While we sat there on the earth, what earth we could still find there in Dewey Square, the Occupiers guiding the General Assembly began to speak of indigeny, of statements of solidarity with indigenous peoples and with the original (and current) inhabitants of the place we now call Boston and Massachusetts. They were speaking truth and acknowledging the need for reconciliation at a time when many misguided organizations and people in the world were busy engrandizing a criminal named Columbus who would usher in two of the world’s most tragic holocausts, one which included the enslavement of Africans and the dismemberment of their cultures.
This discourse on indigeny and the issues of colonization and settler-colonization are key to joining and creating change in, on and beyond Turtle Island. One cannot suggest that they are searching for economic, political, social or environmental justice without engaging the dynamics of colonization, capitalist European exploitation and the systems and structures that have grown out of such dynamics. To do any less would be to subvert the stated messages of “freedom from tyranny” and to reentrench the locus of liberation back to the privileged “49%”, the benefactors of white privilege (which includes that cursed 1% that everyone is talking about with such vehement and correct disdain) and the world of liberal/conservative politics (ultimately not so different since both have for so long actually been moderate and regressive protections of the dominant system of exploitation in the interest of the now-decreasing European settler majority).
John Bird, in his Indian Country Today Media Network article, sees light and possibilities in the deepening political root that is the Occupy movement.
“I feel like i have been waiting for this moment an entire lifetime. More like a hundred lifetimes when I count the 500 years and lifetimes of all our indigenous ancestors who went to their graves wondering if justice would ever again prevail on Turtle Island.” (http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/ict_sbc/why-i-am-occupying-wall-street/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=why-i-am-occupying-wall-street&utm_campaign=fb-posts)
Bird puts into perspective a socio-political and historical reality that many not directly involved in the Occupy movement are ignorant of or unwilling to engage due to capitalist/colonialist collusion and/or confusion. Even many who are doing this neo-occupation are not aware of and/or willing to engage this larger, deeper conception of justice and liberation, one that illuminates the very underpinnings of the creation of the United States of America as a stable, though vicious settler-colony, sharing many similarities to the Republic of South Africa and it’s own creation. Voortrekkers are not so different from the Laura Ingalls Wilders and Ben Cartwrights of the festering anti-spirit of manifest destiny that swept across Turtle Island like a disease of viral homo sapienity. But there is and was always hope that that virus could be identified and healed like every other. Bird goes on to say the following:
“”For me the OCcupy Wall Street movement is that new hope. What I see in the Occupy Wall Street movement with its focus on economic justice which is entwined with social justice, growing and strengthening and merging with the environmental movement is the beginning of new hope. not just for Native Americans, but for all Americans and all citizens of the world. Our indigenous philosophies have always told us we are all related, we are all connected, we are all in this together.”
John Bird calls us to look at the ultimate unity of humanity through the clear lens of critique of the larger system of exploitation which has sent so many young and old, red and blue, union and non to the streets and parks across Turtle Island and beyond dissatisfied with the promises of a shallow and blind freedom that so many have accepted as truth for so, so long, in the face of all of our Ancestors who knew and know better and calls us to see and act upon the same. Bird sees possibilities that resonate with the words of those General Assembly members who presented the resolution on solidarity with indigenous people here and outside of Turtle Island.
Recently, as posted on the Occupy Boston website, the United American Indians of New England put their support behind the Occupy Boston movements saying the following (in part):
“We are deeply moved and encouraged that Occupy/Decolonize Boston, as one of its very first actions, issued a memorandum in solidarity with Indigenous peoples. We have been the victims of corporate greed for centuries. If you seek to re-imagine a new society free of corporate greed, then we would ask that you learn all you can about the past that has carried us to this place.
