Although the City of Seattle continues to be complicit in the ongoing genocides against indigenous peoples in the “Coast Salish Territories”, USA/Turtle Island and globally through the business it conducts with companies like Microsoft (also see 1, 2, 3, 4), Boeing (also see 1, 2), Amazon.com, SSA Marine (1, 2), CHASE (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and Zim among others, I believe the passage of this resolution is a positive step in the more than 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance, inasmuch as the resolution raises awareness of those genocides toward stopping them. In particular Seattle rests on the ancestral lands of the Duwamish and Suquamish peoples. However, in the region there are many many more tribal nations that are affected by the metropolis as can be seen be the following map.
As a metropolis doing business with the colonial corporations that it does, the destruction Seattle wreaks against indigenous peoples is clearly not limited to the surrounding region but also has a global reach. A more detailed mapping of Seattle’s destruction on a global scale, despite its “green” image, seems a worthwhile project that I will not begin to attempt it in this post (I started writing examples and then erased them because there are too many, I will let the reader figure it out for now). My point here is that the City of Seattle has a lot more work to do than simply passing a resolution on a piece of paper and changing some educational curriculum if it wants to cease being a major enemy of native peoples, but this nonetheless could be starting down the right path…
It is important to note that the resolution was not passed merely as an act of goodwill by the City of Seattle but is the result of seven years of campaigning by a group of folks who have been putting on the annual Abolish Columbus Day rally in Seattle (see 2011 video on vimeo); at least three years of work by the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Committee composed of Matt Remle and Millie and Robert Kennedy; and a mass movement. While I believe we should all remain wary of the ways that the City of Seattle can and will use this resolution to give itself a more progressive face while avoiding the substantive changes required by and for decolonization and total liberation (e.g. like what happened with the name change of King County to Martin Luther King Jr. County, black folks now having to face equally oppressive sheriffs in cars bearing the image of MLK), I do think the resolution nonetheless provides a good platform for the sort of awareness-raising required if we are going to actually manifest the more radical changes required to save the possibility of ‘human life’ (for lack of a better term) on earth.
This perhaps would be a good time to distinguish between the terms radical and progressive, the latter of which I heard much talk of while Mayor Ed Murray went to sign the resolution into law. Radical literally means “to the root” or “of roots“, and so radical change is meant to get to the root of societal problems and actually correct them based on their original causes. Progress is about moving forward toward something. I consider the difference between ‘radicals’ and ‘progressives’ to be analogous to the difference between homoeopathy and Western medicine; one seeks to cure the disease at the roots and the other constantly addresses symptoms while refusing to even investigate the root cause because so much money and political power can be generated through the endless treatment of symptoms and maintenance of sickness over a lifetime.
While there may be some overlap between radicals and progressives, there is also an important distinction to be made. Narratives of progress, especially in Amerikkka, seem to always be about moving this “Great” society forward while learning from the past to enhance it toward its original goals or founding principles. When I hear of the “progress” that has been made by the USA since its birth, I can only understand it as the progress of an inherently genocidal and slaving society toward more refined forms of genocide and slavery. This is because those founding practices of the US are still in effect within and outside of its borders (1, 2). Manifest Destiny was the founding mentality of the United States, a sort of “freedom” based in the domination of the land and first peoples. When I heard someone at the signing ceremony talk about how the passage of this resolution was the continuation of a great American tradition of freedom for all peoples, they were repeating the same mythology that has been used to justify genocide and slavery since the beginning on the same day when I would think that mythology most likely to be exposed. Amerikkka was never about freedom for all peoples, just like Columbus it has always been and still is about greed, rape, pillage and plunder. This may sound harsh to some but I am not using metaphors, I am talking about facts (for example see Andrea Smith’s Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide). Until those practices stop, any of the good things one credits to the USA for are only going to help invisibilize its crimes and victims, especially considering its infrastructure as an industrial civilization requires those things horrible things to happen. To get “natural resources” the original peoples of the land must be subjugated. To do that the empire commits mass murder and rape with its military and then goes about violating the earth itself once her protectors have been murdered or assimilated. Thus, unless the USA changes on such a fundamental level to no longer be what has made it so “exceptional” (i.e. genocidal and ecocidal), I will continue to consider all narratives of its “progress” to be more whitewashing. The same goes for the City of Seattle and the major businesses it supports; no progress toward anything desirable can be made until those foundations are openly acknowledged and their destruction is complete.
I guess it is time for a bit on whiteness. As a friend of mine pointed out, Columbus was the first White man: he sold his Italian culture in exchange for the political power that comes with being a pawn of the empire. Whiteness is an identity created in the USA that was/is inherently aligned with genocide and slavery, since its very creation was to convince poor and working people of European ancestry to fight alongside the invader-capitalists who owned the ships they came on instead of defecting and joining indigenous struggles in the Americas, as was happening a lot in the initial days of European invasion. This was because many people who still identified with their own culture saw they had more in common with the native peoples and African slaves than they did with the plantation owners to whom they were indebted, since the same forces had recently displaced them from their own ancestral lands (for a start see The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation, How the Irish Became White, White People Suck (song) by Desert Rat, and “Abolish Whiteness” for a start on this).
Now that those bases are covered, I will address a couple core arguments of the opposition.
1) that the abolition of Columbus Day is somehow an attack on Italian Heritage.
“Why the 2nd Monday of October?” … because that is Columbus Day, not “Italian heritage” day. This is about ceasing to celebrate a slaver, rapist and mass murderer, not about attacking all Italians. And besides, as mentioned above Columbus could be considered the first White man and thus as distinctly not actually Italian culturally because he worked for Empire. If we want to celebrate Italian heritage, why not, as I have heard more than a few suggest already, establish a Sacco and Vanzetti day? Or a Mario and Luigi day perhaps? They are responsible for saving the multiverse from the threat of King Bowser after all. Bottomline is that if Italians want someone to celebrate there are many people of Italian ancestry plenty more virtuous than Columbus and plenty more Italian for that matter. By attaching so strongly to Columbus Day, the Sons of Italy are more celebrating whiteness and empire than anything distinctly Italian. If someone else other than Columbus were to be celebrated as part of Italian heritage, there would be no reason for it to still be on Columbus Day, considering that day was selected in relation to Columbus himself.
2) that we should not celebrate Indigenous Peoples day because Indigenous peoples were/are no better than the European invaders, “they owned slaves too”
While this is true of some indigenous nations to a more particular and limited extent than the societies that invaded the Americas, the point of getting rid of Columbus Day and celebrating Indigenous Peoples day, to me at least, is not to idealize native peoples of the past and say they were perfect but to stop celebrating the crimes against them and begin to appreciate and celebrate their long lasting histories, knowledges and relationships with these lands that were unjustly invaded and converted to toxic wastelands by the likes of Columbus and company. Below, Gord Hill addresses the topic of slavery:
Some examples can be seen as the armed conflicts between nations throughout the Americas, and practises of slavery amongst the Pacific Northwest coast peoples and in the Mesoamerican region. However, even here the forms of warfare reflected similar developments throughout the world, and in any case never approached the genocidal methods developed, in particular, in Europe. Warfare was the practise of explicitly warrior societies. The accounts of slavery, although there is no way to explain it away, differed sharply from the Europeans in that it was not based on racism, nor was it a fundamental characteristic which formed the economic basis of these societies.
(page 6, 500 Years of Indigeneous Resistance by Gord Hill)
If you feel like arguing with anyone there is plenty of ignorance to be cleared up in the comments on this Komo News coverage.
In any case, since the passage of the resolution on October 6th I:
Had to opportunity to visit the Duwamish Longhouse and see a couple of films “Chief Seattle Speaks to Our Times” and “Princess Angeline.” Unfortunately I missed out on a rally for Leonard Peltier that I was not aware of happening that same day and time until it was too late.
I got to participate in a march and rally and ceremony that was very inspiring, moving toward federal abolition of Columbus Day and creation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. There was lots of stopping at intersections and drumming and singing happening. We went from Westlake Park to the John T Williams totem pole at Seattle Center and ended with lots of speakers and ceremony.
I ended yesterday through last night before writing this post with a visit to City Hall again to see a performance and native youth panel by Red Eagle Soaring, stuck around for the signing of the resolution even though I am not all that into watching politicians sign documents I enjoyed the energy of lots of folks present. And of course the massive dinner and celebration at Daybreak Star Cultural Center (for back story see here) where we feasted on smoked salmon, fry bread and other delicious foods (I temporarily broke my internal campaign of decolonization, my anti-candida diet, to fully enjoy the feast). Now I am hoping to publish this before 5am to get some sleep after a busy week(end).
If you are at all moved by this abolish Columbus day/celebrate Indigenous Peoples day, please join in a demand delivery to the Israeli company ZIM to demand the throw their full weight at the State of Israel in stopping the genocide of the Palestinian people. Block the Boat NW, which I have been working with, has a major action coming up on October 27th. This is a rather new group that is part of a broader West Coast Block the Boat coalition and the older and more global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. Here is the info for our action on the 27th and also for a hip hop show building for that on the 17th:
An exciting night of radical hip hop with some of seattle dopest and most innovative mcs such as Julie C, Araless of Black Magic Noize, Bypolar, Soreall, and Jamil. they will be ROCKING the House for you intertwined with engaging conversation with organizers in the struggles for liberation of Palestine and black peoples such as those struggling in ferguson. please join us , help us spread the knowledge of these struggles of liberation. #freepalestine #ferguson #blackpower
Also, save the date for the next Block the Boat NW action: October 27th, 3-6PM: March on Zim Headquarters, meet at Spokane St Fishing Area at 3pm followed by rally and letter delivery at Zim Offices, 1011 SW Klickitat Way 98134
I will leave you with the following maps and videos, enjoy!
I left Daybreak Star near the end of Nataani Means’ performance…
PS- I will be going on the radio KUPS “The Sound” 90.1FM or streaming online this Wednesday the 15th 10-11am Pacific Time to talk about freeskools with a friend of mine, so check it out! From there I will be heading to vipassana meditation where I hope to level up. Look out for an announcement on an upcoming event for Seattle area freeskool/learning network open house in November…
PPS- Open letter from Chairwoman Cecile Hansen of the Duwamish Tribe of Indians sent to the City of Seattle on November 1st, AFTER the passing of “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” …
Jim McDermott FAX 206 553-7175
City of Seattle, Mayor McMinn FAX: 206 684-8587
Seattle City Council
King County Executive Office, Dow Constantine FAX: 206 296-0194 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
State of Washington, Governor Inslee FAX 360-753-4110
Senator Murray Fax 206 553-0891
Senator Cantwell Fax 206 220-6404
Date: November 1, 2014
From: Cecile Hansen, Duwamish Tribe, Chairwoman
Re: Racial Discrimination and Human Rights violations
We demand that the State of Washington and the City of Seattle recognize the people of the “inside” Duwamish as a distinct class of people of over 600 who are being systematically oppressed economically, politically and culturally.
The racial oppression that has been allowed to occur by the hands of local government, state government and the federal government is discriminatory and motivated by the Muckleshoot’s attempt to try to erase the history of Chief Seattle, his blood line, the Duwamish people.
The Muckleshoot keep trying to claim Seattle’s history for their own. The Muckleshoot claim that the Duwamish integrated and folded themselves into the Muckleshoot Tribe. This is a lie. We are two unique and distinct groups who have historically never combined. Furthermore, we have never yielded our sovereignty as a distinct and separate Tribe.
Opposing Tribes have underhandedly manipulated their way into the halls of local government to unleash a campaign of disseminating misguided interpretations of history under the pretense that they are the ultimate authority to advice on affairs, matters, and concerns related to the indigenous history and current affairs of Native Americans in the City of Seattle. These acts are deliberate and are aimed
at disenfranchising and proliferating discrimination against the Duwamish people.
The contemporary social and economic problems that the Duwamish membership now suffer can be directly linked to this campaign of political oppression directed at the Duwamish to minimize and marginalize our presence in this City.
Because the Duwamish were considered a “Landless” Tribe, by Judge Bolt , we are no less a Treaty Tribe. While we fight our battle in court to have our status restored, we emphatically claim to be the only indigenous Tribe of the Seattle Puget Sound area. We will not resign in our fight for full recognition and we do not approve of the undiplomatic and inconsiderate treatment we have suffered in dealing with the Mayor’s office, Governor’s office, Port of Seattle, WDOT and the City of Seattle.
I am all too aware of the many slights I have personally received and that our people have experienced over the last 40 years as the Chairwoman of this Tribe. We deserve and demand equal treatment as a racially distinct group of human beings, Native people.
The members of the Duwamish are oppressed by inequality and disparity in this State because of the political status encumbered upon us erroneously. The discrimination against our membership of the Duwamish is realized with no Indian Education funding, lack of access to tribal housing, inadequate access to medical care, suicide, homelessness, poverty and substance abuse. Our children and families who self-identify as Duwamish on your census and on state health forms are not receiving any Tribal advocacy by way of Duwamish participation in ICW services, regarding CPS, adoptions, temporary placement and foster care.
Our human rights as a distinct and separate tribal community have been systematically destroyed by political and cultural exclusion. The message of omission is an educational foundation of racism. This type of discrimination is instigated by the Muckleshoot who intend to cause terror and intimidation.
Area Tribes have used their financial dominance to negatively influence ours and many other tribes who have been fighting a legal battle with the Department of the Interior for federal acknowledgment by paying lobbyist to twist the truth. We now face an old weapon of oppression made new again by Tribes who can now afford to spend millions of dollars to keep our court case on hold.
These tactics have in design been orchestrated to try to re-write the history of the City of Seattle. There are many ways to tell History. It all depends on who’s allowed to tell the story. Ever since colonization of this area, Duwamish history has been shaped by the same socio-political and economic forces that determine the telling of it.
The Duwamish never received an allotment of land. That’s the short story. The government was asked many times to expand the allotment at Port Madison to include enough room for the Duwamish. The initial allotment at Port Madison was inadequate for the number of people who were to go there, the Suquamish and Duwamish. Although there were other allotments set aside up and down this State,
many of the Duwamish stayed or scattered across many allotments.
The Duwamish Tribe are governed by a 1925 constitution and by-laws. The Duwamish did this to file suit against the government for land they ceded in the Treaty of Point Elliott, land they were to be paid for.
To say our Tribe is only an “organization” is false. We fought to exercise our rights then and again whenfishing became an issue in this State. Native Americans were not allowed to vote in this State until well after 1924 when it became legal.
Is it true that the Duwamish are no longer in existence? Do the Muckleshoot speak for the Duwamish? The answer is NO. The Muckleshoot do not represent the Duwamish and the Duwamish do not represent the Muckleshoot or any other band. They never have and they never will.
The Duwamish are still here! We demand equal rights as citizens. We demand that the State of Washington and the City of Seattle recognize the people of the Duwamish Tribe as a distinct class of people, a minority group, who have unique economic, political and cultural sovereignty over its members to protect their rights as human beings and indigenous people of this area. The discrimination against a minority of people by dominate groups should not be allowed as part of the government of this State. Justifying acts of discrimination is a violation of our human rights.
