Newsletter 3: To Live Without Fear

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Justine Teba, from Tesuque Pueblo and a Red Nation member, leading chants at an anti-fracking protest.

December 4, 2018

Dear friends,

Greetings from The Red Nation.

This has been a busy year—and it’s not over. There have been many victories, and there are many struggles yet to come. But we are not afraid. Young people are on the move.

On November 22 in Albuquerque, we hosted our first annual “No Thanks, No Giving” teach-in. The next day was Red Friday, a day of workshops on  anti-capitalism and resisting extractivism. About one hundred participated each day. There are so many powerful things to share. As we noted in our last newsletter, the United American Indians of New England’s National Day of Mourning inspired us to reclaim our lives and histories on this day. 

How do we change our relationship to consumer and settler holidays that celebrate genocide? First, we must remember the millions of our ancestors consumed and destroyed for the United States to exist—and that the destruction of our nations continues today. Second, knowledge alone has never changed the world. For example, the vast majority of people believe scientific data that overwhelmingly confirms carbon emissions are killing the planet. But knowing that fact has not stopped climate change. Likewise, learning the true history of Thanksgiving by itself will not end settler colonialism. What we need is a critical consciousness and the will to organize to change our reality. No one else will do that for us; we must do it ourselves.

On Thursday, Laz Letcher from the Transgender Resource Center gave an update on the Cibola “trans pod”—an isolation unit that imprisons many Indigenous people fleeing Puritanical anti-trans violence introduced by European invaders. Nicolás Cruz and Hope Alvarado explained the difference between colonizers and immigrants, and why a nation founded on genocide and white supremacy has no authority to determine who belongs and who does not. Oliver Baker from John Brown Breakfast Club provided hot meals, and Elena Yen Suffling and Summer Speaker from Free Access to Movements provided child care.

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On Friday, we collected and distributed survival gear and hosted workshops with our relatives on the streets about resource extraction, bordertown violence, and anti-capitalist resistance (which was the liveliest discussion). Reyes Devore and Sheldon Tenorio from Pueblo Action Alliance, Cheyenne Antonio from The Red Nation, and Marissa Naranjo from the The Pueblo of Santa Clara, talked about Pueblo and Diné efforts to halt resource extraction in the Four Corners and Greater Chaco Landscape. There was a captive audience.

As Indigenous people, we place a special value on our elders. Angelina Medina from Laguna, Acoma, Zia, and Zuni Pueblos offered a prayer and blessing for the event. Several grandmas and grandpas who live on the streets joined our group, sharing their stories. One grandma talked about losing her job, and how, as a result, she lost her family. Unable to support her children or herself, she was evicted from her home and lost contact with her children. That’s how capitalism affected her life, she said. Another man worked in the oil fields on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. “We sold out to big oil, now look at me. Look at our land,” he said. Another person’s house burned down. Others were rejected by their families for being LGBTQ. Capitalism has created strangers among relatives and caused chaos, violence, and alienation where there should be balance, peace, and solidarity.

In the last workshop, we collectively defined what a world without capitalism would look like. “We would live without fear,” one person said. “There will be beauty. The world would be one big family,” another chimed in. We also agreed that we would greet each other as relatives when we met again instead of acting like strangers. 

Solidarity is not charity. We’re working to build a world where charity doesn’t exist, and where we live as good relatives to each other and the planet. We can’t wait for the people who stole our lands and lives to have a heart. Only humble people possess the power necessary to change the world. And right now that leadership is strongest with young Indigenous women, who face the brunt of colonial violence and whose leadership has been undermined since the first invaders.

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Cheyenne Antonio (TRN), Marissa Naranjo, and Reyes Devores (PAA)

In her book, Our Beloved Kin, historian Lisa Brooks dispels the pilgrim mythology with a Wampanoag perspective. In 1623, Conbitant, a Wampanoag leader, asked Edward Winslow, a Plymouth Colonist, “If your love is so great and it grows such good fruits, why is it that when you come to our places or we go to yours, you stand as if ready to fight, with the mouths of you guns pointed at us?” Winslow had come uninvited, like all European invaders, to a Wampanoag village seeking “leaders.” Who he found was Conbitant’s partner, a woman leader who he doesn’t name in his journals and who he regarded as a “Squa-Sachim.” In the Puritan world, women were subservient to men. In the Wampanoag world, women are leaders and they are honored with the title Saunskwa. Since invasion, settlers have distorted this meaning to usurp Indigenous women’s authority over the land. The word “squaw”—warped from its original purpose—has been used to sexualize and racialize Indigenous women as rape-able and killable. 

