Article: Good ancestors (Briarpatch Magazine)

                Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation activist Eriel Deranger at the Tarsands Healing Walk. Photo:   
                SAGE Magazine.

Earlier this winter, Canada’s best known and most trusted environmentalist, David Suzuki, declared modern environ­­mentalism a failure. The span of Suzuki’s lifework – from biologist to public intellectual and environmentalist – testifies to an epic struggle. Namely, that the emergence of modern environmentalism and expanding environmental consciousness has coincided with the relentless expansion of petro-capitalism and ecological catastrophe. According to a recent study by the Climate Accountability Institute, half of all greenhouse gas emissions since the 1750s were produced in just the last 25 years.

Making sense of this fact pushes us beyond the ken of conventional green politics. Following Suzuki’s call for a “shift in paradigm,” we must understand capitalism not as a range of options (choosing between this form of capitalism or some better one) but as a system of human and ecological relations with unyielding parameters: commodification, exploitation, dispossession, accumulation, profit, control. It’s a system dependent on endless growth, heaving from one crisis to the next.

The dream of a well-regulated market has become a nightmare. As the fifth report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear in October, the human role in global climate change is incontestable – and the consequences dire. And yet this appears of little consequence to politicians.

Speaking before the Economic Club of Canada in early December, federal opposition leader Thomas Mulcair referred to the energy sector as “the motor of the Canadian economy.” Given such a vehicle, an economic outlook that honours the atmosphere for future generations is unthinkable. Since ecological sanity is incompatible with the Canadian motor, we shouldn’t be surprised that even Stephen Harper’s parliamentary opposition backs the construction of a pipeline to carry tarsands bitumen across Indigenous lands to the East Coast.

Meanwhile, in a commentary published in Canadian Living a few months ago, Margaret Atwood suggested, “It’s no longer a question of green versus commerce: We really are all in it together when it comes to air, water, earth, and fire. We’re in the soup. It’s a shared soup and we’ll have to work together to get out of it.”

But is our world a shared soup? Are the 90 companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, that are responsible for two-thirds of historic greenhouse gas emissions “in it together” with members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, who are currently waging a legal battle against Shell’s poisonous tarsands operations?

If addressing our ecological predicament means staring down the twinned realities of capitalist production and ongoing col­onialism, it’s little wonder many people are unmotivated to act. Trying to replace the most powerful economic system in world history has an onerous sound to it, especially at a time when it’s not enough to get your kids off to school in the morning – you also have to defend the school from closure, juggle three jobs, and monitor your Facebook feed.

In this context, a defiant recognition of the fact we are living in history is essential. Just as collective struggles from the Civil Rights movement to the South African anti-apartheid campaign reveal how people have transformed the world in hitherto unimaginable ways, we are compelled today, in the midst of a coast-to-coast Indigenous resurgence, to reclaim our capacity to alter history.

It’s no accident that the foreclosure of possibility, the sense that there is no alternative, is driven into us at every turn. Fatalism is a mechanism of social control. In exploring past struggles, we can kick through the present darkness to glimpse the explosive potential of our aspirations.

Through historical reckoning, we can move beyond our frustrated and atomized sense of urgency to the forms of relationship-building and careful, strategic organizing that might allow us to become the ancestors future generations demand that we be.

Andrew Loewen is an editor at Briarpatch Magazine.

Article - Good ancestors

Article: Women rising, the drum sounding: the restorative power of Idle No More

Detroit organizer Charity Hicks on why a movement led by the "marginalized of the marginalized" can reset our relationship to each other and the Earth.


by Charity Hicks
           A procession into the anti-fracking and land defence encampment at Rexton, New Brunswick near Elsipogtog First Nation on October 7.
A procession into the anti-fracking and land defence encampment at 
Rexton, New Brunswick near Elsipogtog First Nation on October 7.
Charity Hicks
Charity Hicks

This is an exert from a longer interview conducted with Charity Hicks by Martin Lukacs in Detroit, Michigan, in the summer of 2013.
 
When Idle No More broke out in December, 2012, in Detroit we said "wow". Indigenous peoples are just blossoming.

