Cover StoryFeature Stories & ArticlesReviews

Freedom of the Land: The Just and Peaceful Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats, the largest known lithium reserve in the world. (Javier Ignacio Acuña Ditzel Creative Commons)Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats, the largest known lithium reserve in the world. (Javier Ignacio Acuña Ditzel / Creative Commons - Image taken from NACLA)

Extractivism is the ideology from which white supremacy, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, patriarchy, imperialism, colonialism, and globalization, are born. Each system of domination is rooted in the extractivist mindset. Extractivism provides one the lens through which one’s kin is no longer deserving of dignified life. Having invented their kin’s inferiority, they may extract them at will to serve one’s accumulation.

U.S. National Guard troops block off Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, as Civil Rights marchers wearing placards reading, “I AM A MAN” pass by on March 29, 1968. It was the third consecutive march held by the group in as many days. (Photo taken from The Atlantic online. “A Look Back at 1968”)

Javney Mohr – Masters of Peace Education,

United Nations affiliated University for Peace

Costa Rica, San Jose – April 2018

 

There is a place known as Turtle Island. It is a world of lands and waterscapes that stretch West, East, North and South, expanding unto the horizons of Four Directions. It is a soundscape of wildlife that run and fly, nest and bear new life into coastal forests and barren tundra. Sixteen thousand years ago as the Great Glaciers began their melt, Turtle Island’s first human inhabitants entered in, following the Musk Ox, Woolly Mammoth, Salmon, and the Ancient Reindeer. From the Bering Strait, journeys continued: along the Rocky Mountains, across the plains to Atlantic tides, and unto the ends of the Andes. These lands are creatures, flora and fauna for thousands of years. Since time immemorial, this is the home of complex societies, diverse cultures, embodied languages, political systems, sustainable economies, ancient songs, and well-beings. This place is storied.

Though many claim the global community is more connected than ever before, ruthless repressions, decaying societies, disappearing ancestral languages, fracked ecosystems, and decimated bodies aver instead that our relationships with each other and the Natural World are at their weakest. The chasm between the geopolitical elite and those who bear its impoverishment is widening; dominant educational systems strip our children of their sincerest questions; state politics fail to address our profoundest hopes let alone fundamental rights; vitriolic public discourse normalizes for the maintenance of the imperial global order. The distances between us are increasing. Each day, we are losing sight. No longer do we know each other as kin.

Over the centuries, systems of domination have evolved and conjoined into today’s “imperialist, white supremacist capitalist hetero-patriarchy.”[1] Now, into the final, furthest edges of the Earth, the Western oligarchy’s reach is extending. Into the delusion paradigm of extractivism, sacred territories are being captured.

As each decade has passed, humans have correlatedly dis-membered from local, accountable communities of place. To accumulate or survive the dispossession, we must sever our relationships to each other and the soils from which we come. To violate another necessitates the denial of their sacredness. Thus: our great devolution – into a globalized society that lives at the expense of each other, other communities and other landscapes. With systemically silenced Indigenous histories and pedagogies that teach humanity can do otherwise, violence is our recurring reality. As it has always been, the causal core of evil: the desacralization of the Earth and Her Relations.

The Earth cries beneath us; trans youth die by suicide; racialized children scratch their skin; ignored to death on crowded street, the grandmother lays down to camp her last. Indeed, this is a world where only some lives matter. This is a world-order that lives off its kin. It is acutely clear that our collective way of being and ‘solutions’ are unjust, unsustainable, and unworthy. Disproportionately unleashed upon the most marginalized and generative bodies and soils, we face an onslaught of injustices that comprise an ecological crisis of unprecedented urgency.

Yet, there is a way. In the grasses, local people and communities are resisting and liberating the Earth on the true unseen frontlines of justice. Despite relentless systemic violence and histories of oppression, Indigenous Peoples and oppressed communities are the actual peace-making.

Through two recent events in the Canadian nation-state, this essay investigates the irreconcilable relationship between Indigeneity and Extractivism, reveals how Indigenous women and youth, while disproportionately violated by extractivism are the essential leaders and knowledge-keepers of the world’s liberation, and avers Indigenous epistemologies of kinship and grassroots actions of building ‘beloved community’[2] as panacea that generates justice, peace, and freedom with the land.

