Colonization Vs. Rewilding
The mentality of colonization runs deep in our culture, particularly deep in those who benefit the most from the colonization. While I like to think of myself as a non-racist, I still have the mindset of the colonizer that prevents me from seeing my own racism and prejudice. For a while now I’ve grappled with this. I think one of the first steps in de-colonizing my mind involved recognizing that I live on stolen land. This scared the hell out of me.
My friend Eugene has a theory that white people have fear over this because they are scared of being treated the same (in whole or in part) as the others and or losing any of their privileges (especially the latter). He loves to bring up a time when, during a conversation about this, a white guy shouted out “What about me!?” If we white people acknowledge that we live on stolen land, then we white people think that means we have to give it back to the Native cultures here. If I have to give it back, then where do I go? Back to where? Ireland? Germany? Russia? I’m a “Heinz 57”. Where do I go back too? WHAT ABOUT ME?!? My feelings embarrassingly, perfectly expressed Eugene’s hypotheses. I felt afraid of having what I consider my land taken from me and experiencing the same kind of treatment they received. Of course, to get over this I had to have a long talk with my white, colonized mind.
“Well, my ancestors moved here after the genocide.”
Yes, but the power structure still exists. The colonizers have become us, still colonizing here and now. The genocide continues (only more invisibly), the occupation continues (even more invisibly), and we make up a part of the culture of occupation. If you live here and make up a part of civilization, you live as a privileged member of the culture of occupation. Civilization uses military force that your tax dollars go to, to keep this land occupied. Your ancestors didn’t start it, but they continued it, and we continue it today.
“Well, no one can own anything, so you can’t call this land stolen.”
The word stolen doesn’t imply ownership. It refers to the action of someone taking something from someone else without asking, trading or courting for it, and generally taken by force. No one owns a child, and yet when someone takes a child from a family we say that the person stole the child from the family. This reveals more about the relationship to the land that Native cultures have, but we’ll save that for later.
“Well, we are all one. We’re all from Africa anyway.”
We do not all live as one and in this culture of occupation and slavery we certainly do not share equality. With DNA studies we have learned that race does not exist. More racial diversity exists between neighboring hunter-gatherers in Africa than throughout the rest of the world. However, we have created a culture based on the falsified belief in race. This means that race does exist, culturally. And so, privileged white people using the “we’re all one” excuse to not acknowledge the past basically looks like saying, “Hey Native Americans, we’re all one. Get over it.” or “Hey African Americans, we’re all one. Get over slavery.” These ideas come from the upper class of privileged people who, from their point of privilege, cannot put themselves in the shoes of the less privileged.
“We need to acknowledge that we live in an ever-changing reality.”
Okay, let me tell you a story about kinship. A woman has a baby. It nestles in her arms breast-feeding. A man comes up and beats up the woman, steals the crying baby out of her arms. The man enslaves the child and beats it everyday. The man’s family directly benefits from this enslavement. The original woman says, “Hey, that’s my child!” They turn to her and say, “You need to acknowledge that we live in an ever-shifting reality.”
The people here lived in a family with the land. They didn’t “own” the land. They lived on a familial basis with the land. 10,000 years of their bodies rest in the ground here feeding the life that still lives today. They still live: as the salmon, the cedar, the camas, the oaks and the firs. The white imperialistic culture of occupation stole this land from the Native cultures here the same way as the man stole the child from the woman in the story above. We continue to benefit from its enslavement today. In order to move forward, we need to acknowledge that native people here have a familial and ancestral connection to the land. Yeah, all humans have a relationship to the land in the most generic sense possible. But we have no ancestral connection to this land and have totally fucked it up in 200 years. If we want a healthy relationship to this land, we need to court its kin. The Natives culture live as their kin. Courting them requires acknowledging their familial and ancestral relationship to this land, and helping them reclaim and restore that.
“You keep talking about genocide and slavery but you know, the Northwest Coast tribes had slaves.”