We fully support the right of the Occupy/Decolonize Boston encampment to expand from Dewey Square to other parks and open spaces in the city, without the necessity of permits and without fear of police reprisals.“ (http://occupyboston.com/2011/10/14/united-american-indians-of-new-england-uaine-supports-occupy-boston/)
The UAINE, that regularly organizes the National Day of Mourning at Plymouth, MA each November, adds to the growing, but often tenuous support coming from Indian country and indigeny in general. In Minneapolis, the Anishinabe, American Indian Movement and Meshikas of Mexico and central and south America came together to “reoccupy our sacred Mother Earth”, as voiced by Clyde Bellecourt, co-founder of AIM and Anishnabe chief. He went on to say the following:
“We will join together as one on this day of national mourning of the genocide of 120 million indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere, as American and the world celebrates the pirate Columbus.” (http://www.theuptake.org/2011/10/11/drums-dance-and-rain-occupy-peoples-plaza-in-minneapolis/)
Bellecourt’s words again give resonance to that larger challenge to the new Occupy movement, but call it into clarity about upon which and whose land they now Occupy and physically occupy in the name of democracy and freedom from economical, social and environmental injustice and exploitation. Indigenous peoples here on Turtle Island and the Africans viciously transplanted here know all too well the largeness and nature of the challenge ahead. It is particularly this awareness that gives many people of color and indigeny pause even as many see those rays of hope emanating from the current movement. Vine Deloria, Jr., in his classic “Custer Died For Your Sins” laid out some of the differences in outlook and action on issues of civil and human rights, land and freedom as he explained what conditions existed that separated many Native Americans from the civil rights movement and European-dominated anti-war and burgeoning environmental movements. His critique is important in facing some of the persistent barriers that exist between the multiplicitous cultural and political, let alone spiritual, interests that have come to coexist here on Turtle Island, however exploitatively and uncomfortably. The Europeans that are dominating the discourse and presence in these Occupations must come to clarity and set a tone for inclusion that allows them to see that they are, in fact, joining a much older process, not simply creating something new that has no historical precedent. But that is beginning to happen as workshops on race and white privilege are being organized and planned with multi-cultural groupings forging ahead into the known/unknown of historical and future reconstruction and reconciliation.
In a Lenape response to the Occupy Wall Street effort, the call for deeper perspective and acknowledgement of indigeny comes through:
“As you ‘occupy Wall Street,’ I ask you to reflect: You are on the island upon which our Indigenous ancestors lived and thrived for thousands and thousands of years. Please take a moment to recognize that we, the Original Nations, still exist here on Turtle Island. We have the right to exist as free and distinct nations with full self-determination.” (http://unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com/)
As I sat on the sacred earth with those two wonderful, conscious people, a reactionary, though lone, voice of white privilege rang out through the crowd giving voice to some very widely held fears and confusions around even the idea of indigenous peoples’ rights being acknowledged and manifested where so many offspring of the original colonizers have stakes in seeing the status quo maintained. The Occupy movement in Boston and beyond, on Turtle Island and beyond will have to come to serious grips with the issues being raised and heard in their General Assemblies and from the villages, cities, reservations, bantustans and ghettoes of the world. The success of the Occupation is dependent upon how deeply the neo-Occupiers engage and reconcile the stories and realities of the original Columbian era occupation and holocaust/enslavement/colonization/settler-colonization. To fall short in this area would be tragic to those who still see, like this writer, that there is hope in the possibilities of what the Occupy movement represents for not only this settler-colonist country, but the world as a whole - current global capitalism would clearly have been a recurrent wet dream of Criminal Columbus, if you get the multi-suggestive drift.
In addition, the engagement of Columbia as a goddess of this settler-colonial reality can not be just another reactionary spiritual dynamic relegating it to the coming dustbin of predatory christian missiological and spiritual exploitation. The Occupy movement and the responses to the DC40 initiative must be principled and ideologically clear. The DC40 initiative is a spiritual and political blight on the populace, particularly those of us who support religious and spiritual pluralism and a logical return to the indigenous basis of human relationship to the physical and energetic world in solidarity and unity with the indigenous peoples who are still here, still strong and getting stronger.
John Bird ended his article as such:
“The window of opportunity to bend the course of history back towards justice is once again opening. It will not stay open long. Let us, Native Americans and all others who have not given up hope for a world based on real economic, social and environmental justice, not squander this opportunity. IT MAY VERY WELL...BE OUR LAST.” [emphasis mine, US]
Much is at stake with regard to the DC40 and TI42 Initiatives and the promise of what they and Occupy movement and decolonization movement(s) mean and represent for all of humanity at this important juncture in human and earth history.
May we hear and heed the voices of our indigenous Ancestors loudly and clearly...and may they hear and heed our clearest voices of true freedom, justice and liberation for ALL.
Additional INTMN article in review for Part 2: