Tag Archives: Occupy Wall Street

Indians Counter Occupy Wall Street Movement With Decolonize Wall Street

Occupy Game of Colonialism e1317921939474 Indians Counter Occupy Wall Street Movement With Decolonize Wall Street

This artwork was created by Erin Konsmo, a Métis/Cree Indigenous Feminist from Innisfail, Alberta. She is currently an intern for the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and on the National Aboriginal Youth Council on HIV/AIDS. She is an Indigenous artist, focusing on art forms that incorporate traditional knowledge while telling stories of struggle, resistance, self-determination, identity and sexual and reproductive justice.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has taken root across the nation. Organizers say protestors are drawing attention to the 1% of the population who have destroyed the country and its values through greed.

While many people in Indian Country can sympathize with the protestors’ claims, there is also some growing criticism for the idea behind its name, which overlooks the first occupants of the Wall Street area. This has given rise to the response from Native bloggers and activists to not Occupy Wall Street but Decolonize Wall Street.

“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,” stated Jessica Yee (Mohawk), the executive director for The Native Youth Sexual Health Network, in a blog post originally posted on Racialicious.

“I also need to mention that New York City is Haudenosaunee territory and home to many other First Nations, ” Yee wrote.

Still, Yee clarifies that she supports the mission and integrity of Occupy Wall Street. “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,” Yee wrote. “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.”

Yee goes on to excerpt a blog post from “An Open Letter to the Occupy Wall Street Activist” published by JohnPaul Montano in Unsettling America: Decolonization in Theory & Practice. Montano describes himself on his Twitter account as a “Nishnaabe-language acquirer naïvely believing that multilingualism, JavaScript and respect for indigenous sovereignty lead to less crabbiness and more peace.”

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.

The blog People of Color details the history of the occupation of Wall Street, in which enslaved African peoples constructed the wall “that barricaded the land white men had seized from native peoples.”

PeopleofColor decolonizewallstreet Indians Counter Occupy Wall Street Movement With Decolonize Wall Street

Courtesy of http://pococcupywallstreet.tumblr.com/

Why Are They Occupying Wall Street?

I hope we have all been following the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) action that is unfolding before us. Why are they protesting? Hopefully OWS is not only due to the rich-poor gap -although, that is reason enough. The main-stream media is describing this movement as having no discernable organization or purpose. Protesters are simply making statements against corporate greed.

I did not think that this movement would catch a fire in New York, let alone spread to other cities in America. I am very happy there are Americans who are “still alive.” OWS seems truly spontaneous at this point. Who sent out the first call to, and to whom? What were the purposes? Where is the manifesto? The movement gained momentum even without main-stream attention. The revolution will not be televised. That saying has become a cliché; revolution and activism have been made fashionable. Yet, this is more than that.

It seems obvious that this movement is a response to the state of the American economy and the obscene inequities of Western capitalism. In that line of reasoning, neo-classical economics should bear the brunt of the blame. Pundits generally refer to neo-classical economics as the modern world economy. To me, neo-classical economics describes the economics that has been propagated all over the globe, controls our means of survival, and is propped up by all institutions, be they government, legal, academic, media, etc. Neo-classical economics pretends it is a science, attempting to force us to believe in its authority, attempts to make us accept that GDP should be the measure of civilized nations; that with its aloof formulas and it can best provide for any nation’s needs. It is a kind of economics that does not take into account rapid deforestation, loss of species, loss of fresh water, oil spills, melting ice-caps, nuclear disasters, tsunamis, hurricanes, etc. in its “cost” or GDP calculations.  Purveyors of neo-classical economics do not want us to know their economics is myth that presumes mother-earth has limitless “resources.” Whether expressly or not, I believe all the protesters are standing up against these basic tenets of modern economics, which are incompatible with continuing sustainable civilizations and our spirits.

OWS is not as violent as Tunisia, Libya or Egypt, or any number of Arab spring risings; however, this movement is no less significant. Could this be the crucial moment in our time when we demonstrate for the world that we are willing to move beyond ideological obedience to corporate greed?

Usually protesters present a list of demands and we watch the T.V. to see the results. This time the reasons behind the protests are at the very heart of our modern existence. Hopefully, protesters are not only protesting because they want more pay, job security or other incidental benefits of a corporate-world economy. Because, surely that system cannot last—we are keeping it on life support.

I would hope that at some point OWS announces that it seeks, among other things, a true cost “global market” where we incorporate real costs of continuing down the oil-slicked road and further engaging the carbon economy. Although it is more than enough to be mad at our own economic collapse, unfair rates of pay, loss of jobs, Wall street bailouts, and corporate greed, I hope that OWS includes as a demand, that we consider an American-Western, and global strategy for dealing with our current path to planetary destruction.

Protesting within the confines of the system has often been criticized for the perceived reason that it does nothing to really change the system. There is criticism that protesters are only pacified within the system and life returns to corporate normalcy once again. Never mind that, we should be happy that a tangible spark of change has been created. We should appreciate this time, this moment, the direction it could take us.

