From Vallejo to Mexico; A Powerful Moment in Herstory for Indigenous Peoples Everywhere

Tiny - Posted on 04 August 2011

When does displacement happen? For my mama it happened everyday. When she woke up without a known living relative, terrorized to live in her own brown skin –to walk outside the house, to be alive. My mama was the orphaned daughter of a landless indigenous Taino, Afrikan father and a displaced indigenous Roma (gypsy) and Irish mother. Removal, displacement, eviction, and colonization happened to her indigenous ancestors  and yet it also happened to her, everyday she spent never knowing and yet always longing, for her people, her culture, her language and her homelands.


“We have reached a victory, for the first time, a precedent setting case for our people, for our ancestors,” said Corrina Gould, a 21st century Ohlone warrior womyn who was on the frontline of the struggle for our ancestors at Sogorea Te (Glen Cove). Corrina was talking about a 106 day encampment by indigenous peoples to stop the desecration of a 3500 year old ancestral burial ground in Vallejo, California


“The Greater Vallejo Recreational District wanted to put parking spaces and porta potties on our burial grounds, that’s when we began a sacred fire and we weren’t going to leave until we knew our ancestors were safe,” Corrina concluded. She went on to explain that through a complex easement agreement reached between the two tribes in control of the sacred site and the city of Vallejo, the burial grounds were now officially safe from development and desecration.


From Vallejo to Mexico, from Zimbabwe to Hawaii, indigenous peoples have been systematically removed, displaced, bulldozed over, red-lined, evicted, and gentrified for hundreds of years. Our sacred burial grounds have been desecrated and our farm-lands and rivers and medicine have been stolen, sold, poisoned and co-opted, leaving us dependent on Governments, NGO’s and the Non-profit Industrial Complex to scatter a few crumbs of “aid” our way when it is politically convenient. The majority of us post-removal, post disaporic, and without land, resources, safety and even cultural identity like my mama, end up suffering different forms of post-traumatic stress, abuse, economic instability, disability and homelessness/landlessness only to become criminalized, incarcerated, and/or lumped into the collectively un-solveable problem known as “poverty” so we can be studied, researched, written about and deconstructed by the industry of Academia.


The final act of displacement is the removal and desecration of our sacred ancestral burial grounds. In California alone, we have lost countless sacred spaces to shopping malls, parks and museums. Our ancestors desecrated so people could sip lattes, buy computer parts and watch Hollywood movies, tragic losses like the Emeryville and Presidio and Yerba Buena shellmounds located in San Francisco and Oakland. Sorrow-filled, valiant battles were waged by indigenous peoples but in the end, big money and real estate speculation prevailed as it often does in this capitalist society.


But as the rivers and oceans across Pachamama flow with our spilled blood and stolen resources, we have also reached an extremely important moment in herstory. A moment when centuries of resistance movements brought by threatened, displaced and removed indigenous peoples are prevailing


“We have been fighting removal for hundreds of years, and now another speculator is trying to turn our sacred burial grounds at Rattlesnake Island into a summer vacation home,” said Jim BrownEagle of Lake County Elam people. He went on to explain that his tribal nation has collected extensive documentation of the historic theft of their peoples resources and will proceed with a law suit against the government for reparations.


In San Sabastien, Bachajon, Mexico, after a deep struggle by indigenous peoples to control their land and natural resources from government land grabs and destructive “eco-tourism”, a struggle which included false accusation, arrest and incarceration of seven of the indigenous warriors who protect the beautiful waterfalls and rivers of the land, the indigenous peoples prevailed, the political prisoners were released and the truth is circulating throughout international media channels The fight is definitely not over, but the world is watching and responding and not letting up the pressure on the “bad government” attempts to steal the original peoples lands .


Like their brothers and sisters in Chiapas, the Huicholes in Jalisco fought the government’s plan to build a road through their village by coming out and standing in front of the bulldozers and refusing to leave. Now the  government has conceded to the indigenous peoples and are building the road around the village.


Other powerful landless peoples and poor peoples movements that have successfully resisted government politricks and corporate domination recently include the Shackdwellers Union in South Africa, The Landless Peoples Movement in Brazil and The Peoples Parliament in Zimbabwe.


Aligned with indigenous people-led and poor people-led movements across the globe POOR Magazine has been working on our own form of stolen land resistance we call HOMEFULNESS – a sweat-equity, co-housing project practicing equity-sharing and land distribution led by us – the peoples whose voices are continually silenced and repressed. The poor, the displaced, the removed.


As me and my fellow indigenous reporters, SIlencio Muteado and Philip Standing Bear from our family at POOR Magazine stood in front of the sacred fire at Sogorea Te, celebrating the last day of this revolutionary victory for the ancestors, I reflected on the countless fights of indigenous peoples that have come before this one and the ones currently being waged. Fights that have a renewed strength now.

 “We are part of a pan pacific coalition of Samoan, Hawaiian, Tongan and many more  Pacific Islander social justice organizers who came together to work on the Free Rapa Nui project,” said, Loa Niumeitolu, a Tongan revolutionary who with her sister, FuiFuiLupe spoke to  us about the work of the Oceana Coalition of Northern California (OCNC) to support the indigenous peoples of Easter Island. A Coalition of Pacific Islanders were one of many nations who came out to stand in solidarity with the Sogorea Te resistance in the occupation. The work of OCNC is based on the fact that so many pacific islanders are currently incarcerated, displaced and/or in poverty through so many forms of indigenous removal and theft.

Other indigenous nations like the Winnemem Wintu, came with medicine and prayers on the 52nd day of the occupation at Sogorea Te The homeland of the Winnemem Wintu is centered around the McCloud River in Northern California, which for thousands of years was one of the most fertile salmon spawning rivers in the West. In the 1940s, construction of the Shasta Dam resulted in the flooding of Winnemem villages and sacred places, and effectively wiped out the McCloud Salmon by blocking their upriver passage. The Winnemem are currently battling a proposal to further raise the Shasta Dam, and are working passionately to restore their ancestral relationship with Nur, the Salmon.

The Winnemem Wintu peoples have committed to standing their ground no matter what even if the Dam is raised. Even if the water comes.


“We won this fight because we as indigenous peoples, as all peoples of all colors and cultures came together, that’s what we have to do at all of the remaining sites to ensure that they are safe,” said Wounded Knee DeOcampo, a Miwok elder who has been fighting for the preservation of ancestral burial grounds for years,  “now that we won this powerful victory we need to focus on the San Francisco Peaks located in Arizona, another sacred site that must be saved, DeOcampo concluded.

As the smoke from the sacred fire blended with the sweet smell of sage and tobacco offerings, I placed my Mama Dee and Uncle Al Robles pictures at the entrance to the Sogorea Te prayer circle so their revolutionary indigenous spirits could be part of this important victory. A quiet softness brushed past me and then I knew.  I heard her in the deep beat of the drum and felt her in the soft grass in the wind. Mama was there. Smiling from the deepest place in her wounded heart, as she rarely did, when she saw justice finally done for displaced peoples, like her.


...parking spaces and porta potties on our burial grounds, that’s when we began a sacred fire and we weren’t going to leave until we knew our ancestors were safe,”
Yes, now visitors will pee and poop directly on the burial grounds, as nature intended, instead of in those sacreligious porta potties that the evil white folk invented. Congrats you Bolohne warriors!

Unlike the ones critical of Phillip Standing There, which disappear with lightening rapidity. LOL


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