Category Archives: oppression

What is Cultural Appropriation?

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By Pegi Eyers, Stone Circle Press

To understand how cultural appropriation shows up in our environmental movements and spiritual life, we need to look at the backstory, or how cultural appropriation came to be.  About 50 years ago a strange phenomena began to happen.  In mainstream society young white people were rebelling against the imperialist machine, while in a much less visible sphere, First Nations were just starting to recover from the dark ages of genocide, oppression, residential school displacement and segregation.  In the dominant society of the mid-20th century, our ties to a genuine spiritual life had been broken, organized religion was on the decline, and all of a sudden young white people were reconnecting with nature. This was a wonderful thing – but they had no role models to follow so they turned to First Nations, freely adopting these cultural tools and spiritual traditions, and some going so far as to create a whole new indigenous identity for themselves.  Without proper boundaries, the whitewashed genre of “Native Spirituality” was born, and cultural appropriation became imbedded in the flourishing New Age Industry.

Of course we owe a huge debt to the original rebellion of the hippies and the counterculture that gave us the alternative choices, sexual freedom, new spiritualities, holistic self-care and healthy life-sustaining practices we enjoy today.  These are features of society we now take for granted, but unfortunately within  the massive self-help, transformational and New Age marketplace the genres of “Native Spirituality” and “Shamanism” have been normalized. Being exposed to this material for so long, many New Agers are shocked to find these genres being questioned, yet an interrogation is exactly what is needed. Not only are white practitioners of “Native Spirituality” on shaky moral ground, First Nations have made it abundantly clear that they are completely opposed to the theft of their cultural and spiritual property.

Today, cultural appropriation occurs on a continuum from relatively harmless practices, to serious mental disorders such as identity theft. Having moccasins, native jewellery, native art, or a drum in the privacy of your own home (acquired from native artisans) can be considered good Allyship by supporting the livelihood of First Nations.  But in mainstream industries like fashion, fine art, entertainment and home décor, items like dreamcatchers and headdresses are big business, and these cultural signifiers are casually used by white people for fun and self-expression. Many of these symbols, often products made in China, are the sacred property of First Nations!  We can just imagine how deeply hurtful this must be.

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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.

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Indigenist Intersectionality: Decolonizing an Indigenous Eco-Queer Feminism and Anarchism

Institute for Anarchist Studies

This essay appears in the current anarcha-feminisms issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (N. 29), available here from AK Press!  Laura received an Institute for Anarchist Studies writing grant to complete this piece. 

The violence enacted against Indigenous women and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ people evokes deep questions about the intent and impact of colonization in a Canadian settler and state context. The horrors of colonial violence—bodies were violated and abandoned at the sides of highways, in ditches, in rivers—tell stories of the vital importance of Indigenous women’s leadership, their warriorhood, their gifts and their medicines, and also of the centrality of gendered freedom and fluid belonging in Indigenous cultures. It is a system of colonization that seeks to erase and subsume these realities and to replace Indigenous truth with illusions of our weakness. We are at a pivotal moment now as state and settler voices seek to understand what is…

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Decolonising Desire: The Politics of Love

Olympia by Edouard Manet (1865)

Olympia by Edouard Manet (1865)

By Dalia Gebrial, Verso Books

Dalia Gebrial examines the colonial scripts that encode people in and out of the possibility of love. Embedded within the constituent discourses of love – of desirability, emotional labour, support and commitment – are codes of social value assigned to certain bodies; of who is worthy of love’s work. The labour of decolonising these representative paradigms is structural, and involves addressing their material histories. 

What does it mean to be lovable? Who is and is not deserving of particular kinds of love? How is love coded and reproduced? What, and who, is absent when love is represented?

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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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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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Poems for Palestine

Decolonize Palestine: End the Violence, End the War, End the Occupation. Solidarity from Turtle Island. #GazaUnderAttack

Decolonize Palestine: End the Violence, End the War, End the Occupation.

By Anne Champion

The Tent of Nations is an educational and ecological farm run by Christian Palestinian brothers in the mountains of Palestine.  They run a peace project that invites people from around the world to interact.  Despite the land being awarded to the family by the Supreme Court, they are not allowed to build and must live in caves.  The caves are painted in bright colors by Palestinian children who paint over their own shadows. Their guest tents have demolition orders on them, as they are considered a form of building, and their trees are routinely destroyed by the Israeli Defense Forces. 10,000 trees were destroyed and buried a few days before I arrived.

THE TENT OF NATIONS

If they won’t let us build,
we’ll live in caves
and if our children are merely
shadows, our children
will paint over their shadows
in vibrant primary colors
on the stoic rocks underground.
If our children die, they’ll frolic
on these rocks, embossed
on the earth, bound only to freedom.
If they say the land isn’t ours,
we’ll keep going to court.  If they cut
down 10,000 olive trees in a day
and bury them in a mass grave
like bodies, then we’ll mourn
like bodies. If trees take patience
and nurture, then peace takes
patience and nurture, and if we keep
holding out our hands?
If you block the road to us
with your tanks, the internationals
will climb the mountain to plant
and break bread, to trace
the children’s silhouettes, to gaze
over all of Palestine, to remember.

———

Military raids happen approximately once a week in Bi’lin.  This village has been targeted because its use of creative, nonviolent resistance has endured and captured the attention of people from all over the world.  American presidents, celebrities, and other world leaders have visited, and a documentary about the village, *Five Broken Cameras, *garnered critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination.  Raids are a common tactic of occupation, as it produces anxiety and inhibits sleep, thus giving Palestinians difficulty in everything from routine chores and schoolwork to demonstration planning and participation.

RAIDS
Bil’in, West Bank

Once a week, the soldiers rouse us,
alarm clock of rifle butts on midnight doors.
We pull the children from their beds.
They point their guns at our heads,
but there’s nothing like the bullet
of panic as they aim
at the children’s hearts.
Iyad’s daughter’s first raid
was at one week old. Now she’s six
and she’s learned to raise her arms,
half dreaming still, marching
like an automaton towards the moon.
She always looks at the sky,
never meets a soldier in the eye
as they tear apart her room,
her beads scattering on the floor
like the bullets shot into the night
air.  Someone falls down, someone’s
been hit.  A rubber bullet lodged in a throat
on the side of the road. I watch
the smoke hover above his head
before he slumps over; in seconds,
his neck blooms and pushes aside his face.
The men prop him up, the women call
to the soldiers for an ambulance.
The teenage soldiers high five each other
before calling for help.  And then
the tear gas canisters hiss
and the air strangles with its serpent snare.
Someone wraps a keffiyah
over my face and pulls me inside,
and I can’t see a thing. Even when my vision
returns, I can’t see anything anymore.

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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…

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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