[News] Native Liberation: The Way Forward

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 18 11:20:17 EDT 2016


https://therednation.org/2016/08/17/native-liberation-the-way-forward/


  Native Liberation: The Way Forward

August 17, 2016
**

*by Nick Estes*//

//

/These were the concluding remarks to the first annual Native Liberation 
2016 Conference convened at the Larry Casuse Center in Albuquerque, NM 
on Aug. 13, 2016. Nick Estes is a co-founder of The Red Nation and a 
member of the Leadership Council./

The Red Nation formed in November 2014 out of a collective desire to 
create a platform for revolutionary Native organizing and to fight back 
against this settler colonial system that seeks our annihilation. That 
very summer, two Navajo men, our relatives Allison “Cowboy” Gorman and 
Kee “Rabbit” Thompson, were brutally murdered by three non-Native men. 
The story is familiar to most of us. Our relatives — our aunties, 
uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and 
even ourselves — are cast as outsiders, exiles in our own homelands in 
places we call border towns, the white-dominated settlements that ring 
Indian reservations where persistent patterns of police brutality, 
rampant discrimination, and violence against Natives define everyday 
life. The men who murdered Cowboy and Rabbit later admitted to 
committing similar violent acts against 50 others in a one-year period. 
They told investigators they were looking for a “good time,” and Native 
people were their playthings, just like the white boys in Farmington who 
attacked and murdered Navajo men “for fun” in what they call “Indian 
rolling,” or like how rich, racist white men like Dan Snyder, the owner 
of the infamous Washington football team, use Natives as playthings for 
entertainment and mascots that celebrate the scalping and mutilating of 
Native bodies. Natives become entertainment objects for sport and 
killing because in this society we are unreal and not fully human. 
Cowboy and Rabbit’s killers spent more than an hour mutilating their 
bodies to the point they were unrecognizable. It was so bad authorities 
could not identify them and neither Cowboy nor Rabbit carried personal 
ID. All-too-common among Albuquerque’s unsheltered community, the 
Albuquerque Police Department (APD) confiscated and destroyed the men’s 
IDs — which included drivers’ licenses and CIB cards — to prevent them 
from buying alcohol or receiving basic human rights, such as access to 
housing, food, medical care, and employment. Even before they were 
killed, the APD and this settler society had marked and sentenced Cowboy 
and Rabbit to a certain kind of death, a social death, where they were 
excluded, like most Natives, from the realm of the living and relegated 
to a place where they were considered killable and disposable.

When we founded The Red Nation, this was our primary concern, to address 
the common experience of Natives: four of every five Natives lives 
off-reservation in border towns, which include places like Gallup, 
Farmington, Winslow, Albuquerque, Denver, Rapid City, and Phoenix, to 
name just a few. Why is this significant? Typically, Natives living 
off-reservation are considered unauthentic or somehow less Native. They 
are derisively referred to as “Urban Indians.” The truth is that 
reservations were created as open air concentration camps, to contain 
and limit our movements across land that was rightfully ours. Our 
ancestors did not choose reservation life; it was forced upon them. 
Natives who “went off the reservation” were the revolutionaries and 
rebels who refused confinement. In those days, those who willfully 
crossed the reservation borders were considered renegades, outlaws, or 
hostiles. They were usually hunted down, summarily shot, hanged, or 
imprisoned by law enforcement or by vigilantes. In other words, Natives 
off the reservation have always been deemed criminal, deviant, and in 
the way. Today, the recent police killings of Loreal Tsingine, Allen 
Locke, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Jacquelyn Salyers, and many more are 
evidence that the criminalization and extermination of Native life is 
fundamental to settler society. And border towns literally thrive on 
Native death.

This is our common experience and our common struggle. This is why we 
formed The Red Nation.

In fact, police killings of Natives have increased in just the last year 
and some predict that number will double by the end of 2016, unless we 
take action now. Native women make up 30% of all the police killings of 
women just this year, even though Natives make up barely %1 of the 
national population. On top of this, Natives are killed by police at the 
highest rate. Some attempt to parse out these horrible statistics to 
suggest that Natives have it worse than other groups, as if being 
murdered by the police is a competition. The truth is that Natives, 
Blacks, and Latinxs have historically been the targets of the racist 
police state, the colonial system that enslaved Blacks for their labor, 
killed Indians for their land, and created a cheap, exploitable labor 
pool from Indigenous-descended people, now called Latinxs. And because 
of this reality, as stated in Point 4 of our 10 Point Program, The Red 
Nation stands with /all/ victims of police brutality. We recognize that 
undoing the system that oppresses everyone requires multinational unity 
and class solidarity among the racialized poor, colonized, and working 
class peoples.