I expect the movement to grow despite police brutality, unofficial silencing, and other tactics. We will see an increased police-state in New York and other cities. How far are Americans willing to go: loss of job, loss of freedom, etc. Can we afford to go on as usual? The financial-industrial powers are not listening to the peoples’ loud message for change.

Some professional friends caution me to write with care to not jeopardize a future job or client; I take that advice and write so as not to jeopardize my future job as a grandfather or risk losing my real client, the ancestors yet to come.

I personally hope this movement grows. We, as Americans, should all be prepared for change, abrupt growing-pains-like change, if we are to forge our way forward in a world which seeks to displace us as the pre-eminent world power.

Hecegla (That is enough)

Chase Iron Eyes is an attorney licensed in the State of South Dakota and the Federal Courts of both North and South Dakota. You can read more of his writing on his blog, thelastrealindian.blogspot.com.

Columbus Day Protest Widens

Smoldering and flaming, copies of two documents that initiated the destruction of Native cultures went up in smoke to loud cheers October 8, as opponents of the Columbus Day Parade in Denver widened their attack to include Wall Street, the Keystone XL pipeline, sacred sites desecration, and other manifestations of the Columbian legacy.

Burned were a Papal Bull approving the subjugation of Natives and the theft of their lands, as well as a copy of Johnson v. McIntosh, which in 1823 concocted a legal basis for the seizure of Indian lands.

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Sky Roosevelt-Morris, 20, Shawnee/White Mountain Apache burning a Papal Bull and copy of Johnson v. McIntosh during the Columbus Day Parade protest in Denver on October 8. (Carol Berry)

It was street theater worthy of  Denver’s earlier Columbus Day Parade protests, which have included the pouring of ceremonial blood in the streets, dolls representing infants killed by invading Spaniards, burnt tipis and other creative expressions of outrage.

The parade protest is almost a Denver tradition. Beginning in 1989 with about 50 dissenters, only three years later the number had swelled to more than 1,000 who, following the red banner of the American Indian Movement (AIM), shouted at parade participants for honoring  Columbus, a man they called a mass murderer and slave trader.

This year, parade opponents took Wall Street to task for its human rights failures and, to a lesser extent, charged the local Occupy Wall Street group with failing to acknowledge tribal lands, including Denver, as already occupied and indigenous people as disproportionately afflicted by the fallout from the Columbus-initiated invasion of present-day North America.

Although icy rain diminished parade spectators to a handful, about 100 shouting dissenters held up posters and signs in front of barricades and a line of silent police armed with tear gas and rubber bullets. The parade opponents condemned the Columbian legacy of brutality and  inequality, sacred sites desecration, and the  Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, expected to be approved by President Barack Obama, who “will be held accountable” about it when he visits Denver October 24.

The Native dissenters in Denver are among the first who are telling the growing anti-Wall Street protest movement, including Occupy Denver, that indigenous issues should be foremost when they castigate the financial sector for corporate malfeasance and greed.

The Native critics also said they would “stand in solidarity with the Cree nations,” whose territories are located in occupied northern Alberta, Canada, in their opposition to the tar sands development, “the largest industrial project on earth.” They are requesting that Obama prohibit domestic transportation or use of tar sands-derived oil.

“If this (Occupy Denver) movement is serious about confronting the foundational assumptions of the current U.S. system, then it must begin by addressing the original crimes of the U.S. colonizing system against indigenous nations,” stated a position paper issued by local AIM. “Without addressing justice for Indigenous Peoples, there can never be a genuine movement for justice and equality in the United States.”

The Native dissidents called on Occupy Denver to adopt a number of positions that included repudiating the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, endorsing indigenous self-determination, and requiring the “free, prior and informed consent” of Indigenous Peoples before potentially adverse actions are taken affecting their lands or resources.

Make no mistake, one protester said, an end is still sought to Columbus Day—which began in Denver in 1907—and a farewell to the parade, sponsored by the Sons of Italy New Generation. But this year’s protestors emphasized that they don’t “hate Italians” and that the Wall Street, pipeline, and other issues are an outgrowth of the Columbian legacy of greed, excess, exploitation and materialism.

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Lilliah Walker, 5, Omaha/Winnebago/Lakota joined in the protest of Columbus Day. (Carol Berry)

Participants in the anti-Columbus rally ranged in age from 70-plus Virginia Allrunner, Cheyenne powwow dancer and activist, to Lilliah Walker, 5, Omaha/Winnebago and Lakota. In the AIM tradition, a young girl carrying the canupa led the group confronting the parade: she was Shyela Cross, 11, Oglala Lakota.

Among coordinators of the Native youth protesting the parade were Sky Roosevelt-Morris, Shawnee/White Mountain Apache, 20; Tessa McLean, Ojibwe, 23; Scott Jacket, Ute Mountain Ute/Dine’, 24,  and Glenn Morris, Shawnee, a leader of Colorado AIM and a professor of political science at the University of Colorado-Denver, all of whom addressed the demonstrators.

