Colonization and Resistance in the Philippine Archipelago

Colonization and Resistance in the Philippine Archipelago

The Philippine archipelago was a Spanish colony for nearly 500 years, and a US colony for 50. Today, it is an economic colony. This episode of The Green Flame focuses on the history of the Archipelago (decolonized name for the Philippines). Our interview is with Neneth, a longtime revolutionary and organizer based on the northern island of Luzon.

This show features Andres Bonifacio’s poem “Pag-Ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa.” Our skill focus is on capacity building and logistics.

Music: Perilune – AERØHEAD Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported — CC BY-SA 3.0 Horizons by Scott Buckley Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported — CC BY 3.0

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The Green Flame is a Deep Green Resistance podcast offering revolutionary analysis, skill sharing, and inspiration for the movement to save the planet by any means necessary. Our hosts are Max Wilbert and Jennifer Murnan.

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What is Decolonization? Anti-Colonial and Cultural Resurgence Actions with Sakej Ward

What is Decolonization? Anti-Colonial and Cultural Resurgence Actions with Sakej Ward

What is decolonization? What does the term mean, and what is entailed? In this conversation, we discuss the question of decolonziation with Sakej Ward.

Sakej (James Ward) belongs to the wolf clan. He is Mi’kmaw (Mi’kmaq Nation) from the community of Es-gen-oo-petitj (Burnt Church First Nation, New Brunswick).

Having taught, organized, advised and led various warrior societies from all over Turtle Island down into Guatemala and Borike (Puerto Rico) Sakej has made warrior-hood his way of life.

This conversation is excerpted from a recent episode of The Green Flame, a Deep Green Resistance podcast.

What is Decolonization?

Max Wilbert: Can you help define Decolonization for us and help us understand what this entails? I think a lot of people when they hear the term Decolonization, they think of a process that occurs primarily in the mind and that seems like a part of it to me, but I think there’s more to it. I’m just wondering if you can help us unpack that idea.

Sakej Ward: I don’t know what’s happening in the States, but here in Canada the term Decolonization is being hijacked, so we see institutions like even government institutions or universities in particular that are trying to redefine it and like water it down and use token measure of indigenous inclusion and then call it like a decolonizing initiative and it really isn’t right. So, let’s talk about this, what we really mean.

Now, to explain Decolonization I’ll do it in a simple way, I would just simply say it’s the undoing of the destruction of colonialism and it’s the undoing of colonial influences. So I’m talking about things like the undoing of the destruction of our lands, the destruction of indigenous culture, the destruction of even our governments, destruction of our population, our people, and as you mentioned even our minds, individual minds and our spirits.

Two Sides of Decolonization: Anti-Colonial Action and Cultural Resurgence Action

So I’m talking about reversing all that. So if Colonization was about the destruction of the indigenous way of life in our indigenous world, Decolonization is about ridding ourselves of all those efforts, initiatives, and influences. So the way I usually talk about it, there is basically two efforts or two actions that we could look at these broad spectrums of actions, and the first one is ANTI-COLONIAL ACTIONS and the other one is CULTURAL RESURGENCE ACTIONS.

So the ANTI-COLONIAL ACTIONS are actions we take to disempower or eradicate colonialism. CULTURAL RESURGENCE ACTIONS are the opposite; these are actions we take to rebuild indigenous nations, right? So we do some examples like, for instance, ANTI-COLONIAL ACTIONS, you know, right at the top of my head, here I would say anti-industrial initiatives.

Dismantling the Colonial Economy: Anti-Industrial Actions

So anything that is about destroying our homeland, and so, you know, opposing pipelines like in Wet’suwet’en they’re doing a great job taking on the pipelines, they’re opposing logging, commercial fishing, mining, all these destructive processes to the land and that’s ANTI-COLONIAL EFFORTS, right? Because, like I said, at the core of Colonialism is the idea of extracting the resources of another country or the benefit gain of what used to be referred as Motherland, a Metropole, nowadays is just a particular family or a particular group or particular corporation, right?

And also, anti-colonial actions do also include things like opposing colonial political authority, that’s where we really get down to the things like challenging colonial assertions of sovereignty, so these become actions where you help raise awareness around things like the Doctrine of Discovery and that’s where Europe particularly through the Vatican gave themselves permission to seize all non-Christian lands. So the idea of discovering the land and then claiming it as their own, now belonging to France or Britain or Spain or Portugal, with a colonial construct, right? This was something that the Vatican in their papal bulls Had said  go ahead and do this and I’m giving you permission to go out and claim lands for the sake of the Christian Empire, right?

