The Colonized Colonizer (or, Return of the Unsettler): An Introduction

Navies

There are a set of objective questions one must ask oneself throughout the course of a life.  And of course, the answers are mostly subjective, but they must be asked nonetheless.

Who am I?  Why am I here?  What am I doing here?  Why are other lives so different from my own?  What does the future hold?

An idealistic answer could take varying evolutionary or spiritualistic tones, and often these days it’s a mixture of both.  But a material answer can be reduced to this: colonialism.  And despite all attempts to convince us that we are living in some kind of “post-colonial” era, this is still the dominant factor that has shaped, and continues to shape, our world.

The awareness of colonialism, unless we are sociopathic, is a deeply troubling process for both native and settler.  It first brings forth the consciousness that, liberal philosophies be damned, there still remains the segregation of native and settler, held strongly intact by culture if not so blatantly by law.  It then begins to inform us as to whether we are the hero or villain of our own personal narrative.  It may seem that most people acquiesce to a life of complicity or assimilation, “getting over it” and not “standing in the way of progress.”  But to comprehend the historical trajectory of colonialism on the planet is to glimpse the ecological “apocalypse” that is it’s endpoint, and here the conscious individual cannot muffle the sounds of the “tell-tale heart” beating beneath the floorboards:  “Colonialism is alive and well, and you are either complicit in this process, or you must choose to fight it for all you are worth.”

Albert Memmi and Frantz Fanon have dealt with this issue in depth regarding the colonial situation in Algeria during the 20th century.  In so many ways, the psychological challenges they depict still play out today in the various 21st century colonial contexts, including the one here on Turtle Island.  However, the realities of Canada, the US, and Mexico cannot simply be equivocated with each other, let alone 1960’s Algeria, 1920’s Ireland, 1790’s Haiti, et. al.  If, following Fanon’s assertion that “decolonization is a historical process,” we are to look at both geography and history to inform us of the varying similarities and uniquenesses of colonial contexts, time and place must become central to our understanding of what colonialism is and how it continues to function.

Here at the far edge of Empire along the Northeast Pacific Rim, colonialism continues to involve the flag you wave and the language you speak, but also most clearly and apparently, it involves the realities of clear cuts, desertification, mining disasters, and the absence of so many Indigenous species who were here in abundance only two or three generations ago.  Simply put, colonization and decolonization are not just social and political phenomena, but are profoundly ecological in kind.

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I suppose I  have dedicated my life to this thesis and it’s exegesis.  And I intend to dedicate my life to fulfilling it’s implications, in concert with the many other dedicated lives this will require, that we may, together, butcher the beast of his-story.  For each of us, this task asks us to follow the objective to the subjective: to answer these questions for ourselves, and then compare and contrast with each other to reveal both our affinities and irreducible uniquenesses, our differences.  We cannot operate with unquestioned assumptions and unexamined expectations; life will put us to the test if we don’t do this ourselves first.

So I begin they only way I really can: with myself exactly where I am at.  But is this story Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist or Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native?  Or has history indeed left a few pages blank?  I don’t know.  I really don’t know.

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1982.  I was born during a time of war.  The week of my birth, Lech Walesa was freed from prison in Poland and the funeral of Leonid Brezhnev was held at Red Square in Moscow.  The USSR was performing underground nuclear testing.  People called this the “Cold War,” even though the US had baited the Soviets to invade Afghanistan a few years before in what turned out to be a successful endgame move. The Last Unicorn, The Still of the Night, and The Man from Snowy River were popular in the movie theaters.  Cal Ripken Jr. became rookie of the year.

Thatcher had gone to war in  the Falklands earlier that year.  Communists in Italy had kidnapped a US Army General.  Canada and Turkey ratified constitutions.  Ten’s of thousands died when the Syrian army attacked the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama.  The Pope visited the UK and Ronald Reagan addressed the British Parlament.  Ariel Sharon had just invaded Lebanon, and the Sabra and Shatila massacres would  ensue after Lebanese president Bachir Gemayel was assassinated in Beirut.  Robero Calvi was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London.  Italy beat West Germany at the World Cup in Spain.  Venezuela, Bolivia, and Surinam recognized the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.  The IMF loaned 3.8 million to a Mexico on the verge of bankruptcy while the worlds affluent visited the EPCOT center in Florida and listened to music from something new called a “CD”.  Michael Jackson’s Thriller was released and China’s population exceeded 1 billion of the earths 4.6 billion humans, half-way to the 9.2 billion projected for my 70th birthday.

The population of Bend, Oregon on the date of my birth was around 17,800, the mill was still running, Celilo had been flooded for 25 years and the dams on the middle Deschutes were only a few years younger.  The 1855 Treaty of Middle Oregon had been signed 127 years, 4 months, and 26 days prior, thought it wasn’t ratified until 1859, after the War north of the river on the Columbia Basin had ended.  Black people were excluded from the new State of Oregon then, and despite the Federal 14th and 15th amendments after the Civil War, exclusion laws would remain on the books until 1927.  The KKK’s presence in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia was, relatively, a minuscule fringe by the 1980’s.  The school I would end up attending did not celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, however, because he was a Communist.  There was a picture on the wall of a white guy named Jesus, whom I prayed to.

The year before Oregon became a State in 1859, two Irishmen in New York and two Irishmen in Dublin would shake hands.  This would lead to several invasions of Canada between 1866-1871 under a flag with the words “Irish Republican Army,” and an uprising against the British in Ireland in 1867,  the year my grandfathers grandfather would leave Roscommon to become a miner in New Jersey.  I don’t know which reason he gave himself for leaving.  I did learn that I was something called “Irish” before the 1980’s came to and end, but it took me a few more years to learn we had an “Army” and that Doloris O’Riordan hated them.  I didn’t really care, but I liked Doloris O’Riordan.  I liked CD’s.  I had one called War that I listed to in my grandma’s car, because my parent’s cars always had cassette players, but life for an “Irish” kid in small town Oregon was about as far from war as anyone could get, apart from the “New Agers” and “Environmentalists” whom the adults thought were trying to start one.  It was a different story back in Ireland however.

The Long War in the north-east of Ireland was accelerating after 10 republican prisoners had died on hunger strike over the course of 1981.  1982 saw IRA bombs killing British soldiers in London, and the DeLorean factory in Belfast ended in bankruptcy and receivership because of something called “cocaine.”  Welcome to the 80’s.  Charles Haughey interrupted Garret FitzGerald as Taoiseach of the 26-county Republic and corporal punishment was banned in schools.  Sinn Féin won it’s first five seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly, Grafton Street was pedestrianized, and the INLA bombed a disco in Ballykelly.

Apparently something called “colonialism” had effected Ireland somewhat, once upon a time, and professors and clergymen argued whether Ireland was still being effected by the lingering issues of “colonialism” or just being effected by “terrorism.”  I was unaware of this.  But Irish music sounded sad.  And beautiful.  I liked it.

To learn that “you’re Irish” in Bend was a much different experience than being Irish in Belfast, Boyle, or Ballyshannon.  But the idea stuck, and I did my school reports on Ireland, hand-drawing a map of the island on a large poster board and tasting “mutton stew” for the first time when my mom made this “national dish” as part of my homework.  I wore out my Ireland t-shirt my grandparents had brought back for me, but never wore in the Union Jack shirt our friends in England had sent my brother and I.  A simple aesthetic preference.  And yes, I loved Enya.  But eventually punk rock and fake British accents would invade my high school years, and my awareness of the politics back on that wee island nation would begin in my mind, just as the Long War was coming to an end.  The Good Friday Agreement was signed and I was a 15 year old in a punk band on the other side of the world.  It would take me another 16 years to finally set foot on an island that had somehow always been there in the back of my mind.

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At the turn of the millennium I fell hard into politics.  Seattle had rioted when the WTO came to town.  Rage Against the Machine was on the TV playing for students in Mexico City.  My friends would be punished for refusing to stand during the pledge of allegiance and wearing Fidel Castro t-shirts to school.  I really didn’t understand any of it, but I wanted to.  I still had dreams about the Communists invading even after the fall of the Eastern Bloc.  I remember a dream where I thought I was one of them, but they ignored me when I tried to explain that I was on their side. But in waking life I found the Anarchists.  Also revolutionaries, but different.  I moved to Seattle and joined the struggle against capitalism by shoplifting burritos.  We’d go to protests in the streets, hoping there would be some action.  Sometimes there would be riot police, concussion grenades, and tear gas.  There were Socialists around, and the Anarchists mercilessly ridiculed them.  We all read Derrick Jensen.  Anarchists hadn’t started to mercilessly ridicule him yet.  And it wasn’t just capitalism anymore, but civilization itself.  We were domesticated and colonized.  We had to break free.  The city was full of a particular romance, and I loved it, but the city was domesticated and colonized, so I went home.  Back to Oregon.  Back to Bend.  Back to my mountains and forests.  And by then I had learned that Seattle and Bend were in the same “bioregion” and my real home was Cascadia.  This was magic.  This was beautiful.  I was Cascadian.

(to be continued)

The Watershed and The City (sketch #1)

It cannot properly be said that the nation-state exists anywhere other than in the minds of human beings.  The same could be said of the province (States in the US, Provinces in Canada, the old administrative districts of Imperial Rome, et. al.).  From the mind of some imperialist, with a pen in hand, lines are drawn on a map.  This changes nothing of reality, until roads are built, forests felled and rivers dammed, languages are suppressed, and populations are extirpated or assimilated into  a new artificial society molded to serve the functions desired by some centralized “national” or “provincial” administration.  But the artifice of ideology does not convey any sense of inherent reality upon nation-state, province, county, district, or borough.

