OCCUPY WALL STREET: The Game of Colonialism and further nationalism to be decolonized from the “Left”

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

Decolonization, the Game
The “OCCUPY WALL STREET” slogan has gone viral and international now.  From the protests on the streets of WALL STREET in the name of “ending capitalism” – organizers, protestors, and activists have been encouraged to “occupy” different places that symbolize greed and power.  There’s just one problem: THE UNITED STATES IS ALREADY BEING OCCUPIED. THIS IS INDIGENOUS LAND. And it’s been occupied for quite some time now.

I also need to mention that New York City is Haudenosaunee territory and home to many other First Nations. Waiting to see if that’s been mentioned anywhere. (Author’s note: Manhattan “proper” is home to to the Lenape who were defrauded of the island by the Dutch in 1626 – see more from Tequila Sovereign).

Not that I’m surprised that this was a misstep in organizing against Wall Street or really any organizing that happens when the “left” decides that it’s going to “take back America for the people” (which people?!). This is part of a much larger issue, and in fact there is so much nationalistic, patriotic language of imperialism wrapped up in these types of campaigns that it’s no wonder people can’t see the erasure of existence of the First Peoples of THIS territory that happens when we get all high and mighty with the pro-America agendas, and forget our OWN complicity and accountability to the way things are today – not just the corporations and the state.

Let me be clear. I’m not against ending capitalism and I’m not against people organizing to hold big corporations accountable for the extreme damage they are causing.  Yes, we need to end globalization. What I am saying is that I have all kinds of problems when to get to “ending capitalism” we step on other people’s rights – and in this case erode Indigenous rights – to make the point. I’m not saying people did it intentionally but that doesn’t even matter – good intentions are not enough and good intentions obviously can have adverse affects. This is such a played out old record too, walking on other people’s backs to get to a mystical land of equity.  Is it really just and equitable when specific people continue to be oppressed to get there? And it doesn’t have to be done! We don’t need more occupation – we need decolonization and it’s everyone’s responsibility to participate in that because COLONIALISM AFFECTS EVERYONE. EVERYONE! Colonialism also leads to capitalism, globalization, and industrialization. How can we truly end capitalism without ending colonialism? How does doing things in the name of “America” which was created by the imposition of hierarchies of class, race, ability, gender, and sexuality help that?

I can’t get on board with the nationalism of  an “American” (or now “Canadian!”) revolution – I just can’t.  There has been too much genocide and violence for the United States and Canada to be founded and to continue to exist as nation states.  I think John Paul Montano, Anishnaabe writer captured it quite well in his “Open Letter to Occupy Wall Street Activists”:

I hope you would make mention of the fact that the very land upon which you are protesting does not belong to you – that you are guests upon that stolen indigenous land. I had hoped mention would be made of the indigenous nation whose land that is. I had hoped that you would address the centuries-long history that we indigenous peoples of this continent have endured being subject to the countless ‘-isms’ of do-gooders claiming to be building a “more just society,” a “better world,” a “land of freedom” on top of our indigenous societies, on our indigenous lands, while destroying and/or ignoring our ways of life. I had hoped that you would acknowledge that, since you are settlers on indigenous land, you need and want our indigenous consent to your building anything on our land – never mind an entire society.

I will leave you with this new art piece from Erin Konsmo (also pictured above), our fabulous intern at The Native Youth Sexual Health Network she created on “OCCUPY: THE GAME OF COLONIALISM”.  Hopefully you get the picture now.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=571478701 Ashley Tien

    Since there’s been mention in the comments about what would be a good revision of the name, I’ve been thinking about other movements in the United States. I agree that there are problems with the term “Occupy” but what is a term that has the meaning which we want in a positive light. That brought to mind ‘reclaim’. We reclaimed terms historically with movements such as ‘queer’, ‘Asian American’ etc … Reclaiming Wall Street, or Reclaiming America for her people. 

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  • Citlalmina

    Thank you for writing this. As an Indigenous woman I find it very hard to join the “occupation” of a corporation, when our lands have been occupied for 519 years. More so, bothersome, seeing so many white people talk about occupation when they themselves have been occupying our lands for centuries. There will be no justice on this land until the process of decolonization begins. From the cleaning of Eurocentrism in our schools, to the transission of political power to us, the Indigenous, Nican Tlaca people. We in the Mexica Movement have been fighting colonialism and the continuing occupation of our lands and our humanity for decades! http://www.mexica-movement.org

  • Citlalmina

    Thank you for writing this. As an Indigenous woman I find it very hard to join the “occupation” of a corporation, when our lands have been occupied for 519 years. More so, bothersome, seeing so many white people talk about occupation when they themselves have been occupying our lands for centuries. There will be no justice on this land until the process of decolonization begins. From the cleaning of Eurocentrism in our schools, to the transission of political power to us, the Indigenous, Nican Tlaca people. We in the Mexica Movement have been fighting colonialism and the continuing occupation of our lands and our humanity for decades! http://www.mexica-movement.org

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  • Terrorama10

    Ok, what’s really irritating me right now is this bullshit:http://s3.amazonaws.com/data.tumblr.com/tumblr_lsfbczNElv1qh4zx1o1_1280.jpg?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ6IHWSU3BX3X7X3Q&Expires=1318045316&Signature=qHLxLEEVBhAGPmcNWSSlsPi%2FYuk%3DNow, I’m excited this takes the North American settler states and their ongoing colonization one serious step further into the mainstream mind. But if you fuck up the google search required to find out that New York is Lenape traditional territory and Algonquin traditional territory is on the Ottawa River watershed in Eastern Canada, five hundred kilometers north, you’re doing an incredible disservice to the indigenous nation that is fighting against so many odds for survival. So I email the artist because I feel it’s important if this viral shit’s going to bring the poster around the world, to be factually accurate, for the Lenape’s sake. Having done indigenous solidarity activist work (with Algonquins, incidentally) the most important thing to keep in mind is that you must take leadership from the community members, but there is no solidarity going on here, it’s just some Shepard Fairey wannabe with a rasterized photo of Sitting Bull and when I emailed him he told me that, the Lenape are the “elders” of the Algonquins. Clear he hasn’t spoken to members of either nation. I wouldn’t care except this misinformation could catch on like wildfire. So, hey, LN, how the fuck do I get this before it becomes a chant on Wall Street and inadvertently, ignorantly, well-meaningly, further erases the Lenape First Nation? 

  • Terrorama10

    Ok, what’s really irritating me right now is this bullshit:http://s3.amazonaws.com/data.tumblr.com/tumblr_lsfbczNElv1qh4zx1o1_1280.jpg?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ6IHWSU3BX3X7X3Q&Expires=1318045316&Signature=qHLxLEEVBhAGPmcNWSSlsPi%2FYuk%3DNow, I’m excited this takes the North American settler states and their ongoing colonization one serious step further into the mainstream mind. But if you fuck up the google search required to find out that New York is Lenape traditional territory and Algonquin traditional territory is on the Ottawa River watershed in Eastern Canada, five hundred kilometers north, you’re doing an incredible disservice to the indigenous nation that is fighting against so many odds for survival. So I email the artist because I feel it’s important if this viral shit’s going to bring the poster around the world, to be factually accurate, for the Lenape’s sake. Having done indigenous solidarity activist work (with Algonquins, incidentally) the most important thing to keep in mind is that you must take leadership from the community members, but there is no solidarity going on here, it’s just some Shepard Fairey wannabe with a rasterized photo of Sitting Bull and when I emailed him he told me that, the Lenape are the “elders” of the Algonquins. Clear he hasn’t spoken to members of either nation. I wouldn’t care except this misinformation could catch on like wildfire. So, hey, LN, how the fuck do I get this before it becomes a chant on Wall Street and inadvertently, ignorantly, well-meaningly, further erases the Lenape First Nation? 

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  • Ouvickie

    The power we all have is in our voice and our actions. Our rights are closely tied to what we say and do – ACTION. During the 1960s Civil Rights marches, Dr. King stressed that nothing would change if people didn’t use their right to vote, along with their right to protest. Groups were formed to go out and sign African-Americans up to vote and, in many communities, people were transported to polling stations during elections; these actions often cost lives, but things did change. It took a combination of marching, protesting, voting and demanding the same equal and human rights as white people had. The old adage “together we stand, divided we fall” is so true.
    Let’s not forget that when we want change we have to ACT (ACTion). America is no longer a majority of male, capitalistic, white people. We are a true melting pot of multi-culturalism with one thing in common - I think we all believe in the pursuit of happiness.
    If your happiness is tied to the government actions of the country you live in, then ACTion is required no matter what race you identify with.
    Protest, march, VOTE and DEMAND a change in the status quo and if enough people, who believe in the same idea, ACT & REACT then things will change. Remember one thing though, change does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, tears and action to create real change.