MW: Right

Dismantling Colonial Culture

SW: So we have to challenge those things like the Doctrine of Discovery, because that is at the heart of colonial assertion of sovereignty, when we say sovereignty we’re talking about absolute power, absolutely like governing power over land, and we’re talking about the idea of these Doctrines of Discovery are completely illegitimate, we know it’s based on racism, it’s based on the idea also that Christianity has security over the world or our right to rule the world, so we have to challenge these.

Another anti-colonial action could be like opposing dominant culture ‘cause right now dominant culture is European, Eurocentric-based culture, right? So things like Western Liberalism which focuses on the individual. Indigenous culture was focused on the collective and the next generations, right? It wasn’t about the individual, so it was about thinking about externally, thinking about other people, your community, your nation, and generations yet to come.

Dismantling the Philosophy of Colonization

We also need to get away from things like Capitalism, Christianity, you know oppose all that stuff, as well as something that kinda throws people off is the idea of rights, right-based conflicts. Rights, at least from the dominant culture comes the idea, you could go back to critical theorists like Locke and Hobbes and you see that what they’re saying is rights come from the crown, that means the government, right?

And particularly Hobbes is saying that the crown owns all your rights in order to create a society, and they will tell you what rights you have to be able to function in a society, so you know your rights and your freedoms are all owned by the government and they’ll let you know which ones you can exercise in this model society they create, right? “So indigenous people talk about fighting for rights”, no, we’re really saying that we’re just fighting for the little morsels of political freedoms that the government will give us, right? We’re acknowledging that they have the right to even take them from us to create their society, right?

And, so a lot of times I talk about “no, we have to be more conscious of the idea of INDIGENOUS RESPONSIBILITIES not RIGHTS”, and our responsibilities are the idea of how we relate to the land in a good way, how we relate to the life of the land and our people and our next generation in a good way. Rights is something I can go my entire life without never exercising. The right to, say, “go fish”, and  I never have to exercise it at all. A responsibility is a different thing, it’s an obligation, I have a duty to go out and protect that land, I have a duty to go and protect the next seven generations.

So, the dominant culture is really focused on this idea of rights, but really indigenous thinking should be more about responsibilities, and we have to be able to oppose these things. So, on the ANTI-COLONIAL ACTIONS think about imposing industrial initiatives, colonial political authority, dominant culture, we’re gonna oppose all that and that’s anti-colonial actions.

The Necessity of Cultural Resurgence

But, the CULTURAL RESURGENCE ACTION that’s more like indigenous nation building and that’s what we’re talking about healing our homelands, that’s, you know, obviously the ecology, and the environment that’s been utterly decimated under the last five hundred years of Colonialism.

So, we have to talk about how do we rebuild that, how do we rebuild the life in the lands, how do we re-establish a connection and the relationship with our homeland. And it’s understanding that being on indigenous land isn’t just a physical experience, it’s also a cultural-spiritual experience that we have with the lands and the life of those lands. How do we rebuild our ways of governance and how do we empower our traditional government.

Reclaiming Identity

Another thing we could look at in terms of CULTURAL RESURGENCE is reclaiming our identity and we spoke a little [about that] earlier because as colonial subjects or colonial citizens we are utterly controlled by their laws, and this was imposed on us, you know, there was never a vote for indigenous people to say “yes, we want to become part of the colonizer”, there was never a self-determining action to say we want to be part of that, it was always imposed.

Here in Canada, the word Aboriginal was used because after the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution in 1982, Aboriginal became a legal definition when they talk about indigenous people, and what happens is because it’s a legal definition, they have to define the scope of what it means to be Aboriginal. So, they’re controlling the identity, and basically what it comes down to is an Aboriginal persona can practice non-threatening culture and you could go sing, you could dance, you could tell stories, you can entertain the colonizer as much as you want. You could put on what they always referred to as “our customs”  are regalia or cultural clothing.

We could put that on and put on a show for the Queen when she come in to visit Canada and they love that, but the minute we say being indigenous means occupying our land, have access to our land, have a relationship with our land, that becomes threatening to the colonizer, that becomes threatening to the idea of private property.

