A Program for Building Brown and Red Native Unity, Decolonizing Our Minds and Liberating Our Lands* Brothers and Sisters, Comrades Over the course of our movement’s history one of our principle failures has been our all too common inability to recognize each other as brothers and sisters. Imperialist white power has been largely successful in its quest to indoctrinate Indians, Inuit and Métis into not seeing fellow indigenous people in Chicanos-Mexicanos, Puerto Ricans and others from so-called “Latin America.” Likewise, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans and others have been systematically denied their true histories, cultures, and languages. As such they are often unaware of their own largely indigenous ancestry.
Primarily through its control of the schools, media and popular culture imperialist white power has divided and conquered us. It has called our Spanish and Portuguese speaking brothers and sisters things like Hispanic and Latino, linking their identity, culture, history and language to Europe, specifically the Iberian Peninsula, and it has taught Indians, Inuit and Métis to view them as so-called “illegal immigrants.”
However, there has always been a subterranean trend of resistance to the imposition of colonial identities on our people though and cooperation in our common liberation struggles though. During the reclamation of Alcatraz in occupied California by Indians of All Tribes (IAT) it was declared by the Native warriors that only two groups of people who, as indigenous people, had the right to be there – Indians and Chicanos. Likewise, during the height of the Red and Chicano Power Movements (part of the great anti-colonial revolutionary wave that swept the world after the second inter-imperialist war) the American Indian Movement and Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzáles Crusade for Justice had close working relations.
If we are to rise up and shake off imperialist white power, settler colonialism and parasitic capitalism then we must renew and deepen this recognition of each other as a common people, with a common history and a common destiny. If our people unifiy our will to liberate ourselves would be unbeatable.
Now it is time to build for the future!
Who We Are
I. From Alaska to Chile – We Are One People Without Borders.
We are the descendents of the indigenous people of this continent. We are also the heirs of a long history of indigenous struggle against colonial domination. It is our hope and goal that we will be able to unite all oppressed people in our occupied homeland, regardless of national origin and citizenship, to join in the process of building a unified revolutionary movement, ultimately being able to advance the dream of a unified, liberated continent.
Historically, within the borders of the settler dominated states of North America, we have suffered under colonial oppression, isolation, and dehumanizing conditions. One consequence of the invasion has been the emergence of different terms used to identify ourselves, some imposed by the colonizer, others put forward by us in resistance to colonial imputations. English and French speaking brothers and sisters have been called many things throughout history: Indians, Aboriginal, etc. Those of us who were colonized by Europeans from the Iberian Peninsula have been called by many names as well. In the zone of U.S. occupation the terms placed upon our brothers and sisters initially colonized by Spain have often been designed to strip them of their Native heritage, and include such ones as Hispanic.
This project, related to the idea of the Métis in Canada, and which is spread through out the Americas, is the extension of the 500 years of settler colonial attempts to break us down racially, and classify us based on our real or perceived influence from European and African populations. The more Native (and/or more African) an indigenous American is, the lessor they are on these imposed scales. The whiter they are, the better they are. As a result of the internalization of these colonial practices, many of our Spanish speaking cousins actively take up the terminology of colonization, in a desperate attempt to assimilate into whitestream settler society.
Other terms though, such as La Raza and Chicana/Chicano have progressive connotations and were widely used during the Chicano Power movement, which often sought to reconnect those people to their true heritage. Even today, these terms are used by many in a positive and political fashion, with La Raza often used as described above. Today many indigenous people have also opted for the use of identifying terms from our ancient tongues, such asOnkwehonwe, Nican Tlaca, and Anishinaabe, which are respectively Kanien’kehá:ka, Nahuatl and Ojibwa words meaning indigenous people.
Likewise, the name of this continent also varies. Widely used words from various indigenous tongues include Turtle Island, Anówarakowa Kawennote, Anahuak, andAbya Yala. From Spanish we also get the term Nuestra América, which in a geographical sense does what La Raza does linguistically and unites the people of Spanish-speaking Latin America with their Indian brothers and sisters in North America.
While a point should be made to recapture our cultures and our languages, we must also recognize the fact that not only have our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters within the borders of the United States and elsewhere been stripped of their original tongues by Spanish colonization (though there is a growing awareness of Nahuatl, Maya and others), but they have then subsequently had the use of that language suppressed in the United States and other English-speaking areas of the continent. As such, we should recognize the historical and political significance of all of these names, and respect any and all of the terms that our people choose to use.
