Why I Am Occupying Wall Street

John Bird

I feel like I have been waiting for this moment an entire lifetime. More like a hundred lifetimes when I count the 500 years and lifetimes of all our indigenous ancestors who went to their graves wondering if justice would ever again prevail on Turtle Island.

My great grandfather Heavy Runner (Blackfeet) must have gone to his grave wondering about that in 1870 when the US Calvary massacred him and my grandmother on the Bear River (Marias) in Montana along with about 200 others in a tragedy that is now known as the Baker Massacre. He had made a peace with the US government and emerged from his lodge holding the paper of peace high on that cold winter day in January. He was gunned down before he got very far from his lodge and all out massacre ensued.

I know that many Indian people, myself included, are so very weary, tired of waiting and hoping for justice. I see it on the faces and hear it in the voices of my family and relatives and in the Native communities I work with. Far too many of our young people decide it is a better option to commit suicide than live as a commoditized serf or non-person in the current system. I never condemn them for this choice. I think there is a level of correctness in their assessment of the reality in which we live though I strongly disagree with the remedy of suicide.

Growing up I always heard the rallying cry of the Blackfoot people: Ikaakimaat! Take courage, try hard, don’t give up. Sometimes, those voices in my head are the only thing standing between myself and total hopelessness.

Hope does spring eternal, though. Just when it seems all is lost, hope revives, and the eternal flame of hope for justice roars back to life from an unexpected direction, unexpected source. For me the Occupy Wall Street movement is that new hope. What I see in the Occupy Wall Street movement with its focus on economic justice which is entwined with social justice, growing and strengthening and merging with the environmental movement is the beginning of new hope. Not just for Native Americans, but for all Americans and all citizens of the world. Our Indigenous philosophies have always told us we are all related, we are all connected, we are all in this together.

This movement, with its growing alliances of economic justice, social justice, and environmental justice activists will be formidable if they hold. Climate change, endless wars, and a yearning for freedom beyond a future of corporate serfdom seems to be driving and strengthening new opportunities and alliances. Sunday, the Occupy Denver assembly unanimously adopted a 10 point platform put forth by the Colorado Chapter of the American Indian Movement.

Correctly, the movement blames both Wall Street and Washington for orchestrating the upward shift of money, assets, resources, and power to the governing elite, the 1%. This collusion perpetuates, expands, and institutionalizes poverty for the masses, where most Indigenous people reside. Poverty and war are social justice issues, deeply entwined with economic justice. Now,with the merging of environmental justice into this movement and the proper identification of the real source of injustice, the collusion between Wall Street and Washington, there is real hope for real change.

I have come to the conclusion that Barack Obama, who sold himself to the hopeful masses as the face of hope and change is severely hindered in that he, like his predecessors and too many members of congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, are beholden to the Wall Street masters and their money. I think this movement has a real chance precisely because it refuses to be co-opted and, like so many of the American people, it no longer trusts Democrats or Republicans. Correctly, it acknowledges that both parties who dominate our political system are similarly corrupted by the same greed and lust for power that rots Wall Street at its very core. People are taking to the streets now because they realize that change will not come solely from the ballot box.

In my community organizing work, I sometimes heard a saying. “It does not matter on which boat your ancestors came here, we are all in the same boat now,” to which I would add: “even if your ancestors did not come here in a boat, we are all in the same boat now”. The window of opportunity to bend the course of history back towards justice is once again opening. It will not stay open long. Let us, Native Americans and all others who have not given up hope for a world based on real economic, social, and environmental justice, not squander this opportunity. It may very well may be our last.

John Bird M. Ed. (Blackfeet) is a long time community organizer and mental health and wellness activist. He was one of the founders of NANACOA and one of the developers of the original GONA curriculum. He lives between his home on the Blackfeet Reservation and Tucson, Arizona where he is helping to raise his two grandchildren who are half Tohono O'odham.

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psette's picture
Justice is had by the N.A. people regardless of which tribe we come from. If you don't see and hear it outright, you'll do so in the future. Justice is in the form of "Inertia": every action has a reaction. I know that sounds a bit abstract, but if you don't see and hear the justice; you will one day. Ikaakimaat!!
notnek's picture
This could go on and on. Thechief form Wall St. and those with similar thinking never will get it. Simply put, it is about A Seat At the Table. The tribes have never had a Seat At the Table. Now the elite have taken that from their own kind and wonder why their upset.
spktruth200's picture
Chief: Sorry but your dead wrong. We had our first occupy-delaware meeting last night. There were over 150 people in attendance from all walks of life, all parties, and non party affilations. this meeting was the epitomy of democracy. Its not hippies, marxists, commies etc...that is right wing lies. Everyone left there politics and their religion at home. We will be holding our occupation delaware soon. this saturday we will have a rally in the Square of Corporate Delaware to kick off our campaign. I am native american and I urge you to go to our website and see how native americans will be part of this occupation. www.occupy-delaware.com
dbender's picture
Don't let the right-wing scare you regarding Marxism and Communism. Marxism/Communism is the antithesis to capitalism. Marxist/communists are oppressed by the right-wing because they know that it is our intent to put power back in the hands of the working class -- where it belongs. As long as capitalism is free to run amok; there is no way to take the money out of politics. You want regulations -- no? You want a greater distribution of wealth -- no? You want to take the money out of politics -- no? Then you want Marxism. So weather you acknowledge your tendency towards Marxism or not; you are in fact pushing a Marxist agenda. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a Marxist. If you would like to be better at what you do, I suggest you study Marxism and understand the many levels that we as a people are being exploited. The MSM loves to give Marxism a bad name or outright ignore its existence because that is part of the strategy to demean this philosophy: From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs. That is the mantra of Karl Marx. Tax the rich. Make the sugar industrialists/fast food industry and tobacco industrialist pay for universal healthcare. Socialize the banking industry. Regulate and socialize the mining industry. Socialize the oil industry. That's change. As far as the environment goes; since carbon emissions and green house gasses are causing global warming, how else can we convince people to drive less and stop the waste of energy? It's not going to be capitalism/consumerism pushing the envelope for a cleaner environment. Socialism is the answer. Sooner or later, people will figure it out. Socialism is not a bad word. Don't let the rhetoric from the right-wing scare you. Those guys are professional liars. So how do you expect people to just 'leave their politics at home?'
thechief's picture
Have you even looked at this website? Look at the bottom left of the page. What's up with the hyperlinks to 9/11 and USS Liberty conspiracies? Interestingly, they blame Israel. I am not surprised their isn't a link to the Rothchild's conspiracy too.Like I said in the past, when people start bashing Wall Street you're also going attract groups of people that are anti-semitic.
thechief's picture
Good luck with your revolution. Perhaps you should tell notnek and spktruth200 how popular your movement is. They claim your movement doesn't even exist.
judithavila's picture
A strongly felt and beautifully communicated commitment, John. Amen!
dbender's picture
This is our Revolution, Chief. This is the same Revolution that Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Evo Morales, Hugo Chavez, National Indigenous Movement of Argentia, First Nations against the XL Pipeline and many others have begun and continue fighting for the survival and rights of the average human being (proletariat). This is the same Revolution that brought us civil rights and women's rights. This is the same movement that gave us the 5 day work week and banned child labor. It's Capitalism that is killing the world, manipulating truth, poisoning our air and water, and poisoning the minds and bodies of the people. This Revolution is for the Future of our planet. My personal Revolution is just another piece of the puzzle; just as our comrades are enacting their Revolution on Wall street and in over 200 cities across the nation and worldwide. This Revolution has everything to do with sovereignty and a world order dictated by the people -- not corporations! So pay attention and stay tuned, you just might learn something!
spktruth200's picture
Chief: RE: the USS Liberty! It is pure fact and has been proven by the surviors themselves. They went to DC and poured through the Archives and found all the evidence needed to prove it is not a conspiracy it happened. In 1967 the USS Liberty was sent to international waters near Egypt and Israel and warning about Israel attacking Egypt were known to our intelligence. While the USS Liberty was in international waters, Israel attacked ship for more than 40 minutes. They even torpedoed it to sink it. Why, because they wanted to blame Egypt for it. Its an old zionist trick. When the ship finally came ashore, 34 sailors were dead and hundreds wounded. They were told never to tell who attacked that day or face courtmartial. Every once in awhile one of the vets would call in Cspan and tell the truth. Survivors are now gearing up with evidence, video, and proof positive Israel declared war on the USS in June 1967, and it was all covered up. Many of these conspiracy theories actually have some basis in fact and this story is one of them. Chief, why would you support any "apartheid"nation after what has been done to the indigenous people of this country. what is happening to native americans is precisely what is happening to the Palestinans. The Blue coats still ride.
thechief's picture
Ok. You just proved my point. We have a marxist and an anti-semite. I haven't heard from an anarchist yet but I am sure there is one out there.