Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Latin America.
Tags: Ecuador, ecuadorian amazon, environment, indigenous, oil exploitation, oil exploration, roger hollander, yasuni
YASunidos is an Ecuadorian youth movement which collected 750 000 signatures to prevent oil drilling in Yasuní national park in Ecuador.
They have been nominated for “The Human Rights Tulip” award, a prize worth €100 000.
This money could be used perfectly to further expand and deepen their campaign to save the Yasuní national park and protect the rights of the indigenous people whose existence is threatened by the oil exploitation.
Yasuní is a worldwide symbol – if we achieve to stop the oil exploitation in the Ecuadorian amazon, we are one step further towards saving the amazon, saving our climate, and creating a post-oil society in Ecuador and beyond.
Please vote and share this!
Posted by rogerhollander in British Columbia, Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations.
Tags: british columbia, canada oil, carbon emissions, david suzuki, enbridge, environment, First Nations, greenpeace, lauren mccauley, northern gateway, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, tar sands, tar sands pipeline
Demonstrators took to the streets of Vancouver Tuesday evening after the Canadian government gave the greenlight to the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline. (Photo: Brent Patterson/ Twitter)
“It’s official. The war is on,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip told a crowd of hundreds who had flooded the streets of Vancouver late Tuesday following the announcement that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had approved the Enbridge Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline.
Phillip, who is president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, told reporters that people are prepared to go to jail over this fight, “because that’s what it’s going to take.”
Phillip’s statement exemplified the widespread condemnation and vows of resistance that swiftly followed news that the Canadian government had greenlighted the controversial project.
The 1,177 kilometer pipeline will carry 200 million barrels of tar sands crude each year from Alberta to a terminal in Kitimat, British Columbia, where it will be loaded onto oil tankers.
Blocking a major intersection, the Vancouver protesters wielded signs and chanted: ‘No pipelines!’, ‘No tankers!’ and ‘Defend our coast!’
“The only thing we can do now is raise our voices together and have a peaceful protest, to make a strong statement that this is not okay,” Mona Woodward, executive director of the Aboriginal Front door society, told a reporter from the Vancouver Observer.
A diverse crowd gathered in front of the CBC News headquarters in the B.C. city to voice their anger at a government that they say blatantly chose to neglect the people and the environment over big business.
“It’s more than disrespectful [...] it’s the end of safe drinking water, it’s also the end of Mother Earth,” Woodward continued.
Opponents of the pipeline also flooded social media with vows of resistance and pictures of Tuesday’s demonstration.
Canadian Indigenous groups, which have long-fought the pipeline, are vowing to defend their land and their sovereignty ‘without surrender.’
In an unprecedented show of unity, 31 First Nations and tribal councils have signed a letter announcing their intention to “vigorously pursue all lawful means to stop the Enbridge project.”
“We have governed our lands, in accordance to our Indigenous laws, since time immemorial,” read the statement, which was distributed by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. “Our inherent Title and Rights and our legal authority over our respective territories have never been surrendered.”
“This project, and the federal process to approve it, violated our rights and our laws. We are uniting to defend our lands and waters of our respective territories,” the statement continued. “We will defend our territories whatever the costs may be.”
“We will defend our territories whatever the costs may be.”
—alliance of 31 First Nations
Even with the project tied up in courts, organizers are preparing more immediate direct actions and demonstrations on the ground.
On Wednesday, the First Nations group Kootenays for a Pipeline-Free B.C. is holding a rally under the banner “Occupy the Pipeline Everywhere!” at the Chahko Mika Mall in Ottawa.
Women with the Yinka Dene Alliance, a coalition of six First Nations who live directly along the pipeline route, are vowing to “do everything we can to protect our water,” as alliance coordinator Geraldine Thomas Flurer told The Tyee.
Gitga’at First Nation women are planning to a suspend multicolored crocheted “chain of hope” across the more than 3.5 kilometer-wide Douglas Channel this Friday, in what they are describing as a symbolic blockade against oil tankers.
Echoing the sentiment of many who are specifically directing their anger over the pipeline at Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Chief Phillip said during the Vancouver rally: “Harper has declared war on British Columbians and First Nations, he will absolutely not be welcome into this province in the future.”
Considering the mounting opposition, many believe this is a project destined for failure. As noted Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki wrote following news of the pipeline’s approval, “This conversation is far from over.”
Suzuki added: “In approving it, the government is aggressively pushing an unwanted project on an unwilling public. I don’t believe it will be built.”
Greenpeace Canada campaigners protested Prime Minister Harper’s energy policies with a mock oil spill in 2012. (Credit: flickr / Jeremy Christian / Greenpeace)
Like more than two-thirds of British Columbians and 130 First Nations, I’m outraged that the federal government wants to proceed with the Enbridge Northern Gateway twinned pipeline. In approving it, the government is aggressively pushing an unwanted project on an unwilling public. I don’t believe it will be built.
British Columbia and Canada have too much to lose: rich coastal ecosystems known as the Galapagos of the North, the vast Great Bear Rainforest, vibrant First Nations’ communities and some of the world’s last healthy salmon streams, among other treasures. B.C.’s communities are built on the understanding that healthy ecosystems lead to prosperity.
All this is at risk from a pipeline that will carry heavy oil across nearly 800 rivers and streams and onto supertankers travelling B.C.’s coastal waters. It’s hard to imagine a riskier project.
Yet Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided to approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway heavy oil pipeline despite a mounting outcry from Canadians.
This is not the time to increase our reliance on dirty fossil fuels. Building the Northern Gateway pipeline is out of step with what an overwhelming body of scientific evidence is telling us: We need to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions over the next several decades if we hope to guard against the worst impacts of climate change.
We can do better. The oil sands represent the fastest-growing source of carbon emissions in the country. Instead of supporting their unfettered expansion, we should be investing in a renewable-energy future that eliminates our dependence on fossil fuels. Building the Northern Gateway pipeline only ensures that emissions from the oil sands will continue to grow and Canada will again fail to be part of the solution to global warming.
I’m not giving up on a clean energy future for my children and grandchildren.
British Columbians say they don’t want this pipeline. Increased tanker traffic and the possibility of heavy oil spills threaten the same marine areas that the province, First Nations and local communities are working to protect through marine plans.
This conversation is far from over. Next steps will likely include court challenges and actions by Canadians and First Nations, whose concerns have so far been ignored. I urge you to remain hopeful and join me to make your voice heard for a responsible energy future.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Racism, Sports.
Tags: First Nations, janet allon, native americans, nfl, redskins, roger hollander, washington redskins
Roger’s note: Watch the video, it is lovely and uplifting.
Photo Credit: via youtube/changethemascot.org
June 10, 2014 | Janet Allon, Alternet
“Native Americans call themselves many things. The one thing they don’t . . .”
During this weekend’s highly anticipated NBA final, an ad that the NFL does not want to air will hit the airwaves. It is a powerful and moving plea to change the offensive Washington Redskins name and mascot produced by a group called the National Congress of American Indians.
The ad runs through a list of words that Native Americans actually call themselves: proud, forgotten, Navajo, mother, survivor, Inuit, patriot, underserved . . . and many more.
It’s quite a long and enlightening list, accompanied by beautiful photographs, and its intent is clear. Redskins is a derogatory term that has no place in our national dialogue, or as the name of a football team. Will the NFL listen?
You can watch and listen:
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Canada petroleum, Environment, First Nations.
Tags: civil disobedience, debra white plume, environment, evelyn nieves, First Nations, keystone xl, lakota, pine ridge, pipeline, roger hollander, rosebud reservation, transcanada
Debra White Plume has galvanized an international coalition of grassroots activists.
April 11, 2014 |
Photo Credit: Kent Lebsock; Screenshot / YouTube.com
On March 29, a caravan of more than 100 cars plodded along the wide open roads of the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota, stopped at a forlorn former corn field and prepared for battle.
Leaders from eight tribes in South Dakota and Minnesota pitched their flags. Participants erected nine tipis, a prayer lodge and a cook shack, surrounding their camp with a wall of 1,500-pound hay bales. Elders said they would camp out indefinitely. Speakers said they were willing to die for their cause.
This spirit camp at the Sicangu Lakota Rosebud reservation was the most visible recent action in Indian Country over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. But it was hardly the first … or the last.
On the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Debra White Plume, an activist and community organizer involved in Oglala Lakota cultural preservation for more than 40 years, has been leading marches, civil disobedience training camps and educational forums on the Keystone XL since the pipeline was proposed in 2008.
White Plume, founder of the activists groups Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way), the International Justice Project and Moccasins on the Ground, has crisscrossed the country, marched on Washington and testified at the United Nations against the environmental devastation of tar sands oil mining and transport. Now, perhaps only weeks before President Obama is set to announce whether to allow a private oil company, TransCanada, to plow through the heartland to transport tar sand crude from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries for export, White Plume is busier than ever.
White Plume is leading a galvanized, international coalition of grassroots environmental activists, the largest and most diverse in decades, in the last fight against the Keystone XL. The coalition is planning massive actions against the Keystone XL in Washington, D.C. and in local communities from April 22 (Earth Day) through April 27. In what is a first in decades, indigenous tribes from the heartland will be joined with farmers and ranchers along the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route in the actions. The “Cowboy and Indian Alliance” is inviting everyone in the country to their tipi camp on the National Mall in the hopes that a show of strength will steel President Obama’s resolve to be the “environmental President.”
Since the State Department implicitly signed off on the Keystone XL pipeline in February by announcing that its environmental impact statement had found no “significant” impacts to worry about, White Plume and other environmental leaders concerned about the Keystone XL’s impact on climate change have also stepped up their plans for direct, non-violence civil disobedience. Those plans are under wraps, but blockades will surely be a major weapon in their arsenal.
White Plume talked about why the Keystone XL pipeline has become such a firestorm.
* * *
Evelyn Nieves: Why is it so important that the Keystone XL pipeline NOT become a reality?
Debra White Plume: The tar sands bitumen inside the KXL pipeline is hazardous, flammable, a carcinogen — and deadly. When it gets into our drinking water and surface water, it cannot be cleaned up. These pipelines further the development of the tar sands sacrifice area in Alberta.
EN: Who is involved in the activism surrounding the opposition to the pipeline? Stories talk about this as a women’s movement, an elders movement and a youth movement. That means it’s pretty much everyone’s movement except for middle-aged men.
DWP: That might be true elsewhere, but all of our people are engaged to protect sacred water. I can’t speak for any middle-aged American men, but I know there are hundreds of American ranchers and farmers in South Dakota and Nebraska ready to defend their rights. Our Lakota warriors are opposing the KXL — this includes men and women.
EN: What sorts of direct action are you willing to take and what kind of support are you receiving from Indian Country in general?
DWP: We will blockade TransCanada’s KXL to protect our lands and waters if we have to. Many tribal governments and Red Nations people have committed to blockade. Our Oglala Lakota Tribal Council is meeting soon to discuss declaring war on the KXL, as is the Rosebud Lakota Tribal Council.
EN:What kind of support are you receiving from outside of Indian Country?
DWP: We have support from all over the big land (so-called U.S.A.) and so-called Canada. We do not recognize these manmade borders. Our people were here from time immemorial, this is our ancestral land, people to the north and south are our relatives. We are connected through prophecy.
EN:Where is the state of South Dakota on this?
DWP: The South Dakota state government wants the pipeline, the state government is pro-mining. They see Mother Earth as a warehouse of resources they can extract. They have no respect. The citizens are divided. The ranchers and farmers along the corridor have had their lands taken by eminent domain in South Dakota. They don’t like that. We have made allies with the S.D. citizens who want to protect sacred water. Many have come to our Lakota ceremonies.
EN: What about non-Indian border towns?
DWP:People who live in the border towns are divided about the KXL. Some hope to get a job, some hope it never comes here, many are working in alliance with us to stop it.
EN: Why is the blockade at Rosebud?
DWP: The camp at Rosebud is not a blockade camp. The camp is on their own tribal land and no one can make them leave. It is near the location of a proposed man camp. We do not want any part of the KXL, including the badman camps.
EN:Is it because that’s the direct path on the pipeline route?
DWP: No, it is not in the KXL pipeline corridor. It is there because it is near to where TransCanada wants to put a badman camp. We refer to those camps as badman camps because of the horrendous experience the Mandan, Hidtatsa, and Arkikara Nation (in western North Dakota, where tracking reigns) is enduring because of the thousands of strangers among them, committing many crimes against women and children, and by the nature of their work, destroying Mother Earth for tar sands mining — which has to exit the sacrifice zone through the black snake of the KXL and other pipelines proposed by corporations.
EN: What are your next steps?
DWP: We continue to provide NVDA (non-violent direct action) training to communities in Indian Country that request for us to come. This is our Moccasins on the Ground Tour of Resistance that we have been doing for three years now.
EN: What do you hope to achieve with your large gathering later this month?
DWP: We will provide training to communities who are sending their people, increase opposition to the kxl, expand our network, strengthen alliances, teach people about the sacredness of water. Allies are coming from all over to help us train community people, and other folks who are coming from all over the big land. We have many more Moccasins on the Ground Tour of Resistance training camps scheduled. We will keep training until the decision is made. We hope President Obama will be green. Revolutionary green, and say no to the KXL and all other tar sands pipelines. Who wants to live over a snake pit?
Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Racism, Sports.
Tags: abby zimet, american indians, First Nations, football, indians, mascots, racism, redskins, roger hollander, sports, washington redskins
1.31.14 – 3:04 PM
Just in time for the Super Bowl, the National Congress of American Indians has releasedProud To Be, a powerful new ad that seeks to explain why the Washington Redskins name – which never gets mentioned – is a racist horror that needs to be changed. With a fascinating history of the word, from its reportedly “benign” origins to its use in 1860s bounty notices – “$200 for every red-skin sent to purgatory” – to the decades-long fight to change a name that ignorant rich people like owner Dan Snyder, all of whom should know better but somehow don’t, continue to insist is “a badge of honor.” Tell them it’s not. It’s time they join this century.
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Ontario.
Tags: aboriginal treaty, Canada, canada environment, canada indigenous, clearcut logging, First Nations, grassy narrows, idle no more, katherine wynne, ontario liberal, premier wynne, roger hollander, simon fobister, treaty rights
Roger’s note: Let’s here it for Liberal governments.
IMMEDIATE RELEASE Dec. 23, 2013
Grassy Narrows – Today the Wynne government approved plans for another decade of clearcut logging in Grassy Narrows Territory against the will of this Indigenous community. The decision has ruined Christmas in a community already struggling with the long term health impacts of mercury poisoning. The Whiskey Jack Forest Management Plan 2012-2022 plans for dozens of large clearcuts on Grassy Narrows Territory, some nearly the size of pre-amalgamation Toronto.
“Premier Wynne, it is within your power to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated at the expense of another generation of Grassy Narrows children,” said Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister. “I call on you to intervene to repeal this hurtful plan and to ensure that never again will Ontario attempt to force decisions on our people and our lands.”
Download the plan here.
Speak out against the plan here.
The plan sets out a schedule to clearcut much of what little mature forest remains on Grassy Narrows Territory after decades of large scale industrial logging. Clearcut logging elevates mercury levels in fish – deepening the tragedy caused when 20,000 lbs of mercury poison were dumped into Grassy Narrows’ river by a paper mill upstream in the 1960’s.
This logging will further erode the Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of the community which depends on the forest to sustain their families and to practice their culture through fishing, hunting, trapping, medicine harvesting, ceremony and healing for all generations.
“Ontario has ignored our voices, and has added insult to injury by delivering this bitter blow during Christmas,” said Joseph Fobister. “My heart sinks because I know that clearcut logging has devastating consequences for our people. We cannot allow this.”
Premier Wynne visited Grassy Narrows in the summer of 2012 as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, saying that she wanted to rebuild Ontario’s relationship with Grassy Narrows to “get it right.” Instead Ontario has unilaterally pursued this clear-cut logging plan against the will of the community and without consent
We were not properly consulted and we do not accept any application of this plan to our traditional lands. The Chief and Council along with community Elders stand united on this issue and are determined to protect the community’s way of life; Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.
The Supreme Court of Canada will hear Grassy Narrows’ case against Ontario in May, with a decision following by six months or more. The legal action argues that Ontario does not have the right to unilaterally permit logging on Grassy Narrows land due to promises made by Canada in Treaty 3.
The new logging plan takes effect in April.
Grassy Narrows is the site of the longest running native logging blockade in Canadian history – an ongoing grassroots action which recently celebrated its 11th anniversary. Grassy Narrows youth, elders, women, and land-users put their bodies on the line to stop logging trucks from passing.
CONTACT: Chief Simon Fobister (807) 407 0170
JB Fobister (807) 407 2745
High res photos and b-roll available: email@example.com.
- See more at: http://freegrassy.net/2013/12/23/wynne-ruins-xmas-in-grassy-narrows-logging-plan-approved/#sthash.VW4IajJa.dpuf
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
Tags: Canada, Elsipogtog, First Nations, fracking, harper government, idle no more, mi'kmaw, native protest, pamela palmater, rcmp, roger hollander, sarah lazare, six nations, southwestern energy
As I write this blog, Canada is at war with the Mi’kmaw Nation — again — this time in Elsipogtog (Big Cove First Nation) in New Brunswick. The Mi’kmaw have spoken out against hydro-fracking on their territory for many months now. They have tried to get the attention of governments to no avail. Now the Mi’kmaware in a battle of drums and feathers versus tanks and assault rifles — not the rosy picture painted by Canada to the international community.
The failure by the federal and provincial governments, as well as the Houston-based fracking company, Southwestern Energy, to consult with the Mi’kmaw and obtain their consent is what led to the protests all summer. According to their web page: “In March 2010, the company announced that the Department of Energy and Mines of the Province of New Brunswick, Canada accepted its bids for exclusive licenses to search and conduct an exploration program covering 2,518,518 net acres in the province in order to test new hydrocarbon basins.”
In response, the Mi’kmaw have led peaceful protests at hydro-fracking sites to demonstrate their opposition and protect their lands and resources. They have always asserted their sovereignty, ownership and jurisdiction over their territory. There has been relatively little coverage of their actions, but they have been active for months now. More recently, the company obtained an injunction to stop the protest and it was served on protesters today.
It is more than coincidental timing — it was obviously strategically calculated with the completion of the Governor General’s speech from the throne and the end of the United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya’s visit to Canada. Yesterday morning, we awoke to reports from the Mi’kmaw of swarms of RCMP dispatched to Elsipogtog to enforce Harper’s aggressive natural resource agenda. He has effectively declared war on the Mi’kmaw.
This is not the first time Canada has declared war on the Mi’kmaw. In 1981, law enforcement led an attack on the Mi’kmaw at Restigouche to stop them from controlling their own Aboriginal fishery. During this attack, Mi’kmaw suffered multiple injuries, some severe and numerous arrests.
In 1998, the government intervened in Listuguj because the traditional Mi’kmaw government shut down the logging company that was stealing timber from Mi’kmaw lands and because the Mi’kmaw started to harvest their own timber.
Between 1999 and 2001, Canada once again declared war on the Mi’kmaw Nation at Esgenoopitij (Burnt Church First Nation) in NB to stop them from fishing lobster. This was despite the fact the Mi’kmaw had proven their treaty right to fish lobster at the Supreme Court of Canada. Law enforcement rammed Mi’kmaw fishing boats, injured fisherman and issued numerous arrests.
All of these actions were done in violation of the numerous treaties between the Mi’kmaw and the Crown which were peace and friendship treaties intended to once and for all end hostilities and work together as Nation to Nation partners. Given that our treaties are constitutionally protected, Canada’s actions are not only tyrannical and oppressive, but also illegal.
Today, in 2013, the government has once again decided that brute force is the way to handle The Mi’kmaw women, elders, and children drumming and singing in peaceful protest against hydro-fracking at Elsipogtog. Media reports 200 RCMP officers were dispatched, some of them from the riot squad, armed with shields, assault rifles, batons, tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and snipers. Some of the RCMP, in full camo, hid in the woods, while the others formed a large barricade on the highway blocking any movement by protesters.
The Chief and Council were arrested, as well as numerous other protesters all while scrambling cell phone signals, cutting live video feeds and blocking media access to the site. Reports of RCMP pointing their assault rifles at elders and snipers aiming their scopes at children led to the burning of several RCMP cruisers. Yet, so far, the mainstream media has focused on the burning cars and not the acts of violation and intimidation by RCMP on the Mi’kmaw.
This heavy-handed deployment of heavily armed RCMP cops against women and children shows Canada’s complete disregard for our fundamental human rights and freedoms, and their ongoing disdain for Indigenous peoples. One RCMP officer’s comments summarized government position perfectly: “Crown land belongs to government, not to fucking natives.” The RCMP have it wrong — Mi’kmaw treaties never surrendered our lands and we are still the rightful owners.
Of course, this sounds eerily similar to the words of former Ontario Premier Mike Harris who was reported to have said of the protest at Ipperwash “I want the fucking Indians out of the park.”
And we all know what happened there — law enforcement killed a peaceful unarmed protester named Dudley George. One might wonder if history is going to repeat itself. If we look to the speech from the throne as any indication, Harper has sent Canada on a direct collision course with First Nations — all in the name of resource development.
Contrary to the Governor General’s introductory comments about Canada using its military force sparingly and that Canada responds “swiftly and resiliently to aid those in need”, the strategic wording indicates a much more ominous plan. Canada’s position vis-à-vis First Nations and natural resources is laid out as follows:
- First Nations are incapable of managing their own affairs and Canada will control them and make them accountable via legislation;
- Canada owns the natural resources and will sell them;
- Canada will make major investments in infrastructure to protect these natural resources;
- Canada will increase military strength to protect Canadian sovereignty; and
- Increased military will protect Canada’s economy from terrorism.
In other words, Canada does not recognize the ownership or rights of First Nations to their lands, waters and natural resources and will expend billions to ensure that no First Nations prevent the extraction of those resources. Canada and its military have referred to First Nations as terrorists before, and will no doubt be labeled as such when they defend their right to say no to mines or hydro-fracking, like in Elsipogtog for example.
This aggressive display of power and intimidation in Elsipogtog was not met with an equal display of violence. Instead, the women, elders and children continued to drum and chant and pray for the health and safety of their peoples, their Nation and the lands and waters for all Canadians. Instead of scaring people away, this unconstitutional show of force is being met with solidarity blockades all over Canada and the United States.
Listuguj in Quebec has blocked a bridge; Six Nations in Ontario has shut down a highway, there are protests outside Canadian embassies in New York City and Washington; and hundreds of rallies, marches, protests and blockades planned for later today and tomorrow. The horrific images of police violence at Elsipogtog inspired First Nations peoples all over Canada to collect supplies, send warriors and advocate for justice. Harper has inspired Indigenous resistance and action on the ground. There will be more First Nation protests and blockades in the coming days as well.
The Idle No More flame that he lit last year has never faded — it was just waiting to be fanned once again. The solution has always been there:
1. Respect the Nation to Nation relationship (our sovereignty and jurisdiction over our governments, lands and peoples);
2. Address the current injustices (crises in housing, education, food, water, child and family services, murdered and missing Indigenous women); and
3. Share the benefits and responsibility to protect the lands, water and natural resources like the treaties envisioned.
It’s Harper’s move now — more tanks and RCMP violence or a negotiating table?
© 2013 Pamela Palmater
Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Latin America, Mexico, Revolution.
Tags: comandante marcos, ezln, marta molina, Mexico, mexico ezln, mexico indigenous, mexico pri, non violence, popular education, revolutiion, roger hollander, zapatista school, Zapatistas
The 1700 students who travelled from across Mexico and the world to attend the Zapatistas’first school last week are leaving with an important homework assignment: to transfer what they learned to their respective collectives and movements.
A man takes notes during the Tata Juan Chávez Alonso Seminar about indigenous struggles, which began directly the Zapatistas first school on liberty earlier this month. (Photo: WNV/Marta Molina)
Some left with blisters on their hands from working in the fields with a machete for the first time. Others told stories of waking before the sun rose to prepare tortillas and beans and pozol (water with corn flour added) for their companions who were going to work in the milpa (cornfields) and to chop and carry wood. As the students prepared these meals, often for the first time, they listened to the sounds of indigenous languages like Tojobal, Chol, Tzeltal, and Tzotzil. As they ate, they shared experiences and began understanding that their sense of resistance came from their own families, from the very beginning of their childhoods.
The focus of the five-day school’s curriculum was liberty according to the Zapatistas, and students grew to understand how the home stays in Zapatista territories were an integral part of the lesson. “They care for Mother Earth because it’s what brings them food,” explained Marcos, a student from Argentina. “In the cities we buy everything in containers, and we don’t even know where it comes from. That [growing one’s own food] is also part of liberty.”
Others said that liberty lies in exercising autonomy without government help. It is the hard daily work that allows the Zapatistas to survive without the government and be free, said the students. Coherence, resistance and responsibility were words they repeated often in describing the Zapatista way of life.
“To be free is to be able to decide for themselves what lives they want to have,” said Marcos.
“What education they want. How they want to raise their children. How they want to organize. We have to go to the supermarket, go to the school that the system offers us to then reproduce that system — at university as well. We have to take the healthcare system that the system offers us and that we don’t understand,” he said.