For simplicities sake, and out of respect for all our struggles, we have opted to use the the phrase “Native” as the identifier for our people. We will also use the indigenous derived “Turtle Island” for the name of our continent. This may seem inadequate right now, but my goal in doing this is to avoid the privileging of one indigenous tongue over another (Nican Tlaca vsOnkwehonwe vs Anishinaabe for example), until such a time that we can self-determine our identity, and what we want to be called.
II. This is Occupied Turtle Island – We Are Indigenous Nations.
We must recognize and uphold the right to self-determination of all indigenous nations of this beautiful and vast continent. Turtle Island has been made subject to the genocidal violence, theft, and slavery imposed on us by European colonialism, United States and Canadian imperialism, and global neoliberalism for 500 years. As indigenous people of these lands we are bound by our common history, struggles, and destiny.
The principled unification of our forces throughout this continent is not simply something to be desired to produce joint statements or better coordinate protests – it is absolutely necessary to succeed in our struggles to overturn all manifestations of settler colonialism, imperialist white power, and neoliberal oppression upon our people. In an international sense we must understand that the liberation of all indigenous people within the current borders of the United States and Canada will, and must, be tied to the liberation of all indigenous people and Latin American nations throughout Occupied Turtle Island.
The indigenous inhabitants of this continent constitute the colonies of a number of illegal settler states that are essentially an extension of old European settler-colonialism. The United States, Canada and other states have funded and directed those settlers who exploit our labour, keep a disproportionate number of our people in prisons, stereotype us through the media, falsify our history, deny us a relevant/productive education, and militarise the borders in order to keep out the very same people from which this land was stolen.
This, along with ever present state terrorism in our communities (migra, police, border patrol, RCMP/FBI etc.), and the ever-increasing overt and violent expression of whitenationalism by reactionaries of the North American population, are all characteristics and manifestations of the ongoing settler colonial nature of North American society. We must be cognizant of this and other current neocolonialist tactics employed by the oppressor, which include the use of our own people against us. These people, from Democratic Party politicians to the Band Councils of recognized Native nations, are puppets and lackeys of the colonial state, appointed or self-appointed, and financially backed by colonialism. Their primary role within the colonial system is to confuse indigenous people into thinking that we are making progress, and that we can actually achieve self-determination within the existing system. This ploy is central to the classic colonizer tactic of divide and conquer. Instead of focusing our energy on overturning imperialism, this method pits us against opportunists of our own kind, and other oppressed nationalities, each struggling against the other for beggar’s crumbs, petty concessions, and neocolonial positions.
III. Ours is a National Liberation Movement Rooted in Class Struggle – This is Native Internationalism.
This struggle is first and foremost one waged against 500 years of national oppression by the settler and neocolonial states that have been imposed on top of us. Our goal is the total liberation of our people and freedom from settler colonialism, imperialist white power and parasitic capitalism. Over the course of this historic struggle, nationalism has consistently emerged as one of the leading forces in unifying oppressed people to combat the source and symptoms of colonial oppression. Indigenous nationalism has been the ideology of warriors and strugglers as diverse and geographically removed as Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzáles and Howard Adams. (for a discussion on the types of Native nationalism that have emerged over the years please refer to Appendix I)
Throughout the history of our resistance to imperialist white power and settler colonialism, it has been the politics of nationalism that have united indigenous people as one in our struggle against terror, poverty, and other forms of oppression. The basic elements and historical commonalities of a nation are what bind us together as a people – culture, economic realities, geography, oppression, and struggle.
Of course we would be foolish should we not fully understand that nationalism can lead to reactionary positions and race politics. This is particularly nationalism within the oppressor nation, and has lead to such historical horrors as German Nazism and Italian Fascism. However the nationalism that can rise within the oppressed nation is, generally speaking, a progressive development, and an effective weapon in the struggle for liberation. This is despite what many anarchists, left communists and other revolutionaries may argue. It is these progressive elements within nationalism that we should uphold.
This progressive nationalism that arises within the oppressed nations is calledRevolutionary Nationalism. It is an ideology that calls for the establishment of a socialist society, built on the collective social, economic, and political development of the people, based on our historical, cultural, and present conditions and realities. A socialist society is in fundamental contradiction to capitalism, a system where a small, rich ruling class controls the wealth and power of a nation. Revolutionary Nationalism demands a complete transformation of the social, economic, and political institutions that presently form the basis of our oppression. It is Revolutionary Nationalism that must define the struggle for the total transformation of our lives – from a colonized and dependent people, to a life and future of a truly liberated and sovereign nation in the world community.
Further, as was noted before, we must recognize that our struggle is intrinsically linked, through history and practice, to the movements of all of the oppressed and colonized people throughout this continent. The term Native Internationalism best describes what should be our political relationship to the rest of this continent, and by extension the world. This especially regards the domestic African colony and the struggling people of the so-called “Third World”. Our obligation as we strive to build towards revolution is to recognize the right of all oppressed people to self-determination – to uphold the principle of continental emancipation of our people. In our work we will struggle to carry forth the fight on all fronts to bring about a democratic and socialist unified Turtle Island.
Finally, our continent’s history parallels and intersects with the experiences of the peoples of Africa (both at home and abroad), the Arab and Islamic Worlds, the Indian Subcontinent, China, Korea, the Philippines, South East Asia, and Oceania. Our histories are burdened by our common experience of suffering under imperialism, white power, direct, settler, domestic or neocolonialism, slavery, imposed patriarchy and our shared challenge to win freedom. It is our duty to recognize these ties and our common enemies, and support all peoples struggling for self-determination and against imperialism.
IV. Dialectical and Historical Materialism Should Form the Basis of Our Strategies and Tactics.
As indigenous people we are overwhelmingly a working class people, and from our labour, along with that of all other workers from oppressed nations – Africans, the people of the Middle East, South Asia etc. – all wealth is generated. While some regressive and reactionary forces within our movement, such as Cultural Nationalists (who are essentially Native capitalists), may try to convince us otherwise, the truth is we share far more in common with other members of the working classes of other oppressed nations than we do with rich Natives. As such, the essence of our movement is one of class war. Our enemy, and the enemy of all working class people is the ruling class.
Because of this we must base our ideology, and the process of its evolution, on the material historical basis of all things and situations, as well as the material conditions within which our people find ourselves. Dialectical and Historical Materialism are essential to understanding our current reality, as well as forming strategies and tactics for our liberation.
A people’s capacity to create and reproduce our means of existence through the development of knowledge, technology, culture, economic activity, and governments to serve our collective interests is the driving force of human dignity. All social progress and meaningful development are a direct result of working class struggle. As such, in a world where opposites and contradictions are constantly affecting and influencing each other, it is the leading role of working class people to transform the very conditions of life, and not just for us, but all people. We should be dialectical in our approach to political work, and strive to constantly evolve and balance our theory and practice, and meet the challenges posed to us by colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism.
What We Need
I. Self-Determination, Liberation, and a Unified Continent.
Our primary goal is the decolonization of our people. The means to this end is the advancement of self-determination, which can best be defined as collectively determining our history; economically controlling our destiny; controlling our social development by self-determining our culture, education and language; independently developing the content and direction of our political orientation; and controlling the political institutions that make the laws that govern us.
We must recognize the indigenous peoples of this continent as social actors and subjects of history. We must demand the self-determination of indigenous identities, cultures, spiritualities, customs, and languages on par with all national entities and interests. More precisely, these rights include the following: Self-affirmation as the right to proclaim existence, and be recognized as such; Self-definition as the right to determine who is a part of the group and define territorial limits; Self-organization as the right to develop and enforce laws parallel to the broader laws of other nations; and Self-government as the right to define and administer political affairs parallel to the broader procedures of other nations.
Any talk of decolonization that does not include these demands, which mean the fundamental deconstruction of the colonial system, can only lead in one direction, and that is greater assimilation of our people. While some, like our band councils and “chiefs” push so-called “self-government” as a realization of decolonization, the truth is that the demand for greater political and economic power by these groups and individuals only serves to enrich them and assimilate the rest of us even further.
Finally, if we are truly to defeat colonialism throughout all of Turtle Island, we must seek to advance the liberation and, ultimately, the unification of this continent under a revolutionary movement, immediately accountable to the people. This Confederacy of Turtle Island, to put it one way, would replace capitalism, patriarchy, earth destruction, empire and conquest with a society based on freedom, justice, equality and the fundamental worth of all living things. Furthermore, this movement must be committed to the liberation and unification of all oppressed peoples throughout the world. This end it must be in permanent solidarity with all oppressed people all across the planet, until the struggle is won through the end and the last vestiges of imperialism are defeated.
