A podcast and blog by three Ethnic Studies graduate students at UCSD.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
As A Sovereign Nation...
I know how much Angie has been struggling lately about issues of sovereignty, especially after learning the recent Cherokee disenrollment. I came across this while I was surfing the internet, and thought I'd post it here for all, and to provide another possibly ill-fitting piece of the puzzle for Angie's project.
I got to hear Sheryl Lightfoot's presentation at the Indigenous Studies Conference last week, and was very impressed by it. She was discussing the limits of current frameworks of international relations to capture, describe and assist in indigenous movements for sovereignty or internationalism. It was perfect for my prospectus that I'm writing right now.
Reconciling moral outrage with self-determination
Posted: March 09, 2007
by: Sheryl Lightfoot
Chad Smith, the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, claims that amending the Cherokee Nation Constitution to restrict membership to the descendents of the Dawes Rolls, a move that expels approximately 2,800 descendants of the freedmen from the nation, is an exercise of sovereignty. In a statement issued by the Cherokee Nation, Smith said: ''The Cherokee people have exercised their most basic democratic right, the right to vote. Their voice is clear as to who should be citizens of the Cherokee Nation. No one else has the right to make that determination. It was a right of self-government, affirmed in 23 treaties with Great Britain and the United States, and paid dearly with 4,000 lives on the Trail of Tears.''
Smith is right. The power and inherent right of tribal nations to determine and define their own citizenry is one of the strongest rights of self-determination that indigenous nations have retained during our more than 200 years' experience with interference by the U.S. colonial government. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized this right. No one should determine tribal citizenship except the tribe itself.
We, as citizens of other sovereign indigenous nations, are absolutely and completely compelled to support the right of the Cherokee Nation to exercise this power. But at the same time, it makes many of us squirm in our chairs to feel compelled to support an action that involves the active disenrollment of members, an action that results in stripping away citizenship rights of certain individuals, especially where issues of race, slavery and historical racism are involved. Should a person really be stripped of tribal citizenship merely because part of their ancestry can be traced to the slaves once held by the Cherokee? Can we truly support this move, which is a deeply disturbing trend in Indian country? It places us in a moral dilemma.
Some in Indian country and in the wider U.S. society advocate an appeal to the BIA to intervene in tribal enrollment decisions. However, if we are serious about self-determination,
then we must never turn to our colonial administrators for help when, through an act of self-determination, something happens within an indigenous nation that we disagree with. To do so would be to act like the ''wards'' that our ''guardian'' Great White Father wishes upon us rather than the self-determining sovereigns that we wish to be. So, how can those of us from other indigenous nations or even citizens of non-indigenous nations (like the United States or Canada) reconcile this moral dilemma? How do we support the principle, yet disapprove of an action? How do we, as citizens of other sovereign nations, register our moral disagreement with this act of disenrollment, yet still respect the right of the Cherokee Nation to make its own enrollment decision?
In order to be sovereign nations, we must act like sovereign nations. But that does not mean that in order to support self-determination in principle, we need to agree with every decision of other sovereign nations. Nation-states in the international system do not always agree with the internal actions of other nation-states, yet they nearly always accept the principle of the equal sovereignty of all nation-states within the international system (with certain notable exceptions like the Iraq invasion or humanitarian interventions). When a nation-state, a group of nation-states, or private citizens of other nation-states disagree with the internal actions of another nation-state, there are a number of possible avenues of action.
First, sovereign nation-states can register a diplomatic complaint with the government of the offending nation-state. This is done all the time in the international system. The U.S. Department of State often drafts and delivers letters of protest to the diplomats and officials of other governments over areas of disagreement. Likewise, the executives of our indigenous nations have the right, if not the moral responsibility, to send letters and make phone calls of complaint directly to the executives of the Cherokee Nation, expressing their concern over the disenrollment decision. This can be done while supporting the inherent right of an indigenous nation to determine its own membership.
Another tactic which can be employed by other indigenous nations or the private citizens of other nations is the art of moral persuasion, or ''moral suasion,'' as it has also been termed. This involves a campaign of exposure and embarrassment. This tactic has most often been employed in international human rights campaigns, with the purpose being to expose the immoral government action in the media and open up international discussion in order to embarrass the target government into changing its policy to better conform to international norms. This was done in the early days of the campaign against apartheid in South Africa and has been used often by groups like Amnesty International to urge governments to stop human rights abuses.
Finally, follow the money. Those of us who find the actions of the sovereign Cherokee Nation disturbing or morally questionable also have some economic options. Again, sovereign nations take these actions against other sovereign nations all the time. Witness the economic embargos against Cuba and North Korea, and the sanctions that were placed by many nations against South Africa in the last days of apartheid. In none of these cases was there overt intervention (setting aside for the moment the Bay of Pigs invasion) by other nations in the internal affairs of another nation and the legal sovereignty of the target nations was respected. Following this model, we have a right to boycott all Cherokee businesses and still respect the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation. Even the U.S. federal government could conceivably express its outrage at the decision of the Cherokee Nation, not by intervening directly and exercising colonial authority as it has usually done, but rather, by cutting off or threatening to cut off non-treaty-based federally funded programs to the Cherokee Nation. In fact, the federal government did exercise this option by withholding funding when the Seminole Nation disenfranchised its freedmen.