  • Ouvickie

    The power we all have is in our voice and our actions. Our rights are closely tied to what we say and do – ACTION. During the 1960s Civil Rights marches, Dr. King stressed that nothing would change if people didn’t use their right to vote, along with their right to protest. Groups were formed to go out and sign African-Americans up to vote and, in many communities, people were transported to polling stations during elections; these actions often cost lives, but things did change. It took a combination of marching, protesting, voting and demanding the same equal and human rights as white people had. The old adage “together we stand, divided we fall” is so true.
    Let’s not forget that when we want change we have to ACT (ACTion). America is no longer a majority of male, capitalistic, white people. We are a true melting pot of multi-culturalism with one thing in common - I think we all believe in the pursuit of happiness.
    If your happiness is tied to the government actions of the country you live in, then ACTion is required no matter what race you identify with.
    Protest, march, VOTE and DEMAND a change in the status quo and if enough people, who believe in the same idea, ACT & REACT then things will change. Remember one thing though, change does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, tears and action to create real change.

  • Ouvickie

    The power we all have is in our voice and our actions. Our rights are closely tied to what we say and do – ACTION. During the 1960s Civil Rights marches, Dr. King stressed that nothing would change if people didn’t use their right to vote, along with their right to protest. Groups were formed to go out and sign African-Americans up to vote and, in many communities, people were transported to polling stations during elections; these actions often cost lives, but things did change. It took a combination of marching, protesting, voting and demanding the same equal and human rights as white people had. The old adage “together we stand, divided we fall” is so true.
    Let’s not forget that when we want change we have to ACT (ACTion). America is no longer a majority of male, capitalistic, white people. We are a true melting pot of multi-culturalism with one thing in common - I think we all believe in the pursuit of happiness.
    If your happiness is tied to the government actions of the country you live in, then ACTion is required no matter what race you identify with.
    Protest, march, VOTE and DEMAND a change in the status quo and if enough people, who believe in the same idea, ACT & REACT then things will change. Remember one thing though, change does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, tears and action to create real change.

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  • Ppu0521a

    One thing at a time I suppose. I’m not too educated on this topic or capitalism, globalization, but i think that kinda gives me a little less bias to either agenda. I think that what is going on is important and needs to be done. But these people are upset, and maybe it’s for the wrong reasons and maybe it’s not attacking the root. But if  you look at the mess we have gotten ourselves in and compare it to a giant over grown weed….you can’t hack right away at the root. There’s spines and stickers and just too much vegetation. You have to hack away bit by bit, and you have to keep it up, day after day, or it will just grow back. And I think that most everyday people have let that fight slowly fall away, if it was there at all. A lot of people are either whittled down and tired, apathetic and don’t give a shit, ignorant and unaware, or completely caught up in their own little lives that they just let the weeds grow up around their country and ultimately planet. But there are the few that understand and care about what is going on. People like the folks who wrote this and a lot of the folks I imagine that are up in New York, or DC or now in Baltimore. And even if it is just a taste and they are just beginning to wake up from the long diluted sleep they have had, than hell, I think those of us who are strong enough, determined enough, smart enough and educated enough about these issues have a responsibility to not let these folks fall through the cracks and begin to cultivate a real community of organizing and resistance locally and nationally so that we don’t end up dealing with these reactionary movements and create something that will be a proactive approach to all of these problems. Instead of debating over which agenda is more all encompassing and the root cause. I think we all need to stick together in times like this and yeah, some of us are gonna feel left out and maybe trampled on a little bit but if that means that year by year another group of folks can obtain more freedom and and year by year we work together to shut down authorities and interests that serve only themselves than I think it is worth sacrificing for.

  • Awesomenativegirl1987

    I can’t help but consider the artwork that accompanies this written piece. Has anyone noticed the intense connections between “Doctrine of Discovery”, “Manifest Destiny” and the Occupy Wall Street movement?
    I think Erin is making reference to movements in this occupied territory that have happened in the past and how they are similar to the OWS movement. Manifest Destiny was lead by people who felt they were doing the work of god, and ‘saving’ Indigenous Peoples. 
    What do others think? I can’t pass up a good piece of art that speaks like this one does.

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  • D.Carkner

    I totally agree.  Different use of the word occupy.  That said, the mostly white protesters could use this reminder of their privilege.

  • D.Carkner

    I totally agree.  Different use of the word occupy.  That said, the mostly white protesters could use this reminder of their privilege.

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  • http://twitter.com/spsook Samuel Sukaton

    “We all have a common opponent; the corporate elite that runs this country
    (& the world) with no concern for anything but their own enrichment.” – absolutely. Nobody here is arguing that.

  • http://twitter.com/spsook Samuel Sukaton

    “We all have a common opponent; the corporate elite that runs this country
    (& the world) with no concern for anything but their own enrichment.” – absolutely. Nobody here is arguing that.

  • Rich Jensen

    Well, yes but, as diverse voices in this thread have posted, many folks have experienced more than one enemy. Yes there is the capitalist elite, but there are also arrogant, privileged, socially ignorant Progressives that use others to accumulate power and prestige.  Funny how that latter enemy isn’t such a concern to some people.

    But my hope is that ad hoc, imperfect, pluralities can lock arms across their difference to restrain Corporate authority and power.  Some in the coalition imagine a society beyond capitalism.  Others seek legal reforms: reversal of Corporate personhood, ending unlimited political contributions, prosecutions of fraudulent lenders, etc.

    Regardless of the different places each of us wishes to get to, we may be in a moment of rare opportunity. Has a non-violent critique of corporate (& colonizing) power blossomed spontaneously like this before? Not in the forty years that I’ve been watching. The American state is enthralled by a corrupt financial class.  People are awakening to the fact that, after the dashed hopes attached to Obama, there may be no significant electoral opportunities for change in their lifetimes. 

     A door may have opened.  Polling suggests huge numbers wish to reverse corporate corruption and criminality.  With all our efforts we might open the door wider to a public sphere where we might practically pursue diverse community objectives.

    I wish the world weren’t so full of the clueless.  Social ignorance and superiority is especially galling from earnest children of privilege. My sympathy and understanding goes out to those that find them intolerable. 

  • http://twitter.com/SouciantRich Souciant

    Teach!

  • Mr.mp

    It sounds like you’re arguing that a huge problem with the Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Together movement lies in how it frames the issue vis a vis “our country” or “take it back” given that it never belonged to white people to begin with; even the word “occupy” itself carries different connotations for different peoples that the folks in Liberty Park obviously may not have considered.  

    By bringing this up, I think you’re un-earthing an incredibly deep irony within this movement, the irony that they’re trying to ‘take back’ or ‘restore’ something that’s always violently oppressed, controlled, manipulated (and which was founded, quite literally, on genocide, terrorism, exploitation and race-based slavery, among other things.)  

    I personally think many protesters want the restoration of something that only existed in their minds (the American Dream).  The brief inclusion of the middle class in this shared illusion after WWII depended entirely on continual economic exploitation.  White America is now waking up to what it feels like to be exploited.  

    Perhaps now is an opportunity for that segment of white  America to start connecting the dots, and opening its eyes to the oppressions its previously been blind to?

    I don’t completely understand the idea that these protesters, by speaking out, are stepping on other people’s rights, unless you mean to say that being unconscious of Native/Indigenous issues, perspectives and histories while organizing a protest is itself an act of trampling.

    This is something I myself have, as a white guy reading this, struggled with.  I hope more people struggle with it and then start answering a question.  With raising awareness of this, where do we go next? 

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  • http://twitter.com/GREGORYABUTLER Gregory A. Butler

    If there was a Haudenosaunee and/or Lenape community in existence who were in a position to reclaim their territorial rights to Manhattan and/or to negotiate a financial settlement for compensation for their lands being stolen in 1619, I would support them 100%.

    If New York was a state like South Dakota, Washington State, Alaska,  Arizona or Oklahoma, with a large Native population who are in a position to restore their sovereign rights over large areas of those states TODAY if they were in a position too, I would support immediately turning Manhattan over to either the Haudenosaunees, the Lenapes or both nations.

    However, thanks to 400 years of successful genocide, that simply is not possible.

    Politics is the art of the possible, so that’s not a viable idea in the real world, no matter how well intentioned it might be on paper.

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  • Anonymous

    Likewise, neither does SJJ need to do anything for POC.  He/she won’t look for primary resources regarding colonization, and POC won’t give him/her any pointers.  Well then, looks like nobody’s going anywhere here.

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  • http://twitter.com/Kikita Kiki

    I figured it out!!! “Evict Wall Street!” “Convict the Bankers!” !!??? whaddya think?

  • http://twitter.com/Kikita Kiki

    I figured it out!!! “Evict Wall Street!” “Convict the Bankers!” !!??? whaddya think?

  • Gloria

    Rhianna,
    How can or what would you suggest as readings to accurate give history on Native peoples?  my email is shodreamin@sbcglobal.net   Very interested.

  • Nope

    It’s a neo-political party that needs to start acting like that. You can’t go from protest to movement with 10 different points that require different bills/laws/gov’t private sectors to achieve. That’s a party platform. Yes, anti-capitalist and social justice are the common denominator but that’s a (vague) end not a means. I like those things fixed but these are things that the Democratic party claims to want too. And, for all their flaws, at least they’re organized and running candidates within the framework. That’s why I’m not jumping in for Occupy Wall Street right now. I want some organization and goals. Especially in an election year where I want some terrible people out of congress to stop the bleeding.

