“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.

Nick Estes: Liberation

CJ Trowbridge

2020-07-20

Power and Politics in American Indian History

Response 8

Nick Estes, Our History is the Future (2019), Chapter 7. Liberation (pages 247-258) 11 pages

            The chapter begins by discussing the way the story of Custer has been twisted and misrepresented. In reality, native people were gathering together to celebrate the new year. Custer saw it as an opportunity to exterminate them en masse and attacked the peaceful gathering. The natives killed the attackers and were labeled as the villains of the story. (Estes 213) Modern history books often mention the conflict but fail to explain what happened and why, often painting the true victims – native people – as somehow being responsible for the fact that they were targeted for extermination, simply because they survived the unprovoked attack.

Estes says, “Ancestors of Indigenous resistance didn’t merely fight against settler colonialism; they fought for Indigenous life and just relations with human and nonhuman relatives, and with the earth… What does water want from us? What does the earth want from us? Mni Wiconi—water is life—exists outside the logic of capitalism. Whereas past revolutionary struggles have strived for the emancipation of labor from capital, we are challenged not just to imagine, but to demand the emancipation of earth from capital. For the earth to live, capitalism must die.” (219) I feel like this is a critical point which is so often missed in activist movements. We can’t just react in defense; we must also fight to actually be what we are without our oppressors and those who want to exterminate and displace marginalized people. This was an amazing book, and this final argument from Estes brings it all together and shows us where to go from here.

Film: Angry Inuk

CJ Trowbridge

2020-07-22

Power and Politics in American Indian History

Forum 7: Angry Inuk

            In Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s documentary “Angry Inuk,” we learned about some of the challenges facing arctic indigenous communities. We see an indigenous family hunting and butchering a seal. For them, seal hunting is an important source of food and trade which they have been conducting for tens of thousands of years. Outsiders see seal hunting as something people should not be doing; they call it greedy and evil.

There are many interesting dissonances in the story. The hunters are practicing time-honored traditions using rifles, boats, snowmobiles, and posting pictures of their hunts on Facebook. At one point they show a photo of children with faces covered in blood eating raw meat. The people in the video remark that outsider cultures might see the photo as scary but the Inuk culture sees it as a cute photo. Animal rights activists oppose seal hunting while Inuit activists fight for their vital right to hunt for food and trade.

The cultural differences are huge, and the conflicts seem intractable. The Inuks talk about using songs to settle disputes. Particularly interesting is the claim that losing one’s temper during a disagreement is a sign of a guilty conscience. This leads to an indigenous culture which prizes quiet and respectful disagreement, being met with an external culture of loud outrage on 24/7 corporate media.

It’s interesting to see the way this film ties into previous readings which showed that the idea of fur trade was demanded by settler colonists in exchange for goods but also in exchange for tolerance. Just as early white settler colonists demanded profits from native people in order to not slaughter them, modern white settler colonists demand profits from native people in exchange for rifles, boats, snowmobiles and computers. Native people find themselves in an impossible situation. They must produce trade but “must not” use the natural resources they have sustainably exploited for countless millennia. The central argument of the movement documented in the film is that most native seal hunting is actually sustainable and not cruel and greedy. At the same time, animal rights has become a vehicle for intense and extreme hate against native culture and native people with violent threats in the name of animal rights becoming commonplace from white settler colonists around the continent.

There is a ray of light at the end of the film; we see white settler colonist-led organizations partially endorsing subsistence hunting in what seems like an attempt to diffuse some of the violent racist and misogynistic reaction directed towards native people in the name of animal welfare.

Power and Politics in American Indian History: Trick or Treaty?

CJ Trowbridge

2020-07-22

Power and Politics in American Indian History

Forum 6: Trick or Treaty?

While the corporate media focuses on perceived slights to its freedom, the number of missing and murdered indigenous women moves into the thousands. (NFB 0:00-2:00) Treaties were signed which made guarantees for indigenous people. The James Bay Treaty specifically guaranteed the sharing of native land and resources with the native people. (8:30-10:15) The treaty’s commitments and obligations are not being honored by the government and both sides have very different versions of what it means and why it was signed.