However, artifice thought it may be, the City itself can indeed be seen to actually exist.  From the smallest village to the greatest metropolis, this is one factor of the essential basis of human social reality the world over.  While a shift in ideology can erase a nation-state or province overnight, it would take a massive shift in tectonic plates to erase a city.  And then there would still be the rubble.

The other factor is of course the land-base upon which the city depends: the Country, the Hinterland, the Wilderness, or any other civilized abstraction of what, without exception the world over, is in reality a Watershed.  And watersheds are connected through the ecology of the oceans and the movement of living creatures; and they are separated by steep mountain ridges, softly rolling hills, or great continental divides.  No shift in ideology can erase a watershed (though ideologies have indeed run then dry) and even the greatest tectonic shifts have been moulded by great rivers into the watersheds that all terrestrial life inhabit. (Remember the great so-called Columbia river, the watershed I’ve spent my life in, is itself much older than the Cascade mountain range which it flows through.)

So when we strip away all projection of human desire and delusion, and though the later can be reduced to rubble, we are left for better or worse with this: The Watershed and The City.  Forest and field, highway and Latifundia; all else is contingent on this essential relationship.

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The Ghost of Bookchin Present: Kurdish Nationhood and Fourth World Decolonization

I don’t even know where to start, other than to say this video is one of the most inspiring things I’ve seen in a long time.  And that there must have been something Melchizedek new that Abraham never learned….

I have a keen interest in the contrast between so-called “Third World National Liberation” and “Fourth World Decolonization.”  The general narrative of Kurdish history for the past 100 or so years has mostly fallen into a drive for Statist, often Marxian, national liberation.  But, in what has become a deepening of the Left-wing side of their independence movement, there is now a shift to a remarkable non-statist Fourth World Decolonization orientation.  And apparently this is a result of the prison-cell conversion of their main ideologue, Abdullah Öcalan, to the ideas of post-anarchist Murray Bookchin, contrasting their once stringent adherence to Marxist-Leninism of a modified-Maoist bent.

The theoretical, and quite literal, cross-polination of Bookchin’s ideas and Bioregionalism are so strong that I have trouble telling the difference between the two often, apart from pointing out Bookchin’s hostility to most things “spiritual.”  Bookchin was often published in the Bioregional press, and was always a hot topic in the “green anarchist” community here in Cascadia.  So I’ll admit to being rather wide-eye when seeing the theories and practices coming out of Kurdistan at present.

Most Cascadian bioregionalists are always having to explain “No, we don’t want to create a State,” which is sometimes too-far out of the box for most people trying to understand an independence movement.  And of course, my own Bioregionalist ideas draw heavily from decolonial theory and the “Fourth World-ist” movements for non-Statist Indigenous Nationhood that I see intersecting with Bioregionalism here in Cascadia.

Well now I think we have a serious outside point of reference!

The pluralistic, plurinational, non-Statist, ecology based Kurdish “Democratic Autonomy” movement espouses ideas so similar to my take on Cascadian Bioregionalism that I’m going to have to write something much more in-depth soon (taking into account the privileged, racialized monster that is first-world settler colonialism).  But for now, watch this video again!!

Invitation To The World Festival Of Resistances And Rebellions Against Capitalism “Where Those Above Destroy, We Below Rebuild”

From Kurdistan to Chiapas! From Cascadia to Patagonia!

dorset chiapas solidarity

Invitation To The World Festival Of Resistances And Rebellions Against Capitalism “Where Those Above Destroy, We Below Rebuild”

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reissued by Enlace Zapatista 13th October, 2014

gracias de verdad

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Invitation from the EZLN and CNI to the World Festival of Resistances and Rebellions

To the brothers and sisters of the National and International Sixth:

In the gathering of our peoples in the Exchange between Zapatista Peoples and the National Indigenous Congress “David Ruíz Garcia,” we shared with each other our pain as well as our words and experiences of struggle, rebellion, and resistance.

Together we know that within our rebellions is our “NO” to the politics of destruction that capitalism carries out across the world. And we know that within our resistances are the seeds of the world that we want.

These rebellions and resistances are not just those of the indigenous peoples of Mexico. They are also…

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Notes on Settler Stewardship

I really think this piece is pointing towards the intersection of decolonization and bioregionalism that seems to be emerging. I look forward to reading the final paper. While the bioregional critique of both Capital and the State has been lucid, a truly decolonial praxis has remained obscure. Suspending the narrative of bioregional “reinhabitation” in favor of land repatriation and the restoration of Indigenous law offers a pathway towards a practical resolution of the converging crises we face.