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  • Annie Banks

    Thank you so much Jessica for your post and Erin for your art piece. I feel it’s critical that colonialism and decolonization be the focus of discussions and action as movements that speak of challenging capitalism are occurring in numerous places all over Turtle Island. I agree with Jessica’s questioning of how ending capitalism without ending colonialism would work. Without addressing colonialism, any efforts to topple oppressive or violent systems won’t work. And addressing colonialism can’t happen in a tokenizing way, or as an “add-on”. It is the core of so much oppression, violence and continued injustice. As a white settler woman living on unceded Lkwungen, WSANEC and Esquimalt homelands in “Victoria, BC” where there are discussions starting about similar movements to OWS happening here, I want to engage about this and it’s good to see this article being discussed and circulated. I hope that anyone seeking to topple any forms of injustice can see the undeniable need to address colonialism and the injustices perpetrated on stolen lands everyday, which so many Indigenous people are and have been challenging for centuries. I’m glad to see that someone taking part in the OWS protest currently is participating in this discussion and seeking to address the lack of anti-colonial analysis. 

  • Another OWS Protestor

    I wrote a comment earlier, but want to add that Yee would have a very receptive audience were she to bring these sentiments to one of the daily/nightly general assemblies. I would like to see this opinion extend way beyond a web page and infiltrate real-time life by taking the opportunity to address the hundreds of people that show up for these meetings. You would be well-received, and especially appreciated by the non-white, non-males among us because this is meant to be an all-inclusive movement, and ALL folks would really benefit from hearing this opinion. Because Native voices are especially marginalized, I think it would be really important for you to address OWS in person. I really hope you’ll consider doing so.

    Also, I read another comment that expressed disdain with celebrity showings such as Russell Simmons. I feel the same way! Simmons is part of the corporatocracy we’re fighting, IMO! So know that even though we don’t all agree on everything, the one thing we do agree on, besides ending economic inequality, is making this space as democratic as humanly possible, because that’s exactly the process we’re missing in our supposedly “free” country.

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  • OccupyWallStreetProtestor

    Hi, I posted Saturday, saying that I would take these issues to the General Assembly.  I have been unable to do so, as I spent Saturday evening in jail, along with nearly 800 of my fellow protestors  (This was my second time being arrested as part of the Occupy Wall Street protests).  I had to work during today’s GA, but I thought people might like to know that the GA has published a Declaration, which does include mention of colonialism.

    http://nycga.cc/2011/09/30/declaration-of-the-occupation-of-new-york-city/

    I am not sure whether I feel that the attention that they give to it is adequate; I would like to see stronger attacks on colonialism in this declaration and in the movement in general, and I still intend to bring the concerns brought up in this article to General Assembly, as long as the NYPD doesn’t grab me again before I get a chance.  :-)

    Again, if anyone has anything further they would like me to say to the group at Liberty Plaza, or has a problem with the summary I gave of the points in the article in my previous post, please let me know! 

  • Drhiphop85

    Another issue for the movement is that it has no clear cut goals and plan to do afterwards. Once they get rid of captialism, what next? they have a plan for some type of socialist state? If so what are the plans, how do they plan to go about it, and so on. If the movement wants to go further, and to be considerate of the wonderful points brought up by this article, they have to start getting more structure. But I do believe that even as “vague” as the movement it, it does allow for the budding of other more focused movements and so forth.

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  • Lxy

    This rhetoric you hear from so-called Progressives about “taking back America” is ironically similar to the jingoistic chest-beating you hear from Right Wingers or Tea Party types, who often use exactly the same phraseology about “taking back the country/America.”

    These groups are two sides of the same coin in that they both display a nostalgic desire to reclaim a more innocent, pure America … that has never existed except as a Hollywood-style delusion in their own heads!

    In terms of capitalism, the United States of America was founded as a capitalist nation since Jamestown and Plymouth Rock.  How can people claim to be anti-capitalist yet also want to “take back America” at the same time?  

    Being anti-capitalist means fundamentally challenging the very foundation of the American entity itself.

  • Lxy

    This rhetoric you hear from so-called Progressives about “taking back America” is ironically similar to the jingoistic chest-beating you hear from Right Wingers or Tea Party types, who often use exactly the same phraseology about “taking back the country/America.”

    These groups are two sides of the same coin in that they both display a nostalgic desire to reclaim a more innocent, pure America … that has never existed except as a Hollywood-style delusion in their own heads!

    In terms of capitalism, the United States of America was founded as a capitalist nation since Jamestown and Plymouth Rock.  How can people claim to be anti-capitalist yet also want to “take back America” at the same time?  

    Being anti-capitalist means fundamentally challenging the very foundation of the American entity itself.

  • http://twitter.com/TenaciousREI R E

    I was on the live feed and the global revolution producer is on talking and he brought up white privilege and Native Americans in the Occupy movement briefly! It went by so fast!  http://www.livestream.com/globalrevolution

  • Getpisseddestroy_

    well said j. yee

  • Getpisseddestroy_

    well said j. yee

  • Jessica Yee

    Yes – I wrote the piece and Erin is an intern at the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. With her permission the picture was posted. Why do you think she wrote this?

  • Jessica Yee

    Yes – I wrote the piece and Erin is an intern at the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. With her permission the picture was posted. Why do you think she wrote this?

  • Erin Konsmo

    Hi Shades of Grey.
    This is Erin Konsmo (the Artist of the picture – Occupy – The Game of Colonialism). I only contributed the illustration to this post on Racialicious and was NOT involved in any of the writing process. Jessica Yee authored and posted this blog.  Jessica Yee had permission to use my illustration to add to the points that she made.

  • Erin Konsmo

    Hi Shades of Grey.
    This is Erin Konsmo (the Artist of the picture – Occupy – The Game of Colonialism). I only contributed the illustration to this post on Racialicious and was NOT involved in any of the writing process. Jessica Yee authored and posted this blog.  Jessica Yee had permission to use my illustration to add to the points that she made.

  • Geni47

    Jessica Yee:  What more appropriate term would you suggest to replace the word “Occupy”? Since mainstream media will not provide any time for explanation, it will need to be one that people are already familiar with.

    Your objection is well-founded, according to this article from the Lewis & Clark Law Review:
    http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:q8MN-DAbc_4J:legacy.lclark.edu/org/lclr/objects/LCB_12_4_Art1_Clarkson.pdf+wall+street+indians&hl=en&gl=ca&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiuD0m8dAm8LoNLZTeKQv0OIZ76tdm0pDqDjb_EwHSyn8ezZ9ZUx6cASafDUhPS90N_MbRsLWxxdKWMzR9wAOGNJ4Dm90Hgh8IevAz4MOooYrdbBAPivO_Dbl2SCmN6zZ-xx8FT&sig=AHIEtbRZbCLzKapqiDp9cCxoDthJZ1ARaw
    …the original wall on Wall Street was built to keep the Indians out. Despite the initial “purchase” of Manhattan Island, the mythos of which is often used to falsely enshrine Indians as incapable of understanding land ownership or capitalism, hostilities frequently broke out between the Dutch and the Indians. In 1653, Director-General Peter
    Stuyvesant ordered a wall built along the northern border of New Amsterdam to keep the Indians out. The path going along that wall was called the Walstraat…. Unfortunately Wall Street has remained true to its origins and has
    excluded Indian tribes from equal participation in the capital markets…. In reality, the Manhattan Indians were probably quite aware of the value of their land, and the fact that the Dutch “bought” the land from the non-resident Canarsie Indians was probably one of the reasons that the wall on Wall Street was erected.
    in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    Hello –

    Erin Konsmo did the illustration, but Jessica wrote the piece. What gave you the impression this is Erin’s written work?

  • Anonymous

    I do so love the old “don’t divide the movement” strategy employed by the privileged and evident in these comments. Because what they really mean is that analyzing the problems with their own strategies is too much like doing actual complicated work and they prefer the world to be as straightforward and simplistic as possible, so it’s easier to just accuse you or anyone bringing in a criticism of needlessly splitting “the movement”. And this tactic is little more than emotional manipulation. They know the people who hear that are actually concerned about the movement, rather than their privileged location within that movement, so they will seriously consider being silenced if they see their voice as being divisive and counterproductive, and so the privileged folk with blinkers on get to continue with those blinkers without a care in the world. They’ll reduce a complex point to “you clearly want to evict everyone off the land” and then accuse you of cannibalizing the movement. As usual, well-intentioned liberals don’t like to be told they’re not necessarily as righteous and considerate as they think, or that they are working within far more complex frameworks than imagined, so they will tell anyone else to shut up and just accept their good faith efforts without question or critique.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=539144371 Anonymous

      Eeeegggzackly!!

    • Nope

      Boom! 

      There it is.

      This needs to be a stand a lone post.

    • http://twitter.com/spsook Samuel Sukaton

      #realtalk

      The whole claim about a  monolithic, ideologically correct, right-thinking, singularly moving “Movement” is kind of disingenuous anyhow. I mean, there’ve always been currents, organizations, ideas, and individuals moving together, in opposition, or at cross-purposes within “the Movement.”

      People working for social change in this country have always struggled with one another, sometimes ruthlessly. In the ’30s and the ’60s (two periods progressives like to look to as models) the progressive leaders of the age (and their political allies) spent plenty of time confronting each other, sometimes honestly and healthily, plenty of times not.