Canada explicitly agreed to protect and assist the native tribes, but viewed the agreement as a surrender by the native tribes. (11:10-13:25) After that, many laws were passed outside the bounds of the treaty which stole power and resources from native people in violation of the treaty and inspired a wave of red power movements which opposed this theft of power and resources in violation of the treaty. (13:30-14:30)

Canadian attitudes towards native people assembling to petition for a redress of grievances started to shift in recent years towards acceptance and empathy on the part of the white settler colonial government. (30:05-30:50) The widespread rise in red power movements led to a broad sense of solidarity, respect, honor, and love among a people who had long suffered oppression together. Seeking to make things better rekindled the sense of community which was a critical part of the culture that they were fighting for. (1:02:01-1:02-20)

 

Works Cited

NFB. National Film Board of Canada. (2014, July 29). Trick or Treaty? Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.nfb.ca/film/trick_or_treaty/

Nick Estes: Internationalism

CJ Trowbridge

2020-07-20

Power and Politics in American Indian History

Response 7

Nick Estes, Our History is the Future (2019), Chapter 6. Internationalism (pages 201-246) 45 pages

            A new coalition rose up from the ashes of centuries of centuries of genocide. Leaders from surviving tribes all over the western hemisphere came together in Geneva to hold space together and speak with one voice. (Estes 175) They had the support of the soviet bloc, many third-world nations, and many national liberation movements all over the world. (176) The made the case that America had committed a genocide against first nations, systematically incarcerated leaders, and violated treaties in the process. They also brought up the COINTELPRO FBI program which had worked hard to destroy many community and civil rights organizations. They demanded America be prosecuted by the international community for these and other crimes against native people, black people, and other groups.  (176)

Vladimir Lenin himself supported the right of colonized nations to “secede and declare independence from colonial masters”. (178) Unfortunately, with America firmly in denial about its own history and committed to continuing its war of extermination and displacement, there was little the international community could do besides apply pressure. (179) This led to a wider alliance with other ethnic minorities in America and around the world. Together with this larger alliance of groups, a broader cultural shift became possible. (202) The work is continuing to this day. (210)

“Native Lives Matter”

CJ Trowbridge

2020-07-20

Power and Politics in American Indian History

Lakota People’s Law Project Report, “Native Lives Matter”

Despite systemic violence against native people beginning on the first day of the occupation of “America” by the settler colonists who would birth the white imperial ethnostate, and despite a hundred million murdered native people and billions of acres of stolen land, these centuries of state violence, interpersonal violence, and a careful and deliberate policy of mass extermination and mass displacement have often gone ignored and untaught. (Native Lives Matter 3) It wasn’t until about a century ago that native people gained citizen rights in the white imperial ethnostate, and yet to this day they are systematically denied access to the services, wealth, and institutions of the white imperial ethnostate. (3)

“Black Lives Matter” is both a rallying cry and a claim; a normative claim, a claim about what should be but about what is it true today. To say Black Lives Matter is to say that Black Lives should Matter. Across the nation today we see case after case of police murdering black people with impunity, even at Black Lives Matter rallies, as if to prove the point that those lives actually don’t matter in the white imperial ethnostate. The same is often true at Native Lives Matter rallies or other Red Power events and meetings; police will often murder native people with impunity, making the performative argument that in fact native lives do not matter in the white imperial ethnostate. (4)

There are many differences in outcome between native people’s lives versus white settler colonist’s lives. Native people, like black people, have less wealth than white people. Native people, like black people, live less long than white people. Native people, like black people, are given less education than white people. In many ways, systems are built in this country to deny power and resources to native people in favor of giving those things to white people instead. (6) This is the definition of systemic racism, and while anti-blackness is different from anti-nativism, these systems work in the same way; stealing power and resources from non-white people and giving them instead to white people. Therefore the claim that “Black Lives Matter” is similar but different than the claim that “Native Lives Matter.” We see many discussions today about the need to focus specifically on black lives in the public discourse at this moment, but unless we acknowledge that the problem is the system, and the system is working against more than just black people, we can not truly change the system and create justice for either black people or native people. It can be true that both black lives and native lives matter. This may seem like a digression from the text, but given the current political climate, it seems irresponsible to explore this topic without making this critical point.

Incarceration is another critical area of systemic injustice. Native men are four times more likely to be imprisoned than white men. (8) Native women are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white women. (8) Altogether, natives are incarcerated at 38% higher than the national average. (10) Curiously, the Department of “Justice” has already recommended changes to reduce these injustices. (14) Additionally, as we learned from the Vice series, Red Power is already making progress in Canada and elsewhere. Maybe the tides will finally start to turn towards justice for native people within our lifetimes.