We abhor the many outright attempts on the part of local, federal and TRIBAL government to deny the Duwamish people the right to have a voice. Here are just a few examples of the total disregard for the history of Seattle and future generations of our people.
1. The T107 archeological artifacts taken from within our display cases at the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center and from the Burke Museum given to the Muckleshoot and Suquamish. The Port of Seattle and its commissioners orchestrated the purchase of the artifacts with these two Tribes, even though these artifacts are identified Duwamish. These artifacts were stored at the Burke Museum waiting for a proper “home” yet the Port of Seattle never gave ONE dime to help to assist the Duwamish in the construction of the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center. The Port never responded to my request to explain prior documents that gave us the impression that we would have access to the collection and house the collection when and if we ever had a facility to place them.
2. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Governor Inslee, and Mayor McGinn have never answered repeated requests by leadership of the Duwamish, me to meet to discuss the political, economic and cultural challenges our native people face. After each election, politicians, receiving large political contributions from area Tribes, are “schooled” about the definition of what a “government to government” relationship is. The federal government made a treaty with the Duwamish Tribe in 1855. It should be fitting that politicians representing the citizens
of this State and city take actions to decrease division in the native community by using your influence to improve native relations by showing support to all groups and bands without partiality to their political status. The Duwamish are entitled to equal treatment as the descendants of the same cohesive group of historical Treaty signers.
3. Over the last 30 years, remains of our indigenous ancestors have been unearthed and destroyed over and over again despite the well documented critical and culturally sensitive areas that have been mapped out by the Corp of Engineers and State Archeologists across this state. The Duwamish are left out of the notification and repatriation process. Our sovereign right to honor our ancestors have been blocked by area Tribes in unanimity with local government that lack
the knowledge of what is appropriate in these matters. You look to the regulations to tell you what to do. As human beings, we have the right to rebury our ancestors.
4. And to top it off, a public park is planning to be developed on the Seattle waterfront, where Duwamish people would land their canoes in their pursuit to engage in the commerce of the day, the city that was named after their Duwamish Chief. This so called “ public” park project that will be paid for using the taxes of the citizens of the City of Seattle and King County will employ the most egregious of discriminatory acts of all, by employing a selection committee of only “ federally recognized Tribes” to choose the art work and developing “cultural and educational institutions as part of the framework.
The City of Seattle : Central Waterfront Tribal Artwork project, the Office of Arts Culture, in partnership with the Office of the Waterfront and Seattle Department of Transportation sent out notifications and distributed flyers to interested native American artists. What is the full plan at the Waterfront. Whose input and what consideration have been made to insure that the Duwamish are included in the planning for any permanent or public facilities at the waterfront. How much money will be contributed to the Waterfront public park project from “Recognized Tribes? Do their financial contributions to this project buy them a prominent place-marker at the Waterfront? Who has made this decision? Who is it that has the right to decide how to tell someone else’s story?
If the City of Seattle were to change the selection committee to say only “Norwegian Immigrants”, or only “descendants of free slaves” shall be on the selection committee, there would be pandemonium at the doors of City Hall. This weird kind of “selection process” is discriminatory against Native Americans in general and only goes to show that after 160 years of trying to solve the “Indian” problem you are still getting it wrong. It might be 2014, but in the hearts and minds of native people we are as territorial as if it were 1854. Our people never asked to be displaced. Native people are proud which has been our strength and our weakness.
We do not want nor do we desire to have people in leadership that do not know, honor or support the history of the city and the surrounding areas. Do not sell out to the “dominate” tribes whose onlyoption is to buy you into thinking that Seattle is their story to tell. They CANNOT change the facts of history. The Duwamish will never surrender and will keep fighting until the injustices forced upon our people, the members of the Duwamish Tribe are put to an end.
With All Due Respect,
Mrs. Cecile Hansen, Chairwoman of the Duwamish Tribe of Indians
Duwamish Tribal Services, President