indigenous solidarity

today i held the second class about american indians at ibdaa cultural center in deheishe refugee camp. i have about 12 students in the class who are using it to both improve their english skills and learn more about indigenous history, rights, and resistance before an american indian solidarity group comes to visit here at the end of the summer. here is a posting from their new website, which shows ways you can help support the delegation:

THE DELEGATION is a project of a collective of grassroots youth groups in the U.S. and Palestine. We have been committed to connecting Native and immigrant youth in the U.S with youth in Palestine by creating remote forums for us to reflect together and bridge our struggles. This first-ever cross-continental exchange is an opportunity for youth to learn first hand from each other by sharing tools of empowerment and education.

Our journey to Palestine is part of an on-going process of connecting the shared experiences of Indigenous peoples across the world for the ultimate goal of land rights, justice and peace. Through the creation of a magazine, blog, music CD, video, photo essay, poetry and other arts media during and after our trip, we plan to share our stories and involve our communities in building a national and international movement against displacement. We will create solidarity networks across the borders/walls built to divide us.

YOU can support the Indigenous Youth Delegation to Palestine!

1) Become a sponsor or make an individual donation! This is a grassroots effort and 100% of the money you raise goes directly into travel, equipment, food, housing and other important supplies. We would be happy to honor your sponsorship in ways including: Acknowledging your generosity in the media materials produced from the trip; Holding an educational workshop on Indigenous Solidarity before and/or after our trip; To speak/perform/share for your organization before and/or after our trip.

MAILING DONATIONS: You can send contributions directly to P.O. Box 40597, San Francisco CA 94140.

ONLINE DONATIONS: We have also set up a Facebook Causes page where you can donate: Help Send Native Youth to Palestine! Or, you can also click here to pay safely online with Paypal.

2) Organize or help promote/attend a benefit party or show! Each delegate is raising the money to cover their $1100 plane ticket to Palestine.

3) Donate high quality equipment! We are going to be conducting music, video, and photography workshops with the youth in Palestine as well as documenting the delegation in general. We would be so thankful if you could donate high quality video cameras, digital cameras, DV tapes, digital recorders, and other high quality media-making equipment.

4) Share our trip and our “ask” letter with your network of friends! We can send you a PDF about the trip/donations; flyers for our event; and information about upcoming events!

julia good fox is one of the people who has helped to get this delegation off the ground. she wrote an excellent article in indian country last year after her visit to palestine in which she said:

Contrary to widely-held beliefs, the crisis in Palestine is relatively recent in origin. As historians and scholars will remind us, Jewish people generally thrived and lived in respectful coexistence with Christians and Muslims in Palestine while they were subjected to prejudice (and far worse) in Europe and the United States. It was only during the mid-20th century that sustained violence began to occur between the populations – when the U.S. and Europe, out of their collective guilt for allowing the Shoah to happen, formed the state of Israel on top of Palestine.

This formation did not occur on empty land. Known as “Al-Nakba” (Arabic for “the Cataclysm”), this 1948 event involved the expulsion of an estimated one million Palestinians from cities and villages, massacres, torture and rape, and the destruction of nearly 500 Palestinian villages. Zionism, which activist Gabe Camacho has correctly described as synonymous with manifest destiny, is the hegemonic ideology of the colonizers in the Holy Land. And one of the ideas of Zionism/Manifest Destiny is the concept of “Indian country,” an anti-human rights activity that the U.S. exports internationally.

“Indian Country” is a U.S.-designated term for our remaining and secondary homelands; however, the term also is common in the U.S. military and colonization parlance such as when it was employed in the invasion of Vietnam or as seen in the ongoing occupation of Iraq. We see this term in action, too, in Palestine.

Although we and the Palestinians are at different places in the politics of colonization and decolonization, as survivors of manifest destiny (and often combatants against present-day cultural practices of anti-Indianism), we immediately – and viscerally – recognize the extraordinary historic and contemporary parallels between the Palestinians and our nations and tribes. Perhaps one of the most recognizable similarities that we encounter is the theft and fractionalization of Palestinian land, a process that we might know better as “removal” and “allotment.” A strengthened and stabilized land-base is the basis of self-determination, and the Palestinian struggle to liberate and protect their land certainly resonates with our people.

