Category Archives: oppression

To Breathe Together: Co-Conspirators for Decolonial Futures

By Sefanit Habtom and Megan Scribe, Yellowhead Institute

AS THE COVID-19 pandemic continues, many increasingly ask, “when will things go back to normal?”, “can we ever go back to the way things were?” and, in even more frightened moments, “could this be the end of the world?”

For Black, Indigenous, and Black-Indigenous peoples, these are not new questions. Since white settler ships landed on Indigenous shores with enslaved Black people in cargo holds, we have asked these very questions; but have asked them without ever letting the uncertainty of the answers deter us from striving to unmake the so-called “New World” in pursuit of something otherwise.

Unmaking is a desire for worlds in which Black, Indigenous, and Black-Indigenous peoples can breathe and live full lives.

The original prompt for writing this piece was “how can Indigenous people show up for Black communities right now?” But we have taken a slightly different approach, thinking instead about our shared experience of surviving within white settler society, while at the same time, taking seriously the antiblack and genocidal imperatives that mark us differently.

Tiffany Lethabo King has called on Black and Indigenous Studies academics, activists, and artists to imagine “how Black and Native communities can ‘end this world’ and remake reality and its relations on more just terms” (2019, p. 209). To engage with this call, we reflect on the violent conditions bringing Black, Indigenous, and Black-Indigenous peoples together and collaborative paths forward.

Click here to read the full article…

About the Authors

Sefanit HabtomSefanit Habtom is a doctoral student in the department of Social Justice Education, at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Her research is on Black student organizing that focuses on land. She is Eritrean and hails from Vancouver, BC.

Megan ScribeMegan Scribe (Ininiw iskwew, Norway House Cree Nation) is an interdisciplinary Indigenous feminist researcher, writer, and educator. Scribe is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Ryerson University. Her research establishes connections between violence in the lives of Indigenous girls and settler colonialism. She is a longtime Community Council Member for Aboriginal Legal Services’ Diversion Program and a member of the Planning Committee for the annual Strawberry Ceremony.

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.

 

Are You a Settler?

Settler-colonialism, Capitalism and Marxism on Turtle Island

By Brian Ward, New Politics

Everything in U.S. history is about the land. Who oversaw and cultivated it, fished its waters, maintained its wildlife; who invaded and stole it; how it became a commodity (“real estate”) broken into pieces, to be bought and sold on the market.

—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

The politics of solidarity on display during the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline have raised the issue of Indigenous liberation more and more sharply to people on the left. Activists have started to recognize that their struggles against ecological destruction, imperialism, and colonization are linked to the fight for Native self-determination that has gone on now for decades, even centuries. The recent struggles Standing Rock and Keystone XL stand in the tradition of organizations like Black Hills Alliance in the 1980s that brought together Natives and non-natives in the Black Hills in South Dakota to try to stop uranium mining.

A whole new generation of activists has learned the long history of the United States continually breaking treaties with the Indigenous Nations—stomping upon their self-determination any time the government and corporations demand access to Native lands to extract energy and raw materials. The climate justice movement is coming to an understanding that treaties must be upheld and extended, as demanded by Indigenous Nations, based on their traditional territories. We have an urgent need to bring the fight against Native oppression into all the economic and social struggles of today. And that means grasping, as clearly and firmly as possible, that the struggle for Native liberation means keeping the question of land rights central.

In this essay I will demonstrate how settler-colonialism was and is vital to the development and maintenance of capitalism by using historical examples. Understanding the history and ongoing process of Settler-colonialism adds to our understanding of capitalism, while ignoring it perpetuates the erasure from history of Native peoples and their resistance to that process. I will do my best to use actual Indigenous Nation names such as the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota (Oceti Sakowin) or Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) or the Dine (Navajo) but will also use the words “Indigenous,” “Native,” “Native American,” “American Indian,” and “Indian” when appropriate, such as in quotations. I will often lump the United States and Canada together because their experience with Indigenous people are very similar.

Among Indigenous people, the common name for the continent of North America—and the one I will use accordingly—is Turtle Island.

Hundreds of different social organizations existed on Turtle Island prior to the arrival of capitalist markets, but one common feature was that most Indigenous Nations treated the land as something held in common. The idea of nonhuman life being someone’s “private property” was almost literally unthinkable. Many Indigenous theorists now consider “modes of relationship” a more useful concept than “modes of production” when talking about what Winona LaDuke, a citizen of the White Earth Ojibwe Nation, has called the co-evolution of Indigenous peoples and their environment and surroundings. Material conditions required Nations to develop relationships with human and nonhuman life in order to thrive. Indigenous people didn’t pursue a sustainable existence out of some mystical nobility but because reality demanded it.

