Category Archives: Indigenous Sovereignty

Prairie Rising: Indigenous Youth, Decolonization, and the Politics of Intervention

By Jaskiran Dhillon, University of Toronto Press

In 2016, Canada’s newly elected federal government publically committed to reconciling the social and material deprivation of Indigenous communities across the country. Does this outward shift in the Canadian state’s approach to longstanding injustices facing Indigenous peoples reflect a “transformation with teeth,” or is it merely a reconstructed attempt at colonial Indigenous-settler relations?

Prairie Rising provides a series of critical reflections about the changing face of settler colonialism in Canada through an ethnographic investigation of Indigenous-state relations in the city of Saskatoon.  Jaskiran Dhillon uncovers how various groups including state agents, youth workers, and community organizations utilize participatory politics in order to intervene in the lives of Indigenous youth living under conditions of colonial occupation and marginality. In doing so, this accessibly written book sheds light on the changing forms of settler governance and the interlocking systems of education, child welfare, and criminal justice that sustain it. Dhillon’s nuanced and fine-grained analysis exposes how the push for inclusionary governance ultimately reinstates colonial settler authority and raises startling questions about the federal government’s commitment to justice and political empowerment for Indigenous Nations, particularly within the context of the everyday realities facing Indigenous youth.

>Purchase here<

Decolonisation in Europe: Sámi Musician Sofia Jannok Points to Life beyond Colonialism

Sofia Jannok at Standing Rock. Photo: Jeff Schad

By Rut Blomqvist, Resilience

The European core nations have colonised the world. This system is not only based on the unequal exchange of land and labour—as the anthropologist Alf Hornborg has shown in Global Ecology and Unequal Exchange—it is also on the verge of making the planet uninhabitable. So the world must be decolonised. But what would it mean to decolonise Europe? How do we decolonise the core of the world system—the area of the world that gave birth to colonialism itself?

Another world exists

In the north of Scandinavia, there is an Indigenous culture that has persisted against colonisation. The land is called Sápmi. The Sámi, like all Arctic Indigenous peoples, are experiencing the severe effects of rapid global warming and decolonisation is now more than ever a matter of survival.

Sofia Jannok is a songwriter, yoiker (yoik is a traditional Sámi vocal style), and pop singer; activist, environmentalist thinker, and reindeer owner. Through her words, melodies, activism, and existence, Jannok pushes for decolonisation. The title of the last song on her latest album ORDA: This Is My Land is “Noaidi,” a Northern Sámi word that means shaman but that she also translates as “Decolonizer.” The noaidi drives out the colonisers and their mentality. The noaidi reveals another world, a story that has been silenced in the history of the Swedish nation state.

For me, the encounter with Sofia Jannok’s music and stories opened the door to a new world-view. I am an urban middle-class Swede brought up to think that industrialisation is necessary and that this mode of production combined with better welfare distribution means progress for all. I have always had a nudging feeling of something being wrong with the story I have been told but other narratives are rarely given space in the media, nor in the academic contexts or political organisations I have been part of.

I was able to interview Jannok to explore the connection between her music, the decolonisation of Sápmi and of Europe, and the necessity of Indigenous rights and Indigenous peoples’ perspectives for all of humanity. This article tells the story of the other world that already exists in Jannok´s Sápmi. I weave a pattern of our conversation, her songs, images of what her stories make me feel, and examples of colonisation past and present.

Jannok and I begin by talking about music. I ask her about the role of music in Sámi decolonisation work and she emphasises that the increased focus on Sámi musicians and artists in the Swedish media often misses the historical ties between artistic expression and political struggle in Sápmi.

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From Standing Rock to Resistance in Context: Towards Anarchism against Settler Colonialism

Image by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Image by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

By Adam Lewis, E-International Relations

The direct action at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline has captured a wide range of political imaginations under the #NODAPL banner. People from over 100 Indigenous nations, as well as non-Indigenous/settler allies/accomplices, have travelled to the site where the US Army Corps of Engineers has attempted to place the pipeline under the Mni Sose (Missouri River), and right through Oceti Sakowin (The Great Sioux Nation lands). The resistance at Standing Rock has included a range of camps and tactics, as well as heavy handed police/security responses. Though the Army Corps of Engineers decided to withhold the easement permit for the last stage of the pipeline in December 2016, pending an environmental assessment, few see this as the end of the resistance.  Many pointed out that this is not a commitment to stop the pipeline as a whole, but rather an attempt to seek out other means of ensuring its completion. Donald Trump recently signed executive orders to revive both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects, prompting renewed calls for resistance.

