Inaugural Alternative Sovereignties :Decolonization through Indigenous Vision and Struggle

Listening, Sharing and pondering here at OSU in Eugene.

Humbled by how much I have to learn about the stories and truths of the inhabitations and wisdoms of Turtle Island – and the illegal removals, disruptions and ongoing poisonings the people have been enduring. Humbled by the challenges of moving out of denials and willful ignorance – into opening and listening to the ancient laws of the people and the land – and opening to respectfully following leadership of the elders of the land we live with – as we work to stop and repair what is truly an ongoing unreconciled genocide. And how there is so many levels of deep beauty, humor and the stories in which are embedded the true peoples laws of the land.

Inspired by the patient loving wise warrior spirits among the leaders of the people. Inspired by the insight that we must unhinge ourselves from the idea that law originates from Nation States and that it is a totalitarian authoritarian artifice – that in truth it emerges from the people and the agreements we choose in order to get along with one another – that we can choose to remember, respect and to be creative. We must do this in order to restore living ecologies and communities as primary and relegate commerce and property as responsible to life and community.

(Recently revisiting the ideas of Hannah Arendt – who did a lot of thinking and critical analysis of totalitarianism after WWII and her reporting on the Eichmann trial for the New Yorker magazine. She came to understand the root of the problem as lying in rootlessness, homelessness and poverty created by forced migration which disconnects people from place. This she understood as being rooted in an inner condition in which there is a longing for stability that in turn yearns for the structures of totalitarianism – and creates inner conditions that are unable to make choices based on personal conscience – surrendering to the needs of those with power over. This she saw as enabling the reality of the holocaust. My take away is that through connection to the ability to feed ourselves locally, exercise of sovereignty is empowered, and in being connected to place that we retain our dignity as human beings – and that we protect ourselves and one another from totalitarian impulses.)

Challenged by the experience of gathering new insights and experiences of unresolved injustices. Inspired by the creative “masked” strategies of First Nations working with colonial legal structures creatively – (a lot of this going on in Alaska and Canada). Challenged in listening to First Nations leaders and seeking the advice and guidance of elders – how there is so often deeper levels of understanding to inform actions – and to be slow to be fully convinced of my own ideas. A growing awareness of how protocol is a part of ancient unwritten law in how peoples have negotiated territory and permissions within the landscape with one another. The ideas of formalizing protocols of alliance in working to face honestly the needs for truth telling and reconciliation – for supporting the naming, reclaiming and repair of First Nations peoples inhabitation’s within their homelands. For repairing the hearts of all people’s in the landscape as we repair ourselves as treaty peoples – for most all of us are in fact treaty peoples – and yet our educational systems have very consciously kept our youth uneducated about their treaty status and the significance of these agreements. Too many settler colonial citizens choose willful ignorance of their own status as treaty peoples.


Here is a subsequent piece about un reconciled colonial treaty processes in Oregon – repressed histories we need to face as a part of decolonization. Mapping Stolen Lands of Illahee :  “Modern” Colonial Oregon and Visioning toward Truth & her Reconciliations


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  1. Harold Rhenisch May 10, 2014 — 9:49 am

    Up here in British Columbia … only a tiny few treaties. Most people aren’t treaty peoples, but I think that concept is powerful and a good way for moving forward. Non-treaty peoples, that’s a similar power dialectic, which can be given voice as well, as in “Most British Columbians don’t recognize their status as an occupying people.” Or how easy it is to cease to occupy space.

  2. BC is an unusual place with Aboriginal Title remaining intact and actually formally recognized in the courts. The US courts have largely been too arrogant to be honest about that. I have heard some BC nations have recently considered realigning with Russia instead of continuing on with Canada! Interesting political theatre! Saskatchewan and Manitoba, which have many more treaties, have active public campaigns on billboards reinforcing this idea of all peoples in the landscapes as treaty peoples – with mutual commitments to one another. This really struck a chord in the building of necessary conversations in deconstructing the ongoing violations which have historically been so pervasive here in the States.

    • Harold Rhenisch May 10, 2014 — 4:19 pm

      It might be formally recognized in the courts, but, sigh, it’s still highly-charged and the treaty process is largely a sham. Here in the Okanagan, the Syilx live on both sides of the 1858 border (when they’re not mistaken for Mexicans). As for that border, I think it’s mighty interesting that the plateau peoples were cleared out to the north to the Colville Indian Reservation, and then north of that was British Territory, a reservation for those people of Oregon Territory who had gone Indian, i.e. the trappers of the Hudson’s Bay Company, a Wawa-speaking, mixed breed bunch. And the church sent Pandosy there. The US Army didn’t want him back on Ahtanum Creek. He too had gone Indian, and so the British reservation, with its ideas of common law and its black-Scottish governor, that was the place for men like that. I think British Columbia doesn’t want to take the lid off of this history, because it opens up the border. But in this sense, and the Columbia water treaties, we’re very much treaty peoples, in a very curious way.

  3. Revealing history I wasn’t aware of – lived for a time on the other side of Manastash Ridge in Shushuskin Canyon above the Kittitas Valley near the geography of some the the Pandosy story.

    As a part of the 2014 – 2024 Columbia River Treaty process which is beginning (formally this fall) the 10 Canadian Syilx / Okanagan Nations have joined together with the 15 US Nations in a historic international consensus to restore salmon, bull trout, lamprey and sturgeon to all historical watersheds in the Columbia River Watershed of the Cascadian Bioregion. At the recent CRITFC sponsored gathering here at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia – engineers, biologists and fishermen outlined the reality that passage can be built to enable crossing the Grand Coulee into Canada (until we get consensus to bring the Dams down) and committed to a collective effort to bring it into reality. This is historic in the unity being expressed and committed to. As part of the work for the fish -increases in flow rates of up to 50% are being proposed. This makes the industrial barge traffic – and continued transport of coal along the river even more insensible – which in turn makes the Restoration of Celilo Falls that much more sensible. This is a new opportunity for fresher deeper valuations of ecology, culture and spirituality to be expressed in our Treaty Relations as peoples!

  4. Reblogged this on Míle Gaiscíoch and commented:
    There were so many sparks of hope at this conference. The deep wounds of colonialism will never be as deep as the spirit of this place and the love that all of our Peoples have protected for countless generations.

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