Category Archives: environment

Decolonizing Power: Returning to Indigenous Collective Governance in Mexico

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By Bia’ni Madsa’ Juárez López, Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine

The path to achieving political autonomy in local government has been very complicated for Indigenous Peoples in Mexico. Many barriers have been placed in the way of exercising their rights. Political and social violence, long processes for those who seek recognition from the State, and the invisibility of those who already exercise autonomy under the shadow of State power, are just some of the problems faced. The national recognition of the historical, so-called “Indigenous normative systems” and others that are emerging in various states, has yet to be realized.

Many Indigenous communities have maintained their forms of community organization rooted in resistance against the pressures from the State. This almost always includes a collective and rotating form of governance, as well as the administration and collective ownership of land. In these communities, family representatives make up the community assembly, the most important body of power in the community. In assembly meetings, key decisions are made for the community, such as the election of government representatives, approval of the use of the community budget, the performance of community works, and the appointment of authorities. The positions are considered service and have a relatively short duration, generally between one to three years.

Although several communities in Mexico have managed to maintain this collective form of governance, many times they live in the shadows; at the local level they maintain their collective forms of governance, but they must also participate in the political party system, which implies accepting the installation of polling stations and political propaganda in their communities and voting in municipal, state, and federal elections. Participating in a political party system has kept communities in constant political and social crisis due to power disputes between those parties. In many cases, chiefdoms and political monopolies have been established in the communities.

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Decolonizing Our Relationships with Each Other and Mother Earth

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By Chenae Bullock, Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine

My given name is Sagkompanau Mishoon Netooeusqau, which translates to “I lead canoe I am Butterflywoman” in the Shinnecock and Montauk language. I am a member of the Shinnecock Nation and a descendant of the Montauk people of Long Island, New York. The foundation of my work has been based on the resurgence of the traditional canoe culture of the Northeast coastal Algonquin communities. Not only have I worked with Indigenous communities globally, I have worked to create stewardship between these communities and non-Indigenous communities. I have organized historically sacred paddles in the ancient waterways of the Northeastern seaboard to spread awareness of the roles Indigenous communities contribute to ocean sustainability internationally and at places like the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the Earth Institute at Columbia Law School, and International Treaty Commission at the United Nations, and I have assessed many sites for signs of submerged cultural history for Atlantic Shores Cultural Core Analysis. I have dedicated my life for the betterment of not only my community, but for our Earth. I have invested energy in reviving and sustaining our traditional lifeways.

In the fall of 2016, I dedicated six months of my life to help the people at the Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock prepare their camps for the winter. The Elders came to my campsite after standing on the banks of Cannonball River and emotionally watching cross-deputized authorities from non-Indigenous police departments show a presence on a sacred site to the Hunkpapa Peoples. They asked me to paddle around to see how these non-Indigenous police officers were getting to the sacred site. Using a donated canoe and paddles they had made with a 4×4 piece of wood, two other water protectors and I paddled in the Cannonball River as the Elders asked. While I was paddling, I looked into the faces of the Oceti Sakowin Peoples on the river banks. I witnessed a few swim with their horses as far as they could, but the water was too muddy and deep to make it across. I prayed that what was taking place that day somehow would bring them back to their ancient canoe ways. At that moment, I realized there was more to do than prepare camps for the winter for the Oceti Sakowin while being there. 

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Decolonizing History and Mother Earth’s Story

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By Edson Krenak Naknanuk, Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine

When the European colonial powers ruled our territories of Abya Yala, they implemented policies of oppression by ransacking, dispossessing, and enslaving mainly Black and Indigenous populations. In the last five centuries those policies were driven fundamentally by racism. Colonialism created a bureaucratic, institutional, and political process to discriminate and subjugate different ethnic groups. Centuries of colonial policies produced not only economic and social disadvantages, but also spiritual and emotional traumas for generations.

Colonial trauma, and therefore our liberation, affects all spheres of our lives: our being (who am I, and who is “the other?” How do I feel in relation to the other?); our power (who commands and who obeys? Who occupies the places of power? Who decides? Who leads?); our knowing (which knowledge is most valid? Who seems to have more authority when speaking?); and our doing (who has access to education, to the creation of valid knowledge, etc.? Who produces or co-creates? What is the impact of the making on the environment? Who benefits from the making?)

Colonization as a systematic source for structural racism, prejudice, and inequality persists because Western society constantly fails to recognize and acknowledge it. Decolonizing is a process that starts with identifying and analyzing the unequal power relations. When the subject matter is history, we must see it as a discourse, an ideological object that has an owner.

Decolonizing history is an exercise that we must start by questioning the story that is told, who tells it, and which voices have been silenced that still exist and live among us. Indigenous Peoples point out that the history of mankind is inseparable from the history of the other species, and is deeply connected with the planet (the Pachamama for some relatives of Abya Yala), Mother Earth.