So that makes what civilization has done to them totally okay? Where does this logic come from? Yeah they had “slaves”. Although, they had a different kind of hierarchical system and using the word slave doesn’t exactly mean the same way that we use it today, but that obscures the point. Sure, let’s say a few of the Northwest Native cultures had slaves. What does that have to do with the relationship between our civilization and their cultures? I want to talk about our relationship, not their own interpersonal relationships. That has nothing to do with this conversation. It reminds me of the time I brought up an abusive behavior with an ex-girlfriend of mine and she brought up something from the past, “Well you did this once” as though that somehow excuses or evens-out the current situation. Their own culture had its own customs (that I don’t think I have any business judging). The conversation I want to have here doesn’t have to do with that. The conversation I want to have involves talking about the current relationship, the relationship between my genocidal culture of occupation and this land and its family.
“Well, I don’t identify as a member of this culture.”
During the physical enslavement of African Americans, white people who disagreed with slavery, because of their privilege, could help slaves escape slavery. While those white people disagreed with the enslavement of those people, they lived as members of the culture of enslavement. They worked to change the culture they lived as a part of. They could help the slaves escape precisely because they lived as a part of the culture of slavery.
While I don’t identify with Civilization as my culture (i.e. I don’t think of Obama as “my president”, the troops in Iraq as “my troops”, the police force as “my police force”, etc) I make up a part of this culture. I have a job, therefore I pay taxes, which go to support the military that keeps us all occupied. Even if I didn’t pay taxes, I still buy food from the grocery store, pay for movies, coffee, clothes, etc. etc. etc. All of which help the economy stay in place. While I may not feel like part of this culture (I certainly don’t!), I live inextricably as a slave to it, and therefore a member of it. It doesn’t matter what people believe on a personal level, but what we do as a whole culture. The personal level provides a platform for abandoning this culture; it stands as a starting point, but not yet differentiated from it.
For example, I don’t think of myself as a racist. I don’t care about race. And yet, while physical slavery of African Americans ended (in this country), the culture of occupation and racism did not. 2/3 of men in prison have black skin. Why? Because racial profiling by police officers and cultural racism that keeps black people in the lower class. The fact that we have a black president shows that race, while historically connected to occupation and slavery, has less to do with the occupation, than the occupation itself. This culture cares less about race, and more about forced hierarchy. But race has an inextricable connection to the hierarchy of our culture. White people receive an insane amount of privilege as the minority of those who sit at the top of the pyramid fall under white and the majority of humans (and other-than-humans) who fill the rest of the pyramid fall under not-white. I don’t think of myself as racist, but I live in a hierarchical culture of racism.
I don’t identify as “white”. One of my Native mentors says, “White people is a myth created by White people.” While I don’t identify as a white imperialist, I live in a culture of white imperialism and I receive all the benefits of living as a white male in a white imperialist culture. This means I can, like the white people who helped slaves, leverage my status in this culture to assist Native cultures in maintaining their traditional lifeways and they can help me in creating a new way to live, in this place.
We all live as members of this culture of occupation, regardless of whether we identify with it or not. Even the homeless DIY anarchist kid who doesn’t participate in the economy what-so-ever still lives as a member of civilization because, like their upper class counter-parts called “Trustafarians”, they live off the excess of civilization and not in a culture apart from it. Claiming you do not live as a member of this culture, while benefiting from it because of your race and or class, come from a place of ignorance. Basically it amounts to pretending your privilege doesn’t exist. To take the first step towards an alliance with these people (and the land), you must acknowledge your privilege, and that means accepting that they come from a historical and continued genocidal occupation.
My great great grandfather moved to Portland in 1880 (50 years after the malaria outbreak that killed 90% of the Kalapuyans & Chinook indians who lived here at that time). I have 3 generations buried in the ground here now. The land speaks to me, I feel I belong here. I’ve tried to leave and been pulled back every time. I have a personal relationship to the land but not a cultural one. I cannot call myself indigenous. I can label myself a native but not a Native. I will never live as a Native here, but I strive for my children, or their children’s children to have such a connection, such a kinship with the land. I cannot call myself a Native because my culture doesn’t try to have a kinship relationship with the land, but one of ownership by occupation. I will spend my life working towards assisting in the dismantling of occupation and the restoration of and the creation of Native cultures here. Regardless, I will probably spend most of my life as a privileged “free” slave to civilization.
Moving through this fear and entitlement requires a mind change. One that no longer sees ownership, but kinship. I can’t “give the land back” because I have limited control over the occupation. But more importantly, that I would even jump to thinking about giving the land back shows my own ignorance and the deep-seatedness of my colonized mind.
While I have a lot of privilege, I still live as a victim of this occupation as well. Acknowledging that we live on stolen land, acknowledging that the people here live as part of the land shows the first step to stopping the occupation. They can help us decolonization of ourselves. Creating a non-hierarchical sustainable culture starts with building alliances with cultures that still remember how to live that way. Obviously not all Native Americans still live traditionally or even want to. Find and ally with the traditionals in rewilding: reclaiming language, land and culture.
Rewilding requires making alliances with Native people and cultures to recreate the hunter-gatherer-gardener way of life that we all once held. I owe everything I know about rewilding to the wild cultures of humans. I owe the majority of what I know about my own place, to the Chinook, Kalapuyan and Molalla Indians. I owe their ancestors my life. I honor them and my own ancestors by rewilding. I honor the local cultures by allying with them and cooperatively rewilding. For any rewilder who does not have Native ancestry on the lands where they live, we owe the Indigenous cultures who lived here and we have a duty to build alliances with the ones who wish to return to or continue to live traditionally and help each other rewild. In order to do this, we must first see how the deep the colonizers mind sits within us.
Special thanks to Eugene Johnson and Shusli Baseler for continuing to pull me through this process!
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Agreed. Thanks for breaking down some of the common “yeah, buts” that Native people come across all the freaking time. It’s annoying and you break it down for all the ignorants in a good way.
As a person who lives in a Native community, I would go a step farther than you here and say WATCHOUT when it comes to creating allies with who YOU perceive to be “traditional” Native. That’s a really easy way for good-intentioned people to continue the oppression.
Your perspective on which Native people are traditional or not is likely to NOT be based on how Native people see themselves. I’d say, it is best to work to ally with Native people regardless of whether you see them as “traditional” or not…meet them where they are and what not, remembering that Native people’s abilities to survive after all this crazy recent history is based partially on our ability to “walk in two worlds,” modern and traditional. To dismiss the need to integrate to a certain extent with modern society IS PART OF OUR CULTURE and to not see that would be to deny our history!
So I roll my eyes at people who dismiss Natives who they don’t see as “traditional.” Fuck that, what does that even mean (and to who? You? Me?) The traditional vs. modern things is kind of like the madonna-whore thing….both dichotomies are bullshit in my mind. I would consider myself to be “re-traditionalizing” myself but you would NEVER know it by looking at me or even through casual conversation. Judge not, I say.
But a great article, nonetheless. I just had to add my two cents for all the yippies who cling to “traditionalist” Natives while maybe ignoring other Natives on oppressive perception alone.
Yeah, for sure. Maybe “traditional” was the wrong word for what I’m talking about.
Good post. I’ve definitely been struggling inwardly on this very topic lately…
agreed, again. because all Natives to this land are Natives to this land regardless of their practices and even how connected they are to their roots.
as i walk around new york city looking at the large buildings, i often sigh. i look to the backs of the restaurants, to the lower paid jobs, and who do i see? Natives ! working at such minimal paid jobs. i call this slavery. convincing a people that they must work back breaking labor in this cement world in order to receive their bread is enslavement of the mind. food comes from the Earth. from “Jah” blessings.
Peace and a prayer of healing for all ~
Great stuff, Scout!
This feels like a really important point. I’ve focused a lot on wringing out my submissive slave blood as part of this process of ‘de-colonising the mind’, but maybe I forget too often to deal likewise with my inherited slaveholder blood, coming as I do from a privileged position (not that it feels that way) near the top of the imperial pyramid.
Reading this post I had Minor Threat’s ‘Guilty Of Being White‘ going through my head:
Thought I’d share 🙂 Now I’m trying to figure out if I should feel guilty for enjoying that quite as much as I do…
I have followed your website with great interest since day one but increasingly disagree with your conclusions on what it means to re-WILD.
Now, I am not going to bash you personally, just bring up some important objections worth considering.
Through my observation of wild animal behavior, it is readily apparent that they act primarily in their own interests, looking out for themselves first, their allies, and especially their children, at whatever cost to “others.” Wild animals do not hesitate to steal from, harass and even kill their rivals when they get the chance. Animal territories are not some sacrosanct perpetually owned lands–they are constantly being fought over (though not always violently) and constantly changing.
It seems to me that you are projecting a morality onto “native” Americans that they themselves did not have prior to European contact, and also, by using the term rewild, implying that they were “wild” and therefore an example to emulate.
Rewilding today seems to be the idea of the Noble Savage with a slightly different spin. It has nothing to do with truly living like a WILD ANIMAL, but like a white-washed “native” American. In essence, like Christianity with Rome, civilization is adapting rewilding to perpetuate its existence. It seems like a novel concept, but it has begun to carry the most fundamental meme of civilized DNA–the concept of morality. For example, the word “sustainable.” Everyone’s talking about it. The visible mode of civilized living will change, but it will stay the same at the core, continuing its process of enslaving and domesticating.
Territories in pre-European Americas were constantly changing. Wave after wave of migrating peoples displaced those who were there, assimilating, driving away, or annihilating them. They raided and warred with their neighbors, over territory, women, revenge, or just for the thrill. Some eventually went on to create vast empires, demanding tribute and slaves from those they conquered.
Basically, in my opinion, the problem with civilization is NOT that it is sometimes violent, or that it steals and destroys. These are the very traits it tries to stamp out of us individuals so that we will remain harmless sheep, domestic draft animals. Through religion or morality, it programs our minds to obey, to truly believe that there is some higher reason we MUST obey its myriad laws, so that we will do what it commands when no one is looking. It deceives us into thinking that to be civilized is good for us, no matter what the personal cost, even though, as a virtual organism, the only true purpose of civilization is to prolong its own existence.
The problem with civilization is SCALE. Its the SCALE of the destruction, NOT destruction itself that is harmful. Life and death, nurturing and killing, dominating and submitting, conquest and surrender, ALL are part of the nature of wild animals. A little observation of wild chimpanzees, babboons, lions, hynas, wolves, and other social mammals and in fact, ALL LIVING THINGS will teach you this. The light AND the dark side of nature must be embraced to be TRULY wild.
In an many mammal societies, the alpha animals often have great power, but it is not perpetual, not sacred. The younger ones will challenge and defeat them when they grow strong. Then they will be the leaders. They will do to others as was done to them. THAT is what it means to be wild.
The world religions and civilization want to eliminate “darkness” (all those wild individual traits which are dangerous for it) for eternal “light”. To escape civilization, we must embrace the light AND the darkness.
Thanks for reminding me to tackle the white privilege projection of “Noble Savage” onto my argument.
First off, you’re projecting a lot of your own bullshit onto what I write. It seems no matter how often or how thourough I write about the realities of nature, people like you ignore what I say and continue to put words in my mouth.
Competition exists in nature, yes. But it is not the *default* of nature. Read some modern ecology. “Survival of the fittest” has been debunked. The things that cooperate survive in the long run. It doesn’t meant that competition doesn’t exists, it means that it is a short term strategy that does not survive in the long run. When you speak of “WILD” animals with “ALPHA” whatever, you’re projecting a civilized perspective of dominance onto nature. Yes there is brutal violence in nature. Yes, there are some forms that base their existence in dominance. Evolution has shown that those animals don’t survive in the long run. Civilization is a great example. It is a culture based on competition. It will not last. The cultures that existed here before, did so for thousands and thousands of years. They did this using cooperative methods over the long run. Sure, there was competition and violence from time to time. But seriously, read some fucking modern evolutional theory. It has nothing to do with “light” and “dark” it has to do with WHAT WORKS. You want to live “WILD” the way civilization sees it? Awesome. Go do that. Don’t read my blog anymore.
Now you are getting it! Aggression, attack, commands (telling me not to read your blog) That’s fine. That’s GREAT! THAT is you defending yourself, attacking someone who you see as invading your turf (as you put it in another entry).
Now, bashing aside, please hear me:
I and several good friends read your blog. You are a brilliant guy and have enormous influence over us whether you know it or not. My interest is not in changing what you think–I don’t REALLY know you, but what you preach does affect people I know.
You tell me to read a book, to study evolutionary theory. By the way, I do. In fact, its what I have spent much of my time doing.
But we don’t need to read books to know the truth. Once again, that is a concept of civilization, that it alone is the arbiter of truth. People tell me, “Read the Bible,” I say,”Read the book of Nature.” It is all around you and free to everyone. You don’t have to be literate or spend money to see it. Its in the air, the sky, the cracks in the city.
Maybe you don’t like the use of the word “alpha” shall I use “dominant” or “leader” instead? Does that really matter? Dominance exists whether you like it or not, whether you call it that or not.
I don’t tell you to read a book. I say watch the dramas of wild animals IN THE WILD as I have. To take a step further, live as they live, feel the terror and exhilaration of being treed by a mother mountain lion with cubs all night as I have. Feel the thrill of the hunt, the adrenaline rush of the fight. I have experienced what it means to be truly wild, if only for moments, in the Rocky Mountains, the Chihuahuan desert, the tropical rainforest. Civilization does not compare.
Perhaps you have felt these things as well. Why else would you want to rewild? You can try to “save the world” (I once wanted to) but that is unlikely. I want to live wild because it brings me the greatest joy. The warmth of a united family, the ecstasy of love, the thrill of the hunt, even of terror. The dull domesticated life is dominated by chronic depression and boredom. Hence the widespread use of toxic drugs and suicidal behavior. I want to FEEL alive, not just exist. What is the purpose of life? Mine is to simply enjoy it!
Now, I am going to continue reading your blog. Since the beginning, this has been my only post. You know what I think, I won’t continue to disagree with you.
I’m not “getting it”. I’ve had “it”, you’re just not listening or paying attention. I don’t have a problem with violence, aggression, blah blah blah all the “dark” or “evil” sides of nature. I don’t see them as that by the way, nor have I ever referred to them in such a manner, so I don’t know where you would be getting that, aside from making it up in your own head.
Sure, grow up in civilization, get a civilized lens for looking at the nature, wild world, then go look at it. What do you see through your civilized lens? Domination, leaders, alpha’s controlling others. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as “watching nature” because we’ve grown up being taught *how to see nature* through a civilized lens. I suggest reading books, because they articulate the lens and show how and why it does not project an accurate perception of reality. Before you can see how the wild really looks, you have to get rid of that lens. It’s obvious to me, that when people stress the (what they see as ugly) side of nature as a response to articles like the one above, it shows that they still look at the wild through the mind of domestication.
“dominance exists whether you like it or not”. Yes, it does. I’m not calling it “evil” or “dark”. Although, I can say that it doesn’t meet my needs as an animal. Again, it’s not the default but a rare thing that happens in times of scarcity. This is why we see it as a fundamental part to civilization; slaves live in a constant state of scarcity. This lifestyle changes how we perceive nature. Often, hierarchy is projected onto other systems, when in fact a different kind of relationship is going on altogether.
Further, easy reading:
Yo Urban Scout- I’ve been reading some of your stuff here and on Rewild.info. What you and some other folks have to say, reaches me in spirit.
Yes, we are all the beneficiaries of stolen land and stolen labor. Perhaps this is our emerging definition of “original sin,” by which I mean, “an evil circumstance into which we are born.” But I would suggest that the entire concept of original sin is the expression of an unhealthy thread that has historically permeated the Abrahamic religions.
Instead, I would suggest an experiment: Look at the concept of “original blessing,” per Matthew Fox’s mystical (unitive) interpretation of Christianity (which is entirely compatible with animism), and consider how that would have extrapolated to an entirely different mainstream culture into which we had been born.
That is, what if our experience of growing up in the dominant culture was not one of being conditioned to the idea that we are somehow inherently guilty of wrongs we cannot overcome; but instead, being conditioned to the idea that we are inherently capable of infinite love and compassion? (BTW, I am not suggesting or implying “love and compassion” exist in some kind of dualistic opposition to the necessities of being animals in an ecosystem, for example having to kill in order to eat.)
We would still have to face the historical reality that we have benefited from the theft of land from Native peoples, and the theft of labor primarily from African peoples (and later, from Asian peoples who built the railroads that “opened” the colonization of the West as never before). But we could face this in a different way, with a different mindset.
You, Urban Scout, did not steal land or labor. You did not exist in this form when those deeds were done. Those deeds were not of your will. If your great-grandfather committed a murder, would you believe that your grandfather, your father, and then yourself, deserved to be incarcerated as a consequence?
I’ll switch frames of reference here from religion & philosophy, to anthropology. The entire concept of kinship as derived only from blood relations, is also an arbitrary construct of the dominant culture, also going back to Abrahamic times. The idea that you are related only to others linearly via DNA over time, is an expression of that. A friend recently pointed me to an essay, here:
that discusses the way other cultures view kinship. For example, “…in New Guinea, two persons that regularly drink from the same cup and eat the same food become brothers. They share substance, they establish kinship through consubstantiality. … Shared experiences or substances other than blood and genetic material are integral parts of cultural constructions and conceptions. Blood is simply one among many substances or features that can be shared among people, and that can give rise to specific definitions of relatedness.”
So here are two points of reference for a different outlook: that we are born with the capacity for infinite love and compassion; and that our network of relatedness extends beyond our genes to encompass our “memes” (ideas) and that which we share willingly with others in a spirit of deeply-felt meaning.
I shouldn’t say more about my interpretations of these ideas, because I’m more interested in your thoughts and feelings about them and their implications. Or if this isn’t useful to you, feel free to tell me to get stuffed; I’m not ego-attached to my ideas.
I thank you, Urban, for creating the platform/forum for these kinds of discussions. I think it’s brave of you and very needed.
Let’s do more! Let’s get deeper!
I prefer not to see it as a “sin”. I prefer not to see it as “evil” or a “blessing” but rather, just the situation we were born into. Not evil, not good. It’s a situation that is not serving life. Good and evil are concepts of civilization. What gives more life? What does that have to do with good or evil?
I’m also not saying that we are “somehow inherently guilty of wrongs we cannot overcome”. There is no fault, no guilt here. There is a situation. Do we want to live this way or not? I don’t. I want a system that meets all of my needs and does the same for others. I don’t feel guilty of privilege, I don’t feel at fault for creating civilization. By not acknowledging the things I wrote above, it does little to stop this system that does not promote life on this planet. I mean that in the actual sense of living things, but also the cultural and spiritual sense of “living” as a human. Our culture steals the life from us, from our bodies as surely as it destroys the biodiversity of life all around us. Again, evil or good? I don’t believe in those things. As a living creature, I understand how life flows and cooperates. I want to do everything I can to make that cooperation work so that every living thing has a chance to live.
While I didn’t start the original occupation, I am still making it happen today, whether I notice it or not. This does not promote life. Connecting to native peoples and cultures works as a necessary step to bringing back the cooperative human systems that existed here before. It’s ironic that many people advocate for planting native plants but no one ever talks about restoring the native cultures here.
Again, I mentioned relationships as kin, like that article you posted. It has less to do with Blood and more to do with culture. Native people have *both*. We have neither. It’s important to me to acknowledge their ancestral connection to the land, that comes from both blood and culture. While blood will happen over time, culture happens by respectfully learning from native cultures.
oh also, check out this:
There is a concept that I like that’s “Original Debt”. It’s pretty awesome.
Hey Urban Scout-
Good to hear you’re not stuck in guilt mode for things that happened before our times. (Also I read your piece about the hate culture among certain anarchist groups and I wholeheartedly agree with you on that, I wish I’d posted at the time.) Agreed, we have to take responsibility for our impacts and do what we can to restore balance (and/or Ma Nature is set to do a job of it right quick). I’m not sure I’d go quite so far as to write off good and evil entirely: some of which appear to be hardwired in our brains, for example the capacity for empathy and compassion, not only for fellow humans but for the species we take for our food.
I would differ with you about “we have neither.” I would suggest that we have both, but that they have become largely inaudible in the face of the screeching din of consumer culture. My people and I have largely disconnected ourselves from the mainstream media and the cultural wasteland it promotes, and our own culture has emerged spontaneously without need of planning it. We’re not purists, but we are at least conscious of where the brainwash tries to seep in.
Re. Martin Prechtel:
He says, “…every person alive today, tribal or modern, primal or domesticated, has a soul that is original, natural, and, above all, indigenous in one way or another.” In that context I would say, every person has access to the sources of their own culture that pre-date the consumer culture overlay.
Re. shamanic methods and trance, interestingly, I’m in conversation via email with Simon on rewilding.info about group trance, and I’d like to pick up that topic with you via email one of these days.
Interesting to read about the Mayan concept of original debt, or spiritual debt. This seems to be related to the idea of karma, or “cause and effect.” Failing to recognize that aspect of existence has become a hallmark of capitalism and consumerism, where each “transaction” is considered complete when money is paid and goods are received. This creates spiritual externalities, akin to ecological externalities. Looking at the world through that lens, helps explain what I perceive as the “infestation of disturbed spirits” in the city.
You’ve just given me an interesting way to look at something I’ve been aware of for years but have been unable to characterize further. I take it this is on the same spectrum as what Simon speaks of as animism. Taken together, this has what science calls “explanatory power,” at least in so far as having the capability to explain certain relationships more clearly than other paradigms.
I hope to stay in touch with you over time; there’s common ground to explore.
Wow…great discussion !!!!
It speaks well to the attachment that humans develop to land…a biological/emotional/love relationship that makes us who we are more than we are probably aware of until we choose or are forced to leave it. I think you hit the nail on the head when you equate the denial to acknowledge white privilge with fear on so many levels…where would all the ‘white’ people go back to when your bio/emotional self has been nursed by the land even if it was not “theirs” to begin with?…this is just what happens and it doesn’t just happen to white people but all immigrants and their descendants….what is important, is this newly evolving relationship where we respect the land that receives us by living with it in as a harmonious, ecologically sound way as possible…and loving where you are and who surrounds you is a major part of that…allies and non-allies alike
Liz – I am loving what you said, I find myself as being one of those people too that reaches to the past to link with ancestral knowledge(where I can find it, with who i can find it and where i can nurture it) but if you saw me walking down the street you wouldn’t necessarily know it.
since we are all culturally addicted (with all its resultant emotional imbalance) to the “colonizer” mentality it only follows that everyone unconsciously adjusts to the addiction in their own defensive/survivalist ways. just as you cannot reason with a drunk or an addict no matter how much s/he may be hurting themselves and hence others, they cannot change until they choose to. and even when they choose to, the road back is long, arduous and full of those who are still addicted…who by their very acceptance of addiction make it the status quo…at its core it is all about power and giving back control that does not belong to you…but everyone must do this for themselves…and how do you get millions of addicts to give up power within a suitable time-frame for us to not fry ourselves first???
in the meantime, it is hope-filling to know that there is a community of immigrant-descendants, both recent and ancient, that know that the way back to true sustainability, is to support one another in this re-acculturation to the land, plants and animals that we love and loves us.
Hi, Urban Scout
I really like the way you have expressed your thoughts here, and the discussion that has ensued. Thank you so much for mentioning Eugene and I! You know that we think very highly of you.
This weekend, I took the time to make my way back “home”, to the banks of the Rogue River near Agness, OR. This was a birthday present I gave to myself.
During my all-too-brief stay, Eugene and I went to see my cousin Victor and his family. He lives with his mother, his wife, and their two children in a small two-bedroom house.
As we walked up, a white horse eyed us and cocked her head, then trotted off. We knocked on the door and were invited in. My auntie sat sewing a patch onto an old flannel shirt. Victor sat in a chair, watching satellite TV. His daughter and wife came out and visited with us. Looking out the window, I see that there are lodge poles set up for a teepee. “Hey, what’s with the teepee?” I ask. That is not a traditional dwelling for this area. “Grand Ronde gave it to me for helping with the powwow. I like to sleep out there when it’s hot in the summer”, says Victor.
Little daughter has a medicine basket around her neck. She is 7 now. About two years ago, a woman at a grocery store asked, “What’s that around your neck, Sweetie?” The precious 5 year old replied, “That’s my medicine. Only, it’s not the kind you get from the doctor. It’s the kind for killing white people.”
I’ve never heard Victor talk like that; I think his in-laws influenced the girl’s thinking. It is an extreme position and not one that I embrace. Nor do I really believe all those of European descent should go back. I mean, how would I separate the majority of my blood (5/8) and send it away?
We are offered potato chips. No thanks. Pepsi? NO thanks (diabetes running rampant through the family). Then Victor pulled a greasy paper bag off the floor. Score! Smoked salmon. Someone else caught it and gave it to him; he smoked it and it was moist and delicious. I comment on all the grease soaked into the bag. Mrs. Victor knows it’s good for you and so do I.
We start looking at family pictures…my dad…his dad…our grandparents. It’s bittersweet. Another family picture of another uncle with his wife and kids; their boat capsized and they all drowned back in the 1950’s.
Victor and I start talking about where we will be enrolled. We are both enrolled as Karuk tribal members presently, but we now have the way open to enroll as Siletz members, and we both intend to. My main motivation in doing this is to have a better chance of getting some of this land returned to the tribe. Victor and I talk about that, too. Ironically, Victor’s wife is a full-blooded Shoshone woman who isn’t enrolled with any tribe because she was adopted by a Siletz woman and the adoption is closed.
Life is not easy by civilized standards here on the river. Victor and his family are extremely poor, financially. Probably a majority of people reading this vignette would argue that Victor is not indigenous – he is civilized. He eats chips and drinks Pepsi and watches satellite TV!
And he hunts and fishes to feed his family, in the area where our ancestors have done the same for thousands of years. He has learned where to gather the reeds for the baskets he weaves for his daughter to carry her medicine in. Together, we have sat and learned some Tututni language from a beloved tribal elder.
He lives in abject poverty and he is part of that land and it is part of him. He tried to leave once, moved to the city, got homesick (“I can’t hear the frogs”, he told his wife, crying), and came back. And I expect that he’ll die there, and be buried there.
My point to all of this is that we have these indigenous roots to the land. It is real. It maybe doesn’t look the way it “should” look to qualify for someone else’s definition of indigenous, but we know who we are and where we belong.
Returning to the city and navigating through it today has nearly driven me crazy. It is surreal…and not in an enjoyable way.
I can’t hear the frogs either. 🙁
Thanks for sharing your story Shusli.
I’m still reading this part over and over again:
“My point to all of this is that we have these indigenous roots to the land. It is real. It maybe doesnâ€™t look the way it â€œshouldâ€ look to qualify for someone elseâ€™s definition of indigenous, but we know who we are and where we belong.”
It makes me think very hard about all of this.
Excellent post, Scout. It is amazing to see folk actually working through these issues.
I don’t know what I can add to Shusli’s great comments.
I don’t care about people feeling guilty. Fine if you want to. It doesn’t do anything for anyone unless one does something about it.
Remorse is a more natural feeling. Then again, what are folk gonna do about it?
True that race doesn’t exist as a real physical construct, but it does in an institutional way. Also, most white folk don’t care about racism until they perceive someone being racist about white folk, specifically, themselves as an individual, not white folk as a whole. Other racism falls by the wayside all around them without a care.
It is all really about getting the monster off of the land. The monster being alleged civilization. Then learning to live together after it is defeated. Learning to leave the world a better place.
I have a deep respect for you and consider you a friend and a brother, Scout.
how does survival of the fittest factor into your idea of rewilding? it seems like if this society keeps progressing in the same direction it might collapse and get rewilded naturally. what comes around goes around. it seems like your leaning towards some kind of societal engineering. what do you think about kennewick man? [the 9000 yr old white guy]I enjoyed the write up but im not seeing your point.
I’m unclear what you’re asking. What do you mean by Survival of the Fittest and how does that apply here? What does the Kennewick man have to do with anything? Please take a little more time to fill in the context. Thanks for the comments.
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