One day this past July, I received a message on my Facebook blog from someone named Vanessa. She’d found me on Twitter discussing environmental racism, and said she connected well to writers. I got a rush of anticipation reading her message, in which she asked about writing, but also to spread word of what was happening on the Tsawout (pronounced say-w-out) Reservation, where developers were deforesting land to build an RV park without permission. This introduction and following interview tell the story of how the Saanich/Wsanec are being displaced on their homeland in coastal British Columbia, Canada.
I wrote this for/about my son. He’s 11 years old, a known published Native author already, and an actor. My son is dealing with some bullying issues again because of his hair so I wrote this.
Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics invites submissions for a new blog series on “Native Liberation and Abolition.” We invite contributions from Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, writers, activists, organizers, and artists who can offer insight on the historical and contemporary forms of Native liberation movements and the liberatory practices incorporated in Indigenous societies and movement […]
by David Uahikeaikaleiʻohu Maile
Settler states criminalize protectors of Indigenous life, land, and water by labeling them ‘threats of violence.’ But, Indigenous protectors are exposing policing to be a precarious performance of settler sovereignty.
“The state reinforces a system that produces criminals out of those it has dispossessed.” –Macarena Gómez-Barris
The State of Hawaiʻi was founded on land stolen from Kānaka ‘Ōiwi. To be clear, it is a U.S. settler state. It formed initially in the wake of the illegal U.S. overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893. As the Republic of Hawaiʻi, it granted the unlawful annexation of the Hawaiian islands and transferal of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s national lands to the U.S. federal government in 1898. After being the Territory of Hawaiʻi, the U.S. federal government manufactured the “State of Hawai‘i” in 1959 and institutionalized it as the so-called fiftieth state, without consent from Kānaka Maoli. The legal, economic, political, and social processes for settlement of Hawaiʻi are ongoing to this very day. One pivotal way that settlement has continued is through the criminalization of Kānaka ‘Ōiwi. Particularly, the U.S. settler state in Hawai‘i turns Kānaka ‘Ōiwi into criminals to be detained, incarcerated, maimed, removed, murdered, and disappeared. The criminalization of Indigenous people—from Hawai‘i to the Americas, Palestine, and elsewhere—is an eliminatory technique for colonial dispossession. As Kānaka Maoli have been labeled threats of violence to be criminalized for defending our sacred mountain Mauna a Wākea from the Thirty Meter Telescope, water protectors of Mnisose, the Missouri River, have been also as a way to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. Accusations of violence were used to unleash dog attacks, strip search women, bag heads in hoods, rip flesh from bone with water cannons. The assault on Indigenous life, land, and water at Standing Rock clarifies how, as Chickasaw scholar Jodi A. Byrd laments, “in the United States, the Indian is the original enemy combatant.” For legal historian Lisa Ford, the criminalization of Indigenous populations, across Oceania and America, is an original feature of settler sovereignty. She writes, “The exercise of jurisdiction over indigenous crime performs the myth of settler sovereignty over and over.” What Ford refers to as legal myth literary critic Mark Rifkin calls the empty sign of settler sovereignty, which, performed obsessively over and over again, reveals a hollowness in settler state power to be targeted and antagonized.
But how does the state materially reinforce a system that produces criminals out of those it has dispossessed? In this essay, I suggest it is through the management of threats of violence. To support this argument, I explore settler state policing from the vantage of Kanaka Maoli opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), a development project for the astronomy industry at our sacred mountain Mauna a Wākea on Hawai‘i island. Analyzing three material objects—an emergency rule, bullet hole, and knee—I track how symbolic threats of violence are manufactured to obscure and exact concrete violences. But, what can an administrative law, image of a hole in a door, and body part of a police officer tell us about threats of violence? Indeed, these legal, visual, and fleshy objects are quite revealing. Interrogating discourses mingling through and amongst them, I argue ‘threats of violence’ is a discursive formation produced by the settler state and dispersed through its institutions of media and police. Weaving together scholarship from Critical Police, Hawaiian, and Indigenous Studies, I demonstrate ‘threats of violence’ maintains a dual function. First, suggesting that Kānaka Maoli who defend Mauna a Wākea from the TMT threaten acts of violence, and are violent threats themselves, rationalizes police intervention by the U.S. settler state. In other words, figurative threats of alleged violence from kia‘i, the guardians and protectors of our mountain, condone material violence against them by police. Second, ‘threats of violence’ defers and tries to erase not only the colonial violence animating the U.S. settler state in Hawai‘i, and its deployment of police and their militarized interventions, but also the diversity of violence that TMT does. In what follows, I mine three material objects, offer two interventions, and conclude with one mo‘olelo—a story that lays bare how settler state policing of Kānaka Maoli is a performance of precarity.
“Let us burn this motherfucking system to the ground and build something better.”
-Claire Vaye Watkins
In this article, the authors examine the ways in which the state, broadly understood as a technique, practice, and effect of modern governance and its optimization, creates impossible conditions for radical political transformation in the U.S. To illustrate these conditions, the authors show how the state relies upon notions of decency or civility to enact and elide blatant colonialism. The authors draw from the following examples to advance this argument: the “EPA Spill” or the ongoing environmental genocide shaping life across occupied Indigenous lands in the U.S. Southwest; the surprising, yet all too ordinary, election of President Trump; and the racist detainment of children from Central America in the name of humanitarian “law and order.” The authors contend that because these acts illustrate how Euro-American colonial norms continue to shape everyday violence, abolition as a praxis and vision must contend with how to burn down all of the mechanics of contemporary governance, to cooperatively dismantle the state as such, before promoting alternative social systems and political worlds. One way that the authors propose to accomplish this is to incinerate decency as an organizing precept for democracy, civic comportment, and political participation.
by Sara C. Motta
We remain in body and spirit, despite the violence injected in our bones, hearts and wombs by the racist patriarchal capitalist-colonial system.
Our rage is a palpable and righteous response to this violence. But new worlds cannot be built on rage alone. Our struggle to move from survival to flourishing can be nurtured by and through decolonising love.
“To best illustrate her convincing analysis of actually existing jurisdiction, Pasternak asks us to sharpen our metaphorical guillotines — or our skinning knives — to lop off the head of the king, the sovereign, the head of state. What authority proliferates in the absence of this false symbol of power? Surely, in Turtle Island what remains and grows in the absence of the long shadow cast by colonialism are the robust forms of Indigenous legal authority: the enduring, preexisting, and co-developed authorities existing alongside imperial and colonial legalities. But from where does Indigenous authority derive? It certainly does not come from a divine ruler, the sovereign, or the most powerful political and territorial imaginary in history: the nation-state. These realms of “civilization” categorically consign Indigenous peoples to that lawless space where life is, to quote Hobbes, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” A place we can call death. On the other hand, Algonquin political authority, Pasternak powerfully demonstrates, derives from a multiplicity of institutions, individuals, and other-than-human agents that encompass the resilience of Indigenous life in the face of constant erasure, disappearance, and elimination.”
by Matthew Chrisler
How does participation in Canadian Reconciliation further the colonial governance of Indigenous peoples? This is the central question of Jaskiran Dhillon’s new monograph, Prairie Rising: Indigenous Youth, Decolonization, and the Politics of Intervention (University of Toronto Press, 2017). Tracing the impact of nonprofit programs focused on intervening in the lives of Indigenous youth trapped in circuits of incarceration and social marginalization, Dhillon provides powerful new evidence for what Indigenous scholars and activists have argued is only a kinder, gentler colonialism.