Following the Lead of Indigenous People

I have been thinking about This Changes Everything.1 In the book, Naomi Klein says that “Indigenous land and treaty rights have proved a major barrier for the extractive industries in many of the key Blockadia2 struggles.” And that “even more critically, many non-Natives are also beginning to see that the ways of life that Indigenous groups are protecting have a great deal to teach about how to relate to the land in ways that are not purely extractive.” In the movie, she postulates that everyone (and this includes the folks in RC whom we call people of the global majority) needs to seriously consider following the lead of Indigenous people worldwide when taking on3 environmental activism.

Chicago (Illinois, USA) has one of the largest Native American communities in the country, because it was one of the main cities in the U.S. government’s Relocation Program for Native Americans in the l950s and ’60s—a program to move Native people off the reservations (another assimilation program) and into the city to be trained for industrial jobs in the workforce. Chicago is home to the ironworkers’ union, which many Native men belong to and get trained in. Chicago is also home to one, if not the first, of the Native American Indian Centers in the United States.

There are also large numbers of Native people in New York City. (That Indigenous people are leading the environmental movement was evident at the September 2014 New York City People’s Climate March.) Boston (Massachusetts, USA) also has a large Native American population and an Indian Center, as do the U.S. cities of Oakland and Los Angeles (California), Seattle (Washington), and Portland (Oregon). Milwaukee (Wisconsin) is another large U.S. city with a large Native American population.

None of these cities have large, if any, Native American constituencies in their large RC Communities. It is hard to follow the lead of a people if you do not know who they are or what they think, if you ignore their existence or cannot see the importance their knowledge might have for your continued existence. For example, two Native American tribes near Seattle are purchasing land on higher ground to move their people to because they “know” that the land they currently live on is going under water. (Google Hoh Tribe land purchase.)

When we talk about climate change and care of the environment, we are past the point of being “fair” in a politically correct way. I spoke at a gather-in in Seattle (Washington, USA) to raise money for the RC Sustaining All Life project that was going to Paris for the December 2015 United Nations climate talks. I said that we (the world in general) are way past the point of being “fair,” that folks of various oppressed groups are going to have to discharge on the fact that they are not going to get “their fair share.” We, the human race, are at a point in our history when we need to discharge on the fact that we don’t have the time or the resource to “get our fair share.” That “fairness” would require the continued degradation of the available resource. No one gets their promised land, no one gets reparations, no one gets to have their version of “the American dream” and preserve the environment so that it continues to be habitable for humans. I referenced how in RC family work, parents are told to not give their children the “wanted” cookie but rather have them discharge the disappointment. We are at that point in time when we all need to discharge on the fact that we are not going to get our cookie if we are serious about taking the necessary actions to preserve the environment for the continued existence of the human species.

Marcie Rendon

International Liberation Reference Person for Native Americans

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion listfor leaders in the care of the environment

(Present Time 182, January 2016)

1 A book (This Changes Everything—Capitalism vs. the Climate) by Naomi Klein, and a movie based on the book
2 Blockadia is term for the ways in which regular people, all over the world, are engaging in direct action to stop the extraction and transport of fossil fuels.
3 “Taking on” means undertaking.

Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00