“We are the youth and we are here to step up to the plate,” Jacket said. Morris termed Columbus “a poster boy for imperialism and colonialism” and “the first white guy who showed up.”

Spiritual leaders were George “Tink” Tinker, Osage, of the Iliff School of Theology, and Robert Cross, Oglala Lakota. Dissenters included a loose coalition of AIM, Transform Columbus Day Alliance, Denver CopWatch, Denver Anarchist Black Cross and others.

Why I Am Occupying Wall Street

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.

My great grandfather Heavy Runner (Blackfeet) must have gone to his grave wondering about that in 1870 when the US Calvary massacred him and my grandmother on the Bear River (Marias) in Montana along with about 200 others in a tragedy that is now known as the Baker Massacre. He had made a peace with the US government and emerged from his lodge holding the paper of peace high on that cold winter day in January. He was gunned down before he got very far from his lodge and all out massacre ensued.

I know that many Indian people, myself included, are so very weary, tired of waiting and hoping for justice. I see it on the faces and hear it in the voices of my family and relatives and in the Native communities I work with. Far too many of our young people decide it is a better option to commit suicide than live as a commoditized serf or non-person in the current system. I never condemn them for this choice. I think there is a level of correctness in their assessment of the reality in which we live though I strongly disagree with the remedy of suicide.

Growing up I always heard the rallying cry of the Blackfoot people: Ikaakimaat! Take courage, try hard, don’t give up. Sometimes, those voices in my head are the only thing standing between myself and total hopelessness.

Hope does spring eternal, though. Just when it seems all is lost, hope revives, and the eternal flame of hope for justice roars back to life from an unexpected direction, unexpected source. 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.

This movement, with its growing alliances of economic justice, social justice, and environmental justice activists will be formidable if they hold. Climate change, endless wars, and a yearning for freedom beyond a future of corporate serfdom seems to be driving and strengthening new opportunities and alliances. Sunday, the Occupy Denver assembly unanimously adopted a 10 point platform put forth by the Colorado Chapter of the American Indian Movement.

Correctly, the movement blames both Wall Street and Washington for orchestrating the upward shift of money, assets, resources, and power to the governing elite, the 1%. This collusion perpetuates, expands, and institutionalizes poverty for the masses, where most Indigenous people reside. Poverty and war are social justice issues, deeply entwined with economic justice. Now,with the merging of environmental justice into this movement and the proper identification of the real source of injustice, the collusion between Wall Street and Washington, there is real hope for real change.

I have come to the conclusion that Barack Obama, who sold himself to the hopeful masses as the face of hope and change is severely hindered in that he, like his predecessors and too many members of congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, are beholden to the Wall Street masters and their money. I think this movement has a real chance precisely because it refuses to be co-opted and, like so many of the American people, it no longer trusts Democrats or Republicans. Correctly, it acknowledges that both parties who dominate our political system are similarly corrupted by the same greed and lust for power that rots Wall Street at its very core. People are taking to the streets now because they realize that change will not come solely from the ballot box.

In my community organizing work, I sometimes heard a saying. “It does not matter on which boat your ancestors came here, we are all in the same boat now,” to which I would add: “even if your ancestors did not come here in a boat, we are all in the same boat now”. 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 may be our last.

John Bird M. Ed. (Blackfeet) is a long time community organizer and mental health and wellness activist. He was one of the founders of NANACOA and one of the developers of the original GONA curriculum. He lives between his home on the Blackfeet Reservation and Tucson, Arizona where he is helping to raise his two grandchildren who are half Tohono O’odham.

An Open Letter to ‘Occupy Wall Street’: A Shawnee-Lenape Perspective

Greetings on Colonization Day,

I begin by prayerfully remembering our free and independent ancestors, the Lenape and all the Original Nations and Peoples of this vast Turtle Island (Mother Earth), and of the entire Western Hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America.

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.

What is the true source of our many grievances? It is the mentality and behavior of greed. The word ‘America’ is the combination of two Latin words ame (a command form of ‘love!’) and rica (riches and wealth). The effects of an insatiable desire for and the pursuit of riches and wealth first afflicted our Indigenous nations and peoples, and now afflict all peoples. Clearly, we need to address and rectify the political economy of greed, and the destruction it has caused and continues to cause.

Greed is an unsustainable value, but it is also an illness that is rooted in addiction. It is maintained in keeping with the slogan, ‘The more you eat (consume), the more you want.’ The addict will stop at nothing to get a fix; he will sacrifice anyone and anything to feed his addiction. For this reason, an economy of greed has and will continue to sacrifice the health and well-being of women, children, men, and all living things on Mother Earth. As a great Anishinaabe leader has profoundly stated, “Their way of living is our way of dying.” It is rapidly becoming ‘the way of dying’ for everyone.

Today, after centuries of invasion and predatory consumption (‘devouring’) of our traditional lands, territories, and resources on Turtle Island and elsewhere, the waters of the rivers and streams that were once pure enough for our ancestors to drink from are now filthy and poisoned. Water is Life. The chemical contamination of Water, and, therefore, of Life itself, is emblematic of a way of life predicated upon patterns of greed that are destined to collapse.

The suffering of human beings and the destructiveness to life on Mother Earth has been a direct consequence of colonization, domination, dehumanization, militarization and war. Unfortunately, these conceptions and behaviors have become the metaphorical bricks and mortar of the current unsustainable world order. They are expressed in a number of documents issued in the fifteenth century by the Holy See at Vatican Hill in Rome; these documents called for the domination of all non-Christian peoples throughout the world, and for the theft of all our lands and territories. To this day, the ideas found in those papal documents are woven into US Indian law and policy.

Those Church documents unleashed claims to a right of conquest and domination in the name of a “right of Christian discovery.” The monarchies of Christendom used those documents to claim the territories of our nations in the Western hemisphere, simply because our territories were not yet in the possession of any Christian prince or dominator (‘dominorum christianorum’). This paradigm of domination has been used to give governments and corporations virtually unlimited access to our traditional lands and territories. If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline will be but the latest example.

Despite the destructive effects of more than five centuries of subjugation, as the Originally Free Nations and Peoples of Turtle Island, we still remember what it is to be truly free as exemplified by our ancestors. Our ancestors evolved life-ways and values that challenged European feudalism, medievalism, and lordship. Today, forces seem to be working toward neo-feudalism and neo-medievalism, with a long range plan for irreversible global domination in the name of ‘national security,’ under the unblinking eye of the surveillance state.

We have entered the ‘Brave New World’ written about by a prescient mind a generation ago. Not only have we survived, but we now have the capability of expressing ourselves in the language of the Colonizers, and we are maintaining the message that our great leaders tried to convey to your ancestors: Stop the patterns of destruction and greed before it is too late. The Chernobyl-scale release of radiation at Fukushima, Japan is a clarion call.

We must invert the key symbol of domination. Once inverted, the patriarchal symbol of ‘the dome of domination’ becomes a bowl; when filled with water, the bowl is the symbol of the Sacred Feminine, as exemplified by the White Buffalo Calf Woman. She was the one who brought the Sacred Pipe to the Oglala Lakota Nation.

The Living Laws and Values of Turtle Island that the White Buffalo Calf Woman brought include: Honor and Respect; Compassion and Pity; Sharing and Caring (to carry the well-being of the People in one’s heart); Patience and Fortitude; Bravery and Courage; Humility; Seeking Wisdom and Seeking Understanding. In keeping with the White Buffalo Calf Woman’s teachings, Love and the Beautification of Life are healing values that need to replace the love of riches and wealth.

Next May, 2012, a year of great transformation, we will be in New York at the United Nations as part of our work toward decolonization at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The theme of the Permanent Forum will be the destructive legacy and deadly impact of the Doctrines of Discovery and Domination on Indigenous Nations and Peoples and on Mother Earth. We ask for your support by renouncing the Doctrine of Christian Discovery.

Steven Newcomb, Shawnee/Lenape, is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, and a columnist for the Indian Country Today Media Network.

Occupy Canada Takes 15 Cities

The Occupy Wall Street movement got underway worldwide on October 15, including protests across at least 15 Canadian cities. With the largest rally taking place in Toronto, protesters were also gathering in of Calgary, Montreal, Vancouver, Halifax, Fredericton, Moncton, Guelph, Windsor, Kingston, London, Nanaimo, Courtenay, Duncan, Kelowna, Kamloops and Nelson, B.C., Lethbridge, Regina, Winnipeg and Ottawa, according to CBC News.

Though protests turned violent in Rome, in Canada they were peaceful as Saturday afternoon unfolded. The protests took root at Occupy Wall Street, where protesters have held firm for several days. The protests widened around Columbus Day as well.

Meanwhile, as the Canadian Press noted, the movement that began in Canada, with Vancouver-based AdBusters, came full circle.

Aboriginals were on hand for many of the protests, with one of the rallying Occupy Winnipeg posters depicting Métis activist and hero Louis Riel.

Occupy Wall Street and the Attack on the Tribal Middle Class, Part I

No matter what the growing “Occupy Wall Street” movement seeks to accomplish, it has struck a nerve. Members of the American middle class are losing jobs, homes and savings because of the greed and carelessness of “too-big-to-fail” banks. Meanwhile “the country’s six largest financial institutions . . . now have amassed assets equal to more than 60% of our gross domestic product” (The Guardian). That wealth is not trickling down. According to a recent international study, the United States has the fourth highest income inequality rate per capita – trailing only Chile, Mexico and Turkey.

