All posts by Jessica

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.

Responding to the mainstream feminist blogosphere on Feminism FOR REAL

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

So while I was out in the real world yesterday working up north in Nunavik (which is not Nunavut – for those of you who think you’re bad ass having heard about Nunavut before – Nunavik is a completely different Inuit region) this happened in the feminist blogosphere regarding the lack of mainstream feminist coverage of Feminism FOR REAL – Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism.

Yes it’s true I edited Feminism FOR REAL and have since been sussing out various reactions and mentions of the book. I don’t consider myself a writer at all – I work 24/7 leading the Native Youth Sexual Health Network across North America (the first book I put together Sex Ed and Youth: Colonization, Sexuality, and Communities of Color was my initial attempt in entering book world) so I’m new to all this you need to do A, B, and C to get a book out there because I often struggle with what books and blogs mean when shit goes down in real life (which is also why my online writing has stopped as of late)

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Start your new year off right with a Tribe Called Red – and see if you can stereotype THIS

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

Many of you know just how riled up I get when talking about cultural appropriation and willful ignorance of things like protecting Indigenous knowledge, or just not showing any damn RESPECT for things people really know nothing about.

I wanted to alert you all to some amazing Native peeps that are taking de-bunking Indigenous stereotypes to a whole new level – via music, dance, electric beats, hip-hop, and mind-blowing remixes to decolonize you all over – especially in those hard to reach places.

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Telling the truth and community accountability on Columbus Day/Thanksgiving

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

Does anyone ever wonder when “Columbus Day” will no longer be a nationally “celebrated” holiday? I mean really and truly – when do y’all think that will happen?

In my opinion, it’s not as if the information does not exist out there which explicitly states that no, Columbus was never even near the continental mass of what’s now known as “America”. The “great” navigator that he was didn’t even know where he was going and never washed up here – ever.

What he did do with the full backing of the voyage was ensue genocide, apartheid, and colonization – all whose affects are deeply entrenched in existing assimilative federal policies, hierarchical societal structures, and the realities of Indigenous communities here and around the world.

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Another day, another apology – this time to Inuit for high arctic relocation


By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

This past Wednesday newly appointed Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development John Duncan issued an official apology from the government of Canada to Inuit for the forced high arctic relocation:

On behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, we would like to offer a full and sincere apology to Inuit for the relocation of families from Inukjuak and Pond Inlet to Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay during the 1950s.

We would like to express our deepest sorrow for the extreme hardship and suffering caused by the relocation.  The families were separated from their home communities and extended families by more than a thousand kilometres.  They were not provided with adequate shelter and supplies.  They were not properly informed of how far away and how different from Inukjuak their new homes would be, and they were not aware that they would be separated into two communities once they arrived in the High Arctic.  Moreover, the Government failed to act on its promise to return anyone that did not wish to stay in the High Arctic to their old homes.

The Government of Canada deeply regrets the mistakes and broken promises of this dark chapter of our history and apologizes for the High Arctic relocation having taken place.  We would like to pay tribute to the relocatees for their perseverance and courage.  Despite the suffering and hardship, the relocatees and their descendants were successful in building vibrant communities in Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay.  The Government of Canada recognizes that these communities have contributed to a strong Canadian presence in the High Arctic.

The relocation of Inuit families to the High Arctic is a tragic chapter in Canada’s history that we should not forget, but that we must acknowledge, learn from and teach our children.  Acknowledging our shared history allows us to move forward in partnership and in a spirit of reconciliation.  The Government of Canada and Inuit have accomplished many great things together, and all Canadians have benefitted from the contributions of Inuit to our culture and history.  We must continue to strengthen our connections and deepen our understanding and respect.  We must jointly build a stronger, healthier and more vibrant Inuit Nunangat and, in turn, build a stronger, healthier and more vibrant Canada.

The forced “high arctic relocation” is a horribly little known part of Indigenous apartheid in Canada. So many families I know have relatives who were part of this and have fought for years to seek justice, even just to get the government to admit that it purposely put people there to assert so-called “Canadian sovereignty” (which is insulting even just to type those two words out).  Words like “relocation” are also coercive and intentionally polite to deceive people into thinking that Inuit were just fine and happy to be moved – and of course to defend Canada’s imposed right to commodify Indigenous people and make us disappear.

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Quoted: Mayor Bloomberg on “cowboying up and cracking down” on Natives

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg giving advice to Governor David Paterson on how to deal with the sale of tax-free cigarettes on sovereign Native lands within New York State;

“I’ve said this to David Paterson, I said, ‘You know, get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun. If there’s ever a great video, it’s you standing in the middle of the New York State Thruway saying, you know, ‘Read my lips – the law of the land is this, and we’re going to enforce it”.


So now I’d much rather quote my sister Tia Oros Peters, Executive Director of the Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development who said in response:

Indigenous Peoples remain the final “frontier” for colonization — where discrimination and a warped “civil religion” kind of thing permeates the american consciousness and allows, perhaps even encourages prejudice, suggestions of genocidal violence, and intention of direct harm with impunity – simply because of being Native. That’s the United States today, August 2010.

tia oros peters

OPEN THREAD: White people doing the anti-racist work

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

anne braden

Several friends and colleagues of mine have spoken very highly of the Anne Braden Anti-Racist Organizing Training Program For White Social Justice Activists in San Francisco (new applications for the February 2011 start program are due October 1st, y’all!) It’s essentially a 4-plus-month intensive program that includes a volunteer placement in an organization lead by POC.

Here’s an excerpt from the closing ceremony speech about anti-racist sex work organizing and the prison industrial complex by Juliet November, a dear friend and recent graduate of the program who did her volunteer placement at Critical Resistance:

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How Native Women Built the Tribal Law and Order Act

By Jessica Yee, cross-posted from Ms. Magazine

As a Native feminist without apology, I’m thrilled that the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 has been passed to protect Native women from violence. I have fellow Native woman warrior and feminist to thank for coining that exact phrase, and in fact, the bill itself: my shero Ms. Sarah Deer.

Sarah and I first met through Facebook, then face-to-face at the Tribal Policy and Law Institute of America in St. Paul, MN. It was Indigenous feminist love at first sight.

A Mvskoke (Creek) from Kansas, Sarah is a Tribal Law Professor at William Mitchell College of Law and served on the advisory committee (while undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer) for Amnesty International’s 2007 report “Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Violence“–the fire behind getting the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 passed.

It’s been a whirlwind three years–from the Amnesty report to the bill signing just days ago–but as Sarah says here it’s really been 500+ years in the making. And since women are the life-givers, matriarchs, and center of our communities, we all have a responsibility to keep fighting.

JY: How are you feeling right now?

SD: I’m feeling exhausted and exhilarated. We–the five or six of us women who were connected in making this happen–kept saying to each other outside the White House, “This is so surreal!”

JY: When did it become real for you?

SD: It became very real when Lisa Marie Iyotte–a Lakota woman from the Rosebud Sioux tribe in South Dakota who is a rape survivor–spoke [at the bill's signing] and said unequivocally, “If the Tribal Law and Order Act had existed 16 years ago, my story would have been very different.”

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