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Practice First, Then Theory: The Zapatista Little School

By Kristin Bricker / CIP Americas Program

By Kristin Bricker / CIP Americas Program

The first night of my homestay during the Zapatista Little School, my guardian and her husband asked if their students had any questions.  My classmate and I both had experience working with the Zapatistas, so we politely limited ourselves to the safe questions that are generally acceptable when visiting rebel territory: questions about livestock, crops, local swimming holes, and anything else that doesn’t touch on sensitive information about the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).

My guardian’s husband patiently answered our mundane questions. Then he said, “Look, we entered into clandestinity in 1983, when the organization was just being formed. We walked hours at night to organize other towns, always at night so that the plantation owners wouldn’t get suspicious, and we went into the brush to train. My wife risked her life walking at night to bring bags of tostadas to the camps so that the insurgents would have food to eat during training. Now, do you have any other questions?”

My classmate and I looked at each other, our eyes seeming to say the same thing: “Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be at the Zapatista Little School.” Then our questions began in earnest, and our guardians and their neighbors enthusiastically answered every single one.

Setting the Record Straight

The Zapatistas made the decision to open up their homes to their long-time supporters and teach them about their past, present, errors, victories, and advances for several reasons. During the Little School, Zapatistas repeatedly said that they hoped their supporters could learn from their experiences.

“Self-governance… is possible. If we achieved it with just a few compañeros and compañeras, why not with thousands or millions?” asked a Zapatista woman from Oventik. “We hope you’ll tell us if our practice, our experience with self-governance is in some way useful for you.”

“Many people think that what we’re doing, our form of governance, is a utopia, a dream,” said another Zapatista in Oventik. “For us Zapatistas, it is a reality because we’ve been doing it… through daily practice over the past 19 years. And that is why we think that if we join together with millions of Mexicans, we can form our own governments.”

Years ago, a Zapatista told me that they often learn more from their mistakes than from their victories. In that spirit, the Little School curriculum includes brutally honest discussions about errors the Zapatistas have committed over the years. For example, the textbooks include a frank discussion about the demise of the Mut Vitz coffee cooperative in 2007. Even though the cooperative’s sudden, unexplained closure was felt throughout the United States and Europe when roasters suddenly found themselves without a source of Zapatista coffee, the Zapatistas had not explained the reasons for Mut Vitz’s downfall until now.

In the Little School textbooks, Roque, a former member of the cooperative and current member of the San Juan de la Libertad Autonomous Municipal Council in Oventik, reveals that mismanagement and corruption ultimately lead to Mut Vitz’s demise. The cooperative had hired an outside accountant who, for reasons unknown to the cooperative members, did not accurately declare Mut Vitz’s assets to Mexico’s tax agency, which allowed the government to freeze their bank account. As Mut Vitz underwent an internal audit to determine what money the cooperative had left outside of the frozen account to pay producers who had supplied coffee on credit pending its sale, the Oventik Good Government Council discovered that members of the Mut Vitz board of directors were stealing money from the cooperative. The Council issued an order to arrest the guilty parties and seized some of their assets to replace the money they had stolen.

The Zapatistas also hoped to use the Little School to set the record straight about the state of their movement. They read the news, and they told students that they know the corporate media reports that Zapatismo is a dying movement, that the Zapatistas have turned their guns over to the government, that Subcomandante Marcos died of lung cancer or was fired, that the Comandancia (the Zapatista military leadership) meets secretly with the “bad government” and accepts millions of pesos from it, and that the Zapatistas are closet communists, amongst other baseless claims.

Furthermore, the Zapatistas admit that there have been traitors, compañeros who left the organization and collaborated with the government. As one European activist said at the end of the Little School, “I think they realized that it had gotten to the point where Mexico’s security agencies knew more about how the Zapatistas’ government works than their own civil society supporters did, so they decided to let us in on what they’ve been up to.”

The Zapatistas’ civilian government is, after all, not clandestine, and non-Zapatista indigenous people routinely use its clinics, justice system, public transportation permits, and other services that they can’t seem to obtain through the Mexican government. Moreover, any non-Zapatista—be it the bad government or another indigenous organization—that wants to develop an infrastructure project that passes through Zapatista territory (roads or electricity, for example) must negotiate with the Zapatistas’ “good government” and therefore understands how it is structured. With the Little School, the Zapatistas have officially and for the record explained exactly how their government works.

Perhaps one of the Little School’s most important benefits for the Zapatistas occurred during its preparation. The Little School’s four textbooks, Autonomous Government part I and II, Women’s Participation in the Autonomous Government, and Autonomous Resistance, as well as the two DVDs that accompany the books, were all created by Zapatistas themselves. The textbooks are the result of Zapatistas from all five caracoles (Zapatista government centers) traveling to regions other than their own to collect testimonies and interview fellow Zapatistas about how they self-govern.

The Zapatistas’ bottom-up approach to government means that while all of the caracoles operate under the same basic principles and towards the same goals, their day-to-day operations sometimes differ drastically. For example, every caracol has a Good Government Board, the maximum governing body in the region. However, each caracol’s Board is structured differently. Many of the Zapatistas’ questions to their compañeros from other caracoles in the interview portion of the textbooks revolved around their experiences and what has worked and what has not.

For example, a Board member from Oventik asked former Board members from Morelia, “Are the twelve members of the [Morelia] Board able to do all of their work? Because in Caracol II [Oventik] there’s 28 of us, and sometimes we feel overwhelmed.” The Morelia Zapatistas’ response was that they, too, are overwhelmed, and they feel the need to restructure the Board, but they have been unable to come up with a better proposal thus far.

Governing from Below

When the Zapatistas rose up in arms in Chiapas on January 1, 1994, they knew they wanted freedom and autonomy. “But we didn’t have a guide or a plan to tell us how to do it,” a Zapatista education promoter explained to me. “For us, it’s practice first, then theory.”

While part of the EZLN drove rich landowners off of their plantations in the Chiapan countryside in the pre-dawn hours of New Year’s day, other contingents took seven major cities around the state. “All that we’ve accomplished was thanks to our weapons that opened up the path that we are walking down today,” explains a Zapatista from Oventik on a Little School DVD. “[Since then] everything that we have achieved, we have achieved without firing a single shot.”

Immediately following the uprising, the Zapatistas implemented autonomous government at the town level. Each town named its local authorities and formed an assembly. “But since we were at war, we kept losing local authorities,” explains Lorena, a health promoter from San Pedro de Michoacán in La Realidad. “There was disorder in the communities.” As a stopgap measure, the EZLN’s military leadership had to step up and fulfill roles that civilian authorities were unable to carry out during the chaos of the war.

The military leadership held consultations with civilian authorities, and together they decided to create autonomous municipalities in order to bring order and civilian governance to the rebel territory. In December 1994, the Zapatistas inaugurated 38 autonomous municipalities comprised of an undisclosed number of towns. Each autonomous municipality had its own municipal council named by the towns, allowing for increased coordination between towns and more formal organization of civilian affairs.

As solidarity activists began to arrive in Zapatista territory to donate money and labor, the EZLN’s command realized that some municipalities were receiving more support than other, more isolated ones. “At [the command’s] urging, the municipal councils met and began to hold assemblies to start to see how each municipality was doing, what support each was receiving, what projects were being carried out,” explains Doroteo, a former member of La Realidad’s Good Government Board.

In 1997, the Zapatistas formalized the assemblies of municipal councils by creating the Association of Autonomous Municipalities, comprised of representatives from each autonomous municipality. “With the association of municipalities, tasks and work in health, education, and commerce were overseen,” recalls Doroteo. “During that time a dry goods warehouse was created… with the idea of [economically] supporting the full-time workers in the [Zapatista] hospital in San José del Río.”

During the creation of the Association of Autonomous Municipalities, the Zapatistas formally redistributed the land they had taken over in the 1994 uprising. Landless Zapatistas left the communities in which they were born to settle on recuperated land they could finally call their own, fulfilling revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata’s creed, “The land belongs to those who work it.”

In 2003, the Zapatistas inaugurated the third level of their autonomous government, the five Good Government Boards, located in La Realidad, Oventik, La Garrucha, Morelia, and Roberto Barrios. However, the organization of higher levels of government does not mean that the Zapatistas are moving further away from direct democracy through local assemblies. On the contrary, all proposals must be approved by town assemblies.

Proposals can originate in town assemblies and work their way up the different levels of autonomous government if they affect more than just the town in which they originated. The proposals pass through the municipal councils, which then brings approved proposals to the Good Government Council, which then runs them by the command, which then sends the proposals back down through the five Good Government Boards, which send them to the municipal councils, which in turn send the proposals to the people at the town level for consultation and implementation.

The command can also create its own proposals and send them down through the three levels of civilian government to the town assemblies for consultation and approval. Therefore, even though the Good Government Boards are the highest level of the autonomous government, they have no authority to create laws. The Boards are limited to two main roles: to coordinate and promote work in their regions and to enforce and carry out Zapatista laws and mandates that have already been approved by the people.

Because the Zapatistas constructed their government from the bottom up, with people organizing themselves into community assemblies, which in turn organized municipal councils, which in turn organized the five Good Government Boards, every Caracol is different. All work to implement the Zapatistas’ demands: land, housing, health, education, work, food, justice, democracy, culture, independence, freedom, and peace. However, the Zapatistas’ progress in implementing those demands varies from Caracol to Caracol. Some Caracols, such as La Garrucha, have collective economic projects such as stores or cattle to fund political activities at each of the three levels of government; other Caracols like Oventik only have collective economic projects in some towns.

Likewise, methods and success in implementing the Zapatistas’ Revolutionary Women’s Law varies. Morelia, for example, struggles to find ways to promote women’s participation in the higher levels of autonomous government. However, Morelia is unique amongst the Caracols because its Honor and Justice Commission (the judicial system) has a special plan for dealing with rape that aims to reduce re-victimization and encourage women to report crimes.

Constant Progress

Many have referred to recent Zapatista mobilizations such as their December 21, 2012, silent march and the creation of the Little School as a Zapatista “resurgence.” The Little School left one thing very clear: this is not a resurgence, because the Zapatistas never went away. During the school, students learned about the seemingly endless new cooperatives, the Zapatistas’ experiments in collective governance that are always being fine-tuned, and how donations from supporters were invested in livestock and warehouses so that they would pay dividends that would provide a steady long-term budget for hospitals and clinics.

The Little School’s lesson is clear: if the Zapatistas aren’t talking to the press, don’t commit the error of thinking that they are losing steam or have faded away. They are simply working extremely hard to advance their autonomy, and are too busy to get bogged down in countering the naysayers.

After all, their success is measured in their achievements and not their rhetoric. As one Zapatista man said at the end of a Little School class in Oventik, “We are demonstrating to the bad government that we don’t want it and we don’t need it, and it’s not necessary, for us to provide for ourselves.”

Kristin Bricker is a reporter in Mexico. She is a contributor to the CIP Americas Program www.cipamericas.org.

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Originally posted by CIP Americas here.

Join the DGR NYC celly group!

Resistance is fertile and one of the best ways to continue to grow our movement is to maintain effective communication between our members and allies.

In a city such as New York City, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, the everyday grind of maintaining our professional, familial, and comradely relationships. It’s also far too easy to be drowned out amongst the mass media infiltrations exposed to us at our every step, not to mention the (sometimes) endless email chains that even the most organized of us find hard to filter through and stay up-to-date.

In our attempt to help make sure our members and allies never miss crucial news, meetings, events or actions we are introducing the DGR NYC celly group – a quick and efficient way to maintain in-group communication via text messages and mobile devices. Rather than a constant feed of notifications (we already have an email chain for that!), we will use this method for succinct reminders of upcoming events.

It’s quick and easy to sign-up and join the conversation. Anyone can send a message to the entire group and it gets relayed instantaneously. To join, we simply ask that you be a resident of the greater NYC area with a desire to be more active in the movement – this service will not be of much use for members or allies that cannot regularly attend our meetings and/or events.

