the sun rises towards the waning moon

Day 55.  The waning crescent moon had not reached midheaven as I waited for the sunrise over the Ochocos from my perch above the city.  I should still have been asleep like most of the other humans.  I’d stayed up late last night, talking into the early morning with a dear friend, but I was awake before sunrise.  Day 55 I thought as I looked up at the moon.  The sun burned its way into the sky.  Off to work for a 9 hour shift serving lattes to tourists.  Day 55 I said to a few of them.  Blank looks.  My co-worker pondered out loud as to why most of the media is ignoring the hunger strike.  Even the BBC covered the events of 1981 on a daily basis.  I guess most people would rather be twerking.  And what about war in Syria?  This summer is far from over.

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I can’t bring myself to say anything yet about those who are dismissing the hunger strikers as common criminals who are getting what they deserve.  To much anger.  I’m reminded of the words of Cascadian poet philosopher Derrick Jensen who lives near Pelican Bay and used to go into the prison to teach creative writing:

“The whole reform vs revolution question is bullshit. I used to teach creative writing at Pelican Bay, which is a Supermax security prison. I fully recognized that every time I walked in to that prison that I was participating in the biggest, most racist gulag on the planet. You can’t get much more reformist than teaching creative writing there. But at the same time many of my students said that the only thing that was keeping them sane was our classes. So in that moment any sort of belief I had in reform vs revolution question just fell apart….”

This hunger strike  is not happening in a vacuum.  I’ll get to the statistics later, but it is not an exaggeration to refer to the US prison-industrial complex as a “gulag archipelago.”  The mass incarceration  of marginalized people is very political, racist, and about as colonial as it gets.  And the consciousness and bravery of these hunger strikers is historically epic.  And the use of solitary confinement is completely political.

We can look back and wonder at the cruelty of history’s famous evil heads of State, whether in Russia, Germany, or the occupied north-east of Ireland.  What do they have to gain by being so calloused and sadistically stubborn?  But colonists are heartless in the face of the suffering of the colonized, history shows us this over and over again.  Now the State is threatening force feeding.  I don’t know who is worse,  Jerry Brown or Margaret Thatcher.  I’ll ask my dreams tonight and see what they say.

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imperial california

Day 54.  Bobby died on day 66.  His last journal entry was 17 days after he began the first fatal hunger strike of that year on March 1, 1981.

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In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Summer of 2013 is already burning a permanent mark on the memories of your decedents.  The hunger strike that began throughout the California prison system on July 8, 2013 hit home for me like few things can.  For starters, Pelican Bay State Prison is located in the heart of Cascadia’s Deep South.  I have walked through the ponds and woods of Yontoket, where settlers massacred Indigenous Tolowa as they took refuge at the place where their world began, a place not 5 miles as the Raven flies from where Pelican Bay State Prison now sits.  The beauty and power of this place was not lost on  me, nor the irony of the location of this particular prison.

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Continuing further south from the bioregion that is home to me,  you will find another prison, and I find my name on it.  What are the odds?  Corcoran State Prison is the location where the first hunger striker of 2013 died (as if there might be more, pardon my Irish attitude).  Billy “Guero” Sell died on July 22, and of course the CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) ruled the death of a hunger striking prisoner in solitary confinement a “suicide”.  But I know from personal experience that 14 days is not long enough to starve to death.  The conditions of his death are being investigated.

Next, let’s talk about what the words “HUNGER STRIKE” mean to us Irish.  I was born the year after 10 Irish Republican prisoners had died on hunger strike, but this was not the first time Irish people starved to death on their own Island.  The 22 well know Irish hunger strikers over the last 100 years should never obscure the fact that millions of Irish people died of starvation for objectively political reasons under British colonial rule.  An Gorta Mór, known to the rest of the world as the “potato famine” that gave the title “Black ’47” to the year of my grandfather’s grandfather’s birth in Ros Comáin, is still remembered by our own people as the colonial genocide that it was.  So back here in the 21st century, when over 30,000 inmates start a hunger strike throughout Imperial California’s prison system, us Irish can, well, just eat our hearts out.

22 HUNGER STRIKERS

And it doesn’t stop there.  The California prisoners have 5 demands that they want to be met before they will end the “indefinite” hunger strike.

1. End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse

2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria

3. Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement

4. Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food

5. Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates

Sound familiar to any of you Paddy’s out there?