The settler state arrived as an armed white man intent on staying. It began as a commercial enterprise, to take the land and to replace Indigenous peoples with Europeans. It did so by introducing a world of fear—through sexism, racism, jails, the class system, and heteropatriarchy.

Capitalism continues to penetrate Indigenous lands and societies through the use of terror. A recent report by the Urban Indian Health Institute found that Albuquerque had 37 cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG), the second highest of 71 surveyed cities; and New Mexico had the most cases of all states. Last October, North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp introduced a bill to require data collection by police on MMIWG. Savanna’s Act was named after Savanna Greywind, who was brutally murdered, and whose accused killer was recently acquitted. Heitkamp, a personal friend to President Trump, is a ferocious promoter of oil and gas development in the Bakken region, where many Indigenous women and girls have been murdered or gone missing. The newly elected New Mexican Democrat Deb Haaland, one of the first Native congresswomen, has also spoken out on MMIWG. Haaland is from a state with a booming fracking industry on Native lands, where violence against Indigenous women is rampant. While Heitkamp and Haaland rightfully point out the crisis, they refuse to point out the root cause—extractive capitalism. Oil, the lifeblood of both North Dakota and New Mexico, is extracted by raping and killing Indigenous women and girls.

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Indigenous feminists have pointed out for more than a century the direct connection between the extractive industries and increased violence against and the killing of Indigenous women. The fur trade forts and trading posts were the first “man camps,” which are composed of a transient male-dominated workforce, where Indigenous women were bought and sold like chattel. In the 1920s, Dakota activist Zitkala-Ša documented the widespread raping and kidnapping of Osage women and girls during a reservation oil boom. More recently, the Women’s Earth Alliance and the Native Youth Sexual Health Network reported that violence against the land is correlated to the violence against Indigenous peoples’ bodies, especially against women and LGBTQ and Two-Spirit people. Lastly, none of these U.S.-based MMIWG initiatives address the role police play in killing Indigenous women and girls. After all, U.S. law enforcement kills Indigenous people at the highest rate. Police are part of the problem and cannot be part of the solution.

So why do Haaland and Heitkamp, and political elites like them, ignore these facts? Ending MMIWG means ending policing that kills Native people with impunity and extractive capitalism, which is a lucrative business for corporate Democrats and Republicans. This system cannot save Native lives.

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While corporate politicians cower to big money, Indigenous women and femmes are leading the movement to stop fracking in New Mexico. Our movement comes from below, not from above. This week the Bureau of Land Management begins auctioning off millions of acres of Indigenous land at Greater Chaco, Bears Ears, the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, and elsewhere. This colonial land grab will sell land for as low as two dollars an acre. In New Mexico, this is a death sentence for the Navajo Tri-Chapter area. Only we can save our land and our relatives. Join Indigenous women and femmes who are not afraid of the guns and money people—to live without fear. Join us tomorrow, December 5 at 12 PM (noon) at the BLM state offices in Santa Fe. We demand an end to all lease sales and a moratorium on fracking.

Last Thursday, we successfully stopped an industry-friendly oil and gas ordinance in Sandoval County that didn’t consider the many Indigenous nations living within the county. (Read our report here.)

Also last week, we packed an Albuquerque Public Schools meeting to demand justice for two young Native women. One was assaulted by having her braid cut by a white teacher. The other was degraded with a racial slur by the same teacher. Because of student and parent organizing and the support of The Red Nation, the teacher was fired. Now we are pressuring the school board to revamp its curriculum to teach settler colonialism and Indigenous resistance.

These are small but big victories. When humble people of the earth collectively shrug, they can topple giants.

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Camilo Catrillanca. Illustrated by Marisol Arbaca.

But we know the serious stakes of this work. In Chile last month, U.S.-trained police assassinated Camilo Catrillanca, a Mapuche leader, for his role in resisting logging and mining companies in his homelands. Camilo Catrillanca, presente!

We work for a system that humanizes Native people, not in death, but in life.

We are Native. 

We are here. 

We will live without fear.

Solidarity forever,

Nick

UPCOMING EVENTS AND ACTIONS

12/5: BLM Lease Sale Protest & Action. NM State Office BLM. Santa Fe, NM.