With the recent publication of Peter Berg’s “The Bioshphere and The Bioregion” and Richard Evanoff’s “Bioregionalism and Global Ethics” (finally) being released in paperback, I’m curious to see a more public dialogue on a bioregional decolonization take place.  Perhaps this can finally pull the “environmental” narrative in a truly decolonial direction, as may be evident in this years promising Earth at Risk 2014 Conference.

of restoration and repatriation: storm coming

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In so many places that’s just the blink of an eye, you know, slightly more than 200 years since Lewis & Clark walked out of the United States and into the Columbia River watershed.  The world was a place of 16 million wild salmon that came each year to spawn and renew this great cycle of life, and people that have lived with the river for time immemorial.  And in 200 years look what has happened! So if you look back, and then look forward, it is very unsettling.

And if you care about life, so many voices that have no voice in the decisions that are destroying the planet….if you care about the birds and the children, and the children unborn, and on and on, then you have to take action.  Not to take action would be unacceptable.  How could you live with yourself?  So the question isn’t whether or not you take action, it’s what actions do you take?

-John Osborn

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West of the Continental Divide.  West of Treaty 8.  The land in unceded, unsurrendered.  West of the Continental Divide are the watersheds of the Cascadian bioregion.  Below the 49th parallel is a declining Empire, occupying the same watersheds.  The Klamath is under assault.  The Fraser is under assault.  The Columbia is under assault.  From the Mattole to Yakutat bay, resistance is growing.

Get the picture?

“You Have to Choose”: Islam, Secularism, and Amazigh Identity

So much of this is true for the Irish experience, with a remarkably similar timeline (we got the Christianists and they got the Islamists), apart from our success in resisting non-holy Roman colonization initially. For the Irish, our language is our soul, and is connected to our land (Tír gan teanga, Tír gan anam!) And then the colonizers religion invades our very identity, because another wave of colonization pits ‘us’ and the first colonization against ‘them’ and the second colonization, leaving us with some “neo-pagan” Druid silliness to “return” to if we bother to search at all.  Thus the struggle for Irish indigeneity, and the modern appeal of atheism amongst the Irish.

But is spirituality a lived experience in relationship to land, life, and death? Or it is just preforming empty ceremonies, going through the motions? I think the former is true, and I love this part here, “we are not static or entirely dependent on the past. Imazighen are unable to worship the same gods as our ancestors, and in response we are creating our own systems of spirituality and belief that will allow us to move forward and shape our ongoing resistance to colonialism.”

On another level, I am fascinated by the “bioregional” nature of Tamazgha as reflected in this statement:  “The land, too, is sacred and conceptualized in the political Amazigh imagination as Tamazgha, a region transcending the borders of modern nation-states.  This is a re-indigenized spirituality, not developed by ‘going back’ and looking at pre-colonial religious beliefs, but by constructing the present material world around them as sacred.”

I am fascinated by the emergence of a North Africa ‘bioregion’.  From a Cascadian perspective, there is an obvious difference in that our bioregional name has been appropriated (I prefer “reclaimed”) from Latin, whereas ‘Tamazagha‘ comes from the Indigenous Tamazight language.  However, both bioregional appealatures emerged in the 1970’s from the counter-cultural movements of the time.  If decolonization is as much a process of creation as it is deconstruction, then this all makes good sense.

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Absolutely fascinated and inspired by the Amazigh People!  More and better thoughts from me coming soon!

Decolonization

by Nuunja Kahina

How do you decolonize and return to your Indigenous spirituality if you don’t know what it is?  At the beginning of this year, I wrote about the language question in Tamazgha (North Africa), the land of the Imazighen, arguing that decolonization requires the rejection of Arabic as a colonial language. This, however, is just one of many steps that must be taken. Interestingly, another Amazigh responded to my last article saying that Islam must also be rejected in order to achieve liberation. I am far more hesitant addressing the issue of religion in North Africa. It is not as simple and cut-and-dry as ‘reject colonial religion, return to Indigenous spirituality.’

Islam dominated Tamazgha after the Arab invasions of the 7th century C.E., and today the Amazigh population is overwhelmingly Muslim, adhering to a colonial religion. Yet even before the Arabs, there were significant Christian and Jewish populations…

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on cascadian independence and fourth world decolonization (sketch #1)

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A member[1] of the Cascadia(n?) Independence Party recently asked:

“Question, what would you do if the natives said they did not want us to officially create Cascadia and told us to get out? What if they started to “fight back” and start a war with us to make us leave, how would you feel about it? After all they were here first right and we are just occupying their land.”

It’s a good question, worded in a way to get folks from any persuasion to show their true colors.  And it opens up one of the biggest questions that I explore here on this blog (as well as through other venues).  So here goes:

First, there are no “the natives.”  There are at least 140 Indigenous Nations within the Cascadian bioregion.[2]  If a settler was asked or forced to leave a place, refuge with the neighboring Indigenous Nation would be an option.  Given the density of Indigenous diversity within the bioregion, this my be a move of around 20-200 miles, depending on location.  And of course this is a hypothetical situation, assuming some revolution where the colonial State has been expelled from any particular Ancestral Territory and wont use force to protect settlers.  A big assumption, but certainly one potential manifestation of decolonization.  One that settler Cascadian independentistas may inadvertently be working toward.

