March 16, 2009

Only one Indian civilization?

I Am Indigenist

Notes on the Ideology of the Fourth World

By Ward Churchill
The manifestation of indigenism in North America has much in common with the articulation of what in Latin America is called indigenismo. One of the major proponents of this, the Mexican anthropologist/activist Guillermo Bonfil Batalla, has framed its precepts this way: "[I]n America there exists only one unitary Indian civilization. All the Indian peoples participate in this civilization. The diversity of cultures and languages is not an obstacle to affirmation of the unity of this civilization. It is a fact that all civilizations, including Western civilization, have these sorts of internal differences. But the level of unity—the civilization—is more profound than the level of specificity (the cultures, the languages, the communities). The civilizing dimension transcends the concrete diversity."

The differences between the diverse peoples (or ethnic groups) have been accentuated by the colonizers as part of the strategy of domination. There have been attempts by some to fragment the Indian peoples...by establishing frontiers, deepening differences and provoking rivalries. This strategy follows a principle objective: domination, to which end it is attempted ideologically to demonstrate that in America, Western civilization is confronted by a magnitude of atomized peoples, differing from one another (every day more and more languages are "discovered"). Thus, in consequence, such peoples are believed incapable of forging a future of their own. In contrast to this, the Indian thinking affirms the existence of one—a unique and different—Indian civilization, from which extend as particular expressions the cultures of diverse peoples. Thus, the identification and solidarity among Indians. Their "Indianness" is not a simple tactic postulated, but rather the necessary expression of an historical unity, based in common civilization, which the colonizer has wanted to hide. Their Indianness, furthermore, is reinforced by the common experience of almost five centuries of [Eurocentric] domination.
Comment:  As I said before, I think Indians and other minorities should unite on common causes despite their differences. The same applies within Indian tribes and communities.

But I don't think these tribes and communities should smooth over or ignore their differences. There's a big difference between, say, the Navajo Nation with its huge land base and traditional culture and a landless California rancheria with only a dozen members who are mostly Latino by heritage.

For more on Churchill, see Churchill Trusts a Jury? and Churchill Goes to Trial. For more on the "one unitary Indian civilization," see Native vs. Non-Native Americans:  A Summary.

Disclaimer:  Nothing in this posting is meant to support any of Churchill's words or deeds except the words noted here.

10 comments:

Stephen said...

"Comment: As I said before, I think Indians and other minorities should unite on common causes despite their differences. The same applies within Indian tribes and communities."

What you think about that is not relevant since you are not Native; that doesn't mean you shouldn't critique Indian stereotypes or anti-Indian racism. However I think it's a bit much to try to advise Indians. "Don't worry my Native charges Super-Rob the self appointed expert is here to save you!"

Stephen said...

Also a reader of yours hit the proverbial nail on the head with the post below.

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=29769707&postID=8390944618337037485

Melvin Martin said...

I feel that it is often more than quite appropriate for non-Natives to advise Native people as I (and I am Oglala Lakota) have encountered so many Native persons over the years who knew next to nothing about their various tribal cultures, histories, languages, current events and religions that it was disturbing to say the least.

That there are knowledgeable and concerned non-Native people in our corner, to me, is very much to our advantage on a wide range of issues.

Rob said...

Another personal attack, Stephen? Funny coming from the guy who says he only debates the issues. What does your comment have to do with the issue of "only one Indian civilization"?

This reminds me of your comments on No Colonization, No United States? I said maybe such-and-such would've happened and you said maybe it wouldn't have happened. In the present case, I could "advise" Indians or I could not advise them. Thanks for that stunning insight, pal.

You could argue that every one of the thousands of opinions I've posted in this blog is irrelevant since I'm not Native. In other words, you could argue that the whole blog is irrelevant and shouldn't exist. But so what? I've already decided it should exist and my vote wins. Therefore, it'll continue to exist whether you like it or not.

If that bothers you, too bad. I suggest you find another blog to haunt where people don't "advise" each other. Maybe you'll be happier there--less of a pest and malcontent.

I put the word "advise" in quotes because this advice is so mild I wouldn't even call it that. Advising people to unite for a common cause is like advising them to get out of the rain, look before they leap, or follow their bliss. It's a common-sense truism and no one but you would be offended by it.

I probably give "advice" this mild several times a day. For instance, "I suggest you read this book." Oh, my! How dare Super-Rob tell his Native charges what to read? Does he think they're too dumb to choose their own books? What effrontery!

What's the difference between this "advice" and the "advice" you chastised me for? Nothing worth mentioning, I'd say. About the only difference is you thought of one petty excuse to criticize me but not another. Sheesh.

P.S. Thanks for the support, Melvin. I appreciate it.

Stephen said...

"Another personal attack, Stephen? Funny coming from the guy who says he only debates the issues. What does your comment have to do with the issue of "only one Indian civilization?"

First off this isn't an attack (it's not as if I insulted you) second I was referring to your thoughts on what Natives should do. It's not like they need outside help; people in tribal governments are college educated and capable. One might even argue that such outside 'aid' undermines Tribal sovereignty.

"This reminds me of your comments on No Colonization, No United States? I said maybe such-and-such would've happened and you said maybe it wouldn't have happened. In the present case, I could "advise" Indians or I could not advise them. Thanks for that stunning insight, pal."

I'll reply to you on that entry shortly; I haven't yet because I can't keep checking these constantly (it eventually gets very very boring), if you'd reply in say a day or two I would also reply.