We've been under all these flowerings, with social movements rising all over the world – from Tunisia, to Egypt, to Greece. But what's so special about Idle No More is women's leadership. Indigenous women’s leadership is leadership from the most marginalized element inside of a marginalized element.

When you have leadership coming from the marginalized of the marginalized, the interlocking pressure of race and class and ethnic and gender hierarchies are shattered. Such women in leadership, those who have been subjected to wounds and trauma, represent a caring and concern. It's a beautiful place to be in, because as Idle No More idles no more, they're waking up and repairing relationships.

The first relationship you repair is the self to the self. So women that see themselves as the leadership, memory keepers and healers.

The second relationship of self to other selves. And here they're representing not just a returning but also a kind of reclaiming of the authenticity and relevancy of women, in the public space, in popular dialogue.

And the third relationship is of self to the earth. What's our relationship with our lakes and our streams and our waters and our food system and our ways of knowing? Everything about human beings and our culture are ways of being, but they're also ways of knowing. How do we know a tree, how do we know a plant, how do we know the fish are running at any particular time? It's because of memory, and women represent memory, the ancient memory flowering in the moment, being transmitted to future generations.

So Idle No More is profoundly restorative. It's what Canada needs. It's what the world needs. It's re-Indigenization.

But it's not just a movement, it's also a lived experience. Normally, when you're marginalized and you've been traumatized, you have normalized that. It becomes a part of your cognitive process. So to step into the public space and to really affirm your narrative is a huge risk. It's a profound leap from the margins, moving out from below the radar, and affirming a lived experience that we'd never heard, that we'd never known. So sometimes the biggest pushback comes from you. Sometimes you doubt your own voice; you doubt your own agency; you doubt even your own lived experience. To hold that, and to push back on it, is an empowering thing.



It's like the nervousness you feel when you know your people have been victimized, genocide has been wrought against your people, and here you are, with your mouth open. And you're somewhere beating a drum, or you're in public space, and you're like, this is what it is.

Indigenous peoples have been, just like African people, under twenty-five generations of root-shock. We relegated Indigenous peoples to the margins, placed them on reservations, treated them like children. And in that root-shock is pain, is profound depression, is hurt. And how you normally live with it is you drink, you self-medicate it.

In Indigenous communities, just like in African communities, there's this spectrum of reaction. Some of it is highly resilient and quiet and forever like embers, constantly on the burn. Some of it is non-resilient and extremely destructive. And you see all of that, the full spectrum in communities, in urban America. And what is beautiful about women, and authentic, is that in their standing, in their agency, in their voice, is the memory of all of our mothers, nurturance, re-connection. They're not only healing themselves, they're healing the most depressed parts of their communities.

Indigenous peoples are the ancestral memory of this place, they're the relationship translators of every piece of ecology in North America and all over the world. That memory, that voice, that leadership is what we need right now. Where-ever in the world Indigenous peoples are, to affirm themselves from positions of the margins, to take leadership and be authentic, rooted, and relevant, is so important.

It's a repairing on multiple levels. We're going to affirm ourselves, we're going to affirm our relations, and we're going to bring our values, our principles, our wisdom, our myth, our healing to the public space.

So Istanbul blows up, Tunis blows up, Cairo blows up, all of these public movements where people are en masse, a multitude. But it's the Indigenous multitude that is the most potent. Worldwide, there's like a movement of Indigenous peoples to reaffirm our humanity. It's saying: everything is not a dollar bill or currency, everything is not a consumer transaction. Wherever you are, on a reservation or not, the land is valuable. There's no hierarchy on the earth. There are ecosystems, and these exchanges, and they're all beautiful.

For people who are trying to re-Indigenize, and trying to question the social, political, economic order, Idle No More is like a harbinger.

That's not an easy thing to carry. Normally, if you're already marginalized, you have double and triple the amount of weight on you. So I'm very moved by Idle No More. I'm touched. I see it as a wonderful space to be in. It's healthy for us in this moment of economic and environmental crisis. It's beautiful to witness it, to hear drumming, to see round-dances, to hear the voice of women speaking traditional knowledge and memory and living a culture that speaks another language, that speaks of another way of being. We've gotten so far away from our roots.

