While the turn towards analyzing ongoing settler-colonialism has finally reached the mainstream of North American political discussions, there is still a lack of popular understanding of the issues involved.
June 10, 2021 | Newswire
While the turn towards analyzing ongoing settler-colonialism has finally reached the mainstream of North American political discussions, there is still a lack of popular understanding of the issues involved.
June 10, 2021 | Newswire
Novelist Tommy Orange on whether racial justice protests and Covid-19 disparities bring a new perspective to the holiday.
The myth of Thanksgiving, a tale of a peacemaking repast between white colonizers and Native Americans, has long been debunked for its historical inaccuracies. But to reckon with the holiday is to understand how it helped set off a painful history of trauma — massacres, abuse, and negligence — that Native Americans still carry 400 years later.
In his 2018 novel There There, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Tommy Orange tells the story of the challenges Native Americans, especially those who live in cities, continue to face. He connects the characters’ journeys of cultural and self-discovery through the lens of generational trauma; the book’s prologue captures the gruesome history of Thanksgiving and Indigenous erasure, from the forced removal of Native American communities from their ancestral lands to current instances of cultural appropriation.
Today, much of the truth of Native American history is still left out of the country’s education system. Meanwhile, Indigenous affairs are minimally covered in the media. This is despite a year that has asked for reflection and action in terms of reexamining the country’s racist past — protests for racial justice swept the country this summer, and the Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Indigenous communities and other communities of color. That many American families are still planning to gather this Thanksgiving, despite the risks to the most vulnerable in our communities, is a flashback for many to white settlers spreading deadly diseases that diminished Native populations.
“If Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude and a communal sense of being together, if we can think that way as a country, Covid-19 is one of the lessons where we can learn to think of other people and not ourselves first,” Orange told Vox. “That would be my biggest hope. But I don’t know how much of that is happening.”
I talked to Orange about self-reflection during a time of racial reckoning, why Thanksgiving is still a widely celebrated holiday, and the upcoming sequel to his novel. Our interview has been edited and condensed.
In your book There There, the prologue speaks to the true history of Thanksgiving. How should that excerpt, plus the overall message of your book — the generational trauma Native Americans face in their daily lives — translate to people’s understanding of Thanksgiving in relation to Native Americans today?
My son’s 9, and we’ve seen him go through public school, and we could see the warning signs and the way they were going to teach Thanksgiving and what it means historically. It’s indoctrination. Creepy is the way I feel about the way the lie is taught as if it’s the truth. We’re still so far from acknowledging something that seems basic to so many of us. So we just pulled him out of school the first year for the whole week, because we didn’t want him to have to interface with that.
For my son, the next three years, we brought up a Native guy from Oakland who powwow dances, he sings and he drums, and his family dances. He had the kids ask questions about Native culture. He was able to, in a really compassionate way, address a lot of these misunderstandings and the way the general population thinks of Native people — a really monolithic version of what being native is.
In the book, I was just trying to bring something up that has to do with the way we look at history. Americans didn’t care about Thanksgiving until Abraham Lincoln kind of breathed life back into it in order to mend the nation during the Civil War, to give us something to celebrate together. It could be a really cool opportunity for us to do the same thing now, around another civil discord, Civil War-feeling moment in the country with how divided we are — for us to leave Thanksgiving in the same spirits together and decide it’s a stupid American holiday that is really hurtful to a lot of people and was never founded in anything patriotic or true.
How do you usually spend the holiday week?
Well, I grew up celebrating it. My dad didn’t have any problems with it. My dad wasn’t an activist or overtly political in that way. He’s thoroughly a Democrat and very distrustful of the government, but it’s a really easy holiday to celebrate, because you get to eat great food and hang out with your family. Nobody likes to hate on Thanksgiving, because everyone kind of loves it for those good reasons.
But I stopped celebrating it in the past 10 years, and it’s a struggle with in-laws who don’t understand discontinuing wanting to celebrate it. So it’s always kind of an awkward time, but I think it’s really easy this year because of the pandemic. In the past, we’ve made a point to not do anything in particular, just enjoy the day off — including not supporting the Thanksgiving industry, which is buying all the Thanksgiving food, which is one of the many things that continues to support it as a holiday. We’ve gone to the movies different years. We’ve, like I said, just enjoyed the day together.
With the protests this summer, and the racial reckoning America is slowly having, how do you think the current climate will inform the holiday this year?
Right now, the way it feels to me is it’s fallen beyond surreal into absurd. People are holding on so tightly to their traditions under the guise of patriotism, even willing to die from it. I would hope that a lot is going to change because of what’s come out in 2020. I would hope that … [amid] the sort of economic collapse like the Great Depression, that social change will happen after these devastating historical moments. I’m still holding my breath about a lot, waiting to see what will happen. I’m pretty fatigued.
I can’t say that I’m hopeful that this will mean people will rethink Thanksgiving and Native history. I don’t feel like I’m at a place where I’m allowing myself to hope like that. But I do feel like with all the awareness that’s come up in 2020, for some people, it’s an easy “cancel Thanksgiving” answer. Though I don’t think there is enough progress to be noted, and I’m not trying to be completely cynical. It’s just when we’re divided as we are as a country, and when you still have the people in power that are sort of under the guise of this tradition and patriotism and noble country, it’s hard to feel anything but cynicism.
How should people take this time to reflect and reexamine the brutal history surrounding Thanksgiving?
I’m going to sound cynical again, but anybody who’s taking the time to reflect probably already did enough of reflection this year — if not many, many years before — and is not actively celebrating it in a problematic way that you would need reflection to change. And anybody who does not get into their reflective state, because of what this all means, they don’t give a shit. They’re flying across the country during a pandemic to be patriotic. They’re going to gorge themselves on turkey and gravy.
This is a side of the country I can’t really understand. So I trust that people who are already reflective aren’t doing it in a disrespectful or stupid way, and the people that do will just continue to do that. I don’t see a lot of movement from the other side for this to be an opportunity for them to change their thinking. It feels really hard to reach across and make that kind of gesture during this time.
Like you said, many American families will be gathering for the holiday, despite health officials’ warnings not to. Meanwhile, Covid-19 is still a major issue disproportionately impacting Indian Country. Can you speak on how historical and current injustices have left Native communities vulnerable in the pandemic and how people can bring light to this?