This article asks how events like the resistance at Standing Rock relate to broader struggles of Indigenous autonomy and decolonization, and how such events are seen by, and interact with, radical anarchist politics. I consider how an anti-colonial perspective within anarchism could be further developed in particular local contexts with specific reference to structures of settler colonialism and ongoing histories of Indigenous resistance. This article details and expands upon some of my previous work on anarchism and its relationship to settler colonialism and Indigenous struggles (see Lewis 2016a, 2016b, 2015).

By ‘anarchist’ I mean those people, theories and movements committed to the destruction of the state, capitalism and all forms of oppression. Anarchist politics seeks to end domination through direct action and militant or revolutionary struggle, while also working to ‘build a new world in the shell of the old’ here and now. Anarchists aspire to create anti-authoritarian, non-hierarchical and direct-democratic forms of relating. Anarchism as a movement began in late 1800s Europe, but has since spread and developed through a range of actors, spawning a variety of tendencies and perspectives around the globe (for a good introduction to anarchism see Milstein, 2010, also Dixon 2014). For my purposes here, I speak to those movements who call the settler states of Canada or the United States home, and who tend to be dominated by non-Indigenous peoples, and often white settlers.

I begin first by laying out the settler colonial context that is crucial for understanding all struggles in North America. I then move to a discussion of how anarchists, and all those interested in transformative radical futures more broadly, can incorporate such a context into their own resistance and put the creation of alternatives into conversation with projects of Indigenous resurgence and decolonization. How can radical futures be imagined given the context of both continued structures of settler colonialism, as well as Indigenous resurgence that is intimately and directly tied up in relationships to land?

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Fascism & Anti-Fascism: A Decolonial Perspective

By Ena͞emaehkiw Wākecānāpaew Kesīqnaeh, Maehkōn Ahpēhtesewen

In the wake of the election of Donald Trump to the south of colonial border there’s been a blooming of discussion of fascism and the necessity for anti-fascist organizing amongst various left-wing streams of thought (anarchists, marxists, anti-racists etc.). This has only increased in the wake of his inauguration, the subsequent series of worrying (though unsurprising) executive orders that he has issued since taking the office, and the resistance that has flourished against them.

Whether or not Trump himself is a fascist is a question that’s up for debate (many in the yes side would point I imagine to claims by one of his ex-spouses that he sleeps/slept with a volume of Hitler’s speeches next to his bed). It is also arguable that several key political figures within his inner circle, such as Steve Bannon, are para-fascist. Undeniable though is that Trump and his closest advisers are right-wing national-populists, which in the context of north amerikan settler colonialism is, invariably, a form of white nationalism.

Likewise, it is undeniable that a number of explicitly white nationalist organizations have been highly motivated and emboldened by Trump and his broad popular support amongst amerikan settlers, across gender and class lines, who have seen amerika betrayed and dirtied by immigrants, “minorities,” queers, feminists and a neoliberal capitalism that has sent industrial jobs overseas. Driven by the broad feelings of white ressentiment and thirsting for a new frontier, these prophets of naked and proud white power, such as Richard Spencer, rallied to Trump’s campaign and now presidency. Whether they will continue to stay in Trump’s corner though is yet to be seen.

Additionally, even as I write this from kanada, it would be foolhardy to believe that this country is hermetically sealed from what has been going on south of the border. Prominent figures in the race to replace Stephen Harper as leader of the federal conservative party have sought to emulate Trump’s rhetoric, and have even openly called for bringing his message here. Most strikingly, and tragically of course, is the recent shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, an event which cost six lives and which was carried out by a French-speaking settler who openly espoused support for the far-right, white nationalist and Islamophobic politics of Trump, as well as Marine Le Pen in France.

In general, while the emergence of the noth amerikan far-right goes back much further than Trump, and was certainly emboldened by the election of Barack Obama as the first non-white person to the office of the president, Trump’s campaign and election has certainly led to a marked acceleration of the movement of the far-right. For the time being, naked white nationalists feel that they now have one of their own in the White(st) House, or, at the very least, someone who will led them their ear when they come calling.