Through all of these avenues, we cannot only find our way out of what appears at first glance to be a moral dilemma, but we also advance our own sovereignty in the process. We do not have to sit back and accept all the decisions of a fellow sovereign in order to respect their sovereignty and show solidarity with them. Nation-states in the international system do not; and we should not, either. We have options available to us that allow us to register our moral protest at another state's actions which will, at the same time, help us act more like the self-determining sovereign nations that we are.
Sheryl Lightfoot, Keweenaw Bay Ojibwe, is a Ph.D. candidate, International Relations and Comparative Politics Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota, and chair of the American Indian Policy Center, St. Paul, Minn.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Some Life at UCSD
The three of us, Madel, Angie and me are all from UCSD in case you didn't know, and I just came across this on youtube, which is a controversy brewing on our campus. There's been a bunch of different protests and organizing around the watering down and destroying of the social justice and racial critique that a particular program, Thurgood Marshall College at UCSD was created with. The Lumuba-Zapata Coalition has come out full force in protest of these changes, and rallied around two exemplary TAs which were "fired" or not rehired into the program this year. In a moment very similar to the Alberto Gonzalez, eight men out scandal. At first these TAs were fired because of public statements that they had made criticizing the direction towards conservatism that their program was taking, but later the program director retracted this statement claiming that it was "performance problems" that had led to their firing. This despite the fact that one of the TAs had excellent reviews and the other won a distinguished teaching award last year.
For more information check out the Lumuba Zapata blog. And I'm also posting the videos from a post down below.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Back in San Diego Miget Explains it All
I hope you can hear Miget as he gets his philosopher on in the latter part of the podcast, I was waving him closer to the mic. We didn't sing or take pictures today but we did have a good discussion about the Indigenous Studies conference, our work and Miget shares some interesting thoughts about decolonization and sovereignty. All in less than forty minutes! Enjoy!
Sunday, May 06, 2007
We had some time waiting for our plane to board so Miget and I did a quick podcast despite waking up before 4am. We begin well but my son wanders off and so I leave to find him and Miget finishes alone, meanwhile how can it be all it should without Madelsar? So it's short and sweet but there will be more to come later this week!
Good Mornin' Norman!
Saturday morning Madel, Miget and I were a little nervous, a little sleep deprived and so we did a quick half-hour podcast before we got ready for our panel. The conference was interesting, stimulating, I thought the University of Oklahoma was beautiful, the people we met were so kind. It's heading towards midnight and we woke up early to get to the airport this morning so maybe Miget will come and add/edit this post later, I just wanted to get the first podcast up, another is coming that Miget and I started at the airport this morning but Miget had to end it when I walked away to find out where my son went. We had a time and we'll talk more about it later this week as well as post our papers. We really enjoyed meeting people and it was so nice to hear that people do come and read this blog and listen to these podcasts, thank you so much for listening!
I am so sorry I didn't take more pictures! Here are some of Miget, Madel and Leroy our first night there outside the Fred Jones Museum.
I edited this to add that the podcast was incomplete but now the link is right, sorry about that!
Friday, May 04, 2007
More than a Mine, a Metaphor
Published on Friday, May 4, 2007 by The Globe and Mail (Canada)
More Than a Mine, A Metaphor
While The Mohawks and Ottawa Negotiated For The Land, The Land Itself Was Disappearing
by Naomi Klein
After a group of Mohawks from the Tyendinaga reserve blockaded the railway between Kingston and Toronto two weeks ago, a near unanimous cry rose up from the editorial pages of Ontario newspapers and talk radio: Get Shawn Brant. Yesterday, Mr. Brant, a beanpole of a man, walked into a packed Napanee courtroom with his wrists and ankles shackled after handing himself over to the Ontario Provincial Police.
According to court testimony, the arrest warrant on charges of mischief, disobeying a court order and breach of recognizance violated an agreement between police and demonstrators, who were given immunity when they peacefully ended the blockade. But Mr. Brant worried that the warrant for him would be used as a pretext for raiding a gravel quarry that he and several other community members from Tyendinaga have been occupying for the past six weeks. “We don’t want to bring that into the camp,” he told me.
The court granted Mr. Brant bail on condition that he is not allowed to “plan, incite, initiate, encourage or participate in any unlawful protest,” including those “that interfere in any way with commercial or non-commercial traffic on all public and private roads, airports, railways or waterways.” A trial date has not been set.