The invisibility of Native issues seems to be a constant. The way that people are thinking about taking the risks — considering the numbers of who it’s affecting more and considering overloading hospitals and affecting people who need medical care and older, vulnerable people — the opportunity to think about vulnerable people in a communal way, it’s really anti-American because we’re so individualistic. Me, me, me and now, now, now. I mean, if Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude and a communal sense of being together, if we can think that way as a country, Covid-19 is one of the lessons where we can learn to think of other people and not ourselves first. That would be my biggest hope. But I don’t know how much of that is happening.
It would be great if this just didn’t become a superspreader event. It’s not just them that’s going to be affected, it’s overloaded hospitals, and it’s going to affect other people.
Despite the pandemic, Native people turned out this election and were key in swing states like Arizona. How do you see the tribal nations’ relationship with the upcoming Biden administration?
Well, it’s good to hear during Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s speech even just the naming of Native Americans. Sometimes we get ignored, so it was good to hear us acknowledged. And I would hope that with Biden’s language around making the Cabinet and the administration look the way the country does — we are a big part of the country’s story, its narrative, its origins, and its present. We’re a smaller number than a lot of other minorities, but we’re an important part of the country. I would hope that moving forward, we could be included more than we had been.
What are you working on right now? What’s been keeping you busy?
I’m working on a sequel to There There. It’s supposed to come out in 2022, hopefully earlier in 2022 than later. So I’ve been deeply involved in getting that into as good shape as I can. The book goes into more history and also the aftermath of the powwow. It’s called Wandering Stars.
In response to the industrial, capitalist model of food production that has decimated rural lifeways and our mother earth, social movements around the world have identified agroecology as their alternative proposal for rural development. Grounded in peasant and indigenous knowledges, struggles for food sovereignty and agrarian reform, agroecology is understood by social movements as “a tool for the social, economic, cultural, political and ecological transformation of communities and territories.”
This interview that Black Rose conducted in the Summer of 2020 with a militant from The Anarchist Federation of Rio de Janeiro’s (FARJ) Peasant Struggle Front, explores their work with some of Brazil’s social movements struggling for agroecology and food sovereignty. Coming from a context with highly developed peasant social movements, FARJ shares important insights for anarchist militants to learn from.
BRRN: Can you first give an overview of the kind of social work that the militants of FARJ’s Peasant Struggle Front are involved in? What are the movements and organizations the FARJ’s militants participate in/collaborate with? Who are the protagonists of these movements & organizations?
FARJ: Initially the Front was called “Anarchism and Nature”. Some of the members were students from the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro. Starting from a university agroecology group, the GAE (Ecological Agriculture Group), they sought to do social work in Agrarian Reform settlements in the state of Rio de Janeiro and with families of small farmers. And the space that articulated these activities was the Rio de Janeiro Agroecology Articulation.
Starting from this process and frequent contact in the settlements, the MST (The Landless Rural Workers Movement) got to know the working style of our militants, until one of them was invited to join the movement, contributing mainly to the processes of organizing cooperative work in the Baixada Fluminense region. One of the results of this work was the contribution to the organization of a sales and distribution cooperative for an MST settlement in the metropolitan region of the state of Rio, around 2008. As time went on, more militants joined the Front; some from rural areas, from the MST, or students in the field of agronomy.
Around 2012 the MPA (Small Farmers Movement) arrived in Rio, and we have militants from our front contributing also to the movement and its development in the state. We also have a comrade who works in the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT).
Our work in rural movements and spaces is related to themes such as rural education, political training [formação1], communication, production, sales and distribution, and human rights. We always seek to maintain a link with the bases of the movements, even those militants who live in the state capital or in the city. We seek to contribute to the accumulated knowledge of FARJ and the historical experiences of organized anarchism in peasant struggles, with our concept of social work and militant style, pursuing the development of popular power. We stimulate the political participation and the protagonism of the grassroots in the processes of movements’ daily struggle. We also seek to encourage alliances and joint actions between rural and urban movements where we also operate or which we support, such as solidarity actions, actions for exchanging experiences between the movements’ bases, visits, and campaigns, among others that enable contacts between the bases.
Today we have militants in the MST, MPA and CPT. The protagonists are landless workers, small farmers, and quilombola [maroon descendant] communities. Many in the settlements, for example, come from the sugar cane industry, from work analogous to slavery, from slums, or were precarious workers. A good part of the movements’ bases are black folks, youth, and women.
BRRN: Can you talk about how you personally came to be involved in peasant movements and movements for food sovereignty & agroecology? Why do you think it is important for anarchists to be engaged in these struggles? What is the importance of these struggles in this moment of the global Covid-19 pandemic in particular?
FARJ: My militancy was in the Community Front, in the Base Organization Movement (MOB), which currently works in the Center of Social Culture and in the Morro dos Macacos community. Since 2013 I supported the MST with graphic design for the Cícero Guedes Agrarian Reform State Fair, a 3-day annual fair in the center of the city of Rio de Janeiro with the produce from the state, the southeastern region, and partners in the city and other movements. Around 2014, MPA and MST started a biweekly farmers market on the Praia Vermelha campus of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, which I also support with communication and other activities. So from these relationships and contacts presented the possibilities of contributing from the capital, either with the tasks of communication and propaganda, or contributing to the organization of spaces for the sales and distribution of products of the movements in the city and always trying to maintain the connection with their bases.
MST members sell their products at a farmers market.
Historically, anarchism has been, and still is, present in peasant struggles: China, Ukraine, Spain, Perú and other examples. Anarchism must be a part of struggles from below, and wherever we have space to contribute with our proposals and build popular power. The agrarian, land (access to land and land concentration), peasant, indigenous, black, and quilombola questions are central in Latin america, in spite of the demographic concentration in big cities. In large part we are agricultural export countries, where natural resources are tremendously exploited by capital, who have a very strong base of people of indigenous, black, and peasant origin, with an extreme concentration of land in the hands of capitalists, latifundiários [large landowners], and foreigners. There are many conflicts in the rural areas, with assassinations of community leaders and militants, land grabs and evictions. Not to mention the issue of food sovereignty, of the production of food for the people in opposition to the agribusiness model that produces commodities for export. So the issue of land is very important in Brazil and throughout the continent, and from there we see the importance of us being inserted in those struggles as well. Understanding that while we have our own goals, the rural and urban struggles should be connected.
We also learn a lot in these mass movements, contributing to our political training as militants, particularly in base-building work. Be it in courses, materials and spaces for political training in movements, or in the day-to-day of grassroots work.