Writing in the Communist Manifesto in 1848, Karl Marx said, “The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.” From an Indigenous perspective, that expanding market transformed abundance into scarcity.

Exploitation, expropriation, and extraction of the land’s riches created wealth for those colonizing land and enforcing their claim to it by violence. Marx’s term for this process as it had occurred in Europe is usually called “primitive accumulation,” although it might be better translated as “primary” or “original” accumulation.

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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.

Give No Thanks for Settlers’ Savagery

By Mark P. Fancher, Black Agenda Report

The peculiar national holiday is a celebration of white settler conquest – a whitewashing of unspeakable crimes.

“Denial is facilitated by an extensive and elaborate collection of myths.”

When a sane person commits a horrific, unspeakable crime, that person’s psyche is unable to effectively withstand the trauma. Such an individual will either suffer a loss of mental stability or instinctively default to any of several psychological coping mechanisms. As a consequence of a protracted campaign of conquest, territorial theft, genocide and enslavement, European settlers in the U.S. and their racial heirs have had to cope with heavy emotional baggage. Knowledge that the country they relish is built on piles of bloody carcasses of many millions of African and indigenous peoples overwhelms their souls, and coping requires a focused, deliberate and permanent state of denial. Denial is facilitated by an extensive and elaborate collection of myths, legends and outright lies about U.S. history and historical figures. Desirable fantasies can even be projected on to contemporary personalities like Barack Obama who has enabled many a white person in denial to say: “There is no more racism because we elected a black president.”

Through the years, a favorite coping mechanism has been the Thanksgiving holiday. The all-too-familiar scenario of musket-bearing pilgrims clad in heavily starched black clothing benevolently sharing a roasted turkey dinner with less fortunate indigenous neighbors is comforting to the white mind, but quite different from contemporaneous accounts of the thanksgiving commemoration of a massacre of indigenous people.

Click here to read the full article from Black Agenda Report

Our History Is the Future: Lakota Historian Nick Estes on Thanksgiving & Indigenous Resistance

Democracy Now!

Lakota historian Nick Estes talks about Thanksgiving and his book “Our History Is the Future.” He is a co-founder of the indigenous resistance group The Red Nation and a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe.

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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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Native Resistance and the Carceral State

Image credit: “Wilding” Cops at Standing Rock, Josh Yoder

Image credit: “Wilding” Cops at Standing Rock, Josh Yoder

Via Rustbelt Abolition Radio:

Nick Estes identifies the anti-Indian origins of the carceral state within the U.S. settler colonial project and argues that indigenous liberation offers critical frameworks for understanding how to abolish it. Estes is a co-founder of The Red Nation: an anti-profit coalition dedicated to the liberation of Native Nations, lands, and peoples. He holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of New Mexico and is a fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University.

Image credit: “Wilding” Cops at Standing Rock, Josh Yoder

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Featured Book: The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism

The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in Seventeenth-Century North America and the Caribbean

By Gerald Horne, Monthly Review

Virtually no part of the modern United States—the economy, education, constitutional law, religious institutions, sports, literature, economics, even protest movements—can be understood without first understanding the slavery and dispossession that laid its foundation. To that end, historian Gerald Horne digs deeply into Europe’s colonization of Africa and the New World, when, from Columbus’s arrival until the Civil War, some 13 million Africans and some 5 million Native Americans were forced to build and cultivate a society extolling “liberty and justice for all.” The seventeenth century was, according to Horne, an era when the roots of slavery, white supremacy, and capitalism became inextricably tangled into a complex history involving war and revolts in Europe, England’s conquest of the Scots and Irish, the development of formidable new weaponry able to ensure Europe’s colonial dominance, the rebel merchants of North America who created “these United States,” and the hordes of Europeans whose newfound opportunities in this “free” land amounted to “combat pay” for their efforts as “white” settlers.

Centering his book on the Eastern Seaboard of North America, the Caribbean, Africa, and what is now Great Britain, Horne provides a deeply researched, harrowing account of the apocalyptic loss and misery that likely has no parallel in human history. This is an essential book that will not allow history to be told by the victors. It is especially needed now, in the age of Trump. For it has never been more vital, Horne writes, “to shed light on the contemporary moment wherein it appears that these malevolent forces have received a new lease on life.”