"You could argue that every one of the thousands of opinions I've posted in this blog is irrelevant since I'm not Native."

Nope that's not my point; you've made some good points about stereotyping.

"In other words, you could argue that the whole blog is irrelevant and shouldn't exist. But so what? I've already decided it should exist and my vote wins. Therefore, it'll continue to exist whether you like it or not."

Oh gawd, as I posted before:

"What you think about that is not relevant since you are not Native; that doesn't mean you shouldn't critique Indian stereotypes or anti-Indian racism."

"If that bothers you, too bad. I suggest you find another blog to haunt where people don't "advise" each other. Maybe you'll be happier there--less of a pest and malcontent."

Don't be silly, also this has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

"I put the word "advise" in quotes because this advice is so mild I wouldn't even call it that. Advising people to unite for a common cause is like advising them to get out of the rain, look before they leap, or follow their bliss. It's a common-sense truism and no one but you would be offended by it."

It's also kinda condescending.

"I probably give "advice" this mild several times a day. For instance, "I suggest you read this book." Oh, my! How dare Super-Rob tell his Native charges what to read? Does he think they're too dumb to choose their own books? What effrontery!"

You're comparing apples to oranges.

kalisetsi said...

Stephen! You rock.

Rob. Rob..... ;) No seriously, what I just questioned when I read the line about "Indians and other minorities should unite.." was whether you meant minorities technically or if you meant people of color (POC) or oppressed people generally. Which are all kind of different by degree.

Rob, I would never intend to disrespect you or offend you. My critiques of things you may write are meant to be both constructive and food for thought; not to attack you personally and put you on the defensive. I think to your credit you are often very on point with the questionable labels, graphics, advertising, etc., and I think you really do a great service by collecting them in one place and documenting it for everyone to see. I do feel that when it comes to living people (versus representations and words), for some reason you seem to lack some degree of sensitivity and understanding. Which I find ironic and strange becuase you're often SO on-point with the representations and clearly "get" that part so much, that frankly it always seems to surprise me at other times how much you really seem not to "get it" and be out of touch with how many Native people think. I actually don't think that part of it has anything to do with your blood, but beyond being a matter of personality, I think it also has to do with degree of exposure to the "Native community"(so I would agree with Melvin on that). I'm certainly not egocentric and I do not expect everyone to think like me, nor do I think that anyone who doesn't agree with me is necessarily "wrong". I absolutely support your right to express your views no matter what I may think about them, and whether or not I agree with the way you may write about some things, in general I find the topics you address to be interesting. So I really appreciate you for that.

Stephen said...

Why thank you Kalisetsi, the other problem with the obvious 'minorities should unite' thing is that it's typically spouted by do gooders who have little to no experience with these communities. Sure it looks rad on paper but it's harder than it looks like due to a variety of reasons; supremacist movements (ie the NOI) are not exactly going to want to hold hands with other people.

Rob said...

If you'd stop throwing in unsubstantiated and irrelevant attacks--e.g., I'm "ignorant" because I quoted Ward Churchill on one page out of 1,900--I'd have more time to answer everyone's comments, Stephen. You can look in the mirror at the culprit for my inability to respond faster.

Telling me my opinions aren't "relevant" is another unwarranted attack on my work. It's not based on "facts"--your usual lame excuse for attacking me--and it doesn't add anything useful to this discussion. It's a gratuitous personal attack that tells us nothing except you think your opinion is superior to mine.

Why should you care when I "advise" Natives to work with other minorities but not when I "advise" them to read certain books, fight certain stereotypes, embrace certain PR practices, etc.? Despite your worthless "apples and oranges" claim, these are all mild forms of advice. They're all about equally presumptuous or "arrogant."

Clearly you can't make any sort of rational distinction between one form of advice and another. Which means you have no valid point. You're simply attacking me for the sake of attacking me.

Rob said...

Re "it always seems to surprise me at other times how much you really seem not to 'get it' and be out of touch with how many Native people think": It always surprises me when you make these ridiculous claims without a shred of evidence, Kalisetsi. Where do you get this nonsense from?

You aren't reading that "many" Natives disagree with me on my blog. You have no idea what kind of Native support I get via e-mail or in person. (Hint: It's overwhelmingly positive.) As far as I can tell, you're fabricating these "Rob doesn't know Natives" charges out of thin air.

Next time, don't simply tell us your unsubstantiated opinion about what Natives think. Prove your case with facts and evidence and I'll do the same. I trust you'll do better than you did in Indians Prefer Identification by Tribe, because I kicked your butt in that posting.

Rob said...

If it's so "obvious" that minorities should unite, Stephen, why did you attack me for stating the obvious? Because you attack me gratuitously whenever you can?

Saying it may be difficult for minorities to unite in reality is different from saying they should unite in theory. The question is whether they should make the attempt, not whether it's bound to succeed.

Nor did I say Indians should try to unite with radical groups such as the Nation of Islam. I was talking about minorities in general, not particular minority organizations.

But I forgot...you don't understand the concept of generalizations. Apparently you thought I meant every Indian organization should unite with every other minority organization.

If so, you're wrong again. I wasn't advocating that AIM combine with the NAACP, or the Zapatista Movement with the Congress of Racial Equality. Your stupid mistake if you thought otherwise.

In short, quit wasting our time with your negative nitpicking. If you don't have anything intelligent to say, don't bother saying anything. I'm tired of your piping up just to put me down.

P.S. Most of these comments apply to Separate Nations for Blacks, Indians? and not to this posting. As noted, Stephen attacks me whenever and wherever he can.