Locating An Indigenous Anarchism

By Aragorn!

Published in “Green Anarchy”, Issue #19 — Spring 2005

It’s easy enough to hedge about politics. It comes naturally and most of the time the straight answer isn’t really going to satisfy the questioner, nor is it appropriate to fix our politics to this world, to what feels immovable. Politics, like experience, is a subjective way to understand the world. At best it provides a deeper vocabulary than mealy-mouthed platitudes about being good to people, at worst (and most commonly) it frames people and ideas into ideology. Ideology, as we are fully aware, is a bad thing. Why? Because it answers questions better left haunting us, because it attempts to answer permanently what is temporary at best.

It is easy to be cagey about politics but for a moment let us imagine a possibility. Not to tell one another what to do, or about an answer to every question that could arise, but to take a break from hesitation. Let us imagine what an indigenous anarchism could look like.

We should start with what we have, which is not a lot. What we have, in this world, is the memory of a past obscured by history books, of a place clear-cut, planted upon, and paved over. We share this memory with our extended family, who we quarrel with, who we care for deeply, and who often believe in those things we do not have. What we do have is not enough to shape this world, but is usually enough to get us by.

If we were to shape this world (an opportunity we would surely reject if we were offered), we would begin with a great burning. We would likely begin in the cities where with all the wooden structures of power and underbrush of institutional assumption the fire would surely burn brightly and for a very long time. It would be hard on those species that lived in these places. It would be very hard to remember what living was like without relying on deadfall and fire departments. But we would remember. That remembering wouldn’t look like a skill-share or an extension class in the methods of survival, but an awareness that no matter how skilled we personally are (or perceive ourselves to be) we need our extended family.

We will need each other to make sure that the flames, if they were to come, clear the area that we will live in together. We will need to clear it of the fuel that would end up repeating the problems we are currently having. We will need to make sure that the seeds, nutrients and soil are scattered beyond our ability to control.

Once we get beyond the flames we will have to craft a life together. We will have to recall what social behavior looks and feels like. We will have to heal.

When we begin to examine what life could be like, now that all the excuses are gone, now that all the bullies are of human size and shape, we will have to keep in mind many things. We will have to always keep in mind the matter of scale. We will have to keep in mind the memory of the first people and the people who kept the memory of matches and where and when to burn through the past confusing age. For what it is worth we will have to establish a way to live that is both indigenous, which is to say of the land that we are actually on, and anarchist, which is to say without authoritarian constraint.

First Principles

First principles are those perspectives that (adherents to) a tendency would understand as immutable. They are usually left unstated. Within anarchism these principles include direct action, mutual aid, and voluntary cooperation. These are not ideas about how we are going to transform society or about the form of anarchist organization, but an understanding about what would be innovative and qualitatively different about an anarchist social practice vis-à-vis a capitalist republic, or a totalitarian socialism.

It is worth noting a cultural history of our three basic anarchist principles as a way of understanding what an indigenous anarchist set of principles could look like. Direct action as a principle is primarily differentiated from the tradition of labor struggles, where it was used as a tactic, in that it posits that living ‘directly’ (or in an unmediated fashion) is an anarchist imperative. Put another way, the principle of direct action would be an anarchist statement of self-determination in practical aspects of life. Direct action must be understood through the lens of the events of May ’68 where a rejection of alienated life led large sections of French society into the streets and towards a radically self-organized practice.

The principle of mutual aid is a very traditional anarchist concept. Peter Kropotkin laid out a scientific analysis of animal survival and (as a corollary to Darwin’s theory of evolution) described a theory of cooperation that he felt better suited most species. As one of the fathers of anarchism (and particularly Anarcho-Communism) Kropotkin’s concept of mutual aid has been embraced by most anarchists. As a principle it is generally limited to a level of tacit anarchist support for anarchist projects.

By George Micalef

Voluntary cooperation is the anarchist principle that informs anarchist understandings of economics, social behavior (and exclusion), and the scale of future society. It could be stated simply as the principle that we, individually, should determine what we do with our time, with whom we work, and how we work. Anarchists have wrestled with these concepts for as long as there has been a discernible anarchist practice. The spectrum of anarchist thought on the nuance of voluntary cooperation ranges from Max Stirner who refuses anything but total autonomy to Kropotkin whose theory of a world without scarcity (which is a fundamental premise of most Marxist positions) would give us greater choices about what we would do with our time. Today this principle is usually stated most clearly as the principle to freely associate (and disassociate) with one another.

This should provide us with enough information to make the simple statement that anarchist principles have been informed by science (both social and physical), a particular understanding of the individual (and their relation to larger bodies) and as a response to the alienation of modern existence and the mechanisms that social institutions use to manipulate people. Naturally we will now move onto how an indigenous perspective differs from these.

In the spirit of speaking clearly I hesitate in making the usual caveats when principles are in question. These hesitations are not because, in practice, there is any doubt as to what the nature of relationship or practice should look like. But when writing, particularly about politics, you can do yourself a great disservice by planting a flag and calling it righteous. Stating principles as the basis for a politic usually is such a flag. If I believe in a value and then articulate that value as instrumental for an appropriate practice then what is the difference between my completely subjective (or self-serving) perspective and one that I could possibly share usefully? This question should continue to haunt us.

Since we have gone this far let us speak, for a moment, about an indigenous anarchism’s first principles. Insert caveats about this being one perspective among many. Everything is alive. Alive may not be the best word for what is being talked about but we could say imbibed with spirit or filled with the Great Spirit and we would mean the same thing. We will assume that a secular audience understands life as complex, interesting, in motion, and valuable. This same secular person may not see the Great Spirit in things that they are capable of seeing life in.