II. Participatory Democracy and Socialism.
We must strive to overturn the current Euro-American bourgeois definition of democracy as being exclusively limited to electoral procedure. Derived from our ancient traditions, our democracy is a participatory democracy, one that transcends narrow concepts of citizenship and imposed political borders. We must actively reject any and all governments, laws, national borders, and definitions of citizenship that deny us full enjoyment of our human and democratic rights.
We must demand freedom of communication and information. Control of knowledge and information is one of the keys to maintaining effective control over a colonized people. Through the domination of all means of transferring knowledge and ideas such as schools, newspapers, television, radio, etc., colonial institutions dictate and manipulate the ways of thinking and acting amongst ourselves. Without understanding our true history, culture, and identity, self-determination is impossible. This is why one of the most pressing tasks confronting our movement is making people aware of the basis of our oppression, to develop national, continental and international consciousness, and through this consciousness concretize a revolutionary process to the masses.
We must also seek social and economic justice, and defend the collective interests of the poor and working people of this continent. Fundamental to our independence is the development of an economic and social order that will see the masses of indigenous people as owners of the products of our own labour, and exercising collective control of the economy. We are victims of the common enemies of all working people in the world – capitalism and imperialism. It is for this reason that we must have a revolutionary party, fighting for the liberation of our lands, our class interests, and on the side of all oppressed peoples. Under a unified, democratic continent we will share the human, intellectual, scientific, military, medical, and natural resources of the nations of our continent, and raise the quality of life for all people. We seek to advance political unity among the international working class, and will never unite with the bourgeois capitalists, or their neo-colonialists agents.
The eventual goal of this movement should be the radical de-centralization of power in society, namely through the deconstruction of the state. Autonomous power will be wielded at the local level – community and region, as well as the tribal nation. Such a society will also be classless. It would be the true fulfilment of communism and return to how our societies existed from time immemorial until the arrival of white power on our shores.
III. The Absolute and Unequivocal Liberation of Women & Two-Spirit People.
Fundamental to any revolutionary party and conscious social movement is the absolute economic, political and cultural equality between men and women, and between people of various gender expressions and sexual identities.
Prior to colonization our societies were much more liberating for women and two-spirit people. Our mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties and grandmothers wielded great political power in many of our nations. Two-spirit people – those people who Western social thought now identify as queer and trans – were also powerful, holding some of our most important spiritual and political positions.
As such the subjugation of women and two-spirit people was a major part of the overall oppression of our people under settler colonialism, imperialist white power and parasitic capitalism. There exists a more intense oppression of indigenous women and two-spirit people – exploited and repressed not only by class and nation, but also by gender and sexual identity. True liberation cannot take place until all sectors of our people are free.
Sexism, male chauvinism, homophobia and heternormativity, which were more or less foreign to our people before contact, were forced upon us by the brutal Christianizing mission of the European conquerors, and were later ingrained even more so into our societies through the experience of forced assimilation, especially the church and state residential and boarding schools. Today they have firmly been incorporated until our societies, to much ill effect. Macho approaches to warriorism in the original Red and Chicano Power movements drove women and two-spirited people away from the movement. Within the intimate setting of our own families and communities, queers and trans people, who were once widely accepted, even held to be of sacred importance, have been forced into the closet, and have suffered, unable to express their true selves, and love whoever they wish to love.
However, we must recognize that these are bourgeois traits. They must be completely rejected and overturned for any of us to win freedom. Subjugation of women and two-spirited people is an integral part of the current socio-economic order imposed on our people, and we must actively combat sexism and homophobia in all its forms and manifestations, both within our movement and throughout our communities. Revolutionary examples from people’s struggles in China, Chile, Cuba, El Salvador, México, Nicaragua, and Vietnam educate us that women’s liberation is an essential part of national and class liberation. We must insist that without the full participation and leadership of revolutionary women and two-spirited people there will be no victory in revolutionary struggle.
IV. Environmental Emancipation.
Parasitic capitalism and imperialism have brought with them more than just class society, patriarchy, national oppression, and empire, it has also brought about the greatest ecological crisis that we have ever faced. Not just indigenous people, but the whole of mankind, and indeed most life as we now stands on the threshold of a profound crisis. If capitalism is left unchecked the earth, the common mother of all, will be damaged, perhaps even beyond recognition, and the poor masses of the world will be left to pick up the pieces.
With this very real, very possible, scenario in mind, as a revolutionary movement for the liberation of indigenous people, we must defend the air, soil, and water of our lands. The correct approach to the struggle against environmental degradation has always been best summed up by the slogan of the Chicano Power Movement – “The Solution to Pollution is Revolution”. Our ancestors understood the importance of a balance between humans and our environment. As such, environmental justice is a part of our struggle against colonialism, capitalism and imperialism.
One of the consequences of European conquest, colonization, and imperialism is the transformation the environment into a commodity to be exploited for increased returns. This has propelled the massive exploitation of our natural resources, and forms the historical basis of the current disequilibrium between humans and nature. Furthermore, neoliberalism is only capable of promoting the interests of transnational corporations, and these have proven capable of destroying the planet in their insatiable quest for profit. As with every crisis born from capitalism and imperialism, capitalists reap wealth in direct proportion to environmental degradation, and poor people suffer from increasingly frequent catastrophic loss.
Only a continental revolutionary struggle can, and must, bring an end to the poisoning of the atmosphere, deforestation, contamination of the oceans, and the other causes of ecological destruction. Only a socialist world economy can provide a socio-economic system where the accumulation of wealth is not the driving force of society, but instead prioritizes life with dignity and justice. Through the construction of a society that values all life, we must turn back the damage to the environment, and prevent the further destruction of our planet.
V. A Revolutionary Party for Indigenous Liberation.
In political struggle, individualism is a bourgeois egotistical trait. We must raise the shortcomings and contradictions to those who profess being active in political work without accountability to any party. Central to this point is the combating of liberalism, which in our movement represents itself as unprincipled and opportunistic struggle. Liberalism stems from selfishness, and places personal interests above the interests of the collective movement. We must uphold the importance of engaging in constructive criticism and self-criticism, as a way of identifying our weaknesses and shortcomings. We must adhere to the principle of collective decision-making within our organizations, and in our daily work. Only through this process can we achieve organizational, practical, and ideological unity.
It is of paramount importance that all indigenous liberation forces establish lines of communication and principled working relations. Without networking and coalitions we are wasting resources, duplicating work, and missing opportunities to effectively address pressing issues in a collective fashion, or from a position of strength. While our organizations may have different strategies and tactics, it is essential that we display the political maturity to put aside minor contradictions and work together. This is especially important when the attacks against our communities are of such intensity that our failure to respond collectively translates into more victories for our enemies and heightening the oppression of our people. Adherence to previously agreed upon principles of unity is especially important within coalition work. When it is necessary to work with organizations representing other movements, the resulting coalition work must be based on concrete objectives, mutual respect, principled association, and recognition of each other’s autonomy and right to determine the character and content of our own struggle.
Since unity building does require compromises, it is necessary for us and other revolutionary forces to approach any relationship with a clear, scientific understanding based on the facts that our fundamental goal is not for civil rights or mere reforms, but for an end to imperialism, and the advancement of indigenous self-determination.
In many parts of North America indigenous people are now once again beginning to form the majority of the population. Including brothers and sisters from Central and South America, we now total more than 50 million people within the current political borders of the North American settler states. Yet, even with these numbers, our present political condition forces us to exist in a state of virtual powerlessness. As Revolutionary Nationalists and Indigenous-Raza Internationalists, it is our intention to free all of our people from terror and oppression, and therefore we must involve every progressive element of our community in the struggle for self-determination. Only with a well organized, mobilized, and politicized people, will we develop the power necessary to achieve liberation. A critical aspect of this point is the need to channel our people’s energy and resources into a disciplined revolutionary party.
Forward the Revolution!
We want freedom of communication and information.
Control of knowledge and information is one of the keys
to maintaining effective control over a colonized people.
Through the domination of all means of transferring
knowledge and ideas such as schools, newspapers,
television, radio, etc., colonial institutions dictate and
manipulate the ways of thinking and acting among raza.
Without understanding our true history, culture, and
identity as La Raza, self-determination is impossible.
This is why Unión del Barrio considers one of the most
pressing tasks confronting our movement is making
people aware of the basis of our oppression, to develop
national, continental and international consciousness,
and through this consciousness concretize a revolutionary
process to the masses.
*This document largely inspired and derived from the spirit and program of Union del Barrio, a revolutionary indigenous organization based in occupied Califas, and which has for 20 years maintained close fraternal relations with the Uhuru Movement. While I support UdB and draw obvious inspiration from them, and in general uphold the line of their program (hence why it forms to basis of my “manifesto”) I feel they remain very Chicano and Latino centric, despite their call for the organization and liberation of all of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. This manifesto is my way of comradely building on UdB’s program in order to formulate a document that I hope speaks not only to Chicanos and Latinos, but all Raza, including Indians, Metis and Inuit!