by Guest Contributor Robert Desjarlait
The Occupy Wall Street protest has become a matter of debate in Indian Country. Some have chosen to be included under the slogan – “We Are The 99%; others, like me, have chosen to be excluded from the 99%. Many of those who support it have come up with their own slogan – DECOLONIZE WALL STREET. I simply don’t believe that the indigenous nations on Turtle Island are a part of that 99% equation, let alone that the Occupy Wall Street movement is about decolonization.
One protester, Brendan Burke, said: “Everyone has this problem. White, black. Rich or poor. Where you live. Everyone has a financial inequity oppressing them.”
I assume from his statement that Burke only sees things in white and black. Apparently he is color blind when it comes to red and the brown. As far as financial inequity is concerned, we, the red and the brown peoples of the Americas, have suffered financial inequity ever since the oppressors first invaded our shores. Financial inequity – perhaps better termed as socio-economic inequity – began with the subjugation of our lands through treaties. Annuity payments were often late and were never the amount negotiated under the treaty. Supplies and food rations that were part of annuity payments were often appropriated by Indian agents and resold for higher prices.
The tragedy at Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag (Sandy Lake) exemplifies the socio-economic inequity of annuity payments. In the fall of 1850, nineteen Anishinaabeg bands from Wisconsin journeyed to Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag for annual annuity payments and supplies. The annuity payments and supplies were late and the people had to wait until early December before they received limited sums of money and available supplies. Trying to survive on spoiled and inadequate government rations while waiting for the annuities, 150 Anishinaabeg people died from dysentery and measles at Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag. Two-hundred and fifty more, mostly women children and elders, died on their way back home to Wisconsin. This is but one example of the economic inequity that has been part of the indigenous experience in the United States.
One of the things that the Occupy Wall Street organizers have repeatedly stated is that the inspiration for their protest is the Arab Spring movement. If this is the case, one may ask how did the indigenous peoples of the Middle East fare from the Arab Spring?
On September, Daniel Gabriel, the SUA Human Rights and UN NGO Director, stated: “While the media focuses all its energy on the Palestinian search for Statehood and the ‘Arab Spring’, it is the reduced indigenous populations of the Middle East who continue to lose out. Time and time again, the world demands justice, democracy and freedom in the Middle East, but it fails in its obligation to demand the same for the minority groups like the Arameans. Today we barely survive in our homeland. But tomorrow we may silently vanish from existence. The SUA pleads with the global bodies such as the United Nations and the world community and media to prevent this imminent tragedy from happening.”
If the Arab Spring didn’t flourish for indigenous peoples in the Middle East, how can we expect it to flourish here? Continue reading