Non-indigenous in a Post-Colonial North America

Non-indigenous in a Post-Colonial North America

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John Ahni Schertow
January 18, 2007
 

The following is a discussion started by a member here, which originally took place within our old forum. Eventually an essay will be put together based on it.

May 17, RevolutionReversal: hey folks,

this is a discussion I’ve been wanting to start for sometime, its quite hypothetical and idealists, nonetheless an important question for myself. So do to treaties, the various Native Nations have legal/ethical/spiritual claim the land. So if you get all the land back; how and on what terms do the non-natives that were born here integrate with your new sovereignty over the majority of the land? Will it be segration? will there be free borders? What is the ideal goal and how do people like myself fit into that? Under whose law must we live under if any, for many of your anarchist supporters this is an essential question.

I don’t mean to sound rude or ignorant, just direct and wanting to know exactly what I’m gunna be fighting for.

-Alex.

Email Response:
hey alex,

here are some of my thoughts and observations on your questions… while i am not indigenous, i am also an anarchist and a settler of european origins who is deeply interested in a postcolonial future in Turtle Island…

From: “Alex Paterson” revolution_reversal @riseup.net

So do to treaties, the various Native Nations have legal/ethical/spiritual claim the land. So if you get all the land back; how and on what terms do the non-natives that were born here integrate with your new sovereignty over the majority of the land? Will it be segregation? will there be free borders? What is the ideal goal and how do people like myself fit into that? Under whose law must we live under if any, for many of your anarchist supporters this is an essential question.

the best reading i would suggest on this topic would be Ward Churchill’s “I am Indigenist”, found in the book “Struggle for the Land”, where he presents a devolutionary rather than revolutionary vision. essentially a large contiguous independent territory for indigenous people about the size of a fifth of north america. there would be borders and non-natives would be welcome to become full members of the nation should they abide by indigenous law.

this gets into a tricky area concerning contrasting conceptions of governance and law… churchill argues that he is an anarchist and that much of traditional aboriginal governance is compatible with anarchism (decentralization, participatory decision-making, respect for ecological intergration, respect for all genders, ages, peoples as well as their contributions (gifts), etc.)…on that point i agree to a large degree.

as for my personal views…

at the core of this question is colonialism… we cannot achieve anarchism in this continent if colonial relationships remain in place. period.further, we cannot impose our (western European) models of a “correct” society onto indigenous peoples…they have their own models which they are entitled to maintain by their virtue of being human beings with the right to self-determination. so, there seems to be only two choices…

a) admit that your vision of society is superior (be it liberal democracy, anarchism or what have you) and impose it on the entire continent b) recognize that indigenous systems have a right to exist and figure out how a post-colonial society can balance these different systems (while not undermining the sovereignty of indigenous nations)

if you cannot chose option b) then you must either admit you want to maintain your position as a colonizer or in good faith leave this continent.

so in the future will this mean segregation? possibly, if that is the way that some indigenous people feel they can best maintain their society. obviously, i would hope that given a fundamental and revolutionary challenge to the existing power structures of today (ie the abolition of capitalism and the destruction of the canadian state), it would be possible to create an integrated society that maximizes the positive qualities of both indigenous and non-indigenous liberatory visions. but this will involve nation-to-post-nation negotiations. (nation = indigenous peoples. what is the post-nation? let’s call it the Autonomous Republic of Turtle Island ;-))

likely there will remain borders between autonomous/liberated/indigenously sovereign territories and remaining parcels of the statist/capitalist attempts to maintain the colonialist project in north america, but hopefully these will eventually be elliminated through a victory by our social movement. restrictive borders and precise land tenure were not traditional features of indigenous societies and I would hope that this continent could return to that way of operating.

what is our role? to act as allies in the struggle for de-colonization and the return of meaningful self-governance to indigenous peoples. to recognize that our movements need to deal with these issues in order to be internally consistent. to be humble and respectful in our dealings with indigenous peoples. to accept leadership and direction from the people affected directly by these issues. and, in consistency with our principles as anarchists, to continue to uproot the illegitmate forms of authority which we know to be stumbling blocks towards an anti-authoritarian future (state, capitalism, patriarchy, heterosexism, etc.)