The counterpoint to everything being filled with life is that there are no dead things. Nothing is an object. Anything worth directly experiencing is worth acknowledging and appreciating for its complexity, its dynamism and its intrinsic worth. When one passes from what we call life, they do not become object, they enrich the lives they touched and the earth they lie in. If everything is alive, then sociology, politics, and statistics all have to be destroyed if for no other reason but because they are anti-life disciplines.

Another first principle would be that of the ascendance of memory. Living in a world where complex artifices are built on foundations of lies leads us to believe that there is nothing but deceit and untruth. Our experience would lead us to believe nothing less. Compounding this problem is the fact that those who could tell us the truth, our teachers, our newscasters and our media devote a scarce amount of their resources to anything like honesty. It is hard to blame them. Their memory comes from the same forgetfulness that ours does.

If we were to remember we would spend a far greater amount of our time remembering. We would share our memories with those we loved, with those we visited, and those who passed by us. We will have to spend a lot of time creating new memories to properly place the recollection of a frustrated forgetful world whose gift was to destroy everything dissimilar to itself.

An indigenous anarchism is an anarchism of place. This would seem impossible in a world that has taken upon itself the task of placing us nowhere. A world that places us nowhere universally. Even where we are born, live, and die is not our home. An anarchism of place could look like living in one area for all of your life. It could look like living only in areas that are heavily wooded, that are near life-sustaining bodies of water, or in dry places. It could look like traveling through these areas. It could look like traveling every year as conditions, or desire, dictated. It could look like many things from the outside, but it would be choice dictated by the subjective experience of those living in place and not the exigency of economic or political priorities. Location is the differentiation that is crushed by the mortar of urbanization and pestle of mass culture into the paste of modern alienation.

A view of Matȟó Thípila from a field north of the butte.

Finally an indigenous anarchism places us as an irremovable part of an extended family. This is an extension of the idea that everything is alive and therefore we are related to it in the sense that we too are alive. It is also a statement of a clear priority. The connection between living things, which we would shorthand to calling family, is the way that we understand ourselves in the world. We are part of a family and we know ourselves through family. Leaving aside the secular language for a moment, it is impossible to understand oneself or one another outside of the spirit. It is the mystery that should remain outside of language that is what we all share together and that sharing is living.

Anarchist in spirit vs. Anarchist in word

Indigenous people in general and North American native people specifically have not taken too kindly to the term anarchist up until this point. There have been a few notable exceptions (Rob los Ricos, Zig Zag, and myself among them) but the general take is exemplified by Ward Churchill’s line “I share many anarchist values like opposition to the State but…” Which begs the question why aren’t more native people interested in anarchism?

Image by Zig Zag

The most obvious answer to this question is that anarchism is part of a European tradition so far outside of the mainstream that it isn’t generally interesting (or accessible) to non-westerners. This is largely true but is only part of the answer. Another part of an answer can be seen in the surprisingly large percentage of anarchists who hold that race doesn’t matter; that it is, at best, a tool used to divide us (by the Man) and at worst something that will devolve society into tribalism [sic]. Outside of whether there are any merits to these arguments (which I believe stand by themselves) is the violation of two principles that have not been discussed in detail up until this point — self-determination and radical decentralization.

Self-determination should be read as the desire for people who are self-organized (whether by tradition, individual choice, or inclination) to decide how they want to live with each other. This may seem like common sense, and it is, but it is also consistently violated by people who believe that their value system supersedes that of those around them. The question that anarchists of all stripes have to answer for themselves is whether they are capable of dealing with the consequences of other people living in ways they find reprehensible.

Radical decentralization is a probable outcome to most anarchist positions. There are very few anarchists (outside of Parecon) that believe that an anarchist society will have singular answers to politics, economy, or culture. More than a consequence, the principle of radical decentralization means it is preferable for there to be no center.

If anarchists are not able to apply the principles of self-determination to the fact that real living and breathing people do identify within racial and cultural categories and that this identification has consequences in terms of dealing with one another can we be shocked that native people (or so-called people of color) lack any interest in cohabitating? Furthermore if anarchists are unable to see that the consequence of their own politic includes the creation of social norms and cultures that they would not feel comfortable in, in a truly decentralized social environment, what hope do they have to deal with the people with whom they don’t feel comfortable today?

The answer is that these anarchists do not expect to deal with anyone outside of their understanding of reality. They expect reality to conform to their subjective understanding of it.

This problem extends to the third reason that native people lack interest in anarchism. Like most political tendencies anarchism has come up with a distinct language, cadence, and set of priorities. The tradition of these distinctions is what continues to bridge the gap between many of the anarchist factions that have very little else in common. This tradition is not a recruiting tradition. There is only a small evangelical tradition within anarchism. It is largely an inscrutable tradition outside of itself.

This isn’t a problem outside of itself. The problem is that it is coupled with the arrogance of the educated along with the worst of radical politics’ excesses. This is best seen in the distinction that continues to be made of a discrete tradition of anarchism from actions that are anarchistic. Anarchists would like to have it both ways. They would like to see their tradition as being both a growing and vital one along with being uncompromising and deeply radical. Since an anarchist society would be such a break from what we experience in this world, it would be truly different. It is impossible to perceive any scenario that leads from here to there. There is no path.