While in Palestine last summer, I saw billboards and other advertisements for new housing developments for Israelis (on land stolen from the Palestinians); Israelis are given financial incentives to move to these areas, much like how the settlers were provided for by the United States regarding our lands. Yet, land theft, no matter how it is sanitized or censored in the political, educational and cultural arenas, is an attack on human rights. Land theft also is in violation of the UN Genocide Convention which recognizes that such robbery is accompanied by an assault on the families, languages, religions and spirituality, and other cultural practices of a tribe or nation. The theft of a people’s land results in the fracturing of the community and families, directly interfering with social relationships, economies and languages. It brings intergenerational consequences for families, especially children. Indigenous peoples recognize the relationship between land and the well-being of a people, and are on an intimate basis with the damage that occurs when this relationship is severed by military force and ongoing colonization.

one of the poems in the arabic textbook for the students at ibdaa, which was put together by the youth solidarity network, contains the arabic version of a mahmoud darwish poem written about american indians (which, in arabic, unfortunately, is الهندي الأحمر، which is literally, “red indian” when translated into english, though i’m teaching my students more appropriate words like أصلي, which means indigenous). here is part of the poem, and the link here will give you the most of the poem in translation; i cannot seem to find it in arabic online.

2

The white man will never understand the ancient words
here in spirits roaming free
between sky and trees.

Let Columbus scour the seas to find India,
it’s his right!
He can call our ghosts the names of spices,
he can call us Red Indians,
he can fiddle with his compass to correct his course,
twist all the errors of the North wind,
but outside the narrow world to his map
he can’t believe that all men are born equal
the same as air and water,
the same as people in Barcelona,
except that they happen to worship Nature’s God in everything
and not gold.
Columbus was free to look for a language
he couldn’t find here,
to look for gold in the skulls of our ancestors.
He took his fill from the flesh of our living
and our dead.
So why is he bent on carrying out his deadly war
even from the grave?
When we have nothing left to give
but a few ruinous trinkets, a few tiny feathers to
embroider our lakes?

All told,
you killed over seventy million hearts,
more than enough for you to return from slaughter
as king on the throne of a new age.

Isn’t it about time, stranger,
for us to meet face to face in the same age,
both of us strangers to the same land,
meeting at the tip of an abyss?

We have what is ours and
we have what is yours of the sky.
Yours air and water, such as we have.
Ours pebbles, such as we have,
yours iron, such as you have.

In the shadow domain, let us share the light.
Take what you need of the night
but leave us a few stars to bury our celestial dead.
Take what you need of the sea
but leave us a few waves in which to catch our fish.
Take all the gold of the earth and sun
but leave the land of our names to us.

Then go back, stranger.
Search for India once more!

3

Our names: branching leaves of divine speech,
birds that soar higher than a gun.

You who come from beyond the sea, bent on war,
don’t cut down the tree of our names,
don’t gallop your flaming horses across
the open plains.
You have your god and we have ours,
you have your religion and we have ours.
Don’t bury your God
in books that back up your claim of
your land over our land,
don’t appoint your God to be a mere
courtier in the palace of the King.

Take the rose of our dreams
and see what we’ve seen of joy.
Sleep in the shade of our willows
and start to fly like a dove–
this, after all, is what our ancestors did
when they flew away in peace
and returned in peace.

You won’t remember leaving the Mediterranean,
eternity’s solitude in the middle of a forest
rather than on the edge of a cliff.
What you lack is the wisdom of defeat,
a lost war, a rock standing firm
in the rush of time’s furious river,
an hour of reverie for a necessary sky of dust to
ripen inside,
an hour of hesitation between one path and another.

One day Euripides will be missing
as well as the hymns of Canaan and Babylon,
Solomon’s Song of Songs for Shulamith
and the yearning lily of the valley.
What you white men need will be the memory of
how to tame the horses of madness,
hearts polished by pumice in a flurry of violins.
All this you will need,
as well as a hesitant gun.

(But if you must kill, white man, don’t slay
the creatures that befriended us.
Don’t slaughter our past.)

You will need a treaty with our ghosts on those
sterile winter nights,
a less bright sun, a less full moon
for the crime to appear
less glamorous on the screen.

So take your time
as you dismember God.

4

We know what this elegant enigma conceals from us:

a heaven dies.

A willow strays, wind-footed,
a beast establishes its kingdom
in hollows of wounded space,
ocean-waters drench the wood of our doors with salt,
earth’s a primordial burden heavier than before
but similar to something we’ve known since the
beginning of time.

