Monday, September 05, 2005

Action and Freedom

"A warrior is the one who can use words so that everyone knows they are a part of the same family. A warrior says what is in the people's hearts, talks about what the land means to them, brings them together to fight for it." - Bighorse, Dine

Wasase: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom, Mohawk scholar Taiaiake Alfred's third and definitive book, has just been published and I am currently on page 105. I will provide a more in depth review when I am finished but I want to take this opportunity to share some of the First Words and my reflections on the importance of living Indigenous, living as warriors, living the truth.

In particular, I want to focus on two quotes from the first chapter that shed some much needed light on the present state of Aboriginal/Indigenous politics. I will provide some brief commentary and invite you, my loyal readers to provide your thoughts. You can leave your comments anonymous or not at the bottom of each of these blogs.

From page 23: Consider the futility of our present politics and the perversity of what I will call "aboriginalism," the ideology and identity of assimilation, in which Onkwehonwe ("original people" in Mohawk) are manipulated by colonial myths into a submissive position and are told that by emulating white people they can gain acceptance and possibly even fulfillment within mainstream society. Many Onkwehonwe today embrace the label of "aboriginal," but this identity is a legal and social construction of the state, and it is disciplined by racialized violence and economic oppression to serve an agenda of silent surrender. The acceptance of being aboriginal is as powerful an assault on Onkwehonwe existences as any force of arms brought upon us by the Settler society. The integrationist and unchallenging aboriginal vision is designed to lead us to oblivion, as individual successes in assimilating to the mainstream are celebrated, and our survival is redefined strictly in the terms of capitalist dogma and practical-minded individualist consumerism and complacency."

(Me now:) Each and every one of us are assimilated to one degree or another, certainly by virtue of you reading this in english. I believe that is it critical however, that we begin to carefully, perhaps even harshly, examine our lives and ask ourselves: Am I living a good, meaningful Indigenous life? Since contact many of our people have unabashedly embraced the ways of the Imperialists, forsaking their Indigenous ways and in some ways you have to respect them for making a choice. I agree with Dr.T. however, in stating that if you are serious about being Indigenous and reclaiming your ancestral ways and principles, you need to check your self. It is the hypocrisy of "aboriginalism" that is ultimately distasteful and damaging. We need to look beyond the rhetoric, to the heart of our lives and actions and begin to make some changes.

From page 37: The framework of current reformist or reconciling negotiations are about handing us the scraps of history: self-government and jurisdictional authorities for state-created Indian governments within the larger colonial system, and subjection of Onkwehonwe to the blunt force of capitalism by integrating them as wage slaves into the mainstream resource-exploitation economy. These surface reforms are being offered because they are useless to our survival as Onkwehonwe. This is not a coincidence, nor is it a result of our goals being obsolete. Self-government and economic development are being offered precisely because they are useless to us in the struggle to survive as peoples, and they are therefore no threat to the Settlers and, specifically, the interests of the people who control the Settler state. This is assimilation’s end-game. Today, self-government and economic development signify the defeat of our peoples’ struggles just as surely as, to our grandparents, residential schools, land dispossession, and police beatings signified the supposed supremacy of white power and the subjugation and humiliation of the first and real peoples of this land.

(Me again:) This reminds of something that my friend Lana Lowe uncovered while researching the history of Indigenous resistance in British Columbia. I'm sketchy on the details but I will provide the essence. She found some verbatim meeting minutes from the 1800's between some Tsimshian and Nisga'a leaders and some senior colonial officials at the time, like Governor, Lands Commissioner etc. From the minutes it was obvious that the two delegations could barely communicate (although they had adequate translation) because their world-views were so diametrically opposed. Essentially, the primary concern of the chiefs at that time was preserving their way of life and limiting settler encroachment. The Englishmen, for the lives of them could not understand why the Indians would want to preserve their ancient ways of life, "roaving the hills like animals."

If I am correct, it was not until a white, christian lawyer-missionary from Toronto entered the scene and began working with the Nisga'a and others and helped draft their (now almost sacred) declarations, did the focus shift away from preserving an Indigenous way of life toward legal remedies of compensation and recognition of rights. It's easy to see then how we got from there to here, sometimes to the mystery of our community members, and upon the advice of high-paid non-native consultants and lawyers. Man, did we F$%k up or what? It's not too late. We can reinvigorate, re-establish, recover, regenerate and reclaim. Stay tuned.

Look in the mirror.

Restitution not reconciliation.


At 11:39 AM, Blogger Na'cha'uaht said...

You can listen to an interview I conducted with Taiaiake, September 1, 2005 for the Goin' Coastal radio program (101.7 FM CHLY) by clicking here

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At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Yashkanda.ets' said...

I like the interview with Dr. T, and have read Wasase and love it. Although I have also read "Pacifism as Pathology" by W.C. and NOWHERE does he counsel "desensitizing Natives to kill white people". His "Reality Therapy" is directed at white activists who need to be introduced to the reality of people in North Americas "internal colonies".

Auk Kwaan Tlingit Territiry


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