The anarchist analysis of the Zapatistas is a case in point. Anarchists have understood that it was an indigenous struggle, that it was armed and decentralized but habitually temper their enthusiasm with warnings about a) valorizing Subcommandante Marcos, b) the differences between social democracy and anarchism, c) the problems with negotiating with the State for reforms, etc. etc.

Subcomandante Marcos

These points are valid and criticism is not particularly the problem. What is the problem is that anarchist criticism is generally more repetitive than it is inspired or influential. Repetitive criticisms are useful in getting every member of a political tendency on the same page. Criticism helps us understand the difference between illusion and reality. But the form that anarchist criticism has taken about events in the world is more useful in shaping an understanding of what real anarchists believe than what the world is.

As long as the arbiters of anarchism continue to be the wielders of the Most Appropriate Critique, then anarchism will continue to be an isolated sect far removed from any particularly anarchistic events that happen in the world. This will continue to make the tendency irrelevant for those people who are interested in participating in anarchistic events.

Native People are not gone

For many readers these ideas may seem worth pursuit. An indigenous anarchism may state a position felt but not articulated about how to live with one another, how to live in the world and about the decomposition. These readers will recognize themselves in indigeneity and ponder the next step. A radical position must embed an action plan, right?

No, it does not.

This causality, this linear vision of the progress of human events from idea to articulation to strategy to victory is but one way to understand the story of how we got from there to here. Progress is but one mythology. Another is that the will to power, or the spirit of resistance, or the movement of the masses transforms society. They may, and I appreciate those stories, but I will not finish this story with a happy ending that will not come true. This is but a sharing. This is a dream I have had for some time and haven’t shown to any of you before, which is not to say that I do not have a purpose…

Whether stated in the same language or not, the only indigenous anarchists that I have met (with one or three possible exceptions) have been native people. This is not because living with these principles is impossible for non-native people but because there are very few teachers and even fewer students. If learning how to live with these values is worth anything it is worth making the compromises necessary to learn how people have been living with them for thousands of years.

Contrary to popular belief, the last hope for native values or an indigenous world-view is not the good hearted people of civilized society. It is not more casinos or a more liberal Bureau of Indian Affairs. It is not the election of Russell Means to the presidency of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. It is patience. As I was told time and time again as a child “The reason that I sit here and drink is because I am waiting for the white man to finish his business. And when he is done we will return.”

Cucapá Capture Police Vehicles in Baja California, Mexico & Force Release of Arrested Relatives

Vehicles of the Municipal Police Captured by Cucapá Community Defense Committee

December 24th, 2019

Members of our El Mayor village of Indigenous Cucapá faced challenging odds when police arrived on Christmas eve to arrest chapaay (tribal members) known to resist the state and re-appropriate from capitalists. Fifteen Municipal units two Ministerial units arrived in force with dozens of officers.

Word spread through the community that a snatch job was underway. Under the coordination of the El Mayor Cucapá Community Defense & Surveillance Committee, our chapaay sprang into action.

“For us, the women, we cover and cover them [the men]. Nobody intimidates us, even when it comes to defending our own people from home invasion by the police. They tried to arrest a Cucapá without any order and / or authorization,” said one member of the committee.

Community members strategically closed the roads at both ends before the police could leave, trapping their expensive vehicles. With this leverage, representatives from El Mayor demanded the release of our imprisoned family and comrades.

We are forced to do this because they rig investigations without evidence, they do not work for Cucapá interests, they only pretend to listen to our concerns, and they only really want bribes. With unity and direct action, our voice becomes much louder and had actual effect.

The judge relented and the Cucapá were released. We kept our end of the bargain. They got their police trucks back. ¡Viva Cucapá!

IAF-FAI Imposters: The FAImujer Saga

Since very early in the history of the Indigenous Anarchist Federation - Federación Anarquista Indígena (IAF-FAI), we have been plagued by an imposter. We have received many questions about why we would support MLM movements, brutal dictatorships, and repressive state apparatus, only to find out that these posts originated from a fake account entitled @/FAImujer. In order to put all of this saga into one article, we have compiled this piece (which is sure to grow), as Twitter has done little to stop this fake account. Let’s set the record straight.

The IAF-FAI was founded on June 1st of 2018. A comrade by the pseudonym Insurgente Eepa contacted Bad Salish Girl and The Green City about forming an organization to center Indigenous anarchism. Together they started building the IAF-FAI. At the time, all three of these comrades had pages with personal information that were used to write posts and express thoughts. Little to our knowledge, FAImujer started a page on June 24th, stealing the header and logo of the IAF-FAI, and falsely claiming that their logo was stolen and that the IAF-FAI was run by a white man.

When we discovered this on July 2nd, 2018 and after discussing, we reached out to the FAImujer account to offer to have them speak with us about what we had done that supposedly run counter to a strong Anarchist empowerment of women. Silence. To this day, this post and offer to clear up any misconceptions has gone unanswered.

We decided to try to positively interact with the FAImujer account to try to mend the unknown wound that FAImujer purported to have. It wasn’t until posts supporting Ortega and other authoritarian powers that we started to get messages from confused followers. It was at this point that we started to tell people that FAImujer was definitely not affiliated with the IAF-FAI. When organizations like BRRN or accounts like @libcomorg reached out, we told them we were fine with them informing their followers of the imposter account.

FAImujer then began to help doxx one of the founding members who had switched to a pseudonym at the advice of elders who were involved with AIM. This doxing and harassment continued with FAImujer even contacting the tribe of an IAF-FAI admin who works with his tribe’s cultural preservation programs.