      If SJJ thinks that Jessica is bashing all of use who aren’t native, what would he say about Malcolm X and (sitting Congressman) John Lewis mocking MLK? What would he say about American labor spending 5 generations backing racist, nativist immigration and civil rights policies? Sometimes (hell, often) we need to have conversations like this.

      Emma Goldman said that she wouldn’t be in a revolution where she couldn’t dance. We shouldn’t accept a revolution where we aren’t struggling with (as well as alongside) one another.

  • Andrew

    i’m pretty sure pre-invasion manhattan was not part of the haudenosaunee confederacy. can anyone double-check on that? if anything, i think the tribes and nation around present day NYC didn’t get along so well with the haudenosaunee, who tended to be pretty expansionist. the article makes a good point – an analysis of U.S. settler colonialism is always necessary – but more helpful would be outreach to nearby native communities like the shinnecock on long island…

    • Jessica Yee

      Andrew – please note that I said NYC is Haudeonsaunee territory and HOME TO MANY OTHER FIRST NATIONS. I did not say it’s only  Haudenosaunee territory and I also did not say that it’s only Manhattan proper – I’m referring to NYC the larger and understanding that the Haudenosaunee adopted several other nations. If we are going to speak about what is “Manhattan” now that’s a different story.

    • Jessica Yee

      Andrew – please note that I said NYC is Haudeonsaunee territory and HOME TO MANY OTHER FIRST NATIONS. I did not say it’s only  Haudenosaunee territory and I also did not say that it’s only Manhattan proper – I’m referring to NYC the larger and understanding that the Haudenosaunee adopted several other nations. If we are going to speak about what is “Manhattan” now that’s a different story.

  • Pingback: Occupy Wall Street: The Game of Colonialism and Further Nationalism to be Decolonized From the “Left” « The Speed of Dreams

  • DCM

    “Colonialism also leads to capitalism, globalization, and industrialization. How can we truly end capitalism without ending colonialism?”

    This is not accurate. Capitalism leads to colonialism, not the other way around. Capitalism (and primitive accumulation) is the driving force behind colonialism; it is the reason why it exists in the first place.

    Solidarity with indigenous peoples and an intrinsic opposition to colonialism must be part of any resistance strategy. This is an important and necessary critique that I hope will only grow in strength. The leaders of the OWS movement must internalize your message and keep a belief (and act upon it) of solidarity with first nations people.

    This critique is so necessary that I hope that this does not simply stop at criticism (thus leaving us fractured, weak and disparate). This is unfortunately what happens all to often. I would like to see this analysis be synthesized into the movement and developed into actual recommendations and concrete strategies – a unification of effort and a holistic approach that could be strong enough to actually be a challenge. All too often we simply point out the problem again and again, instead of actively being part of the solution. Is any movement that does not maintain a solidarity with first peoples worthy of criticism? Yes. Is Wall Street even more deserving of this criticism? Without a doubt yes. That fact should not be dismissed.

    There is no resistance movement that is perfect, but that does not mean that they are not workable and worthy of our time and effort. Unfortunately too often the potential for cooperation and solidarity is immediately dismissed before it has been accurately explored. Is OWS opposed to solidarity with first nations people? I’m not sure, I doubt it. But why should we stop there? Are they centering the experience of women, who have had their labor stolen since civilization began? What about people of color who have been occupied and marginalized and exploited, in the creation of this country and others? And what about disabled people who have been historically marginalized in every resistance movement? A movement will always struggle to be all things for all people, but that doesn’t mean we need to dismiss it out of hand without engaging and working towards a common goal that would benefit us all. We are cannibalizing ourselves, and that will only lead to our defeat.

    All of us, except for a tiny minority, suffer in this system. Some more
    than others, absolutely. But none of us are truly free. Ending
    capitalism must be a priority, because it is the fount from which many
    evils spring – colonialism, poverty, and to a large extent racism and
    sexism. When we put our criticism to work and move past simply calling out, when we come together, and dialogue together and build together, we are powerful. The success of the Occupy Wall Street movement would not be a defeat for first nations people, it would be a win for all of us.

    As Sascha said: “Ideologies and goals of the movement change depending on the people that participate in it. I would urge you than to educate others in this movement about your struggle for decolonization while also learning about their struggles rather than simply dismissing the movement as a whole, with all of its potential. Divide and conquer is the oldest (and most reliable) trick in the book. Lets not play into their game.”

  • Anonymous

    It’s a good thing that the US now has a President that, according to his critics on the right, is both an anti-colonialist AND an anti-capitalist.  

  • laprofe63

    As a student and professor of Spanish Imperialism (did a PhD on masculinity in Hernán Cortés), but born, living and working in the USA, I am constantly amazed at how the US refuses to acknowledge its centuries-old imperialism. This transcends mere denial and, in my opinion, resides more in the realm of pathological lying.

    Case in point, I attended a U of Chicago faculty seminar not too long ago on the topic “American Empire” and to my disgust and dismay, some of us had to argue for the existence of the empire to some the UofC faculty leading us in discussion! Mind-blowing to me. So, even some very smart people are clueless about these things, which means that those of us who see it should try and use the most effective means possible for getting the message out and heard. Words, tone, image, all of it matters.

    Decolonization may not start with the mind, but for it to be lasting and meaningful, eventually we must free ourselves of the mentality of occupation.  (So, to me, “occupy” Wall Street is an unfortunate choice of label for the movement trying to take hold in lower Manhattan. Oh well, as someone said upstream, it doesn’t have to start off perfect, just be willing to adjust for the better.)

    One last thing, after many long hours of hard thinking and deep learning, I arrived at the conclusion that not only is colonialism and imperialism intimately tied, and inextricable from the origins, structures and institutions of capitalism, (among other -isms they depend upon for their support and reproduction), colonialism and imperialism are also born of the performance of a concept of masculinity that is centered on a competition for what is perceived to be limited resources (capital, good breeding females, power, etc.) and a slavish adherence to the organizing principle of hierarchy.

    This is a fight for the liberation of the human family from so much.

  • SouthJerseyJew

    Never said that Yee wanted to evict anyone.  I made the point that Yee herself didn’t SAY anything.  She didn’t make any specific examples of what the activists could have done to decolonize the movement.  I’m tired of hearing these blanket, bullshit statements about “well, um, we need to build solidarity”, with no explanation of what that realistically means.  A lot of people here seem to think that they can shake an indigenous person’s hand, maybe invite one to a meeting once in a while and then clap themselves on the back, because this is what they think constitutes solidarity.  My ass.  I’m fine with constructive criticism.  This is not constructive criticism on Yee’s part.  Constructive criticism deals with SPECIFICS.  What it is that people can do to make a movement better.  That’s not what this is.  This is “you’re on our land, you’re no better than the wall street bankers” kneejerk nonsense.  And I don’t try to write that off as another “white liberal dismisses POC color complaint about white liberals”.  This isn’t like when WoC criticize white feminists for constructing a movement that largely only represents white women, because in that case writers like Latoya did list examples of what they thought should be different, and their criticism was a bit more substantial and actually does result in serious dialogue and (hopefully) improvement.  Honestly, what is Yee’s only specific suggestion in this article?  That they should change the name of the protest?  Is that it?  Is that the whole point of this article?

    Obviously not, but it’s hard to tell because she doesn’t list any examples of what else should be changed or different.  And neither did you, nor any other poster who defended her.  We’re all apparently supposed to take it on good faith that you’re doing your part in decolonizing, unlike those activists on Wall Street.  Sorry.  This is just more “holier than thou” tripe.  And the net result is that we end up in a juvenile, endless cycle of “you’re just privileged/seeing things like a colonizer/trying to ignore the oppressed” vs. “you’re holier than thou/giving the Right what it wants/mindlessly harping on your own allies” etc…

    • Anonymous

      I’m not Jessica, but I’ll engage until she gets here.

      In essence, she is arguing that this framework is blocking us from seeing other alternatives to this. Occupy Wall Street is currently creating a document but this is very much a work in progress.  I would be interested to see what happens Monday morning.  So the demand for specifics isn’t easy to do since we aren’t exactly sure how OWS wants to create change.

      However, starting from the framework of taking America back is damaging when applied to this broader conversation.  This isn’t an easy thing to parse – many people implicitly accept the legitimacy of the US nation-state.   Many people ALSO inherently the legitimacy of capitalism as the best system in the world – which is something OWS is trying to challenge.  So dismissing this out of hand and liberal holier than thou ness but acting like challenging capitalism is so simple amuses me. 

      But anyway, I digress again.  I am not the best person to talk about decolonization since I am still gathering info on that (I am much more comfortable talking about capitalism) but I would point you to a blog I’ve been reading lately:

      http://unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/decolonizing-restorative-justice/

      Many Indigenous Peoples’ teachings and traditions distill generations of experiences about coexistence as a way of life and therefore about how to mend relations when they break down. For people living in closely knit communities, reacting to the surface event of harm without addressing the dynamics that led to it is neither logical nor practical. The realities of connectedness suggest that hurt is not an isolated event; it comes from somewhere, and because of connectedness, it affects many if not all people in the community.
      In fact, those most affected serve to protect the wellbeing of the community, much as the canaries who died in the mines warned the miners of bad air: one person’s harmful act or another person’s suffering signals something out of balance that could be harming everyone. If a member of a community is behaving hurtfully to others, the rest of the community needs to ask why. Where is the urge to harm coming from? To effectively heal a hurt, those involved need to consider how it arose, and to do that, the whole community needs to participate in some way. The goal is not retribution but to repair broken relationships for the good of all. When harms occur, the most practical question is: What does it take for the community to come together and feel whole, so that the community and everyone in it are stronger, healthier, and less susceptible to similar harms in the future?