I’ve spent plenty of time being unsettled by this thought.  If Warm Springs folks gave me the boot, I’d ask my Klamath friends.  If they said no, then I’d be off to Galway.  It’s actually a fantasy of mine, but and extremely unlikely scenario.  In truth, if I absconded for Ireland, I’d feel like I was abandoning a place that is in desperate need of folks to fight for it, and abandoning an Indigenous minority in desperate need of a mass of settlers to uncompromisingly have their backs as they uphold their responsibilities to protect the land.  That’s the realpolitk as I see it.

Of course this hypothetical settler expulsion brings Algeria and South Africa to mind: both very, very different contexts however.  French settlers in Algeria were once faced with “the suitcase or the coffin”: Leave or Die.  And Native resentment towards European settlers in South Africa led to the slogan “one settler, one bullet” with plenty of violence to accompany the rhetoric. (fun fact: active units of the Irish Republican Army fought in South Africa against the white Apartheid State)

Cascadia is very different from “Third World” Algeria or South Africa.  Cascadia is a “First World/Fourth World” context populated by a vast settler majority, whereas the former had/have settler minorities and were pre-existing States prior to “decolonization.” Cascadia is a bioregion with no State to represent it, while both the US and Canada pride themselves on integration, assimilation, and multiculturalism (I’ll save that critique for later).

Another important point to bring up is the phrase “officially create Cascadia.”  From the bioregional view, Cascadia was created many thousands (she’s a new landform rising from the sea) of years ago by the Creator (insert your theological or evolutionary interpretation here).  The question becomes “is there a government/governance system representing and defending this place as a whole.”   No matter your persuasion, the answer is NO.  The US and Canada don’t represent this place.  Cascadians want this to change….somehow.  And Cascadians have long been working to build settler/Indigenous alliances to defend the land, with Indigenous folks supporting and literally helping to define bioregionalism as a theory and practice.

This doesn’t mean that there is no Indigenous resentment towards settlers and our(sic) Governments.  There is plenty.  It is legitimate.  So the question is not without merit.  Some of my favorite Native hip-hop waxes eloquently about doing away with settlers.  And if a Cascadian independence movement takes a turn away from bioregionalism into any form of statist settler nationalism, this sentiment will only grow, mark my words.  It is for this reason I advocate “bioregional decolonization” instead on mere secessionism.

But there are also Patriotic Native veterans, plenty of intermarriage amongst newcomers and both status and non-status Indigenous folks, and strong divides between Federally recognized Tribal/First Nation governments and the grassroots Indigenous resurgence.  This means there is, and will likely always be, Indigenous folks who are pro-Cascadian independence and anti-Cascadian independence, and for potentially opposite reasons at that.  A good friend who is Tlingit reminded me that Indigenous folks fought on both sides of the American Revolution and the “French and Indian”/Seven Years’ War.  We’re all humans.  We’re all political to some degree.

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For me, the movement for Cascadian independence must be built on the restoration of Indigenous Nationhood and the repatriation of Indigenous land.  (for all you private property folks, try not paying your taxes and you’ll soon find out who really owns the land: the State)  I for one would rather my landlords be the people whom the Creator[3] placed in this land to protect and defend it, as opposed to a globalist colonial empire with puppet States acting as property managers.

This is not pure speculation on my part either.  I have asked many Indigenous folks what their take on “Cascadia” is.  My experience has been mostly positive responses.  I’ve also heard enough resentful responses to know that land issues are a very sore subject.  There is a right way and a wrong way to fight for Cascadian independence.  The response I’ve completely taken to heart is from when I asked Jeannette Armstrong of the Okanagan Nation the following question:

C.B.: So in the process of conscientization, and within the bioregional movement, we use the name “Cascadia” for the land here, because many feel the term “Pacific Northwest” is a colonial orientation in regards to Ottawa and D.C. We have a map of the watersheds that is meant to show an ecological integrity that we relate to as “home”, and we want to encourage people to relate to the reality of the land base as opposed to an abstraction like the nation-state. Yet the majority of the population now comes from a settler background, and lives as a settler majority within a colonial system.

 So what would you say, in encouraging people to relate to bioregional Cascadia and the interdependent watersheds that have been home to them, and in learning and respecting the Indigenous Knowledge of their place? How could we go about that better? What would you encourage people to do in this process of dreaming up “Cascadia” into something that works for everybody?

 Jeannette Armstrong: “One of the things that I think about is the way that the Okanagan, the Syilx people, think about developing a new way of being or a new way of doing things. One of the things that our people believe in and rely on is the ability to step out into the unknown.”

