Thursday, October 13, 2011

Decolonizing the Occupations: Answering the Challenge posed by Indigenous Activists

Decolonizing the Occupations: Answering the Challenge posed by Indigenous Activists

There have been some major calls to decolonize the rhetoric and practices of theoccupy wall street movement as it spreads.
Thankfully organizers and activists are starting to listen and debates are starting on how to best demonstrate the beginnings of commitment to decolonization in these movements for democracy and against austerity.
If we are actually going to show respect, I want to take beyond the use of decolonize and actually have the organizers reach out and ask the Indigenous community leaders, activist, and revolutionaries if they can use Indigenous languages, such as anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe language) or nehiyawmowin (plains cree language) to rename the event. Here in Winnipeg, I suggested people contact folks like Leslie Spillett , who can point organizers towards people to talk to.
As an example of a decolonized name to use: Biskaabiiyang Winnipeg: Nanaakawiidaa – beside “Decolonize Winnipeg” so it in English and Anishinaabemowin. Add French if you want to rep St. Boniface!  Biskaabiiyang is a word that is similar to decolonize. Nanaakawiidaa ought to mean, lets revolt, but I’m sure my grammar is a bit off, I’m rusty.
Actually publicly using and affirming the need to bring anishinaabemowin, and other Indigenous languages, back into the the public, and allowing our movements to be lead by some Indigenous activists and community leaders is important. We need to work together. We need to show commitment to learning. Reparations for language loss is a key feature of social justice, if we don’t have the power to force policy changes, maybe facilitating the use of Anishinaabemowin in the public is an option that might work. I don’t know, ask the question to the Indigenous activists in your community, and see what they say.
In other localities it would be a good exercise for organizers to put the time in to research what language belongs to the land they are on, and then make the effort to build relationships with indigenous community leaders there to be able to ask for permission to use it, through that process, decolonization/biskaabiiyang will be enacted, and it demonstrates your good and respectful intentions. If you can demonstrate an earnest and respectful commitment to decolonization, I’m pretty sure you are going to find some Indigenous activists keen to work with you. At this point, its on you to make sure you give them equal voice and power in organizing the events taking place. Don’t be scared of mistakes or conflicts, as long as you are constantly demonstrating your ability to learn, we’ve got lots to offer each other as we fight austerity, colonization, and capitalism. My hope is we can all organize our communities ourselves and bring some heavy duty weaponry to the fight. Counter-power is the ultimate weapon of solidarity.

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