Winds will recite our beginning and our end
though our present bleeds
and our days are buried in the ashes of legend.

We know that Athens is not ours
and can identify the color of the days
from puff clouds or rising smoke.
But Athens isn’t yours as well,
yet we know what mighty iron is preparing for us
for the gods that failed
to defend the salt in our bread.
We know that truth is stronger than righteousness,
and that times changed
when the technology of weapons changed.

Who will raise our voices to the rainless clouds?
Who will rinse the light after we’re gone?
Who will tend our temples,
who will safeguard our traditions
from the clash of steel?

“We bring you civilization,” said the stranger.
“We’re the masters of time
come to inherit this land of yours.
March in Indian file so we can tally you
on the face of the lake, corpse by corpse.
Keep marching, so the Gospels may thrive!
We want God all to ourselves
because the best Indians are dead Indians
in the eyes of the Lord.”

The Lord is white and the day is white.

You have your world and we have ours.
What the stranger says is truly strange.
He digs a well deep in the earth to bury the sky.
Truly strange, what the stranger says!
He hunts down our children, as well as butterflies.
O stranger, what promises do you make to our garden,
zinc flowers prettier than ours?

Fine.

But do you know that a deer
will never approach grass that’s been
stained with our blood?

Buffaloes are our brothers and sisters, as well as
everything that grows.
Don’t dig any deeper!
Don’t pierce the shell of the turtle that carries our grandmother
the earth on its back!
Our trees are her hair,
and we adorn ourselves with her blooms.

“There’s no death on earth,”
so don’t break her delicate formation!
Don’t bruise the earth, don’t smash
the smooth mirror of her orchards,
don’t startle her, don’t murder the river-waisted one
whose grandchildren we are.

We’ll be gone soon enough.

Take our blood,
but leave the earth alone:
God’s most elaborate
writing on the face of the waters,
for His sake and ours.

We still hear our ancestors’ voices on the wind,
we listen to their pulse in the flowering trees.
This earth is our grandmother, each stone sacred,
and the hut where gods dwelt with us
and stars lit up our nights of prayer.
We roamed naked and walked barefoot to touch
the souls of the stones
so that the spirit or air would unfold us in women
who would replenish nature’s gifts.

Our history was her history.

To endure our life
go away and come back.

Return the spirits,
one by one,
to the earth.

We keep the memory of our loved ones in jars,
like oil and salt, whose names we tied
to wings of water birds.

We were here first,
no ceiling to separate our blue doors from the sky,
no horses to graze where our deer used to graze,
no strangers bursting in on the night of our wives.

O give the wind a flute to weep for the people
of this wounded place,
and tomorrow to weep for you.

And tomorrow to weep for you.

5

Tending our last fires
we fail to acknowledge your greetings.

Don’t write commandments
from your new steel god for us.

Don’t demand peace treaties from the dead.
There’s no one left to greet you in peace,
which is nowhere to be seen.

We lived and flourished before the onslaught of
English guns, French wine and influenza,
living in harmony side by side with the Deer People,
learning our oral history by heart.
We brought you tidings of innocence and daisies.
But you have your god and we have ours.
You have your past and we have ours.
Time is a river
blurred by the tears we gaze through.
But don’t you ever
memorize a few lines of poetry, perhaps,
to restrain yourself from massacre?

Weren’t you born of a woman?
Didn’t you suckle the milk of longing
from your mother as we did?

Didn’t you attach paper wings to your shoulders
to chase swallows as we did?

We brought you tidings of the Spring.
(Don’t point your guns at us!)

We can exchange gifts, we can sing:
My people were here once, then they died here…
Chestnut trees hide their souls here.
My people will return in the air,
in water
in light…

Take my motherland by the sword!

I refuse to sign a treaty between victim and killer.

I refuse to sign a bill of sale
that takes possession
of so much as one inch of my weed patch,
of so much as one inch of my cornfield
even if it’s my last salutation to the sun!

As I wade into the river wrapped in my name only
I know I’m returning to my mother’s bosom
so that you, white master, can enter your Age.

Enter your brutal statues of liberty over my corpse.
Engrave your iron crosses on my stony shadow,
for soon I will rise to the height of the song
sung by those multitudes suicided by their
dispersion through history
at a mass where our voices will soar like birds:

Here strangers won
over salt and sea mixed with clouds.
Here strangers won
over corn husks within us
as they laid down their cables for
lightning and electricity.