Simply text @dgrnyc to 23559 to join.

You may be asked to create a username and/or verify membership through an email address. Once completed, you should receive a welcome message from the group via text. If you have any issues or comments, please feel free to contact us – we will be more than happy to assist you.

We will also have a brief introduction to the service at our next member meeting (10/14/13) to make sure that everyone is connected and comfortably acquainted with the process.

Flood Relief for Colorado Activist

Hundreds of people are still unaccounted for while 1,000 still await evacuation.

Hundreds of people are still unaccounted for while 1,000 still await evacuation.

A longtime DGR Colorado member, Jennifer, lives in Lyons, CO. This also happens to be the site of one of the hardest hit communities in this weeks flooding events along the Front Range. Jennifer, her family and animals are physically safe and okay, but the homestead that she and 3 generations of women in her family have lived on for years has been badly damaged and flooded.

This house has been a site of intense healing for me and many others. Her mother runs her permaculture therapy farm for children off of this land. They have opened their homestead up to many women who need safe spaces and activists in need in the past. When I have needed shelter, this group of women was there to provide with no questions asked. When I have needed food, they were there to provide with no questions asked. She regularly sends me care packages of raw wildflower honey from the mountains and notes of love and kind thoughts. I know she does the same for other DGR members as well.

Jennifer has contributed, humbly and tirelessly, to many important DGR projects. For example, coordinating sending out the DGR shirts, heading up to support folks in White Clay multiple times a year, working on the DGR book of poetry, anti-fracking efforts, hosting prisoner support letter writing nights, radio shows, community rights ordinances in Boulder County and much much more.

The national guard is in control of the small town of Lyons right now. They are describing it like an island. No food, no running water.

We want to send her support. Messages of love. Chocolate. Financial support. Anything that will help in a flood/disaster situation.

If you would like to help out with this, you can make a donation. [Fundraiser now ended.]

If you would like to send materials directly, or have questions, contact us and we will be sure to point you in the right direction. Any and all help is much appreciated! Please share this information with your networks if at all possible.

Walking the Walk

By Arij Riahi and Tim McSorley / The Dominion

By Arij Riahi and Tim McSorley / The Dominion

FORT MCMURRAY, AB—In the heart of Canada’s oil country, the booming town of Fort McMurray—casually dubbed Fort McMoney—is slowly becoming one of Alberta’s largest cities. From 2006 to 2012, the city grew by 53 per cent, going from a population of 47,705 to 72,994—far exceeding the growth of Alberta as a whole. This doesn’t count the “non-permanent residents” who are simply in town to work; including them, the population balloons to 112,215.

Nearby, however, Indigenous nations are struggling for cultural survival. The tar sands project continues to expand its destructive footprint on the traditional territories of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Fort McMurray First Nation and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, among others. For them, opposition to the industrial project is not an environmental concern or a left-leaning pet project. It is a matter of human survival.

“I never did look at myself as a campaigner or an organizer, or an activist or an environmentalist. None of those things,” said Crystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation who now works as the Alberta Climate and Energy Campaigner for the Sierra Club of Canada Prairie Chapter. “And I can say I still don’t look at myself that way. You know, it’s just doing what I need to for the sacrifices that our ancestors endured to ensure that we have that ability to utilize the land, to sustain ourselves.”

Lameman, a mother of two in her mid-30s, has been working since 2012 to raise awareness among members of her community, located in the heart of northern Alberta’s tar sands territory, about the necessity—and possibilities—of fighting back against the tar sands.

These thoughts are echoed a further 300 kilometres north, by Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN). Located on the shores of Lake Athabasca, fed by the Athabasca River and downstream from the majority of the tar sands development, the ACFN has also been fighting against the impact of industrial pollutants on its land.

