A member 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. 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.
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 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.”
Stay tuned for the next episode: (sketch #2) Where is the Fourth World?
are there official members yet??
 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.
….“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.”….
 The recording of these words is available in the film “Occupied Cascadia“