So the concept, the legal definition of Aboriginal, it’s really about limiting the scope of what it means to be indigenous. So we don’t really have these political rights to access land, and we again we see this happening in Sudan, where the hereditary Chiefs who really are the legitimate leaders of that land are being challenged and faced with conflict of the Colonial States who are telling them by way of the Canadian definition of Aboriginal that they have no real power or no real consent over the land.

So we see in this idea of Indigenous versus Aboriginal being played out in the Wet’suwet’en, and then also in terms of the Cultural Resurgence, we have to talk about rebuilding our culture itself, the language, our history, our ceremonies, our rituals, our customs, and what it amounts to is rebuilding the framework that makes up a worldview, and within our culture, our culture was very spiritual, so we are talking about rebuilding that spiritualism that was part and parcel of our worldview.

Summary: What is Decolonization

And finally, by rebuilding our connection to the land, rebuilding our government and rebuilding our culture hopefully that will remind us about the need to rebuild our sacred responsibility to that land. I hope it fills in all those pieces so we understand how important that really becomes again and that’s what I think of when I think of Decolonization, it’s the Anti-colonial actions as well as these cultural resurgence actions that go on simultaneously.

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About The Green Flame

The Green Flame is a Deep Green Resistance podcast offering revolutionary analysis, skill sharing, and inspiration for the movement to save the planet by any means necessary. Our hosts are Max Wilbert and Jennifer Murnan.

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Throughout the history of human civilization, imperialism has driven the conquest and colonization of indigenous communities, cultures, and land. The land that they hold sacred is turned into commodities and resources to be “managed” by the settlers. Colonization of the indigenous people continues to this day and will continue until serious political resistance is undertaken with solidarity from non-indigenous people. DGR has developed Indigenous Solidarity Guidelines for any non-indigenous people supporting the decolonization of indigenous people.

Columbus and Other Cannibals provides an indigenous perspective of violence and destruction caused by the dominant culture. For Indigenous Eyes Only helps indigenous communities in the process of decolonization.

“Traditional communities do not often voluntarily give up or sell the resources on which their communities are based until their communities have been destroyed. They also do not willingly allow their landbases to be damaged so that other resources—gold, oil, and so on—can be extracted. It follows that those who want the resources will do what they can to destroy traditional communities.” (Premise 2, Endgame, Derrick Jensen)

U.S. Government Unilaterally Dissolves Mashpee Wampanoag Reservation: ‘Modern Colonization’

U.S. Government Unilaterally Dissolves Mashpee Wampanoag Reservation: ‘Modern Colonization’

Colonialism is the brutal act of greed taking from indigenous people on their own land. Unfortunately, not much has changed in the Western Hemisphere since 1492.

The latest came just yesterday, as the United States Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt ordered the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s reservation “disestablished” and its lands taken out of trust.

Tribe Chairman Cedric Cromwell confessed bewilderment about the reason for the federal government’s crusade against the tribe, while also affirming a long-standing commitment to resist and fight for their lands in a post on the tribe’s website:

“…we the People of the First Light have lived here since before there was a Secretary of the Interior, since before there was a State of Massachusetts, since before the Pilgrims arrived 400 years ago. We have survived, we will continue to survive. These are our lands, these are the lands of our ancestors, and these will be the lands of our grandchildren. This Administration has come and it will go. But we will be here, always. And we will not rest until we are treated equally with other federally recognized tribes and the status of our reservation is confirmed.”

Taking Native Lands Is Top of the U.S. Agenda

Colonialism has always been about greed and taking. The wealthy settlers have never stopped trying to take all they can from native lands. This particular administration has been no different, and especially helpful to the cause, especially as it eyeballs all the energy reserves buried under native lands.

Native American reservations cover just 2 percent of the United States, but they may contain about a fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with vast coal reserves. The Trump administration has commissioned a coalition of advisors to take away as much of that land as possible for private use.

Trump’s Web Of Self-Interests Against Mashpee Wampanoag

If that wasn’t bad enough, the casino-mogul president is particularly interested in stopping the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe from building a casino just 18 miles from Rhode Island where Twin Rivers has two casinos riddled with Trump loyalists, lobbyists and investors. You can read all about this intricate connection between Trump and Twin Rivers here if you really want to.

A decade old Court decision Carcieri v. Salazar established that the federal government cannot take land into trust for tribes that weren’t “under federal jurisdiction” in the year 1934.

House Bill 312 was heading through with little opposition to settle the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s land issues once and for all, that is until Trump tweeted.

“Republicans shouldn’t vote for H.R. 312, a special interest casino Bill, backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren. It is unfair and doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!”