For the past four years, the ACFN and the Keepers of the Athabasca (a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people fighting for the protection of the massive Athabasca watershed, which feeds into the Athabasca River) have organized the Healing Walk. It was started as a way to bridge the divide between activists and residents of the area—many of whom work for the tar sands—who are concerned but are not interested (or able) to engage in traditional protests. This year, on July 5, hundreds from across Canada, including dozens from the tar sands area, gathered to walk through the tar sands and witness its impacts.

“I am labeled by government officials and the industry that I am an eco-activist. I am not an eco-activist. I am a user of the land,” said Chief Adam at the Healing Walk. “Environmentalists like to see the beauty of the landscape. I was brought up in the bush. I utilize and survive off the land. You may go in the bush and look at the scenery…I go in the bush and harvest the meat, and harvest the fish and whatever else I have to to feed my family. That is the difference between you and I.”

peer-reviewed study released in 2010 by the Firelight Group Research Cooperative, which works with First Nations on community-based research projects, found that tar sands development has already severely limited access to First Nations’ traditional territory.

That link to the land is essential for Indigenous communities, said Lionel Lepine, a father of two who also lives in Fort Chipewyan. “One day, we’re going to be so damn rich [off the tar sands] that there will be nothing to buy. We’re going to be dead,” he said during a discussion at the Healing Walk. “And my poor great-great-grandchildren are going to suffer the consequences.”

Losing access to the land doesn’t only mean losing the the possibility of a subsistence way of life—including the ability to hunt or fish—but in some cases it means not even being sure what kind of development, or destruction, is taking place.

In late June, the Alberta government reported that an oil spill had taken place at the Primrose tar sands operation of Canadian Natural Resource Limited. The operations are located in the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) in Cold Lake, Alberta, in Beaver Lake Cree Nation territory.

Lameman went to the site after getting news of the spill, but was initially rebuffed. Officials at CLAWR later changed their position and promised Lameman she could enter the area if the oil company agreed to let her in. Her calls to the company were not returned, she said. It took pressure from journalists and an eventual leak from an anonymous government scientist for the full extent of the spill to be revealed publicly in the Toronto Star in mid-July, including that 4,500 barrels of bitumen had so far been cleaned up from four different sites.

“To me, the response I got is a slap in the face of what it means to be in direct violation of our inherent constitutionally protected treaty rights,” she said. “It was really, really hard to actually feel that and experience that, and it’s not something I ever want to have to experience again, but I’m sure I will.”

Many Indigenous communities across the country are subject to such a disproportionate quantity of pollution that they have become infamous toxic hotspots. In Fort Chipewyan, cases of rare untreatable cancers have been documented since the early 2000s. But people living in the communities have been feeling the impacts long before any studies were commissioned.

“Given what’s going on over there—all the pollution—we call our town ground zero, because ultimately we feel the impacts of tar sands development first and foremost, and our people are dying,” Lepine said during the Healing Walk. “You know, I come from a town which only contains 1,200 people. And the cancer rate there is sky high in the last 10 years, beyond belief. The elders knew about this 40 years ago. When industry first came in, the impacts on our lands became pretty obvious, and as industry came in people started to die.”

For years, First Nations people, scientists, doctors and environmentalists have raised the alarm about the health impacts of the tar sands. It was only this past winter, however, that an investigation into the health concerns of First Nations communities living downstream, such as the Athabasca Chipewyan, was finally announced. The study will be led by the University of Calgary, with federal and provincial funding. The investigation follows a 2009 report, by Alberta Health Services, that showed higher rates of cancer in the community than is found in the rest of the Alberta population.

Since January, two separate reports have found Alberta’s lakes and groundwater are being polluted more than previously realized. The first, from Queen’s University and Environment Canada, showed high levels of carcinogens created by the tar sands extraction process in lakes up to 90 kilometres from tar sands extraction sites. The second, produced by 19 scientists from both the federal and provincial governments, confirmed ongoing seepage from tailings ponds into groundwater.

Tar sands impacts aren’t just felt in northern Alberta, but at every stage of the refining process, including in the southernmost reaches of the country. In Sarnia, Ontario, over 60 petrochemical facilities are concentrated in a 25-kilometre radius. At least three of these refineries, including Suncor and Imperial Oil who are active in Fort McMurray, process tar sands bitumen. The area is known as Canada’s Chemical Valley. It is also the home of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

“Growing up in this community, I experienced a lot of health issues, including asthma attacks, skin issues,” said Vanessa Gray, a youth organizer and member of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation who also spoke at the Healing Walk. “There’s a lot of cancer in my family where I grew up, [we were] going to a lot of funerals…it happened all the time.”

Gray’s concerns are well documented. In 2011, the World Health Organization described Sarnia’s air quality as the worst in Canada. Studies have also found alarmingly high rates of cancer, respiratory illnesses and reproductive disorders in the area, as cited in a 2007 report from Ecojustice.

For many Indigenous communities, the fight against the tar sands is a fight for their quality of life. “We’re all human beings first and foremost. We all drink water. So this involves everyone,” stressed Crystal Lameman. “This isn’t about race, colour or creed, this is about our lives.”

Ultimately, it is about the future. “I’m so worried about my kids,” said Lepine. “You know from the words of our elders, they’re our future, let’s support them. Let’s keep them alive, Let’s keep our kids alive. Let’s fight these guys. Let’s fight them harder, let’s take the gloves off.”

Arij Riahi is a legally-trained writer based in Montreal. Arij is at www.twitter.com/arijactually. Tim McSorley is an editor with the Media Co-op and freelance journalist living in Montreal.

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Originally posted by The Dominion here.

 

Water: A Source of Life, Connection and Hope

By Elizabeth  Peredo Beltrán / Octubre Azul Bolivia

By Elizabeth Peredo Beltrán / Octubre Azul Bolivia

Many thanks to the Biotope of Healing at Tamera Community and the Water Symposium 2013. Their experience of restoring water landscapes is reminiscent of Mikhail Kravcik’s statement: “The most important right in the world is the residential rights of a drop of water “…to return again to the cycle of life.

Water is the source of life; we are water beings who all belong to the water cycle. We are part of it. We all originate in a “big drop” growing inside a woman’s body, thanks to love, and that is something that moves me so deeply in my personal life. Humans are part of the water cycle, and through water we can connect with this fact in our daily lives, with the small details of life and through water we relate to the very complex problems of water on the Planet. This also connects us at a level that opens up the possibility to conceive of a utopia. Water has the power to drive our feelings and our thoughts to the sky, to give thanks for life.

I became conscious of this vital importance of water in 2000. Just after the Water War in Cochabamba, when the people’s courage reminded us a very simple concept based on the most basic common sense: WATER IS LIFE. At that time we had forgotten it, as consequence of a long economic adjustment program in the 1990’s that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund had imposed in our region in conjunction with complicit national neoliberal governments. Such a simple phrase mobilized thousands of people, almost forcing the Bolivian president to resign, forcing out the powerful U.S. multinational Bechtel and, for a while, the people recovered control over their water systems.

As an activist and a researcher, I soon noticed that women were key actors in this huge mobilization, particularly women belonging to the rural irrigators trade unions. In Bolivia there are still about 4,500 irrigation systems that manage water independent of the government or the state. They are traditional water organizations in rural communities who manage water for agricultural activities and they are very systematically organized.

Women play a very important role in those organizations, not only as authorities of the water systems, but also providing their organizations a vision of the details in the daily task of providing water for agriculture; they are responsible for care.

Urban women also; the poorest, vendors in the popular markets, neighbors that know how to provide water to their families, sometimes taking many hours to collect water. They too took an active part in the struggles in the streets. They organized so quickly providing solidarity in the form of pots of food to feed the water activists. In just a couple of days they organized this solidary system much to the concern of the elites that were waiting watching in fear looking out from their windows and hoping for a favorable end of the conflict.

The people won and, since then, we became connected to the World. Water, once again, connected us to other people… this time all over the Planet. The indigenous wisdom and knowledge gave us the key words to defend water and spread this vision worldwide.

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Epic Two Row Wampum Campaign Sets Sail for NYC

Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign

“As long as the grass is green, as long as the waters flow downhill, and as long as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West.”

