Tag Archives: indigenous resistance

Born on the Fourth of July: Counterinsurgency, Indigenous Resistance, and Black Revolt

Commissioned by St. Louis beer-maker Anheuser-Busch in 1889, Otto Becker famously depicted “Custer’s Last Fight” for beer advertisements, adding to the myth of a valiant last stand scenario and the self-defense of an invading settler nation.

Commissioned by St. Louis beer-maker Anheuser-Busch in 1889, Otto Becker famously depicted “Custer’s Last Fight” for beer advertisements, adding to the myth of a valiant last stand scenario and the self-defense of an invading settler nation.

By Nick Estes, The Red Nation

On June 25, 1876, an alliance of Lakotas, Cheyennes, and Arapahos blew out the candles on the United States’ birthday cake. A week before celebrating one hundred years of “liberty,” at the Battle of Greasy Grass the historic Indigenous alliance wiped from the earth lieutenant colonel George A. Custer, a less well-known Civil War officer, and more than 250 of his men of the Seventh Calvary. Knocked from his horse by the Northern Cheyenne warrior woman Buffalo Calf Trail Woman and killed while running away, for his bravery Custer was promoted to the rank of general after his death and inglorious defeat.

Natives made Custer famous by killing him. To empire’s chagrin these same nations still celebrate this historic victory as a declaration of their prior and continuing independence, a week before the US’s own self-described “independence” from the British Empire. But a false image of Custer making a heroic last stand still lingers and does important political work. A last stand reverses the role of invasion and self-defense. It’s as innocent as playing cowboys and Indians, right? Who wants to be the Indians? (Put your hand down, Johnny Depp.)

Settlers often see themselves as victims, who are, just like Custer, surrounded by hostile, dark nations. Such depictions litter the genre of Western films. But a move to innocence isn’t harmless Americana. It’s the founding doctrine of the US and its counterinsurgency programs. It has been the justification for slavery, genocide, and war. One only need to read the Declaration of Independence to understand the origins of this clever inversion of history where aggressors become victims and where colonialism looks like self-defense.

The Declaration of Independence is an unlikely yet foundational location for US counterinsurgency doctrine. In the same breath that the “founding fathers” condemned arbitrary rule by an overseas sovereign, they called for the defense against those whose bodies they stole and those whose lands they took or intended to take. King George, they wrote, “has excited domestic [slave] insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes[,] and conditions.”

Click here to read the full article…

Featured Artists: Dignidad Rebelde

Occasionally, Unsettling America will select and showcase featured artists for their contributions to the discourse of decolonization. Today’s featured artists are Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes of Dignidad Rebelde:

Dignidad Rebelde is a graphic arts collaboration between Oakland-based artist-activists Jesus Barraza and Melanie Cervantes.  We believe that art can be an empowering reflection of community struggles, dreams and visions.  Following principles of Xicanisma and Zapatismo, we create work that translates people’s stories into art that can be put back into the hands of the communities who inspire it.

We recognize that the history of the majority of people worldwide is a history of colonialism, genocide, and exploitation.  Our art is grounded in Third World and indigenous movements that build people’s power to transform the conditions of fragmentation, displacement and loss of culture that result from this history.  Representing these movements through visual art means connecting struggles through our work and seeking to inspire solidarity among communities of struggle worldwide.

Dignidad Rebelde’s graphic art is of the highest quality and versatility – our art is for museums, collectors’ exhibitions, community and cultural centers, individual homes, political rallies and more.  We are committed to advancing the acceptance of people’s art as quality art, and to nurturing a model of art-making grounded in collaboration with community organizations and other networks of artists.

In this spirit of collaboration among artists, we are also members of the Taller Tupac AmaruJustseeds Artists’ Cooperative, and the Consejo Gráfico.

500 Years of Indigenous Resistance

Introduction

By Gord Hill, 1992 [download]

Throughout the year 1992, the various states which have profited from the colonization of the Americas will be conducting lavish celebrations of the “Discovery of the Americas”. Spain has spent billion of dollars for celebrations in conjunction with Expo `92 in Seville. In Columbus, Ohio, a $100 million quincentennial celebration plans on entertaining several million tourists. CELAM, the association of South America’s Catholic bishops, has organized a gathering to celebrate the “fifth centenary of the evangelization of the Americas” to be presided over by the Pope. As well, there is a wide selection of museum exhibits, films, TV shows, books and many other products and activities focusing on Columbus and the “Discovery”, all presenting one interpretation of the 500 years following 1492. The main thrust of this interpretation being that the colonization process — a process of genocide — has, with a few “bad spots”, been overall a mutually beneficial process. The “greatness” of European religions and cultures was brought to the Indigenous peoples, who in return shared the lands and after “accidentally” being introduced to European disease, simply died off and whose descendants now fill the urban ghettos as alcoholics and welfare recipients. Of course, a few “remnants” of Indian cultures was retained, and there are even a few “professional” Indian politicians running around.

That was no “Discovery” — it was an American Indian Holocaust!

Until recently, commonly accepted population levels of the indigenous peoples on the eve of 1492 were around 10-15 million. This number continues to be accepted by individuals and groups who see 1492 as a “discovery” in which only a few million Indians died — and then mostly from diseases. More recent demographic studies place the Indigenous population at between 70 to 100 million peoples, with some 10 million in North America, 30 million in Mesoamerica, and around 50 to 70 million in South America.

Today, in spite of 500 years of a genocidal colonization, there is an estimated 40 million Indigenous peoples in the Americas. In Guatemala, the Mayan peoples make up 60.3 percent of the population, and in Bolivia Indians comprise over 70 percent of the total population. Despite this, these Indigenous peoples lack any control over their own lands and comprise the most exploited and oppressed layers of the population; characteristics that are found also in other Indigenous populations in the settler states of the Americas (and throughout the world).

Continue reading