do what you say: indigenous solidarity in theory and practice
settlers – non-indigenous people – have a responsibility, an obligation, to do indigenous solidarity. this responsibility stems from treaties between indigenous nations and settler governments, our privileged position as beneficiaries of colonization, our duty to be good human beings and good residents in indigenous territories.
david gilbert (http://www.kersplebedeb.com/mystuff/profiles/gilbert.html), a political prisoner who did solidarity work with black communities has said that it is vital for solidarity activists to be up front about their own politics when doing this work as it is essential for the people we are working with to understand our motivations and our goals. i agree.
i was born in ottawa, algonquin territory, and i live here. from what i have been told, my biological mother’s family has been on turtle island for about 150 years. my biological father is an english immigrant, and he told me that his family came from northern england.
i’m an anarchist. i want revolution. i want decolonization. i want self-determination for indigenous nations. i want a better world for everyone. i want to end capitalism, colonialism and oppression. i want to replace the canadian government and the capitalist economy with economic and governance structures that maximize freedom, dignity and safety for all.
i see my own liberation as being bound up with that of indigenous people. indeed, i understand it as bound up with the liberation of all oppressed people.
i believe that capitalism and colonialism are interconnected in such a way that they cannot be understood or resisted separately. for me, decolonization ultimately requires ending capitalism, just as ending capitalism requires full decolonization.
i support all struggles of oppressed people for liberation on their own terms, and as part of revolutionary anti-capitalist and decolonizing movements.
i am poor, white, physically and mentally disabled, cis-male, heterosexual, a canadian citizen and a survivor of extreme abuse. this is not a full list of the manners in which i am systemically privileged and oppressed. it does however capture the fact that i am neither among the most systemically oppressed people, nor among the most privileged.
i have chosen to dedicate a large part of my life and the organizing work i do to indigenous solidarity, and i have been doing this for the last nine years as part of the indigenous peoples’ solidarity movement – ottawa (http:///www.ipsmo.org). this is both because of a personal commitment and passion for decolonization, and a set of circumstances that have helped to open this way for me. also, i want to be clear that this is my analysis and doesn’t necessarily reflect the political analysis of the ipsmo.
who is a settler?
in opirg-ottawa’s zine, “Untangling the Colonial Mind” they define settler this way, and i concur:
“A settler is someone who is living on a territory they are not Indigenous to as part of a process of settler colonialism. They have moved there on their own accord for resource use or a different lifestyle, have been forcibly brought from another area by the colonizers as slaves, come after being displaced from their home due to violence, imperialism, or environmental factors there, or be descendants of people who settled on the territory. Though they have varied histories, in the case of Canada, all people who are not First Nations, Inuit, or Metis are settlers.”
what is decolonization?
in the same zine, decolonization is defined this way:
“Decolonization is a process of reclaiming spaces, bodies, and language that have been stolen, violated, exploited or oppressed in the process of colonization. Decolonization is both a personal and systemic effort to address settler complicity in colonial processes, to address the reproduction of colonial ideas in and outside of indigenous communities, and to resist further colonization efforts.”
why is indigenous solidarity important?
i agree with harsha walia (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGqhgRr66ng) when she says that settlers have an obligation to do indigenous solidarity. i believe that decolonization and indigenous solidarity is a must for all sincere resistance movements. i understand indigenous solidarity as foundational – indigenous solidarity is the foundation, the base, on which the rest of our organizing must be built.
for example, when an anti-poverty group is determining its priorities, it might have, as its first priority, ensuring that everyone has a good place to live. however, this first priority is built on the recognition that this group exists on indigenous lands that haven’t been ceded, and/or that they have a treaty relationship with local indigenous nations, and that this relationship comes with responsibilities.
anti poverty group x’s organizing priorities:
0. indigenous solidarity and decolonization
1. housing for all
2. and so on.
in addition to this moral duty to work in solidarity with indigenous people, there are several other reasons that indigenous solidarity must be central to all movement for social, economic and environmental justice.
if we return to our hypothetical anti-poverty organization, then, as we know that indigenous people are disproportionately living in imposed poverty and homelessness, we can also conclude that a focus on indigenous solidarity is not only a moral duty, but also a practical and specific aim for this group to engage in. the same is true if we start talking about anti-ableism organizing, as there are disproportionate numbers of indigenous people who are disabled, or anti-violence organizing as the violence that indigenous women, girls and two-spirits experience is higher in terms of amount and type of violence when compared to white women. and the reason for indigenous homelessness, and other types of oppression, is the historic and ongoing colonization of indigenous people by settlers and settler governments.
indigenous solidarity, resistance and revolution
it is at least equally important to recognize that indigenous activists, communities and movements have a great deal to teach settlers and settler movements. certainly, it is essential to remember that the focus of indigenous solidarity is to find effective ways to help indigenous people decolonize, but doing this work in a good way will also help people to reconnect with their own humanity. indigenous knowledge and teachings can help anyone to learn more about how to be a good human being, and what it means to be having this human experience.
it is worth repeating that indigenous people have been resisting colonization since colonization began, and that indigenous resistance movements carry this knowledge about effective resistance to colonization, dehumanization and oppression. indigenous nations and movements carry knowledge about how to survive and heal from genocide, how to be sovereign, how to relate to one another and the natural work in a humble and respectful way, and more. all settlers, and all of our movements, can learn from indigenous resistance movements about what it has taken, does take and will take to make a better world for everyone.
finally, indigenous communities and nations have practices, teachings and experience in governing themselves as nations. movements that aspire to replace the capitalist settler state take note! take note, also, that this is not a suggestion that settler revolutionaries appropriate indigenous governance practices but, rather an observation that indigenous people know a great deal about self-determination, and that we had best listen and learn.