Indigenous People Are Continually Endangered

Long story short, we’ve already read this book. Derrick Jensen put is most succinctly in Premise Two in his book Endgame:

PREMISE TWO: Traditional communities do not often voluntarily give up or sell the resources on which their communities are based until their communities have been destroyed. They also do not willingly allow their landbases to be damaged so that other resources—gold, oil, and so on—can be extracted. It follows that those who want the resources will do what they can to destroy traditional communities.

Regardless of how you might feel about the construction of a casino, native people have been subjected to genocide; the robbing of their lands upon which their ancestors lived for millenia; and to the continual dismantling of their culture and murder of their people up to this present moment. Instead of in any way making reconciliation for these past wrongs, the U.S. continues the trampling of native people.

The issue of reservations and trust status has been a contention of radical indigenous people for a long time. In Hawaii, for example, the Kanaka (indigenous) community is divided over the issue of official U.S. government recognition. Some in the community wish to gain access to funding for health care, housing, education, and so on. Others see these as petty bribes. They contend that the Hawaiian nation was unjustly overthrown by the U.S. government, and that accepting “tribal” status would only legitimize an ongoing occupation that is entirely illegal and unjustified.

This is just one story from one day among many stories among many years. These conditions have never been tolerable, and they aren’t tolerable today. Colonization is not something from the past. It is an ongoing, everyday process. This is but one of the many reasons why we must build a real resistance.

Decolonization and Resistance: A Conversation with Sakej Ward

Decolonization and Resistance: A Conversation with Sakej Ward

In this episode of The Green Flame podcast, we speak with Sakej Ward. Sakej (James Ward) belongs to the wolf clan. He is Mi’kmaw (Mi’kmaq Nation) from the community of Esgenoopetitj (Burnt Church First Nation, New Brunswick). He is the father of nine children, four grandchildren and a caregiver for one.

Sakej is a veteran of both the Canadian and American militaries. During his military career, he volunteered and excelled at some of the most demanding leadership courses in the military, including the Special Forces Infantry Leader’s Course. He finished his military career at the rank of Sergeant.

Wanting to pursue academics, he immediately went to university and immersed himself in politics where he graduated from the University of New Brunswick from the Honour’s program with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with a specialization in International Relations.

Recognizing the value of an academic background, he continued to advance his studies and attended the University of Victoria where he successfully completed the Master’s of Arts Degree in Indigenous Governance.

Sakej has a long history of advocating and protecting First Nations inherent responsibilities and freedoms, having spent the last 21 years fighting the government and industry. This deep desire to bring justice to all Indigenous people has given Sakej experience in international relations where he spoke on behalf of the Mi’kmaq Nation at the United Nations Working Group for Indigenous Populations (WGIP). For his efforts in protecting Indigenous people, freedoms and territory he has received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award.

Having taught, organized, advised and led various warrior societies from all over Turtle Island down into Guatemala and Borike (Puerto Rico) Sakej has made warrior-hood his way of life. He has been on over a dozen warrior operations and countless protest actions. He dedicates all his time to developing warrior teachings and instructing warrior societies from all over.

This show features poetry by the Chickasaw poet, playwright, and novelist Linda Hogan, and the song “Zabalaza” by South African political music collective Soundz of the South (SOS).

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About The Green Flame

The Green Flame is a Deep Green Resistance podcast offering revolutionary analysis, skill sharing, and inspiration for the movement to save the planet by any means necessary. Our hosts are Max Wilbert and Jennifer Murnan.

How to Support

Struggles Against Colonization in the USA: Mohicans in Massachusetts

Struggles Against Colonization in the USA: Mohicans in Massachusetts

     by Henry Geddes and Martin Valdiviezo / 
translated by Angélica Almazán / Intercontinental Cry

Long before it was used by early European settlers to establish the Massachusetts Bay Company–and later, the Massachusetts Bay Colony–the term “Massachusetts” referred to an Algonquian-speaking nation known as the Massachuset. One of dozens of smaller nations that made up the Wampanoag Nation, the Massachuset lived in what is now the eastern side of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a region that includes the City of Boston. The name “Massachuset” means “At or about the great hill” in the Algonquian language.

The Massachuset’s territory was home to numerous hills and stone structures that lent themselves to burial mounds, ceremonial sites and other religious practices. While many of these sites were undoubtedly lost to the ravages of colonialism, the legacy of the Massachuset invariably remains in the land itself. And so too that of other indigenous nations inhabiting the surrounding area.

