Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Victory For Native People Is A Victory For All People

Non-Aboriginal people ought to support Native People in their fight to maintain their treaty rights and to regain the territory stolen from them. They should also support the teaching of Native languages, spirituality and culture. They should also demand that the school books no longer whitewash the invasion and theft, but tell the truth to our children.

This should be done, not only from a sense of justice, a sense of humanity and decency, but also from self-interest. How so, you might well ask? In two fundamental ways. Both Native People and the great mass of Newcomers face many similar problems. The source of these problems is the same.

Let's deal with the common problems first. When the European conquerers came to the Americas they stole the land, forcing the inhabitants onto a few small parcels. In South America they turned the inhabitants into serfs, and in the North, when they didn't kill them outright, turned many into wage laborers. They were able to commit these crimes with speed and efficiency because they had years of practice at it. The free peasants of Europe had their lands seized by brigands and were turned into serfs. The remaining common lands were later stolen by the landowning "nobility" through the Enclosure Acts. The first colonization was against the Irish, who were also rounded up and sold as slaves, long before the “nobles” enslaved Africans.

Once the European rulers had made sufficient inroads into the Americas, they began the practice of cultural genocide. Agents called missionaries were sent to destroy native beliefs. Sacred areas were desecrated and Elders were maligned as "pagans" and "devil worshipers." Native languages were stamped out. A similar process occurred in Europe. Peasants were forced to convert to the master's cult at sword point and had to abandon their nature religions. Those who kept the old ways were tortured and murdered by the hundreds of thousands as "witches and devil worshipers." Jews and Muslims suffered similar pogroms. Efforts were made to destroy old customs like dancing around the May Pole and many sacred megaliths were broken up. People were forced to give up their languages and speak French, English or Castilian. Few people now speak Occitan, Breton, or Gaelic. Catalan just survived. Long gone are Cornish and Manx, and countless other local languages and dialects across Europe.

The Invaders forced a foreign concept of government upon Native People. Self-governing communities became subject to bureaucrats, politicians and police of a distant and uncaring state. But so too are the vast majority of the Newcomers a powerless mass. They vote in elections, but the outcome is the same – little changes, and what improvements are made – with a tremendous effort – are soon taken way again.

What was the source of these problems common to European workers and Native People? Europe once had its own Aboriginal People, the remnants of which are the Basques. Mediterranean peoples arrived during the early Neolithic and integrated peacefully with these original inhabitants. Later came the Celts who may have evolved out of these "Two Founding Nations". Then came the invasions of Slavic and Teutonic tribes, who as tribal peoples had a fairly egalitarian outlook. There did not seem to be a complete social and political break with the past.

The Roman Empire changed all this. Julius Caesar gloated how his armies slaughtered some two million Celts. Even taking exaggeration into account, this act foreshadows the genocide to come in the so-called New World. Roman conquest of Western Europe imposed a powerful centralized state and a class system. The former inhabitants became slaves and their lands were stolen by the conquerers.

Some Celts and Teutons became Romanized, and when Rome collapsed in the Fifth Century they imitated their former master, with a class system of serfs, lords and kings. Attempts were made by various kings like Charlemagne to re-establish the Empire. While Rome was gone, the Roman Church persisted and imposed its authoritarian, woman-hating, sex-hating, child-abusing, nature-despising ideology on the ex-tribal peoples. In Eastern Europe the role-model was the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire, and the results were similar. While the Roman Empire was never restored, individual countries like France, Spain and England became empires modeled upon it. On the backs of peasant farmers, fishers and hunters were created the monsters that terrorized the globe from 1492 on.

We are a damaged people. Traumatized by 80 generations of bullying, exploitation, child-abuse, race hatred, misogyny, cruel religious cults, sexual repression, cultural and linguistic repression. Is it any wonder many of us go insane, commit suicide, take up drugs or alcohol? (By the way, I am not saying that Whites suffer as much as Indians. Not at all. Compared with them, we are privileged. But nonetheless, we suffer the same type of problems, if not the same degree of intensity, and for essentially the same reasons.)

The resolution is for the European Newcomers to shed the imposed Roman heritage and go back to the true and ancient roots. Of course, we cannot re-create the ways of Old Europe in America, any more than the Plains People can restore the annual buffalo hunt. But we can reject Empire in all its vile forms. We can reject a world view that is anti-nature, anti-woman, anti-child. We can reject inequality and base our property relations on usufruct and not political power. We can return to decentralized, self-governing and federated communities that practice mutual aid, gift-giving and reciprocity.

In doing this, we would create a society based on justice. With justice, Native People's rights would be restored. In doing this, our ways of being, our outlook, would be similar to those of Native People, but without stealing from them, without become False Indians as so many well intentioned, but none the less imperialist New Agers and counter-culturalists have done.

When we Europeans look at a Native Person who has refused to assimilate the ways of the white man, what we see is much of what we have lost. It thus makes sense for us to make common cause with the First Nations, to help heal our own wounds, to restore our freedoms, as much as theirs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A victory for native people is a victory for us all.
I am in 100% agreement with the sentiment expressed in this well written post. We need the victory over racism, ignorance and wrong-mindedness you
write about to take place very soon. We need to heal the wounds of the pastand build a better future for the generations to come. Thank you for writing this piece and posting it on your blog. "Timethief"

7:24 AM  

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