ancestral health, food sovereignty, bioregionalism, and practical decolonization

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So I’m preparing my presentation for this weekends Real Food Cascadia convergence here in the Volcano Vortex.  We’re making a great big lunch with local bison and root vegetables, and I hear that there might be SALMON at the after party, as we shake our tails to the best underground hip-hop into the wee hours of the night.  And check out my new hoodie!  We’ll have them for sale, along with brightly colored shirts, Cascadian flags, and the usual anti-colonial propaganda.  This will help us pay for our amazing speakers and the super-duper rad venue at the Central Oregon Locavore food education center.  I am so grateful for all the Cascadians here in Bend pulling together and making this convergence a truly collective effort.  I love my friends so much!  The future is ours!

I am a novice public speaker, yet there is so much inspiring work being done in our world towards resiliency and self-determination that all I really want to do is tell a story of what we humans have got going on.  I’ve not been able to keep up with the latest in the Ancestral Health world, missing the Ancestral Health Symposium in Atlanta due to time, money, and distance….you know, that stuff.  But I’ve been steeping myself in the literature for a few years now, and I’m doing my best to distill this essence of the deep and subtle revolution.  Not to mention remind folks that this movement is not exclusive to the white halls of academia.  This is a movement ‘from health-care to self-care’, and it is as grassroots as we make it.  Make no mistake, this is Ancestral Health with a decolonization agenda.  No snake oil here!  Just salmon oil and grass-fed butter.

I’m educating myself further about La Via Campesina and the origins of the modern Food Sovereignty movement.  I’m regretting not picking up Annette Aurelie Desmarais‘ book of that name from the Spartacus table at the Book Fair in Victoria last week.  So it goes.  Perhaps I’ll request it to the Deschutes Public Library.  Food Sovereignty is a very uppity endeavor being birthed by landless peasants like myself, and it feels so good to be connected to a movement that cuts through politics into one of the deepest issues we humans must face: food.  I know I’m not much without it!  What I’m really interested in is how the context of each place must define what Food Sovereignty is for the inhabitants of that place, and this is why the connection to bioregionalism is so promising.  Food Sovereignty will not mean the same thing here in Cascadia as it does in Chiapas or the Sahel, but there seem to be clear principles that translate specifically to each place.  I’m trilled that so many brilliant folks will be descending upon the Upper Deschutes Watershed to learn from each other how to dream this all into reality.

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And of course, the connection between food and colonialism is profound, and understanding this relationship (an abusive relationship) is absolutely critical for the practice of decolonization.  The intersection between mental health, nutrition, community autonomy, and the psychology of colonialism is a real dynamo.  There is amazing work being done in this regard.  I have been inspired by Nora Gedgaudas and her work with diet, lifestyle, and mental health in regards to brain function and body-based energy.  I see this tying in directly with the work of Dr. Michael Yellow Bird and what he has termed “neurodecolonization.”  Both Gedgaudas and Yellow Bird emphasize mindfulness practices and utilizing a wonderful human potential called neuroplasticity in order to physically undo the effects of our brain patterns being colonized by both trauma and malnutrition.  The way that diet and mindfulness interact seems to flesh out the concrete reality of our relationship with the food we eat being a profoundly spiritual one.  And it should come as no surprise that all Indigenous cultures view food as an integral aspect of the spirituality of culture.  No doubt this still holds true in dominant society, where we can see what happens when ignorance and profit-driven deception are allowed to create a relationship with food that could be accurately described as “demonic.”
My ancestors were driven from their land during one of the darkest hours of our Nation, when the British Empire used food as a weapon in order to deepen the colonization of my People.  And that is why I live on the others side of the world now!  Yet to this day, the “Irish Potato Famine” is still seen by many to be an unpreventable tragedy rather than the calculated war against my People that it was.  This same colonization of food systems spread across Turtle Island, and Cascadia was one of the last places in the world to have it’s Indigenous food systems suppressed or eradicated.  1847 for the Irish was about 1970 for many of the Indigenous Nations here, yet with fish farms causing wild salmon populations to collapse and more dams in the north being built, 1847 is happening here again as we speak.  And I’ll be damned if they aren’t flying the butcher’s apron to this day in the north.  Anyone notice a pattern?
Here we can see how restoring Indigenous food systems and reconnecting spiritually with the food we eat, and the land from which it comes , is one of the most profound ways to turn theories of decolonization into practice.  In this way, decolonization transforms the experience of daily life.  Our bodies are changed, and our minds are alleviated from the weight of generations of trauma.  All of this is predicated on the restoration of the land.  The rivers and spawning beds, the grasslands that are literally the lungs of the earth (along with the plankton on whom the salmon depend), and the soil that must be living for our bodies to be living.
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So how do I put this all into a story that I can tell in a simple way?  That is want I’ve been working at for a while now, and I feel good about what is coming together.  And it’s coming together in “the mythical-sounding, temperate region bordering the West Coasts of Canada and the northern United States,” as some Cascadian’s have recently describe this place.  I don’t think I’ll be able to get much deeper than a solid outline of how all these movements are converging.  However, there is much potential to expand and deepen the scope of this gathering.  Next year we will be including a strong focus on pre-natal nutrition and midwifery.  Also, the plant medicines will be joining the show in a big way.  But this year, we start with the intersection of Ancestral Health and Food Sovereignty in a place, unique in our beautiful world, that has suffered enough and is ready to rush back to life and bring us along for the ride.
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Ancestral Health Symposium 2013 Wrap-Up

Of course I REALLY wanted to go to this. Perhaps next year it will be closer to the West Coast. I’ll be giving a presentation this weekend, September 28, in Bend, Oregon at Real Food Cascadia on the relationship between Ancestral Health, Food Sovereignty, Bioregionalism, and Practical Decolonization. To the ancestors! And the ones to come!

The Domestic Man

Last week I attended the third annual Ancestral Health Symposium in Atlanta, GA. It was a week of firsts for me – the first time I’ve attended AHS, the first time I’ve presented at a conference, and my first trip to Atlanta.

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ancestral health and bioregional food sovereignty

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On the weekend of September 28, 2013, Bend, Oregon will be hosting Cascadia’s first bioregional food sovereignty convergence at the Cenrtal Oregon Locavore food education center and market.  This convergence is bringing together leading voices from the bioregion’s Indigenous food sovereignty movement along with ancestral health activists and working ecological restoration practitioners.  The purpose is to weave together the inextricable strands of human health and the health of the land base.  Throughout Cascadia, people are working to restore salmon and steelhead runs, heal grasslands from overgrazing, and localize food systems that are fully ecological and supportive of local economies and communities.

From the grasslands of the arid interior, to the abundant tidal pools of the rain forest coast, local inhabitants are working to restore whole watersheds with the intention of reviving the long-term food sovereignty of each place.  Cascadia has been home to some of the most diverse and abundant Indigenous food systems for thousands and thousands of years.  The decimation that has occurred over the past 200 years of colonization has suppressed this abundance, but both the land and it’s inhabitants are fighting to end this foolishness.  The land wants to heal, and we have the hands to make this happen!

We have seen the salmon return so fiercely when the Elwah dams came down.  Cascadians, I dare you to dream of the others coming down, one by one!  Why are we farming potatoes in a way that destroys salmon runs?  Why do we rely on industrial heath care when we are proving that we can heal ourselves with traditional foods and medicines  all within the comfort of our own homes and communities?  People are healing cancer, diabetes, mental illness, and even reversing tooth decay, all with traditional foods form this land base.  People are healing this land and these foods return to the waters, forests, and soil with a beautiful vengeance.

This is not too good to be true.  It is happening!  If this is all news to you, then this convergence will give you a fighting hope for a future that is truly ours.  So come to Bend on the Upper Deschutes and dream your wildest dreams with us under the clear-skied eastern edge of the mighty Cascades.

Speakers include:

Dawn Morrison – coordinator of the B.C. Food Systems Network – Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty and Comprehensive Community Planning Coordinator with the Neskonlith Indian Band in Sécwepemculecw.

Sandra M. Matheson – member of the Managing Change Northwest team.  She is a life-long farmer, educator, volunteer, veterinarian, wife, and parent.  She lives and farms in Bellingham, Washington. Sandra was a participant in the four-year Washington State University IFS Holistic Management Project. She also completed the intensive two-year training to become a Certified Educator in Holistic Management for grassland restoration.

Abe Lloyd – director of Salal, the Cascadian Food Institute, an Adjunct Professor at Western Washington University, Whatcom Community College, and Royal Roads University, and actively researches, promotes, and eats the Indigenous foods of this bountiful bioregion.

Casey B. Corcoran – co-editor ofAutonomy Cascadia: A Journal of Bioregional Decolonization and producer of the film Occupied Cascadia. His work as a grassroots activist focuses on restoring a functioning Food Sovereignty within the Deschutes watershed of central Oregon, while highlighting the ecological connections throughout the entire Cascadian bioregion and greater Salmon Nation.