Nick Estes: Red Power

CJ Trowbridge

2020-07-20

Power and Politics in American Indian History

Response 6: Red Power

Nick Estes, Our History is the Future (2019), Chapter 5, Red Power

            The Red Power movement is the name for a broad range of native social justice and freedom movements. (Estes 149) One organization under this umbrella was the American Indian Movement, a militant vanguard organization which fought for native rights. (149) This is the group which went on to occupy Alcatraz. This spawned a surge in native justice movements around the country. (149)

We Will Remember Survival School is another organization under the Red Power umbrella which specialized in teaching native people important survival skills. (149) Other groups include Woman of All Red Nations and the International Indian Treaty Council. (149) Native people continued to be subjected to the white imperial ethnostate’s policy of extermination and displacement until many were forced off of reservations altogether. Once they reached academia, it led to a surge in new studies and education programs focused on native history and culture. (149)

Aim branched out at this point to form community policing organizations which protected native communities forced into urban landscapes. (149) These urban native communities grew in strength and power until they had a strong voice on the global stage. Then they were able to speak truth to the power that oppressed them and demand fair treatment and an equitable position in the modern society. These demands have continued to fall on deaf ears in the white imperial ethnostate. (152) As we saw in the Vice series, this is not the case elsewhere including Canada, where native people are treated with far more dignity and inclusion by the government.

As time went on, more and more treaties were violated, ignored and discarded as the policy of extermination and displacement went on. The official policy of the white imperial ethnostate shifted during the civil rights movement. (165) The FBI started a program called COINTELPRO for infiltrating and dismantling civil rights organizations include Red Power organizations. (168) The FBI went on to murder Red Power activists and even frame others by planting evidence to secure convictions. (169)

In the words of both Malcolm X and MLK (Who was also targeted by the same FBI counter-justice COINTELPRO group that was murdering Red Power activists and framing others for crimes they did not commit) the real threat is not the KKK member but the white moderate who stands by indifferent to injustice. As Estes points out, liberalism took over the charge against Red Power after the civil rights movement. (171) Mass incarceration became a new favorite tool in the now centuries-old policy of extermination and displacement of native people. Millions of people have been incarcerated in the years since, mostly nonwhite, and far more than any other country. (171)

Power and Politics in American Indian History: The Long Disaster of Amerika

CJ Trowbridge

2020-07-16

Power and Politics in American Indian History

Forum 5

This is a summary of season 1, episode 8 of the documentary series Rise. After the white imperial ethnostate of Amerika “purchased” the Missouri River Basin from France, explorers were sent in to map the territory and inform the countless people who had already lived there for tens of thousands of years that they were now vassals of the white ethnostate.

Despite meeting these early imperial forces with offers of kinship, natives were immediately met with rape, murder, kidnapping, and other hostile and pointless acts of white settler-colonial aggression. After a long and concerted effort to exterminate or displace the entire indigenous population, treaties were signed which gave a small area to the survivors of the original native population.

Over the centuries, the white imperial ethnostate has continued its settler-colonial crusade to either exterminate or displace any remaining indigenous people. It was no surprise therefore when the pipelines came that they “needed” to bulldoze hundreds of graveyards and other sacred sites in order to build a dangerous and unnecessary pipeline to push poison across the land to speed up the collapse of the biosphere.

Native activists continue to fight back, protesting the pipelines, protesting at Alcatraz, and across the land when their people are faced with the choice between displacement and extermination at the hands of the white imperial ethnostate of Amerika.

One of the things that’s been really interesting and frustrating for me with watching these documentaries about specific issues has been the lack of connection to other significant events throughout history. It seems like a person could watch many of these documentaries and wrongly think that it is showing an extreme example. So rarely do we hear mention of the fact that over a hundred million indigenous people were murdered by the white imperial ethnostate of Amerika. So rarely do we hear connections to the countless massacres and the countless acts of land theft which together constitute the long disaster that is Amerika for indigenous people.

On the one hand, it makes sense to focus on specific events, but it seems like what is often missing is a concise connection to the unbelievable scope of the Native American Holocaust and the sheer volume of violence and displacement, and the obvious fact that this is all still going on and still getting worse, not better. Because it’s been in the news, I have found in recent conversations with white people who are generally supporting of the water warriors, they seem to count the latest barrier to DAPL as a win for natives, but none of them have heard about the hundreds of graveyards and other sacred sites that were already demolished to build the now empty pipeline. The outrage is missing because there is so much emphasis on the current disaster and not the trail of destruction left in Amerika’s wake.

This is one thing that I really liked about this documentary. Time and time again, the people being interviewed drew connections to past events and placed the current events in the timeline of the white ethnostate’s hostile campaign of expansion and extermination over the last half-millennia. So too did we hear about the white ethnostate of Amerika in the scope of tens of thousands of years of indigenous history and civilization. I really liked to hear these details centered and hammered home in this episode. It’s hard to imagine someone could watch this one and come away with the same ignorance of the scope of the historical problem and the place the latest disaster has in the chronology of the long disaster of Amerika.

 

Works Cited

Rise. “Season 1 Episode 8  — Standing Rock Part II.” SBS On Demand, 2016, www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/1036998211730/rise-red-power-standing-rock-part-ii.