      So this is key to reframing the problem – if we are to coexist, what is out of balance?  If we have voices missing from the conversation, what does that mean about our ability to reduce total harm?  Are we declaring capitalism as the root of this problem when it’s just a thick branch?  And will crumbling the capitalist system in America help all these groups – or will it unleash a wave of immediate harm?  (Remember, our economies are intertwined at this point – major instability and changes in the US market may capsize smaller nations.) Is that immediate harm worth the long term benefit, and what would that benefit be, since we will need to articulate that to the world.
      To be even more specific, we are asking for an America that we believe exists because we are operating under a framework that something has gone awry because America is inherently just.  But if we swap out that initial assumption for a different framework , that problem becomes clear.  Andrea Smith writes:

      Post 9/11, even radical scholars framed George Bush’s policies as an attack on the U.S. Constitution.  According to Judith Butler, Bush’s policies were acts against “existing legal frameworks, civil, military, and international.”[7] Amy Kaplan similarly described Bush’s policies as rendering increasingly more peoples under U.S. jurisdiction as “less deserving of … constitutional rights.”[8] Thus, Bush’s strategies were deemed a suspension of the law. He was said to be eroding U.S. democracy, eroding civil liberties. Under this framework, progressives overwhelmingly called on the state to uphold the law, defend U.S. democracy, and protect civil liberties.
      The question this poses, however, is what are we to do with the fact that, as Native scholar Luana Ross notes, genocide has never been against the law in the U.S.?[9] On the contrary, Native genocide has been expressly sanctioned as law.  And, as legal scholar Sora Han points out, none of these post-9/11 practices are actually extra-constitutional or extra-legal. In fact the U.S. Constitution confers the right of the state to maintain itself over and above the rights of its citizenry.[10] 

      Read more:http://unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/against-the-law-indigenous-feminism-and-the-nation-state/If we are upholding American ideals and taking it back, it means we are also cosigning these things we do not challenge.  So this is why the framework needs to be challenged, before we create action items.I know this is tough, but it is necessary.  You don’t have to agree with this analysis, but I will ask that people critically interrogate their assumptions.  I’ve been thinking about global economics since 2003 or so, when I had to write a paper on whether or not the WTO was effective as an organization.  Had I followed my first gut reaction to the things I read, I would have completely dismissed the perspective of the global south.  It is only through interrogation you make your argument stronger and fully understand the issue.I challenge everyone, not just SouthJerseyJew, to interrogate the assumptions we bring to framing and solving problems.  The results may surprise you.

    • Edward Ou Jin Lee

      I’ll just re-iterate again that Jessica did actually give concrete ways that OWS could change their messaging. If you look at the points by OccupyWallStreetProtester, you will see the concrete points that they were able to get from Jessica’s reflections. SouthJerseyJew – instead of responding with defensiveness and demanding that Jessica give you the answers to solving the ‘problem’ of indigenous solidarity as a whole. As if a short article in racialicious is supposed to give you the answers to indigenous solidarity. You’re making unrealistic demands coming from a place of defensiveness.

  • OccupyWallStreetProtestor

    Hi everyone!  I read this article with great interest.  I have been with Occupy Wall Street since the second night, on and off (I have to work), and was arrested last week in the mass arrests.  I started going to the protests because, like many, I agreed with the vague sense of discontent with economic injustice, but I’ve stayed because as the movement has solidified, it has started to make more and more sense.  Here are the recently published demands, if you haven’t seen them. https://occupywallst.org/forum/detailed-list-of-demands-overview-of-tactics-for-d/

    I am commenting because I want to do all I can to fix the problem being addressed in this article.  I intend to bring these issues before the General Assembly this afternoon.  Because of the system we use to address large crowds, I won’t be able to read out the whole thing (we aren’t permitted amplification, so we simply have the speaker break their speech into several word bites, which those near enough to hear repeat in chorus for those further away.  A symbolically beautiful way of communicating, I think, but not the speediest).  Because of that, I thought I’d try to express here what I feel the main points of the article are, and ask that anyone who feels I have misunderstood the author’s point offer their input, so that I can clearly and concisely represent the arguments using the medium I have.

    -America, as a nation, was built, and continues to be built, on land stolen from people still exploited and oppressed under the current system.  This fact should be acknowledged and vocally opposed by Occupy Wall Street.

    -The nationalistic language of phrases like “take our country back” is something that should be examined in terms of its associations with imperialism and colonialism.

    -Occupy Wall Street should oppose and seek to end colonialism as much as it opposes and seeks to end unregulated capitalism, imperialism, war, or institutional racism. 

    Does that reflect everyone’s understanding of the article’s points?  Lastly, I would ask that anyone who has an ideas for a concrete action that can be taken by Occupy Wall Street, please offer their suggestions, and I will bring them before the General Assembly.

    Thank you!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for that!

      I think the brain trust down at Occupy Wall Street could be useful in this – considering how these policies are damaging the entire world, perhaps folks on the ground can have a sub group/block after and reach out to their respective communities asking for  an alternate construction based on other (read: indigenous; global south) strategies that can be articulated.  This is a bit complicated, but we will try to break some of this down and demysitfy in the coming days. 

  • Kathy

    Folks, there is a difference between debate and critique on the one hand, and factionalist self “cannibalizing” on the other. An endemic paralyzing problem on the left including feminism is at one and the same time a rabid avoidance of the kind of conflict that is essential to politics and on the other hand, true divisiveness based on dismissing any critique and challenge as attack, divisive etc,-*avoiding* conflict at all costs–rather than engaging with the points. I appreciate Yee’s perspective and I like Gaia’s response to it.  I personally have been dismayed by the complete lack of a feminist perspective and feminist voice. Although I’m ambivalent about where the whole “occupation” is going… (I’m one of those who think that demands must be articulated)– there is some momentum there for radicals to step into and I’m going to try for inserting a feminist presence– see what will happen.  Today is Sat, Oct 1, and if you are interested in joining a feminist contingent find us during the march–we’ll probably have the only feminist posters there. Great critique by Jessica, yes. 

  • Anonymous

    There’s another piece running on this on Monday, a dispatch from people who organized at the Wall Street Protests, and  pointed out problematic “colorblind” framings and their battle to be heard.  Wondering how that conversation will go. The comments on this one are interesting – I’m deleting the ones that say what Jessica brought up is “irrelevant” because we’re dealing with capitalism, not colonialsm.

    As an aside, this is kind of hilarious to me because some folks are acting like ending capitalism is a cakewalk, but ending colonialism is so extreme it cannot be considered. A comment I deleted might as well have been bingo (“I care about indigenous rights and plan to will my land to native nations when I die, but I didn’t ask to be born white and now is not the time!”) People would argue that ending capitalism is not realistic – but this isn’t a matter of realism, it’s what people are choosing to mobilize around.  Jessica points this out in bold:  ”Colonialism also leads to capitalism, globalization, and industrialization. How can we truly end capitalism without ending colonialism? ”

    She’s arguing it’s a root cause of the issue.  Why is that so frightening to engage with?

    • http://www.futurebird.com Susan Donovan

      It’s not frightening, what frightens me is that an article like this might slow the MOMENTUM of this very important protest. I agree it has problems with color-blindness, and failure to recognize first peoples, I bet you could find transphobia, sexism and homophobia too. That’s SERIOUS stuff, but because there are white straight males and people with a vested interest in colonialism involved that’s inevitable. The perfect really can be the the enemy of the good. Some of the color-blind BS makes me want to throw up, but I’m still going down there to support them because the core message is RIGHT and it will do go for people of color, first nations folk, women the REAL America the real “everyone” I’m not going to let the mistakes of a few clueless privileged but well meaning college kids shut the whole Goddamned thing down.

      Can we talk about how the police are beating people up? Not that that’s anything new. Can we talk about how sad it is that protest is confined to “free speech” zones?Can we talk about all these people who say it’s mostly white people at this protests when there are lots of black/latino/indian/asian folks there?

      • Anonymous

        Talking about all of those things does not preclude us from also talking about colonialism.

        • http://www.futurebird.com Susan Donovan

          I never said it did, the OP make it sound like the protest is somehow invalid, or not worth supporting because of its flaws. That’s where I disagree.

        • Jessica Yee

          Can we talk about how colonialism fuels this?

    • Anonymous

      The Boston branch had some definite tension between the “colorblind” framing and people who were speaking specifically to and about race.  The most awkward part was all the very eager white people talking about race by talking over, to and about people of color rather than listen to the people who were standing right next to them.  But the conversation was more explicit.
      There has also been a lot of discussion about the police brutality and scorn over the panic about it; “That? That’s nothing.  Why are they so stressed about it?  Sure, we might get picked up by the police, just like any other day, except this time we’ve got lawyers on hand.”  There are all these white college students certain that being picked up once will ruin their non-existent careers, being reassured (as always, the emotional caretaking of privileged white folk falls to people of color).

      I do think people here have neither considered nor care about the occupation of indigenous land.  I don’t know how to change that framing.  If anyone thinks about land, ownership and nationalism right now it appears to be, at best, on the abolition of borders and barriers to immigration, which I foresee opening the door to international gentrification.  People are barely cognizant of the legacy of slavery, much less the continued violence against and theft from indigenous populations.

    • Anonymous

      Why is that so frightening to engage with?

      I can’t speak for anyone but me.  But for me, it’s frightening for pretty specific reasons that have to do with what it means to be Jewish in the modern world.  In Europe, where my family comes from, Jews were always perceived as outsiders.  The nation was framed in ethnic terms, and Jews were not members of the national ethnicity, no matter where we were.  We belonged nowhere.  Because we were permanent ethnic outsiders who belonged nowhere, we were always seen as interlopers, as pollution, as a problem that needed to be solved.  That belief led to the annihilation of most of my family and to my grandparents coming to America where, for the first time ever, my family got to belong somewhere, rather than be seen as interlopers and pollution.

      I know that this nation was founded on genocide and colonialism, and I know that my ability to belong here means that I’ve benefited from that.  But it still feels like a punch in the gut when someone suggests that I’m an ethnic outsider to the US and that this is just another place where my family is going to be framed as interlopers and outsiders and pollution.  If I were a Zionist, it wouldn’t be as big a big deal, but I’m not.  The US is all I’ve got.  The idea of losing my claim to the US is truly terrifying, because I have a pretty visceral understanding of how vulnerable you are when you belong nowhere. 

      I’m not saying that Jessica Yee’s perspective is illegitimate or that she shouldn’t have posted this or that she’s wrong.  But it is frightening for me to engage with, and I’m not really going to apologize for that.  

      • Anonymous

        I’m also Jewish and understand your fear, but we live in a kyriarchy. Being displaced and persecuted does not mean we do not have privilege and benefited (and continue to benefit) from colonialism, the subjugation/genocide of POC, and white supremacy.

      • Anonymous

        I’m also Jewish and understand your fear, but we live in a kyriarchy. Being displaced and persecuted does not mean we do not have privilege and benefited (and continue to benefit) from colonialism, the subjugation/genocide of POC, and white supremacy.

      • http://twitter.com/spsook Samuel Sukaton

        I’m not Jewish, but I can understand your uncertainty with engaging with this. I’m Asian American. We’re a small segment of the population just about everywhere, but in places where we reach a critical mass and form plurality or majority communities we also intersect with the problem of colonialism in a big way – namely, the Pacific coast and Hawai’i, with First Nations, Native Hawaiians,  Chican@s. Some folks use “APA” to include Pacific Islander populations, which I do as well, but it obscures our relationships with colonialism. Some of us are the subjects of imperialism – the Philippines and Hawai’i, Vietnam, Guam. Others of us are more beneficiaries than targets, though we’re marked by the nativism paradigm.
        It scaes me, too – America’s all I’ve got, too.

      • http://twitter.com/spsook Samuel Sukaton

        I’m not Jewish, but I can understand your uncertainty with engaging with this. I’m Asian American. We’re a small segment of the population just about everywhere, but in places where we reach a critical mass and form plurality or majority communities we also intersect with the problem of colonialism in a big way – namely, the Pacific coast and Hawai’i, with First Nations, Native Hawaiians,  Chican@s. Some folks use “APA” to include Pacific Islander populations, which I do as well, but it obscures our relationships with colonialism. Some of us are the subjects of imperialism – the Philippines and Hawai’i, Vietnam, Guam. Others of us are more beneficiaries than targets, though we’re marked by the nativism paradigm.
        It scaes me, too – America’s all I’ve got, too.

    • Anonymous

      Why is that so frightening to engage with?

      I can’t speak for anyone but me.  But for me, it’s frightening for pretty specific reasons that have to do with what it means to be Jewish in the modern world.  In Europe, where my family comes from, Jews were always perceived as outsiders.  The nation was framed in ethnic terms, and Jews were not members of the national ethnicity, no matter where we were.  We belonged nowhere.  Because we were permanent ethnic outsiders who belonged nowhere, we were always seen as interlopers, as pollution, as a problem that needed to be solved.  That belief led to the annihilation of most of my family and to my grandparents coming to America where, for the first time ever, my family got to belong somewhere, rather than be seen as interlopers and pollution.

      I know that this nation was founded on genocide and colonialism, and I know that my ability to belong here means that I’ve benefited from that.  But it still feels like a punch in the gut when someone suggests that I’m an ethnic outsider to the US and that this is just another place where my family is going to be framed as interlopers and outsiders and pollution.  If I were a Zionist, it wouldn’t be as big a big deal, but I’m not.  The US is all I’ve got.  The idea of losing my claim to the US is truly terrifying, because I have a pretty visceral understanding of how vulnerable you are when you belong nowhere. 

      I’m not saying that Jessica Yee’s perspective is illegitimate or that she shouldn’t have posted this or that she’s wrong.  But it is frightening for me to engage with, and I’m not really going to apologize for that.  

    • Anonymous

      I can only speak for myself, but for me it comes from something similar to what waterloosunset, about place and belonging, and realizing I need to reevaluate my own sense of place and identity. Chicago is my city. She’s the only history I have. My family’s history ends at my great-grandmother. No one remembers further back. Living with that ache of being unmoored, disconnected from the past and without guidance it the future- it hurts. I can’t put it better than that. My history is Chicago’s history. I can’t tell you where my ancestors came from, but I can tell you about the great Chicago fire and the riot in Haymarket square. I know the jokes, the unions, the architecture, our famously corrupt  politicians, the story of the Chicago machine. Our mobsters and the Daley family. Why funding is so poor for our south side schools. I feel grounded here, steady and at home in ways I feel no where else.

      What does it mean then, for me, for my city, to acknowledge it was built on stolen land and broken promises, on the bones of the innocent? What will happen to her, if we try to reverse colonialism?
      And knowing that to oppose anti-colonialism is wrong and indefensible doesn’t stop the heart sick fear of  losing my home. And then knowing that my home was only built on the realization of those fears for many others brings up guilt, and hopelessness, and it’s so much easier to just not think about it. Acknowledging your home is not yours to claim is horrifying. It easier to live with being a bad person.

    • Unanswered questions

      I agree that both need to be ended, and that one can’t prioritize which comes first.  But I wonder if it’s possible that ending one might loosen the ties that bind us to the other, since they are so interwoven.  I also wonder if we can accept that one person or one group can’t work on every single issue simultaneously and if we view them as complexly  interwoven maybe we can creatively build on each other’s work instead of shooting it down as “too much” or “not enough.”  Just thoughts.

  • dersk

    I wonder if the Haudenosaunee  were the first to settle or if they’d taken over from some other group – they’re the overall group of tribes white folks call Iroquois, right? I assume the formation of the Iroquois League basically settled down the territorial reach of the sub-groups, but that does imply that there was conflict before formation. Honestly not trolling, just curious – a quick bit of Googling doesn’t really turn up much, other than talking about the Haudenosaunee themselves being a bit imperial with regards to the Algonquins, etc.

    • Tanya

      Way to derail from the point of the original post.

    • Jessica Yee

      Derailment and also not what I said. I said that NYC as in the larger NYC is Haudenosaunee territory as the Haudenosaunee have also adopted several other nations and most importantly I said NYC is also HOME TO MANY OTHER FIRST NATIONS.

    • Jessica Yee

      Derailment and also not what I said. I said that NYC as in the larger NYC is Haudenosaunee territory as the Haudenosaunee have also adopted several other nations and most importantly I said NYC is also HOME TO MANY OTHER FIRST NATIONS.

    • http://slates.wildfireweb.com/1744527638 Jack Skye

      “Conflict” within indigenous groups and between neighboring groups is a common argument used to claim that indigenous peoples do not have a right to occupy our own territories. Interesting that it is never used to question weather or not Europeans have a right to not be forced out of their homes in Europe in favor of some other group of people, or challenge the legitimacy of European “nation states”.It is a line of reasoning historically tied to ideas that indigenous
      people are too barbaric to know what to do with the land and the land
      was put to better use in the hands of Europeans.

      There was conflict between the Haudenosaunee and the Anishinaabek, but it was made much worse with colonization. The Haudenosaunee did not commit rampant acts of genocide or attempt to force the Anishinaabek out of our lands entirely, so I don’t think that conflict compares to European imperialism. Even if there is injustice in the Haudenosaunee’s relationship with the Anishinaabek (and the Anishinaabek were not passive victims, in our migration west we came in conflict with the Haudenosaunee just as they came in conflict with us as they migrated north and west) that is an issue between our nations and we are now allies. It does not follow that Europeans are justified in claiming title to both Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee land and limiting indigenous access altogether.

      Finally the “Iroquois League” is a dated term and should probably only be applied when referring directly to historical sources. In English the Haudenesaaunee I know refer to their government as The Great Law of Peace or the Haudenesaaunee Confederacy. Iroquois is a derogitory term from Anishinaabemowin, it means rattle snake. It originates from a time of conflict arising from the pressure of European expansion and we don’t call our allies that (except sometimes in teasing).

