As the summer solstice starts a season of ceremonies that are well on their way throughout Indigenous communities, there are those who have waited in anticipation for a happy 4th of July celebration. Given that the Gregorian calendar passes with each month and creates a timeline that records historical events, birthdays, promotions, pay days, anniversaries, and hall mark events for people throughout the world, in certain countries, patriotism is marked specifically by a historical event(s) such as “Independence Day”
With regards to decolonization, I am aware this is a subject that requires more specification so as not to mislead or confuse anyone about where I stand on patriotism. I had to share this is not an easy subject for many people, especially those confronted with colonialism and what decolonization means for Indigenous people. Patriotism is another important subject given that pride in ones country and for Indigenous people is relative to our homelands and communities. Embedded in that Indigenous truth is the traditions of a warrior society.
To remind readers, I’m Dine, born into With the Rock aka Sleeping Rock clan and maternal grandpas are Black Streaked Wood people. I am also Nimiipuu, from the Ahskopoh aka as Rough Terrain and the Hill (Lenape) bands. On both lines of my ancestry I had warriors who fought in the war against US cavalry and today, veterans of US armed forces. Without going so much into the details of their service, I am most interested in sharing that their service to a country is noble, it’s something to acknowledge. However, I believe our ideal of the warrior spirit and what constitutes a warrior has changed significantly since the days of our ancestors. I am very proud of my ancestral heritage and don’t refute or doubt that any body is not proud of their family members who have served in the armed services. After all, pride in our family traditions is important.
The distinction, I think its worthy of sharing the fact that having pride in one’s family and ancestors does not always mean accepting nationalism under a flag that has flown and continues to fly under mass genocide.
As a personal understanding I will share what my aunty Louise shared with me over 17 years ago about Dine names. As is the custom in the naming of young girl, one is named after the war deed of a warrior who fought in battle. As told my Aunty, “bah” refers to a war deed, “hanaazbah, dezbah, haneejibah” it was the act of battling an enemy or how one fought. “Bah” is essentially relative to the action of a war deed.
Long story short, warriors who gave their daughters names based on their war deed or that of a relative warrior was an honor and in that, a deep sense of pride. In both historical AND modern times it exudes patriotism, this fact tells me when my ancestors fought valiantly against an enemy THAT is the very spirit that continues to fight today. In modern times, when we carry names of our ancestors that is not only and esteemed honor, it is something to be very proud of.
But I digress. Moving along into the current systems of oppressive patriotism, I find the need to blog thoughts out loud about how our current model and platform for patriotism as “American” affects and influenced me an Indigenous woman. How does one come to the conclusion that they are not “American”? In my most outspoken way, through the lies of white patriotism, which I believe is thee root and cause of all settler colonialism, it is crucial to understand Indigenous people have struggled since 1492. Conceptualize the amount of time that colonialism has annihilated and committed genocide in the name of a crown, church, AND flag.
In 2004 when I watched Barack Obama deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. I was impressed with El Presidente. So much when his autobiography Dreams of My Father was published I also joined a book club that engaged in dialogue about race, parenting, voting rights, and elections. I was ready to Do Work! Since then I have become more aware of the nationalism and patriotism that American mainstream society and media has displayed. Issues of race and “equality”, although post Civil Rights, have not quite served or helped minority people of color. If anything, the overt AND covert racism has increasingly disenfranchised people of color.
As an Indigenous Nimiipuu ayat (woman), I believe the patriotism and celebration of the US governments independence from the English crown is an egregious against those of our ancestors who died fighting for our homelands. Not only did the US establish its government on our ancestral homelands, it created a specific divide and conquer agenda to separate a once united front. Today, I watch members of my community blindly support a government that has returned soldiers who are physically present, but emotional and spiritually disconnected from our universe with physical ailments.
In this process of understanding my reasons for not celebrating Independence Day, I have read Fanon to remind myself about colonized liberation and decolonization. When I entered my program, Fanon was required reading for Foundations in Cultural Studies. Fanon was the one theorist I “got” and one I wanted to spend more than one class discussion on. Fanon helped me see the enlightened path to decolonization and woke me from an unconscious state. What I did not understand back in 2009 when I started my program was that Fanon would help shape what I believe today about nationalism and how patriotic a colonized individual can be mislead. Simply put, Fanon shook me awake into reality and I have not been able to see the world the same way.
Paraphrased, Fanon best described the colonized state as oppressed and in a certain way like a Zombie. When you think about Zombies, as Fanon challenged us to do, they’re mad. Not angry, or with any mindfulness, just pure mad without a brain and following the blood thirst. After a generation of this mad behavior, what does the current generation know? It only knows blood thirst as a behavior. Challenging it or anything else is unthinkable and unnecessary. In fact, the colonized generation, much like the Zombie can no longer think for themselves and has no questions or qualms about doing what is right. It follows the blood thirst mindlessly. When one considers how society has brainwashed citizens to not think for themselves, but to follow along buying into corporate capitalism, the struggle for freedom is oppressed, but more so, freedom or thoughts of freedom are suppressed. Independence Day becomes “freedom for all” and “equality” is “freedom” consequently, why would a citizen need to think when society already does it for them?
During this patriotic time for white America, I have pretty much relegated that I won’t be waving a flag, nor will you hear me sing any songs of glory. I’ve seen, read, and heard too much about colonialism and immersed myself in Fanon that I can not pretend we are all just so proud to be American. In fact, colonization has disrupted Indigenous communities so much, that I can not go back as the same person believing that the US treats me or any other Indigenous person and their community as equals. Waving a flag that has waged wars on people, if they do not accept its’ imperial terms, in the name of a republic that is the “land of the free” and “home of the brave”…*catches breath* yeah.. I have a difficult time NOT seeing the history of genocide.
If I sound like a radical, I am. Do I come from a radical family? Yes and No. Some members of my family are in Fanon’s words “renegade” In fact, some subscribe to decolonizing. I also have members of my family who are patriotic, say the pledge of allegiance, sing the national anthem, and refuse to practice our old ways believing it is a sin and a sure as “hell fire” way to be condemned to purgatory. My father, a devout Catholic, swears he’s Independent, but has voted the last two presidential elections as Republican. A homophobic, racist, patriarchal, with misogynistic views of women, he was born and raised in a different generation. As he comes from the school of thought that supports and idealized white patriarchy, he is a loving father, but colonized on that same token.
The generational difference is obvious and my resistance challenges both of us. I find living without questioning Indigenous oppression has separated me from some of my own kin. As society continues to celebrate how the US won the war against the English/French (and much later the Spanish) for all it’s “territories”, Independence Day is quite the farce in my opinion. I will kindly remind people, what was actually happening to Indigenous people at that time and that the Declaration of Independence, after all these years, allowed for genocide and massacres of Indigenous people that followed the year 1776 to happen. Under the flag of “Independence Day”, Indigenous people have not been independent, nor we were able to vote or educate our own children, instead we were “given” segregated health, education, and granted “citizenship” after 1954. Please note, by 1954, World War I and II were fought with a significant number of Indigenous men who served, not as US citizens, but as members of their tribe.
As patriotic as some may feel or believe about Independence Day, I find it troubling when I see and hear Indigenous people say proudly they are American and wave flags with the belief that the US proudly serves, protects, and takes care of its people. Unfortunately, not all people are served, protected, nor taken care of. As I write this, I revisited Fanon and would like to share this one excerpt and state most poignantly, decolonization IS necessary in order for one to realize, colonialism is what brainwashed Indigenous people.
Today’s blog thoughts out loud inspired by a Fanon’s chapter, Grandeur and Weakness of Spontaneity from Wretched of the Earth. If you haven’t read, discovered, or felt inclined to read Fanon yet… I highly recommend it. I won’t ever be able to see society the same nor have I been able to stop thinking about how I’ve been a sleeping person through the colonization of Indigenous people as well. Another inspirational read, Felix Cohen, Americanizing the white man. In the words of Felix Cohen, paraphrased, “what is unique about America is American Indian through and through.” Cohen’s Americanizing the White Man distinguishes how unique Indigenous people are. It’s not easy to wake from slumber, its much more comfortable to sleep in and continue to snuggle and cuddle up to colonization.
Rising to the next level in the struggle for Indigenous liberation is not going to be an easy process. In the words of Taiaiake Alfred, “Decolonizing is hard work; there are frustrations and set-backs. It takes tenacity and toughness. That’s why it’s called Wasase not Was Easy.” The reality is Indigenous people who do not free themselves from colonized governmental systems will continually accept and agree to colonialism and it’s divisive intent to oppress, occupy, and exploit Indigenous people and their homelands in the name of capitalism. Thoughts of questioning colonialism and the oppression that is perpetuated is not taught. Corporate capitalism promotes an endless deal and sales on items for “exciting” entertainment, and of course patriotic displays of citizenry can be found everywhere. This brainwashing is tactical and without a hitch directed at the mass. Questioning and/or challenging it is unthinkable and not cool. In fact it’s viewed as radical and oppositional, angry, and unfortunately, the mass will not think of the questionable inquiries as revolutionary. Long story short, it’s not easy. It is oppositional, uncomfortable, and downright anti systematic.
As I type I realize (as this relates to decolonization) isolation is not “fun” based on the society’s rendition of “fun” nor does it involve waving flags or stars and stripes decor. If anything, it’s a conscious awakening that opens up to other realizations. More questioning and confrontations of mainstream views occur and the struggle for liberation becomes relevant. Relevance to the Indigenous struggle that works to unravel years of historical oppression that is still perpetuated in the 21st Century. Questioning how service to a country that oppresses people of color, in this instance, my personal reference is as an Indigenous woman, I will state, white settler colonial government does not serve or protect my people, nor the lands we come from. Considering the Violence Against Women Act and cases where Indigenous women are raped and the high rates of domestic violence in reservation communities, how does a government system protect and serve our community?
I’m not able to sit back and join in the “Independence Day” celebrations without thinking about the many times federal Indian policies have been created to oppress Indigenous people.