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Bolivians Clash With Police Over Plans To Build Highway Through Indigenous Land

Hundreds of Bolivian protesters have clashed with police in the capital La Paz, angry over plans to build a highway through protected indigenous land.

Demonstrators marched some 600 kilometres on foot to the capital city, a journey that took two months. They came from Bolivia’s eastern Amazonian lowlands to protest the proposed $420m project.

We want to show that there’s been a decision by the marchers to stay here in the seat of government, to show that there’s still an option of talks here if this problem isn’t fixed,” said Adolfo Chavez, one of the protesters.

Organisers say there could be more violence if the government doesn’t back down from the project.

Decolonize Wall Street: An Open Letter to the Occupy Wall Street Activists

September 24, 2011

Thank you for your courage. Thank you for making an attempt to improve the situation in what is now called the United States. Thank you for your commitment to peace and non-violence. Thank you for the sacrifices you are making. Thank you.

There’s just one thing. I am not one of the 99 percent that you refer to. And, that saddens me. Please don’t misunderstand me. I would like to be one of the 99 percent… but you’ve chosen to exclude me. Perhaps it was unintentional, but, I’ve been excluded by you. In fact, there are millions of us indigenous people who have been excluded from the Occupy Wall Street protest. Please know that I suspect that it was an unintentional exclusion on your part. That is why I’m writing to you. I believe that you can make this right. (I hope you’re still smiling.)

It seems that ever since we indigenous people have discovered Europeans and invited them to visit with us here on our land, we’ve had to endure countless ’-isms’ and religions and programs and social engineering that would “fix” us. Protestantism, Socialism, Communism, American Democracy, Christianity, Boarding Schools, Residential Schools,… well, you get the idea. And, it seems that these so-called enlightened strategies were nearly always enacted and implemented and pushed upon us without our consent. And, I’ll assume that you’re aware of how it turned out for us. Yes. Terribly.

Which brings me back to your mostly-inspiring Occupy Wall Street activities. On September 22nd, with great excitement, I eagerly read your “one demand” statement. Hoping and believing that you enlightened folks fighting for justice and equality and an end to imperialism, etc., etc., would make mention of the fact that the very land upon which you are protesting does not belong to you - that you are guests upon that stolen indigenous land. I had hoped mention would be made of the indigenous nation whose land that is. I had hoped that you would address the centuries-long history that we indigenous peoples of this continent have endured being subject to the countless ’-isms’ of do-gooders claiming to be building a “more just society,” a “better world,” a “land of freedom” on top of our indigenous societies, on our indigenous lands, while destroying and/or ignoring our ways of life. I had hoped that you would acknowledge that, since you are settlers on indigenous land, you need and want our indigenous consent to your building anything on our land - never mind an entire society. See where I’m going with this? I hope you’re still smiling. We’re still friends, so don’t sweat it. I believe your hearts are in the right place. I know that this whole genocide and colonization thing causes all of us lots of confusion sometimes. It just seems to me that you’re unknowingly doing the same thing to us that all the colonizers before you have done: you want to do stuff on our land without asking our permission.

But, fear not my friends. We indigenous people have a sense of humor. So, I thought I might make a few friendly suggestions which may help to “fix” the pro-colonialism position in which you now (hopefully, unintentionally) find yourselves. (Please note my use of the word “fix” in the previous sentence. That’s an attempt at a joke. You can refer to the third paragraph if you’d like an explanation.)

By the way, I’m just one indigenous person. I represent no one except myself. I’m acting alone in writing this letter. Perhaps none of my own Nishnaabe people will support me in having written this. Perhaps some will. I respect their opinions either way. I love my Nishnaabe people always. I am simply trying to do something good - same as all of you at the Occupy Wall Street protest in what is now called New York.

So, here goes. (You’re still smiling, right?)

1) Acknowledge that the United States of America is a colonial country, a country of settlers, built upon the land of indigenous nations; and/or…

2) Demand immediate freedom for indigenous political prisoner Leonard Peltier; and/or…

3) Demand that the colonial government of the United States of America honor all treaties signed with all indigenous nations whose lands are now collectively referred to as the “United States of America”; and/or…

4) Make some kind of mention that you are indeed aware that you are settlers and that you are not intending to repeat the mistakes of all of the settler do-gooders that have come before you. In other words, that you are willing to obtain the consent of indigenous people before you do anything on indigenous land.

I hope you find this list useful. I eagerly await your response, my friends.

