Thursday, June 16, 2016

Native American Rights: Acknowledge the Occupation

Emblem of Ohlone Costanoan-Rumsen-Carmel tribe native
to the land that is now the Monterey/Carmel area of California.

A growing trend is that people in the US who work for the rights of occupied people elsewhere in the world first acknowledge the American occupation.

As we work to #decolonizelutheranism, we need to be explicit about how concrete the colonialism is.

Maybe the "kairos moment" lies in recognizing that we took this land at the point of a gun . . . and nothing will change until we meaningfully repent of that original sin.

Map of Native American tribes in what is now California.
(Source: Costanoan Rumsen Carmel tribe website)
This sank in recently when I attended the Friends of Sabeel NA (FOSNA) conference on the occupation of Palestine, held in Santa Cruz. The proceedings began with a statement recognizing that the very spot we were sitting in had been taken by force from Native American people:

While we are gathered here today to raise awareness about the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine, we need to first acknowledge the genocidal origins of OUR nation’s history of ethnic cleansing and occupation. The very ground that we are now standing on was once the homeland of the Awaswas and Ohlone people, which was ripped away from them by the Spanish conquistadors and used for building missions and settlements. Our nation as a whole however, took part in and was founded upon the ethnic cleansing of countless Native American peoples. To focus solely on Israel as a war criminal complicit in ethnic cleansing would be hypocritical, as we continue to reap material benefits from the slaughter and marginalization of the Awaswas and Ohlone.

This land was not left to us peacefully. It was stolen. It was expropriated. As we are clearly not the rightful inhabitants of this land, it would do us well to shed our sense of entitlement. We need to realize that we are an intrinsic part of this process of genocide and until we act to concretely and directly abolish it here, our actions to bring justice in occupied Palestine are hypocritical and reflective of our underlying white supremacist attitudes.

This wasn't the first time I had attended an event that began with this recognition -- for instance, I remember similar statements at an anti-drones conference, a conference on police crimes, and the installation of a UCC leader -- but perhaps because I am new to this place, I paid close attention.

I would encourage everyone who welcomes this recognition to go the next step: take a minute now to go online and learn about the people who lived in the place you now occupy, back before someone came and took over. Do you know the names of the original occupants of the land you now claim as "your" home?

Related posts

How do you observe Indigenous Peoples Day?

(See Reflections on Indigenous Peoples Day 2015)

"Missa dos Quilombos" asked for forgiveness and sought healing for the legacy of slavery in Brazil. Dom Helder celebrated the Quilombo Mass. He said: "Mariama [Mother Mary], we aren't here to ask that today's slaves be tomorrow's slave masters. Enough of slaves! Enough of masters! We want liberty!" The beating of the drums was overpowering, they exploded like the screams of our souls!

(See Hélder Câmara and Liberation Theology 101: Where? When? Why? Who? )

Sun Raid is a searing reminder that people in the US have always been happy to welcome immigrants to help make their businesses profitable and make sure they had cheap stuff and cheap labor . . . . but how dare they expect to be treated like people!

(See WELCOME MAT USA: Come in! Come in! (Get out! Get out!))

Can there be any more clear illustration than the one at left to remind us that the work of the Church is liberation?

(See Christian "Church"? How about Christian "Liberation Organization"? )