Make no mistake, the American middle class is hurting. Yet while the non-Indian middle class is at least being considered for U.S. governmental support, the tribal middle class – no stranger to the acute pains of economic recession or income inequality – faces rising attack by state and federal government.

Generally speaking, the middle class is comprised of persons with regular, formal employment, a salary and some benefits, and a reasonable amount of discretionary income – in other words, people who are not living hand-to-mouth. As one economist explains, the middle class are “people who are not resigned to a life of poverty, who are prepared to make sacrifices to create a better life for themselves but who have not started with life’s material problems solved because they have material assets to make their lives easy” (The Economist).

While innumerable Indians still live in abject poverty (despite Indian gaming), an increasing number of tribal citizens are now firmly part of the middle class as a result of hard work and sacrifice. This three-part series explores the tribal middle class, beginning below with a discussion of its genesis, which ironically was the result of federal policies that sought to destroy Indian America. Part Two will consider the emergence of a distinctly tribal middle class, including the tribal small business/private sector, as a consequence of Indian self-determination policy. Part Three will examine the rising national attack on the tribal middle class and how Indian Country might countervail that attack.

The creation of the Indian middle class stemmed largely from a focused and determined federal policy to “[k]ill the Indian[,] and save the man.” This policy emerged in the late 1800’s with the proliferation of Congressional attempts “to keep order in Indian country,” and to otherwise legislate Indian affairs for the “national interest.” The “national interest,” of course, was to “encourage Indian assimilation into the white system of private property ownership” (Yankton Sioux Tribe v. Podhradsky).

In 1887, Congress passed the General Allotment (Dawes) Act, giving the federal executive branch authority to carve up Indian reservations into personally assigned allotments for distribution to individual Indians. Once a reservation had been divided into allotments, the government purchased “surplus land” and opened surplus areas to white settlers. The magic of private property ownership was supposed to drive Indians to adopt the “habits of civilized life” and in turn, towards the progressive individualism of the American dream. “Within a generation or two, it was thought, the tribes would dissolve, their reservations would disappear, and individual Indians would be absorbed into the larger community of white settlers” (South Dakota v. Yankton Sioux Tribe).

The Urban Indian Relocation Program also furthered the assimilationist agenda. In 1940, 92% of the Indian population lived beyond metropolitan areas, earning over four times less than non-Indian suburbanites. Then, in 1952, the federal government declared its policy of Indian relocation, enticing Reservation Indians to seven major cities where jobs were supposedly plentiful. Today, 61% of all Indians live outside of Indian Country. Although the consensus is still out on whether these relocation programs worked, a gap emerged between those Indians who absorbed into the American middle class, and those who refused to assimilate. The 1928 Miriam Report, for example, found that while some “relocated” Indians lived in “cheaply furnished rooming houses with rents comparatively high” and conditions “below a reasonable standard of living,” the more “well-established” Indians were “rather attractively housed . . . in the less expensive suburbs.”

World War II also played a role in the creation of the Indian middle class. American Indians served in the war in great numbers. In national celebration of Indians’ war contributions and sacrifices, the United States declared “a new sense of capacity of Indian people and of American obligations to them.” The federal government, claiming that “equality for American Indians depended on freeing them from federal supervision,” thus set out to secure “the progress of the Indian toward the goal [that] is rightfully his – to take his place in the white man’s community on the white man’s level and with the white man’s opportunity and security status” (H.R. Rep. No. 78-2091 (1944)). Federal termination policy ensued.

Although federal termination policy was later reversed, termination and early assimilation policies widened the gap between those “urban” Indians who settled into the American middle class, and those “rural” Indians who continued to live amidst then fledgling tribal economies. Both ways had their downside. While the move to suburbia came at the expense of 38% higher rates of accidental deaths, 54% higher rates of diabetes, and 126% higher rates of liver disease and cirrhosis; the poverty and unemployment rate on Indian Reservations remained the worst in the nation, with 80% living below the poverty line and unemployment rates as high as 80%.

Amidst such schizophrenic socio-economic conditions, by the mid-20th Century, the Indian middle class was forged.

Gabriel S. Galanda, an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, is a partner at Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in Seattle. He represents tribal governments, businesses and members in all varieties of dispute and business dealing. Gabe can be reached at (206) 691-3631 or gabe@galandabroadman.com.

Decolonization and ‘Occupy Wall Street’

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest has become a matter of debate in Indian country. Some have chosen to be included under the slogan “We Are The 99%”; others, like me, have not. Many of those who support OWS have come up with their own slogan: “Decolonize Wall Street.” But I simply don’t believe that the indigenous nations on Turtle Island are a part of that 99% equation, let alone that the OWS movement is about decolonization.

One protester, Brendan Burke, said: “Everyone has this problem. White, black. Rich or poor. Where you live. Everyone has a financial inequity oppressing them.”

I assume from his statement that Burke only sees things in white and black. Apparently he is color blind when it comes to red and brown.

As far as financial inequity is concerned, we, the red and the brown peoples of the Americas, have suffered financial inequity ever since the oppressors first invaded our shores. Socio-economic inequity began with the subjugation of our lands through treaties. Annuity payments were late and never the amount negotiated under the treaty. Supplies and food rations that were part of annuity payments were often appropriated by Indian agents and resold for higher prices.

The tragedy at Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag (Sandy Lake) exemplifies the socio-economic inequity of annuity payments. In the fall of 1850, nineteen Anishinaabeg bands from Wisconsin journeyed to Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag for annual annuity payments and supplies. The annuity payments and supplies were late and the people had to wait until early December before they received limited sums of money and available supplies. Trying to survive on spoiled and inadequate government rations while waiting for the annuities, 150 Anishinaabeg people died from dysentery and measles at Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag. Two-hundred and fifty more, mostly women, children and elders, died on their way back home to Wisconsin. This is but one example of the economic inequity that has been part of the indigenous experience in the United States.

OWS organizers have repeatedly stated the inspiration for their protest is the Arab Spring movement. If this is the case, one may ask how did the indigenous peoples of the Middle East fare from the Arab Spring?

In September 2011, Daniel Gabriel, the SUA Human Rights and UN NGO Director, stated: “While the media focuses all its energy on the Palestinian search for Statehood and the ‘Arab Spring’, it is the reduced indigenous populations of the Middle East who continue to lose out. Time and time again, the world demands justice, democracy and freedom in the Middle East, but it fails in its obligation to demand the same for the minority groups like the Arameans. Today we barely survive in our homeland. But tomorrow we may silently vanish from existence.”

If Arab Spring didn’t flourish for indigenous peoples in the Middle East, how can we expect it to flourish here? If the indigenous peoples in the Middle East are barely surviving in their homelands, can we expect the Arab Spring inspired movement on Wall Street to lessen the oppression in our homelands? Will the actions on Wall Street abate our youth crisis, our teen suicide rate, our domestic and sexual abuse, or our alcohol and substance abuse in Indian Country? Will it heal our broken families and communities? Will Wall Street stop the rape and plunder of Mother Earth by the mining, oil and energy interests? Will it halt the ecocide, ethnocide, linguicide, and genocide of the indigenous peoples in North America? If Gabriel’s words offer any insight, then our historical trauma will not lessen but increase. It will increase in the present generation to the Seventh Generation—and beyond.

Then there is the matter of decolonization. The question is: the decolonization of what, of whom? How can decolonization be a part of the process if the occupiers are occupying occupied land?

The dominance of a white majority involved with the OWS movement explains why decolonization isn’t included in the proposed list of demands issued on September 3. The list of demands includes

  • Separate Investment Banking from Commercial Banks;
  • Use Congressional authority to prosecute the Wall Street criminals responsible for 2008 crisis;
  • Cap the ability of corporations to contribute to political campaigns;
  • Congress pass the Buffett Rule, i.e., fair taxation of the rich and corporations;
  • Revamping Securities and Exchange Commission;
  • Pass effective law to limit the influence of lobbyists;
  • Pass law prohibiting former regulators to join corporations later. 

Where in this proposed list of demands is there anything remotely connected to decolonization? At its core, OWS is about corporate greed, financial accountability, and economic inequity. It’s about a change in the system, although, as Gabriel points out, an Arab Spring doesn’t bring change to the voices of the indigenous. If change is the basic tenant of the OWS movement, then this change should not be the exclusion of indigenous populations in the United States, rather, change should be inclusive.

The OWS movement is, at the present time, about money. The core message seems to be that corporate America and the wealthy need to share the profits. But the question is: How are those profits made? The profits of the wealthy are made through the industries they own. These industries fuel and generate profits. And they create jobs and programs.

The mining, oil, and energy industries generate enormous profits. Those profits come at a cost to Indian country, to say nothing of the environment in general. The new Indian Wars are about the opposition to ecocidal legislative policies and industries that endanger our homelands and our Mother Earth. Part of the struggle is trying to rise above the marginalization that began with colonization and continues through the corporate policies of the mining, oil, and energy industries.

According to Belinda Morris, ”Marginalization is as much a result of colonialism as it is corporatism. One is social, the other economic. From the indigenous standpoint … the struggle does not and cannot exist in a vacuum, it must not allow itself to be subsumed by a movement that, to date, has shown little—if any—recognition of it, let alone respect for it.”

As evidenced by their proposed list of demands, the OWS movement has no intentions of recognizing indigenous concerns or demarginalizing indigenous peoples in the United States. And that’s because the mindset of the majority of occupiers is an intergenerational extension of a colonized mindset. In her Foreword to The New Resource Wars, Winona LaDuke provides insight into the colonized mindset. Regarding “Industrial society, or as some call it, ‘settler society,’” LaDuke writes:

“In industrial society, ‘man’s dominion over nature,’ has preempted the perception of Natural Law as central. Linear concepts of ‘progress’ dominate this worldview. From this perception of ‘progress’ as an essential component of societal development comes the perception of the natural world as a wilderness. This, of course, is the philosophical underpinning of colonialism and ‘conquest.’”