As the oldest cultures that are place-based and rooted in ecosystem-based knowledge and exchange and reciprocity, that wisdom is like a roadmap. I'm not saying everything is with Indigenous people, but when we're all immigrants and all transplants and all in rootstock, they represent a way of knowing and being in place that we've lost. We pave over the environment to create roads so we can drive, we live in houses instead of in temporary structures, we heat them, we pool them, we place-make them on a human scale, but we never fully, unless we're camping, live in an ecological environment that challenges us to adapt and to be resilient.

So a lot of the abuse on the earth, on the fisheries, on the animals, on crops, on air and water quality, is going to have to be rethought on the basis of the question: what is our relationship to place?
The answer will not come from the elites. The international financial institutions and the United Nations are talking about carbon markets. But everything cannot be commodified. We're pimping the earth, we're externalizing the abuse, we're establishing markets so we can game nature. And the question from Indigenous communities is: "is that right?"

Why should the ecology “service” us? The arrogance, the narcissistic personality complex of humans to even craft a term like "ecological services"! That is just shocking. And we think we get to be the arrogant earth stewards of it all? We engineer water-ways, we are cloud brightening and geo-engineering. Excuse you, jet stream, you're not enough, we're going to value-add on you. Excuse you, mountain range, we're just going to blow you up.

So there's this profound question of integrity and ethics and principles and values afoot. Imagine that. Do you get to make money and abuse ecosystems at the same time? Some are now offering us the "rights of mother earth," led by Bolivia, from the south of the south. That helps us understand that we are a part of creation. We are part of energy exchanges. We're all feasting from the sun's energy. We're all living and breathing and dying in ecology.

To me, the earth is going to win in the end, because nothing trumps nature. Not even us and our arrogance. We're going to find out real quick what passing 400 ppm in the upper atmosphere of methane and carbon means. We're going to discover, particularly in our agricultural systems, on every continent, what climate shift means.

We're going to be billions of people in eco-adaptation strategies. And I don't know if we're all going to make it to those islands of elite eco-resiliency and 1% hoarding. But we're all going to be in trouble.

Now is the time when the women have to rise up. Now is the time when the drum has to be sounded. Now is the time to ask what do your mothers and fathers of generations of old have to say, about us being human and our relationship to everything.

Charity Hicks is the policy fellow for Eat 4 Health Detroit and the policy coordinator of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council. She is a writer, researcher, healer, artist, grower, organizer, cross-pollinator and sits on the board of several local and regional social and environmental justice organizations.

Poem: Idle No More, Youth

Idle No More,
Youth voice,
Youth power,
Youth visibility,
Youth speaking,
Youth listened to,
Youth honored,
Youth uplifted,

Writing,
Drawing,
Sketching,
Doodling,
Dreaming,
Attaining,
Scheming,
Believing,
Realizing,
Achieving,

Dynamic processes,
Achieved,
Through,
The hands,
Heart,
Feet,

Dance,
Sing,
Shout,

Be proud of your culture,
Regalia,
T-shirt,
Native pride,
Show up,
Howeva you wanna be,

Dive,
Deviate,
Retrofit the ill formatted system,

Cut,
Divide,
Shred,
The parts of the system,
That don't fit with decolonizing youth,

Celebrate,
Rejoice,
Empower,
As you build,
Rebuild,
Renew,

Soil,
Touch,
Silence,

Earth,
Peace,
Ancestors,

Sky,
Expansiveness,
Spirit,

Water,
Grandmothers,
Healing,

Idle No More,
Rising,
Standing,
Beautiful,

Idle No More,
Youth,
Voice,
Seventh generation,

Idle No More,
Youth,
Community,
Fierce!

