Draft Liberation Policy for Indigenous People

      by Marcie Rendon,
International Liberation Reference Person for Native Americans

Fall 2009

This draft policy is a liberation policy to reclaim ourselves and our languages, to re-examine and reclaim the best of Indigenous thinking, and to reconnect with our land base. It is a liberation policy to clear our minds from the thoughts and recordings of the oppressor—to decolonize our minds. It is a policy to honor our processes of living and healing. It is about bringing our people home and giving people permission to be home in our minds and in our bodies. Sharing that sense of what it means to “be home” with the people of the world is liberation. Liberation is about becoming more ourselves as human beings. The more we are ourselves, the less we live in fear; the more we are present in the here and now, the better we are able to think about ourselves and everybody from that place of personal sovereignty.

Indigenous people have a historical connection to a specific land base with a world view that says we were created at or near that land base. We belong to distinct tribal groups with languages, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs that are integrated into and inseparable from daily life.

Historically, we had highly developed and intricate kinship systems, which explained whom you belonged to in the group and your role in respect to others in the tribe. A common characteristic of Indigenous groups is a value placed on interdependence. Bands, clans, families, and individuals within a tribal group have an understanding of working for the good of the whole.

Indigenous people developed ways of listening to each other. Communication strategies evolved for the collective negotiating of conflict between humans, strategies that in recent history were copied by democratic world governments. A value of being in balance with all of creation, the practice of gentleness and compassion, and the use of humor are central to Indigenous cultures. Individually and collectively, Indigenous people continue to practice complex ceremonies for healing that have been helpful to our people.

Indigenous people on every continent share characteristics that are identifiable to themselves and to other people around them. We have not vanished. We have survived and increased in numbers. In many instances, our rich cultures, languages, and spiritual practices were forbidden and destroyed. Many of our peoples were driven from their homelands and often imprisoned in bleak and unfavorable surroundings. Despite policies of genocide, we survive.

Today we are making our voices heard in the international world community, reclaiming our lands, languages, kinship systems, family members, and the best of our spiritual and healing traditions that for years were hidden from oppressive outside forces.

In The Americas

As Indigenous people in the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities, we recognize the opportunity which has allowed us to develop thinking and counseling strategies, which we offer here to our Indigenous family around the world so that people may recover from the effects of genocide and so that all of us can take our rightful place as leaders of humanity.

People with oppressor patterns came to the Americas with systematized ways of destroying the human spirit: torture, separation of family, a belief system that said that humans were property, wives and children included. These policies of cultural, physical, and spiritual genocide had been used on tribal peoples on other continents before coming to the Americas. Indigenous peoples were totally unprepared for the set of patterns coming at them.

Today, from the Arctic Circle to the tip of South America we have Indigenous people who, because of geographical isolation, have been able to maintain distinct languages, cultures, and spiritual beliefs. The most remote of these tribes are just now on the edges of contact with non-Indigenous people.

Other tribal groups were forced to become fluent in another language, to adopt another religion, and to assimilate into non-Native cultures through institutions such as missions, boarding schools, relocation programs, forced adoption, foster care programs, and the reservation system. Despite these policies of genocide, many tribal peoples were able to maintain ways of thinking and ways of behaving that are recognizably tribal or Indigenous in nature. Within Co-Counseling, we are deciding at this point to call these people Native people raised with Native patterns.

We also have other distinct groups of Native people in the Americas. We have Natives raised with white patterns, Natives raised with African American patterns, Natives raised with Asian American patterns, and Natives raised with other national identities (Puerto Rican, El Salvadorian, Jamaican). Many Indigenous tribes faced genocide by Spain and Portugal in the lands that are now called the Southwest of the United States, Central America, and South America. In the face of horrendous genocidal acts and campaigns of terror, Indigenous peoples took on numerous identities in order to survive—Hispanic, Latino, Chicano/a, El Salvadorian, Mexican American, Argentinean, mestizo or mestiza—and went quiet about being Native.

Additionally, we have a number of Native people of the Americas who maintain their tribal identities while living in other countries.

In Re-evaluation Counseling we are developing policies and counseling strategies to recognize and welcome all our people home.

Strengths that Indigenous People Have to Offer the World

1) We recognize our interdependence and connection to the earth and all other living beings. We have models we can share of environmentally stable, sustainable, and caring lifestyles.

2) We recognize that sovereignty is the inherent status of each human. This recognition of individual sovereignty has meant that many of us have been able to live lives of courage and integrity in the face of intense oppression. Sovereignty is something that cannot be taken, given, reclaimed, or granted. It is a condition of humanness that simply exists.

