Sunday, October 2, 2011

Decolonize Wall Street


Occupy Wall Street: The Game of Colonialism and Further Nationalism to be Decolonized From the “Left”

OCTOBER 1, 2011
By Jessica Yee
The “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.
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.
Let me be clear. I’m not against ending capitalism and I’m not against people organizing to hold big corporations accountable for the extreme damage they are causing.  Yes, we need to end globalization. What I am saying is that I have all kinds of problems when to get to “ending capitalism” we step on other people’s rights – and in this case erode Indigenous rights – to make the point. I’m not saying people did it intentionally but that doesn’t even matter – good intentions are not enough and good intentions obviously can have adverse affects. This is such a played out old record too, walking on other people’s backs to get to a mystical land of equity.  Is it really just and equitable when specific people continue to be oppressed to get there? And it doesn’t have to be done! We don’t need more occupation – we need decolonization and it’s everyone’s responsibility to participate in that because COLONIALISM AFFECTS EVERYONE. EVERYONE! Colonialism also leads to capitalism, globalization, and industrialization. How can we truly end capitalism without ending colonialism? How does doing things in the name of “America” which was created by the imposition of hierarchies of class, race, ability, gender, and sexuality help that?
I can’t get on board with the nationalism of  an “American” (or now “Canadian!”) revolution – I just can’t.  There has been too much genocide and violence for the United States and Canada to be founded and to continue to exist as nation states.  I think John Paul Montano, Anishnaabe writer captured it quite well in his “Open Letter to Occupy Wall Street Activists”:
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.
I will leave you with this new art piece from Erin Konsmo (also pictured above), our fabulous intern at The Native Youth Sexual Health Network she created on “OCCUPY: THE GAME OF COLONIALISM”.  Hopefully you get the picture now.

An Open Letter to the Occupy Wall Street Activists

Thank you for your courage. Thank you for making an attempt to improve the situation in what is now called the United States. Thank you for your commitment to peace and non-violence. Thank you for the sacrifices you are making. Thank you.

There's just one thing. I am not one of the 99 percent that you refer to. And, that saddens me. Please don't misunderstand me. I would like to be one of the 99 percent... but you've chosen to exclude me. Perhaps it was unintentional, but, I've been excluded by you. In fact, there are millions of us indigenous people who have been excluded from the Occupy Wall Street protest. Please know that I suspect that it was an unintentional exclusion on your part. That is why I'm writing to you. I believe that you can make this right. (I hope you're still smiling.)

It seems that ever since we indigenous people have discovered Europeans and invited them to visit with us here on our land, we've had to endure countless '-isms' and religions and programs and social engineering that would "fix" us. Protestantism, Socialism, Communism, American Democracy, Christianity, Boarding SchoolsResidential Schools,... well, you get the idea. And, it seems that these so-called enlightened strategies were nearly always enacted and implemented and pushed upon us without our consent. And, I'll assume that you're aware of how it turned out for us. Yes. Terribly.

Which brings me back to your mostly-inspiring Occupy Wall Street activities. On September 22nd, with great excitement, I eagerly read your "one demand" statement. Hoping and believing that you enlightened folks fighting for justice and equality and an end to imperialism, etc., etc., 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. See where I'm going with this? I hope you're still smiling. We're still friends, so don't sweat it. I believe your hearts are in the right place. I know that this whole genocide and colonization thing causes all of us lots of confusion sometimes. It just seems to me that you're unknowingly doing the same thing to us that all the colonizers before you have done: you want to do stuff on our land without asking our permission.

But, fear not my friends. We indigenous people have a sense of humor. So, I thought I might make a few friendly suggestions which may help to "fix" the pro-colonialism position in which you now (hopefully, unintentionally) find yourselves. (Please note my use of the word "fix" in the previous sentence. That's an attempt at a joke. You can refer to the third paragraph if you'd like an explanation.)

By the way, I'm just one indigenous person. I represent no one except myself. I'm acting alone in writing this letter. Perhaps none of my own Nishnaabe people will support me in having written this. Perhaps some will. I respect their opinions either way. I love my Nishnaabe people always. I am simply trying to do something good - same as all of you at the Occupy Wall Street protest in what is now called New York.

So, here goes. (You're still smiling, right?)

1) Acknowledge that the United States of America is a colonial country, a country of settlers, built upon the land of indigenous nations; and/or...

2) Demand immediate freedom for indigenous political prisonerLeonard Peltier; and/or...

3) Demand that the colonial government of the United States of America honor all treaties signed with all indigenous nations whose lands are now collectively referred to as the "United States of America"; and/or...

4) Make some kind of mention that you are indeed aware that you are settlers and that you are not intending to repeat the mistakes of all of the settler do-gooders that have come before you. In other words, that you are willing to obtain the consent of indigenous people before you do anything on indigenous land.

I hope you find this list useful. I eagerly await your response, my friends.

Miigwech! ( ~"Thank you!" )

JohnPaul Montano

7 comments:

liferocks said...
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liferocks said...
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liferocks said...

Thank you for this inspiring post. I would love to see this movement adopt the ideas found in The Great Turning. http://www.ecoliteracy.org/essays/great-turning It is the essential adventure of our current planet-time; the shift from an industrial growth based society to a life sustaining civilization. There is more than just human "rights" at stake here. Humans are only part of this vast web of life. The American Indians have long understood this. It is also found in the idea of the Bodhisattva. We vow to liberate all beings. Peace to you and thank you for writing this.

Jamie said...

Ok, what's really irritating me right now is this bullshit:

THE POSTER ABOVE THIS ARTICLE!

http://s3.amazonaws.com/data.tumblr.com/tumblr_lsfbczNElv1qh4zx1o1_1280.jpg?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ6IHWSU3BX3X7X3Q&Expires=1318045316&Signature=qHLxLEEVBhAGPmcNWSSlsPi%2FYuk%3D

Now, I'm excited this takes the North American settler states and their ongoing colonization one serious step further into the mainstream mind. But if you fuck up the google search required to find out that New York is Lenape traditional territory and Algonquin traditional territory is on the Ottawa River watershed in Eastern Canada, five hundred kilometers north, you're doing an incredible disservice to the indigenous nation that is fighting against so many odds for survival.

So I email the artist because I feel it's important if this viral shit's going to bring the poster around the world, to be factually accurate, for the Lenape's sake. Having done indigenous solidarity activist work (with Algonquins, incidentally) the most important thing to keep in mind is that you must take leadership from the community members, but there is no solidarity going on here, it's just some Shepard Fairey wannabe with a rasterized photo of Sitting Bull and when I emailed him he told me that, the Lenape are the "elders" of the Algonquins. Clear he hasn't spoken to members of either nation. I wouldn't care except this misinformation could catch on like wildfire. So, hey, how the fuck do I get this before it becomes a chant on Wall Street and inadvertently, ignorantly, well-meaningly, further erases the Lenape First Nation?

Jamie said...

Ok, what's really irritating me right now is this bullshit:

THE POSTER AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS ARTICLE!

http://s3.amazonaws.com/data.tumblr.com/tumblr_lsfbczNElv1qh4zx1o1_1280.jpg?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ6IHWSU3BX3X7X3Q&Expires=1318045316&Signature=qHLxLEEVBhAGPmcNWSSlsPi%2FYuk%3D

Now, I'm excited this takes the North American settler states and their ongoing colonization one serious step further into the mainstream mind. But if you fuck up the google search required to find out that New York is Lenape traditional territory and Algonquin traditional territory is on the Ottawa River watershed in Eastern Canada, five hundred kilometers north, you're doing an incredible disservice to the indigenous nation that is fighting against so many odds for survival.

So I email the artist because I feel it's important if this viral shit's going to bring the poster around the world, to be factually accurate, for the Lenape's sake. Having done indigenous solidarity activist work (with Algonquins, incidentally) the most important thing to keep in mind is that you must take leadership from the community members, but there is no solidarity going on here, it's just some Shepard Fairey wannabe with a rasterized photo of Sitting Bull and when I emailed him he told me that, the Lenape are the "elders" of the Algonquins. Clear he hasn't spoken to members of either nation. I wouldn't care except this misinformation could catch on like wildfire. So, hey, how the fuck do I get this before it becomes a chant on Wall Street and inadvertently, ignorantly, well-meaningly, further erases the Lenape First Nation?

José M. López Sierra said...

Dear Partner,

Now that our First Oscar – Mandela March in Puerto Rico was successful, we can look forward to an even bigger success with our First Oscar Mandela Protest in New York City. This year, The New York City Puerto Rican Day Parade, a week before our protest, will honor our political prisoner Oscar López Rivera.

On Monday, June 23, 2014, the United Nations (UN) will be discussing again Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the United States. The UN is in its third decade trying to eradicate colonialism from the world, because of the belief that it constitutes a threat to world peace. Since this date is a week later than usual, our committee decided to have 2 protests this year.

On the Monday, June 16, 2014, the day after Fathers’ Day, we will have our first protest in the park across from the UN on 46th Street and First Avenue from 8 AM to 6 PM to show the world that we too believe that colonialism is a crime against humanity. On the same day of the hearing, Monday June 23, we will have the second one. We will have a press conference in New York City to inform the public of the latest details of these event. We will need as many people at the protest as possible to make the government of the United States (US) comply with the 32 UN resolutions asking the US to decolonize immediately Puerto Rico. After this many resolutions, it is obvious that the US does not want to.

President Obama recently showed the government of the United States’ hypocrisy about human rights. In his memorial ceremony speech, he had only praise for Nelson Mandela. He, however, has refused, despite the enormous pressure from Puerto Rico and the rest of the world, to release from prison Oscar López Rivera who is doing exactly what Mandela did. Oscar has already spent 6 more years in prison than the 27 that Mandela served. The US is happy when other countries decolonize their colonies, but the US wants to keep hers. What kind of democracy is this? Obviously, those who have colonies don’t believe in justice for all.

Please tell your friends about this important protest for Oscar López Rivera’s release from prison, and to achieve what he has spent his life on, the decolonization of Puerto Rico.

We will have a sheet of paper so that whoever who wants to get involved in the planning of this yearly permanent event in New York City can provide us with your contact information. If you wish, you can also email me right now at jlop28vislophis@yahoo.com.

We look forward to greeting old and new partners in our struggle to provide real justice for all!

Sincerely,
José M López Sierra
www.TodosUnidosDescolonizarPR.blogspot.com
Because, rights are not requested, they are demanded!

José M. López Sierra said...

Dear Partner,

Since the United Nations determined in 1960 that colonialism is a crime against humanity, there is no longer a need for plebiscites. The solution is to give Puerto Rico her sovereignty.

But being the United States government does not want to, it continues to advocate the use of plebiscites to find out what Puerto Ricans want. Even if 100% of Puerto Ricans would want to continue being a US colony, Puerto Rico would still be obligated to accept her sovereignty to then decide what she wants to do.

The only thing these plebiscites are good for is to divide Puerto Ricans. A Puerto Rican didn’t invade us to make us a colony. When will we understand that we need to unite?

This is why we must peacefully protest at least 3 times a year until Puerto Rico is decolonized!

José M López Sierra
www.TodosUnidosDescolonizarPR.blogspot.com