I also know, and want to recognize, that many people are scared as well of the current situation. As I noted in my commentary on the Trump election, my mother called me at nearly 3AM in the morning to inform me that she felt like she was going to throw up in light of it all. Similarly, my brother, who is generally no liberal, told me that he felt as though he may have to leave his job because of the smothering atmosphere of Trumpian white nationalism in his workplace. Since the election I’ve read what seem like daily updates on the fear, depression and rage felt by many of my fellow Indigenous scholars, and many, many non-scholars, as Trump has re-activated pipeline deals, ordered the construction of a border wall to keep out our Indigenous family from south of the Rio Grande, and hung a painting of perhaps amerika’s most prolific Indian killing president, Andrew Jackson, in the Oval Office. The fear and worry being experienced and expressed by family, friends, colleagues and comrades across Turtle Island is palpable, and it would be cold, as well as disingenuous for me to bracket those feelings.

Bracketing off some of these issues though, what I want to do here is to ask a basic question: what is fascism? And, more particular to what I want to say here, what does fascism mean to Indigenous people? Is it even a useful analytic category for us in light of existent settler colonialism? Also, what does anti-fascism mean to us in light of the struggle for decolonization?

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If Your Anti-Trump Movement Is Not Anti-Colonial You Are Wasting Your Time And Ours

Anti-colonial & Anti-fascist Action: ‘Make it Impossible for This System to Govern on Stolen Land’ - IndigenousAction.orgFrom The Decolonizer:

Donald Dump has been making a lot of people loose their shit these past couple of week he has been in office. Executive orders by his pen have forcefully approved the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines, initiated the U.S.-Mexico boarder wall, and even established a travel ban targeted at predominately Muslim countries. An order that froze funds for Obamacare will severely cut funding for Planned Parenthood and other birth control programs.

Many have protested, from the continued women’s protests following the Woman’s March to the emergency occupations of airports to help banned refugees. The politics of those who protest are varied and dynamic from the liberal reactionary to the anarchist black bloc, and everywhere in between. What unifies the masses in actions across the country is a general disapproval of Dump and his policies. Yet, this dissent, which does not even amount to a strong pro-impeachment stance, is still waiting for a unifying framework that will make its goals clear to itself.

So, while Standing Rock water defenders are being forcefully evicted via the Trump executive order, THE DECOLONIZER says:

If Your Anti-Trump Movement Is Not Anti-colonial You Are Wasting Your Time And Ours.

That goes for you too anarchist. We are all for punching Nazis (really we are) but the pursuit of an anarchist agenda without the leadership Native peoples will only replicate settler relationships. Any insurrectionary organizing against Trump on this land (Turtle Island) that has been stolen by white Europeans, must be rooted in an anti-colonial framework. If you are punching Nazis let it be because they are fascists as well as white colonizers. If you are destroying public property let it be because it is white property that was stolen by the U.S. settler colonial state. If you seek the abolition of the state, let it also be the abolition of settler colonial power and the restoration of Indigenous sovereignty.

As for you liberals…

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Six Critical Actions for Healing

From Awakening The Horse People:

As settlers on stolen lands, how do we navigate the complicated path of helping to heal the destruction and pain caused by our people’s colonization of other’s lands like Turtle Island, while also doing what is necessary to heal the source of this colonization which is our own broken relationships of culture with our ancestral places, peoples, and lifeways?

The following list provides six critical actions for walking this complicated path. Three of these actions are centered on aiding the decolonization of Turtle Island and other lands by their Indigenous peoples.  Three other actions are focused on creating real and meaningful connection and healing with our own ancestral peoples and places.

Three Settler Actions to Support Indigenous Decolonization

1)   Return Indigenous lands, access, and resources back to Indigenous peoples so that Indigenous lifeway can be lived through real independence, and allowing for Indigenous peoples to heal themselves using their own cultural understandings. Land and resources should be returned to traditional, language speaking peoples if they are available – not those complicit with colonial governments or their tribal surrogates (like U.S. BIA Tribal Governments).

2)   Transform settler positioning: through

a)   Return or immigrate back to one’s ancestral homeplace/s; or,

b)   Develop long-term, trust building relationships with Indigenous peoples.  Based on these relationships, following Indigenous direction including submitting to, and defending, Indigenous jurisdiction and strategically leaving colonial citizenship and jurisdiction.
It should be noted b) applies to all non-Native people, not just people of european heritage.

3)   Leave Indigenous people alone – and strategically defend their right to be left alone.

Three Settler Actions for Our Own Cultural Recovery

1)   Go home. Establish authentic relationships with Life in natural places in your home. Relationships with Life are based in Indigenous language, so….

2)   Learn your ancestral language.  Indigenous language is the primary transformer of consciousness from euro-centric thought and philosophy to Indigenous thought and philosophy. This step cannot be ignored, evaded, or explained away. Learn your language!