Many of us have been able to maintain a sovereign perspective, and therefore are not deeply confused by the framework of the oppression. One example of this perspective was voiced by Muskogee-Creek elder Phillip Deere: “You say they took the land. Look around you, where did the land go?”

3) All our children are our children. We are not easily confused by policies of oppression that would have us believe that our children are not our children because of blood-quantum, skin color, or other made-up definitions of human identity.

4) We recognize each human’s individuality, free will, full responsibility in actions, and ability to act with full intelligence.

5) Our highly-developed kinship systems, when intact, enable each of us to belong, never having to question our place on this earth or our connectedness to a people.

6) We know the sureness of human spirit that comes from having an ancestral, spiritual connection to a homeland that we are still connected to. It is our intention to help all humans reclaim their connection to the earth.

  1. What Are the Common Oppressions
    and Key Hurts Facing Indigenous Peoples?

Genocide

The common oppression that Indigenous peoples face is genocide. Genocide consists of a set of programs and policies that attempt to eliminate a group of people for the purpose of the acquisition and accumulation of desired resources. Genocide is about killing people and peoples. Government policies of genocide include but are not limited to instituting policies of blood quantum, denying Native status to those who marry non-Natives and their children, assimilation, acculturation, and denying enrollment status to adopted children.

An Indigenous person’s connection to land and its resources are the conditions that cause them to be targeted by genocide. This is not to say that darker-skinned Indigenous people do not get targeted by racism; however, if racism ended tomorrow, oppressive groups, in their pursuit of resources, would still target Indigenous people with genocide. Many of the Indigenous people around the world who are targeted by genocide are of the same race as the oppressor group.

Other significant hurts include the following:

“Mental Health” Oppression and Religious Indoctrination

“Mental health” oppression and religious indoctrination are major policies of genocide. Indigenous peoples are often labeled as less-than-human, savage, warlike, and “crazy.” In the l800s many of our spiritual leaders in the United States were incarcerated in “mental institutions” as social anthropologists and Western religious leaders labeled our people as suffering from “mental illness” because they practiced traditional ways of healing.

Non-Native people were afraid of and did not understand our way of life. They instilled their deep fear of our traditional spiritual perspectives into our people at boarding schools and through intense Christian indoctrination. In many tribal communities today our people are afraid of the ancient songs, the drums, and participation in our tribal ceremonies. For some of our people, connection to traditional Indigenous practices or leaders is considered suspect and something to be avoided because it carries the risk of being labeled “crazy.”

We also get labeled as “crazy” or feel “crazy” because of the ways we have been hurt and have yet to heal. Our grandparents and great-grandparents were massacred, barely survived war, forced on death marches, separated from their families, and forced into assimilation at boarding schools. Many of us survived non-Native foster homes and adoptive families where we were treated as less than human and told to forget who our families are. Many of our ancestors were wiped out by diseases which we had no resistance to. Some have direct recordings of these hurts and others carry recordings that have been passed from one generation to the next. The symptoms of this internalized genocide get labeled as “mental health” “disorders” to be dealt with through drugs and incarceration in prisons or “mental institutions.”

Alcohol, Tobacco, and other Drugs

Alcohol was introduced into Indigenous communities to cloud our intelligence and take our land. Alcohol and other drugs are used today to continue the oppression of Indigenous peoples.

As a plant indigenous to the Americas, tobacco was used ceremonially throughout our lands. This plant has been altered in recent times and turned into a source of addiction as a tool for oppression. Letting go of our addiction to modern tobacco is vital to our reclaiming our clear thinking and power.

Our bodies cannot healthily assimilate the alcohol, sugar, drugs, and high-carbohydrate diet that are in our communities today. Caffeine, pharmaceuticals, and other drugs are misused as a replacement for earlier forms of healing that were disrupted by oppression. These substances can look like a way to escape the hurts, but they are actually tools of genocide. Our people are labeled as the problem rather than the alcohol, food, or drugs being understood as the problem.

Incarceration in the Prison System

Record numbers of Native men and women are incarcerated. This is a continuation of the family disruption from war, removal, and boarding away of family members. Because many tribes in the United States do not fall under state jurisdiction, Native people serve longer sentences in federal prisons than they would serve if sentenced under state law for a similar crime. We serve longer time in harsher conditions than most other groups.

War, Warriors, and the Military

Native people are survivors of war and have recordings and patterns similar to war survivors around the world. One survival strategy following the Indian wars in the Americas was to take on the warrior identity. Native men and women have gone to war in record numbers. Tribal nations have asserted their sovereignty by going to war as allies of the United States.

