Indigenous Place-Based Languages

Indigenous Place-Based Languages

Editor’s Note: Language is one of the most significant elements of any culture. If a language goes extinct, the culture will go extinct within a few generations. Languages are not just a way of communicating, they represent a worldview. Relation to the natural world is a clear example. In the English language, natural elements are referred by a neutral gender pronoun, “it.” It is not a coincidence that the same pronoun is used to refer to inanimate or nonliving beings. On the other hand, many cultures (both indigenous and nonindigenous) refer to natural elements with a gendered pronoun, similar to the ones used to refer to a person. For anyone who is a part of the culture, the language that they learn shapes how they view natural elements. An English speaking child is more likely to view nature as inanimate, compared to a child whose language ascribes personhood to nature. In the following essay, Mankh explores the origin of the language and its relation to our worldview.


Upside Down Ox Houses and Indigenous Place-Based Languages

By Mankh

“And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” ~ Genesis 1:26

What if Indigenous languages hold some of the keys to rectifying climate chaos, habitat destruction and the overall insatiable global commerce structure aka “dominion over…,” while English and other alphabetized languages are part of the problem, in fact they have been encouraging an upside down approach for approximately 4000 years?

Nowadays you can hear people comment how the world seems inverted, topsy-turvy, upside down. What if the roots of that go back to the alphabet. I have good reason to think that is at least part of the conundrum because the letter A is based on the picture of an Ox head, but upside down; at one point sideways, too, but eventually upside down.

Livestock are domesticated animals and one aspect of that domestication is that Ox are often castrated male cattle. “Oxen are thought to have first been harnessed and put to work around 4000 BC.” Estimates are that the alphabet began to take shape around 2000 BC, but of course the lettering system was based on previous experiences and lifestyles put into picture forms which then became the AlphaBet (Greek, Alpha Beta), otherwise known as Ox House, or more accurately, Upside Down Ox House.

“House” is from “B” representing an enclosed structure. The ancient Egyptian “reed-house” B gives a sense of organic architecture and Hebrew includes the nuances “container” or “vessel” – “the created world is meant to house within it the spiritual.”[2] Yet the prevalent association with B is House. On your way to work, perhaps you drive by a temple Beth-El or “House of God.” The “B” from “House” is not upside down (though the Etruscans had it facing the opposite way) and has various spellings/pronunciations, including: Bayit, Beith, Bet, Beth, Beh, or Vet. Picture of Hebrew “Beith” ―

Languages

The AlphaBet is based on phonetic abstractions which have shaped the minds and thinking patterns of people worldwide. “An alphabet, being the most abstract form of writing, enhances left-brain values the most.” And more than that, “The alphabet-people’s god became indisputably male and he would become disconnected from things of the earth. He was abstract, nowhere, and yet everywhere at once.”

“It is no mere coincidence that the first book written in an alphabet is the Old Testament.” ~ Leonard Shlain, The Alphabet Versus The Goddess (1998)

While doing research for this article, the only possibility I found as to when and why the Ox shape became inverted was when the alphabet was being adapted from Phoenician to Greek and perhaps “the adapter didn’t seem to be certain of the orientation of the letters, because several were rotated or inverted,” also, changes with regard to “sound, name, letter shape and order.” Regardless of why it happened, this essay is putting forth that what the inversion represents rings true because the civilizations that followed have proved it so: The inverted Ox represents domestication and the ensuing dominion over “every creeping thing” ― which, by the way, reads as the precursor to the US Empire’s “full spectrum dominance.”

As a side note, mathematics got the Ox angle correct, but interpretations are up for grabs. “The ∀ symbol may look like the familiar capital ‘A’ written upside down, but in mathematics (specifically in predicate calculus), the ∀ is a logic symbol or universal quantifier. You can use it in place of ‘for all.’”

Speaking of universal quantifiers, along with the monetization of language (the first cuneiform wedges recorded transactions) was the religiosity, which when both of those (commerce and religion) merged with the mechanical, made for a world change comparable to the computer/Internet about 500 years later. The confluence of Gutenberg’s press, beginning circa 1450s, and Columbus’ commericalized colonization crusade, beginning 1492, cannot be overlooked. Along with Columbus on the boat came The Book aka Bible and the eventual franchising of religious concepts which have converted much of the world with the Word of God and the barrel of a gun, both foreign concepts to the Original Inhabitants of Turtle Island and Indigenous Peoples elsewhere.

And the book became a product to sell. The letters traveled, while Indigenous place-based languages stayed (you can guess it), where they’re at.

If you consider the upside down Ox as domesticated and the House as the modern emblem of success (think billionaires with more than one, or the goal of the average American to comfortably maintain one), then it becomes clearer how AlphaBet has and continues to shape people’s priorities as well as societal behavior patterns. Ownership of domesticated land and property is the key ingredient of predatory, colonized, commercial wealth. And domesticated cattle became the, ahem, cash cow of the fast-food industry.

Gutenberg’s press fostered a mechanical way of thinking and behaving, an assembly line of movable type promoting a book consciousness, the production format of which Henry Ford and then McDonald’s would ‘master’ ― the essence of the modern American lifestyle, faster and cheaper, a perfect storm of on-the-go religious colonialism mixed with corporate and state backing, or what I call “drive-thru theofascism.” The more recent propulsion of technology, gadgets, and AI (Artificial Intelligence) has exacerbated all that.

Now, flip all that upside down for the Indigenous perspective. Or for trying to navigate both the natural world and the mechanical world, be aware that excessive mechanical-ness dulls spontaneity, the ability to think for one’s self, and embrace the fact (yes, the fact) that plants and all manner of beings have spirit.