Massachusetts–the U.S. state–is home to another legacy. It is the site of the first wave of European colonization that resulted in the decimation of First Nations in North America. While the Massachuset disappeared by 1800, the Mohegan, the Mohican and the greater Wampanoag Nation endured. Efforts such as the modern tradition of “Thanksgiving” have nevertheless obscured the violent nature of the encounter. Even now, Indigenous Peoples continue to struggle for their territorial and cultural rights across the breadth of the U.S. landscape, as the Sioux at Standing Rock can attest in their struggle against the oil pipeline project in North Dakota.

There is another chapter of this struggle currently playing out in the Western Massachusetts town of Shutesbury. Lake Street Development Partners LLC wants to build a 6-megawatt power plant, euphemistically labelled as the Wheelock Tract ‘Solar Farm’ Project to veil an otherwise ecologically disastrous initiative to clear 28.6 acres of healthy forest where the Mohican Peoples claim to have cemeteries and other ceremonial sites.

The Shutesbury Planning Board approved this project in June 2016 even though members of the Narragansett and Wampanoag tribes had previously expressed their concern for an enterprise that would potentially undermine their cultural property rights.

Currently, the project has been stopped by a court order initiated by an individual of Mohawk ancestry to start an investigation that allows Narragansett and Wampanoag representatives with relevant expertise in identifying indigenous cultural property to confirm the existence of archaeological sites on the land in question.

The developers, Lake Street Corporation and the owners of the W.D. Cowls land, have so far refused to give indigenous representatives access to the location to confirm (or not) the presence of indigenous cultural property. The developers intend to enforce an archaeological report conducted by SWCA, an environmental consulting firm from Arizona. According to SWCA’s report, there are no ceremonial sites in the region.

SWCA came to this conclusion without having performed a sub-surface scan to determine if there are human remains.

The research that led to the report sparked controversy because of its lack of cultural and geographic context that might have been provided by qualified indigenous experts on local native cultures, a critique made by external reviewers that included several high profile archaeologists. The debate on the existence of indigenous archaeological remains is crucial to determine the legal foundations and the political instruments that can sustain the cultural property rights of First Nations in Massachusetts and beyond.

Besides the threat to the cultural property rights of the Mohican People, as well as the affront to biodiversity and carbon sequestration involved in clearing almost 30 acres of forest, preliminary research results in Great Britain and the U.S. regarding the actual ecological impact of industrial-scale solar arrays errs on the side of caution until the research is more conclusive.

Numerous oil and hydroelectric projects are ongoing causes for conflicts between energy corporations, Indigenous Peoples and environmental groups, since they involve the destruction or expropriation of ancestral remains and territories. Allegedly, the development of alternative energy projects (such as solar power) could reconcile the interests of these three parties. However, this case shows that solar power projects can have negative social and environmental consequences when designed to privilege capitalist and colonial private interests.

It is important to observe that this debate on the Shutesbury indigenous archaeological heritage is taking place in a context of huge structural inequalities marked by the long-term disregard for indigenous treaties and rights, one that has denigrated indigenous cultures and even denied that they still exist in states like Massachusetts. Such cultural subjugation is still being massively practiced through the statements of public officials and the Media, as well as in books, movies and educational programs that make Indigenous Peoples and their cultural heritage invisible. This is a manifestation of the political marginalization of Indigenous Peoples in Massachusetts that facilitates the appropriation of their legacy. Nevertheless, the recognition of the indigenous cultures in the U.S. and in the world is a fundamental topic of human rights, and it is crucial for the establishment of fair and inclusive democratic societies.

A common thread in the situation of our indigenous brothers in Anglo America and Latin America, from Canada to Chile, is the need to fight against the Eurocentric order to ensure their universal rights to territory, as well as respect for their cultural properties and rights to a dignified and peaceful life.  To a greater or lesser extent, despite their democratic and sometimes multicultural or intercultural constitutions, these States continue to reproduce the colonial legacy. The decolonization of the Americas is as crucial for the recognition of our Indigenous Peoples as it is for the fulfillment of the democratic ideals of freedom, equality and solidarity within each one of its States. The stones on the great hills of Massachusetts do matter as sacred spaces and ceremonial sites for all Americans.

Henry Geddes: Associated Professor, Communication Department, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Martín Valdiviezo: Postdoctoral Researcher. Communication Department, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Assistant Professor.  Education Department. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú