For a Future that Won’t Destroy Life on Earth, Look to the Global Indigenous Uprising

Picture: Melina Laboucan Massimo (C)

Picture: Melina Laboucan Massimo (C)

Kristin Moe writes at YES! Magazine:

There’s a remote part of northern Alberta where the Lubicon Cree have lived, it is said, since time immemorial. The Cree called the vast, pine-covered region niyanan askiy, “our land.” When white settlers first carved up this country, they made treaties with most of its original inhabitants—but for reasons unclear, the Lubicon Cree were left out. Two hundred years later, the Lubicon’s right to their traditional territory is still unrecognized. In the last four decades, industry has tapped the vast resource wealth that lies deep beneath the pines; today, 2,600 oil and gas wells stretch to the horizon. This is tar sands country.

In 2012 testimony before the U.S. Congress, Lubicon Cree organizer Melina Laboucan-Massimo, then 30, described witnessing the devastation of her family’s ancestral land caused by one of the largest oil spills in Alberta’s history. “What I saw was a landscape forever changed by oil that had consumed a vast stretch of the traditional territory where my family had hunted, trapped, and picked berries and medicines for generations.”

“When we’re at home, we feel really isolated,” says Laboucan-Massimo, who has spent her adult life defending her people’s land from an industry that has rendered it increasingly polluted and impoverished. The Lubicon are fighting a hard battle, but their story—of resource extraction, of poverty and isolation, and of enduring resistance—is one that echoes in indigenous communities around the world. Today, Laboucan-Massimo and others like her are vanguards of a network of indigenous movements that is increasingly global, relevant—and powerful.

This power manifests in movements like Idle No More, which swept Canada last December and ignited a wave of solidarity on nearly every continent. Laboucan-Massimo was amazed—and hopeful. Triggered initially by legislation that eroded treaty rights and removed protection for almost all of Canada’s rivers—clearing the way for unprecedented fossil fuel extraction—Idle No More drew thousands into the streets. In a curious blend of ancient and high-tech, images of indigenous protesters in traditional regalia popped up on news feeds all over the world.

A history of resistance

To outsiders, it might seem that Idle No More materialized spontaneously, that it sprang into being fully formed. It builds, however, on a long history of resistance to colonialism that began when Europeans first washed up on these shores. Now, armed with Twitter and Facebook, once-isolated movements from Canada to South America are exchanging knowledge, resources, and support like never before.

Idle No More is one of what Subcomandante Marcos, the masked prophet of the Mexican Zapatistas, called “pockets of resistance,” which are “as numerous as the forms of resistance themselves.” The Zapatistas are part of a wave of indigenous organizing that crested in South America in the 1990s, coinciding with the 500th anniversary of European conquest—most effectively in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Mexico. Certain threads connect what might otherwise be isolated uprisings: They’re largely nonviolent, structurally decentralized, they seek common cause with non-natives, and they are deeply, spiritually rooted in the land.

The connections among indigenous organizers have strengthened through both a shared colonial history and a shared threat—namely, the neoliberal economic policies of deregulation, privatization, and social spending cuts exemplified by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization. Indigenous organizers see these agreements as nothing more than the old colonial scramble for wealth at the expense of the natives. In a 1997 piece in Le Monde Diplomatique, Marcos called neoliberalism “the totalitarian extension of the logic of the finance markets to all aspects of life,” resulting in “the exclusion of all persons who are of no use to the new economy.” Many indigenous leaders charge that the policies implemented through organizations like the World Bank and the IMF prioritize corporations over communities and further concentrate power in the hands of a few.

Read more here.

10 Comments on "For a Future that Won’t Destroy Life on Earth, Look to the Global Indigenous Uprising"

  1. Jin The Ninja | May 31, 2013 at 2:07 pm |

    loving this article, thanks for posting.

  2. BuzzCoastin | May 31, 2013 at 8:20 pm |

    fighting the pigs on their own terms doesn’t work

    the tragic genocide and continued oppression
    of North America’s prior inhabitants is a long, sad story
    that continues on even til today
    model pockets of resistance
    that have worked for several hundred years now
    are the Amish & Mennonites

    beyond those two groups
    living within but not of society
    there are many smaller secular versions

    when the industrial food & consumer systems breaks down
    they’ll be better prepared than most

    • Anarchy Pony | Jun 1, 2013 at 1:18 am |

      Fortunately, they don’t occupy land coveted by extraction industries.

      • BuzzCoastin | Jun 1, 2013 at 2:45 am |

        that and
        they’re mostly of white German stock
        Bible believing Christians
        nonpartisan and more or less law-abiding citizens

        if they were only into consumer goods
        they’d be perfect aMerkins

    • Bluebird_of_Fastidiousness | Jun 1, 2013 at 1:28 am |

      In terms of the continuity of one’s intentional community, it helps to be white.

      The Amish will certainly be accustom to crushing poverty. That’s gonna be really hard for a lot of people, especially the ones that have never labored an honest day’s sweat out. I think most of those making that hard transition will go utterly insane. Of course, I mean more utterly insane than now.

      I keep trying to come up with a way to distinguish how we will see the break, and I’ve come to realize that time has largely passed.

      • BuzzCoastin | Jun 1, 2013 at 2:36 am |

        I don’t anticipate a big melt down
        that’s too Hollywood, only acts of god wipe the slate clean
        more likely it will peter-out like Rome
        and then morph till a Natural disaster sets things right

        yes, white is somehow the magic color worldwide
        I’m continually aware of this peculiar privilege
        that and the Blue Passport
        are pretty close to get outa jail free cards
        (void if you’re fuckin wid DaMan, YMMV)

        911 seems a good a break-point as any
        it won’t be a mass conversion
        it will be people choosing to be outcasts, a few at a time
        and a linking of outcasts
        hiding within the chaos
        I conjecture

        > The Amish will certainly be accustom to crushing poverty.
        the Amish aren’t poor, they’re just not modern
        which people think of as poor
        but they’re an almost self-sufficient community
        that could well adapt to anything short of a climate disaster

        • Bluebird_of_Fastidiousness | Jun 1, 2013 at 9:51 am |

          Due to an amalgamation of our brief mortal iterations, encultured disdain for historical honesty, and our ontological bias for present conditions, most people don’t realize the big melt down has already happened and is upon us. It seems slow when viewed day to day. But I think we largely agree on these things.

          The Mennonites that I meet here in the Midwest are what I consider poor. It’s not the lack of dishwashers, but the malnourishment I see in children I have met and the manual labor. I still think they’re better off in the long run.

          • I had a job which involved a good deal of manual labor, but the weights weren’t back breaking and the pace wasn’t rushed. Under those circumstances there are both physical and psychological benefits.

          • BuzzCoastin | Jun 1, 2013 at 7:16 pm |

            things are worse in the Midwest than I thought
            malnourished farmers is understandable
            but I didn’t think it had sunk to Mennonite levels already

Comments are closed.