“And to be clear that we’re stepping out into the unknown, meaning that we can take risks, and that we have to take risks to make changes happen when we know that something here isn’t working, or that something here is preventing us from moving toward a better direction”.

 “And I think that when we’re talking about the idea of Cascadia, for instance, that idea is an idea. The idea, in terms of it’s concept and in terms of its meaning might be understood or might be theorized or might be believed in. But what are the actions that are putting it in place in a practical, everyday way? What are those things that people are willing to do, to take a risk to do to make happen? And I think in a lot of ways, the idea for me has a lot to do with finding a way to create that common ground and common place with the Indigenous peoples, and finding a way to be able to work with them and through them to be able to establish practical ground in that area.”

“So it means then that is has to relate to the fish, it has to relate to the forest, it has to relate to Nature in its various ways of interaction and interdependence with the Indigenous peoples. So what does that mean? It means finding out! It means talking to them. And it means supporting some of the things that they’re involved in. But supporting it in a way, which says, “we’re supporting this because it is foundational to establishing Cascadia. We are supporting this because it’s foundational to the idea of what Cascadia is.” And so that it’s always creating that parallel in that way. And making no mistakes about that part. And making no mistakes about what Cascadia is, in terms of its reality, right?”

 “So it can’t be just a theory, in other words. It has to be real things on the ground that get highlighted and get established as standards for what Cascadia is. And also achievements, you need to have some achievements that are accomplishments that can be pointed to that give hope and that gives people reason to move toward it, and to want to move toward it, and can move toward it easily.”[4]

 

Stay tuned for the next episode:  (sketch #2) Where is the Fourth World?

 

[1]are there official members yet??

[2] I’m not counting the colonially constructed “First Nations”, of which there are over 200 in B.C, or “Tribes” who may include multiple Nations placed on one reservation, diminishing this count south of the 49th.   This number is based on Peoples with distinct languages, internal/external recognition, and distinct Ancestral Territories.  This is not based on Bands or Language Groups either [as in Niimíipu (Nez Perce) and Liksiyu (Cayuse) both speak Sahaptin, as the Irish and the Scots both speak Gaelic.  Almost mutually intelligible, but not the same, and are very distinct Peoples.  Each their own Nation with various dialects, each their own Land].  There are many ways for this to be complicated in the real world.  I know.

[3]….“The Warm Springs Tribes, an Iciskin (Sahaptin) -speaking people, lived further up the Columbia, and on the Deschutes and John Day Rivers and their tributaries, during aboriginal times. They possessed the sovereign prerogative of ne-shy-chut, which meant that Native Warm Springs people were rooted in the soil of their ancestral domain and were free of any outside forces, free to follow their own culture and religion. For millenia, Warm Springs people followed an elaborate structure of sovereign tribal responsibilities embodied in the Sahaptin phrase, tee-cha-meengsh-mee sin-wit na-me- ah-wa-ta-man-wit, which means “at the time of creation the Creator placed us in this land and He gave us the voice of this land and that is our law.”….

[4] The recording of these words is available in the film “Occupied Cascadia

there are so many of us

The end result of colonialism is well summed up in the phrase:  “you do not exist,” which is the title of a recent article over at Bella Caledonia about the Scottish YES campaign.

Isn’t that what the colonizer says?  “We are the real people and you are not.”

Another line caught my attention from a “study” that found the Scottish people don’t really exist:

“Clearly it is in the interest of the SNP leadership to conduct the argument for independence on the premise that there is a single Scottish identity. No separatist movement has achieved its aims by highlighting the internal diversity of a would-be independent territory.

Scotland is uniform neither in terms of its ancestry, history and culture; that its electorate, just like that of the rest of the UK, is an amalgam of people of diverse origins who, despite the similarity of their physical appearance, derive from distinctly different cultural backgrounds; and that these differences may have a significant influence on people’s support for the concept of an independent Scotland.”

celtsagainstfascism

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No separatist movement has achieved its aims by highlighting the internal diversity of a would-be independent territory.

What?  So Nationalism is the only pill that works, and Nationalism is false, so don’t even try.

From a Cascadian perspective, “highlighting the internal diversity of a would-be independent territory” is the perfect description of what we are trying to do here.  People from all four directions, many or most of whom belong to some dissident persuasion (religious or political), living together in a place, integral to itself.

No doubt Irish Republicanism had/has an advantage over the Scots because we  have our own island.  For all of our divisions, at least the geographical division is black-and-white for all the world to see.  The Atlantic was enough of a divide to create “America.”  And the Continental Divide is enough to separate us Cascadians from the rest of a continent.  Salmon do not swim over the Rockies.

OK.  But what I really want to do is question the ‘it has never happened so it will never happen’ mentality, apart from being leery about the historical veracity of such a statement.