Miigwech! ( ~“Thank you!” )

JohnPaul Montano



#IndependenceForWhom #LestWeForget

“Between 1776 and 1887, the U.S. seized over 1.5 billion acres, an eighth of the world, from America’s indigenous people by treaty and executive order”


Decolonizing Bolivia’s History of Indigenous Resistance

A lot of the land grabbing issues we cover on this blog are linked to racism and other colonial legacies (not that racism is exclusively colonial). Capitalist logic dictates that Indigenous and Afro-Caribbean populations in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Colombia are not ‘modern’ and that the space they occupy must be 'modernised’, 'developed’…. and that usually results in local populations losing access to the resources they depend upon. Entire territories are opened up for national and international capital to grab a hold of, first by the stroke of a pen (legislation, discourse) and then by the barrel of a gun, if need be (witness the civil war in Colombia, armed goons in Guatemala and Honduras, etc.). 

Bolivia, the first country in the hemisphere to elect an Indigenous leader committed to Indigenous issues, might be taking some baby steps to reverse that. Benjamin Dangl recently interviewed Elisa Vega Sillo for Telesur. Vega Sillo works for the Vice Ministry of Decolonisation and described her work and that of her employer: 

We try and recover an anti-colonial vision above all, because the [official] history that’s been recovered of Bartolina, of Túpac Katari was this: that the rebel indians were so bad, they laid siege to the…poor Spanish…the Indians are savage animals – this was the history they told us. But in reality [the indigenous people] rebelled to get rid of oppression, the slavery in the haciendas, the taking over of land, of our wealth in Cerro Rico in Potosi, our trees, our knowledge – they rebelled against all of this. But in the official history, the colonial history, they tell us that the bad ones were the indigenous people, and they deserved what they got. So we recuperate our own history, a history of how we were in constant rebellion and how they were never able to subdue us.

You can read the short interview here. It’s all an interesting concept, but we’re going to be spoilsports and point out that all is not as it seems. Late last year we posted an article by Raúl Zibechi on the complicated relationship between the Bolivian government and Indigenous organsiations. It turns out that the Morales administration doesn’t quite put its money where its mouth is. Quoth Zibechi:

At the end of 2011, CIDOB and CONAMAQ–who had supported the march against highway construction through TIPNIS indigenous territory and national park (Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure) decided to leave the[pro-government] Unity Pact. They did this considering that “executive power has been biased against the participation of indigenous organizations, valuing organizations related to MAS [Morales’ party] above all others, the intent of which directly affects our territories, cultures and natural resources.”

It also doesn’t help that Bolivia’s vice-president, Alvaro García Linera, has been ranting against indigenous groups who oppose his government’s plans to 'develop’ the Amazon. Despite all the rhetoric, a colonial mentality survivies alive and well in Bolivia.


The meanings of space and land are far from settled. Although Lefebvre created his spatial trialectic – perceived, conceived, and lived – from his observations of urban dynamics, the three categories also can be applied to the lands outside of cities. 

Jana Carp (2008) “Ground-Truthing” Representations of Social Space: Using Lefebvre’s Conceptual Triad. Journal of Planning Education and Research 28: 129

In 1981, the Salt River Project (SRP), a public utility, began to lease land for a coal strip mine near the Zunis’ sacred salt lake, planning to secure a new energy source for the Phoenix metropolitan area. The plan involved coal extraction, pumping water for dust control, and building a railroad—all to be sited over Zuni pilgrimage routes through the Salt Mother’s lands. Initially, the SRP was not aware that although the project area is outside the Zuni reservation, it lies within a historic “sanctuary zone,” or neutral zone, for unrestricted access to the salt lake for other Native peoples. Many Pueblo ancestors are said to be buried there. Unbeknownst to the Zuni, the SRP assembled the required public and private properties and planned the project in consultation with the responsible federal and state agencies.

Once the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process was under way in 1990, the Zuni were officially notified as part of the public hearing requirement. They immediately enlisted the help of local chapters of national environmental and Native advocacy organizations, forming the Zuni Salt Lake Coalition. Although the Zuni Salt Lake Coalition brought its urban, professional networks of scientific, legal, and organizational resources to bear on the NEPA process and advocacy groups circulated petitions and rented billboard space to publicize their protest, the Zuni also practiced traditional ways to oppose the mine. They organized a three-day, 270-mile footrace from Phoenix to Zuni Pueblo, in which Indians from five Southwest tribes participated, and they held prayer vigils outside the building where the NEPA hearings were located. The Zuni also held a People’s Hearing at their pueblo, attended by 500 Native and non-Native people, during which clouds gathered and rain fell as evidence of the blessing of the Zuni spirits.