so might we anarchists have to live under indigenous law in the future? yes quite possibly. the question then becomes how much would it chafe our anarchist sensibilities to do so? or more specifically, would a return to indigenous law be as restrictive and oppressive as european systems of law? to give one example, i think the concepts of healing circles and victim-offender reconciliation are preferable to large scale incarceration in a prison industrial complex. i would gladly live under that type of indigenous law. the same could be said about indigenous conceptions of ecological preservation that would govern future industries in the in interest of the next 7 generations.

another point should be made… there is no “static and forever” or homogenous indigenous culture. they are continuously evolving and changing. read Howard Adams’ (metis marxist) works such as A Tortured People or Prison of Grass to find this point. it seems most desirable to me that any future systems of “law” and “governance” will be hybrids of indigenous and radical western conceptions. BUT a key point to soveriengty is that indigenous peoples democratically decide which systems of law, etc. they want to live by.

two other readings i found very helpful on these topics would be:
Fighting Words on the Future of Earth by Russel Means
Why Anti-Authoritarian? by Larry Giddings

well i hope this long-winded and meandering response is helpful. in short, there is no simple answer. it will all involve negotiations and likely deviations from strict and “pure” anarchist models. if we can’t deal with that we either need to leave or admit we are oppressors.

in solidarity,
P.M.
Winnipeg

May 23, RevolutionReversal: 40 views and no responses? This isn’t just here to look at.

May 23, Ahnwanika: Hey. Forgive me for not replying sooner Alex. I am working on a very thorough response to what you posted here – I just need a couple more days to mull it over.

May 24, Ahniwanika: Hey Alex. Ok, I’m finally done. I may get a bit side-tracked here, but I think it’s important to review the possibilities of a post colonial world to arrive at some sort of answer, as far as the role of non-indigenous people in that world, goes.

If you or anyone else doesn’t want to bother reading all of this (though you probably should) I pretty much ended up agreeing with what PM said, and nearing the end I may have made this entire writing moot, hahahaha!

I’d also like to note that there are at least three other topics related to this which we’ll get into in due time….

Churchill’s essay on Indigenism is a good starting point for this conversation, as about 90% of the visions and ideas I’ve heard about a post-colonial Turtle Island are rooted in this philosophy/perspective.

Indigenous Visions of a Post-Colonial Turtle Island

The first one I’ll mention is the notion of banishing all Settlers from this land. There is a fair number of People who believe this is the right thing to do – some even take it further and say that all People who are not indigenous to this land (ie, all non-“Natives”) should be sent ‘home’. I guess these folks could be considered hardline Indigenists, as they know full well that this could only be done through force, and many of them see this as acceptable.

The problem with this is it in no way addresses colonialism, which is what must be dealt with – not just those who practice it.

Aswell, simply banishing all these people would be like putting a skeleton in the closet – a skeleton with 10,000 A-bombs!!! It’s only a matter of time before they come back, and we know they will.

The second option is ‘Indigenous Rule,” which can be several different things:

A) a full reversal of power. the Indigenous Become a State and do to the non-indigenous what they’ve done to us – put on reserves, excluded, made into wards, accessories, etc. The banishment-of-the-Settler thing could also go here.

B) The Landlord-Tenant Relationship. Some have come to a realization that this is the real relationship between indigenous Nations and Settler-States on this land, because of the nature and purpose: to the letter of treaties. Most Treaty-holding Indigenous Nations will say that they never forfeited their title on the land — and the treaties were a mutual agreement to the conditional relationship between Indigenous Nations and Settler-Colonies (some of the key treaties occurred before America and Canada became Official States.)

So what would it mean if the treaties were deemed null and void, by either signing party? The agreement would end and the Settlers would therein have no permission on this land, regardless of how long they’ve been here for, in the exact same way that a Landlord or a tenant can cancel a tenancy agreement – the tenant has to leave.

With this in mind, there are some who’re interested in having the arrangement of The Landlord-Tenant Relationship become the standard. This would mean America, etc. would be permitted to stay, but everything owed to us according to the treaties would have to be paid — back rent — and certain policies and practices would have to change because as the Landlord, it is our responsibility to make sure the tenants do not damage the land or are so volatile that they are wreaking havoc in ‘the neighborhood’.

The citizens of these States have a fundamental Role in this — because, while most people would also be considered ‘tenants’, we all know that historically, it has always been the people to make any necessary change to any society – and in this particular example, as in every other we could come up with – they are instrumental. I mean, look what happens when it’s left in the hands of the few…

As well, In this option the Nation-to-Nation relationship (between Colonial States and Indigenous Nations) would also have to be respected. This means Neither Nation would have any authority over one another, but the States would be ‘permanently’ indebted to us, and would be required to maintain certain standards, which the citizens of the states would assist in.

C) Direct Rule of Turtle Island. This would be what PM mentioned in that above email he wrote, about the Indigenous Nations taking over. This is a fairly popular idea, but I’m not sure how realistic this is, I mean, the ONLY way for this to happen would be through force, as America will never freely concede to the indigenous Nations, and I sorely pointy out that are no legal-based strategies or loopholes or magic keys that will result in America, Canada, or any State being dissolved, etc.

To live in a post-colonial world we must actually become that world.

Aside from that, one of the ideas I hear about this (after the war), with regard to where settlers fit in, is through Indigenous Nations adoption. The banishment thing comes back here, but instead of wholesale banishment, it would be the banishment of criminals – meaning those who hurt the People or the Land (These folks would not be adopted, or if they were they would be taught until they no longer harmed.)

It really depends on what adoption would ultimately mean, which I’m not completely aware of right now. All I know is there are many millions of good, humble, and responsible people who are nothing more than subjects of their time and place, but would never just suddenly abandon their ways or become subjects under ‘other rule.’ Do we force them to do so, or banish them if they don’t comply?

D) Mutual Sovereignty Between Indigenous Nations and Colonial States.

This has many possibilities:

i) A Continental Indigenous Government is formed, which would function separately much in the same way two different states would.

There a couple problems to consider here: First is the arrangement of the Indigenous Nations. The notion of Indigenous Nations remaining in the regions they are now, and then having a ‘federal’ government combining the nations is too slippery an idea. I guess this is where the concept of micro-nations fits in, which is something we’ll get into another day.

Conversely, as Churchill pointed out, allocating one mass-spanse of land for the indigenous Nations, and then shuffling all the people.

I very much dislike both these arrangements (that’s all I care to say right now.)

ii) Perhaps Canada and the US or all States on North and South Turtle Island are merged into one – and then that State and the Overall Indigenous Nation works and sits together in a 50-50, One-Government relationship. (This is different than the landlord-tenant relationship, though this could apply here too)

This is not the assimilation of the Indigenous People though. It would only be assimilation if the Indigenous People became, for example, Full-fledged Canadian Citizens, and then created a National Aboriginal Party like what the AFN wants.

This could be considered mutual-integration though, which is not that bad a thing, since unity in diversity is always better than being divided by differences.

iii) The Nation-to-Nation relationship that currently factually exists (not based on the actions of states, but according to Law) is respected. This means nothing really changes except what States do and don’t do, as far as impacting/effecting Indigenous Nations goes.

Overall View

There are many variations of the above points, and no doubt others of which I’m not aware. There are also three other specifics I haven’t really mentioned here…

The first is the systems/schemes being put forward by proponents of Colonialism, such as a Continental America, a Global State Government headed by the WTO/IMF…

The second is the matter of alternative systems, such as the creation of a Global NGO-Council that would make up 1/3 of the decision-making power in Global Affairs – eg. The UN (states), the WTO (corporations), and NGO’s.. I think this is a pretty cool idea but I don’t see where The People fit into that. I mean, most NGO’s are just not-for-profit Corporations, aren’t they?

Anyways, the third is the matter a Continental Indigenous Government (more info about this will follow here soon)

The basic rundown on that is every indigenous Nation in the world is governed by their own Customs and Traditions, a National Council is formed to mediate and assist with International-affairs, and then, an Intercontinental Council of Sovereign People is formed which would also be mediation-based.

As for where ‘non-indigenous people’ fit into all of this, it really depends on what post-world we’re talking about.

In all cases of ‘indigenous Rule” settler-folk would most likely be adopted, and those who harm the land or other people would be banished [for instance]. I don’t think adoption would translate into becoming wards of, or slaves to Indigenous People.

As for other fears, like what you mentioned about segregation, or that indigenous Nations will become mini-empires or one solitary Regime or State…

These are legitimate concerns, but the odds of this happening is the same as the eviction/banishment of all Europeans from this land… not going to happen.

I know for a fact that the many Indigenous People of this land are not interested in becoming an Empire, or ruler of this land. We don’t want to be Kings, Queens, Monarchs, Princes, etc. That stuff’s for Megalomaniacs and folks with Inferiority Complexes! Nor do we want to be a member of the UN for that matter, based on the terms the UN requires for us to become members. All we want is to live in peace, free – and we want the same for our Brothers and Sisters – we want to live in mutual peace.

As mentioned before, there are some that do want us to become an Empire, but they do not speak for the whole. If they did speak for the whole they could not say such things as they would not get permission to say them… So those who hold a little fear about the possibility of this future arrangement – it’s safe to let it go as Most Indigenous People would NOT tolerate that sort of thing.

In the other possibilities mentioned in the first half of this writing (mutual sovereignty, the landlord-tenant relationship), the role of non-indigenous People in a ‘post-Colonial World’ comes down to what each person does, supports, and enables – much like the way it is now.

I say that because we have to be realistic in this topic… It is equally possible that there will be no post-colonial world in the sense we are talking about.

I mean, if Colonial States start maintaining their end of the Nation-to-Nation relationship with Indigenous People, then most of this writing is moot.. but colonialism will still be alive and well.

And so we must turn the table a bit, disregard the concept of “You’re either an Indigenous or a Settler” (yes – sadly that is a play on “you’re wither with us or with the terrorists”) and combine our efforts to address colonialism at the root – and to determine what the role of the People will be.

Maybe our role continues to be what is now – passengers in Empires car… Maybe we form our own civilian governments, then secede from America en masse, and form alliances with the Hopi!

There’s a million possibilities, none are certain, and my head’s going to start spinning if I keep writing more, so I’ll end on that.

Thanks,
Ahni

May 24, Carver: Hi Alex!

You raise some interesting points that I will have to reread, as that is my way. I find that the deeper I get into these conversations the more reading I have to do in order to know who all the players are and their agenda’s. So I hope that you can be patient, thanx! Carver.

It has been my intention that the original people should form their own government, that is based on the example of the Six Nations Confederacy, (my peoples) by the peaceful return of power from the cheif and council system that was imposed the original people in 1947. 96% of the original people where lead by the Women and the Grandmothers and men knew their place. As there is no greater threat to the agenda of the federal government then have to deal with strong and intelligent Women who can think and plan past the 7 generations. Unlike this government that can only plan till the next election.

I will try and write more latter. Carver

May 29, Carver: Ahni, your writing really has improved and I found that your ideas flowed with more structure. I really like the look of the site.

I am at the point in myself in my own development, that I can see no easy anwsers. When I look at the big picture of all that has taken place on North and South Turtle Island, I do not see an end to this situation.

They will not leave or share what booty they have stolen or in any way do they feel that they are accountable to the Original Peoples for the continuing genocide and assimilation on the North/South of Turtle island. Canada has joined the world court, but only as last resort when dealing with the US. (softwood lumber issue….) One thought I did have was, can the Original People have access to this world court and have our issues dealt with and make Canada responsible for their own crimes against humanity?

Or in other words: Is there a higher authority that will hold Canada accountable?

Most of the world thinks of Canada as a humanitarian state, yet in the past week we saw even Amnesty International give Canada a failing grade in regards to the treatment of the Original Peoples and the disabled. Even the UN has caught on to what this country is doing in this regards, (witch is little of anything or nothing at all. )

I wish that there was more time for all to meet and discuss this, but in reality these colonial powers that be are adept at talking everything to death and yet they feel that it is worth discussing again, as long as they are not picking up the tab! Carver.

May 30, Ahniwanika: Hey Carver. Thanks. I’ve started exercising recently, and it’s been clearing out some of the cobwebs!!! lol

can the Original People have access to this world court and have our issues dealt with and make Canada responciable for their own crimes against humanity?

I’m not too sure about that, but I have some stuff about the various international courts that I’ll be posting soon. We’ll get to the bottom of this there.

I wish that there was more time for all to meet and dicuss this, but in reality these colonial powers that be are adept at talking everything to death and yet they feel that it is worth discussing again

I know what you mean, but at this point we do not need to consult colonial powers – we just need to stir the ponds right now – and if all hell breaks loose in the meantime, sobeit.

It doesn’t necessarily matter what happens.. what matters is what we do when it does.

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