September 30, 2011

Indians say "Unoccupy America"

Jessica Yee notes the irony of the "Occupy" movement sweeping the country:

Occupy Wall Street:  The Game of Colonialism and further nationalism to be decolonized from the “Left”

By Jessica YeeThe “OCCUPY WALL STREET” slogan has gone viral and international now. From the protests on the streets of WALL STREET in the name of “ending capitalism”–organizers, protestors, and activists have been encouraged to “occupy” different places that symbolize greed and power. There’s just one problem: THE UNITED STATES IS ALREADY BEING OCCUPIED. THIS IS INDIGENOUS LAND. And it’s been occupied for quite some time now.

I also need to mention that New York City is Haudenosaunee territory and home to many other First Nations. Waiting to see if that’s been mentioned anywhere. (Author’s note: Manhattan “proper” is home to to the Lenape who were defrauded of the island by the Dutch in 1626–see more from Tequila Sovereign).

Not that I’m surprised that this was a misstep in organizing against Wall Street or really any organizing that happens when the “left” decides that it’s going to “take back America for the people” (which people?!). This is part of a much larger issue, and in fact there is so much nationalistic, patriotic language of imperialism wrapped up in these types of campaigns that it’s no wonder people can’t see the erasure of existence of the First Peoples of THIS territory that happens when we get all high and mighty with the pro-America agendas, and forget our OWN complicity and accountability to the way things are today–not just the corporations and the state.
Yee quotes a letter by Anishnaabe writer John Paul Montano:I hope you would make mention of the fact that the very land upon which you are protesting does not belong to you–that you are guests upon that stolen indigenous land. I had hoped mention would be made of the indigenous nation whose land that is. I had hoped that you would address the centuries-long history that we indigenous peoples of this continent have endured being subject to the countless ‘-isms’ of do-gooders claiming to be building a “more just society,” a “better world,” a “land of freedom” on top of our indigenous societies, on our indigenous lands, while destroying and/or ignoring our ways of life. I had hoped that you would acknowledge that, since you are settlers on indigenous land, you need and want our indigenous consent to your building anything on our land–never mind an entire society.Comment:  I understand the reasons for not mentioning Native issues. People already have accused the "Occupy" movement of not having a clear message. A bunch of white people waving signs about Indians would only muddle the non-message further.

But it would be good if the protesters acknowledged Native issues somehow. All non-Indians, both liberals and conservatives, have benefited from the Euro-American occupation of the continent. If the protesters truly believe in justice, they should be talking about giving back the land. Or at least placing Native issues high on their agenda.

That would mean questioning their own white power and privilege. Not to mention giving some of it up. That's not something a lot of people are prepared to do.

For more on colonization, see Two Kinds of Colonizers and Three Words in Declaration of Independence.

P.S. Now would be a good time for Native activists to (re)occupy Mt. Rushmore, Alcatraz, or another prominent landmark.

1 comment:

Eda said...

Thanks for this! I just wrote an article highlighting some of this important perspective: I will also link this article there.