Using maps, study documents, and arguments linking coal, energy production, and economic development, the SRP represented the area as an opportunity for resource extraction and marshaled the science necessary to refute claims of environmental harm. Using public gatherings, petitions and signs, and a traditional footrace, the Zuni represented the area on their own terms as a sacred site intrinsically worthy of protection.

Both sides attempted to account for the other’s social space. The SRP unsuccessfully offered to mitigate Native sacred space by building pedestrian underpasses where the railroad tracks would cross pilgrimage routes. The Zuni were more successful. Because the NEPA decision would be made by and on the terms of the dominant culture, the Zuni had to overcome their marginalized status and meager resources and compete in the professionalized world of science and law. The scientists and legal experts of the Zuni Salt Lake Coalition (including Zunis) erected several obstacles to the project by finding fault with SRP’s hydrological studies and insisting that government agencies listen to the evidence. Even so, ultimately, they were unable to stop the project on the basis of either science or historic preservation alone (Advisory Council on Historic Preservation 2003; Neary 2003; Rosner 2003). It seems that the sacred space of the Zunis proved the ultimate demise of the proposed mine, perhaps because the SRP was unable or unwilling to meet the federal requirement for respecting the dead in accordance with Zuni beliefs. Moreover, although protection of the natural environment was a significant motivation in the formation of the Zuni Salt Lake Coalition, the sacred nature of the Zunis’ relationship with the land attracted the partners, such as the Sierra Club, who were able to effectively work the scientific and legal systems in mutual support of their different social spaces.

Images above

Last Real Indians Denounces Disenrollment

Disenrollment is a tool of colonialism and conquest.  The United States began planting the seeds of disenrollment during the Indian removal and allotment eras, in furtherance of indigenous land dispossession and assimilation.  The federal government then introduced disenrollment to us during the Indian reorganization era, to further assimilate us.   

The practice deprives our relatives of what it means to be indigenous; what it means to be tribal.  It strips them of their Indian rights to worship; to fish, hunt and gather; to be with the land; to participate in ceremony and celebration; to vote, speak and be heard.  It strips them of their right to belong.  It strips them of their everything.

The Critical Ethnic Studies Conference is one of the largest and unique conferences of its kind. This year’s theme is Sovereignties and Colonialisms: Resisting Racism, Extraction and Dispossession. This gathering will honour Indigenous sovereignty struggles for land, culture, food, water, education, and health—and centre Indigenous, Black, and people of colour activism and scholarship, especially work coming from feminist, trans, Two-Spirit, queer, and disability struggles and perspectives.

We believe any attempts towards decolonization are incomplete without an intersectional analysis of the fat body and how it is policed in our everyday lives. Meicka, Sophia, Asam and I hope to bring this much-needed conversation to CESA with our roundtable panel “Decolonizing the Fat and Racilized Body”:

“What does fat decolonization look like? How do we unlearn Western medical ideas of the good and healthy body? What does fat decolonization look like in a queer white world? This panel will unpack the assumptions made about Black, Indigenous and racialized bodies of size: in particular, we will look at how assumptions in regards to health teach individuals and entire communities how to see themselves and to learn how to devalue the worth of their own bodies. We will connect the weight of our bodies with the weight of centuries of colonialism, genocide and dispossession that continues to impact Indigenous, Black and racialized peoples on this continent. We will trace how fatphobia is internalized even amongst Indigenous and racialized communities who had historically very different understandings of how to measure the health of a body, and connect this with contemporary corporate intrusions into Indigenous and racialized communities that serve to alienate us from ourselves and our culture while pumping more toxic, non-sustainable food products into our communities.”

Please support and share this fundraiser to get these fat POC activists to CESA!!

Just had an encounter that is so rare to have in this urban industrial complex.

It is just after midnight, and I stepped outside my apartment for some fresh air - and there was a rabbit on my landlady’s lawn right next door. It was poised ready to bounce, and then suddenly out of no where this fox appears, and trots right past me, not even three feet in front of me. The fox acted at first like he was just cruising by, and paused casually for a couple of seconds, then suddenly lunged at the rabbit, and they both took off down the street. I was going to see where they went but then a sketchy dude appeared with a big dog so I came back inside.

Everyday should be Earth Day.

Every person should be conscious of how their actions affect our only home.

Indigenous people are the closest to the Earth, and, therefore, they suffer the most when others take part in the global crusade to destroy the planet.

Please take the time to reflect on the results of our actions and think about what you can do to protect this planet and all of its inhabitants.