3)   Re-unite or re-join your people. ‪We must transform the consciousness of colonial “I” to the Indigenous “We” by reuniting or rejoining our people/s in europe.  Authentic decolonization and cultural recovery cannot occur within the colonial egotism of “I”.  It just doesn’t work that way. This is different than being the sole survivor of a people and working to grow one’s people again.

In the author’s experiences involving both the decolonization of Turtle Island and the cultural recovery for people of euro-heritage, multiple actions from both lists occur simultaneously and strengthen each other.  Other people of european heritage share the same experience – the building of authentic relationships with Indigenous people in resistance provides important experiential growth and motivation to recovering one’s own cultural identity.

Dismantling Columbus and the Power of the Present

Chad Browneagle, Shoshone/Spokane, joins the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Photo: Jaida L Grey Eagle)

Chad Browneagle, Shoshone/Spokane, joins the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Photo: Jaida L Grey Eagle)

By Jaskiran Dhillon and Siku Allooloo, Truthout

Though Christopher Columbus never set foot in what is now the United States, Columbus Day is hailed as a symbol of the founding of the country. And without question, his arrival unleashed the Christian Doctrine of Discovery — a colonial invention of European international law that legitimated genocide, enslavement and the expropriation of Indigenous homelands. This paved the way for violent settler colonies like the United States to dominate “the Americas.” Rejecting Columbus Day is about dismantling this legacy, as well as challenging historical representations that erase Indigenous peoples’ lived experience and make colonial narratives about the creation of the US seem both natural and inevitable. But it is also about more than that.

Instead of celebrating Columbus’s symbolic role in the founding of the United States, we can reposition him as a founding source of colonial exploitation, which continues to this day. Recasting our view in this way reveals the contemporary forms of settler colonialism threaded through social and political life in the US. The growing movement to critically interrogate Columbus Day is not simply to acknowledge the atrocities committed by Columbus and his contemporaries. It is twofold: to affirm the continual presence of Indigenous peoples, and to advocate in support of present-day efforts to eradicate state violence against Indigenous lands and bodies, including the return of ancestral territories. Such an interrogation challenges an innocuous and expressly historical commemoration of Columbus Day, which relegates both colonial atrocities and Indigenous peoples to things of the past.

Centering Indigenous experience and urgent concerns is not a plea for inclusion in US society. It is about making visible the reality of systemic violence and injustice that is part of everyday life for Indigenous communities. It’s also about exposing the inescapable, ongoing fact of settler complicity in reproducing these dynamics.It is a demonstration of our active presence, as well as a call for people to face the political moment in which we find ourselves. Moreover, it’s a call to meaningfully engage the ways that Indigenous nations are raising fundamental, critical questions about justice, freedom and the future of the planet.

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Towards Decolonization and Settler Responsibility

Since 2008, Liza Minno Bloom and Berkley Carnine have worked with the Black Mesa Indigenous Support (BMIS) collective in solidarity with the Dineh people of Black Mesa, AZ who are resisting a forced relocation due to coal mining.  Black Mesa holds the largest deposit of low-sulfur coal in the U.S. It is home to tens of thousands of Dineh and several hundred Hopi people and their sacred sites, burial grounds, animals, farms, and homes. The federal government has relocated between 10,000 and 20,000 Dineh people and several hundred Hopi from their ancestral homelands on Black Mesa since 1974 when the “Relocation Law” (PL-95-531) passed.  This constitutes the largest relocation of Indigenous people in this country since the Trail of Tears and it is ongoing today.

As members of a solidarity collective we are working to synthesize writing, theorizing, and activist scholarship on decolonization from Indigenous peoples and allies in the U.S. and Canada with our experience doing land-based solidarity. At this moment when Indigenous people are making a powerful and unifying stand to protect and life at Standing Rock, we want to share this piece as one of many efforts to raise decolonial consciousness.

This writing and work relates to us—as white settlers acting in solidarity with an Indigenous struggle—proactively pursuing decolonization and anti-colonial work amongst ourselves.  It is one of many attempts to disrupt the narrative that says decolonization and anti-colonial work are solely the job of Indigenous people and to explore what we are calling parallel processes of decolonization. We are thinking through what it means to shift out of a solely solidarity framework to one of joint struggle, wherein we clarify our own sense of having a stake in defending the earth and in confronting systemic violence and intergenerational trauma caused by colonialism.