This way of thinking is also present in scientific systems of thought like ‘Darwinism,’ as well as in social interpretations of human behavior such as ‘Manifest Destiny,’ with its belief in some god-ordained right of some humans to dominate the earth. These concepts are central to the … present state of relations between native and settler in North America and elsewhere.”

The “settler society” that LaDuke refers to isn’t from the historical past. It is present in non-indigenous society today. It is the mentality of this “settler society” permeating the mindset of the OWS movement. Their demands aren’t about decolonization. Rather, their demands are about wanting a share of the profits, profits that come from the rape and plunder of the earth and our indigenous homelands.

This isn’t to say that the OWS movement lacks merit. Economic inequities, corporate greed, the mortgage crisis, the unequal distribution of wealth are legitimate concerns. But those concerns have nothing to do with decolonization no environmental justice. As such, the 99% slogan is not inclusive of the myriad of environmental problems that plague both indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in the United States.

Wendy Makoons Geniusz writes: “Because of the colonization process, many of us no longer see the strength of our indigenous knowledge. Our minds have been colonized along with our land, resources, people. For us Anishinaabeg, the decolonization of gikendaasowin (Anishinaabe knowledge) is also part of the decolonization of ourselves.”

Geniusz points out that biskaabiiyang means to “to return to ourselves, to decolonize ourselves.”

For many of us, biskaabiiyang is a lifelong process. It is a journey to heal our traumatized inner spirit of the historical past and the historical present. For many of us, our involvement in the struggles that our communities and our homelands face is a part of that healing journey. From this prism, the Occupy movement can be viewed as recognizing the national trauma endured under Corporate America. But it isn’t about the biskaabiiyang of the American people. Rather, it’s about the collusion of corporations and the government to keep us under the yoke of economic inequity and the public’s demand for reformation of a corrupt capitalist system that has infested the world under the umbrella of globalization. And it is the reformation of this system that has led to the present movement of people on the streets of America.

However, should any kind of reformation occur, indigenous peoples will undoubtedly continue to be marginalized and their natural resources exploited. And, as before, we will continue our struggles in the shadows of democracy.

We will need to do this lest we silently vanish from existence.

Robert Desjarlait is from the Red Lake Ojibwe Reservation. He is a free-lance journalist and has been published on issues regarding Indian country. He is a co-founder of Protect Our Manoomin, an Anishinaabe grassroots organization battling against copper mining in northern Minnesota.

History of Oppression Told

The fall temperatures were mild but the rhetoric was heated as some of the 1,000-strong Occupy Denver participants heard Glenn Morris, a leader of the American Indian Movement – Colorado (AIM), condemn centuries of occupation.

“‘Occupied’ doesn’t always have a good connotation for us,” he said to loud applause. “We’ve been ‘occupied’ for 519 years.”

He spoke in the amphitheater of Denver’s City Center Park on October 22, with the state capitol at one end of the park and the city-county building at the other. The annual Zombie Crawl, attended by an estimated 3,000 people was nearby and street marches by that group and Occupy Denver intersected at several points, with some zombie-clad youths holding up signs calling for change and assertions that “Corporations Are Not People.”

The concept of corporate person-hood is not new to Indian people, because “corporations were people before we were” in federal law, Morris said in his speech to Occupy Denver.

The audience reacted enthusiastically to Morris’ statements of mutual solidarity and support for rallies against the positions of President Barack Obama—termed “not our president”—particularly on the $13 billion Keystone XL Pipeline, which intersects a number of tribal lands from its origin in Alberta southward to the U.S. Gulf coast, in what he termed “the largest industrial project on earth.”

“We’ve got something to say about this,” he said. “The pipeline crosses the Ogallala Aquifer that provides your water. We want that pipeline stopped.”

Letters of eminent domain—which would take farmers’ and ranchers’ land in a sometimes-forced sale—have already been sent by XL Keystone officials to farmers in Nebraska, he said, urging listeners to “tell Barack Obama (in his visit to Denver October 24-25) that we are standing against the pipeline.”

Earlier, Morris noted that the Denver area was once the homeland of the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Ute peoples, and said that Occupy Denver was the first city to adopt an AIM indigenous platform, with Phoenix, Oakland, Seattle and other cities adopting the proposal in principle.

“In the U.S., indigenous nations were the first targets of corporate/government oppression,” the platform states, and incorporation of the Doctrine of Discovery into law justified the theft of 2 billion acres of indigenous territory and established a framework of “corrupt political/legal/corporate collusion that continues throughout indigenous America to the present.”

Among other things, the platform Morris cited called upon Occupy Denver to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, repeal the Columbus Day holiday, endorse indigenous self-determination, enforce all treaties, recognize the right to repatriation of human remains and funeral objects, stand in solidarity with the Cree nations in opposing tar sands development, and immediately release from federal prison Leonard Peltier, a Native activist charged with murder in the aftermath of Indian/FBI conflicts in the 1970s in South Dakota.

“We’ve been waiting 519 years for this moment—a moment that says we want a new America” characterized by mutual respect, sustainability, and other qualities, he said. “We had that homeland, and we want it back.”

Although the audience was predominantly non-Native, a number of Indian youth and some adults were present. Calvin Standing Bear, Oglala/Sicangu Lakota, a prominent flutist and singer, held a sign reading “We R the World.”

The daytime event was peaceful, despite a significant police and state patrol presence.

Where the Future? Greed in America Old Song for Indians …

Social agreement, like a treaty—or even as the trustworthy word of an honest human being—must be kept. Once broken, dissonance ensues, and conflict is sure to follow.

The American Dream, the sense that although flawed (as with everything that exists) the working people of our country have a chance at a decent living wage and the opportunity to educate and launch their children into prosperous futures, appears broken.

What the general public has sensed, that the economic system “as a whole” has been intensely managed in favor of a very small percentage of Americans, is now more keenly examined. The upward transfer of wealth, the continued impoverishment of the working population, the middle class and the poor—the story of greed and deception as practiced in so-called high finance—is out.

We can credit the occupiers at Wall Street for elevating these discussions into the public channels. The largely spontaneous movement signals a most powerful fact-pattern that is locking in for a substantial majority of American society. Given the deepening impacts of social media in political action, common thought travels wide and deep, and quickly, these days, and this particular message—that the system has gone top-heavy—resonated increasingly across the country and the world. (Some eighty percent of Americans say it is so).

The message out of the Occupy Wall Street is one that questions greed as the driving social value, and seeks to have a better moral (and competent) compass steer the path of a more equitable and commonly comprehensive society. Where the sense of the Commons? Where the Pluribus Unum? Where the social safety net? Where the future generations?

This kind of perception has been signaled over the American centuries by the traditional Indian elders, whose sensitivities toward the earth as a living being could tell them, long before Western scientists saw it, that it can be made fragile and can be damaged by the behavior of the human being. A people who highly value reciprocity and generosity in the extended, in-place community, quickly sizes up humans strictly driven by greed and deception. Much of what came at the Indian nations in the expansion of the new American republics was spearheaded by very raw greed. It’s an old story—not yet well told.

Recognizably, as a people, Americans have formed the most generous country on earth. The history of Indian treaties, as flawed as it became, began in some measure of principle and honesty. Things might have gone much better between Indians and the new polities that came to the hemisphere; that they went so awry is largely due policies driven by the greed of acquisition and confiscation of Indian property (lands), in various forms, by the new governments. Again, this is an old song, and there has been much experience, both positive and negative. One lesson is that greed will have its way, unless its ultimate incapacity to lead is clearly understood.

This new old song surfaces, and forcefully, in the contemporary national discourse as a large cross-section of American society feels the same pain of progressive dispossession of a “way of life,” squeezed increasingly out of existence by power social forces. Is the treaty of the country with its own citizens now also broken?

John Mohawk, the renowned Native philosopher from the Seneca Nation (Haudenosaune, d. 2006), encapsulated what might be a good message to the Wall Street Occupiers and a good addition to the larger discussion generated by the protests. Globally, the earth-bound, locally productive traditions of the indigenous peoples are severely threatened. Yet, the indigenous traditions join other knowledge bases of local-regional agricultural and small industry production that could model new social concepts of good human life and development of sustainable practice in energy and natural resource consumption.

Traditionalist, author and university scholar, Mohawk was and remains one of the deep thinkers of the Native world. Trained by parents from a clan of farmers, herbalists, longhouse ceremonial leaders, then emerging a modern intellectual and persistent activist, Mohawk focused a discourse of economic independence among and by the Native nations and communities. The prescription included business and trade, but also a deep attachment to land and the proportional growth of economic activity generated at local and area levels, including high attention to local, indigenous food and medicinal production and protection of water bases.

Mohawk acknowledged that his indigenous prescription is modeled for a people who already come from a land-based culture, who can recover their own knowledge of how to produce from small farms. But he would offer that the main principle—accountability of scale—has applicability at all levels of planning and production. On a larger scale, even on national and even international levels, the notion that the whole country and world could greatly benefit from smaller (not necessarily small) rather than bigger and biggest operational structures (such as “too big to fail”) becomes an increasingly appreciable principle.

Mohawk’s thinking is not a bad point of departure for a discussion on bottom-line, safety-net economics in North America.

As the Seneca philosopher liked to say, “The question, ‘when is enough, enough?’ is worth asking, and should be asked.”

Jose Barreiro serves serves in the scholarship group at the National Museum of the American Indian – Smithsonian. His 2010 book, Thinking in Indian: A John Mohawk Reader (Fulcrum Publishers), compiles the early essays of the Seneca professor.