Loss of Language

Indigenous people of North and South America were forced to adopt languages other than their own. Methods of forced assimilation and acculturation are used on Indigenous peoples in many parts of the world. While it is true that some languages have completely disappeared, it is also true that many elders remembered the languages and are now passing them on to future generations. Across the Americas, we have taken charge of the revitalization of our languages for future generations.

Forced Loss of Tribal Family Structures

Tribal groups had clearly-defined familial structures that insured the continuation of the people and described specific roles for individuals or clans such as healers, visionaries, storytellers, and midwives in the community. These clan systems, totems, or familial groups determined one’s place in the context of the larger group. Before contact we did not have orphanages, prisons, old people’s homes, homelessness, or large inequalities in the distribution of resources.

On contact, our tribal structures were systematically destroyed. At the boarding schools, children from many tribes and different languages were all placed in large dormitories. The breakdown of ancient familial clan structures was set in motion. According to Indigenous codes of conduct certain clans cannot hunt or trap certain animals. The Canadian Hudson Bay Company needed experienced hunters and trappers to insure their number-one standing in the upper continent. The company lobbied the Canadian government to place young males in boarding school situations where clans would be mixed together so that the young people would forget the teachings of their clan and be available for hunting and trapping all animals. Further destruction of familial and tribal connections happened through forced fostering and adoption, and indoctrination into non-Native religions.

The disruption of our families is an important genocidal policy. This disruption includes sexual abuse and physical abuse in residential schools and foster/adoptive care, forced sterilization of Native women, and the breaking of ties between children and their families through the introduction of oppressive recordings from the outside that asserted that children and partners are disposable.

Native people have resisted the forced loss of tribal family structures by taking control of our reproductive rights, asserting our rights to have children with people outside of our tribes and know that they are still our children and members of our tribe, welcoming home adoptees and those fostered out, fighting legally the massive removal of our children, and working to heal the hurts that have broken up our families and made parenting and relationships difficult.

forced loss of tribalLands and Resources

Tribal lands have been systematically taken away or downsized. Policies were imposed such as the forced removal from our traditional homelands to strange new lands, and the ending of communal ownership and transition to private ownership of land. The Indian Reorganization Act of l934 in the United States instituted non-familiar forms of governance in place of traditional tribal forms.

In the United States tribes and tribal projects are buying lands back and working through the courts to settle land claims, asserting their rights to their traditional homelands and resources. In 1992, in the largest Canadian First Nations land claim settlement, the homelands of the Inuit of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, became a distinct Canadian province. In Bolivia, Indigenous people organized when Bechtel and Suez multinational corporations tried to privatize water and successfully forced them out of the country. They also successfully mobilized to elect an Indigenous president.

III. The Program for the Liberation of Indigenous Peoples

Our liberation program involves using the practice of Co-Counseling to completely reclaim our full and flexible intelligence and the unlimited potential of our creativity, compassion, and joy of living. We are confident we can heal completely from the hurts of oppression and genocide. We commit to using the practice of Re-evaluation Counseling to think in new ways to model a more human reality and way of being for all peoples. We recognize this powerful sovereign stance as our inherent birthright.

We understand the importance of distinct groups being able to maintain their own languages, and cultural beliefs, and practices. One goal of Indigenous liberation in Re-evaluation Counseling is to support the flourishing of these distinct tribal groups, cultures, and languages.

Discharging on Coming Home

Tribal peoples who have been removed, relocated, and forced to abandon their tribal heritage, identity, land, and tribal base will be able to discharge the ways they have been hurt, indoctrinated, and terrorized into forgetting or denying who they are so they can return home physically, spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. They will be given the opportunity to reclaim knowing the value of their existence and achieve a clear connection to a land base and to the people from that land base.

Discharging on Spirituality and Religion

Our liberation will respect and honor all of our peoples’ religious beliefs. Some of our people are Catholic and Protestant, from all the various denominations. Some of us are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, atheist. Some of us hold to or are reclaiming traditional tribal belief systems. It is not our position to change anyone’s religious beliefs. As Co-Counselors we will assist in the discharge of any hurts installed through religious oppression.

Within Native liberation we have a firm policy of no ceremony at workshops, along with a firm policy of respecting each person’s right to practice, in their private life, the religion of their choosing. No religion or belief system is our enemy, nor “the only way.” We need to create safety for all of us to heal fully so we can think in new ways about any religious or spiritual practices we have been exposed to or practice in our lives.

Our liberation includes discharging the effects of religions forced upon us. We will discharge all indoctrination to insure that our ceremonies are good for our people and are rooted in our cultures. We recognize that oppressor patterns and recordings of forced religious indoctrination have become so embedded through forced acculturation that they can even get passed on at a ceremonial level. We get to determine, through discharge, what is good and human—in our traditional spirituality, or with any religious practice that we took on, adapted, or practice now.