 

Power and Politics in American Indian History: Colonial Dispositions of Land, Race, and Hunger

CJ Trowbridge

2020-07-13

Power and Politics in American Indian History

Response 5b

Alyosha Goldstein, “The Ground Not Given: Colonial Dispositions of Land, Race, and Hunger” (2018, 83-106)

            The united states is a system of white colonial agriculture built on the exploitation, displacement, and extermination of nonwhite groups for the benefit of white colonists. (Goldstein 83) One obvious example is black people, who were kidnapped and enslaved by the millions in order to facilitate the white ethnostate’s agricultural imperialism. (83) Another less well known and understood example is indigenous people, who had billions of acres and a hundred million lives stolen from them through systematic mass extermination and displacement for the benefit of the white ethnostate’s agricultural empire. (83) In both cases, the systematic subjugation, displacement, enslavement, and extermination of these groups went on for centuries and continues today. (84)

For both groups, the policy of overt violence shifted about a century ago to a policy of covert violence. (84) Instead of using military campaigns to exterminate millions of native people, the modern white ethnostate uses social murder. Systems like predatory lending combined with the deliberate destruction of existing native land and resources meant that people were forced to frequently move and start over, taking on more and more debt each time. Not only were they unable to subsist, but their children had no hope of subsisting because they inherited this predatory debt. (84) Freed slaves and their descendants experienced much the same social murder through predatory debt and repeated displacement.

One major difference between black people and native people after the civil war was the ownership of land. Black people were promised land but never given that land. (90) Native people on the other hand were ostensibly given land which has been stolen or destroyed piece by piece by the hundreds of millions of acres over the decades. (91) Naturally, racism became an integral part of the effort to steal this land from native people. The Dawes Act established standards for racial purity which would grant or deny rights and privileges to native people based on how “pure” their blood was. (91) After centuries of settler colonialism and the extermination of over a hundred million native people, to say nothing of the countless rapes that have taken place throughout the ongoing genocide, it is especially egregious and racist in the extreme to establish purity tests for the last remnants of the indigenous population.

 

Works Cited

Goldstein, Alyosha. “The Ground Not Given: Colonial Dispositions of Land, Race, and Hunger.” Social Text, 2018, www.academia.edu/36085488/_The_Ground_Not_Given_Colonial_Dispositions_of_Land_Race_and_Hunger_uncorrected_proofs_.

Nick Estes: Flood

CJ Trowbridge

2020-07-13

Power and Politics in American Indian History

Response 5

Nick Estes, Our History is the Future (2019), Chapter 4, Flood

After wounded knee, the white imperial ethnostate shifted it’s extermination and displacement strategy from an overtly violent one to a covertly violent one. Legal action and treaty violations took the place of extermination campaigns. Over the course of the next several decades, illegal colonization and land theft became the name of the game for stealing land and exterminating native people. (Estes 120) Also, we can’t forget the countless uninvestigated murders and disappearances of native women which became a norm throughout the continent.

One strategy which was very effective and eliminating native land was to simply build hydroelectric dams downstream with the deliberate intent of flooding reservations. This flooded enormous areas of native land and make it unusable despite it still belonging to the native people under treaties. (120) Many such examples took place under the Pick-Sloan Plan. The author calls the construction of these dams “a twentieth-century indigenous apocalypse.” (121) The author further states that no single act so completely devastated native lands as the construction of these dams. (135) One reason this apocalypse was so catastrophic to native people is the fact that the cultivation of livestock had become a major source of food as well as economic output for the reservations. The army’s decision to build dams and deliberately flood the reservations meant the end of both the food supply and the native agricultural industry. (121)

Another development during this time was Public Law 280 which stole sovereign power from the native people and gave it to local cities and states, in violation of many treaties. This law was thrown out this week by the supreme court, giving control back to the native people at least in some cases. (122) In the unjust interregnum when this law was in force, nearly a million native people were forced off their land by local cities and states through various surreptitious and illegal tactics. (122) This, like the dams, was merely an extension of the centuries-old policy of exterminating and displacing native people in order to replace them with white settler colonists.

The Dawes Act decided to create a system for measuring the blood-purity of native people and allocating different resources and land rights to them on that basis. (123) After centuries of extermination and displacement and white settler colonialism, the argument was that the extant population of native people didn’t count anymore since over a hundred million of them had been killed, and those who were left were no longer pure enough to retain their indigenous identities. This directly led to the theft of another hundred million acres from native reservations. (123)

These new forms of violence came to be collectively known as “slow violence” and form the foundation for the modern era of white aggression and encroachment on native land. (146)

 

Works Cited

Estes, Nick. Our History Is the Future. Verso Books, 2019.