During the school, Toño from Brazil stayed in the Rosario de Río Blanco in the Caracol La Realidad, close to the city of Las Margaritas. “It was the best school I’ve been to in all my life,” he said. Toño and other students learned how a Zapatista family can live peacefully in communities where the majority of people support the PRI, the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, and receive money from government projects. “But if one day they lose their government financial support, they won’t know what to do,” said Toño.
Erwin, a student from Cuetzalan, a small town in the Mexican state of Puebla, works to build autonomy for the community where he lives, and he understands how the Zapatistas navigate relationships with their non-Zapatista neighbors.
“They have differences with their neighbors, but they don’t treat them as enemies,” he said. “The system is negatively affecting the everyday life of all, partisan, non-partisan. Even the army has indigenous people in it. And that’s what capitalism wants: for brothers to fight each other.”
Many felt that learning how the Zapatistas live alongside, and assume a non-confrontational attitude toward, people who don’t think like them was an indispensable lesson. Non-Zapatistas can even come to the autonomous clinic when they are sick, and they will be attended to rather than rejected. “In this same community we greet all people who are not Zapatistas with affection, because we are all affected by the system…The real enemy is the same, the system,” said Erwin.
The fact that oftentimes students did not speak the same language as their host families, teachers and guardians, called votanes, was not necessarily a problem. “We wound up understanding each other,” said 17-year-old Camila, who is a student at the College of Sciences and Humanities at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The texts provided by the Zapatista school were very different than those she was familiar with from college. “They explain through anecdotes, which are reflections of practice.” Camila said she hopes that a second grade will be added to the escuelita, and that, if one is, she will be allowed to attend. She said she learned over the course of those five days that autonomy exists and is possible.
The lesson that most impacted Uruguayan Mónica Olaso was when she asked her teacher why they were summoned and what the Zapatistas expected of the students. The response, Mónica recounted, was, “You know, Mónica, a bullet is not going to reach Uruguay. But our word will.” She is returning to her country, she said, with the mission to insist on organizing with the patience required to realize the commitments they make with people in her communities. She also feels the responsibility to pass along the lessons both in the books she was given by the Zapatistas and those already within her — her experiences.
“The Zapatistas wanted us to hear them, to see them, to share with them their experiences of struggle. Now, we have a mission: that every one of us, in accordance with our ways and places, continue organizing according to our context,” said Mónica from Uruguay. Toño, who is part of the Passe Livre Movement in Brazil, which helped organize the mass protests against the fare hikes earlier this summer, agreed. “Rural movements, urban movements, no matter which. But we have to learn how to be more autonomous, and therefore we will be more free. We will even live alongside the enemy itself, because if you are autonomous and free, then you can live with them,” he said.
Alex, a student from San Francisco, Calif., stayed at the Caracol La Realidad with Toño during the school. He says that he learned discipline, listening and the importance of having a long-term strategic vision. In his opinion, these are three things that are missing from social movements in the United States. “There are two main lessons,” he said. “First, is the discipline to accomplish what you say you’re going to do. The second is being self-critic and evaluating our mistakes and victories.” He quoted the Zapatista saying — “we walk slowly because we are going far” — as he explained the longevity of the movement: the Zapatistas have already celebrated 30 years since founding the EZLN, 20 years since establishing the municipalities and starting to build their autonomy, and ten years since the creation of the autonomous governing structure, the Councils of Good Government. This long-term view, Alex said, is lacking in the United States.
In addition to organizing the escuelita, the EZLN also brought together representatives of indigenous peoples from all over Mexico to inaugurate the first Tata Juan Chávez Alonso Traveling Seminar. Held directly after the escuelita at the Centro Indigena de capacitación Integral,
The University of the Earth, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas in Chiapas, the seminar was a gathering of members of indigenous communities from around the world. The location for the inaugural seminar was significant because the Zapatistas are organizing — like so many other indigenous communities in resistance — to defend their territories from threats by transnational corporations, narco-trafficking and governments. Some students who attended the escuelita to listen and learn with Zapatista families about the meanings of liberty and autonomy also attended the Tata Juan Chávez Alonso Seminar. Indigenous participants shared their victories and organizational missteps as a way to measure of the strength of the indigenous communities that conform the National Indigenous Congress, and those who still do not belong to it.
The ongoing seminar will continue to re-convene in different regions of the Americas and is intended to create a traveling forum for indigenous voices, while the Zapatistas have announced that they will hold a second escuelita this coming winter.
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