I was having a discussion last night with Celine and Robin about the lack of identity politics in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Well, today Olga posted a link on Facebook that brings it back, but on the other side. This letter to the Occupation asks them to acknowledge that Wall Street is native territory, discussed further in this blog post.
To paraphrase the Occupation: “We are the 99%. We are oppressed by capitalism. We need to take back political control. We need to take back our country.”
To summarize the criticism: That is not true for the 4% of Canadians (2% of Americans) who identify as aboriginal. They are oppressed by colonialism first, and capitalism as just one aspect of that. They haven’t had any political control to be suppressed by capitalism. The Occupation should be liberating the country on behalf of the aboriginal people, not simply recolonializing it.
Apparently the Lenape, who lived on Manhattan, signed a treaty with the Dutch that they understood to be for sharing the land, not giving it up. Similarly, the Douglas Treaties that cover Centennial Square in Victoria were likely understood as peace treaties, not land transfers.
The demand that the United States “honor all treaties signed with all indigenous nations” seems reasonable to me. And in British Columbia I’d add, “act immediately to negotiate treaties with all indigenous nations who do not have treaties with the Crown”.