Indigenizing ‘Occupy Wall Street’ – OpEd


By Hamid Golpira

Up to now, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been a mostly white and a mostly middle-class affair.

Taking a glance at the Occupy Wall Street movement and its many offshoots across the United States, many observers asked, “Where are the American Indians of the reservations, the Blacks of the ghettos, the Chicanos and other Hispanics of the barrios, the homeless of all races, and the undocumented immigrants?”

And the answer was, “For the most part, they are not to be found in the Occupy Wall Street movement and its offshoots.”

This fact illustrated the limited nature of the movement.

But perhaps the times are changing.

On October 8, the Occupy Denver General Assembly unanimously endorsed an initiative by the American Indian Movement of Colorado on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Afterwards, some members of the Occupy Denver movement said the Occupy Denver General Assembly is a self-appointed group that does not speak for the entire movement.

However, the fact that at least some members of Occupy Denver did endorse the AIM Colorado initiative is an encouraging sign.

It was reported that Occupy Boston also approved a similar but much less detailed and less specific proposal on the rights of indigenous peoples earlier on the same day.

Occupy Denver and Occupy Boston agreed to the proposals on the eve of Indigenous People’s Day, which was observed on Monday.

Progressives in the United States are opposed to the official holiday called Columbus Day and celebrate Indigenous People’s Day on that date.

Following are a few excerpts from the text of the American Indian Movement of Colorado initiative, which is entitled “An Indigenous Platform Proposal for Occupy Denver”:

“As indigenous peoples, we welcome the awakening of those who are relatively new to our homeland. We are thankful, and rejoice, for the emergence of a movement that is mindful of its place in the environment, that seeks economic and social justice, that strives for an end to oppression in all its forms, that demands an adequate standard of food, employment, shelter and health care for all, and that calls for envisioning a new, respectful and honorable society. We have been waiting for 519 years for such a movement, ever since that fateful day in October 1492 when a different worldview arrived — one of greed, hierarchy, destruction and genocide.”

“In observing the ‘Occupy Together’ expansion, we are reminded that the territories of our indigenous nations have been ‘under occupation’ for decades, if not centuries. We remind the occupants of this encampment in Denver that they are on the territories of the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Ute peoples. In the US, indigenous nations were the first targets of corporate/government oppression.”

“If this movement is serious about confronting the foundational assumptions of the current US system, then it must begin by addressing the original crimes of the US colonizing system against indigenous nations. Without addressing justice for indigenous peoples, there can never be a genuine movement for justice and equality in the United States.”

Elsewhere in their proposal, AIM Colorado asked Occupy Denver “to repudiate the Doctrine of Christian Discovery… to endorse the right of all indigenous peoples to the international right of self-determination… to acknowledge that indigenous peoples have the right to practice and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies… and to have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites… to recognize that indigenous peoples and nations are entitled to the permanent control and enjoyment of their aboriginal-ancestral territories… and… to assert that indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions.”

AIM Colorado also asked Occupy Denver “to recognize that the settler state boundaries in the Americas are colonial fabrications that should not limit or restrict the ability of indigenous peoples to travel freely, without inhibition or restriction, throughout the Americas” and “to demand the immediate release of American Indian political prisoner, Leonard Peltier, US Prisoner #89637-132, from US federal custody.”

Those are tall orders.

Will the members of the Occupy Wall Street movement and its many offshoots agree to all of this, join forces with the indigenous peoples of the Americas, embrace indigenous perspectives, and transform their movement into an Occupy Together movement?

Some of them are ready to do so already. However, it will probably be very difficult for most of them.

Very many of them do not have a one-world mindset, and it will not be easy for them to adopt such a worldview.

Many of them grew up in a racist environment or went to schools that used biased curriculums.

They are not familiar with Native American history and the indigenous narrative.

To understand the indigenous perspective, they will have to elevate their consciousness and will have to unlearn some of the things that were “taught” to them in the Western education system.

If they can do all that, an Occupy Together movement can be created in the United States, and they could even join forces with like-minded people in similar movements in other parts of the world.

And if that happens, perhaps it will be the beginning of the long-awaited global paradigm shift.

Press TV

Press TV is a state funded news network owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Its headquarters are located in Tehran, Iran and seeks to counter a western view on news.

One thought on “Indigenizing ‘Occupy Wall Street’ – OpEd

  • October 12, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    I couldn’t agree more on this article but let’s face it that will never happen. Not from the government, you think anyone on the Hill would ever admitt any wrong and actually want to rectify it. They can’t even make a decision to give six Va Tribes their rightful federal recognition but they can pass bills to give same sex marriages. That’s a no-brainer I guess. yet we wonder why our country and the world for that matter is in the shape it’s in.


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