Currently, in the context of COVID-19, rural movements have a great importance for producing healthy foods for the population, and for leading on issues of environment, energy, and food sovereignty. There are analyses that point out a “pandemic” of a lack of food for the population. Many favelas already have people who are experiencing hunger. In response, there are many campaigns of solidarity and of distributing food boxes to residents of favelas and packed lunches for people living in the street. Unions and people are making donations for the purchase of these foods from rural movements and urban agriculture movements in the city of Rio. That is, the acts of solidarity have multiplied and are organized by the population and by social movements.
BRRN: What has been your experience as an anarchist participating in/collaborating with these movements? How do you push within these movements for more anti-authoritarian/anarchistic practices?
FARJ: We believe that the experience, here in Rio de Janeiro, provides an opportunity for us to have an influence. One aspect of the practical political training too, through participating in mass movements like these, is contributing to the organization of collective processes. There is contact with the people, with concrete realities and problems, and the need to think of ways to solve problems through organizing and base-building. There are also formal political training processes, such as national and local courses, visits to experiences in other states, and state and national encounters. Specific political trainings on certain issues or just in daily life, in contact with other militants and comrades.
A FARJ flag tied together with the flag of MST.
For example, because of the tasks and trainings of the social movements, I was able to learn about communication, and agroecological management and cooperatives, in addition to the debates around agrarian and food issues. We also bring these accumulated skills and knowledge to the political organization, in the sense that they characterize and contribute to the accumulation of political training that we have for our entire militancy. In other words, it is a two-way street, a dialectical process, adapting to the formation and interest of our organization. So it is important that it is not just an individual accumulation, but that it helps in some way in the formation of the entire militancy of the specific [anarchist] organization.
Here in the state of Rio, I believe that most of the common challenges to social movements, both in the rural areas and in the city, are due to the difficulty of base-building, often the need for more militants, the difficulty in obtaining resources and structure–organizational difficulties. There are also difficulties in achieving a more consolidated articulation between the various social movements, which end up being more sporadic or a part of campaigns. In the face of a reality of advancing ultraliberalism and the systematic extinction of social rights and policies, it is a permanent challenge to build processes that are able to self-manage and mobilize the people in communities and base-building locations. But in general, we seek to help organize what is disorganized, acting as yeast in mass struggles.
Members of FARJ and MOB in a mass demonstration.
BRRN: In the interview that FARJ did with Zabalaza, the Association of Autonomous Producers of the Countryside and the City (APAC) was mentioned. I’m very curious to know more about that organization, what they do, and how that association builds urban and rural solidarity around questions for food sovereignty and land?
FARJ: APAC played an important role in producing agricultural implements for small producers. Its origin came from CADTS, the Center for Learning and Technical and Social Development, a group linked to Social Pastorals who worked with the education of urban workers, politically training electricians, seamstresses, machinists, printers and other professions. This work strengthened their performance in the union and community fields. In order to strengthen solidarity between rural and urban workers, CADTS initiated a project to develop agricultural implements with technology built together with “tillers of the land”, an expression used at the time. In their visits to rural workers to gather information and design the implements, the CADTS students decided to structure this work to meet this demand that they had already met for several groups of farmers all over Brazil. Thus, APAC was born on the 1st of May, bringing together not only “metallurgists”, but also farmers, homemakers, unemployed people, popular educators, etc. with the organicity, inspired by self-management, of an association composed of several autonomous work groups that articulate themselves collectively in a general assembly. Over more than 30 years since its foundation, APAC has welcomed many groups of workers. We will mention just a few to illustrate its diversity:
Our arrival at APAC was parallel to the founding of FARJ, and we have some militants who’ve had and have closer relations with them, either through collaborating on projects or some being part of the management of APAC. We’ve come to do a screen printing workshop there, political meetings, community work groups, political training lectures and popular language courses. We will highlight one of the most structured initiatives of our militancy, which was to organize the Floreal Cooperative of Workers in Agroecology, where we had great interaction with the internal groups of APAC, bringing agendas discussed with our work with the Forum of Popular Cooperativism, the Articulation of Agroecology of Rio de Janeiro and the Technical Assistance and Extension sectors. It was a period that encouraged APAC to contribute to issues of agrarian conjuncture, agroecology, urban agriculture, school gardens, popular herbalism groups, social ecology, rural/urban solidarity and food sovereignty and agrarian reform. This factor strengthened the relationship of our militants with the social movements in the countryside, such as the MST, CPT, and MPA, as well as for the use of space as a warehouse or for the manufacture of agricultural implements. But our experience with popular cooperatives opened doors for us to contribute to the construction of cooperatives and associations in the movements.
BRRN: Are you involved with the Territorial Solidarity Committees, organized by the MPA as a response to the current social crisis? Can you share a bit about this project?
FARJ: In this context of COVID-19, rural movements, such as MPA and MST, the CPT and urban agriculture groups such as the Carioca Urban Agriculture Network, and the Agroecology Articulation, have developed solidarity actions in the countryside and in the city.
MPA is with the Territorial Solidarity Committees. With the distribution of agroecological foods, creating spaces for dialogue and political debates, strengthening the organizational processes between the social and territorial movements of the countryside and the city. The actions can happen in different ways depending on the local reality and demands. The movement has continued providing material support in the city with weekly deliveries of peasant food boxes, and the donation of meals for homeless people.
The logo of MPA.
The MST has Marmita Solidária, which receives donations from unions and supporters to buy food to prepare meals for the homeless. And the Nós por Nós (“Us for Us”) Campaign, which is part of the Periferia Viva (“Alive Periphery”) Campaign, and which MPA and other movements also participate in. The campaign raises funds to buy agroecological produce from settlements and small farmers to donate to favelas, and together do support work, such as legal aid for those who do not have identity documents, or other actions in addition to just donating food.
For CAB (Brazilian Anarchist Coordination) we are organizing the Vida Digna (“Dignified Life”) national campaign, against the increase in the cost of living. There are state and local committees, and we managed to arrange a food donation from the MST for two occupations of the Internationalist Front of the Homeless. CPT also articulated a possibility of resourcing landless settlements and quilombola communities, among others, in the northern region of the state of Rio, together with MPA.
But across the country, several similar actions are taking place with our CAB militants involved, seeking to articulate solidarity actions between the countryside and the city, between small farmers and indigenous communities. Actions that bring supporters of the city that want to help. We hope that all this helps to bring the movements of the countryside and the city closer, in a more organic way, between the bases of these movements as well. Actions that make movements think together forms of everyday solidarity, without needing projects, politicians or public policies.