Last Sunday, July 28th, hundreds of indigenous and ally paddlers and their supporters gathered at the boat launch in Rensselaer in the pouring rain for a rousing send off for an epic 13-day canoe trip down the Hudson River.

The symbolic “enactment” is a focal point of the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign – a state-wide education and advocacy campaign to mark the 400th anniversary of the first agreement between the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and Europeans. The Two Row Treaty outlines a mutual commitment to friendship, peace between peoples, and living in parallel forever. The Haudenosaunee have increasingly emphasized that protecting Mother Earth is a fundamental prerequisite for this continuing friendship.

Consisting of canoes (representing the Haudenosaunee) and ships (representing Europeans), more than 200 indigenous and ally paddlers began sailing side-by-side starting near Albany, NY and ending in New York City on August 10th. Along the 13-day route will be many stops for educational and cultural events featuring Haudenosaunee leaders as speakers. Check out the upcoming events in New York City:

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Thursday, August 8th, 2013
Inwood Hill Park
6:00pm – 8:30pm

Poetry and Spoken Word: Two Rows and More

Come hear powerful and inspiring words…

Special guest readers include Janet Rogers (Mohawk)*, Daygot Leeyos (Oneida) and Suzan Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee).

There will also be an opportunity for open mic time. Free and open to the public.

The public is also invited to greet the paddlers as they land at Inwood Hill about 5 pm that afternoon.

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Friday, August 9th, 2013
Pier 96 (57th St. on West side of Manhattan)
10:00am

Enactment Arrives in New York City

Launching from Inwood Hill Park, the enactment will land at Pier 96 at 10:00am, being welcomed by the Dutch Consul General and other dignitaries.

At 11:30am there will be a march to the United Nations for a greeting from the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at 1:30pm.

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Saturday, August 10th, 2013
Brookfield Place/World Financial Center, West of World Trade Center
11am – 5pm

New York City Two Row Festival

Join the Onondaga Nation, Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation, American Indian Community House and the American Indian Law Alliance for a historic commemoration to mark the 400 year anniversary of the Two Row Wampum, the oldest treaty between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch.

This day-long festival will feature world-class Native singers, dancers, speakers, performers, and artists. We will be honoring paddlers and riders who have just completed a journey down the Hudson to bring the Two Row’s messages of sovereignty and solidarity to life.

Free and open to the public, all children and Elders welcome! This location is handicap accessible.

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For all of the latest updates follow the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign on Facebook.

Guidelines for Male Allies

Developed by the Deep Green Resistance Male-Ally group, with guidance from the Women’s Caucus.

Introduction

As a class, men have developed an entrenched system of power called patriarchy in order to naturalize exploitation of women’s bodies, labor, time, children, and so on. Patriarchy consists of an interlocking system of social, economic, political, legal, and cultural structures designed to oppress women for the benefit of men. This system provides men with privileges in every aspect of our lives; we are the direct beneficiaries. As men, we often mistake these privileges for natural rights.

It is not enough for us to be “good guys”. It is not enough to personally refrain from exploiting women. It is not enough for us to be personally conscientious and respectful to women. It is not enough to maintain equality in our own relationships with women. While all of those things are important, abstaining personally from outright oppressive behavior doesn’t challenge patriarchy as a system of power. Basic decency commands that we work alongside women to uproot and dismantle this entire patriarchal system– within ourselves, within our groups and communities, and within institutions and the culture at large.

The following guidelines are to encourage male activists in DGR to change their behavior and to better ally themselves with women. As male activists we have been socialized into a culture of domination, and are just as liable to carry, practice, and reproduce patriarchy.

Remember: being an ally is an ongoing process rather than a title one earns; it must always be defined by women, who will determine by the daily actions and behaviors of a man how much of an ally he really is.

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Beautiful Justice: An Open Letter to Liberals

By Ben Barker / Deep Green Resistance Wisconsin

By Ben Barker / Deep Green Resistance Wisconsin

Do you believe in a better world? Do you believe in one without the torture of poverty and slavery; without hierarchies based on dominance; without a dying planet? If you do believe in this world, what are you willing to do to help bring it about?