Article - Contaminated culture: Native people struggle with tainted resources, lost identity

Toban Black/flickr. The Anishinaabe people from Aamjiwnaang First Nation are surrounded by heavy industry.
For the Anishinaabe people at the southernmost tip of Lake Huron, cedar is not just a tree – it is sacred. Used in medicines and teas, the tree’s roots, bark and sap have been central to their physical, mental and cultural wellbeing for centuries. “We smudge with it, as singers we inhale it, as a medicine we bathe in it,” said Ron Plain, an Anishinaabe tribe member. But the tribe has abandoned its generations-old tradition. The cedar is tainted with cadmium, a metal linked to cancer and learning disabilities. In this region of Ontario, dubbed “Chemical Valley,” the contamination is part of everyday life for the Anishinaabe. For decades, indigenous people in the United States and Canada have been burdened with health problems linked to environmental pollutants. But that isn’t their only sacrifice: Pollution is crippling some tribes’ culture. Their native foods, water, medicines, language and ceremonies, as well as their traditional techniques of farming, hunting and fishing, have been jeopardized by contaminants and development. And as indigenous people lose these vital aspects of their lives, their identity is lost, too.

By Brian Bienkowski
Staff Writer
Environmental Health News
October 25, 2012

For the Anishinaabe people at the southernmost tip of Lake Huron, cedar is not just a tree – it is sacred. Used in medicines and teas, the tree’s roots, bark and sap have been central to their physical, mental and cultural wellbeing for centuries.

“We smudge with it, as singers we inhale it, as a medicine we bathe in it,” said Ron Plain, an Anishinaabe tribe member and environmental policy analyst at the Southern First Nation Secretariat.

But the tribe has abandoned its generations-old tradition. The cedar is tainted with cadmium, a metal linked to cancer and learning disabilities. In this region of Ontario, dubbed “Chemical Valley,” the contamination is part of everyday life for the Anishinaabe.

For decades, indigenous people in the United States and Canada have been burdened with health problems linked to environmental pollutants. But that isn’t their only sacrifice: Pollution is crippling some tribes’ culture, too.

Their native foods, water, medicines, language and ceremonies, as well as their traditional techniques of farming, hunting and fishing, have been jeopardized by contaminants and development. And as indigenous people lose these vital aspects of their lives, their identity is lost, too.

“Animals have died off or left, the water is no good. This is not the world that we know and rely on,” said Kathy Sanchez, a member of the Tewa Pueblo, a tribe in New Mexico that is living with a legacy of pollution from uranium mining.

“It’s contaminated our culture.”

Continue reading the rest of the article on Intercontinental Cry

Also posted on Keepers of the Water

Article: Groundbreaking Mag Celebrates Native Women; Now in Multiple Platforms for Classrooms

Heading for classrooms soon 
To create Native Daughters magazine, Jordan Pascale, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) journalism student, stepped into a Pine Ridge, South Dakota sweat lodge in the fall of 2009 hoping to figure out a world he longed to understand.

To build the Native Daughters website, Molly Young, another UNL journalism student, drove through a blizzard to film teens in Santee, Nebraska talking about suicide and escaping the reservation.

To build the free curriculum companion for Native Daughters, 14 educators—half of them enrolled tribe members from Native schools—spent a week in the summer of 2011 breaking down the content to make the stories connect to students and teachers both on and off the reservation.

The result was a journalistic, multimedia study of a story that hadn’t been told enough, if at all. The onetime product, Native Daughters—Who they are, where they’ve been and why Indian country could never survive without them, came off the presses and hopped online in the spring of 2011. Now, it needed an audience.

By January 2012, the Nebraska Humanities Council, Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) and UNL’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications had produced a Native Daughters curriculum companion free to all K-12 educators. By February, Native Daughters had sold out its second printing. The sales numbers aren’t as interesting as the people who placed the orders, which came from:

An official at an Ypsilanti, Michigan prison who wanted the magazines to inspire her Native female inmates;

Directors of Indian education programs within Minneapolis, Denver and Portland, Oregon school districts;

A Southern California professor who wanted to feature the magazine in her anthropology class;

The director of the Seattle Indian Health Board, who wanted copies as an educational tool;

The director of the Chickasaw Cultural Center, who wanted magazines to serve as the focus of a weeklong college-credit course.

Read the rest of the article here.