This pandemic meant that movements and collectives had to create other forms of distribution, other forms of logistics to continue with production and distribution of their products. And all of this may be important in the future, if the movements manage to define the right strategic policies, as we will have less and less public policies for the countryside by the State. On the contrary, attacks on indigenous people, peasants and land grabbing are only increasing.
BRRN: The MST is probably the most well-known of Brazil’s social movements globally; the organization and its impressive accomplishments in terms of seizing and redistributing land to thousands of families, promoting agroecology and food sovereignty, and its contribution to global peasant movements, has been a source of inspiration for revolutionaries around the world, including many anarchists. From afar, it seems like there are many aspects of the organization’s practices and tactics that align with anarchist principles. At the same time, there are characteristics of the MST, such as their Marxism-Leninism, and relationship to the PT, which might present challenges for anarchists who wish to support/participate/collaborate with the MST. I’d love to know what FARJ’s assessment is of the MST, the positive aspects of the movement, any critiques you have, and how you navigate working with the MST.
FARJ: In Brazil, the land issue, the concentration of land, is central. Today, we are a country that is still a peripheral agrarian-exporter of commodities, despite being seen by other world powers as a contender, a world player, due to the size and natural assets it has, such as water, oil, mineral resources, etc. Which is why we have attacks and coups, which are present throughout the history of Latin American countries. So Brazil has always had strong agrarian and land conflicts, several historical revolts, not to mention the quilombos, the rural workers, the indigenous people.
MST members on demonstration.
The MST, like other movements in the countryside, comes from this accumulation of struggles, conflicts and revolts. Before, one of the main movements was the Peasant Leagues (1954-1964). Over time, unions in the countryside that worked on these labor issues and for wage workers, employed on farms, etc., also appeared. With the coup and the business-military dictatorship (1964) the militants of the countryside also suffered a lot of repression, with more than a thousand dead and disappeared, and persecuting and repressing the Peasant Leagues.
Then there was the opening and conciliatory transition from dictatorship to democracy. Unlike countries like Argentina, the military in Brazil was not punished for the crimes of the dictatorship. At that time, several armed leftist resistance groups sought to resist the dictatorship. So the process that followed, in the 70-80s, also has the development and involvement of labor organizations, culminating in CUT (Unified Workers Central) (1983), progressive sectors of the church (CEBs (Eclesiastical Base Communities), Pastoral Land Commission and Liberation Theology), rural movements and the PT (Worker’s Party).
In the CUT there was the Rural Department, which brought together rural workers, with an agenda more related to labor rights. And the MST (and later MPA) also appeared to deal with agendas of rural demands from the countryside that were not only about labor conditions, but access to land, credit and public policies to produce and to continue reproducing their rural livelihoods. In other words, the CUT and the unions in the countryside did not cover all the peasant agendas.
The clergy and Liberation Theology had an important role together with the movements of the countryside, doing groundwork in the communities, mobilizing the people and contributing to the social movements that came to occupy the land.
This was the big political “broth” with a social base, which we address here in a very general way. And all this broth and struggles were being accumulated in the so-called Popular Democratic Project, with the PT as its political party expression. In other words, some of these major mass movements in Brazil have a very strong historical relationship with the PT. With the arrival of the PT in the government, the movements were also incorporating a political culture of being part of the state, of bureaucratizing themselves as well. This had as a consequence a great weakening of the movements, mainly today, with difficulties to mobilize the masses and to face the attacks of the fascist-oriented Bolsonaro government.
In addition, the main organizational reference of these movements is Marxism-Leninism and democratic centralism, even though sometimes the movements themselves recognize the need to seek other elements that better deal with the reality of the peasantry and the subjects of the countryside. So if the mechanisms of political participation are worked on, there are risks of falling into distant relations between the bases and the leadership of these movements. That is, the need for spaces that enable qualitative political participation from the grassroots, reflecting on the work in which they are inserted, forming themselves, leading the processes and contributing, from their reality, with the direction of the movement. It also avoids the risks of falling into pragmatism, or the so-called “putting out fires” daily, which accumulates little politically and socially, even if a lot is being done.
In our anarchist conception, we believe that the subject of social transformation is not given, but is formed in everyday work and struggle, and popular power is built with the subjects’ political participation, assuming responsibilities and protagonism in the struggles. Therefore, the organizational form needs to be aligned with a transformative ideological concept, so that it allows the advance of non-alienating organizational forms.
Therefore, we also seek to bring and project other historical experiences of struggle and organization of the working class, of the peasantry, of the originary communities. We have examples like the Mexican Revolution (1910), and the later Zapatista movement in Mexico. The struggle of the Makhnovist army in Ukraine, in the process of the Russian Revolution, processes with indigenous and peasant protagonism in the expropriation of land and social organization. The collectivization and organization of production and social processes in the Spanish Civil War, in the countryside and in the city, with the example of the CNT. Like Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan, with the organization, self-defense, territorial and labor and production management in a collective and direct way. Current community experiences in Colombia with the concept of land as a common good, and demanding the permanence and reproduction of forms of community life in the territories. In short, there are various experiences, some known to the movements, in addition to other references that they also seek, and that we examine to study and identify elements that can contribute to our processes here.
Therefore, anarchism also needs to develop concrete tools for intervention in reality, for mobilizing and managing life in its different aspects, social, cultural, productive, economic. In other words, we also need to develop proposals to organize the countryside and to address these issues.
BRRN: Struggles for food sovereignty, agroecology, and agrarian reform raise some really critical questions for anarchists, particularly because many of the movements and academics that dominate the discourse don’t share our critiques of the state, electoralism, etc., and often see nation-state as the vehicle for achieving food sovereignty, agrarian reform, etc. I haven’t come across many contemporary anarchist perspectives on food sovereignty, agroecology, and agrarian reform, and I’m very curious to know about your reflections as an anarchist participating in these movements in Brazil, and how yourself and other FARJ militants in the Frente de Luta Camponesa think about food sovereignty and agrarian reform from an anarchist perspective—can we articulate a particular anarchist perspective on how to achieve and sustain food sovereignty and agrarian reform that is distinct from the perspectives of Marxist-Leninist, social democratic and liberal currents within social movements?
FARJ: We are starting to have this debate currently at CAB, in the Agrarian Working Group, among militants who work with rural movements, with indigenous, non-urban communities. With other movements like the MAM (Movement for Popular Sovereignty in Mining) and it has a little to do with the previous question. In other words, what are the concrete proposals of anarchism for reality? What is our anarchist program of struggle?
