Courtesy of Nadine and unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com

Indians Counter Occupy Wall Street Movement With Decolonize Wall Street

ICTMN Staff
10/6/11

The Occupy Wall Street movement has taken root across the nation. Organizers say protestors are drawing attention to the 1% of the population who have destroyed the country and its values through greed.

While many people in Indian Country can sympathize with the protestors' claims, there is also some growing criticism for the idea behind its name, which overlooks the first occupants of the Wall Street area. This has given rise to the response from Native bloggers and activists to not Occupy Wall Street but Decolonize Wall Street.

"The 'OCCUPY WALL STREET' slogan has gone viral and international now. From the protests on the streets of WALL STREET in the name of 'ending capitalism'—organizers, protestors, and activists have been encouraged to 'occupy' different places that symbolize greed and power. There’s just one problem: THE UNITED STATES IS ALREADY BEING OCCUPIED. THIS IS INDIGENOUS LAND. And it’s been occupied for quite some time now," stated Jessica Danforth (then Jessica Yee), Mohawk, the executive director for The Native Youth Sexual Health Network, in a blog post originally posted on Racialicious.

"I also need to mention that New York City is Haudenosaunee territory and home to many other First Nations, " Danforth wrote.

Still, Danforth clarifies that she supports the mission and integrity of Occupy Wall Street. "I’m not against ending capitalism and I’m not against people organizing to hold big corporations accountable for the extreme damage they are causing," Danforth wrote. "Yes, we need to end globalization. What I am saying is that I have all kinds of problems when to get to 'ending capitalism' we step on other people’s rights—and in this case erode Indigenous rights—to make the point."

Danforth goes on to excerpt a blog post from "An Open Letter to the Occupy Wall Street Activist" published by JohnPaul Montano in Unsettling America: Decolonization in Theory & Practice. Montano describes himself on his Twitter account as a "Nishnaabe-language acquirer naïvely believing that multilingualism, JavaScript and respect for indigenous sovereignty lead to less crabbiness and more peace."

I hope you 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.

The blog People of Color details the history of the occupation of Wall Street, in which enslaved African peoples constructed the wall "that barricaded the land white men had seized from native peoples."


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thechief's picture
thechief
Submitted by thechief on
lol...ya, the credit crunch really hit the reservation. it would be nice if we even had a atm, and we could get a mortgage to begin with. i wonder how these protester would like to see 50% unemployment like we see on my rez. To me they just seem like a bunch of spoiled brats that are unorganized and have unrealistic demands. Ie. Get rid of all debt, get rid of all student loans. Come on, they should be happy they were even privileged to go to school. They should go back to their suburbs and be happy that they live in a country where they can protest.

iowaeye's picture
iowaeye
Submitted by iowaeye on
I think this is an excellent set of points. What I would like to know, as a non-tribally enrolled person, is what can the rest of America be doing? I completely understand the need for decolonization. But I'm not sure I'm clear on how to make it happen. Ideas?

montanan's picture
montanan
Submitted by montanan on
I came to this news site because I was looking for more articles about what Native American media is saying about Occupy Wall Street --- because I am helping form a group in Montana, and I want to invite participation from Native Americans groups in our area, so I am trying to become informed as I can before I try to contact local centers or organizations. I personally support what you are saying, that the movement needs to be aware and acknowledge these things. I also agree that many of us poor white Americans have no idea about the type of poverty that exists on the reservations. But i guarantee that this is not a movement of pampered college students. I have seen many people from many different backgrounds. I am a 36 year old mother, raised by a single mother, under the poverty line most of my life. I have no family to run crying to, and my struggle to get a college degree at age 25 while I was a single mother washing dishes on the verge of homelessness all the time.. Look I am not whining.. just trying to show you something, anything that will make you see that not all the demonstrators are this stereotype you ( the other person who commented) are describing. But i do respect your anger. I respect your bitterness. I understand why it is. It makes me angry when I hear it. And i am not being PC when I say this. In order for this movement to hear your statements, I hope you, and others who feel the same way, will continue to speak your words, and tell your views to the demonstrators. Many are ready for real change. Many are awakening and ready to listen. Many will acknowledge and share this information with others. We have been miseducated by the system. The poverty on the reservations is hidden from us. The injustice of the reservations is not discussed in mainstream culture. This is very wrong. I would like to print that sign that says "Decolonize Wall Street" to make the people think. But I am not native. I dont know if I should do that. Which is why I went looking on the internet for more opinions to read. I will keep investigating and see if I can find someone to ask about this locally. Peace be with you , and I pray for all of us to finally see peace and justice in this land one day.
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