As both authors identify as white settlers–people of European descent who benefit from both white privilege and settler privilege–we work and write from our perspective. Developing and acting upon a mutual stake in decolonization looks different for non-Native white people and non-Native people of color. Since we are white settlers, we are focusing on the responsibilities specific to that position. We want to express gratitude for the activist scholarship and organizing of Indigenous and non-Native people of color who’ve greatly informed our analysis and have included a list of resources of many of those writings in the Action Steps/ Best Practices.

The four main sections are of this piece are:

1) An Overview of the Terms Settler Colonialism and Decolonization

2) An Exploration of Parallel Processes of Decolonization

3) Lessons from Solidarity Organizing

4) Action Steps/Best Practice

Settler Colonialism

Settler colonialism is the kind of colonial control that exists in “settler states” such as the U.S, New Zealand, Australia, Israel/Palestine, Canada, Argentina, and other countries. It incorporates elements of both external colonialism—in which a colonizing power exports Indigenous peoples (as slaves or laborers), resources, knowledge, plants, metals, and/or animals to increase the wealth of the colonizer—AND internal colonialism—which is marked by the violent management of an underclass of people and lands within the “domestic” borders of the imperial nation via ghettos, reservations, borders, prisons, police, surveillance, and educational systems.  Settler colonialism is unique in that it combines “internal” and “external” colonialism—so the empire is in the same geographic location as the colony/ies.

So when what is now known as the U.S was colonized, settlers came for good, not only to take things and return to an imperial center based in Europe. This is why scholar Patrick Wolfe called settler colonialism a process of “destroying to replace.” Gradually, the Indigenous versions of governance, land management, cultural practices, etc. are destroyed—through violent conquest, disease, land theft, cultural genocide, etc.—and are replaced with the settler version of those things. Therefore, it is vital to understand settler colonialism not as an event that we can neatly box into one historical moment, but rather as a persistent structure that impacts everything in settler states.

Decolonization

Talking about “decolonizing” in a settler colonial context. where the empire and the colonies are in the same location is complicated.  Currently, the phrase decolonization—which has been used in multiple ways by Indigenous communities over the years—is gaining traction in non-Indigenous, leftist communities. We’ve witnessed a proliferation of phrases like “decolonize your mind,” “decolonize your exercise”, “decolonize your education,” and “decolonize your love life.” This has provided opportunities to bring up land-based struggles for Indigenous self-determination in places where those conversations have been absent. This can also encourage us to take a deeper look at the ways that we have all internalized colonial mindsets when it comes to relating to each other, land, work, infrastructure, etc. The popularization of the term decolonization outside Indigenous communities has also, however, raised tensions about the individualization (most problematically, white individualization) of decolonization processes, processes that lack any focus on the material conditions of Indigenous land, culture, and self-determination.

Decolonization is about transforming how people relate to and in place. It is easy for settler identified people to translate “decolonization” into “making spaces more inclusive of Indigenous people.” This can reproduce the idea that settlers are the rightful inheritors of the space to begin with.

Parallel processes of decolonization entail transforming our relationship to the state, capitalism, extractive industries, and modes of thinking that are defined by white supremacy, etc. We need a community in which we can do the work of holding each other and ourselves accountable, reflecting, and finding modes of uniting in the face of divide and conquer strategies without losing our own political compass. We need tools for doing this work with Indigenous communities as well as non-Native communities where, as white settlers, we don’t conflate white supremacy and settler colonialism. We need to build with non-Native people of color who are defining and enacting their own parallel processes. Some of this framing of parallel processes might be useful for non-Native people of color, while much is specific to those of us working to reveal and transform settler and white privilege.

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Stolen people on stolen land: decolonizing while Black

Stolenpeoplestolenland - Hari Ziyad (2016)

Stolenpeoplestolenland – Hari Ziyad (2016)

By Adele Thomas, RaceBaitr

Settler privilege, as I’ve understood it broadly, is having specific rights, advantages or immunities granted or available only to a particular group of people (settlers), while the Indigenous groups are excluded from those benefits.  But when you are neither the colonizer nor the Indigenous group, where do you fit in? More specifically, can African Americans claim access to this privilege?

Often, I find myself feeling the guilt of anti-Indigeneity and Native erasure, contemplating my role in systems oppressive of Indigenous people alongside colonizers who are also charged with African genocide. Taken or sold into bondage and used to develop a global economy, most Africans did not arrive in this country by choice but instead for the purposes of chattel slavery, and while it may be arguing semantics, if Black people cannot claim economic, educational, financial, or cultural privilege, what exactly defines our privilege on stolen land?

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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…