So we are beginning to discuss which concepts are important and central to us. Such as Food Sovereignty, agrarian reform or revolution, natural and energy resources. Bem viver (“living well”), as opposed to the logic of development, among others.
For us, these issues need to be related to popular demands, to popular reality. For us, agroecology must be a tool and principle to strengthen the struggle and organization of rural peoples and communities. In other words, we will also seek to apply these concepts and questions as references, within our anarchist conception, based on popular reality, to strengthen our work of base-building and building popular power.
Some of these concepts are also worked on by the rural social movements such as food sovereignty, agroecology, feminism. But it is clear that we need to develop our conceptions about them as well. But we can say, in general, that the left often has a reading of reality that is very urban, valuing questions around trade unions and urban issues more, reproducing this centrality in the urban. And anarchism is not free from reproducing some of that, too.
BRRN: Needless to say, the historical processes of colonialism and capitalist development around the world have left a mess of contradictions for different oppressed classes and communities to navigate when it comes to the questions of land. Here in the US, because social movements are so weak, the discourse and struggles around land and land reform don’t seem to be as advanced when compared to the Brazilian context. One critical question here in the US & Canada—two european settler colonial projects situated on stolen indigenous territories—is how different oppressed populations in struggle around questions of land—indigenous peoples, people of African descent, small farmers, migrant farm workers, etc. can be in solidarity with one another as opposed to being pitted against one another by the contradictions created by the systems of settler colonialism and capitalism. I’m very curious to know where the discourse around these complicated questions are among the social movements you work with, and what your perspectives are on them, as anarchists? In Rio de Janeiro, are there promising signs of solidarity between indigenous people, quilombola communities, peasant farmers and farm workers? Can you recommend some good sources for folks who would like to learn more about these questions and struggles?
FARJ: Similar territorial issues also occur here, I believe also to be the consequences of the historical processes of colonialism, structural slavery and patriarchy and the other oppressions enhanced by capitalism.
Brazil, being a country of continental dimensions, poses several challenges. For example, there is a reality, a relationship with the land and culture of settlers in the south of the country, and there is another one of the indigenous communities and other subjects in the north of the country. This already poses several questions for the fight and the movements as well. For example, the issue of working with the idea of the peasant subject, in the face of these diversities. It also involves knowing and knowing how to understand other organizational forms, which may be different from the organizational forms that the traditional left reproduces.
On the other hand, Brazil has this great potential for struggle and for people and subjects in the countryside. Almost 40% of the land in the country is land reform settlements, indigenous lands (recognized or not), quilombos, peasant communities. The powerful know of this potential and are afraid. That is why they invest in repression and the dismantling of social rights, land grabbing, paramilitary violence, etc.
It is a social diversity that is a reality in Latin America. The strength of the indigenous people in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia. The Mapuche in Argentina and Chile. Colombia is also a very rich and interesting country, with Afro-Colombian communities, various indigenous ethnicities, peasants. There is the CNA (National Agrarian Coordinator), a significant peasant movement in the country, there is a very interesting debate on “agri-food territory”, for example.
In Rio the MPA has been making contacts and working with some quilombola communities, and now indigenous communities. In the capital there is the struggle of Aldeia Maracanã, which mobilized enough supporters against the speculation and gentrification that the Olympics mega-event blew open. There are many possibilities for dialogue between quilombos, indigenous villages, favelas, rural and city movements and we can go further. Actions such as community gardens, urban agriculture, are also interesting possibilities for the food sovereignty of favela dwellers, and possibilities for dialogue with rural movements. The organization of consumer collectives in cities, organizing themselves for access to and distribution of healthy food in the countryside. Collective investment groups of supporters, enabling rural production. Supportive relationships between different sectors of the working class, deliverers, education workers, students. The possibilities of organizing from below are many.
A few websites for reference and more information:
Virtual Library of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) – www.reformaagrariaemdados.org.br/biblioteca
Movement of Small Farmers (MPA) – www.mpabrasil.org.br
Movement for Popular Sovereignty in Mining (MAM) – http://mamnacional.org.br/
National Agrarian Coordinator (Colombia) – www.cna-colombia.org
Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) – cptnacional.org.br
Rio Grande do Sul Quilombola Front – www.facebook.com/FrenteQuilombolaRs
Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon – www.facebook.com/coiabamazoniaoficial
Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) – www.facebook.com/apiboficial
Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of the Southern Region – www.facebook.com/ARPINSULBRASIL
Mídia India – www.facebook.com/VozDosPovos
Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR) – www.facebook.com/conselhoindigena.cir
Articulation of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of the Northeast, Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo (APOINME) – www.facebook.com/apoinme.brasil
People’s Web (Teia dos Povos) – www.facebook.com/TeiadosPovosoficial
BRRN: Anything else you’d like to share?
FARJ: We would like to thank the space and the opportunity to share the experiences and work here. There are other comrades organized at CAB who can also contribute with their experiences from their states and our work also has contributions from them. We hope to have contributed to Black Rose, and to help more people know a little more about the struggles in Brazil and on our continent. We also hope to have more opportunities for exchanges like this one with our comrades from BR, who also inspire us. Spaces like this are essential. Arriba lxs que luchan!!!
1. There is no direct translation of the term formação, as it is used by the social movements, in English. In this interview I’ve translated it as “political training”, though it can be more accurately understood as the collective processes within social movements that include “consciousness-raising work, political education, and leadership development.” For more discussion of the concept and practice of formação, see “Leadership development and Formação in Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST)” by Dawn Plummer
This interview was conducted by a member of Black Rose Anarchist Federation’s New York City Local.
US imperialism is in crisis. This drives the capitalist system towards austerity, increased suffering among the working poor, repression at home and imperialist aggression, subversion and wars abroad. This is not something new and is not something that Trump created in the last four years, although he intensified it. Obama also intensified the suffering, the repression and US aggression abroad during his administration.
We can expect more people to die of coronavirus, the threat of mass evictions and utility shutoffs, long-term unemployment, and a great deal of suffering.
Agency interviews members of Siskiyou Rising Tide about mutual aid efforts in the Rogue Valley following the devastating Almeda Fire. To support Agency’s work, go here. By Lilia Letsch Most people on the US West Coast are painfully aware that this summer has given rise to a really intense and tragic wildfire season. Even though… Read Full Article
Native peoples in the United States continue to struggle for justice. While this year brought some important victories, such as Washington’s NFL team finally dropping its racist name and logo, and a landmark win in the Supreme Court for Native rights in McGirt v. Oklahoma, the difficult work of recognizing and redressing the country’s legacy of oppressing its first inhabitants continues.
Efforts by Native and allied activists to spread observance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an alternative to Columbus Day is an important part of this work. The day is an opportunity not only to celebrate Native voices and culture, but for the country to rethink its own history in light of Indigenous American experiences. While much of this rethinking, as it should, centers on the brutal treatment of Native peoples across American history, Indigenous Peoples’ Day also offers an opportunity to reflect on less well-known legacies of this brutality beyond the United States itself.
Perhaps the most appalling of these legacies is the way Adolph Hitler and his regime consciously drew on U.S. actions toward Native Americans as a model for their murderous campaign in Eastern Europe during World War II. This is a connection explored by recent historians of Nazi Germany and detailed most comprehensively in Carroll Kakel’s “The American West and the Nazi East.” (For a related account of how American immigration, segregation and eugenics policies influenced the Nazis, see James Whitman’s fascinating “Hitler’s American Model.”)
Hitler’s overriding strategic goal in launching World War II was stretching Germany’s borders eastward to encompass most of Europe. This quest for Lebensraum, or living space, to the east was his central preoccupation. He envisioned a vast German empire extending through the Baltics, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia — all the way to Europe’s end at the Ural Mountains. This empire would be gradually cleared of its former inhabitants and populated instead by rugged, self-reliant German farmers growing food to feed a great continental power.
World War II, then, was above all a war of colonial expansion. At a time when European countries still ruled much of the world, justifying such rule by claims of racial superiority and using brutal methods to extract wealth and crush dissent, Hitler had many models to look to for inspiration. Belgium, for instance, killed or worked to death an estimated 10 million people during its four decades ruling Congo.
His focus, however, was not on overseas colonies, which Germany had never acquired to the same extent as other powers, but on a contiguous, land-based empire annexed to the German homeland itself. As Hitler said, “Our colonial territory is in the east.” His was a vision of what historians call “settler colonialism,” in which an area’s original inhabitants may be exploited temporarily but are ultimately replaced by the conquering country’s own people.
This form of colonialism is inherently “eliminationist” — in that, one way or the other, native peoples, considered racially inferior, become superfluous and “disappear” in order to clear the land for settlers from the imperial power. This is why the United States was Hitler’s chief inspiration. It was, according to the Holocaust historian Timothy Snyder, “the exemplary land empire” on which the Nazis based their vision of colonizing Eastern Europe.
Hitler praised the way the “Aryan” America conquered “its own continent” by clearing the “soil” of “natives” to make room for more “racially pure” settlers.
What did Hitler see when he looked to America for inspiration? After pioneering settler colonialism in Ireland, the British brought it to North America with devastating effect as colonists displaced Indigenous inhabitants. These same colonists made more rapid westward expansion a primary justification for the Revolutionary War against Britain, citing it specifically in the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, one of the largest military actions of the war was the Continental Army’s attack on the Iroquois Confederation. After George Washington ordered the “total destruction and devastation of their settlements” so they would be “driven” out by “terror,” the American military established its pattern for the next century by expelling Native people from their homeland through a campaign of brutally indiscriminate violence.
After independence, Thomas Jefferson popularized his vision of an agrarian empire of virtuous yeoman farmers gradually overspreading the entire continent. As for what he called the “doomed red race,” Jefferson wrote that those not willing to leave would “be exterminated, or driven beyond the Mississippi.”
He and political leaders who followed him used threats of war, or war itself, to acquire new territories from France, Spain, Britain and Mexico, opening them up to white settlers. As these newcomers moved in, a combination of regular army troops, paramilitary units called “rangers” and vigilante groups of settlers themselves pushed Native peoples off the land. Their methods included mass shootings, rape, burned villages, destroyed food supplies and forced marches. The result was rapid depopulation by murder, starvation, disease, exposure and expulsion.
As this pattern moved beyond the Mississippi and land grew scarce for further removals, the American government began concentrating the remaining Natives on “reservations.” On this marginal land, unsustainable living conditions continued to dramatically reduce their numbers. One government official called the reservation system “the legalized murder of a whole nation.”
Aside from Native peoples themselves, this process enjoyed wide public support. It was, in Jane Cazneau’s famous formulation, part of the country’s “Manifest Destiny.” As racially inferior, uncivilized “savages” who did not make productive use of the land, it was inevitable that they would “disappear” as white settlers moved in. As an 1854 article in DeBow’s Review put it, their “race is run” and are “gradually disappearing, to give place to a higher order of human beings.” Andrew Jackson viewed Native Americans as a “disease” that was “constantly infesting our frontier” and needed eradication. In the 19th century, white Americans commonly used the term “extirpate,” meaning to clear away by uprooting, destroying or annihilating, when referring to Native Americans.
All of this makes it unsurprising that in looking for a blueprint for the European East, Hitler found it in the American West. In Snyder’s words, the American example was one of the “source mythologies” of the Nazi’s eastern project.
German author Karl May dressed as his famous character Old Shatterhand, in 1896. (Wikimedia Commons)
Hitler grew up reading Karl May’s American western novels for young people, which featured tales of taming the “Wild West” through “Indian wars.” He also regularly re-read them into adulthood, even recommending them to his generals as sources of creative ideas. Writing in “Mein Kampf” in the 1920s, Hitler praised the way the “Aryan” America conquered “its own continent” by clearing the “soil” of “natives” to make room for more “racially pure” settlers and lay the foundation for its economic self-sufficiency and growing global power. Indeed, the concept of Lebensraum was coined and popularized by Friedrich Razel, who said his theory of colonization and racial replacement drew inspiration from the American historian Frederick Jackson Turner’s “frontier thesis” and its identification of “colonization of the Great West” as central to American history and identity.
Once the Nazis gained power in Germany, Kakel details how the American West became an “obsession” for Hitler and his closest followers, such as SS leader Heinrich Himmler. Their goal was to remake the demographics of Europe the same way the United States remade the demographics of North America. The Nazi leadership routinely referred to Eastern Europe as “the German East” or the “Wild East,” and its inhabitants as “Indians.” Admiring how the United States had “gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousand, and now keep the modest remnant under observation in a cage,” Hitler spoke of his intention to similarly “Germanize” the east “by the immigration of Germans, and to look upon the natives as Redskins.” Echoing American justifications for westward settlement, he stated, “It is inconceivable that a higher people should painfully exist on a soil too narrow for it, whilst amorphous masses, which contribute nothing to civilization, occupy infinite tracts of a soil that is one of the richest in the world.” His answer? “Here in the east a similar process will repeat itself for the second time as in the conquest of America.” For Hitler, “Our Mississippi must be the Volga.”