Religious and spiritual practices can bring in resource, healing, education, and community connectedness. People often have good feelings associated with the symbols, holidays, ceremonies, and rituals of a particular spiritual practice. These can also be used to install community standards and keep people’s behavior in line with those community standards. Many of us have attached to our belief systems a mix of terror (I am bad, I’ll get struck by lightning, I’ll go to hell) and good feelings (If I believe I am saved, the Creator loves me, it’s all going to be okay if I just do what they say). In RC, we get to remember that installed recordings pull at our attention and exist as rigid recordings, and our goal is to discharge all recordings to arrive at our own best thinking.

Discharging the effects of Alcohol, Tobacco, and other Drugs

We need to not participate in our own genocide or to use the tools of genocide in our communities or with our families. When discharging about addictions, we can make a decision, take action, and discharge later.

Discharging on War, Warriors, and the Military

Co-Counseling can be a place for us to discharge the historical hurts related to the armed conflicts our ancestors engaged in, as well as a place to discharge distress recordings from current wars. Warrior identity and recordings of patriotism can be discharged and re-evaluated. We can gain attention to listen to the war stories of our veterans. Military training is brutal, rigorous, and repetitive, and it uses group control to prepare men and women to kill. This can be discharged, and intelligent flexibility regained.

Discharging on Women’s Oppression for Native Women

We are female first, and then other identities are layered on. We can become familiar with Re-evaluation Counseling’s Draft Liberation Policy for Women. We need to discharge on how Native women are desexualized or eroticized, how as women we have been viewed by non-Native people as beasts of burden, how our families have been destroyed, how in the face of such tremendous oppression many of us have given up being soft and nurturing in favor of a warrior-like stance, and how many of us have not had the opportunity to enjoy some aspects of being female because we have had to be the strength for our communities and families. We can discharge the sexual abuse and domestic abuse we have endured or perpetuated.

Discharging on Men’s Oppression for Native Men

We are male first, and then other identities are layered on. We can become familiar with Re-evaluation Counseling’s Draft Liberation Policy for Men. We can discharge on how the disruption of our way of life left us without our traditional roles as peacemakers, providers, protectors, healers, and visionaries for our families and tribes, how in the face of tremendous oppression we saw our families taken from us, our children brutalized, and our minds dulled with alcohol, sorrow, and un-discharged rage. We have fought in wars, domestic and foreign. We can discharge hurts we have endured or perpetuated. We can discharge the sexual abuse and domestic abuse we have endured or perpetuated.

Discharging on the Oppression of Young
People So That All Indigenous Adults Can Be
Excellent Allies in our Families and Communities

Our cultures raised children with respect. We allowed children space to be young and to explore and learn in human ways. We recognized them as members of our communities and encouraged them to contribute at levels that were appropriate to their ages and development. Western religious beliefs conflicted with our ways of raising children, as they asserted punishment was a key way to raise children, and this mistreatment of children was installed by missionaries and others.

The removal of children to residential schools meant generations grew up without parents and without a chance to learn parenting skills. Children there were routinely mistreated. With discharge and re-evaluation we can stop passing the mistreatment down to new generations. In RC we can learn about the needs of children and develop ourselves as parents. We can reclaim raising our children with respect, gentleness, humor, and joy. We can become expert counselors for young people, from birth through adulthood.

As we discharge how we were hurt as children, we will be better able to think about young people in our communities and pass on fewer of the intergenerational hurts that plague Indigenous communities. We will become their best allies.

Discharging About the Prison System

The prison system dehumanizes and demeans a person for an extended period. It forces humans to either be idle for years or to engage in unpaid slave labor. It institutes a culture of oppression, isolation, and sexual dysfunction. It affects the families of those who are imprisoned. Any person who has been imprisoned can use Co-Counseling to discharge the inhumanities survived while incarcerated. It is also necessary for each person to be willing to discharge any patterns that may have initiated the original reason for incarceration, so that we can build strong, caring relationships of integrity in our lives in the present. All of us need to discharge recordings that it is somehow normal or inevitable that many of our people will end up in prison—and fight to change this.

Discharging on Sexual Issues

Sexual abuse was rampant in boarding schools and foster care, and used in the breaking of ties between children and their families. For our liberation, we must counsel boldly in the direction of deciding to maintain the integrity of our relationships and discharge anything that is in the way of sexual integrity with those we love.