As an Indigenous-feminist, I like The100 so far because I tentatively think it has the potential to be a piece of critical pedagogy useful toward teaching about the dynamics of settler-colonialism, heteropatriarchy, classism, racism, and the prison industrial complex. But that implies that the critique of the show is essential to understanding it. In other words, if Jason R and others can’t engage in critical analysis of their show, it’s going to be (and already is) a regurgitation of sexist, classist, lesbophobic, racist tropes. This is a really bad sign, if critical discussion gets fans blocked.
The Ark/Sky people are colonizers in an Indigenous land. If that relationship is going to change (through alliances between Lexa and Clarke for example and through peaceful negotiations initiated by Thelonious, both of which might represent counter-narratives against white-supremacist-heteropatriarchal colonialism) then the show runners are going to need way more critical input. I actually think that they should hire consultants who can deconstruct the dynamics already at play.
The worst, for me, was Wells’ death contrasted with Finn’s mass-murderer fuckery alongside the sanitizing of Bellamy, after his really really epic-Columbus level attempts at convincing everybody around him that they have a right to colonize, to bury their dead and then lay claim to land because of it, and generally act like fucking genocidal assholes. All of which is already worrisome enough going into season 3.
Sorry to hijack your post, I’m just really really interested in this and a bit baffled that Jason R. wouldn’t engage with further discussion. I shouldn’t be surprised and I might be reading good things into spaces where they do not exist. One worrisome thing I see happening in the fan fiction I keep reading, is this sort of ‘kill the Ice Nation’ shit which non-Indigenous writers seem to think would sanitize the Sky/Ark people if they were to ally in order to kill of an entire clan. That’s pretty much how colonization flourished so quickly–our nations were pitted against one another by euro-military leaders.


FYI: A picture the “diverse” the100writers staff for s3


Capitalism, land rights and Aboriginal resistance Aboriginal land rights have been articulated and fought for by generations of Aboriginal freedom fighters, activists, unionists, campaigners, community groups and their supporters for more than 200 years.

Why did land become a central battleground? Why is the suppression of Aboriginal resistance still a priority for government and industry? How can the struggle win?

Prior to the invasion of the Australian continent, the industrial revolution had brought about a social revolution in England. The commons were enclosed; peasants were pushed off their land and forced to join the growing army of workers in the poverty and misery of the towns. Private property became sacrosanct and secured with draconian laws. This huge social upheaval extended into the colonies.

Following the US war of independence, England could no longer send her growing numbers of convicts to North America. After an attempt to transport them to west Africa failed, the authorities decided to establish a convict colony in Australia. The settlement was also intended as a base for whaling ships and to protect British interests in the Pacific.

The arrival of the First Fleet brought a new social order; a class society based upon the accumulation of wealth and property, exploitation of labour (first in the form of indentured and then waged labour), individualism and, of course, oppression and inequality.

By contrast, Aboriginal society was egalitarian. Aboriginal people had a fundamentally different relationship with the physical environment and to each other than the European invaders. Economies and settlement patterns were diverse and based upon particular forms of land use. This relationship is commonly characterised as hunter gatherer, although there is growing evidence that there were more agrarian types of land management.

READ MORE: Capitalism, land rights and Aboriginal resistance

#WeAreMaunaKea There’s a battle going on between the will of the people and power of money and influence on #TheBigIsland of Hawaii. #MaunaKea is a sacred place for Hawaiians, the world’s biggest mountain when seen from the ocean floor. The history of what’s happened to the land and indigenous people of Hawaii is a well-known, long-fought battle. The newly planned telescope is seen as a continued desecration of that land and culture by the people who love this place. The people are speaking with their hearts and #WalkingTheWalk everyday at Mauna Kea in hopes that their voices will be heard. Mauna Kea is thought of as a perfect vantage point for astronomy because of its geographic location (high altitude, low light interference) but it’s actually an unstable land, full of volcanic activity and suffers high winds and other atmospheric disturbance adding to the difficulty of clear viewing. Due to the unstable, rocky ground, there’s a need to build deep into the top of the mountain for stability, using dynamite to explode the mountaintop apart. Digging deeper into the bigger picture though, these telescopes oftentimes run out of long-term funding and become ghost telescopes left unattended and unused, eventually going to waste. More on that in a later post. With enough signatures this project will come to a halt. Please sign online and follow some of the people on the front lines of this issue who will be tagged in the photo. Link above. #Mahalo #MalamaKaAina

Kelly Slater on April 9th 2015