I know many who yearn for justice, but far fewer with any kind of plan for achieving it. There’s no lack of morality in this equation, just of strategy and, perhaps, courage.

Every movement for social change has understood that when a system of law is corrupt, we must turn instead to the laws of the universe: human rights, the living land, justice. These movements are always deemed radical—and that’s because they are. Hope and prayers do not alone work to change the world. We’re going to have to fight for it.

All your heroes of the past knew this. Those who won civil rights knew it. Those who won women’s suffrage knew it. Those who abolished slavery knew it. Those who freed India from colonial rule knew it.

Martin Luther King, Jr. clearly understood this. He said, “Freedom is never given to anybody, for the oppressor has you in domination because he plans to keep you there, and he never voluntarily gives it up. And that is where the strong resistance comes. We’ve got to keep on keeping on, in order to gain freedom. It is not done voluntarily, but it is done through the pressure that comes about from people who are oppressed. Privileged classes never give up their privileges without strong resistance.”

All movements striking at the roots of social problems were—and still are—radical by default.

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Against Forgetting

By Derrick Jensen / Orion

By Derrick Jensen / Orion

This essay was originally printed in the July/August 2013 issue of Orion. Request a free trial issue of Orion here.

Last night a host of nonhuman neighbors paid me a visit. First, two gray foxes sauntered up, including an older female who lost her tail to a leghold trap six or seven years ago. They trotted back into a thicker part of the forest, and a few minutes later a raccoon ambled forward. After he left I saw the two foxes again. Later, they went around the right side of a redwood tree as a black bear approached around the left. He sat on the porch for a while, and then walked off into the night. Then the foxes returned, hung out, and, when I looked away for a moment then looked back, they were gone. It wasn’t too long before the bear returned to lie on the porch. After a brief nap, he went away. The raccoon came back and brought two friends. When they left the foxes returned, and after the foxes came the bear. The evening was like a French farce: As one character exited stage left, another entered stage right.

Although I see some of these nonhuman neighbors daily, I was entranced and delighted to see so many of them over the span of just one evening. I remained delighted until sometime the next day, when I remembered reading that, prior to conquest by the Europeans, people in this region could expect to see a grizzly bear every 15 minutes.

This phenomenon is something we all encounter daily, even if some of us rarely notice it. It happens often enough to have a name: declining baselines. The phrase describes the process of becoming accustomed to and accepting as normal worsening conditions. Along with normalization can come a forgetting that things were not always this way. And this can lead to further acceptance and further normalization, which leads to further amnesia, and so on. Meanwhile the world is killed, species by species, biome by biome. And we are happy when we see the ever-dwindling number of survivors.

I’ve gone on the salmon-spawning tours that local environmentalists give, and I’m not the only person who by the end is openly weeping. If we’re lucky, we see 15 fish. Prior to conquest there were so many fish the rivers were described as “black and roiling.” And it’s not just salmon. Only five years ago, whenever I’d pick up a piece of firewood, I’d have to take off a half-dozen sowbugs. It’s taken me all winter this year to see as many. And I used to go on spider patrol before I took a shower, in order to remove them to safety before the deluge. I still go on spider patrol, but now it’s mostly pro forma. The spiders are gone. My mother used to put up five hummingbird feeders, and the birds would fight over those. Now she puts up two, and as often as not the sugar ferments before anyone eats it. I used to routinely see bats in the summer. Last year I saw one.

You can transpose this story to wherever you live and whatever members of the nonhuman community live there with you. I was horrified a few years ago to read that many songbird populations on the Atlantic Seaboard have collapsed by up to 80 percent over the last 40 years. But, and this is precisely the point, I was even more horrified when I realized that Silent Spring came out more than 40 years ago, so this 80 percent decline followed an already huge decline caused by pesticides, which followed another undoubtedly huge decline caused by the deforestation, conversion to agriculture, and urbanization that followed conquest.

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