“For Our Nations to Live, Capitalism Must Die”

Glen Coulthard, “For Our Nations to Live, Capitalism Must Die” (2013)

            The author begins by describing the tactics being used to silence native critiques of settler colonialism. This argument is basically the illocutionary silencing argument; language is reconstructed by settler colonists in an attempt to take away the power of words to have action in the world. Effective approaches to liberation are labeled as illegitimate and criminalized. The power to create change is stolen from the marginalized group by the oppressor group using the tools of language.

The author expands on examples where the most effective strategies for demanding justice fall under these “illegitimate” strategies, suggesting that the reason they are considered illegitimate or inappropriate by the settler colonists is because these strategies work.

The author goes on to explain the proposed shift in Native American political ideology towards a land-based sovereignty system. This could potentially allow native people to finally get real control over their destinies for the first time since the founding of the white imperial ethnostate.

In a very exciting section, the author expands on some of the ways native groups have proposed or attempted to create decentralized consensus-based models of regional self-governance as opposed to accepting capitalist democratic systems imposed by the white imperial ethnostate. The author says that radical sustainability is antithetical to capitalist accumulationism. I think this is a crucial point which ties directly into Estes’ final argument from his book as outlined above. It’s not enough to fight off the attacks, marginalized communities also need to work hard to be what they are in the absence of the attacks. Radical sustainability goes further than simple sustainability because it actually regenerates what has been lost instead of just maintaining the terrible status quo. In this way, building truly native alternatives to the status quo goes beyond just continuing to survive and actually recreates a version of what has been lost. In order to do that, capitalism is just one of the things that has to go.