Video: “Decolonization is not a tendency!” 2013 Seattle Anarchist Book Fair Panel

Bhí mé ag sa seomra seo. Ní raibh mé ag labhairt. Tá mé fós aon rud le rá. Má tá díchoilíniu i láthair mar bán aghaidh dhaoine den dath, ansin tá na coilínigh a bhuaigh cheana féin. Ní raibh duine Duwamish a labhair. Is é sin go léir is féidir lion a rá. Ba chóir an bhean bán bogadh go Béal Feirste. Is bocht an rud é.

I was fortunate enough to be present at this panel in Seattle. It is very good to shut up and listen, and I was inspired to re-read “Decolonization is not a metaphor” by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang. I certainly was affected and have a lot to think about.  “Above all, white people don’t define what liberation means for people who have experienced colonization.”  Really get’s you thinking….

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Seattle

At this year’s Seattle Anarchist Book Fair, people from Egypt, Oakland, Seattle and LA–some of them having returned from Mexico and Pakistan with fresh ideas to share; others coming with grafted knowledge from growing up in the gentrification/displacement shuffle–spoke on a panel named “Decolonization is not a tendency.”.  The conversations came thick with no sugar.

The panel touched on urban Zapatismo, gentrification (this time from someone who has actually experienced gentrification), poetry, the Egyptian uprising, on being a displaced person, and how to check one’s own white privilege. There’s a lot to say on all of these things, and the panel was only the beginning of a  conversation raw enough to meet the longstanding vaccum within numerous activist circles–let alone the rest of our communities. So we’ve broken the footage down into two parts. A filmed night of performances by revolutionary hip hop artists will be coming…

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peace on earth, war in heaven

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“To be clear, our Peaceful Protest of Resistance to our continuous subjection to decades of systemic state sanctioned torture via the system’s solitary confinement units is far from over. Our decision to suspend our third hunger strike in two years does not come lightly. This decision is especially difficult considering that most of our demands have not been met (despite nearly universal agreement that they are reasonable). The core group of prisoners has been, and remains 100% committed to seeing this protracted struggle for real reform through to a complete victory, even if it requires us to make the ultimate sacrifice.  With that said, we clarify this point by stating prisoner deaths are not the objective, we recognize such sacrifice is at times the only means to an end of fascist oppression.”

The third and longest hunger strike was suspended yesterday.  I hope this means that humanity can learn lessons before falling again to feed the demons of tragic indulgence.  No sense in kicking dead horses at rock bottom.  I want to hear these men tell their stories when we do smash the prison-industrial complex and they’re all out of this colonial hell.  I do not want to be marching for years to come holding pictures of the dead.  I want to hear their stories.  And if there has to be a fourth hunger strike, no doubt we’ll all start losing them.

California politicians have promised reform.  The families are glad it is over.  So am I, but it’s not over.  There has been impressive organization against the prison-industrial complex in the US, but it is clear that the past 60 are a prayer to kick things into high gear.  I can’t say that I know what this means for me or others like me.  But I will say that the Irish are world renowned for prison solidarity, and I know I have a responsibility to carry that ancestral energy to this west coast.

We need to be the winners who write our history, we who fight with our lives for decolonization.  Ciallaíonn díchoilíniú díothú bpríosún!

“This hunger strike is historic on many levels: the number of prisoners who went without food; the international media attention; and the impressive mobilization of groups on the outside who published in-depth analyses, organized demonstrations, worked with the media, and promoted the prisoners’ demands and their Agreement to End Hostilities.  Coupled with the lawsuit by the Center for Constitutional Rights and other attorneys, this peaceful protest was a tremendously courageous effort that has the potential of securing real change in California’s practices related to solitary confinement.”

We fierce dreamers who call ourselves Cascadians must see Pelican Bay as the festering wound that it is upon the beautiful bioregion whom we call home.  And it is our responsibility to stop the hurting and heal the wound.  And the interconnection and interdependence of the bioregional vision extends our solidarity all the way down to Imperial County, and beyond that colonial boarder to the south.  Then on to Guantanamo.  Palestine.  I have no doubt that so many of us could be the ones on the inside if we don’t act with full force to live out the truths that this hunger strike has put into our hearts.  Decolonization means prison abolition.  And uncompromising solidarity until our day dawns.

 

 

an old love and a new love

Day 60.  New moon, I dream of an old love.