Why the determination to get Shawn Brant, and Shawn Brant alone? On the surface, the broken immunity agreement seems sure to inflame tensions. And whatever crimes Mr. Brant may have committed, he had plenty of company. But Mr. Brant has a theory. “Right now, I’m the voice. They think if they take away the people’s voice, the people will stop. They’ll see that they’re wrong, and that’s not all bad.”
Mr. Brant is more than a voice. He has become a symbol for the new militancy that is spreading through first nations communities across the country. Sitting beside the campfire at the occupied quarry a few days ago, Mr. Brant told me that since he was a kid, people in his community have been telling him to keep quiet. “It used to be, ‘Shawn, shut up, don’t say those things about the government, they’ll cut off our funding.’ Now it’s ‘Shawn, shut up, they’ll walk away from the negotiating table.’ ”
The reason Mr. Brant isn’t willing to let the negotiations take their course is that these talks are designed to take decades. And as the time passes, the land disappears. Forests are clear-cut, mountains are carved up, suburbs creep outward. Ineffective negotiations do not hold the line on an already unacceptable status quo - they contribute to the losing of very real ground.
At the gravel quarry near Deseronto, the loss of land is painfully, insultingly literal. The quarry is on land never ceded by the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, a fact the federal government has acknowledged. The only question is what form compensation for the theft will take. The Tyendinaga band council and Ottawa have been negotiating over that question since last November. The problem arose because, as the two parties talked, trucks were carrying 10,000 loads of newly crushed gravel out of the pit every year - an estimated 100,000 tonnes. While they bargained for the land, the land itself was disappearing.
When 150 people from the reservation took over the quarry and planted the Mohawk flag at the top of a mount of gravel, they had, and continue to have a single demand: Revoke the quarry’s licence until the negotiations have concluded. Or, as 28-year-old Jason Maracle put it to me, rather succinctly: “You’re not hauling away the very land we’re talking about.”
But it got worse. There was a pile of wood on the edge of the gravel pit that the people occupying the quarry used to feed their bonfire. As the pile depleted, it became apparent the wood had been covering up a large pile of garbage: old washing machines, leaking industrial batteries, oil filters, hydraulic fluid, bed frames, antifreeze. They explored some more and discovered it was all over the pit: piles of hastily covered junk, some of it half-burned, much of it toxic, including broken up pieces of asphalt from the highway. (You can still see the yellow lines.)
“When it rains, the whole mountain turns into a rainbow of chemical fluids and oils, all flowing down into the water. Then it all leeches into the ground water,” Mr. Maracle told me, pointing to the murky green pool at the bottom of the pit.
Not surprisingly, the mine has become a powerful metaphor, a vivid illustration of the failures of the negotiation process, and the problems with being patient. While the experts talk, good land is trucked out and toxic junk is trucked in - and without direct action, there would have been nothing left to talk about.
It’s an image with resonance on reservations across the country. With commodities from fuels to metals commanding record prices on the world market, the slow erosion of land has suddenly jumped into fast-forward, with a frantic push to open new mines and pipelines. Add to that the race to cut new ski hills and highways out of pristine mountains for the B.C. Olympics in 2010 and to build new town homes to feed Ontario’s housing boom and it’s easy to see why more and more native people are telling Shawn Brant to keep talking.
The final insult came when the federal Tories handed down a budget with next to nothing new in it to address first nations poverty. Mr. Brant makes an analogy between the way land disappears while negotiations stall and the way lives are degraded while funding is frozen. Birth rates are high, he points out, “so getting nothing means moving backward - more suicides, more disease, more contamination.” When “nothing” happens at the negotiation table, mountains and trees disappear; when “nothing” is in the budget, lives are extinguished.
The budget blow prompted Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine to call for a national day of action on June 29. Though Mr. Fontaine insists he is not calling for cross-country blockades, many first nations are already planning them, with talk of a co-ordinated targeting of key infrastructure, from rails to roads. “It’s the same notion as a general strike,” Mr. Brant explains with a smile.
If the blockade strategy goes ahead, one thing is certain: There will be rivers of ink spilled explaining that, while native grievances are legitimate, there is no excuse for such disruptive tactics. Protesters will be told they are discrediting their cause, and they will be described as “violent” whether or not violence takes place. Mr. Fontaine has taken this finger-wagging to heart. “Let’s face it, if you irritate Canadians, they’re not going to listen to your message,” his spokesperson said recently.
Mr. Brant has a different message for non-native Canada - don’t just listen to us, join us. He points out that Canadians, even those who tell themselves they support native rights, “still treat them as a government problem.” But that’s not how social issues ever gain the kind of critical mass that leads to real change. “The environment is an issue right now because people told the government it was an issue,” Mr. Brant says. “If they said our concerns were an issue, they would be addressed too.”
Right now, everything is lining up for June 29 to be a day for natives to act and the rest of us to whine about late trains and traffic jams. But listening to Mr. Brant, it struck me that it could be something else: a day of action on native rights for the entire country, one when we all refuse to shut up.
Naomi Klein is the author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, to be published in September.
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