Here’s where the grieving eagle
dived to his death.
Here’s where strangers won over us
leaving us nothing for the New Age.

Here our bodies evaporate, cloud by cloud, into space.
Here our spirits glow, star by star, in the sky of song.

6

A long time will have to go by before our
present becomes our past, just like us.

We will face our death, but first
we’ll defend the trees we wear.

We’ll venerate the bell of night, the moon
hanging over our shacks.

We’ll defend our leaping deer,
the clay of our jars, the feathers
in the wings of our last songs.

Soon you’ll raise your world over ours,
blazing a trail from our graveyards to a satellite.

This is the Iron Age: distilled from a lump of coal,
champagne bubbling for the mighty!

There are dead and there are colonies.
There are dead and there are bulldozers.
There are dead and there are hospitals.
There are dead and there are radar screens
to observe the dead
as they die more than once in this life,
screens to observe the dead who live on after death
as well as those who die
to lift the earth above all that has died.

O white master, where are you taking my people
and yours?

Into what abyss
is this robot bristling with aircraft carriers and jets
consigning the earth?

To what fathomless pit
will you descend?

It’s your to decide.

A new Rome, a technological Sparta and an
ideology for the insane…
but we’d rather depart from an Age
our minds can’t accept.

Once a people,
now we’d rather flock to the land of birds.
We’ll take a peek at our homeland through stones,
glimpse it through openings in clouds,
through the speech of stars,
through the air suspended above lakes,
between soft tassel fringes in ears of corn.

We’ll emerge from the flower of the grave.
We’ll lean out of the poplar’s leaves
of all that besieges you, O white man,
of all the dead who are still dying,
both those who live and those
who return to tell the tale.

Let’s give the earth enough time to tell
the whole truth about your and us.

The whole truth about us.
The whole truth about you.

7

In rooms you build,
the dead are already asleep.

Over bridges you construct,
the dead are already passing.

There are dead who light up the night
of butterflies,
and the dead who come at dawn
to drink your tea
as peaceful as on the day your
guns mowed them down.

O you who are guests in this place,
leave a few chairs empty

for your hosts to read out
the conditions for peace
in a treaty with the dead.

interestingly, this blog that put the translation of the poem above has a comment by none other than russell means in which he responds to darwish:

THE SONG OF THE PALESTINIAN
Euro-male,where do you come from?
Is not your mother sacred?
Is not your mother’s life sacred?
Is not her children sacred?
Do you understand rebirth?

I think not.

Do you understand being free?
Do you understand the sand?
Do you understand the rivers?
Do you understand the olive tree?
Do you understand the rocks?
Do you understand the air you breath?
Do you understand peace of mind?

I think not.

You know locks.
You know keys.
You know possessions.
You know theft.
You know destruction.
You know prison.
You know torture.
You know murder.
You know rape.

There is rebirth.
I will return as lightning.

russell means wrote an important piece this week about the massacre of indigenous in peru, highlighting that the need for global indigenous solidarity is as necessary as ever:

On June 6, near a stretch of highway known as the Devil’s Curve in the northern Peruvian Amazon, police began firing live rounds into a multitude of indigenous protestors — many wearing feathered crowns and carrying spears. In the neighboring towns of Bagua Grande, Bagua Chica and Utcubamba, shots also came from police snipers on rooftops, and from a helicopter that hovered above the mass of people. Both natives and mestizos took to the streets protesting the bloody repression. From his office in Bagua a representative for the international organization “Save the Children” reported that children as young as four years-old were wounded by indiscriminate police shooting. President Alan García had hinted the government would respond forcefully to “restore order” in the insurgent Amazonian provinces, where he had declared a state of siege on May 9 suspending most constitutional liberties. The repression was swift and fierce.

By the end of the day a number of government and the president’s party APRA offices were destroyed, 9 policemen and approximately 40 protesters were killed. Overwhelmed by the number of the wounded small local hospitals were forced to close their doors. A doctor in Bagua Grande described the repression as a “barbarian act” similar to those committed in Beirut by the Israeli occupying forces a few years ago. A Church official denounced that many of the civilian wounded and killed at the Devil’s Curve were forcefully taken to the military barracks of El Milagro. From Bagua, a local journalist declared to Ideele Radio that following the killings policemen dumped bagged bodies in the Utcubamba River. Indigenous leaders have accused García of “genocide” and have called for an international campaign of solidarity with their struggle. Indigenous unrest in the Peruvian Amazon began late last year. After an ebb of a few months, the uprising regained force again on April 9. Since then, Amazonian indigenous groups have sustained intensifying protests for more than two months, including shutdowns of oil and gas pumping stations as well as blockades of road and river traffic.