  • http://twitter.com/Kikita Kiki

    oh… and… I too initially wrote off the “Occupy Wall Street” actions as mostly ineffective, inarticulate, misguided white “radical” anarchist kids… but after seeing the mainstream media blackout, followed by a mainstream media mocking… sided with Naomi Klein & Michael Moore, 2 somewhat “mainstream” white lefties, and decided that my challenge was not to figure out how I *don’t* align with the protestors, but rather, to support them and expand the message into something articulate, politically sophisticated and fundamental, packing as much punch as possible, and re-align it into the already-articulated POC-led initiatives…

    • http://www.futurebird.com Susan Donovan

      I went through the same thought process.

  • Gaia Weise

    This article reflects the defeatist attitude I’ve
    experienced amongst a lot of my more academically inclined peers.  No
    social movement has come from perfect origins, but only discourse can
    bring about an inclusive culture.

    I have been to two #occupy wall street protests.  I am a woman of color (multiracial of African descent) and I think that despite its flaws, the occupying protests across this country offer the only realistic outlet for radical people in this culture, today. 
    Let’s not forget that at one point (after the land was stolen by Europeans) Wall Street was a hub of the slave trade; land is not something that remains static.  The history is complex, and of course the Native Americans did not give the land up in a fair transaction.  But one must remain aware of the whole of history. 

    “We step on other people’s rights – and in this case erode Indigenous rights – to make the point.” – I would argue that the Native American’s political rights have already been eroded via hundreds of years of oppression, and that the bankers are inheritors of the task of oppressing Native populaces (in addition to 99% of the population).  The term “occupy” may have the tinge of colonialism to it, but it has also been used in a positive way by the American Indian movement https://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/sfbatv/2589.

    Right now Wall Street is being occupied by ultra-rich banks. The way things are now, there is no chance of being heard by a company like Chase or Bank of America. There is no hope of justice in this situation.  The Occupy protests throughout the country operate on the system of “general assembly” – anyone who wants to may speak and add issues to the discussion, and some assemblies even use a “progresive” assembly where marginalized voices are allowed to speak more quickly than dominant ones.  This being said, not all the assemblies use the progressive method.  But it’s possible, and as they become more sophisticated, there’s the opportunity for it to be a fundamental rule.

    I would partly blame the educational system for the lack of awareness of Native’s rights.  The Civil Rights gets covered, and sometimes even Japanese internment.  Be aware of the fact that there is a multiplicity of voices at these protests.  Everyone is allowed to go, and it would be amazing if resources could be pooled so activists from tribal lands (or otherwise) could come to participate.

    I will definitely be bringing this topic up at the General Assembly in Boston, because I agree that it is very important and should be addressed in any demands that may be formulated.

  • http://twitter.com/Kikita Kiki

    sorry to be a libra, but i feel like both the writer and everyone below has valid points. 1. as a white liberal, really, shut up and listen is very wise advice, when it comes to issues involving First Nations people and people of color. 2. of course there’s always something not 100% right about political actions initiated by white people… and by “not right” i mean, [usually] re-enacting racist beliefs/ideologies, generally un-intentionally. 3. however, i do believe that doing *something* is better than doing nothing (altho i realize not all lefties/radicals share that belief); 4. “the Left will eat itself” is a warning i always carry with me, which means, it’s easier for us to attack/discredit/deconstruct each other, than those who are enemies of us ALL on the Left… and further means to me, think long and carefully before attacking those I generally agree with; and acknowledge my solidarities with those Lefties/Radicals i agree with, before enumerating my disagreements (which however deserve hearing); 5. which leads back to some of what’s been said below, which is, “Divide and conquer is the oldest (and most reliable) trick in the book. Lets not play into their game.” – frankly that’s the most powerful tool the Right has, and 6. “holier-than-thou” is politically (but not necessarily ethically) bankrupt, as is “more-politically-aware-than-you”… all of which relies on an obvious truth — I can ALWAYS find something politically suspect about your position — to accomplish the enemy’s objectives: divide and conquer… but again, maybe I’m being too knee-jerk defensive, which again, as a white liberal, is a pretty natural — but ultimately philosophically/politically/ethically defeating — position…

    • dr. diogenes

      I refuse to think that anyone is beyond critique. I think that looking at any political thing white people are doing through a racial lens is always a good idea. This protest does have people of color in it; some very articulate ones. The dynamic of colonialism, of ownership of the land is always a good critique. I thought the article and the first response were both intended as statements, not arguments. I mean, I was thinking about the Yee article and yeah, it’s a critique from a really valid position, but it seems so ‘shut down the discussion’ – and then the next response was so stereotypically white-privilige. I mean, I was reading it going – and here comes the dismissive part. And there it was!

      Kiki’s post I am so greatful for taking the time to articulate some of the stages. I really also liked the kid who was up going to report to the General Assembly and his/her masterful summarizing the points without responding to the provocation. I guess that’s what the original seemed to me – provocative. Is that bad? I don’t know – I like this discussion thread.

  • Valenciennes

    I understand and agree with most of what you’re saying, but just for clarification’s sake the document posted on the 22nd was in no way an official release from the NYCGA/OWS. They only reached consensus on a first draft early on the 29th, and it was posted on the 30th (“Declaration of the Occupation of New York City”): http://nycga.cc/ 

    (the direct link isn’t working for some reason, but here it is for if it comes back: http://nycga.cc/2011/09/30/declaration-of-the-occupation-of-new-york-city/)

    Thanks for the dose of perspective.

  • Edward Ou Jin Lee

    Thanks Jessica for writing an important critique and one that I hope the left and those involved in OWS acknowledge and talk about. Its interesting to see the immediate defensive, non-reflexive responses that these reflections are getting. Anyone who would respond to your critique by saying you’re proposing to ‘evict’ non-indigenous people very obviously have not engaged in any kind of deeper reflections on colonialism and ways that non-indigenous peoples have found ways to engage in anti-colonial struggles alongside indigenous people. Also, Jessica provided plenty of alternative strategies for folks who are now involved with the OWS that they should have already done, but still have the opportunity to do… people who can’t see these things are obviously responding from a place of defensiveness. And its actually not Jessica who is making the statement of ‘I’m better than you’. When ‘progressives’ prioritize ending capitalism without finding ways to acknowledge colonialism, you are essentially saying that anti-capitalist concerns are ‘better than’ or more important than anti-colonial concerns… when they are actually intertwined… just my opinion… with all due respect…  

  • Sascha

    For the past fifty years, the people of this country have been absolutely paralyzed into helplessness and immobility. The past 4 years of Obama did more to tranquilize our social movements than anything else could have. These people are DOING something… and it’s gaining momentum. At this point I am not willing to count out ANY kind of action no matter how imperfect it is or how much I might disagree with certain aspects. I hope I am conveying, not a frustration with you or the ideals you espouse, but a desperation to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING that is effective!  I don’t disagree with you. I know that we are all standing and living on occupied, indigenous land, and I fully recognize the importance of facing the history of colonization that has brought us to this point. I agree with you that a decolonization process must be a fundamental component of any movement that attempts to effectively confront capitalism. But my god, are we really willing to so readily dismiss, what has the potential to be, the Tahrir square of the USA? If anything, we must recognize that social movements, unlike the bureaucracies and institutions that the US Gov is comprised of, are mobile, fluid, dynamic and ever evolving organisms. Ideologies and goals of the movement change depending on the people that participate in it. I would urge you than to educate others in this movement about your struggle for decolonization while also learning about their struggles rather than simply dismissing the movement as a whole, with all of its potential. Divide and conquer is the oldest (and most reliable) trick in the book. Lets not play into their game.

    • Jessica Yee

      And for the past 500+ and present the First Peoples of THIS territory have experienced genocide, violence, and erasure at the cost of everyone else “moving on” with it. What say you to that?

      Also who said anything about dismissing? Odd how if you are truthful and accountable to what’s really going on you are “against” something. Especially when my article clearly said what I’m not against.

    • Jessica Yee

      And for the past 500+ and present the First Peoples of THIS territory have experienced genocide, violence, and erasure at the cost of everyone else “moving on” with it. What say you to that?

      Also who said anything about dismissing? Odd how if you are truthful and accountable to what’s really going on you are “against” something. Especially when my article clearly said what I’m not against.

  • http://twitter.com/ohsweetie ohsweetie

    You’re amazing. This is incredible. It reminds me of victoria-ites claiming they’ve discovered “avatar grove” in the heart of Nuu-chah-nulth and Coast Salish territories and then rename it after a racist block buster movie (in 2011) or even environmentalists who “squat” on land to claim it to “protect it”. It’s super frustrating. I saw a bunch of info on this “occupy wall street” thing and went to the NY Times and it wasn’t on the front page, so obviously not that big of a deal, impact wise, but BIG deal when looking at internal theory and methodoligizing of space and place and colonization. Thanks for getting this discussion out there Jess. XO

    • The Blue Dream

      Uh. I’d say the fact 1000 people turned out on the first night and that this has been going on for 2 weeks as evidence of it being a “big deal” whether or not the NY Times chooses to report on it.

    • The Blue Dream

      Uh. I’d say the fact 1000 people turned out on the first night and that this has been going on for 2 weeks as evidence of it being a “big deal” whether or not the NY Times chooses to report on it.

  • Kimmy

    Ah. I feel a bit better now. A lot of good people that Id say are casual friends of mine have been at Wall street since the protests started, and I have yet to join them. It didn’t feel right…something about it unsettled me. To see tweeds and Facebook statuses/manifestos about the goings on down there turn into “Russell Simmons is meditating with us!” and “Radiohead is going to play!” starts to uproot the source of my aversion. And now Jessica posts this, and I am that much closer to not only understanding why I dislike “the occupation,” but what I can do and where I can go to aid in the release.

  • SouthJerseyJew

    I’m sorry, but this article is a perfect example of extremely tiring self-cannibalism among progressives.  It serves literally no purpose.  Jessica Yee doesn’t explain at all what she wants from the 298 million people living in this country who are not of Indigenous descent.  How exactly do you propose to end colonialism, by which you seem to mean the very presence of white/blacks/Asians/etc… in North America?  Evict everyone?  Write a blank check to every person in this country who can prove that they have so-and-so percentage of Indigenous ancestry?

    It also says something about a certain lack of realism.  There’s no point in advocating a belief that you know will never happen.  And to seriously believe that the nation states of the U.S. and Canada are going to voluntarily disappear is utterly ridiculous.  Deconstructing unjust parts of the current system are difficult enough.  Instead of simply ranting against progressive activists bringing attention to corporate greed on Wall Street, why not propose a serious alternative?  I mean, literally, what is the point of what you just said?  That the activists should be carrying about placards that read: “OCCUPY WALL STREET (APOLOGIES TO FIRST NATIONS PEOPLES)”.

    I’m sorry, but with all due respect, this just reads like another “I’m more progressive/liberal/better than the leftists over there/they’re part of the problem”. 

    • Buck Doyle

      I’m disappointed in the (currently) 9 likes. People, do you have no analysis of colonialism? I agree with Jessica Yee that any talk of resisting capitalism needs to include resisting colonialism. Colonialism isn’t the *presence* of people from other parts of the world, it’s the continuing process of genocide and domination set in motion with the invasion.

      Your reply is a total derailment. “Evict everyone” is a cliché trotted out any time Indigenous people talk about decolonisation. Instead of reacting defensively as if you’re being asked to leave the land, think about how you can be in solidarity with liberatory Indigenous struggles.

      You joke about how the protestors could address this issue in an attempt to dismiss a complicated point. Sure, decolonisation and other struggles don’t always easily fit into soundbites, but relying on simplistic analyses is part of why things are terrible and more marginalised people are ignored.

      This post mirrors what happens any time a member of an oppressed minority speaks up to point out flaws in an approach. “Deconstructing unjust parts of the current system are difficult enough” is an excuse that lets you prioritise your privilege to win victories for yourself to remain comfortable at the expense of more broad freedom.

      • JGreyden

        Thanks Buck Doyle, that was a much needed reply.

        I strongly dislike intellectual dishonesty, and this process of  deliberately dumbing down a whole text into farcical infantile one-liners isn’t helping. I am not underestimating the dreadful efficiency of this kind of tactic on any other social media. The “10 Likes” are a sobering reminder of this.

      • SouthJerseyJew

        Actually, your whole reply proved my point.  I criticized Yee for not specifically saying what constitutes “anti-colonialism” or “de-colonizing”.  And in your response, you didn’t list anything specific.  You just reiterated the need for “decolonisation”.

        “think about how you can be in solidarity with liberatory Indigenous struggles”.  This, right here, is a perfect example of what’s wrong with the progressive movement today.  It’s an utterly vapid, meaningless statement and another attempt at one-upmanship.  You didn’t address what that solidarity means at all.  You’re simply being proud of yourself and trying to present yourself as someone who is in solidarity with Indigenous groups.

        If you’re going to cheap shot the Occupy Wall Street folks, then list at least a few examples of what they could be doing that would be more in line with de-colonization, in your mighty, indigenous-representing opinion.  Otherwise, you’re just posturing.

        • Anonymous

          Why do Yee or Buck need to list or define anything for you?  There is a world of information out there about how to confront colonialism.  Lots and lots of examples that may not be what you want to hear, but are there nonetheless.  It’s not our job to spoon feed people who want to participate in colonialism by dismissing it’s hold on the world, and the effect on us and our communities personally, or who refuse to take a simple intellectual leap to connect the glaring connections between colonialism an capitalism, or who assume that it’s our job to lead you to the water and then waste our valuable time trying to convince you to drink. 
          And did you not notice the representative from Occupy Wall Street’s response?  You could learn a lot about listening and engaging that individual. 

          • Edward Ou Jin Lee

            Oops Sorry lindzanne – I basically just said many of the same things that you said, but I only read your comments after I posted mine. Sorry!

      • hoping 4 a better future.

        One word: Solidarity. 
        Let the Indigenous people join in with the Wall St. Protestors.. Let ALL the people join in. After all, we are all part of the 99%. 
        Why is it that when we can actually take the power back and move towards creating change , we always get pinned against each other? We are strong together. Why create division? Yes, there has been change over the past 100 yrs (and more). Isn’t it a good thing that we could create change FOR the people? And by people, I mean ALL people. All creed, religion, sexual orientation, age, gender, and so on… 

        • KW

          Do you really believe that Jessica Yee is trying to, in your words, pin people against each other by adding an anti-colonial caveat to the Occupy Wall St message? I read her post as a constructive criticism of the messaging involved in what seems to be a growing movement — and if we can acknowledge the colonial ties early on and incorporate an anti-colonial strain into the discourse, I believe this project will be both more just and, subsequently, more inclusive of the “other 99%” it purports to represent. That majority of people comprises folks from all cultural histories, and must reflect as such, otherwise it’s just another injust, totalizing lie.

          There is nothing divisive about bringing anti-colonial (or any other anti-oppressive) concerns into our dialogue. To do so is to make the activist conversation truly inclusive — it is necessary. Anything else is, at best, ignorance or, at worst, bigotry.

          And anyone who says otherwise is likely insecure in their own position of privilege but unwilling to give it up, and in so doing cannot be fully committed to creating a free and just world.

    • Kat

      Having just come back from a Coexistence project in the West Bank and in Jerusalem, your reply really took a lot of my hopes away. Punch in the gut.

    • Anonymous

      When I read Jessica’s commentary I honestly had not connected the Occupy Wall Street protests with the indigenous struggle and wondered too how anti-colonialism would be operationalized. But your comments are incredibly condescending and belittling to American Indian and First Nation’s struggle for diginity in their own land. You reduce the concerns with the protest outlined above to progressive in-fighting as if all progressives should defer to what the mainline “leadership” sets as the agenda. You then reinforce colonialism in your comments by basically saying “Us outsiders are already here on this land, NOT MUCH YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT, SO SHUT UP”. She never advocated evicting anyone or reparations of any kind in her essay. You seem to be saying us little folks should put our criticisms on the backburner for the greater good of the movement even if we feel this movement has faults that could be fixed to build an even stronger one. Specifically, you seem to be saying that indigenous people in this country should just “get over it” and be satisfied with being historical relics as defined by the colonizers.

    • http://twitter.com/spsook Samuel Sukaton

      How did we jump from “let’s keep in mind that progressive, anti-capitalist action should keep in mind that this a settler colonial state and organize accordingly” to “I’m more progressive than you, let’s deport everyone who’s not native!” Jessica’s not saying that.
      Nor is Jessica required to “explain” what she wants from you and I (or herself, if I assume correctly; Yee is a name of East Asian extraction.)

      What Jessica IS saying is that the system that OWS is opposed to is rooted, at bedrock, in the exploitation of indigenous residents of this continent and the continued attempts to eradicate their communities – which it is. It’s also rooted in the push and pull factors of the “other 298 million” of us – economic imperialism, religious bigotry, dictatorship, genocide, etc. Jessica’s not asking you and I to go home, she’s suggesting that OWS could augment their opposition to Wall Street  with an affirmation of Wall Street’s targets – in her case, natives.

      That said, the movement as I’m observing it isn’t in that headspace yet – these are young people facing a broken social contract they they themselves were conditioned with false promises of hard work and comfort. Some folks just want jobs and insurance. Some wants socialism now. To quote a political activist from Seattle  “It’s just a couple bad apples. But look a little closer, you will see: the shit isn’t the apple, it’s the tree – it’s rotten underneath.” Jessica’s just saying Wall Street is rotten root (settler colonialism) trunk (black slavery, disenfranchisement of white workers and creation of an immigrant-heavy underclass) and branch (the erosion of the “middle class.)

      • Jessica Yee

        Thanks for the reply but best not to assume! I am indeed Indigenous and a young person!

        • http://twitter.com/spsook Samuel Sukaton

           I stand corrected – thanks!

    • CV

      haha, the funny thing is that eveything that SJJ is saying to the author, Yee – sounds exactly like what people are saying to Occupiers all over the country. 99% is a big margin. Better be ready to hear what the ALL have to say.