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After meeting with fellow prisoners, Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers will be making an announcement in a couple hours, their supporters delivering the message down in Oakland.

“Their statement comes amid growing international condemnation of California’s practice of solitary confinement, as well as the commitment of California Senate and Assembly Chairs of Public Safety Loni Hancock and Tom Ammiano to convene a series of hearings in response to the strikers’ demands that would “address the issues that have been raised to a point where they can no longer be ignored.”  Legal representatives have just reported that this morning strikers were able to have an unprecedented meeting with fellow prisoners at Pelican Bay where they reached consensus on moving forward in their struggle to end torture in California prisons, and toward reducing violence among prisoners.  Their advocates are encouraging communication between strikers at Pelican Bay and their fellow prisoners who were forcibly removed to New Folsom in the past weeks.”

Frances Hughes died after 59 days.  Michael Devine died after 60 days.  Today’s hunger strikers have been given gatorade and vitamins, which must make a significant difference.  But we’ve already heard that their vision is failing, pounds and pounds have been lost, and no doubt many must be flirting with organ failure.  I still don’t have a concrete number or all the names.  But could I find them?  No doubt the Californian State does not want names and pictures circulating in the media.  I’m still trying.

Michael Devine RIP

The men in California do not need to die.  The 5 demands are not too much to ask by any means.

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The gatorade and vitamins could mean that history does not need to repeat itself.  Humanity has sacrificed enough for a better world.  And the hell of the US prison-industrial complex has no right to exist on our beautiful planet.  Jerry Brown, will they make a film about you someday called “Iron Heart”??

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If anyone has pictures of rallies being held outside California that I don’t know about, please send them my way.  There are rallies today in Arcata and Oakland:

“On September 5th at 12pm, California Prisoner Hunger Strike solidarity activists outraged at Governor Brown’s refusal to enter into meaningful negotiations with prisoners will start an open-ended Solidarity Fast in front of Governor Brown’s Oakland home.

This day marks the 60th day of the prisoner hunger strike with perhaps hundreds risking their lives for justice and humane conditions in the prison system. Our goal is to support the hunger strikers demand that the governor enter into immediate substantive negotiations to end long-term solitary confinement. We invite everyone to join us, whether fasting or not, as we hold this public space to bring attention to the policy makers that are failing us.

We will be in front of the governor’s condo on Telegraph Ave. and 27th St. PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD AND JOIN US!

Yes.  I, Cathasaigh Brian Ó Corcran will be fasting from noon on, sending prayers from the Upper Deschutes.  Any friends in town want to join me?

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Decolonization means abolishing the prison-industrial complex.  Prisons are the explicit confluence on capitalism and racism, both tools of colonialism used by the occupiers to suppress the self-determination of all peoples.  Our fights are connected over both time and space.

This Electronic Intifada podcast makes the connection between prison struggles in California and Palestine.  And such connections have never been lost on us Irish.

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حرروا فلسطين  Saoirse na hÉireann.  California Über Alles?  Je ne crois pas.  Tiocfaidh ár lá.  Tiocfaidh ár lá.

the sky a blank canvas

Day 59.   Dreaming last night, but I can’t remember a thing.  I just know I was dreaming, the feeling was still with me, awake again before sunrise.  Looking for a sliver of the moon, but no.

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Lorenzo Benton.  Abdul.  HB.  Mutawally.  I can count 12 names now.  Randall Ellis makes 13.  At least 60 were moved without medical personnel from Pelican Bay, leaving the 4 representatives {Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, Antonio Guillen, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry)} behind.  Separated.  And how many in Corcoran?  How many in all the other prisons?  This article only mentions 44 men on hunger strike?  Names.  Numbers.  Places.  Why don’t I have all of this information?  They’re all just a bunch of criminal right?  Gang members.  So what does it matter?

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White Supremacy.  There’s an answer.  We Irish know the names and faces of our own hunger strikers, and knew them at the time.  Why is this not happening here?  Maybe it is because we had enough gang members on the outside to paint murals on the walls of the sections of our towns that we controlled, using guns and barbed wire to keep the occupiers and colonists out of our neighborhoods.  We made our own media.  And racism in Ireland was not about skin color.  Some of the hunger strikers of 1981 had been driven and burned out of their homes by racist mobs.

But America constructed race-as-skin color and wrote this new construct into it’s constitution, and that’s the shadow we live under here today.  So is it because so many of the hunger strikers today are just so many People of Color?  Criminals all, no doubt.  What if they were all young, cute, female, white political activists and the media had their pictures?  Every one in the US, and plenty elsewhere, would be seeing their faces on the news every night after 2 months of starvation.  It would be history in the making.