Some years ago on TV I saw a documentary, of which the title now escapes me, and it cited one of the roots of modern English as Frisian, a West Germanic language. What stood out to me was the following which I made note of – the language reflected the following characteristics: warlike; adventurous; greedy; religiosity/Christendom. If that’s not the essence of colonialism and empire, what is?

So the language of adventure that sought its jollies through warring, greed and enforced religion is at least some of the reason for our current troubles. In the film was mentioned a rather poetic phrase, “bone-house”… for “body,” yet many a con man has been known to have a smooth tongue.

Another linguistic reference to cattle and war is found in the Sanskrit, gáviṣṭi (गविष्टि) translated as “desire for more cows, desire for battle.” The only way one can desire for more cows is if they are domesticated. You can desire wild Ox, but to own them or go to war so as to control more of those four-leggeds indicates they are no longer wild.

Did faster language predict fast-food?

“The eye that can read is immediately caught by advertising and propaganda.” ~ Joost A. M. Meerloo, M.D., The Rape of the Mind (1956)

Perhaps the seeds of fast-talkers and fast-food were baked into the language. Several examples of how languages became faster, turning into a kind of shorthand, give a clue as to how people may have been conditioned to talk faster, and eventually fast-food on-the-go, a reflection of industrialized assembly line speed with humans as active parts of the machine.“The invention of papyrus as a writing material gave the Egyptians a quicker way to record information than carving into stone.” & “Hieratics eventually gave way to demotic, an even faster way for Egyptians to write.”

From thirty years of sporadically studying and doing brush calligraphy of ancient Chinese pictographs, I have learned that the pictograph for Sun was originally a circle with a wavy line in the center (Large Seal – Ta Chuan, 1122-256 BC), which then morphed into a a circle with a dot in the center (Small Seal – Hsia Chuan, 221-207 BC). But then with Clerical Style – Li Shu, 207 BC-588 AD, a small rectangle with a horizontal line. I suspect this, too, made for speedier communications, though the following alludes to other factors at work:
The Clerical Style “evolved from the late Warring States period” and “The Warring States period was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation.”

Has not much changed since then? As with the above mentioned flavors of cuneiform baked transactions and Frisian war adventures, there appear similarities with the evolution of the Chinese ‘script.’ As to the most current form of “consolidation” along with warfare and bureaucracy, “The largest shareholder of 88% of the companies on S&P 500 is either State Street, Vanguard or BlackRock. And you can see their influence in defense contracts.“

While it’s tricky to pin down, a general progression of peoples and places that contributed to making the current AlphaBet is as follows: Egyptian, Ugaritic/Semitic > Sinai > Palestine and Phoenician > Greek > Etruscans > Latin/Roman and Slavic. The Latin/Roman dominates to this day, as English is made of some 60% Latin-based words. A significant layer of that is the influence of the Roman empire that lingers under the radar in our AlphaBetic consciousness. But more than that, it lingers in the US legal system and echoes the Old Testament, which, as mentioned above, was “the first book written in an alphabet.”

As explained by Peter d’Errico, who has “been involved with Indigenous peoples’ legal issues for more than fifty years”: “The sovereignty claim of ‘Christian discovery’ underpins the entire edifice of US laws regarding Indigenous land rights. It is a US claim of ‘title’ and ‘dominion’ over Indigenous lands. ‘Christian discovery’ necessarily underlies ‘LandBack’ campaigns because the doctrine is embedded in US property law. See Johnson v. McIntosh (1823).”

The language effects the legal system which effects the way in which we relate – or don’t – with the Earth.

Much of humanity doesn’t relate with Earth because of the concept of property and having been domesticated. The word “domestic” has roots mentioning “house, lord, property,” from “domo-” which is also the root of “dominate.”

“Depends on what you look at obviously / But even more it depends on the way that you see” ~ Bruce Cockburn, from “Child of the Wind”

AlphaBet was also a precursor (no pun intended) for the current screen-fixated world, as the AlphaBet is a veneer of the actual environment/land, because the letters are phonetic representations, the pictures of each which you have to study to learn. But how many people who talk, talk, talk actually know the basis for what they are saying? How many people literally connect the language with the land and activities in their immediate environment? Indigenous Peoples do:

“These Indigenous languages that are more at risk than ever — that will be almost extinct at the end of the century — are the most powerful languages, they speak of quantum physics and how to communicate with Mother Earth, and you can’t find them in libraries or on your computers, you have to live them.”
~ Tiokasin Ghosthorse (Cheyenne River Lakota), from keynote talk at the COP 24 Climate Summit, Katowice, Poland, December 2018

Instead of looking at an Ox, the AlphaBet trained people to see an A, as nowadays the screens train people to more so see images of the natural world rather than caring for the actual landscape! And while one could argue that various incidents of deforestation happened in time before AlphaBet, it’s helpful to remember that AlphaBet is a condensed product of those already existing cultures.

Breaking the yoke of the Upside Down Ox House

While reading the excellent book Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science (2022) by Jessica Hernandez, PhD, the phrase “place-based” stood out to me. So I considered a flavor of that: The Inuit/Iñupiat identify many types of snow, and probably ice; according to a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) friend, there are numerous types of Hawaiian rain or ua; the title of the book If You’ve Forgotten the Names of Clouds, You’ve Lost Your Way by Russell Means and Bayard Johnson tells me that the Lakota identify numerous types of clouds; a key aspect of Japanese haiku is kigo or season-word, a poetic-scientific format for identifying a specific time or moment of a season. The Haiku Handbook by William J. Higginson and Penny Harter identifies sixteen for cherry blossoms, including: “hana no hagoshi – [moon] through [cherry-] blossom petals” and “rakka – fallen [cherry] blossoms.”

I am not qualified to speak for Indigenous Peoples about their languages, but the gist I glean is that when a People have been in a place long enough to study and deeply experience that place in detail, the language, as well as the songs, reflect that – holding keys for the maintenance and sustainability of the place; the land speaks to the People and the People speak back to the land. This rootedness is the opposite (does that count as upside down?) of the AlphaBet that traveled in boats and made its way around the globe, and has been and continues to be an instrumental part of colonization and commercialization.