To understand why the Native struggle is essential, then, we must first 
begin with why Natives are targeted for elimination: to gain access to 
territory. Despite popular belief, Natives are not targeted and killed 
for our culture, spirituality, religion, or civilization. We are 
eliminated so that corporations and the settler state can gain access to 
our territory and resources. That requires the liquidation of our 
societies, the forced removal of our people from the land, the creation 
of a blood quantum system that dilutes our identity and decreases our 
population, the confinement to reservations or prisons, the breaking up 
of our land base and collective identities, and the hyper-policing of 
our people. Elimination also requires that Natives in border towns like 
Albuquerque are seen as nuisances and are commonly referred to as “drunk 
Indians” or “transients.” Both stereotypes are criminalized, although by 
definition neither is illegal. Police and settlers often tell us to “Go 
back to the reservation!” or “You’re not from the community!” In those 
moments, Natives become a criminal element, as if /we’re/ the ones who 
don’t belong. It’s what Native bodies off-reservation represent that 
makes us a threat. Native bodies off-reservation represent the 
unfinished business of settler colonialism; we’re physical reminders 
that this is not settler land — this is stolen Native land. Despite 
their best efforts to kill us off, confine us to sub-marginal plots of 
land, breed us white, or to beat or educate the Indian out of us, we 
remain. We remain because we resist.

We remain as evidence that this is still, and will always be, Native 
land. We represent a challenge to the legitimacy of the colonial project 
of border towns and cities because we refuse to quit being Indians when 
we leave the reservation. We refuse to obey colonial borders. We refuse 
to disappear and to be quiet.

The Red Nation represents the unification of Natives outside of the 
institutions of power — taking the struggle back where it belongs: in 
the hands of the people. Our ancestors did not establish corporate 
foundations and boards. They fought for their dignity, lands, and lives. 
They expect the same from us. Corporate and colonial state institutions 
still dominate our present condition and, as a result, they structure 
and contain the free will and humanity of Native people. We have to 
transcend these power structures that, by design and intention, 
ultimately limit and strangle our lives. To achieve this new humanity, 
we have to refuse the false promise of capitalistic development — /which 
is commonly disguised as tribal economic self-determination/ — and 
state-sponsored colonial reconciliation — /which is commonly disguised 
as community healing and individual self-fulfillment/. You cannot /heal 
/from a system that continues to violate and kill the land and our 
relatives unless you dismantle that system. Although seductive, these 
“solutions” do nothing more than carry on, and carry out, the same power 
structure that Native people have been resisting for the last five 
centuries: colonialism and capitalism. The healing of our 
wounds can only happen if we annihilate profit-making and colonial 
enterprises.

Instead of non-profits, we need anti-profits organizing independent of 
corporate influence and state co-optation, and embedded in the true 
power of every society: the common people. The poor. The oppressed. The 
marginalized. In the Lakota language, we call our common people ikce 
wicasa. In Native societies, our common people are those who face the 
highest rates of violence and discrimination: our youth, our women, our 
LGTBQ, and our poor relatives. In other words, the broad swath of Native 
societies today. This is the common experience of Native people.

The current landscape of struggle pits organizations and groups of 
people against each other, vying for control over resources made scarce 
by austerity measures and corporate monopolies. Our struggle is not for 
funding streams or profit-making off the misery of the powerless. We see 
how organizations and movements mimic corporate and bourgeois 
competition over brands, logos, name recognition, clientele, and power. 
We refuse to participate in this corporate model that dominates 
community organizing. Instead, we organize according to a principle of 
unity to unite Native peoples and all oppressed peoples in a common 
struggle beyond national borders and racial and gender identities. 
That’s what separates revolutionary organizing and Native liberation 
struggles from entities that pit marginalized populations against each 
other, to compete for funding and resources, without attacking the true 
source of our collective misery: colonialism and capitalism.

We share an enemy that we must unite against. This is the organizing 
philosophy of The Red Nation.

Capitalism is the enemy of all life. Climate change, because it envelops 
the entire planet, makes all life precarious. Poor, oppressed, and 
Indigenous peoples, however, bear the brunt of rising seas, record 
droughts, and abnormal weather patterns. As Native people, our kinship 
with human and nonhuman relatives is fundamental to our being. As I 
speak, an alliance of Lakota and non-Lakota are laying their bodies on 
the line to halt a crude oil pipeline from crossing the major fresh 
water source for millions on the Great Plains, the Missouri River. Our 
relatives and allies are enacting the sacred duty of the Lakota belief 
of Wotakuye, or kinship. Kinship, in this way, is unconditional because 
it is revolutionary love. It is the love for our human and nonhuman 
relatives and the love for the land that will always trump profit. But 
the land can no longer sustain us if capitalism continues to stalk the 
earth in search of new markets, bodies, and resources. For life to live 
on this planet, capitalism must die. For us Lakotas, it is the owe 
wasicu, the way of the fat-taker capitalist, that must die for our 
people to live.

/The Great Spirits have declared: capitalism is organized crime and must 
be destroyed./ It is our obligation to act accordingly.

As Native people, we possess an essential tradition to sustain us — a 
tradition of resistance. From this tradition of resistance arises The 
Red Nation. In Lakota, we call ourselves and all Native peoples, Oyate 
Luta, the Red Nation. We are red because we come from the red earth. We 
are a nation because we have our own laws, language, territory, and 
customs that have persisted since time immemorial. We claim the land and 
the land claims us. While the same could be said today, The Red Nation 
also takes on new meanings. We are red because red is the color of all 
oppressed peoples’ revolution against their masters; and we exist and 
are united as a Nation not because of a proven culture, but because we 
struggle against occupation and exploitation. It is the struggle against 
the colonial and corporate occupation of Native lands that unites all 
Native peoples in a common fight alongside other oppressed and 
marginalized peoples. Settler society and even some of our own 
relatives, however, use culture and tradition as a weapon to renounce 
the present and the future of our people in attempt to reclaim a 
mystical past — a history and time that never was. For example, 
hetero-patriarchy, the belief of male superiority and heterosexuality, 
dominates current views on Native “tradition” and “culture.” Most Native 
societies are matrilineal; never had marriage customs that privileged 
relationships between only men and women; and possessed multiple genders 
beyond the binaries of male and female. Yet, we have adopted coercive, 
sexist, and homophobic Christian and Western values, masking them as our 
own “traditions” and “cultures.” This is pure bigotry, not tradition, 
that alibis discrimination, violence, rape, and torture against 
children, women, and LGBTQ2 relatives. For Native people to live, 
hetero-patriarchy must be abolished.

This brings us to the last point about Native liberation: /treaties/. 
Natives are thought to be a backwards people living in the past. 
Likewise, the promises made through treaties, agreements, and other 
arrangements between our people and the colonizers are thought to be 
ancient documents. After the colonizers broke every treaty, we are told 
to “Get over it.” The truth is: it’s the U.S. and settler colonial 
states that have not “gotten over it.” Otherwise, why invest so much 
time and energy into covering up the fact that this country sits atop 
stolen Native lands? Treaties are the evidence of our sovereignty. After 
all, you do not enter treaty negotiations with “domestic” or “dominated” 
peoples. Treaty-making is one of the oldest international and diplomatic 
traditions between and among sovereigns. And if we return to the 
treaties, we see that they are not /just /historical documents. In fact, 
they are future-oriented documents. They promise in the future Natives 
would receive healthcare, employment, education, land, and protection 
for the partial relinquishing of territory — the material basis for our 
sovereignty. Those promises have yet to be upheld. It should also be 
noted, those promises are fundamental human rights for all people, not 
just Natives. So the upholding of treaty law will surely benefit all 
humanity because we entered into treaties with the U.S. as equals with 
the belief that we possessed a common humanity. The U.S. and the 
corporate interests it represents, however, have refused that humanity. 
They act as if they have no relatives, no relations, which is the 
highest insult in Native societies. When we talk of treaties, we speak 
for that lost humanity. We are the wave of the future, not the past.

We are prophecy.

Four of five Natives do not live on reservation lands, but that doesn’t 
mean that they have relinquished their treaty rights or their sovereign 
political identities as Native peoples. It means that we exercise our 
rights to live where and how we want in our own homelands because that 
is the ultimate definition of self-determination and sovereignty, 
collective independence and autonomy. It is important to remember that 
no people in the history of this world were ever granted their freedom 
by begging for it from their oppressors. They had to fight for it. They 
had to win it. Freedom is actualized not given.

We cannot simply “return” to our reservations or “return” to the land to 
recuperat precolonial lifestyles — however real or imagined they may be 
— because most of us are simply dispossessed of land and we don’t 
possess the capital to buy it. The majority are landless and poor. It is 
admirable that some of our relatives are privileged enough to still live 
off the land. For the majority, this is simply impossible. What is 
possible is collective organizing and struggle to transform society to 
meet the collective needs of Native people and all oppressed peoples, to 
once again live with the land. Action, however, demands that we build 
movements outside the structures of power and prioritize everyday people 
who possess the real power to make these changes. Reforming a system 
premised on our demise has proven unsustainable. One could argue, in the 
twenty first century Native people are /worse off/. We have more people 
in prison. We have lost more land, not gained it. Our water is being 
polluted and sold off. Our children are dying at catastrophic rates. Our 
women are being tortured and murdered by the thousands. And our LGBTQ2 
relatives continue to face some of the highest rates of violence 
anywhere. What little land we still possess is being contaminated and 
sold off to the highest bidder. Education and employment opportunities 
have decreased. Access to adequate healthcare is pipedream. We do not 
have access to healthy foods. Violence in our communities has increased. 
These are not just headaches that if we ignore they will eventually go 
away. We can’t fundraise or lobby our way out of this. We can heal as 
individuals, but the world we inhabit is still bent on our destruction. 
This is the reality of the ikce wicasa, the common people, our relatives.

It is time to name the systems that kill us — capitalism and colonialism 
— and call for their destruction so that our people may live. We will 
not apologize for this, relatives. It is the only right thing left to 
do. The Red Nation is a movement for life, not death. And for us to 
live, capitalism and colonialism must die.

Join us in this movement for life!

In the spirit of Popé and in the spirit of Crazy Horse!

Hecetu Welo!

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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