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This is only to bring up the question: “How much is a life worth?”  And what is more oppressive?  Anarchists being incarcerated for months after refusing to snitch before a grand jury, or 500 men in solitary for over 10 years?  80 men in solitary for over 20 years?  One man in solitary for 48 years? What if they are murderers?  Does this “justice” make you feel better?  Make the world a better place?  And what if race, religion, or other affiliations are illusions used by those in power to hide the political and social consciousness of those who would dare resist?  Gang members.  Criminals.  Terrorists.  Not living, breathing human beings with mothers, children, spouses, or families who suffer also from the theft of members of their community.

I’m going to do some serious digging for information.  The invisibility of this moment is greatly the responsibility of people like me.  And since I’m not being paid to be a journalist, I can say what I want and ask whatever I need to ask.  I won’t waste time being sorry, I have some phone calls to make.  “Tiocfaidh ár lá,” is say to myself.  “Tiocfaidh ár lá.”

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“we can only hope that our strength is a reflection of your strength.  ALL RACES – prison solidarity”

-Mutope Duguma, on hunger strike right now!

i am not 1066

Day 58.  Again, I am awake well before sunrise.  The moon now looking like God’s thumbnail, waiting to hitch a ride with the passing sun.  I didn’t watch the sunrise, my nose was in a book called Skylark, Sing Your Lonely Song.  I dreamt last night of the house I lived in when I was born. I was  brought home from the new hospital in the snow of Samhain, 18 months after the hunger strikers of 1981 began to cross over.  In this dream, I walk upstairs.  There is a T.V. left on, but no one in the room.  I turn around and look at the T.V.  Pornography is on the screen.  I try to be un-averse.  But it feels so desacralizing.  I am repulsed. That’s all I remember of the dream.

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More names.  I can count 8 names now.  I was well aware the day the hunger strike started on July 8.  I’ll admit to not paying attention until day 45 when I was in Seattle and I saw the sign counting the days at the Black Coffee Co-op.  It hit me.  A red haired girl with a copy of a book called Ten Men Dead in her hand walked by.

More names.

J. Heshima Denham, 41 , Corcoran State Prison SHU. Denham has been in the SHU for over a decade following validation as a member of the Black Guerilla Family. As evidence of gang activity, he has reportedly has his cell raised by prison guards for Japanese artwork involving dragons; the dragon is a symbol of the BGF.

Michael “Zaharibu” Dorrough, 59 , Corcoran State Prison SHU. Dorrough has been in the SHU since 1988, following validation as a member of the Black Guerilla Family. He has subsequently been kept in the SHU for reasons including writing for black nationalist newspapers and eulogizing a deceased inmate who was a BGF member.

Mutope Duguma (James Crawford), 46, Pelican Bay SHU. Incarcerated since 1988, Duguma has been in the SHU since 2001, following his validation as a member of the Black Guerilla Family; a charge he claims is false. “I was involved in gang life as a young man in South Los Angeles, like many other young black men from broken communities, but I was never a member or associate of the BGF. I never even met a member of the BGF during my first decade in prison,” he has written. He claims he was targeted for political activity, and last year won a lawsuit against CDCR for withholding his mail on the basis that his political writings constituted “gang activity.”

Kijana Tashiri Askari (Marcus Harrison), 41, Pelican Bay SHU. Following validation as a Black Guerilla Family member, he has been in solitary confinement since 1994.

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Day 57.  I’m writing an hour before midnight Pacific.  It was a very long day.  What are their names?  Do all of their families know, because how many are there really?  How much isolation is keeping true stories form being heard.  From all I can gather, there are still over 100 people on hunger strike  that have been since the beginning.  Then after moving 80 hunger strikers from Pelican Bay to New Folsom Prison, others have joined.

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The names of hunger strikers in 1981 were known.  Bobby Sands was elected as a Member of Parliament while in prison on hunger strike.  I know 4 names out of what could be hundreds.

“We are calling on all people of conscience to make their opposition heard. The people have the power to change things now. Know this: Our spirit and resolve remain strong and we know we can count on you all! Together we are making it happen, not only for ourselves, but, more importantly, for the generations to come.”

With the Utmost Solidarity, Love, and Respect—Onward in Struggle,
Pelican Bay State Prison Short Corridor Collective
Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP-SHU
Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, PBSP-SHU
Antonio Guillen, P-81948, PBSP-SHU
Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP-SHU