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Decolonizing Our Dreams

Art by Ася Лысогорская/Adobe Stock

Dreams aren’t practical, they are a vision of what is possible.

By Samir Doshi, Yes! Magazine

We live in a country of colonized cultures. The project that is the United States is a melting pot of bodies that have been marginalized from its inception. Still today, those who have been othered by supremacy culture continue to strive to cultivate a sense of belonging and freedom despite the perpetual attempts to oppress us. 

I believe that many of our recent efforts to abolish harmful systems of oppression are being done with consideration of the white gaze, through a lens of scarcity and lack. Our responses to oppression have been colonized. If we are to be successful at dismantling the systems of white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and anthropocentrism that enforce domination and oppression over people and ecosystems, we have to start seeing our abundance. It’s imperative for us to move forward and live in right relationship with each other and the planet.

The late Grace Lee Boggs said, “The time has come for a new dream, that’s what being a revolutionary is. I don’t know what the next American revolution is going to be like, but you might be able to imagine it, if your imagination were rich enough.” How do we liberate ourselves from all supremacy culture to dream the new dream that Boggs speaks of? Dreams are an essential part of our human cognition, identity, and being. They allow us to bring our whole selves and our communities into imagining new worlds and realities. They conjure the unseen and unknown, while redesigning our notions of what is possible.

I often reflect on the dreams of my parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1973. Like many other immigrants from the Global Majority, they arrived here with very few possessions—and a dream. One of economic and physical security for their newly arrived family, their family back home in India, and also their future generations. Their dream of familial economic and physical security is not exclusive; it’s a dream that all people have, but the oppressive structures that exist in this country and around the world actively prevent queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color from realizing our dreams. 

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The Politics of Indigeneity, Anarchist Praxis, and Decolonization

Cover: Debra Yepa-Pappan, “Whirling Corn Maiden,” digital print on antique ledger paper, 2017

Via Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies

Guest Editor: J. Kēhaulani Kauanui

Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies (ADCS) is an international peer reviewed and open access journal to the study of new and emerging perpsectives in anarchist thought. ADCS is an attempt to bring anarchist thought into contact with innumerable points of connection. We publish articles, reviews/debates, announcements and unique contributions that: (1) adopt an anarchist perpective with regards to analyses of language, discourse, culture, and power, (2) investigate various facets of anarchist thought and practice from a non-anarchist standpoint, and (3) investigate or incorporate elements of non-anarchist thought and practice from the standpoint of traditional anarchist thought.

Web Published and Distributed Online: University of Victoria, located on unceded Lekwungen and WSÁNEĆ territories.

Creative Commons License
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Published: 2021-05-24

Articles

Book Reviews

Decolonizing ecology

By Jade Delisle, Briarpatch

Around the time wildfires were blanketing Calgary in smoke last year, I attended a local leftist reading group. They were discussing the impacts of capitalism on natural disasters, agreeing that the wildfires were exacerbated by both global warming and by neoliberal austerity. But when I put forward that invasive, non-indigenous plant species including trees and industrially farmed crops added degrees of severity to the crisis, and that traditional Indigenous systems of land stewardship could help mitigate or prevent natural disasters, I was taken aback by the group’s dismissive response. I was told by the main organizer that my approach to ecology was backwards-looking and idealized pre-capitalist societies, and that without an orientation to the future I risked venerating the stereotype of a “noble savage” in a “lost world.” 

At a time when Indigenous land defenders are fighting for cultural resurgence and the application of traditional knowledge to combat the climate crisis, they are often cast as the monolithic, mystical, degrowth opposition to the secular modernity of white leftists and their fully automated socialist future. In reality, solutions to ecological and social problems that were historically or are presently used by non-European cultures are compatible with modern technology, often in consensus with cutting-edge scientific findings, and more necessary than ever. 

Indigenous Peoples now make up less than five per cent of the world’s population, but the lands they maintain hold 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity. Protecting and restoring Indigenous Peoples’ lands is the fastest and most readily available way to sequester carbon and mitigate the impacts of climate change, a result of the optimally efficient relationships between fungi, plants, animals, and people in a given bioregion, which Indigenous cultures have coded into their knowledge systems over millennia of human-environmental interactions. 

Still, those lands are being stolen and mismanaged by colonists who believe that their environmental and clean energy projects – eco-tourism, national parks, and hydroelectric dams  – will be more effective than millennia of land stewardship by Indigenous Peoples. Even when they haven’t yet been invented or scaled-up, theoretical solutions like machines that suck carbon dioxide directly out of the air (which would, themselves, require absurd amounts of energy) are emphasized over habitat restoration. 

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COVID-19 Denialism is Rooted in the Settler Colonial Mindset

“American Progress” by John Gast

By Kollibri terre Sonnenblume, Macska Moksha Press

COVID denialism in the US is problematic to say the least. The nation is facing a public health crisis that’s far worse than it needs to be, as shown by the examples of countless other nations around the world that have largely suppressed the first wave. In fact, the US is one of the most dangerous places to be for this pandemic.

We have failed to pursue common sense policies and collective action here due to the ignorant attitudes not only of our leadership but of a significant share of our population.

Three recent interviews I did for my podcast, “Voices for Nature & Peace,” highlighted the connection between this unfortunate state of affairs and our status as a settler-colonial state. These three guests were Margaret Kimberley, a columnist at the Black Agenda Report and member of the Black Alliance for Peace; Joanna Pocock, the Canadian-born, London-residing author of “Surrender,” a memoir about living in the western US; and Alley Valkyrie, a US American activist, writer and artist in France.

What is “settler colonialism”? A method of expanding a nation’s area in which ordinary citizens take the lead by physically occupying un-ceded land themselves, using violence or the threat of violence, often for resource extraction activities like mining, ranching, logging or farming. Spreading religion is another justification. When the area’s original inhabitants defend themselves—or even when they don’t, and just try to negotiate peacefully—they are moved or massacred by the nation’s military. (Hence the term, “calling in the cavalry.”)

The United States of America was founded this way, as waves of European colonists moved from east to west, dispossessing Native Americans of their home territories as they went. In fact, one of the two main reasons for seeking independence from the British was because they forbade colonists from stealing land west of the Appalachians. The other main reason was to preserve and spread the institution of slavery.

Though “the frontier” was officially declared closed in 1890, and the so-called “Indian Wars” are said to have ended by 1924, the US remains a settler colonial state. The physical occupation is ongoing, as well as the mindsets that motivate it.

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Coronavirus & White Settler Colonialism

We could not be as prepared as we would want to be because generations of violence ensured we wouldn’t be.

By Class Trouble (March 13th, 2020)

Today we saw wealthier white folks talking about how we all ought to be better prepared for a crisis like coronavirus. We saw on social media pictures of stocked refrigerators, power generators, gardens, and animals. We were again reminded of now heavily racialized capitalism is and of the intersections of environmental racism and white settler colonialism. We were reminded of how victim blaming is the default response when the violence of empire is invisibilized.

We were reminded that our current reality is always linked to a history that must be named. So here’s a quick post to remind wealthy, able-bodied white people of how white supremacy has scaffolded their ability to insulate themselves from crisis and to remind Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BI&POC) that we could not be as prepared as we would want to be because generations of violence ensured we wouldn’t be.

To white people talking about “being prepared” for crisis who have land, who have generational wealth, who have everything they need to survive, check yourself: BI&POC would have that too if y’all’s ancestors hadn’t stolen everything & if y’all weren’t hoarding resources for hundreds of years.

The people who will have to practice public distancing most will be largely BI&POC populations living in the most densely populated areas. But BI&POC are in cities largely because white settler colonialism forces people off their native lands and into urban areas where wage labor is easier to find. This makes us more vulnerable to outbreaks like coronavirus.

Go into the majority of rural areas in America and you will find a predominantly white land owning population. Quick Fact: White Americans own more than 98 percent of U.S. land amounting to 856 million acres with a total worth of over $1 trillion. (Source: Inequality(.)org)

We have to rely on a centralized medical system and power infrastructure because capitalist economies rely on hierarchy to generate profit. The vast majority of that wealth goes to white people who can stock up on food, who have large storage spaces, who can take vacations, work from home, or take sick time without consequences.

The people best positioned to weather most forms of crisis in this system are the ones with the most power and access, and for those people to tell the rest of us to be prepared when their “preparation” is really code for generations of pillaging our communities, this is nothing but privilege and victim blaming.

White people should be giving resources out to historically oppressed communities and finding ways to make sure the most vulnerable of BI&POC communities have access to the support they will need to make it through this crisis. That’s all. Keep your advice.

 

Rethinking the Apocalypse: An Indigenous Anti-Futurist Manifesto

Via Indigenous Action

…This is a transmission from a future that will not happen. From a people who do not exist…

Rethinking the Apocalypse: An Indigenous Anti-Futurist Manifesto

[Readable PDF] [Printable zine PDF]

“The end is near. Or has it come and gone before?”
– An ancestor 

Why can we imagine the ending of the world, yet not the ending of colonialism?

We live the future of a past that is not our own.
It is a history of utopian fantasies and apocalyptic idealization.
It is a pathogenic global social order of imagined futures, built upon genocide, enslavement, ecocide, and total ruination.

What conclusions are to be realized in a world constructed of bones and empty metaphors? A world of fetishized endings calculated amidst the collective fiction of virulent specters. From religious tomes to fictionalized scientific entertainment, each imagined timeline constructed so predictably; beginning, middle, and ultimately, The End.

Inevitably in this narrative there’s a protagonist fighting an Enemy Other (a generic appropriation of African/Haitian spirituality, a “zombie”?), and spoiler alert: it’s not you or me. So many are eagerly ready to be the lone survivors of the “zombie apocalypse.” But these are interchangeable metaphors, this zombie/Other, this apocalypse. 

These empty metaphors, this linearity, only exist within the language of nightmares, they are at once part of the apocalyptic imagination and impulse.
 This way of “living,” or “culture,” is one of domination that consumes all for it’s own benefit. It is an economic and political reordering to fit a reality resting on pillars of competition, ownership, and control in pursuit of profit and permanent exploitation. It professes “freedom” yet its foundation is set on lands stolen while its very structure is built by stolen lives.

It is this very “culture” that must always have an Enemy Other, to lay blame, to lay claim, to affront, enslave and murder.

A subhuman enemy that any and all forms of extreme violence are not only permitted but expected to be put upon. If it doesn’t have an immediate Other, it meticulously constructs one. This Other is not made from fear but its destruction is compelled by it. This Other is constituted from apocalyptic axioms and permanent misery. This Othering, this wetiko disease, is perhaps best symptomatized in its simplest stratagem, in that of our silenced remakening:
They are dirty, They are unsuited for life, They are unable, They are incapable, They are disposable, They are non-believers, They are unworthy, They are made to benefit us, They hate our freedom, They are undocumented, They are queer, They are black, They are Indigenous, They are less than, They are against us, until finally, They are no more.

In this constant mantra of violence reframed, it’s either You or it’s Them.
It is the Other who is sacrificed for an immortal and cancerous continuity. It is the Other who is poisoned, who is bombed, who is left quietly beneath the rubble.

This way of unbeing, which has infected all aspects of our lives, which is responsible for the annihilation of entire species, the toxification of oceans, air and earth, the clear-cutting and burning of whole forests, mass incarceration, the technological possibility of world ending warfare, and raising the temperatures on a global scale, this is the deadly politics of capitalism, it’s pandemic.

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Decolonization Is Essential to Successfully Resist Extractivism

“Decolonization begins with the very Earth itself,” say the editors of “Standing with Standing Rock.”

By Samantha Borek,Truthout

“Colonialism, imperialism, and racial capitalism are impacting people across the globe, both historically and in the contemporary moment,” write Nick Estes and Jaskiran Dhillon, editors of Standing With Standing Rock: Voices From the #NoDAPL Movement. In this interview, Estes and Dhillon discuss how this collection situates the #NoDAPL movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline within a broader historical context — a context that transcends the Oceti Sakowin-led movement and emphasizes Indigenous sovereignty and decolonization as central to successfully resisting extractivism.

Samantha Borek: Standing with Standing Rock: Voices from the #NoDAPL Movement is an extensive collection of essays, strategies, reflections, interviews and even poetry from the movement. How does this curation of work function now almost three years after the removal of the Oceti Sakowin camps?

Nick Estes and Jaskiran Dhillon: The perspectives offered within Standing with Standing Rock show that the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline didn’t necessarily begin at Standing Rock in April 2016, with the creation of Sacred Stone Camp, nor did resistance technically end in February 2017, with the eviction of Oceti Sakowin and Sacred Stone camps. Almost three years later, this collection functions as a critical historical archive of movement voices while also situating it within a long historical arc. It also offers a deep contextualization on the social, cultural and spiritual significance of the #NoDAPL movement from a distinct viewpoint of Oceti Sakowin writers, scholars and knowledge-keepers. The centrality of Indigenous knowledge and necessity for decolonization continue to be glossed over in mainstream climate movements. In that sense, this volume exceeds the category of what is typically seen as just a “local culture” or just an “Indian problem.” Within these pages, thinkers, organizers, and Water Protectors also connect Black and Palestinian liberation with Indigenous struggles across time and space. Standing Rock was, after all, one uprising among a constellation of ongoing Indigenous uprisings, such as at Unist’ot’en Camp and Mauna Kea.

Click here to read the full article on Truthout

 Amid the Standing Rock movement to protect the land and the water that millions depend on for life, the Oceti Sakowin (the Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota people) reunited. Through poetry and prose, essays, photography, interviews, and polemical interventions, the contributors reflect on Indigenous history and politics and on the movement’s significance. Their work challenges our understanding of colonial history not simply as “lessons learned” but as essential guideposts for activism.

Dispatches of radical political engagement from people taking a stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline