenous President, Evo Morales. His commitment to the people, the land, their resources and protection against corruption is commendable. We recognize and identify with that struggle so well.

So today, I thank all of the people who are willing to have an open mind, those who are willing to accept the responsibility of planning for seven generations ahead, those who remember the sacrifices made by our ancestors so we can continue to speak our own language, practice our own way of thankfulness in our own skin, and that we always acknowledge and respect the Indigenous linage that we carry.

For those of you who are thankful that you have enough food to feed your families, please give to those who aren’t as fortunate. If you are warm and have a comfortable shelter to live in, please give to those who are cold and homeless, if you see someone hurting and in need of a kind word or two, be that person who steps forward and lends a hand. And especially, when you see injustice anywhere, please be brave enough to speak up to confront it.

I want to thank all who are kind enough to remember me and my family in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for continuing to support and believe in me. There isn’t a minute in any day that passes without me hoping that this will be the day I will be granted freedom. I long for the day when I can smell clean fresh air, when I can feel a gentle breeze in my hair, witness the clouds as their movement hides the sun and when the moon shines the light on the path to the sacred Inipi. That would truly be a day I could call a day of Thanksgiving.

Thank you for listening to whomever is voicing my words. My Spirit is there with you.

Doksha,
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
Leonard Peltier

Decolonization Is for Everyone

Nikki Sanchez | TEDxSFU

“This history is not your fault, but it is absolutely your responsibility.” A history of colonization exists and persists all around us. Nikki discusses what colonization looks like and how it can be addressed through decolonization. An equitable and just future depends on the courage we show today. “Let’s make our grandchildren proud”

Decolonizing Environmental Education

(Turtle icon by Zackary Cloe from the Noun Project)

(Turtle icon by Zackary Cloe from the Noun Project)

A beginner’s guide to disrupting colonial practices in environmental education

By Olivia Balcos

For my second year at the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at UW, I worked at the Education Center in the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA with the project of creating a zine on Decolonizing Environmental Education. I created this zine as a tool for myself and for anyone else in the environmental field to start a conversation about changing how we think about and execute environmental educational spaces. While this was made with environmental educators in in mind, we all have a responsibility to teach each other about the land and its indigenous peoples. This zine is made for anyone and everyone to aid in their journey to decolonize environmental education.

Indigenous Resistance as Re-occupation of Land at the Forefront of Climate Justice

Protest against Trans Mountain pipeline in BC.

Protest against Trans Mountain pipeline in BC.

By Litsa Chatzivasileiou

I write as a settler on this land. I am not speaking on behalf of Aboriginal people but rather as an unconditional ally to their struggles. I will specifically address Indigenous resistance in the form of re-occupation of Turtle Island and in particular of so-called Canada. Re-occupation of the land is a kind of resistance and decolonization to dismantle settler relations to the land as commodity or as property. It is a form of what Nishnaabeg Leanne Betasamosake Simpson calls Indigenous resurgence that is based on restoring Indigenous relationships with the land and how to treat the land in a reciprocal and profoundly respectful way: “It refuses dispossession of both Indigenous bodies and land as the focal point of resurgent thinking and action…It calls for…radical resurgent organizing as direct action…against the dispossessive forces of capitalism, heteropatriarchy and white supremacy. These are actions that engage in generative refusal of…state control…and they embody an Indigenous alternative”. (Simpson 2017). As I understand it this alternative implies both the return of the land to Aboriginal people (and thus the dismantling of settler colonialism) coupled with the literal social, political and economic overthrow of the settler, capitalist state that has wreaked havoc on the planet. More on the tactic of re-occupation shortly. But first, some context on how settler colonialism and ecocide go hand in hand is in order.

Ecocide or the annihilation of the planet and our very life support system is also an industrial genocide of Indigenous peoples symptomatic of what many scholars have called the cancerous diseases of capitalism and settler colonialism. They are both predicated on infinite expansion and growth, the reduction of earth to a lifeless commodity, the mindset of land as frontiers of conquest and the obliteration of what Naomi Klein calls sacrificial zones and people standing on their way. Under capitalism “the expansion of commodity frontiers fosters conditions of social and environmental degradation and conflict.” The commodification process inherent in capitalism begun with the sugar complex in the fifteenth century, spurred early colonialism, and continues to operate in settler colonialism and land grabs through mining and fossil fuel industries and corporate interests: “[f]urther expansion is possible as long as there remains un-commodified land, products, and relations. Here land should be seen the equivalent to the space to grow food or to extract minerals, or the sea for oil or gas exploration” (Conde and Walter 2015). Although today the process of commodification has been exported from the European colonial empires to its colonies and it is rampant globally under the new neo-liberal world order it was initiated within Europe with the uprooting of European peasants, their loss of traditional forms of subsistence, their disconnection from the soil and natural environment, the subsequent flow of products from the countryside to the big urban centers and the degradation and toxification of the places of extraction and consumption. The rise of wage labour accompanied the commodification of land and labour while the “dispossession of subsistence farmers and herders from common land resulted in the proletarianization of rural populations, who flooded to urban centers in search of work…Those still in possession of land generally became indebted, fostering instability and overexploitation by capitalists. This process led to declining productivity, driving the frontier further in search of fresh supplies of labour and land.” (Conde and Walter 72).

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What Decolonization Is, and What It Means to Me

Decolonizing is about reclaiming what was taken and honoring what we still have.

, Teen Vogue

In this op-ed, Tina Curiel-Allen, a Xicana/Boricua poet, writer, and activist, explains decolonization for those who may not be familiar with the term or process. It is important to note that Tina is writing from California, in what is now known as the United States; her family comes from California, other parts of the U.S., and parts of Mexico. She is not attempting to speak for all peoples with regard to decolonization but rather for the community she is a part of, as well as the elders and teachers she says she’s fortunate enough to know.

To talk about decolonization, people need an understanding of what we are decolonizing from. Colonization is when a dominant group or system takes over and exploits and extracts from the land and its native peoples. Colonization has taken place all over the globe, through the stealing of lands; the raping of women; the taking of slaves; the breaking of bodies through fighting, labor, imprisonment, and genocide; the stealing of children; the enforcement of religion; the destruction—or attempts to destroy—spiritual ways of life. All of these things have left a psychological, spiritual, and physical imprint on indigenous peoples, and a governmental ruling system that we did not create, that was not made for us. These are the things we need to heal from, where we need to start reclaiming. This is where organizing and decolonizing comes in.

How do those who have been colonized go about decolonizing? It is in the interest of the colonizer to divide and conquer, to separate us from community, so speaking from a place of we is necessary when talking about decolonization. It is as political and communal as it is personal.

Click here to read the full article…

The Five Hundred Year Rebellion: Indigenous Movements and the Decolonization of History in Bolivia

Thousands of President Evo Morales’s supporters gather in the Plaza Murillo in La Paz, Bolivia, on December 15, 2007, to show their support for the country’s new constitution. Photographer: Bear Guerra.

An excerpt from The Five Hundred Year Rebellion: Indigenous Movements and the Decolonization of History in Bolivia (AK Press, 2019)

By Benjamin Dangl

After centuries of colonial domination and a twentieth century riddled with dictatorships, indigenous peoples in Bolivia embarked upon a social and political struggle that would change the country forever. As part of that project activists took control of their own history, starting in the 1960s, by reaching back to oral traditions and then forward to new forms of print and broadcast media. This book tells the fascinating story of how indigenous Bolivians recovered and popularized histories of past rebellions, political models, and leaders, using them to build movements for rights, land, autonomy, and political power. Drawing from rich archival sources and the author’s lively interviews with indigenous leaders and activist-historians, The Five Hundred Year Rebellion describes how movements tapped into centuries-old veins of oral history and memory to produce manifestos, booklets, and radio programs on histories of resistance, wielding them as tools to expand their struggles and radically transform society.

The following is an excerpt from the new book.

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