Header

Why I Am Occupying Wall Street

John Bird
10/11/11

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.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page

21

POST A COMMENT

Comments

dbender's picture
I'm sorry I can't debate with you for you are standing way to high in that ivory tower of yours. You are way to much a fanatic for feudal serfdom to understand what is going on here. You just said it yourself, "big per cap tribes". That's communism at its best.
dbender
spktruth200's picture
John: I urge you to go to: www.occupy-delaware.com, and see the native tent in the middle of Rodney Square in Wilmington, Delaware the corporate state. I had a vision and our webdesigner was able to do this for me. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised. We are urging everyone to sign on and be part of the amazing growing movement. Here in the corporate state, where all the money is laundered, and Delaware being the first state to sign the Consitution, we believe the movement must have a huge presence here. When WE say occupation, we mean occupation..occupied since 1492. We are desperately searching for a tipi that can be placed in the middle of Rodney Square to represent the indigenous people of this country. We have priced them on line and they are very expensive...if you know anyone on the east coast who has one and will let us borrow or buy please let us know. In the meantime..check out our website...spktruthtopower200@yahoo.com...let me know what you think.
spktruth200
thechief's picture
Good luck with your revolution.
thechief
notnek's picture
Your words remind me the the famous Quote from Hermann Goering. The short of it is tell, the people they are under attack then denounce their patriotism, then the rest is easy. Clearly you don't get it. Wall St. received vast sums of money from wrong doing. The right has blocked reforms and not one person is spending one day in prison. Its about corruption and the purchase of our democracy. It's about betrayal, it's about a lie and nothing to do with imaginary socialism.
notnek
thechief's picture
who on wall street? i used to work on wall street and none of the workers that work there got any tarp money. the nyse is heavily regulated. you might be thinking of the credit default swaps that are unregulated. the corporations that are traded on the exchange got the money. general motors, bank of america, citi, Aig,etc. the majority of the bust mortgages were a result of the 99% thinking they are entitled to a 400k home when they only make 30k. The banks enabled them and thought if they could bundle them up and throw them under the rug the problem would some how fix itself. the banks should have failed. thats free market theory. the weird thing is why are these protests starting now? its not like their have been alot of new lay offs? No currency crisis yet? Social services havent been cut. Unemployment hasn't hit a new high
thechief
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!!
psette
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.
notnek
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
spktruth200
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?'
dbender
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

Pages