I firmly believe that a diversity of people finding common ground and common cause is more powerful than ethnic Nationalism, and I am interested in the kind of common ground that is NOT Nationalism.  (a common language is most powerful, in my opinion, but this does not imply ethnic unity!) For a bioregionalist, this common ground is the real ground: the place itself.  And I suppose the Lowland/Highland divide (interestingly geographical and historical) is one impediment against Scottish independence.

But does this really mean that it is hopeless to highlight diversity as a strength?

True, there MUST me unifying factors.  There must be a “self” in the struggle for self-determination.  But I’ll be damned if ‘ethnic unity’ is the only legitimate grounds for self-determination.  Actually….EEF#&! THAT!

This is perhaps the question any modern independentista & autonomista must come to terms with.  How do we separate without separatism? How do we actively cultivate strength in diversity?

If we only share the colonizer’s tongue and are divided by colonially imposed class divisions, is there really no ground to stand on?

Well, if you can feel the sand between your toes….there is.  Because I want to read this news headline one day:

The Cascadian Bioregional movement has achieved its aims by highlighting the internal diversity of a now independent territory.

fist

 

why i am a cascadian

(i wrote this as a response to the above CBC news segment.  i’ll skip the obligatory denunciation of  “white, flag-waving soccer fans” as that is a cheap-shot stereotype of our movement, and/or the only damn thing they’ll put on TV.)

In light of the growing popularity of a movement that I believe will only be gaining momentum in the years to come, I want to be clear and unambiguous about why I am a Cascadian.

Let me first state that I am a bioregionalist, as opposed to what may be termed as a ‘nationalist.’  It’s a somewhat complicated, yet desperately important distinction to be made up front.  I won’t give an in-depth explanation here, but suffice it to say, “voting to secede” and/or “creating a new nation-state” are not the particular strategies that I embrace towards emancipating this place from the unsavory gamut of impositions placed upon us.  Some form of traditional “Nationalism” is the unfortunate conclusion jumped to by most folks when trying to understand “Cascadia.”  It’s understandable, and something I would sympathize with, but in all honesty, our movement here goes much deeper than geopolitics and mere economics.

The Earth is in deep ecological trouble, and Humanity as a whole is at a crossroads.  Yet despite the universality of this danger and hope, this place contains many uniquenesses both historically and ecologically that have come to bear upon our present reality.  I believe this distinctiveness has a role to play in the future that will have, well, cascading implications for both the Earth and Humanity.

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Cascadia is a place.  Created and define by geomorphological  processes, not political projection.  The name simply refers to the “falling waters” that result from this process of land rising steeply out of the sea against a much older, flatter continent.  This place is home to a profound diversity of Indigenous peoples.  Within the watersheds that meet the Pacific Ocean all along the unbroken rainforest coast, from Cape Mendocino (presently California) to the tip of Tlingit country (presently SE Alaska), the diversity of languages spoken is astounding, despite the failed, long term US and Canadian government policies to erase and destroy these languages and cultures.  This diversity is a direct reflection of the landscape itself, and is also the best explanation as to why there is not just one single historically indigenous name for the entirety of the bioregion that has now gained the latin-rooted name “Cascadia.”

I say this because I believe in the power and morality of maintaing and restoring Indigenous place names.(1)  Cascadia, in a sense, is a name that has come to this place, yet etymologically speaking, the name comes from the land itself, reflective of what the land actually does: it cascades!(2)  I would make the contention that the broader name Cascadia does not (and should never) erase the many Indigenous place names found throughout the broader region.  In fact, it should be a Cascadian ethic to know and support the Indigenous place-name restoration processes that are presently occurring throughout the bioregion.  Names are powerful things.  So when I call myself a Cascadian, I am not speaking lightly.

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The heart of bioregionalism is ecological restoration.  This place has been devastated.  What was once the greatest salmon fishery in the world has been reduced to a fraction of a percent of what it was, with the ecologically dubious fish hatcheries glossing over this, and the ecologically malicious salmon farms expediting this.  The vast majority of what was once the worlds grandest temperate rain forest has been clear-cut, the same happening to the massive Ponderosa Pine savannas of Cascadia’s arid interior.  The fight to protect the last refuges of these ancient giants, and their unique ecologies, has resulted in car bombs, arson, sabotage, and exaggerated prison sentences.  A time known locally as The Forest Wars.

Yet as the late bioregionalist Peter Berg emphasized, our movement is “more than just saving what is left.”  We need to be on the offensive.  We need to do what it takes to restore to 100% the annual regeneration of salmon, steelhead, oolichan and lamprey runs.  We need to do what it takes to restore the forest ecologies of watershed after watershed, and not accept the smothering of landscapes with industrial tree farms.  To this end, our way of life and our economy must uphold and directly reflect these values.  The dominant economy (presently “corporate” Capitalism) is ferociously at odds with these aims.  The economic turbulence of recent years does not bode well for what has become a self-annihilating economy that is being forced upon us.  If our way of life (and hence economy) does not change in order to re-create and maintain an active, living  harmony with the land upon which it is based, we will all have to face the consequences.  And in so many places, these consequences have already reached a breaking point.  We do not have all the time in the world to put this place back together.