We started making the moves to change our logo in January 2019 with the incredible talents of Barb Radical graphic design. It was always the plan to change from the first logo which was hastily made as a placeholder by an admin. The use of our logo to confuse and siphon followers by FAImujer accelerated our need to adopt a new logo.

Some suggested delaying this adoption so that our complaints to twitter might go answered, but we decided to press forward without resolution and adopted the new logo on March 2nd, 2019. Our old logo still appears on some of our flyers in circulation, but we are updating as time goes on.

As we have been struggling to deal with the confusion caused by FAImujer, we have posted proof several times showing the claims FAImujer has made are categorically untrue. Here are a few false claims that FAImujer has claimed and some proof to refute their lies:

The logo/header were stolen.’

  • Here we can see that the logo and header were created a few days after the founding of the IAF-FAI on June 3rd, 2018. This logo design was done with a combination of programs and had two versions, a bilingual primary logo and a English compact logo. The header was simple. FAImujer claimed that this was stolen, but their page didn’t start until June 24th. One twitter user, @ThaumPenguin, brought to our attention that their version of the logo is fuzzy from being run through the twitter compression algorithm multiple times. FAImujer has been asked to produce the metadata for the logo, but they have refused.

The Black Rose Rosa Negra Federation runs IAF-FAI.’

  • We do have a few members who are a part of this organization, but our founding members were not affiliated. BRRN uses a Platformist organizing structure and has somewhat rigid requirements for membership. IAF-FAI does not follow this structure and prefers to bring together diverse Indigenous Anarchists who reflect their communities instead of an organization. We prefer for our members to create cells in their own backyard., which gives them the freedom to affiliate fluidly and to act organically. We enjoy the work of BRRN, but we are different in a lot of ways.

‘IAF-FAI is run by one man.’

  • One of the most common conspiracy theories pushed by FAImujer has been that we are run by one white man, but from the beginning, we were run by three anarchists, only one a man. Now our number of admins is ever-expanding. Some help with running the twitter account, some help with media appearances, and some help with mailing counter-propaganda for IAF-FAI organizers on the ground. It would be physically impossible for one person to do all of the work needed to run the IAF-FAI. We have had at least four admins comfortable enough with being recorded go on podcasts including RevLeftRadio, The Final Straw, and Coffee with Comrades. Most of our members are non cis-male. That’s a good thing for IAF-FAI as an organization. Most of the admins keep their identities quiet to help prevent doxing. Unfortunately, FAImujer has been responsible for almost the same level of harassment as Alt-Right fascist trolls.

We are still not sure whether FAImujer is actually an indigenous person who is too obsessed with conspiracy theories to actually speak with the people, if they are a non-native troll account, or if they are an actively malicious attempt to discredit the growing Indigenous Anarchist movement at large. FAImujer claims to be run by one Indigenous Marxist woman, but they have provided no proof that they are indigenous or what people claim them.

At the end of the day, FAImujer has been a nuisance to our organizing, but is something we can overcome. Seeing IAF-FAI flags at parades, seeing IAF-FAI shirts on the streets, seeing anti-colonial IAF-FAI stickers from Brazil to Canada to Denmark, seeing comrades for the first time at actions, makes it all makes it worth it. The relationships we have built in this organization has been a process of love and mutual creativity, and these relationships will carry Indigenous Anarchism through this century and on to the next.

In parting, we want to offer these words, as we have in the past, to FAImujer. We are still willing to talk. A lot of people like your posts and you have potential to create your own organization. If you ever feel like giving up this crusade against the people of IAF-FAI, perhaps we can mend broken bridges. Until then, we ask that you stop using our original logo, stop using half of our name, and stop confusing people. Indigenous Anarchism can’t grow with these pointless feuds.

IAF-FAI Stickers for Indigenous Organizers!

We are proud to announce the availability of four stickers to help our Indigenous comrades organize and radicalize in their communities.

If you are Indigenous or are a non-Indigenous person of color we can send you some of each free of charge.

If you are a non-Indigenous we can send you some of each for $15 (additional donations welcomed). These funds will help buy the next round of stickers (hopefully in Spanish) and pay for postage.

Contact us on twitter at @IAF__FAI or email us at [email protected] to order some today!

How do you use these stickers?

  • Sticker tag your bus stop.
  • Put one in your break room.
  • Stick one in the community center or youth center.
  • See that seat across from you as your ride home. That looks like a great spot!
  • Give a few to your local radical book store.
  • Add these to your table at a local event, gathering, or Pow-Wow.
  • Put them everywhere Indigenous eyes can see them!

A Zapatista Response to “The EZLN Is NOT Anarchist”

From a letter sent to the anarchist periodical “Green Anarchy” sometime around 2002. A look at why the Zapatistas do not subscribe to a singular political identity.

First and foremost, it must be said that only small elements of the Frente Zapatista are willing to engage in a debate with insignificant elements along an ideological fringe. One would find even fewer warriors within the Ejercito Zapatista who would be willing to engage in intangible rhetorical battles with people whose greatest virtue is spreading their lack of understanding and knowledge around in newspapers and magazines. But the article entitled “The EZLN Is NOT Anarchist” reflected such a colonialist attitude of arrogant ignorance, several of us decided to write a response to you.

You are right. The EZLN and its larger populist body the FZLN are NOT Anarchist. Nor do we intend to be, nor should we be. In order for us to make concrete change in our social and political struggles, we cannot limit ourselves by adhering to a singular ideology. Our political and military body encompasses a wide range of belief systems from a wide range of cultures that cannot be defined under a narrow ideological microscope. There are anarchists in our midst, just as there are Catholics and Communists and followers of Santeria. We are Indians in the countryside and workers in the city. We are politicians in office and homeless children on the street. We are gay and straight, male and female, wealthy and poor. What we all have in common is a love for our families and our homelands. What we all have in common is a desire to make things better for ourselves and our country. None of this can be accomplished if we are to build walls of words and abstract ideas around ourselves.

Over the past 500 years, we have been subjected to a brutal system of exploitation and degradation few in North America have ever experienced. We have been denied land and freedom since before your country was even made and accordingly have a much different view on the world than you. We were subjected by colonial rule first by the Spanish, then by the French and Germans and lastly by the North Americans. For centuries Mexicans have been slaves and fodder and treated as less than human; a fact that scars us to this day and a fact we cannot and should not forget. Our past has made us what we are today and in attempting to break this historical trend of exploitation, we have risen up multiple times in attempts to reclaim our humanity and better our lives. First we fought with Juarez and Hidalgo against the Spanish crown, then Zapata and Villa against the Porfiriato. Now we fight against the different faces of the same head seeking to keep us enslaved as subhuman servants to Capital. This is not a struggle that was picked up from a book or gleaned from a movie, but a struggle we all inherited the moment we were given the light of life. This is a struggle that is in front of all our lives, even running through our blood. It is a struggle many of our fathers and grandfathers died for and one we ourselves are willing to die for. A struggle necessary for our people and our country. It is apparent from your condescending language and arrogant shortsightedness that you understand very little about Mexican History or Mexicans in general. We may be “fundamentally reformist” and may be working for “nothing concrete that could not be provided for by capitalism” but rest assured that food, land, democracy, justice and peace are terribly precious when you don’t have them. Precious enough to struggle for at any cost, even at the risk of offending some comfortable people in a far off land who think their belief system is more important than basic human needs. Precious enough to work for with whatever tools we have before us, be it negotiations with the State or networking within popular culture. Our struggle was raging before anarchism was even a word, much less an ideology with newspapers and disciples. Our struggle is older than Bakunin or Kropotkin. Even though anarchists and syndicates have fought bravely with us, we are not willing to lower our history to meet some narrow ideology exported from the same countries we fought against in our Wars for independence. The struggle in Mexico, Zapatista and otherwise, is a product of our histories and our cultures and cannot be bent and manipulated to fit someone else’s formula, much less a formula not at all informed about our people, our country or our histories. You are right, we as a movement are not anarchist. We are people trying to take control of our lives and reclaim a dignity that was stolen from us the moment Cortes came to power.

In fighting for these ends, we must do what is most effective for us, for all of us, without succumbing to the temptation of being divided into small little groups that are more easily purchased by those keeping us enslaved. We learned this lesson from La Malinche as she helped Cortes divide 30 million Mexicans up into an easily conquered group of feuding bodies. We learned this lesson from the post-independence reign of the Porfiriato and from the post-revolutionary betrayal at the hands of the rich powers. We see narrow-minded ideologies like anarchism and communism as tools to pull apart Mexicans into more easily exploitable groups. Rather than facing our enemies as groups that can be turned against each other, we prefer to work together as a common people with a common goal. Your article used the word “compromise” as though it were profanity. For us it is the glue that holds us all together in a common struggle. Without these compromises that allow us to work together, we would be nowhere; lonely slaves waiting to be exploited just as we have been in the past. We will not be bought off this time. We will not allow ourselves to be treated as particulars and accept favors from the powers that harvest wealth from our misfortune. And as we are doing things right now, it is working. 60 million people signed petitions to stop the War in Chiapas. Zapatismo is alive again. We have cells in every town in every state all across the country made up of people from all over the demographic spectrum. We are organized. We are powerful. We will succeed in our fight simply because we are too large and too well organized to be ignored or quashed by the Powers. What we have may not be perfect. It may not be ideal. But it is working for us now in a very much visible fashion. And we wouldn’t hesitate to say that if you were in our position, you would be doing the same things. But what really enraged us in your article was the familiar old face of colonialism shining through your good intentions. Lots of North Americans come to Mexico and turn up their nose at our food and our lifestyles, claiming that we are not as good as things they have “back home.” The author of your article does the same thing in his “critiques” of Zapatismo. If these “critiques” had included a detailed discussion on our tactics with reference to our history and current positions in the world, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, nothing that we don’t do constantly within our own organizations. But the fact that he just slagged Zapatismo off as being a vanguard of reformist nationalists without even a touch of analysis on WHY this is, illustrates that once again we Mexicans are not as good as the all knowing North American Imperialist who thinks himself more aware, more intelligent and more sophisticated politically than the dumb Mexican. This attitude, though hidden behind thin veils of objectivity, is the same attitude that we have been dealing with for 500 years, where someone else in some other country from some other culture thinks they know what is best for us more than we do ourselves. Even more disgusting to us was the line “The question of revolutionary solidarity in these struggles is, therefore, the question of how to intervene in a way that is fitting with one’s aims, in a way that moves one’s revolutionary anarchist project forward.” It would be difficult for us to design a more concise list of colonial words and attitudes than those used in this sentence. “Intervene?” “Moves one’s ‘project’ forward?” Mexicans have a very well developed understanding of what “intervention” entails. Try looking up Conquista and Villahermosa and Tejas and Maximilian in a history book for even a small glimpse of what we see when North Americans start talking about “intervention.” But once again, the anarchists in North America know better than us about how to wage a struggle we have been engaged in since 300 years before their country was founded and can therefore, even think about using us as a means to “advance their project.” That is the same exact attitude Capitalists and Empires have been using to exploit and degrade Mexico and the rest of the third world for the past five hundred years. Even though this article talks a lot about revolution, the attitudes and ideas held by the author are no different than those held by Cortes, Monroe or any other corporate imperialist bastard you can think of. Your intervention is not wanted nor are we a “project” for some high-minded North Americans to profit off.The author talks much about revolutionary solidarity without ever defining the term. What does revolutionary solidarity mean to him? From the attitude of his article it is apparent that revolutionary solidarity is more or less the same thing to him as “profit margins” and “cost/benefit analyses” are to corporate imperialists, ways to use someone else for one’s own gain. So long as North American anarchists hold and espouse colonialist belief systems they will forever find themselves without allies in the third world. The peasants in Bolivia and Ecuador, no matter how closely in conformity with your rigid ideology, will not appreciate your condescending colonial attitudes anymore than would the freedom fighters in Papua New Guinea or anywhere else in the world.

Colonialism is one of the many enemies we are fighting in this world and so long as North Americans reinforce colonial thought patterns in their “revolutionary” struggles, they will never be on the side of any anti-colonial struggle anywhere.We in the Zapatista struggle have never asked anyone for unflinching, uncritical support. What we have asked the world to do is respect the historical context we are in and think about the actions we do to pull ourselves from under the boots of oppression. At the same time, you should be looking at your own struggles in your own country and seeing the commonalties we have between us. This is the only way we have to make a global Revolution.

Another Voice Lost: Hipólita Espinoza Higuera, One Of The Last Speakers Of Kiliwa

By Arnulfo Estrada Ramírez, Ensenada Chronicler, Hipólita Espinoza Higuera

“News from Arroyo de León, Kiliwa community. A few hours ago, at approximately 9 o’clock on the night of April 30, 2019, Hipólita Espinoza Higuera (Pola) died at the age of 93. Pola was the oldest person in the community. Her sister Rosa, who has lived in Valle de Guadalupe for more than 50 years, as well as her cousin Leonor Farlow and herself, are from a generation in which everyone communicated in kiliwa. He was born in El Tepi, a former Kiliwa territory that was stripped by mestizos in 1969. The daughter of kiliwa Rodolfo Espinoza Cañedo and Victoria Higuera González, both of Pa ipai origin, who had eleven children (seven women and four men). Her maternal grandparents were Juana González and José Higuera, both of Pa ipai origin, and their paternal grandparents José Espinoza Ochurte (kiliwa) and Tomasa Cañedo (pá ipai). She belonged to the Espinoza lineage and was, like Leonor Farldow, the only female users of the Kiliwa language. Hipolita and her son Eusebio Álvarez Espinoza, were the only family that communicated primarily in their mother tongue. Her strong roots in the land of her ancestors, allowed her to preserve their customs and native language. Besides the Kiliwa language, she also spoke Pa ipai and Spanish. For a few months she was under the care of the family of Leonor Farlow, because she was in poor health. She is survived by her only son, who has his home in Arroyo de León. With her passing, a wealth of cultural and linguistic knowledge unique to Kiliwa is also lost. Rest in peace.”

“Its been really bothering me, but I didn’t know who to ask or tell.”

A Story of Border Patrol Surveillance of O’odham Families

From the Artesia Community, Tohono O’odham Nation Member/Youth

“I have a story. A couple of months ago, my sister found a camera underneath a tree by our house. She said she covered it with some bushes because it freaked her out. After she told me we tried to look for it and it was gone A couple of weeks later she told me she found another one in a different place around the house and this time I saw it. I went to look at it and my face was all up in it. I noticed that they tried to hide it pretty well. We were going to tell our grandpa but then we must have triggered or set something off because they (BP) came and took it. This happened twice in the last three months. Its scary because it was so close to the house and its an area that we go by all the time to go running as a family, or my grandpa when he works with his cattle. We’re the only ones who use that road. Its been really bothering me, but I didn’t know who to ask or tell” - Artesia Community, Tohono O’odham Nation Member/Youth

Tohono O’odham Hemajkam Rights Network (TOHRN), is an O’odham led movement of young people who care about the land, our future and our rights. Follow TOHRN at https://www.facebook.com/tohrn520.

Trail Cameras are Easily hidden and are used as remote surveillance tools along the US Border. These are originally hunting devices like the one pictured above.

Women’s Revolutionary Law

From the First Declaration from the Lacandon Jungle, the Zapatistas (also known as the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) presented to the people of Mexico, the neo-liberal government, and the people of the world their Revolutionary Laws on January 1, 1994.

One of the laws was the Women’s Revolutionary Law,[ which states:

  1. Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in any way that their desire and capacity determine.
  2. Women have the right to work and receive a fair salary.
  3. Women have the right to decide the number of children they have and care for.
  4. Women have the right to participate in the matters of the community and hold office if they are free and democratically elected.
  5. Women and their children have the right to Primary Attention in their health and nutrition.
  6. Women have the right to an education.
  7. Women have the right to choose their partner and are not obliged to enter into marriage.
  8. Women have the right to be free of violence from both relatives and strangers.
  9. Women will be able to occupy positions of leadership in the organization and hold military ranks in the revolutionary armed forces.
  10. Women will have all the rights and obligations elaborated in the Revolutionary Laws and regulations.

Brazil to Open Indigenous Reserves to Mining Without Indigenous Consent

This is by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres and originally was published on Mongabay.com on March 14th, 2019. Text, links, and show are from Mongabay. Be sure to check out the original article at this link.

  • New Minister of Mines and Energy Admiral Bento Albuquerque announced on 4 March that he plans to permit mining on indigenous lands in Brazil, including within the Amazon. He also said that he intends to allow mining right up to Brazil’s borders, abolishing the current ban along a 150-kilometer (93-mile)-wide swath at the frontier.
  • The Bolsonaro administration’s indigenous mining plan is in direct opposition to indigenous land rights as guaranteed under Brazil’s 1988 Constitution. The indigenous mining initiative will likely be implemented via a presidential decree, which will almost surely be reviewed, and possibly be rejected, by Brazil’s Supreme Court.
  • Mining companies stand ready to move into indigenous reserves, if the measure goes forward. Brazil’s mining ministry has received 4,073 requests from mining companies and individuals for mining-related activities on indigenous land. Indigenous groups are outraged and they plan to resist in the courts and by whatever means possible.
  • Brazil’s mining industry has a very poor safety and environmental record. As recently as January, Brazil mega-mining company Vale saw a tailings dam collapse at Brumadinho which killed 193 and left another 115 missing. Public outcry is strong against the industry currently, but how the public will respond to the indigenous mining plan isn’t yet known.
An industrial mining operation in Brazil. Note the forest at the edge of the open pit mine. Photo credit: Norsk Hydro ASA via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA.

For many years, international and Brazilian mining companies have dreamed of getting access to the mineral wealth lying beneath indigenous lands. And finally, the government of Jair Bolsonaro seems determined to give them that opportunity. On 4 March, while Brazilians were distracted by Carnival celebrations, the new Minister of Mines and Energy Admiral Bento Albuquerque announced plans to permit mining on indigenous land.

Speaking at the annual convention of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), a major event in the mining world that attracts tens-of-thousands of attendees, the Minister said that Brazil’s indigenous people would be given a voice but not a veto in the matter. The opening of indigenous ancestral territories to mining, he predicted, would “bring benefits to these communities and to the country.”

He also said that he intends to allow mining right up to Brazil’s borders, abolishing the current 150-kilometer (93-mile) wide mining buffer zone at the frontier.

The minister said that current mining restrictions are outdated. The long-restricted indigenous and border areas “have become centers of conflict and illegal activities, that in no way contribute to sustainable development or to sovereignty and national security.” The administration will shortly be holding a nationwide consultation to discuss how the changes should be made, he concluded.

Admiral Bento Costa Lima Leite de Albuquerque Júnior to take over Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy, photo by Felipe Barra/Agencia Brasil.

Bolsonaro’s Indigenous Land Development Agenda

The minister’s announcement was not unexpected. President Jair Bolsonaro, an ex-army captain, has said that he admires the 1964-85 military dictatorship, and some are drawing parallels between Bolsonaro’s policies and theirs regarding indigenous and quilombola communities.

Bolsonaro recently wrote on Twitter: “Over 15 percent of national territory is demarcated as indigenous and quilombola land. Less than a million people live in these isolated areas, exploited and manipulated by NGOs. We are going to integrate these citizens.”

Back in 1976, Maurício Rangel Reis, Interior Minister in the military government of General Ernesto Geisel, expressed harsh views toward indigenous peoples: “We plan to reduce the number of Indians from 220,000 to 20,000 in ten years,” he declared. But the military didn’t achieve this goal. Far from being eliminated, Brazil’s indigenous numbers increased to their current 900,000 population.

Indigenous groups achieved real gains after the military government passed into history, and its dictatorial rule was supplanted by the progressive 1988 Brazilian constitution, which brought two important innovations. It abandoned the goal of assimilating indigenous people into the dominant culture (a goal Bolsonaro wants to reinstate), and it affirmed the concept of “original rights,” recognizing indigenous peoples as Brazil’s first inhabitants, with the right to remain on ancestral lands.

Article 231 of the Constitution states: “Indians have the right to the permanent occupation of their traditional land and to enjoy the exclusive use of the wealth in the soil, rivers and lakes.” Moreover, their land rights are “inalienable.” The Constitution allows for mining on indigenous land, but only after the Indians have been consulted and specific procedures for doing so, approved by them, have been ratified by Congress.

Mining industry and individual prospecting requests on indigenous land as filed with the federal government. Map by Mauricio Torres using data provided by the Departamento Nacional de Produção Mineral.

Admiral Albuquerque’s recent announcement provided no clue as to how the Bolsonaro government could legally give indigenous groups a voice but no veto regarding use of their lands, while somehow staying within the letter of constitutional law.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy has, however, confirmed to Mongabay that it plans to authorize mining on indigenous areas. Though, as to the legal mechanisms for doing so, it would only say that “the specific regulatory model will be discussed with Congress and other involved parties.” Though its reports are unconfirmed, analysts suggest Bolsonaro will probably issue a presidential decree to allow mining, which is the approach he plans to use to permit agribusiness to lease land within indigenous reserves ­– a move that faces a similar constitutional roadblock.

If it goes forward with these presidential decrees, the administration will very likely face opposition from powerful figures in the judiciary, including the country’s top prosecutor. Speaking at a conference attended by representatives of some of Brazil’s 305 indigenous tribes, advocacy groups and a dozen European nations, Prosecutor General Raquel Dodge noted that indigenous land rights are guaranteed in Brazil’s Constitution and warned: “There can be no backsliding on public policies toward the indigenous people.”