When a People have place-based knowledge and longstanding experience, those People are voted most unlikely to behave with “dominion over,” rather deep relationship with all the beings there and traveling through there, and whether those relationships are based on survival or love or both, they are still deep relationships. In my little suburban patio/backyard there’s a so-called weed that spreads and takes over; most people remove the plant. One spring into summer I let it grow and then one day I noticed a sparrow nibbling on and thoroughly enjoying something about the tiny clusters of miniscule pink flowers. I learned that those plants are called Pennsylvania Smartweed, yet I’d bet there’s a Native/Indigenous name because, for one, “The Menominee used [and probably still do] this plant to treat hemorrhage, and to aid in post-partum healing.”

Outside the Upside Down Ox House grows a weed to eradicate; for the place-based Native Peoples there thrives a plant-medicine. And therein is at least one of the keys to rectifying an inverted worldview too-often seen through an AlphaBetic mind-frame.

More upside down examples:
“The buffalo is first domesticated somewhere in the near-tropical regions of Asia.” The Plains Indians buffalo was wild and revered. But then:

“In 1800 there were around 60 million buffalo in North America; however, that would drastically change over the next century, changing the lives of the Plains Indians. This is partly due to individual hunters looking to make a profit on the buffalo hides, the government starving the population of the Plains Indians by killing off their primary food source, and the coming of the railroads. The buffalo, like the Indian, was in the pathway of civilization.”

Another upside down:
Man has evolved and progressed from a cave man to his/her/etc. current advanced and ever-advancing status. But then again:
“Because we humans arrived last in this world, we are the ‘younger brothers’ of the other creatures and therefore have to learn everything from them.” ~ Vine Deloria, Jr. (Standing Rock Lakota)[17]

AlphaBetic technology and spirituality

Now that this essay has properly dissed the AlphaBet, a few comments about its usefulness. What a technological marvel! From twenty-six letters come a daily stream of news and articles along with the seemingly relentless publishing of books, (however, a modern form of deforestation but are e-books any better? Think e-waste dump sites). As a writer and avid reader I can’t help but appreciate the letters and books yet I’ve also come to realize their limitations.

Another aspect needing mention is a kind of eye of the needle of consciousness, as for example in Hebrew, the letters can have sacred sounds and can serve as gateways to other than physical dimensions; the Hebraic Aleph connects the above with the below, as the letter shows. In this case the original Ox horns were somehow rearranged.

Because the core of my path is mystical Kaballah in which the Ox is one of four sacred tetramorphs – in Hebrew the Chioth ha Qodesh (“holy living creatures”) – along with the Eagle, Lion, and Human Being, I had to reconcile this with the aforementioned domesticated Ox. My educated guess, based on how things have played out for some 4000 to 6000 years, is that: In a purer form, the Ox represents patience and productive hard work, and is a provider of many things (akin to how the buffalo has provided for the Plains Indians). However, the Ox’s domestication, castration, and AlphaBetic inversion has morphed into such modern horrors as mega-corporate, agri-business, mono-culture, so-called farming, and concentration camp treatment of animals for consumption.

In an impatient world where lazy entrepreneurs and slave-drivers seek maximum profit from the cheapest labor, I’m sticking with my inner, wild, not castrated, Ox. This Ox, however, is not restricted to being an Ox because the form of hard-worker can be a Buffalo, Horse, Dog, Goat, and so forth.

Although I’m stuck with AlphaBetic English as my main form of verbal expression, I strive to go beyond that barrier, getting glimpses of another perspective as seen through Indigenous and other languages. Because direct experiences often go beyond words, I pay more attention to music, laughter, love, physical exercise, ecstatic states of being, quiet contemplations, to name a few.

In my book Moving Through The Empty Gate Forest, which addresses topics related to this essay, I encourage people to:

“Go through the eye of the needle,
go through the empty spaces in the A and B,
move beyond the framework
the gatepost outlines of the letters,
every day move through the mumbo-jumbo,
the trickster spells entangling the mind and emotions,
the propaganda and lies,
move through someone else’s word of God,
move through someone else’s letter of the law,
move through someone else’s hierarchy of A to F to Z
unravel the bandages of your mummified consciousness…”

Because it is clear to me that Indigenous languages are essential for the well-being of the Nations and Peoples that know and speak them, and essential for the well-being of the Earth and us all, I close this essay with a quote, albeit in English, by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Citizen Potawatomi Nation), from her well-known book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

“To be native to a place we must learn to speak its language.”

Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) writes, small press publishes, and is the author of 17 books. He travels a holistic mystic Kaballah-rooted pathway staying in touch with Turtle Island and the cycles of the Seasons. His website:
www.allbook-books.com 

Photo by Isaac Chou on Unsplash

A Transition to “Clean” Energy Is Hurting Indigenous Communities

A Transition to “Clean” Energy Is Hurting Indigenous Communities

Editor’s note: The FPIC (Free, prior and informed consent) and UNDRIP (UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) are international standards, that some companies have adopted into their policies. The FPIC is an international human rights principle that protect peoples’ rights to self-determination. UNDRIP delineates and defines the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples. Both of these are important principles that improve the sovereignty of indigenous peoples. However, neither of these are legally binding, which has disastrous outcomes.

Companies and countries alike are bypassing these principles in favor of profitable ventures, most recent of which are clean energy projects.

Right now, companies that advance the “clean” energy transition are threatening the land and the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and peasants. Demand for minerals like copper and lithium is skyrocketing, as every economic sector is being transitioned towards the fourth industrial revolution. But indigenous peoples need to have their right to a say in decisions affecting to their land. Ecosystems and people living with the land are being victimized to serve an economy that is desperately trying to save itself from collapsing.

This story is published as part of the Global Indigenous Affairs Desk, an Indigenous-led collaboration between Grist, High Country News, ICT, Mongabay, and Native News Online. This story was originally published by Grist. Sign up for Grist’s weekly newsletter here.


Sarah Sax/Grist

When Francisco Calí Tzay, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, spoke at the 22nd United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, or UNPFII, last week, he listed clean energy projects as some of the most concerning threats to their rights.

“I constantly receive information that Indigenous Peoples fear a new wave of green investments without recognition of their land tenure, management, and knowledge,” said Calí Tzay.

His statements — and those made by other delegates — at what is the world’s largest gathering of Indigenous peoples, made clear that without the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous people, these “green” projects have the capacity to seriously impede on Indigenous rights.

Free, prior and informed consent — known as FPIC — has always been an important topic at the UNPFII, but this year it’s taken on a renewed urgency.

Mining projects and carbon offsets put pressure on indigenous groups

“The strong push is because more and more of climate action and targets for sustainable development are impacting us,” said Joan Carling, executive director of Indigenous Peoples Rights International, an Indigenous nonprofit that works to protect Indigenous peoples’ rights worldwide.

protester holding a sign that says protect thacker pass
Protest against Thacker Pass lithium mine. Image courtesy Max Wilbert

 

Indigenous peoples around the world are experiencing the compounding pressures of clean energy mining projects, carbon offsets, new protected areas and large infrastructure projects on their lands as part of economic recovery efforts in the wake of Covid-19, according to The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs 2023 report.

Green colonialism threatens ecosystems

As states around the world trend towards transitioning to “clean” energy to meet their national and international climate goals, the demand for minerals like lithium, copper, and nickel needed for batteries that power the energy revolution are projected to skyrocket. The demand could swell fourfold by 2040, and by conservative estimates could pull in $1.7 trillion in mining investments.

Although Indigenous delegates say they support “clean” energy projects, one of the issues is their land rights: more than half of the projects extracting these minerals currently are on or near lands where Indigenous peoples or peasants live, according to an analysis published in Nature.

This can lead to their eviction from territories, loss of livelihoods, or the deforestation and degradation of surrounding ecosystems.

“And yet […] we are not part of the discussion,” said Carling. “That’s why I call it green colonialism — the [energy] transition without the respect of Indigenous rights is another form of colonialism.”

However, standing at the doorway of a just “clean” energy transition is FPIC, say Indigenous delegates. FPIC is the cornerstone of international human rights standards like the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, known as UNDRIP. Though more than 100 countries have adopted UNDRIP, this standard is not legally binding.

Companies and governments don’t abide by communities

Because of this, delegates are calling on countries and companies to create binding policy and guidelines that require FPIC for all projects that affect Indigenous peoples and their lands, as well as financial, territorial and material remedies for when companies and countries fail to do so.

However, there is some push back. The free prior, informed consent process can lead to a wide variety of outcomes including the right for communities to decline a highly profitable project, which can often be difficult for countries, companies and investors to abide by, explains Mary Beth Gallagher, the director of engagement of investment at Domini Impact Investments, who spoke at a side event on shareholder advocacy.

Indigenous Sámi delegates from Norway drew attention to their need for legally enforceable FPIC protection as they continue to protest the Fosen Vind Project, an onshore wind energy complex on Sámi territory, that the country’s Supreme Court ruled violated their rights.

“We have come to learn the hard way that sustainability doesn’t end colonialism,” said a Sámi delegate during the main panel on Tuesday.

Across the globe indigenous peoples face eviction

In the United States, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, the People of Red Mountain and members of the Fort McDermitt Tribe filed lawsuits against the federal Bureau of Land Management for approving the permits for an open-pit lithium mine without proper consultation with the tribes. In the Colombian Amazon, the Inga Indigenous community presented a successful appeal for lack of prior consultation from a Canadian company that plans to mine copper, molybdenum and other metals in their highly biodiverse territory.

Consternation over governments and multinational companies setting aside FPIC has long extended over other sectors, like conservation and monoculture plantations for key cash crops. In Peru, the Shipibo-Konibo Indigenous peoples are resisting several large protected areas that overlap with their territory and were put in place without prior consultation.  In Tanzania and Kenya, the Maasai are being actively evicted from their lands for a trophy hunting and safari reserve. Indigenous Ryukyuan delegates condemn the ongoing use of their traditional lands and territories by the Japanese and U.S. governments for military bases without their free, prior, and informed consent.

Implementing the FPIC is truly sustainable

While delegates put a lot of emphasis on the lack of FPIC, they put equal emphasis on FPIC as a crucial part of the long-term sustainability of energy projects.

“FPIC is more than just a checklist for companies looking to develop projects on Indigenous lands,” said Carling. “It is a framework for partnership, including options for equitable benefit sharing agreements or memorandum of understanding, collaboration or conservation.”

The focus at this year’s conference has emphasized the growing role of FPIC in the private sector. Investors and developers are increasingly considering the inclusion of FPIC into their human rights due diligence standards. Select countries such as Canada have implemented UNDRIP in full, although First Nation groups have pointed out irregularities in how it is being implemented. The European Union is proposing including specific mandatory rights to FPIC in its corporate sustainability due diligence regulation. Side events at the UNPFII focused on topics like transmitting FPIC Priorities to the private sector and using shareholder advocacy to increase awareness of FPIC.

Gallagher of Domini Impact Investments said companies have a responsibility to respect human rights, which includes FPIC: “If they have a human rights commitment or they have a commitment in their policies not to do land grabs, we have to hold them to account for that.”

Indigenous leadership at the center of negotiations

In 2021, the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, published an expectation that companies “obtain (and maintain) the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples for business decisions that affect their rights.” Large banks like Credit Agricole have included FPIC in their corporate social responsibility policy. But in most cases, even when companies have a FPIC policy it doesn’t conform to the standard outlined in UNDRIP and is not legally binding.

“It doesn’t do the work it’s supposed to do to protect self-determination,” said Kate Finn, director at First Peoples Worldwide. “It becomes a check-the-box procedure that’s solely consultations and stakeholder consultation instead of protection of rights and self-determination.”

“If communities aren’t giving their consent, a company has to respect that,” said Gallagher, who added “There’s obviously points of tension where investors have different agendas and priorities but ultimately, it’s about centering Indigenous leadership and working through that.”

Not properly abiding by FPIC can be costly to companies in countries that operate where it is a legal instrument. It comes with risks of losing their social operation to license, and financial damages. According to a study by First Peoples Worldwide, Energy Transfer and the banks that financed the now-completed Dakota Access Pipeline, lost billions due to construction delays, account closures, and contract losses after they failed to obtain consent from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the United States.

Ultimately, Indigenous people need to be part of decision-making from the beginning of any project, especially “clean” energy projects mining for transition minerals on their territories, said Carling. “For us, land is life, and we have a right to decide over what happens on our land.”

Banner by Carolina Caycedo. Lithium Intensive, 2022. Color pencil on paper. Courtesy of the artist.

Indigenous Women’s Camp Blocks Water Supply to Mine

Indigenous Women’s Camp Blocks Water Supply to Mine

Editor’s Note: The Indigenous Women of Peehee Mu’huh have set up an Indigenous Women’s Camp (Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun) blocking the construction of a water pipeline for Lithium Nevada’s open-pit lithium mine. The land is a historic site, and has witnessed two massacres of indigenous people. The following text was written by Paul Cienfuegos, Founding Director, Community Rights US. We share it here to update you on the latest happenings at Thacker Pass. This piece is also a call for action for all to share the word and help the movement in any way that they can. More information can be found at the Indigenous Women’s Camp website oxsam.org. Thank you for reading.


Last Thursday, May 11th, the next nationally significant Standing-Rock-like prayer and action camp at Thacker Pass, Nevada (Pee’hee Mu’huh in the Paiute language meaning “rotten moon” named for the massacre of Paiute ancestors in 1865) was launched to try to stop the construction of what would become the largest open pit lithium mine in the world, as a false and ecologically devastating “green energy solution” to our fossil fuel woes.

I am proud to have played a small role in this just launched camp which only days ago was given a proper name by the Paiute Shoshone women elders who are in charge: Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutum. Ox Sam was one of only a few surviving members of the 1865 massacre of dozens of Native people at Thacker Pass. And Newe Momokonee Nokutum translates as Indigenous Women’s Camp and is open to ALL — Native and non-Native, women and men. (Here’s a pronunciation guide for speaking that beautiful name: New’-weh Moe-moe-koht’-nee Noh-kuh’-duhn.)

Here’s a 1-minute video intro to this issue:

We simply cannot dig our way out of our climate emergency. And if you don’t believe me, I urge you to read Bright Green Lies by Derrick Jensen, full of the hard data we all need to stop lying to ourselves about an electric battery future nirvana. A real solution is a rapid transition first to a steady state or zero-growth economy (which is frankly impossible under capitalism which requires constant growth) followed rapidly by carefully planned, massive and rapid economic shrinkage. There really is no other option if we truly want to see the survival of diverse species thriving on Mother Earth.

And when We the People continue to allow large business corporations to exercise their so-called Constitutional “rights” — of property, of free speech, access to the courts, etc, which were never approved by the public in our nation’s history — our options are limited when We try to stop these outrages against land, water, and people. Because corporations really do have more constitutionally protected “rights” than We do. So we need to tackle this crisis on many fronts. (If you want to learn more about this aspect of the crisis our society is facing, check out my new book.)

If we can stop the Thacker Pass lithium mine this year, then we have a fighting chance to stop the other (dozens?) of planned lithium mines all across the Americas.

For the first few days of the new camp, I played a highly significant support role on site: as the Liaison between those drivers trying to reach the mining operation (workers, mine deliveries, and occasionally just members of the public driving up this rural county road) and the grandmothers who are in charge there. I didn’t hold a leadership position. I didn’t speak for the camp. I simply moved information back and forth between the drivers and the grandmothers, who decide who gets to pass and who does not.

Here’s what my role as Liaison actually looked like on the entrance road in these minute-long videos. This man is one of the mine security supervisors…

Part One:

Part Two:

It has been a scary and intimidating but also incredibly moving and powerful experience for me, and we’ve already stopped dozens of vehicles with our banner held high by camp participants standing across the roadway, and always with a local Native elder in prayer sitting in front of the banner.

Meet three extraordinary leaders of the camp in this 23-minute video:

The sheriff’s office has been in constant communication for days with Lithium Nevada Corporation managers (behind the scenes) as they’ve been going out of their way to not arrest any of us, even though we are creating quite the hassle for their daily operations. What they want, more than anything, is to make this look like it’s led by a handful of white out-of-state eco-freaks so they can mock the camp in their news releases. But the reality is that the camp is 90% Native people, mostly local, and THEY are its leaders.

On Friday evening, we found out that Max Wilbert (co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass) and myself were the only named people in a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), which the company has put before a judge this weekend, and once it’s approved, they will try to serve Max and myself. I came prepared to risk arrest, so all is well.

Please be advised that Lithium Nevada is filing an Application for Temporary Order for Protection Against Harassment in the Workplace against Max Wilbert and Paul Cienfuegos later this afternoon, in the Justice Court in the Township of Union Humboldt County, Nevada.

All of this in furtherance of the company’s desperate attempt to attach white leadership to the story of this camp, when in reality neither of us has stood in the way of any employee or company vehicle.

The camp currently stands right on top of the company’s ongoing water line construction. One Tipi is now in place, and more on the way. More tents are arriving daily on the company’s BLM-leased land. Or more accurately, on land “beyond the treaty frontier”, as the US government has no treaties in place. The only claim is conquest by which this land was taken from the local Paiute Shoshone communities. So they have more right to be on this land than any other persons or corporations.

Indigenous Women's Camp

Trucks halted at Ox Sam Indigenous Women’s Camp. Photo by Bhie-Cie Zahn-Nahtzu

Which is where YOU come in! And when I say you, I mean YOU, the person reading these words right now!

Please share this information with your own social networks in the next 48 hours.

Standing Rock started when local Native people took a stand against a pipeline. Other Native peoples came to support them. Then the non-Native environmental and social justice movements took notice and started showing up en masse. Major media coverage followed from there. And a historic Native-led mass encampment was born, which shook the consciousness of the nation. We can do this too — here at Thacker Pass, Nevada.

We need all hands on deck NOW. This week. We need bodies. We need supplies. We need media support. We need funds. The small group holding this camp simply cannot sustain itself unless YOU and people YOU know are willing to do SOMETHING to support us THIS WEEK.

I thank all of you reading this, from the bottom of my heart. This is NOT just another single-issue campaign. The success or failure of this effort could have historic impact on the future survival of the extraordinary diversity of creatures here on this beautiful and mysterious orb we call home, floating in the endless blackness of space.

Find out more at https://www.oxsam.org/

Indigenous Women's Camp

HOW YOU CAN HELP

🌎 Join the land defense: Come to Thacker Pass / Peehee Mu’huh and stand with native elders and supporter to protect the land.
🌎 Be Eagle Eyes! Camp at Sentinel Rock, traditional lookout for the Thacker Pass area to keep an eye on the mining construction that is happening up at Thacker Pass. Send us photos and reports via our website.
🌎 Get trained! We need people trained in nonviolent discipline and principles to help educate people for permanent camp.
🌎 Keep the Pressure On! Write op-eds, organize your own protest, make art, write poetry, and get the word out about Peehee Mu’huh / Thacker Pass.
🌎 Share! Share Protect Thacker Pass on social media and with friends.
🌎 Donate! Our legal work to Protect Thacker Pass is intensifying and increasing in cost; please donate if you can. We spend every donated dollar on this 2.5 year fight to Protect Thacker Pass.

 

Thank you Thacker Pass Warriors! We need you all and so appreciate all you have done to help us.

Donate to Protect Thacker Pass

Stay up to date by connecting with us on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ProtectThackerPass

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ProtectThackerPass

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ProtectThPass

Givebutter: https://givebutter.com/protectthackerpass

Website: https://www.protectthackerpass.org/

Updates/Blog: https://www.protectthackerpass.org/blog/

Subscribe: https://www.protectthackerpass.org/subscribe/


Featured image: Tipi at the Indigenous Women’s Camp

Film Screening, Indigenous Women Panel, and Black Summer Vigil

Film Screening, Indigenous Women Panel, and Black Summer Vigil

Editor’s note: None of the events are being organized by DGR. We stand in solidarity and encourage our readers to get involved in these if possible.


Kangaroo: A love-hate story (Film Screening)

Kangaroo reveals Australia’s relationship with its beloved icon, uncovering disturbing scenes behind the largest mass destruction of wildlife in the world. Using investigative techniques such as interviews, citizen footage, and research, Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story shows how the kangaroo meat industry and the Australian government put profits ahead of animal welfare, native species protection and the environment. In addition, farmers who are guided by misinformation and profit take whatever steps they deem necessary to eradicate the species.

A free community screening presented by Woolgoolga Regional Community Gardens and Kangaroo Advocate Yurpia McCafferty, at 6pm (AEST) Tuesday 7th March, on 79 Scarborough St, Woolgoolga. You can find out more about the event here.


Violence Against Rural Indigenous Women: Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, and the United States

film

Throughout the Western Hemisphere, indigenous women and girls suffer extreme and disparate levels of gender-based violence. For those living in rural and remote communities on their own indigenous lands, these problems are even more pronounced. Our event will feature a panel of indigenous women from Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, and the United States, who will discuss how violations of indigenous peoples’ land rights and right to self-government expose their women and girls to racial discrimination, gender-based violence, and other human rights violations and how living in rural communities intensifies these problems.

The webinar will happen on March 8, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (EST).


Black Summer Vigil

This online and offline event is being organized in the three-year anniversary memorial for the three billion animals who died in the Australian bush fires. The event will bring together stories from first responders across wildlife rescue, rural fire service, photojournalism, Aboriginal custodianship, veterinary medicine, ecology, and more. Speakers include:

  • Greg Mullins, Former Commissioner, Fire and Rescue NSW; Climate Councillor and founder, Emergency Leaders for Climate Action. Greg warned Australia’s then–Prime Minister in April 2019 that a bushfire catastrophe was coming. He pleaded for support and was ignored, then risked his life dealing with the ramifications on the ground.
  • Internationally recognised ecologist and WWF board member, Professor Christopher Dickman oversaw the work calculating the animal deaths from Black Summer. A Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Dickman already wore the heavy task of being an ecologist during the sixth mass extinction, in the country that has the worst rate of mammalian extinction in the world. On 8 January 2020 media around the world shared his finding that Black Summer fires had killed one billion animals. Sadly, the fires continued for two more months, and his team’s final count was three billion. This does not include invertebrates: it is estimated 240 trillion beetles, moths, spiders, yabbies and other invertebrates died in the fires.
  • Coming up from the South Coast, owner of Wild2Free Kangaroo Sanctuary Rae Harvey, as seen in The Bond and The Fire. She is in the sad position of having personally known and cared for a number of Black Summer’s victims: many of the orphaned joeys she cared for were killed in the fires. (She nearly died herself too.) For three years, she has been unable to even speak their names. Now, for the first time, she will tell the story of the joeys she lost.
  • Cultural burning practitioner and Southern NSW Regional Coordinator with Firesticks Alliance, Djiringanj-Yuin Custodian Dan Morgan. Dan practises using Aboriginal knowledge to heal Country. He has worked for 18 years with the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service and is on the board of management for the Biamanga National Park, a sacred area home to the last surviving koalas on the NSW south coast – which was partly destroyed by the fires of Black Summer.
  • Head of Programs & Disaster Response at Humane Society International (HSI) Evan Quartermain, who was one of the first responders on Kangaroo Island where nearly 40% of the island burnt at high severity.

The physical event will happen in Camperdown Memorial Rest Park (Sydney) at 2pm Sunday 2 April 2023 (AEST). You can also attend it online. You can find more information here.

Banner Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash

We Are Not Leaving: Indigenous Tribe Takes Back Their Land

We Are Not Leaving: Indigenous Tribe Takes Back Their Land

This is a press release by Process of Liberation of Mother Earth, originally published in Liberacion de la Madre Tierra. The Nasa people of Cauca had been pushed to the mountains by the invaders in the 16th century. For the past 17 years, they have shifted to direct action to get back their land. Although their pursuit had been disrupted in the past, they have now stayed in their original land despite state attempts to remove them. Both right leaning and left leaning governments have attempted to remove them from their rights to their land. DGR extends our solidarity to the Nasa people of Cauca valley in their struggle for land reclamation.


Now that the 48 hours have passed, we send this letter to the world to tell about our struggle and the danger that awaits us, and what we are going to do in face of the danger. The great chief sent word, that we are invaders and gives us 48 hours to abandon our struggle and the land where we fight, or the full weight of the law of the Colombian state will fall on us.

First we tell you about our struggle. This last September 2nd, 17 years have passed since we returned to direct action to fight for the land, a struggle that has roots in 1538, when our people decided to declare war to the invaders. The invaders took over our land and pushed us into the mountains, the invaders made of dispossession a way of life, the how of their civilization, and today they have in their possession the most fertile lands and they have documents that prove they own and they are an organized power that moves the strings of politics and economy and justice and the media in Colombia to keep the documents up to date and to exploit Mother Earth more and more until skinning her and sucking her blood and digging into her entrails and this is called progress, development.

For us, families of the Nasa people of northern Cauca, the land is Uma Kiwe, our mother. Everything that is in it has life, all of it is life, all beings are our brothers and sisters and all beings are worth the same. The invader indoctrinated us to teach us that we humans are outside our Mother and that we are superior to her, but deep in our hearts, nasa üus, we know that people are Uma Kiwe just like the condor and the butterfly and the corn and the stone are Uma Kiwe. The invader indoctrinated us to teach us that the moor is a resource that produces money, that by cutting down the jungle we can increase bank accounts, that by digging into Uma Kiwe’s entrails with large tubes we can access a life of well-being. That is the word of the invader and he calls it the goal, the life plan.

The lands of the Cauca river valley, where we now live, from where we fight, is the house and home of hundreds of animals, plants, rocks, waters, spirits, in a way of life that in Spanish they called tropical dry forest. The invader destroyed everything, that house and home no longer exist, he has damaged the face of Mother Earth. In their eagerness to impose their civilization, those who have the documents of these lands, planted the entire valley of the Cauca River with sugarcane and there are 400 thousand hectares where the cane is planted up to the riverbank. In other regions of Colombia, the invader displaced communities with war and planted oil palm on thousands and thousands of hectares, and in other regions they have displaced communities to build dams or to extract gold or petroleum.

And once, in a region called Antioquia, the Cauca River rebelled and damaged the machines and equipment of the dam and it overflowed and the people who had already been displaced by the hydroelectric project had to move again because once again their lands were flooded. For these facts there are no guilty parties, the invaders of the Cauca River, the displacers of those communities and those who committed the massacres to impose development, have not yet received the full weight of the law of the Colombian state. And so, every corner of this country they call Colombia, the oldest and most stable democracy in Latin America, is made up of patches of development projects installed where the war displaced entire communities, where the forests, moors, savannahs, mountains, jungles and plains were or are being razed so that a few people can enjoy the honeys of development.

We, the indigenous families of the Nasa people who walk the struggle platform of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC -by its acronym in Spanish), our organization, we don’t believe in that development and we don’t believe in that civilization that imposes death through laws and legal actions to generate coins. They indoctrinated us to believe in their civilization and told us that humans are superior to other beings, but we see that among humans there are levels, some humans who are superior than others, the superiors take all the wealth and the inferiors have to live cornered in the corners that development leaves us available, but they tell us that if we try hard or sell ourselves we can rise to the level of the superiors. We don’t like that way of life, we don’t accept it.

That is why 17 years ago, on September 2, 2005, we came down from the mountains to make a struggle that we continue today and that we have called the liberation of Mother Earth. Because we say that people will not be free while Uma Kiwe is enslaved, that all animals and beings in life are slaves until we get our mother to recover her freedom. At that time, September 2005, we had a tactical error, as one liberator said, and we negotiated an agreement with the Uribe government, an error that cost us a nine-year delay. But then we came back to enter the sugarcane agribusiness farms in December 2014, which means that we are almost eight years old, and in these eight years the oldest and most stable democracy in Latin America has not managed to evict us from the farms despite more than 400 attempts, and we are not going to leave, and we have been advancing by entering in these lands, so much that we already have 24 farms in process of liberation, already eight thousand hectares.

When we enter the farms we cut the cane and instead of the cane the food we sow grows, the forest also grow because Uma Kiwe has to rest, chickens, ducks, cows and little pigs grow, wild animals return… We are returning the skin and the face to Mother Earth. That is our dream, or if you prefer, our life plan. And there is still a long way to go, sometimes the word of the invader arrives and confuses us, but as a community we are talking and clarifying things. And other times the media from agribusiness or power in Colombia arrive and brand us as terrorists, lazy, that we slow down development, and tell us that we are invaders, as the current government of Petro and Francia says, and now they have planted the lie that we are stealing the land from our neighbors of the Afro-descendant communities who live cornered on the banks of the cane fields: what we can tell you with complete certainty is that the documents of the 24 farms that are in process of liberation, they are listed in the name of Incauca, the largest owner, and other landowners, or their land is leased to Incauca or other mills that process cane for sugar or agrofuels.

And also the judicial apparatus of Colombian democracy says that because we are terrorists they are going to capture us at checkpoints or with arrest warrants and they are going to take us to jail. And the paramilitaries, organized by the sugar cane agribusiness say that since the Colombian state has not managed to kill us, they are going to do it and they have already arrived at the farms in process of liberation to shoot us with short and long range weapons, but our range is longer because we already know how they are organized and how they work. And the agro-industrialists -Incauca, Asocaña, Procaña- have been sending us negotiation or association proposals for seven years and we have answered NO because a struggle is not negotiated and NO because for them being partners means that we put the labor as cheap as possible and that they provide the capital, NO gentlemen, we are not here to change bosses, we fight so that there are no more bosses.

And now that a new government and a new congress have arrived to strengthen the oldest and most stable democracy in Latin America, the congress tells us that we can send proposals for the agrarian reform law “because the liberation of Mother Earth is a concrete agrarian reform”; we haven’t responded yet, but we know how to restore the balance of Uma Kiwe, our Mother Earth, and it goes far beyond an agrarian reform. And the latest thing that has happened is that the new government of President Petro and Vice President Francia tell us that we are invaders and that we have 48 hours to leave these lands where we fight, we sow, we graze, we watch the forest grow and the wild animals return, well, in this land where we live, and that’s how we started this letter.

At the end of 48 hours, this September 2, the state attacked with the army and esmad (Mobile Anti-riot Squadron (Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios or ESMAD), there was no half hour of dialogue, as the new government had promised, the tank came in shooting gas. Later the army fired its long-range weapons against us, the communities that are liberating Mother Earth, there was no dialogue either. 17 years ago, on September 2, 2005, it was Uribe who ordered the esmad and the army to fire their weapons at us. This new government is from the left, the Uribe government was from the right. After eight hours of trying to evict us from one of the farms in process of liberation, the esmad and the army of the oldest democracy… they failed to evict us, here we continue, from here we launch this letter to the world.

We, the process of liberation of Mother Earth in northern Cauca, send word to the great chief that we are NOT going to evict, that here in these lands we are staying because this is our home to live and fight II. We say II because before we have already written that this is our home to live and fight I. At that time, 2018, the paramilitaries gave us a deadline to leave this land, but the paramilitaries gave us a slightly longer, more rational deadline, because they gave us two months, and when the two months were up we told them NO, that we couldn’t leave because this is our house to live and fight. That’s why we say II, because despite everything we don’t lose our smile. And you have to know that neither Uribe, nor Santos, nor Duque ever told us “they have 48 hours.” And we also tell you that we are not leaving because here in these lands in process of liberation, 12 compañerxs have fallen since 2005, murdered by the private company of Incauca, Asocaña and Procaña, and by the Colombian state. Here we already take root. We continue here until the government completes the process of delivering the documents to our indigenous authorities, either through agrarian reform or by the fastest way, and if it doesn´t happen, for the years of the years, we will continue here.

We also sent word to the great chief that we are going to enter in other farms because our struggle doesn’t stop. Yesterday we were in a great action to accompany a community that is liberating a farm because the esmad has been bothering them with gas every day for several days, despite the fact that they promised us that the esmad was going to end, then to transform and then that it was going to change it’s clothes, and it’s true because they wear a sports uniform for a soccer game while here they continue to shoot gas at us. We will continue our actions to root ourselves more with this land , so that our word has sustenance, because otherwise it would be like a decree or a campaign promise, which is written and signed but not fulfilled.

To the communities that in other regions of Colombia are fighting directly for the land, we invite to not leave the farms. We invite more families, more communities in the northern Cauca and in Colombia and in the world to enter in more farms and take possession and build life and community as we are already doing in these lands, the same way as many struggles that have been branded as invaders by the great chiefs of the country, because no fight has been won with little kisses on the cheek.

We also send word to our compañerxs who are now in the power of the Colombian state not to get tangled up along the way. Because they have walked alongside our struggles but now we see that they are forgetting where they come from, something that can happen to anyone who reaches a peak, who doesn´t see that after the top comes the descent. That is why we also sent word that we will enter to another farm where we will carry out rituals and plant food to share with them and we will pray for them so that when they finish their time in the state they continue to be the same people who one day arrived there with the votes of millions of people who saw in them some kind of hope.

So far this letter ends, but our word goes on. We write our word on the farms where we are liberating, that is our first word. The documents, the letters, the videos, the radio…, the second word, that helps us to tell the world what we do, the danger that awaits us and how we will continue walking in the face of danger. Thanks to the struggles and peoples of the world who listen to us and stand in solidarity with us. As we have already said in “this is our house to live and fight I”, the best way to support us is to strengthen your fight: it will be very difficult for capitalism to evict or bring down with the full weight of the law thousands and thousands of battles throughout the world.

Process of liberation of Mother Earth

Nasa people, Northern Cauca,

Colombia September 3, 2022.

Featured image: Cauca valley by Alliance for Biodiversity International and CIAT via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)