 

I. Colten Boushie was a young Indigenous man from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation of central Turtle Island, a cultural community that lived in relationship with the vast prairie plains.[3]  On August 9th, 2016, Colten was shot in the back of his head while asleep in his car, murdered point-blank by Gerald Stanley, a non-Indigenous white settler farmer.[4] Responding to Colten’s death, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stormed his mother’s home, guns drawn.[5] Upon breaking in, they accused her for drinking; her son “had it coming.”[6] On February 9th, 2018, an all-white jury selected by the Canadian Crown and Defense acquitted Gerald Stanley of all charges.[7]

The legal system of the Canadian nation-state worked exactly as it was designed. Canadian Constitutional Law is a colonial structure. It is a nation-state mechanism to operate the larger mission: the full genocide of Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. On February 9th, Canada’s courts of law functioned. In Canada, murdering Indigenous women and youth is Canadian policy.[8] In “peace and love” Canada, if you are a white male, you can reap, rape and kill, and walk home free. You may even see your neighbors set up a crowdfunding campaign in your glory.[9]

February 9th is what colonial racism looks like in the Canadian nation-state today. It is alive and thriving. As legal hearings concluded, countless Canadians came not to the defense of the Boushie family nor Indigenous communities, but to Gerald Stanley, proclaiming with renewed pride now socially permitted that “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.”[10] On February 9th, Indigenous children were shown that the Canadian legal system will protect their murderers. The youngest children of color have now watched by their own eyes that, to Canadians, their lives do not matter. Their deaths do.

Colten Boushie’s death and his white murderer’s deliverance is no isolated event, happenstance or anomaly but the logical consequence of structural, intentional, systematic, social-accepted, and profitable extermination of peoples, constructed as ‘inconvenient,’ ‘enemies,’ ‘redskins,’ ‘sluts,’ ‘Indians.’

The incredible strength of Indigenous communities – and Debbie Baptiste most profoundly – forced ­mainstream media to acknowledge Colten’s murder.[11] None of the Canadian citizenry can turn blind-eye to the racist reality of the Canadian nation-state, the racism of its institutions, and most of all, the racism of its society. Indigenous peoples’ strength and love has forced white settlers to reckon with the supremacist in the mirror.

On February 14th, one of the most powerful expressions of love occurs in one of the most violated and stigmatized places in the world. In Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES), the annual Women’s Memorial March fills the streets with raging and gentle love. Led by women of the DTES, we march to honor the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Turtle Island, grieve the loss of our beloved sisters, reaffirm our commitment to end colonial gendered violence, and in gathering within such conditions of poverty, bring justice and freedom into this world. Indigenous women are its light.

The soils, waters, and forests we mine, frack, and deforest into monoculture were once honored and respected. The lands and the human community lived in reciprocal relationship, each enriching each other. Together they bore complex societies, giving home to diverse Indigenous cultures, since time immemorial. Here, before colonialization, the Musqueam Peoples of the Salish Sea lived in right relationship with the coastal-cedar rainforests and salmon-bearing rivers for 10,000 years – within place, a community.[12] Here, today, Vancouver’s DTES is an urban district at the epicenter of the extractive violence of our world’s order. Unhindered homelessness, missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW), the erasure of the Black community, police brutality, youth suicide, anti-Chinese racism, transphobia, the opioid overdose epidemic: all of these are our street realities. All of them disproportionately impact Indigenous women, leading out in the circle of intersectionality. All are results of extractivism.

Here, in this moment, a First Nations woman is 800% more likely to overdose.[13] An Indigenous person has a 10-1 ratio of fatally overdosing, despite making up 3.4% of British Columbia’s population.[14] At the crux of an opioid overdose crisis, forced displacement off traditional territory, massive-scale resource extraction, intergenerational trauma, the normalization of disappearance and violence against women, the intersectional realities Indigenous and women of color and youth bear in Vancouver’s DTES reveals how the most important bodies and soils are disproportionately violated by the geopolitical elite’s paradigm of extractivism. The context of the fentanyl drug epidemic is the latest manifestation of colonial-gendered violence this community is bearing; the yet deadliest we’ve known.

“Women are the first environment,” articulates Mohawk grandmother Katsi Cook.[15] Amidst just surviving the daily horror, Indigenous women speak unequivocally about their reality as the continuation of cultural genocide, impacting not just individual peoples who use substances, but entire fabrics of Indigenous nations.[16] It is the ongoing legacy from Residential Schools, child apprehension, loss of traditional ancestral language and dispossession of landed-communities.

An Inupiat family from Noatak, Alaska, 1929 (Edward Curtis – Image taken from Wikipedia).

Violence against the land and violence against Indigenous women’s bodies is intimately, inseparably connected. “Women carry our clans, which is to hold the land for the next generation. So if you destroy the women, you destroy the nation. And then you get access to the land,” speaks Iako’tsira:reh of the Seneca Turtle Clan.[17]“The land is our Mother, so when we lose value for the land… people lose value for the women,” speaks Vanessa Gray of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

The existence of an Indigenous women’s body is the ultimate proclamation that the colonial mission has not won. The investment to silence women’s resistance and existence so too reveals their inherent power to bring justice and transform the world into freedom. Indigenous women in Honduras are defending land,[18] the peasant women of La Via Campesina are speaking, the women of Idle No More are rising, and the Indigenous girls of Standing Rock are leading.

“We must heed the collective Indigenous women’s voice and leadership – that is what will truly save lives.” – Harsha Walia. No less than ever before, the community of Vancouver’s DTES is responding through citizen-led harm reduction programs, safe injection sites, emergency naloxone overdose kits, long-standing support agencies, the bonds of family and friendship, and healing ceremony.[19] Despite intersecting barriers, mass stigmatization and histories of oppression, this community is doing the unfathomable. It is a community. Ordinary people are addressing symptoms and transforming causes simultaneously by embodying justice and peace in every action along the way. Community is resiliency and the integrity of solutions to injustice is the extent to which they arise from local places.

Indigenous youth like Colten and the Indigenous women of Vancouver’s DTES are the real, beautiful lives by which the ‘imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy’ operates, and to its operation, humanity collectively submits. Accumulation is by dispossession and the consequences are on the ground; in the grassroots.[20]  So too, however, are the leaders of the Earth’s liberation. Here are the true peace-workers of heroic capacity, redeeming, and liberating the world. Lest we forget. May we re-member.

Three truths are exemplified here: the world of peace and justice is the work Indigenous women have been doing and passing on generation after generation; Indigenous youth and women are the most violated by extractivism; the true peacemaking begins on the ground, with the ground.

The people and places of the grassroots are the most marginalized by the insatiable desire for more at any price. The real people and places of the grassroots are where the wisdom, strength, integrity, and grace enough to lead the full healing and reconciliation of the Earth are located. Survival, suffering, or standing under such conditions is revolutionary. Vancouver’s DTES is not just the poorest postal code in the Canadian nation-state. Vancouver’s DTES on unceded Coast Salish territory is where the true peacemakers are protecting and building the “beloved community” for the whole world.

 

II. Five hundred years ago, the colonization of Turtle Island commenced. Declaring the land terra nullius, settlers would come to dispossess tens of thousands Indigenous Nations of their lands. From Atlantic eastern shores, European colonizers marched westward in righteous resolve; Indigenous community by Indigenous community. Until the last frontier of the Pacific shores, the violence was as relentless as the tactics cruel. First, settler-colonization’s singular mission was enacted through infantry, diseases, and scorched-earth resource depletion.[21] Upon Confederation, Constitutional Law became the next the employable tool, invigorating the mission anew, inserting patriarchy and classism towards the complete internalization of inferiority.[22] The first stage of genocide is the oppressor’s submission to the delusion of another’s inferiority. At its final stage, the oppressor can remove their hands, for the oppressed have come to hate their own tongue.[23] The completion: the full genocide of Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island.

The dominant discourse of the Canadian citizenry today is that colonialism, though an unfortunate part of the nation’s history, is of the past. From national education curricula bereft of Indigenous histories to federally funded mainstream media that profit from the construction of Indigenous Peoples as savage, the Canadian citizenry teaches and justifies itself with the narrative that colonization is history but not present reality; ‘Genocide is not currently occurring, and Canadian citizens are surely not its agents!’

Investigating the sociocultural dynamics of pre-WWII German society, psychoanalyses conclude a people “free-from-belonging” to a social-order; it was that citizens did not see themselves as responsible for their neighbor that so many, even the most ‘educated,’ submitted to Nazi authority.[24], [25], [26] The one resounding essence across Arendt’s expansive investigation is, indeed, the banality of evil. [27] The Holocaust of an entire populace was enacted through ‘small’ actions of dehumanization by the ordinary citizenry. By momentarily denying the inherent sacredness of their neighbors, the society collectively gave rise to the annihilation of a peoples.

At its cruelest devolution yet, the Canadian nation-state is committing the final stages of genocide upon the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island today. The research of scholar Patrick Wolfe showcases how settler colonial entities, to reproduce themselves in the colonized space, must ‘destroy to replace.’[28] Every element of Canada – its institutional structures, legal mechanisms, social narratives and cultural identity – systemically operate colonization. Colonizers brought with them a complete suite of social institutions that Indigenous Peoples must now access to exist.[29] Embedded within each of these structures – political, legal, economic, educational and health – is the Western worldview and the assumption of its superiority.[30] In the name of “closing the gap” or “UNDRIP,” the genocidal acts are morally justified. The origin and continuation of the Canadian nation-state is founded on the oppression of others. Its existence and persistence is derived from the violence against people or violence against the land.[31] “Settler colonialism requires the ongoing violence against Indigenous Peoples.”[32]

The one precondition to violate another is the denial of their sacredness.[33] To harm one’s kin necessitates the concoction of a kin’s inferiority.[34] As it has always been, the origin of evil is the desacralization of the Earth and Her Relations.

Today, a global genocide is being waged across Relations of the Earth. Millions of displaced persons of the Syrian war, disproportionate incarceration of Black men, disappearing coastal communities from the rising sea levels of the rising temperatures of the risen class, the raping and trafficking of women. These seemingly disparate injustices are all manifestations of extractivism.

Nishnaabeg scholar and artist, Leanne Betasamosake, writes: “My land, Relatives, body, and children are a resource because they are the potential to grow, maintain, and uphold the extraction-assimilation system.”[35] Whether it is wood, oil, copper, women, children or labor, extractivism removes the relationships that give whatever is being extracted meaning. That the Earth is not relational, that one’s actions do not impact others, that privilege is not derived from life: are the lies extractivism tells.

Extractivism is the ideology from which white supremacy, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, patriarchy, imperialism, colonialism, and globalization, are born. Each system of domination is rooted in the extractivist mindset. Extractivism provides one the lens through which one’s kin is no longer deserving of dignified life. Having invented their kin’s inferiority, they may extract them at will to serve one’s accumulation.

Consciously or unconsciously adopted as creed, a perception of an unliving world encourages the pretender onwards in logical progression: ‘that anything on Earth could be mine for the taking…!’ Looked upon through these eyes, Mother Earth’s lands and waters become marketable, Her shale rock penetrable. As the myth normalizes into the narrator’s reality and self-identity, occasional treat becomes addiction. Thus, bodies are next. Nothing remains beyond the narrator’s capacity to reduce into material. All Relations are possibility. When the other becomes an ‘other,’ no longer is kin kin. No longer is each Relation a perfect, unique combination of identities; no longer intrinsically bound in relationship. No longer is the other one’s beautiful responsibility. No longer sacred. Desacralization or “othering” is the precondition to violate.[36] And so, land, oceans, Relatives, women’s bodies, a people, children become resource.

Just as wheat flowed from Africa to Rome, oil from the Middle East and water from First Nations reserves flows to the new imperium. Persons of color are denied access, Indigenous men are employed to log the old-growth forest in which their ancestors rest and generate the ecosystem, Traditional Knowledges are appropriated, hopes are slowly extinguished. This is extraction of the ‘othered’ places. As it has always been, after the mining is complete, the traditional ways of being are left in ruin. Today with modernity and industrialization, the imperial pattern of resource theft from others and other places to feed the metropolises occurs at accelerated pace of unprecedented scale.[37] Either bodies are stolen from the land, or the land is stolen from its people. The means of subsistence and meaningful life on Earth are taken from the peasants in Kerala India, Cajamarca Peru, and Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Then and now, the consequences are fatal when we do not know each other as kin.

The invasion of Turtle Island and the establishment of the Canadian nation-state could not have begun had European settlers seen the lands and people of Turtle Island as sacred. Though Canada declares to have come into an awareness of its past crimes against humanity – now living in ‘the Era of Reconciliation!’ – and numerous politicians and citizens claim to desire goodness for their Indigenous neighbors, there is no reconciliation while the crime is still in progress.[38]

Supremacist society and Indigenous community cannot co-exist. Even “moral reformations” of colonial law is inherently at odds with a world where every human and non-human life is essential. One cannot solve the problem with the same thinking that created it. A colonial legal system, operating fine and well in Canada, is anti-thesis to Indigenous justice.

There is a crucial difference between ‘Indigenizing colonialism’ as a means of peace versus anti-colonialism. Similarly, the difference is fatal (i.e. sexual abuse) between the ‘empowerment of women and girls’ for gender-justice, versus the depowerment of men and boys. ‘Decolonizing curricula’ by inserting chapters about Indigenous peoples into a Western education-model, or ‘capacitating’ girls as entrepreneurs in the global free-market proclaim the hegemony: of one worldview, one race, one gender, one anatomy, one tongue as supreme. The implicit declaration is that marginalized communities and minorities may come to the table, but the table is ours. Intentions, representation, and tokenistic diversity do not remedy a table whose existence and persistence are derived by the destruction of all the others living long before and essentially different from it. The peoples and communities the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy has dispossessed for its accumulations can be ‘incorporated in.’ But that has nothing to do with justice, reconciliation, and peace.

“First they make us destitute by taking away our land, our hunting and our way of life. Then they say we are nothing because we are destitute.” – Jumanda Gakelebone, Ghana Bushman, Botswana, 2007

Justice and freedom have no conditions. There can be no Free, Prior and Informed consent given in conditions that are unfree. Freedom of the people and freedom of the land cannot be while the colonial-state exists.

The freedom of Indigenous Peoples and extractivism are existentially antithetical. Just as the design of colonial legal systems is to enact Indigenous genocide, and Human Rights discourse incarcerates Indigenous identity, extraction is the antonym of Indigenous liberation, and the liberation of All Relations of the Earth. Extractivism is antonymous to Indigeneity. They are inherently irreconcilable. They are in existential opposition. One cannot live while the other survives.

Across the lands of Turtle Island, the irreconcilable relationship between Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian nation-state is brutally witnessed. However, this is one manifestation of the greater duality experienced across every landscape of the Earth. Two ways of being: Extractivism versus Indigeneity.

The global community faces a choice.

The lives of Colten Boushie and the Indigenous women of Vancover’s DTES are powerful enough to dispel the deafening narratives every construct of globalization propagates: Nation-States as unshakable constructs, the United Nations as moral authority for global peace, economic development as humanity’s evolutionary destiny, International Human Rights Law as unviolent, and the Sustainable Development Goals as truth. For decades now, the geopolitical elite and their ‘humanitarian’ conglomerate have created the symptoms of suffering then corresponding relief programs. For years, invested in conflict resolution, mediation and reformation, but not true transformation. Aid and development projects that do not dismantle the power structures from which they benefit are calculatedly crafted, selected and sold to the mass citizenry. And for the few of the accumulating class who cannot deny some sense of moral responsibility for the ‘needy’, fair trade labels, carbon-capturing, recycling, donatable goats, and TOMS shoes are offered in pamphlet-platter to quiet these ethical concerns. The cruel result: one can feel good while violating another. Violence is cloaked as the good thing to do. Violence is disguised as humanitarian and heroic. Extraction is dressed as the great mission of our lives; our sole purpose is to be the (white) savior king of the world. The only way to reign supreme in this realm, is to climb the bodies of your kin.

Neo-liberals and modern conservatives alike, insistently deny the realities of ecological interconnectedness because it interferes with a freedom not to be bothered by others’ needs.[39] Our collective way of seeing is an ideology of extractivism; a fiction that we are separate. When one submits to an ideology of isolation, the logical conclusion leads to extremes. “If you begin by denying social and ecological systems, you inevitably end up denying the reality of facts…. This is how the ideology of isolation becomes nihilism, trying to kill the planet and most living things on it with the confidence born of total disconnection.”[40]

The world-order to which humanity has pledged or being forced into allegiance is structured upon the delusion of disconnection: that we not bound in a web of mutuality; that we are not of each other and the Earth; that we are not community.

To be alienated from the Sacred Community is to become destitute in all that makes us human.”[41]

It need not be this way. There is another way.

There are rumors of ancient futures.

 

III. The rural and contextual, the traditional and subsistence, the peasant and oppressed, the inner-city and land-based, the nuanced and mysterious are the greater paradigm. Indigeneity is the ancient global paradigm of sustainability, spiritual interconnectedness and coexistence – covivencia – of living well together with the land. “Indigenous peoples offer possibilities for life after empire, possibilities that neither erase the crimes of colonialism nor the original peoples under the guise of including them as individuals.”[42]

Since time immemorial, Indigenous ways of being perceive the Earth as a sacred community of Relations. All is sacred. All is kin. The moment one is still, this belief becomes fact. That we are of each other and the Earth is both our cosmic reality and eternal hope. “What we learn in silence is that we are all mutually interdependent, that the entire world is intimately connected beyond our wildest imagination. Nothing living is self-contained; the brokenness of one particle in nature reflects the fragility of the whole world.”[43] Solving the ecological crisis is a matter of seeing things differently; of seeing others; of seeing sacred.

For the early desert dwellers, awareness is a requirement of life; it is the first duty of love. For when we are present with another, we come into the awareness of interconnectedness; of global kinship. And when we see that all are belonged – that we are since ever and forever a member of community – when one suffers, I suffer. Where one heals, I heal. The brokenness of one kin is the brokenness of all. The art of attentiveness “is the skill as well as the tool whereby we acknowledge that what is going on in someone else’s world matters.” In the words of Maori scholar Lilla Watson: “If you have come here to help me then you are wasting your time. If you have come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Civil rights and Black feminism leader, Audre Lorde writes, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even though her shackles are very different from my own.”  Our struggle is shared. Our liberation is shared. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks so too speaks: “The single greatest antidote to violence is conversation.”[44] Or as Isaac the Syrian said: “When our eyes are opened to the beauty of all things, we discern the divine sparks scattered everywhere.”[45]

These are Indigenous ways of seeing community. They are the direct and ultimate threat to all violence. Indigenous ways of being are not a threat to any Relations of the Earth, even those who oppress them. Since ever, Indigenous ways of being are hope for all, for ever.

When the Land is your Mother, when the Water is Life, when the Seasons are Memory, when the four-legged and wing-ed are Relations, when the Winds are Direction, when the Horizons are your Purpose, you live and breathe in such a way that honors them, gives thanks for them, protects them. You live in right relationship with them because you see them, love them and are informed about them by them. Until we all see each other again as the beautiful, beloved community we are, until we love each other as much and more than ourselves, until we put our bodies on the line so another kin can live, we have so much work to do.

If the causal core of our ecological crisis of injustice is our denial of Relations, then our great reconciliation shall be in living in right relationship within place again, and with all place holds. Presence is the seed of justice. Here, we learn how and are compelled to live rightly by our kin. Indigenous and oppressed communities are land as pedagogy.[46]

Through relationship, local, accountable, democratic communities of wisdom are formed, each a unique practice of freedom, proportionate to its bioregion, but united in common cause. Through re-belonging to accountable communities of place, decolonialization, equitable redistribution, and proper reparation organically occur.[47] Each relation, in the place and body they are, is needed. Each has a revolutionary space before them. Just as it is writ in the very patterns of the Natural World, each member is essential to the whole. Each sacred.

The (r)evolution of peace arises only – and is arising – from Indigenous and oppressed communities; from the land. All and everything required is to live in right relationship with each other and the Natural World; making justice by being justice, in the ways available. Each realization expands the subsequent space. Peace cannot ever come from the top-down, but the bottom-up will come to dismantle all hierarchies in beautiful, just ways, that never overlook the dignity and sacredness of any Relation. It is the way of such movements as the Salt March, the Civil Rights Movement, La Via Campesina, Standing Rock, Idle No More, Black Lives Matter, the Arab Spring… all begun and led-by Indigenous women, black women, persons of color, and persons of other marginalized identities.

Where on Earth do we begin? On Earth. From the grassroots, Indigeneity, oppression. In building power there – and power being community[48] – justice and peace arise. How this shall look cannot be predicted for it will be the mysterious cascade of reconciliation occurring that results. Its integrity can be measured by the extent to which it defies Western conceptualizations.

So, let us speak about Indigenous peoples’ power. Let us speak women’s power. Let us speak about Black women’s power. Trans persons’ power. And Mother Earth’s Law.

From the Arctic tundra to African desserts, Amazonian jungles to Calcutta streets, we march together on the road to freedom. Through the practice of freedom with the land, we become. To the day all may see its dawn.

There is a way. Ancient ways of being justice have been written about, spoken of, danced, and lived since time immemorial, pulsing through the very movements of the rivers, the seasons, the soil and our bones. Across the thousands of diverse Indigenous languages across Turtle Island, there is a common phrase spoken: “All My Relations.” In greeting, farewell, prayer, honor, it is a reminder of the one shared reality and one shared task: all are related. All belong. All are one.

[1] bell hooks, Ain’t I A Woman?: Black Women and Feminsm (New York: South End Press, 2007).

[2] The King Center, “The King Philosophy: Beloved Community,” accessed 12 February 2018.

[3] Chris Murphy, “Colten Boushie and our Insidious White Privilege,” The Globe and Mail (November 4th, 2017), [https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/colten-boushie-and-our-insidious-white-privilege/article36837481/

[4] Ibid.

[5] Shree Paradkar, “Our Reaction to Injustice for Colten Boushie is a Reflection of our Soul as Individual and Canadians,” The Toronto Star, February 10, 2018 [https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2018/02/10/our-reaction-to-injustice-is-a-reflection-our-soul-as-individuals-and-canadians.html].

[6]  David MacDonald, “Colten Boushie murder trial: This is what Colonization looks like,” February 13, 2018 [https://nowtoronto.com/news/colten-boushie-murder-trial-colonization-occupation-first-nations/].

[7] Association of Justice Counsel, “Press Clippings for the Period of February 12th to 18th, 2018,” Accessed February 19, 2018, [https://ajc-ajj.net/files/library/7_-_Press_Clippings_for_the_period_of_February_12th_to_19th_2018.pdf], p13.

[8] Martin Lukacs, “Justin Trudeau’s lofty rhetoric on  First Nations: A Cheap Simulation of Justice,” The Guardian, September 19, 2016 [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/true-north/2016/sep/19/justin-trudeaus-lofty-rhetoric-on-first-nations-a-cheap-simulation-of-justice].

[9] David MacDonald, Ibid.

[10] Pam Palmater, “Why Canada should Stand Trial for Tina Fontaine’s Murder,” Now Toronto, February 25th 2018 [https://nowtoronto.com/news/why-canada-should-stand-trial-for-tina-fontaine-murder/].

[11] Rachel Geise, “Why Has Colten Boushie’s Mother had to work so hard just to Prove her Son’s Humanity?” Chatelaine (February 16, 2018).

[12] Xwi7xwa Collection, Musqueam: A Living Culture (Victoria: CopperMoon Communications, 2006).

[13] Alexa Norton, “Defying the War on Drugs,” Briarpatch Magazine (August 30th, 2017).

[14] Jen St. Denis, “Overdose Crisis Affecting Vancouver’s First Nations at Stunning High Rate: Chief Medical Officer,” Metro News, July 26th, 2017, [http://www.metronews.ca/news/vancouver/2017/07/26/overdose-crisis-affecting-first-nations-at-high-rate.html].

[15] “Violence on the Land, Violence on Our Bodies: Building an Indigenous Response to Environmental Violence,” Women’s Earth Alliance (November 2016), 4.

[16] Harsha Walia, Author of Undoing Border Imperialism, Founder of No One Is Illegal, Activist in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Cardoza, Melissa, 13 Colors of the Honduran Resistance: Trece Colores De La Resistencia (CreateSpace Independent Publishing: 2016).

[19] Alexa Norton, “Defying the War on Drugs,” Briarpatch Magazine (August 30th, 2017).

[20] Kelly Rose Pflug-Back and Ena͞emaehkiw Kesīqnaeh, “Accumulation by Dispossession,” Briarpatch Magazine (24 October 2016), [https://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/accumulation-by-dispossession].

[21] The Truth Commission into Genocide in Canada, Hidden from History: The Canadian Holocaust (Ottawa: The Truth Commission, 2001), [http://canadiangenocide.nativeweb.org/genocide.pdf]

[22] Ibid.

[23] Sylvia McAdam, Indigenous scholar, historian and lawyer. As told in conversation.

[24] Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom (Holt McDougal Publishing, New York: 1941).

[25] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (London: SCM Press, 1981), 347.

[26] Hans-Dittmar Mündel, “Cultural Captivity and the Need for a Liberating Education,” The Holocaust’s Ghost (Edmonton: University of Alberta, 2000), 526.

[27] Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1951). Totalitarian movements and rule are organized around the will of the leader as the supreme law of the state and rely on a general anonymity of organized members. Since the will of the leader becomes the supreme law in the totalitarian movement, no individual member is able to take responsibility for his own actions or explain the reasoning behind them in any particular situation. The members become merely the instrument of the will of the leader, and their actions cease to be autonomous.

[28] P. Wolfe, “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native,” Journal of Genocide Research 8.4 (387-409).

[29] Derek Kornelsen, Dr., “Decolonizing Community Engagement,” Medium (November 17, 2017), [https://medium.com/knowledgenudge/decolonizing-community-engagement-85ee3ad5369d].

[30] Ibid.

[31] “Violence on the Land, Violence on Our Bodies: Building an Indigenous Response to Environmental Violence,” Women’s Earth Alliance (November 2016), 4.

[32] Maile Arvin, “The Future Is Indigenous: Decolonizing Thanksgiving,” Truthout (November 24, 2016).

[33] Barbara Ehrenreich, Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997), 10.

[34] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (London: SCM Press, 1981), 251.

[35] Naomi Klein, “Dancing the World into Being: A Conversation with Idle No More’s Leanne Simpson,” Yes! Magazine (14 April 2013), [http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/dancing-the-world-into-being-a-conversation-with-idle-no-more-leanne-simpson].

[36] Barbara Ehrenreich, Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997), 10.

[37] Simon Dalby, “Security and Environment Linkages Revisited,” Globalization and Environmental Challenges: Reconceptualizing Security in the 21st Century (Berlin: 2008), 170.

[38] Naomi Klein, “Canada’s Founding Myths Hold us Back from Addressing Climate Change,” The Globe and Mail, March 24, 2017 [https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canadas-founding-myths-hold-us-back-from-addressing-climate-change/article32022126/].

[39] Barbara Ehrenreich, Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997), 10.

[40] Rebecca Solnit, “The Ideology of Isolation,” Harper’s Magazine (July 2016 ed.).

[41] Wendell Berry, “Christianity and the Survival of Creation,” The Art of the Commonplace (Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2002), 312.

[42] Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, The Indigenous People’s History of the United States (Boston: Beacon Press, 2014).

[43] John Chrysavvgis, “Healing a Wounded Planet: Transforming Perspectives and Practices” Three Perspectives on the Sacred: Healing Wisdom from the Desert, the Mountain, and the Cosmos (Edmonton: The Chester Ronning Center, 2015), 5.

[44] Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, “The Dignity of Difference” On Being, 29 October 2015, [https://onbeing.org/programs/jonathan-sacks-the-dignity-of-difference/]

[45] John Chrysavvgis, “Healing a Wounded Planet: Transforming Perspectives and Practices” Three Perspectives on the Sacred: Healing Wisdom from the Desert, the Mountain, and the Cosmos (Edmonton: The Chester Ronning Center, 2015), 28-29.

[46] Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, “Land as Pedagogy: Nishnaabeg Intelligence and Rebellious Transformation” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society Vol. 3, No. 3 (2014).

[47] Glen Coulthard; Wildcat, Matthew; McDonald, Mandee; Irlbacher-Fox, Stephanie, “Learning from the Land: Indigenous Land-Based Pedagogy and Decolonization,” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society Vol. 3, No. 3 (2014).

[48] Hannah Arendt, On Violence (New York and London: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1969), 53.

Feature photograph: Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats, the largest known lithium reserve in the world. (Javier Ignacio Acuña Ditzel / Creative Commons – Image taken from NACLA Reproting on the Americas Since 1967)

Students News Wagon
Leave a Comment