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I am going to be writing every day from here on out.  There is so much I want to say, and so much more I am feeling.  I know so many others have been feeling it also.  My mind is pregnant and heart is full.

-Cathasaigh Briain Ó Corcráin – The Farewell Bend, Oolichan, Cascadia – Day 54

(Casey Bryan Corcoran – Bend, Oregon, The Republic)

“Tiocfaidh lá eigin nuair a bheidh an fonn saoirse seo le taispeáint ag daoine go léir ne hEireann ansin tchífidh muid éirí na gealaí”

Roibeárd Gearóid Ó Seachnasaigh

autonomy cascadia: a journal of bioregional decolonization

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We are in the process of finalizing a printing project called Autonomy Cascadia: A Journal of Bioregonal Decolonization.

This journal is  a call out to all those who live in this place who are taking their lives back from the thieves who would control all that is wild and free.  You know who you are.  The time has come to gather by the fire and tell our stories.  There is not one of us here living free from the shadow of the colonization of our ancestors, and the struggle of carrying this weight is coming to an end.  The Earth is exhausted and so are we.

There is no doubt that we live in perilous times.  From the global economy trembling unsteadily as it forces it’s way into every last corner of the Earth, to the collapsing and shifting ecologies of all the places we call home, we know that the future gives us little to cling to.  Even those of us who have fought for our freedom and sovereignty are being displaced again by a system designed to grow like a cancer, giving no one the peace and place to simply live.  Nothing can take root when the soil of our communities is plowed over and over again.

But nothing can last forever.  It has become impossible to avoid the consequences of the colonization of the whole Earth by a system alienated from it.  We are the decedents of 221 years of colonization.  521 years of colonization.  842 years of colonization.  Yet we can look back to the forests of Mesopotamia and see beneath today’s deserts that the colonization of the Earth began thousands of years ago.  And there must be even more to remember that feels completely lost to us today.  But in it’s own way, the entire story of the Earth is living with us still, moment to moment.

This is a call out to the Indigenous of Raven’s Bioregion, the place we call Cascadia.  And this is a call out to the displaced of Raven’s Bioregion.  Why are we all here together now?  What are the reasons?  What is your story?  Were your ancestors beaten for speaking their language, be it Tlingit, Irish, Nuu-Chah-Nulth, Finnish, Sahaptin, Bohemian, Montana Salish, Yoruba?  They were, even if you don’t know it.  Did your ancestors starve to death when there was plenty of food to go around?  Were they beaten and sent to their deaths for stealing a plum or a loaf of bread?  They were, even if you don’t know it.  Were the forests they lived in cut down and the rivers emptied of salmon?  Are there now fish farms poisoning the waters instead?  Yes and yes.

We insist that the bioregional movement here in Cascadia create strength with the movements for Indigenous Nationhood.  This land is stolen land, and no ecological philosophy can ignore this.

Are you resisting the B.C. treaty process and feeling isolated from your community? Are you learning the language of your ancestors? Are you blockading a road or living in a tree sit soaked in rain and feeling alone? Are you reading Fanon while sitting in prison? We want to hear from you, because you are not alone and we are all here for a reason.

All of our stories stand in defiance of the lies told by the dominant culture, each one a drop in the flood that can wash away a system dying of it’s own disease.  Decolonization is a process that is both unique to each of us as individuals, and it will be a process of creation and destruction that is shared by the people of each place.  Cascadia is one place, and what we all do here together will impact other places throughout the world, just as we take heart and courage from the stories of resilience that come to us from Chiapas, Murrawharri, Patagonia, Aotearoa, Cúige Uladh, The Niger Delta, Chechnya.  All places with lives of their own, all with a diversity of human beings finding themselves together in a place.

So what story will we tell together here in this land of rain forests and salmon and mountains and wolves and water crashing through us all?

We want to hear your story.  We can and will use this journal together as a forum for cutting academic analysis of the ongoing colonialism being perpetrated throughout the watersheds we call home.  But it is up to the simple storytellers to bring decolonization to our daily lives.  This project is starting honestly and slowly with what we have, and it can grow with time into an expression of the beauty and strength of our lives together here in this place.

We start with stories.  Then interviews, critical essays, book and film reviews.  And please send us art inspired by this place!  We will make most everything available on the digital interweb, but this project is also an attempt to honor the traditions of the radicle printing press.  So art!  We especially like Raven art for some reason.

If you have a story to contribute about your lived experience in this place, contact us: Autonomy Cascadia