The US and Canadian governments do not represent “The People” whether we mean settler people or Indigenous people.  These governments are tools of multinational corporations used to create laws that protect these corporations and fetter the self-determination of individuals, families, and communities trying to maintain honest, respectable lives for themselves.  Assimilation into the servitude of these corporations, at one level or another, remains the only viable option for survival within this imposed context.  And this context expedites unfettered resource extraction in a manner that leaves communities and ecologies in abject ruin.

For the ecological restoration of the interconnected watersheds we call Cascadia, there must be a fundamentally different economy.  The US and Canadian governments will not facilitate this desperately needed restorative economy by any far stretch of the imagination.  However, our imagination is desperately needed for this to become a reality.  And it needs to become a reality.  So does this amount to “creating our own country?”  My answer is that the “country” is already here, it just needs to be restored.  And it means a level of economic and cultural creativity, self-determined at the community level, rooted in the living reality of this place, that is both highly contentious and highly emancipatory.  No small fish to fry, but just one can feed so many here….

I will also insist on reminding everyone that Canada’s claim to the land here is completely illegitimate.  The US Government seems to be following it’s economy straight down the tubes, even apart from a certain “Founding Father’s” admonition to periodically “water the tree of liberty.”  Make of that what you will, Professor Resnick.

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So what are we really after here?

I’ve been told that the word decolonization is “inflammatory.”  Really?  Well, I believe that it is only a sad ignorance of the gut-wrenchingly offensive realities of colonialism that could portray the undoing of that damage as anything other than a breath of fresh, clean air.  Or a drink of water from a mountain stream.  (OK, the road to get there may be a bit tumultuous….)  Now, it must be understood that colonialism in the lands and waters of the Cascadian bioregion is alive and well.  But it’s not just colonialism, it’s a particularly nefarious strain called settler colonialism.  Unlike some other historical contexts in other places, the Cascadian landscape houses a profound settler majority.  So isn’t decolonization just a hopeless aspiration against this tsunami of “progress?”

Here it must be remembered that decolonization is, and has persistently been, as much a process of creation as it has been one of dismantling and deconstruction.  Historically, the strategy of colonizers has been to create and/or fuel divisions amongst colonized and exploited populations using ethnic and  religious difference as points of antagonism.  This has time-and-again been a very effective tool used to obscure the much larger chasm maintained by the class divisions created by the colonial system.   Wars between exploited settler and native populations have raged on for years, while the colonial upper class go on drinking tea.  It’s a sad historical fact, and I bring it up mostly as a model to learn from, because the chasm between Cascadia’s “Fourth World” Indigenous communities and our “First World” settler ‘working’ people can present a greater class division in all reality than there was between a king and a peasant of old.  In so many ways, Cascadia is a search for “common ground” where, at present, there may be none at all.  Still, as human beings, we all share more in common than not, and this stubborn belief in Humanity reconnecting with the Earth is what stubbornly gives us hope in the face of an almost unthinkable past.

My point in all of this “class” talk is to emphasize that there is nothing essential about class.  No mater what form it takes, it is created and maintained by an imposed colonial system.  And as we say in my language, “sin é.”  There’s nothing more too it.  So at base, colonialism is the imposition of “Law from without.”  The “law” that divides and conquers, extracts and exploits, fills the markets of the metropole with gold and furs while leaving a devastated landscape in its wake.  Decolonization, at base, is the restoration of Indigenous Law: law from the land itself, upheld and defended by the People who’s language and culture are inextricable from the land itself.  With this in mind, and no matter who’s toes I may be stepping on, decolonization is the best, most concise word to describe what bioregionalists, at heart, are trying to do.

So what does the restoration of Indigenous Law mean for a settler like me?  My task is to ask this question of all my Indigenous neighbors (human and non-human) and be open hearted with all the various answers I am given.  And my task is to tell my story; one of colonization, genocide, survival, exile, assimilation, and ascendancy.  What can be learnt from my story is my gift.  And with all these stories coming together here in this place, each one is a strand that may be woven together in a creative process, the manifestation of which has yet to fully take shape.

But that is my Cascadia.  No small fish to fry.

le meas, C.B. Ó Corcráin

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(1) The place of my ancestors and living relatives in Ireland has the indigenous name Béal Átha na mBuillí, (or  “the mouth of the ford of the strokes”, with “strokes” referring to ancient clan battles that took place there.)  Thanks to Oliver Cromwell and his ilk, the place became  “Strokestown.”  The idiots who changed the name starved half the county to death at one point.  I will admit to harboring no small amount of resentment towards this kind of behavior.

(2) I would encourage all readers to search out the “Cascadia Institute” for more on the ecology and lore of Cascadia, including the “Falling Waters” description.