[News] 'Celebrate Resistance Not Conquest': Liberation Movements in Indigenous America and Palestine

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jun 19 13:01:56 EDT 2020

Resistance Not Conquest': Liberation Movements in Indigenous America and
June 19, 2020
A protester was shot by a Civil Guard member during a peaceful protest in
Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Photo: via Twitter)

*By Benay Blend <https://www.palestinechronicle.com/writers/benay-blend>*

“It looks like the West Bank,” said
Samia Assed, local Palestinian-American social activist. Assed was
referring to a recent event in Albuquerque, New Mexico that ended in a
killing. On Monday, June 15, members of The Red Nation and supporters met
<https://www.facebook.com/events/826217031198608/> to demand the removal of
the monument to Don Juan De Oñate (1550-1627), a Spanish conquistador who
was responsible for the rape, murder and sex trafficking of Pueblo people.

“Pueblo women and femmes put bloody handprints on the base of his
nightmarish statue,” said <https://www.facebook.com/nick.estes> Nick Estes
in order “to remember that when the murderous patriarchs came, they left
murderous patriarchs in their wake.”

Clearly this most recent protest was about more than just a statue. As
Jonathon Cook observes
the issue of memorializing racists is not “about unconscious prejudice or
social media tropes.” Instead, it addresses “openly celebrating racism in
the public space,” a place that is also home to those who are the target of

The parallels with Palestine are clear. Ongoing Occupation by
settler-colonial regimes but also continuous resistance mark both
struggles. Recent events placed connections in even more stark relief. As
people gathered at the Museum of Fine Arts in Albuquerque, New Mexico to
celebrate the end of one monument while calling for the removal of another
on museum grounds, the “Civic Guard” showed up, the same group of armed
white nationalists who had disrupted the protest in Alcalde.

Composed of the Proud Boys
and other similar groups, they are the same individuals who had targeted
members of the Red Nation at a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest several
weeks ago, and the same vigilantes hired by Gallup business owners to
“protect” their property in that border town during a BLM protest there.

On June 15, they arrived at a peaceful protest bringing their own violence
with them. Steve Baca, a former unsuccessful candidate for city council,
shot into the crowd, leaving a young man with critical wounds. Though the
Civic Guard disowned him, he clearly shared their ideas.

According to witnesses, the victim lay bleeding in the street, surrounded
by SWAT and riot police and military vehicles who arrived long before the
ambulance. The scene conjures up so many similar images in Palestine,
including the August 2019 case of Abu Roumi
16, who was denied medical attention after being shot by Israeli police.

When police finally arrived, they “peacefully” arrested the shooter, while
doing nothing to disarm the Civic Guard. Indeed, much like Israeli police
who do nothing to stop settler violence, there appeared to be a collusion
between the police and the white nationalists.

Overheard in police chatter, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD)
referred to the NM Civil Guard Militia as “armed friendlies,” a military
term used to describe friendly troops belonging to or on your side. In this
case, Indigenous people their allies were treated as “hostiles,” deserving
only tear gas and rubber bullets, both of which were used against the
protesters. What unites both—Israel and the United States—is the ideology
of settler colonialism that in the latter’s case goes back more than 500

As Ramzy Baroud observes
the collaboration between the two countries extends to the training of
thousands of American officers by the Israeli military, thus explaining why
a highly militarized police force turned a peaceful protest into a war zone
on Monday night. This increase in “violent military-like tactics,” Baroud
concludes, “is only one link in a long chain of ‘deadly exchanges
<https://deadlyexchange.org/deadly-exchange-research-report/>’” between the
United States and Israel.

In mainstream media, readers are often led to assume that the victim is to
blame. As expected, coverage of Monday night’s incident led to similar
misperceptions and conclusions.

For example, New York Times reporter Simon Romero declared
<https://twitter.com/viaSimonRomero/status/1272971004994654208> that
despite covering street protests in Caracas and Rio, he never has felt so
“threatened” as on March 15 in Albuquerque. At one point an armed militia
member taunted him for working at the NYT, but no police were in sight to
intervene. In his article
for the Times, Romero cited the context in which the anger over the statue
rests, specifically the colonial governor’s bloody reign in which he killed
800 Indigenous people in Acoma Pueblo and ordered his soldiers to cut off
the foot of at least 24 more.

Although this was one of the better pieces, partly because it traced the
history behind the conflict, something that reportage of Israel/Palestine
seldom does, Maurus Chino (Acoma Pueblo) explained in a Facebook post
<https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=maurus%20chino&epa=SEARCH_BOX> that
Romero, an Hispanic writer from New Mexico, “minimizes” the Indigenous
struggle. “Calling a revolution a Revolt is minimizing,” he said, as is
labeling the 1680 Revolt “a rebellion by Indian villagers.”

In an effort to give “both sides,” Romero included a from Ralph Arellanes
Sr., the president of the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico. As Arelanes *said
in a Facebook post about the statue*: “It is a sculpture of a group of
people on their journey into New Mexico with their livestock…and
depicts Oñate leading an expedition of settlers and soldiers.”

Similar to most stories of the Palestine/Israeli “conflict” which neglect
any mention of the Nakba, Arrellanes’ statement neglects what Maurus Chino
made very clear, that Indigenous people have a perfect right to feel anger
over what really amounts to centuries-old colonization that cannot be
glossed over with a pastoral statue.

from Ron Lovato, Governor of Ohkay Owingeh also showed divisions, but this
time within the Pueblo community. “History is by definition the past,”
Lovato said, “we should learn from it, not try to erase it or think
vindication comes by removing statues.” He went on to document how for
centuries “our communities have lived in harmony,” and look forward to
doing so in the future.

Elena Ortiz (Ohkay Owingeh), Chair of The Red Nation-Santa Fe, agreed
with my comment that this response is part of a problem that is similar to
the Palestine Authority who depend on Israel for their existence. It goes
back to the government dealing with only tribal “leadership,” and that
happened before the 1936 Indian Reorganization Act
that imposed a Western form of organization on many tribes. Ortiz added
that there is the added problem of tribal governments being a colonial
imposition first by the Spanish with their “canes of authority” and then by
the Americans.

“Pueblos were not patriarchal prior to colonization,” Ortiz continued.
“They were organized in a more gender neutral, balanced way. Colonization
brought hierarchical, patriarchal structure. It was not welcome.”

Statues are more than stone and mortar. They are symbols of collective
memory that can go either way, depending on whose recall is privileged.
Colonial regimes in the United States and Israel understand this, and so
have tried to erase the history of Indigenous peoples from their texts.
That is why there is a national movement to topple statues that recall the
worst of America’s past. “That is what is happening now,” explains
Elena Ortiz.

“We are the new ancestors, and this is the new revolt. This is sweeping the
nation, and we want to be a part of it. It’s time to reclaim Turtle Island
from the colonizers. We stand with all people of color, our black
relatives, and our trans relatives, and our LGBTQ relatives from the Global
South all the way to Palestine. Revolution is here. Revolution is
necessary. And if you’re not part of it, you’re gonna get swept aside.”

Indeed, it is an international movement, as Rima Najjar observes
that includes the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University that is due
soon to come down
But when, she asks, will the statue of Theodor Herzl fall—in Israel and at
Medium (the latter a social medium platform that has yet to recognize
Zionism as racism)?

Justine Teba, a Red Nation activist from Santa Clara and Tesuque Pueblo,
others to organize for not only indigenous liberation but also the
abolishment of capitalism and colonialism. Accordingly,The Red Nation
banner demands the celebration of resistance not conquest, a means to
understand the past in order to move forward into the future.

“History is made today,” Teba says. “History is not something in the past.
History is something that we make right here right now. And it’s always a
question of what side of history will you be on?”

*– Benay Blend received her doctorate in American Studies from the
University of New Mexico. Her scholarly works include Douglas Vakoch and
Sam Mickey, Eds. (2017), “’Neither Homeland Nor Exile are Words’: ‘Situated
Knowledge’ in the Works of Palestinian and Native American Writers”. She
contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.*
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