As in the American case, Hitler used threats of war and then war itself to gain territory in the east. Then regular army troops, paramilitary units called “Einsatzgruppen,” and collaborating locals began killing, terrorizing and expelling inhabitants considered racially inferior. A “Hunger Plan” envisioned mass starvation, mainly of Slavs. Meanwhile, the SS drew up plans to expel all European Jews to a massive Judenreservat, or “Jewish reservation,” either in Madagascar (once British control of the sea lanes was defeated) or Siberia (once the Soviet Union was defeated). Most were expected to die of disease and starvation.
After the invasion of Poland, Germany quickly annexed part of the country and began the process of moving in ethnic German and other sufficiently “Aryan” settlers. Nazi propaganda showed photos of German colonists departing in covered wagons and described the lands to the east as the “California of Europe.” German newspapers featured headlines such as “Go East, Young Man!” — an imitation of Horace Greeley’s famous advice to American settlers to seek their fortune in the west. As for resistance by those being conquered, killed and cleared? Hitler compared it to “the struggle in North America against the Red Indians.” After all, he said, “who remembers the Red Indians?”
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Of course, Hitler never realized his full vision. As the tide of war turned, and the vast former Soviet lands he planned to colonize slipped from his grasp, the Nazi strategy shifted away from the traditional “eliminationist” methods of settler colonialism based on the American model — mass shootings, terror, expulsion and depopulation by disease and hunger — and toward their own innovation of mechanized murder in the death camps, now targeting almost exclusively Jews.
Having tried his project in a much more densely populated area, over a much shorter timeframe, and during a war he failed to win, Hitler did manage to kill millions, displace millions more and change the demographics of Europe. Yet, his colonization goals never reached more than around a half million settlers in parts of Poland, most of whom were themselves expelled or killed with the war’s end.
In contrast, the United States played a much longer game — a gradual but relentless expansion and depopulation of Natives over wider spaces and more decades, and without rival military powers seriously threatening the project. Like Hitler, the United States killed and displaced millions and changed the demographics of a continent. Unlike the Nazis, the country largely completed the process of racial replacement and continental dominance, while at the same time creating a powerful national myth of frontier heroism and progress. It is a myth Americans are still struggling to come to terms with, and the work of those who spread observations of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an important part of this task.
Immigrant woman and children walk across a field as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Enforcement and Removal Operations hosts a media tour at the South Texas Family Residential Center, which houses families who are pending disposition of their immigration cases on Friday, Aug 23, 2019 in Dilley, Texas. (Photo credit: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Reproductive violence is constitutive of rather than an exception to the values of the United States of America. For those of us whose communities are deliberately targeted by the eugenicist American state, Dawn Wooten’s charges of mass sterilizations at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia come as a reminder that our reproductive lives have always been a threat to this country’s very foundations. Indigenous, Black, and Brown people pose a problem for a nation invested in white racial purity. These ICE abuses are only the latest and most visible in an ongoing U.S. project of genocidal extermination. Wooten, a licensed practical nurse who worked at the ICE facility until she was abruptly demoted in July, recently filed a complaint detailing forced hysterectomies of detained migrant women.
In the complaint published by Project South, an Atlanta-based advocacy organization, Wooten identifies a gynecologist she calls “the uterus collector,” who removes the uterus or fallopian tubes of practically “everybody he sees.” In her statement, the nurse details the confusion and dread experienced by detained women, who neither consented to hysterectomies nor understood what was happening to their bodies due to intentional, violent language barriers. A migrant woman confessed to Project South, “When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies.” She’s not alone in identifying the conditions inside migrant detention centers as concentration camps, which by definition are a form of population control—a practice that extends to the origins of the settler colonial U.S. state.
Indigenous women in particular have long been targeted for genocidal violence, including experimentation and extermination. As climate disaster and civil conflict ravages Central American countries, more and more Indigenous people are migrating North (anthropologist Shannon Speed’s 2019 book, Incarcerated Stories: Indigenous Women Migrants and Violence in the Settler-Capitalist State, is a helpful introduction to the unique violences faced by Indigenous women in migrant detention centers). Their mobility poses a threat to the eugenicist state now, as it did in the 18th and 19th centuries. And so they are policed, surveilled, sterilized, and imprisoned—all techniques of reprocide. Loretta Ross—a Black feminist activist and survivor of sterilization abuse—coined the term “reprocide” to specifically describe genocide as primarily committed through reproductive control.
In the 2017 anthology Radical Reproductive Justice, Ross insists that reprocide extends to the political origins of the United States and that it happens not only through sterilization abuse, but also through mass incarceration, environmental racism, and the promotion of long-term contraceptives that providers refuse to remove or that carry prohibitive removal costs. The current forced sterilization of migrant women is not an aberration or anomaly in the history of this country; it’s an extension of the reprocide that created it. Indigenous scholars like Leanne Betasamosake Simpson teach us that Indigenous women are especially threatening because they have the potential to reproduce the next generation of people who can resist colonization. Brianna Theobald’s standout 2019 book Reproduction on the Reservation explains how the U.S. government has historically attempted to control and contain Indigenous women’s reproductive lives: Through assimilationist residential schools, the forced removal of Indigenous children into the white foster care system, and government efforts to move childbirth from the home to hospitals, the federal government surveilled where women gave birth, with whom they gave birth, and how their children were raised.
While Theobald highlights how Indigenous people lied to field nurses and concealed their pregnancies to practice reproductive self-determination, doctors in the United States began formally sterilizing Indigenous women in the 1930s. This practice ballooned in the 1970s when Congress passed the Family Planning Services Act, which subsidized sterilizations for Medicaid and Indian Health Service patients. As a result, an estimated 25 percent of Indigenous women of childbearing age underwent hysterectomies. The enslavement of Africans and their descendants was also undeniably marked by reprocide: Chattel slavery relied on enslaved Black women to produce as many children as possible; many were sold as breeders and routinely sexually assaulted to produce more enslaved people, but as scholars note, enslaved women used birth control and abortion as a means to resist this reproductive control.
Yet, enslaved women were still routinely subject to medical experimentation. James Marion Sims, also known as the “father of modern gynecology,” performed many reproductive surgeries on enslaved Black women and elected to do so without anesthesia. He also invented the modern speculum by experimenting on enslaved women. Other doctors perfected c-sections by performing surgeries on Black women without consent. During Jim Crow, some Black women were denied medical care or termination of welfare benefits if they didn’t submit to sterilization and others—including civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer—underwent “Mississippi appendectomies” as practice for medical students at teaching hospitals in the South. Today’s immigration detention centers are designed as reprocide machines—controlling who enters and is born into the country.
As a system of population control, detention centers confine and contain unwanted, undesirable populations. And while this long history of reprocide spans various—if not all—administrations, it’s clear that Trump is using migrant women’s bodies as a battleground in the struggle for white racial purity. In 2018, the Trump administration ended a previous policy mandating that ICE release pregnant women from detention—placing women outside the reach of adequate medical care and even ripping their children away at birth, as Tina Vasquez (who has contributed to Bitch) reported for Rewire. Women in detention centers are denied control over their bodies and their reproductive choices, refused access to abortion care, and the government has gone as far as to track incarcerated women’s periods to refuse abortion access.
When their children are born, many are sent to Bethany Christian Services, an organization that has received substantial donations from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. And, most recently, Trump granted visa officers the power to deny entry to pregnant women, calling their migration “birth tourism.” This rhetoric is an extension of eugenicist anxieties about “anchor babies” and poor, third world “over breeders” who take advantage of loose borders to invade the United States and interrupt the nation’s racial purity. Immigration enforcement is a mode of population control—period. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882—the first immigration law to banned an entire racial group—to the creation of Border Patrol in 1924, which drew on racist ideas of health and cleanliness to exclude “diseased” Brown migrants, borders and immigration bans are a way of keeping out the unwanted. Today, ICE commits reprocide when they separate families and divide them along an arbitrary border. The agency commits reprocide when it deports people to countries facing climate disaster—a phenomenon that increases poverty, threatens quality of life, and limits food supply.
Mass sterilizations are one aspect of a state-sponsored project of controlling women of color’s reproductive lives and eliminating unwanted populations. In this way, the call to abolish ICE is a call for reproductive justice because ICE agents and guards are trained and empowered to violate the reproductive agency of migrant women. In 1994, a caucus of Black feminists at a pro-choice conference coined the term “reproductive justice” to signal not only a woman’s right not to have a child, but also their right to have children and to raise them with dignity in safe and healthy environments. This framework repositions reproductive rights in an intersectional context that centers race, gender, and class oppressions. Abolishing ICE is a practice of reproductive justice and is ultimately a move toward creating safer communities where children and families are free from surveillance and immigration enforcement.
Wooten refused to stay quiet, and even as nuanced reporting from Vasquez complicates an earlier romanticized image we had of the nurse, it’s undeniable that she has helped pave the way for a more abolitionist future. Wooten refused to reproduce a system that controls women’s bodily autonomy. In denouncing “the uterus collector,” Wooten extends a legacy of Black feminists like Loretta Ross who understand that reproductive justice is not only about abortion rights but also about having and raising children with dignity. In calling out reprocidal conditions at Irwin County Detention Center, she continues the advocacy of Hamer and others who understood the bodies of Indigenous, Black, and Brown women as sacred and worthy of protection. ICE is committing reprocide, but like Wooten, we can refuse to be complicit.
Arresting and deporting undocumented people has become lucrative because their biological, biometric data can be mined, harvested, and used to generate profit.
Suzanne Dhaliwal, in collaboration with Indigenous Climate Action, explains how the struggle to end Canada’s colonial violence is continuing in the face of fossil fuel extractivism.
We are excited to announce the launch of the California Freedom Council of The Red Nation. While we have had members in California for some time, we are officially forming a Freedom Council that will seek to organize and build revolutionary struggle with California’s Indigenous communities and all colonized peoples. The fires burning all around us and the pandemic that has swept through the nation are both an omen of settler colonial domination as well as a call to action to restore Indigenous sovereignty and stewardship of these lands. With almost 500 years of colonial occupation and mismanagement of the western coast of Turtle Island by European settlers, the forests burn with the help of fossil fuel induced climate change. Now more than ever the choice described in The Red Deal is clear: decolonization or extinction.
Firefighter watches as brush burns in Northern California. From ABC7 News
The struggle for Indigenous liberation in California is impacted by the multiple layers of colonization by Spanish, Russian, and American settlers and the wide-scale genocidal violence and erasure against Indigenous peoples. Though it was one of the most diverse Indigenous regions of North America, California’s tribes have faced dispossession through war, starvation, relocation, and broken treaties. Many do not have federal recognition or a land base yet California has the largest Indigneous population in the country, with half living in urban cities mostly due to relocation programs during the Termination Era.
Here in California we live in cities, on streets, and in counties named after Spanish missionaries who enslaved Indigenous people and for notorious Indian-killers from the ranks of the US Army, white ranchers, miners, and private militias. Fourth graders across the state are tasked with building replicas of missions where thousands of Indigenous people died of starvation, abuse, and overwork. Still, Native communities continue to exist and resist on or off their traditional territories. In the Bay Area there has been a longtime effort to protect the remaining shellmounds in which Ohlone people’s ancestors are buried, and they have built a land trust that seeks to return land to the tribe. In the North, many tribal communities are actively fighting mining, oil and gas, and for dam removal that harms salmon runs that feed their communities. And in the South, where the federal government is trying to build a racist wall to restrict our Southern relatives, the Kumeyaay people are putting their bodies on the line to stop the desecration of their territories. Across the vast agricultural fields in the urban centers of the state, Indigenous Mexican and Central American farmworkers and laborers are facing threats of deportation, discrimination, and environmental injustice through pesticide exposure and disproportionate exposure to COVID-19 and smoke alike.
1680 Pueblo Revolt by Fred Kabotie depicting Hopi people dismantling a mission.
It is with all of these ongoing and interrelated struggles that The Red Nation California Freedom Council hopes to be involved. We are beginning our organizing with a fundraising campaign to support Red Fawn Fallis, who has just been released from a 4 year political imprisonment for her efforts to protect her people’s water in Standing Rock. We are also beginning remote study groups to learn and develop political analysis together until we are able to gather in person. Stay tuned for ways to get involved with our study groups and how to join The Red Nation! In the meantime please follow us on our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages.
All Relatives Forever.