Fighting globalization requires supporting decolonization; understanding the forces of globalization requires an understanding of colonization. Indigenous people know this. Those colonizers--now targets themselves of the insatiable beast--are largely unaware that the process of colonization, of commodification of the natural world and of people, has merely taken on a new name and greater breadth.

Same Beast, New Name

by Sharon Venne Cree lawyer and scholar; Dark Night field notes Advisory Board

In the long sad history of colonization in Indigenous America, only one side has been told consistently. The colonizer version is written and published for public consumption. Many of the lies have become so entrenched in the psyche of the colonized that many believe them to be whole truths. As a result, many perversions of justice have occurred and continue to occur.

Colonizers believe that they can use our lands and resources without acknowledging those resources and lands belong to others. Now, the colonizers are being used and consumed by their own corporations and companies. Their governments cannot protect them. There is an assumption that this is a new process. Rather, it is colonization continued. It is a beast who knows no limits. When it cannot consume the indigenous peoples’ lands and resources, it has turned on its own people. In an attempt to understand, the colonizers have called it “globalization.” For Indigenous Peoples, it is not a new concept. It is just the continuation of the colonization that began in 1492.

Indigenous America has been and still is occupied by colonizers: this historical fact is neglected daily. Indigenous America is not in a neo-colonial period, as Indigenous America is still colonized. Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas have yet to decolonize. Indigenous peoples remain under artificial colonial states throughout Indigenous America. Arising from their occupation of Indigenous America, colonizers have been writing their own versions of history either omitting or interpreting the realities of Indigenous peoples. Putting a colonial spin on history assumes that writing lies can make them true. The versions of history written by colonizers support the colonization process by denying the existence of colonization.

For instance some versions deny that indigenous nations existed in Indigenous America prior to the fifteenth century Spanish explorer Columbus. Colonizers’ versions of history that include the Bering Strait theory as if it is fact contribute to this denial. Colonizers’ histories and other eurocentric disciplines spread the myths of colonization. Legal analyses of the rules and regulations within colonial states inform the legal framework and support the scholarly foundations that purport to establish these states. These disciplines attempt to justify the colonizer states’ imposition of their view of the world through the colonial legal system.

When indigenous peoples were placed on Great Turtle Island, the Creator gave laws to be followed by the peoples. These laws have not been changed: the Creator has not stopped the sun from rising each morning. There has always been a marked difference between the indigenous and the colonizers’ legal system. Under the colonial system, rules and regulations can be changed continually. Under the indigenous legal systems, once a law is in place, it is unchanged. The laws of the Creator are to be followed and it is not appropriate for an indigenous person to change those laws; rather, we are to live by those laws.

Indigenous America was not “discovered.” This doctrine has been discredited and denounced by the International Court of Justice–the World Court–and within numerous statements and declarations made by various international bodies. Despite the consistent denunciations of this doctrine, the legal systems of Canada and the United States of America cling to it as a means to legitimate the settlement and establishment of their colonial states. The colonial states of Indigenous America need to validate their claims to indigenous lands and resources through their claim of discovery. If indigenous peoples are the owners of their lands and resources, on what legal right can the colonizers rely to claim and use those lands and resources?

The basis of the politics’ legal justification in the United States and Canada is the black magic of several judicial opinions written by a self-serving judge: Mr. Justice Marshall of the United States Supreme Court. The infamous Marshall judgments are often related to the land rights of indigenous peoples, with lawyers for both colonizer governments and indigenous peoples referring to the precedent-setting cases. In these court decisions, Marshall spun a lie that indigenous nations were “dependent” and “domestic.” In one swift sleight of hand without any legal underpinnings, Mr. Justice Marshall wrote decisions based on this fact-less concept. There is evidence that Marshall had his own political reasons for wanting to discount the rights of the indigenous peoples in addition to supporting others’ political motives to promote the legitimacy of the colonizer state of the United States.

The colonial United States continues to promote the popular notion that they decolonized themselves from Britain, whereas in international law, the right to decolonization belongs not to the colonizers but to the colonized. There is no record of indigenous peoples of Indigenous America being able to decolonize themselves from their colonizers. There are numerous examples of colonizers establishing illegal regimes on the lands of the indigenous peoples in Indigenous America and elsewhere. When Rhodesia and South Africa tried to claim indigenous lands and resources, these states were soundly and rightly criticized as rogue states. While there can be condemnation of colonizers in Africa, there has been no such denunciation of colonizers in Indigenous America.

There must be some action taken to correct the colonial record. It is not acceptable for people that things have happened in the past. Anyone who lives and accepts the benefits of living on Great Turtle Island or Indigenous America has responsibility to respect and acknowledge the Creator’s gifts. If as a colonizer, you want to remove yourself to your former homeland, only then can your responsibility be waived. It is time for more of the colonizers to realize they have obligations to the lands of the Creator. When an indigenous person goes onto the lands of another Nation, it is customary to pay to the land, perhaps by giving tobacco or cloth. Everyone should give thanks to the Creator for the indigenous land on which they are allowed to exist. Since the Creator placed us here on Great Turtle Island, the lands of the indigenous nations still belong to the indigenous peoples.

During the course of my work around the world, I have been approached by audience members asking to be educated. My response to this kind of request has always been to wonder why an indigenous person should educate colonizers. The burden of education does not rest with the oppressed. Indigenous peoples have many struggles to occupy our time without adding to our burden by having to educate colonizers. It is the rules and regulations within the colonizers system that are harming our indigenous. It is my feeling that if colonizers want to learn, they should do it themselves. They also hear colonizers’ lies and they know that they are lies. They too are looking for the truth even though is a bit lazy for them to expect to be handed everything on a platter. Learning is not a solitary occupation, but a collective endeavor, much like hunting buffalo or caribou. Before the colonizers, a person on their own might kill an animal but a group working together could obtain enough meat to ensure the survival of their children into the future.

Many Elders warn younger people: “Don’t go the Creator with a lie on your breath.” As indigenous peoples, we have a responsibility to speak the truth. These ways are an important contribution to the decolonization process of Indigenous America. Colonization has brought harm and death to the lands and resources of Indigenous America. It has to stop. Otherwise our mother–the earth–will perish along with the humans.

Fighting globalization requires supporting decolonization; understanding the forces of globalization requires an understanding of colonization. Indigenous people know this. Those colonizers–now targets themselves of the insatiable beast–are largely unaware that the process of colonization, of commodification of the natural world and of people, has merely taken on a new name and greater breadth. Shall we protect or empathize with the colonizers? We are too tired, and yet indigenous people continue our struggle–a struggle that now includes you. We will continue to fight, and we will struggle with you. But only those who recognize that this is a collective endeavor–one fought with us as equal partners–have any hope of survival.

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