The Devil’s Curve massacre is not the only instance of repression. García recently sent in the Navy to violently break through indigenous blockades on the Napo River, also in northern Peru. But few expected such a violent reaction from the government. García says the response was appropriate and blamed the indigenous for thinking they could decide what happens in their territories: “These people don’t have crowns. They aren’t first-class citizens who can say… ‘You [the government] don’t have the right to be here.’ No way.” The president called the protesters “pseudo-indigenous.”

Indigenous representative Alberto Pizango called Devil’s Curve the “worst slaughter of our people in 20 years.” And added, “Our protest has been peaceful.” We’re 5,000 natives [in the blockade] that just want respect for our territory and the environment.”

Protester’s top demand is the repeal of a series of decrees, known collectively as the “Law of the Jungle,” signed by García last year. The President decreed the legislative package using extraordinary powers granted to him by Peru’s Congress to enact legislation required by the 2006 U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement. Indigenous groups are also demanding the creation of a permanent commission with indigenous representation to discuss solutions to their territorial, developmental, health and educational problems.

One of the most controversial aspects of the decrees is that they allow private interests to buy up indigenous lands and resources. Following a colonial logic of “progress,” García’s decrees foster the commodification of indigenous territories, ecological reserves, communal and public lands, water, and biogenetic resources to the benefit of powerful transnational interests. What’s more, the “Law of the Jungle” implicitly conceives of indigenous Amazonia as an open, empty, bountiful, and underdeveloped frontier and its inhabitants as obstacles to neoliberal modernization and investment schemes.

monthly review zine has a bunch of videos posted today of solidarity with the indgenous of peru, which are worth watching. they also posted an urgent action alert to support the indigenous people of peru (and there is a video on this site too worth watching):

URGENT ACTION ALERT

Peru’s Amazon Indigenous Peoples need you to TAKE ACTION now!

Tell the Peruvian Government:

* Immediately suspend violent repression of indigenous protests and the State of Emergency
* Repeal the Free Trade Laws that allow oil, logging, and agricultural corporations easy entry into indigenous territories
* Respect indigenous peoples’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to self-determination, to their ancestral territories, and to prior consultation
* Enter into good faith process of dialogue with indigenous peoples to resolve this conflict

Since April 9th communities throughout the Peruvian Amazon have been protesting new laws that usher in an unprecedented wave of extractive industries into the Amazon Rainforest. President Alan Garcia’s government passed these laws under “fast track” authority he had received from the Peruvian congress to make laws to facilitate the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and to make Peru more economically “competitive”.

Over 30,000 indigenous people have taken to blockading roads, rivers, and railways to demand the repeal of these new laws that allow oil, mining and logging companies to enter indigenous territories without seeking prior consultation or consent. The protests have led to disruptions of transport as well as the interruption of oil production.

In the early morning of June 5, Peruvian military police staged a violent raid on a group of indigenous people at a peaceful blockade on a road outside of Bagua, in a remote area of northern Peruvian Amazon. Several thousand indigenous peoples were forcibly dispersed by tear gas and real bullets. Initial reports of fatalities include at least eleven indigenous people, along with nine police officers. For more information, click here.

We need you to immediately TAKE ACTION adding your voice in solidarity with thousands of indigenous people. Send a letter today to the Garcia Administration demanding an end to the violent repression and respect for the constitutionally guaranteed rights of indigenous peoples.

As one of the Earth’s largest tropical rainforests, the Amazon plays a critical role in safeguarding the global climate. Its destruction releases massive amounts of global warming gases into the atmosphere, worsening climate change. Indigenous peoples are the guardians of the Amazon rainforest. They need your support.

Go to www.amazonwatch.org/peru-action-alert.php to send a letter to the Garcia Administration.

of course this issue in peru is particularly urgent, but these indigenous are global: there is a new website tracking land global grabs that displace indigenous people that is worth checking out.

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