 

Discharging On Reclaiming our Tribal Lands and Tribal Codes

The United States and Canadian governments imposed the tribal governments that operate currently. They are not our original traditional governments. We can use the discharge process to reclaim our best thinking and recreate or create tribal sets of guidelines and principled ways of interacting that are based on self-determination and sovereignty.

Discharging on Reclaiming ourLanguages

Adults who spoke our original language parented many of us. This is important in Co-Counseling when we work on our early memories. Many of these early memories include the language of our ancestors. We can have sessions using whatever words of our first language we remember. We can also use our sessions to reclaim our language so we can regain our feeling of belonging and heal any ways we feel distant from our people.

Healing from Internalized Genocide

We can end the internalized genocide recordings that we have all died, no longer exist, should be dead, are invisible, or are pretending to be alive, and that there are no real Indians left. There are no living victims of genocide.

Genocide recordings affect the lives of all Indigenous people daily as we struggle to connect in our families and communities. They make it hard for us to take care of each other and ourselves. They make it hard for us to lead and to back our leaders well. Recordings of “I’m going to die,” “I should kill myself,” “I don’t exist,” “I’m going to pretend you are dead if I am mad at you,” “I want to kill,” and “We are all dead” are literal internalized recordings that lead to suicide, violence toward our own people, drug and alcohol addiction, and patterns that destroy us and our communities.

We are becoming expert counselors on internalized genocide. We can consistently and persistently free our minds from the installation of recordings that impede our survival and flourishing. As we discharge these recordings, they will no longer run our lives. We will know we are fully alive, will choose life, and will act powerfully for our liberation.

Becoming Experts on Oppressor Patterns

Our liberation requires we become expert counselors on oppressor patterns. We will not remain powerless in the face of oppression. We will ask ourselves how we can be the best allies possible to all other groups. Rather than wait for others to figure out how to be our allies, we will commit to discharging our individual oppressor patterns; to discharging the identities we have assimilated in order to survive that carry oppressor patterns; and to acquiring the necessary skills to both effectively interrupt oppressor patterns and actions and to assist everyone to completely discharge their oppressor patterns.

Our people have made many heroic attempts to reach the humanness in others in the face of oppression. Native people welcomed people to our shores, sharing knowledge and skills and teaching newcomers to survive. When we were attacked, we tried fleeing and hiding, killing people and defending the lands, negotiating and creating treaties that were later violated, and assimilating and taking on the identity of the oppressor. What our ancestors lacked at that time in history was the knowledge of how to effectively interrupt and counsel people on oppressor patterns. We commit to learning to help ourselves and others discharge early and deeply on the oppressor patterns we have all internalized.

Healing Fully and Leading Humanity

Even though the oppression we face is intense and horrific, we have experienced it for just a short amount of time compared with how long our people have thrived on this planet. As we discharge the effects of the oppression, reclaiming our full intelligence and full humanness, we will play a key role in leading the rest of humanity back to a more human way of life.

Indigenous people understood interdependence and connection to the land. We did well in our use of natural resources and accumulation of needed necessities, without creating societies and economies based on over-consumption and over-populating. Decisions were made according to the best interests of the group. This is knowledge we can draw on and share during this critical period of human history.

Most, if not all, tribal belief systems do not see human beings or the creation as fundamentally bad or dangerous. We are in the perfect position to hold out that all humans are fundamentally benign and tremendously significant.

  1. What Do We Need from Our Allies?

We need our allies grounded in their own goodness, and from that place to fully and clearly back Indigenous liberation. Our allies need to learn their history, discharge about what they learn, and get to know and love their own people. We need to have our allies to learn our history, discharge about what they learn, and get to know us as people.

Genocide is a foundational, continuous hurt for all peoples of the Americas, whether their ancestors have been here from the beginning or have immigrated later to this continent. It is a silent, occluded hurt for many, and an ever-present daily struggle for others. It impedes our picture of reality and our ability to think well. Allies need to discharge on the fact that all of the nations in the Americas, except for sovereign tribal nations, were built on and benefit from genocide.

As allies discharge consistently on genocide and oppressor patterns, they will develop attention to think well in this area, becoming expert counselors for us, counseling us with strength, compassion, and humor, and fighting with us to free us from internalized genocide.

Allies need to back sovereignty and self-determination. They will not do our thinking for us and cannot impose their thinking on us. That said, they should never give up their own best thinking and should strive to become excellent counselors for us.

All of our people are all our people. We get to claim and fully embrace everyone who is Indigenous. Indigenous communities are the ones to determine who our people are, not government agencies or formulas such as blood quantum or policies of genocide. Government concepts rooted in genocide deserve no respect from our allies or ourselves.          

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                             


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