Gerald Horne returns to the scene of the crimes that birthed the modern world. With cinematic flair, he takes us through what at first may appear to be familiar terrain—slavery, dispossession, settler colonialism, the origins of capitalism—but by extending his analytical lens to the entire globe, he delivers a fresh interpretation of the 17th century. His careful attention to European militarism, technology, national and imperial political dynamics disrupt the now common Anglo North American story of the emergence of whiteness, racial slavery, and class consolidation. Thanks to Horne, what Marx once called the ‘secret of primitive accumulation’ is no longer such a secret.

—Robin D. G. Kelley, author, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

This is history as it should be done. Acutely perceptive and solidly documented, lucidly presented and uncompromising in its conclusions, The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism reveals the roots of our present socioeconomic nightmare with a force and clarity unrivaled by anything previously available. Gerald Horne, already a leading voice in forging a counterhegemonic understanding of the ‘empire of liberty’ we now inhabit, has truly surpassed himself. This book simply must be read.

—Ward Churchill, author, A Little Matter of Genocide

Gerald Horne strengthens his stature as one of our leading global historians with this ambitious and engaging book. Taking settler colonialism seriously as central to the development of whiteness, he brilliantly situates changes in that tiny part of the 17th century world in what would become the U.S. within far wider worlds of increasingly racialized commodities and cruelties. Among much else Horne demonstrates that colonies were not marginal to capitalism nor to the politics of the colonial powers.

—David Roedgier, University of Kansas; author, Class, Race, And Marxism

Drilling down in the 17th Century Atlantic world made by European colonialism through invasions, occupations, ethnic cleansing, and enslavement of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and Africa, historian Gerald Horne reveals the roots of white nationalism and capitalism, the pillars of the United States political-economy today. This brilliant, concise monograph is a must-read for all who propose to change the social order.

—Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, author, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

One of the preeminent global historians of repression and resistance, Gerald Horne has done it again. The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism follows the “three horsemen” that gave rise to the West: slavery, white supremacy, and capitalism. Horne’s erudite look at this seventeenth-century apocalypse brings together the hemispheric struggles of Black and Indigenous peoples for reparations. He shows that transnational solidarity is the greatest foe of settler colonial domination.

—Dan Berger, University of Washington; author, Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era

The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism interrogates the roots of white supremacy, enslavement, and racism in the United States. Horne focuses on reconstructing England’s emergence as an empire and the impact of Cromwell’s ‘Glorious Revolution’ on its colonies in the Western Hemisphere in the 17th and early 18th centuries. He notes the ascendancy of the class interests of the ‘surging merchants’ or bourgeoisie in England and their white settler counterparts in the colonies, particularly in North America. The relationship between England’s Caribbean sugar colonies, particularly Jamaica and Barbados, with its settler colonies, is also explored. Horne’s text has relevance for our contemporary political reality and the persistence of settler colonialism ideology, structural racism, and racial capitalism today. His assessment that calls for a ‘massive program of reparations’ from African and Indigenous people to ‘repair immense damage inflicted over centuries’ is provocative and intriguing. The Apocalypse of Setter Colonialism is a must-read for all wishing to understand the historical roots of race oppression in the U.S. today.

—Akinyele Umoja, Professor and Department Chair, Department of African-American Studies, Georgia State University; author, We Will Shoot Back

Gerald Horne’s The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism is a meticulous history of the colonial era, one that opens portals into understanding the power of white nationalism to determine contemporary elections. Horne’s well-researched text maps the evolution of historical cross-class alliances among Europeans and settlers that enabled white voters to consistently choose racial animus over decency. Imperial capitalism, rapacious colonialism, human trade, genocidal wars—all were incubated by the white racism that stabilizes the present order. Apocalypse details how centuries of warfare, greed or need in both the ‘old’ and ‘new’ worlds were resolved by slavery and the spilling of African and Indigenous blood. Despite the efforts of maroonage to stem its rise, a ‘master race’ addicted to a b`ete noire-as-cash crop thrived. Essential reading for those who wish to comprehend how the past led to the violence of the present order, and how best to plot an alternate trajectory.

—Joy James, Williams College; author, Seeking the Beloved Community: A Feminist Race Reader