The Amazonas branch of the Federal Public Ministry (MPF), an independent group of federal and state litigators, is so concerned at Bolsonaro’s mining plan that in February it went to court to ask the National Mining Agency (Agência Nacional de Mineração, ANM), the federal body that administers the mining sector, to turn down all requests by international and Brazilian mining companies to prospect or mine on indigenous land.

The mining industry has not only made prospecting requests (red) within indigenous reserves (yellow), but also on other conserved lands (green). Map by Mauricio Torres using data provided by the Departamento Nacional de Produção Mineral.

According to the MPF, mining companies and individuals have altogether lodged 4,073 requests with the ANM for mining-related activities on indigenous land since 1969, seemingly in preparation for an eventual land rush. The companies say that they are only registering their interest, but MPF argues that, until the required constitutional amendments have been written and approved by Congress, such requests should not even be permitted.

Brazil’s indigenous peoples have clearly indicated that if the mining plan goes forward they will fight back. Most don’t want mining on their land. Munduruku female warrior Maria Leuza Munduruku told Mongabay: “We’ve had a lot of outsiders coming onto our land to mine. Many fish disappear and the ones that remain we can’t eat, as they’re dirty.”

Joenia Wapichana, Brazil’s only indigenous female federal deputy, said that Indians don’t want the money mining might bring in: “For us indigenous people wealth is having health, land to live on without receiving threats, a stable climate, demarcated land, a preserved culture and respect for our community.” Brazil’s mining environmental and safety record is marred by frequent waterway contamination and land pollution, and includes two deadly tailings dam collapses in the past three years,

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, one of Brazil’s best-known indigenous leaders, says that large-scale mining by big companies is particularly harmful: “This kind of mining requires roads to transport the mineral, large areas to store production, big dormitories where workers can sleep. It will transform our forest.” A 2017 study found that mining and its auxiliary activities caused 10 percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon between 2005 and 2015. How much Amazon deforestation might skyrocket if indigenous reserves are opened to mining now is anyone’s guess; indigenous groups are currently the Amazon’s best land stewards.

Leonardo Quintãoa major backer of the mining industry. Image by Vinicius Loures / Agência Brasil.

Mining companies in the driver’s seat

After last year’s election, the pro-mining lobby in Congress, known by some as the “mud lobby,” is stronger than ever.

Their main spokesperson, federal deputy Leonardo Quintão, is a member of Bolsonaro’s Civil Office. He openly admits to receiving money from mining companies: “I am a parliamentarian legally financed by mining companies,” he says. Quintão was the first rapporteur for Brazil’s new Mining Code, presented to the National Congress in 2013, which mining companies helped him formulate. He is proud of his work: “Our Code is modern… outlawing all kind of speculation in the mining sector.”

But others complain of Congress’s failure to talk to potentially impacted communities when planning the new code. According to anthropologist Maria Júlia Zanon, who coordinates the Movement for Popular Sovereignty in Mining (Movimento pela Soberania Popular na Mineração), “The companies’ economic interests, evident in the elections, help explain the lack of democracy in the [congressional approval] process.”

As of now, the new Mining Code has yet to be signed into law, and the horrific Vale mining disaster in Brumadinho this January, with 193 people dead and another 115 missing, might further delay approval. Andréa Zhouri, at the University of Minas Gerais, said the disaster stemmed from “politico-institutional failures,” particularly a lack in regular monitoring of hazardous mining operations. “The [value of] ore is above everything and everyone,” Zhouri said.

There has been little indication so far that the government intends to significantly toughen environmental controls in the new Code. Some fear that, once the Brumadinho hue and cry dies down, it will be business as usual and the Mining Code will be approved. Prosecutor Guilherme de Sá Meneghin, who led the investigation into the earlier Mariana mining disastersaid: “What we clearly see is that Brazil doesn’t learn the lessons of history.”

Today, mining companies chomp at the bit, having registered many prospecting requests within indigenous reserves. Minister Albuquerque – an admiral with a long, illustrious military career, and known for getting what he wants – has signalled readiness to help those firms translate their plans into action. However, Brazil’s indigenous people, with a history of batting away threats, often against bad odds, are ready to fiercely resist. The lines are drawn for battle, likely in the courts, and potentially all across Brazil.

Banner image: Truck being loaded with bauxite ore at Brazil’s Norsk Hydro ASA Paragominas mine. Mining is conducted today on a vast scale, and is already resulting in major deforestation in the Amazon.

Forest and topsoil must first be removed before ore can be accessed at Brazil’s Norsk Hydro ASA Paragominas open pit mine. Such industrial processes would be highly destructive of Brazil’s forests, indigenous reserves and cultures. Photo credit: Norsk Hydro ASA via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA.

Three Mapuche Political Prisoners Join Hunger Strike in the Temuco Prison (Wallmapu)

This communiqué comes from the Mapuche political prisoners, Jorgue Cayupan, Alvaro Millalen and Jose Caceras, who have joined the hunger strike of Facundo Jones Huala in the Temuco prison. The hunger striking political prisoners demand their cultural and political rights be respected inside the Temuco prison. The original in Spanish was published by Alianza Territorial Mapuche and can be found here.

This statement was translated and first published by Voices In Movement and can be viewed on their excellent site here.

February 19th, 2019

Public communiqué:

We, Mapuche political prisoners in the Temuco prison (Jorgue Cayupan, Alvaro Millalen and Jose Caceras) communicate to the Mapuche nation and the society in general that we have joined the hunger strike of our Peñi Logko Facundo Jones Huala. We join this hunger strike to demand the intra-penitentiary rights that are systemically violated by the Chilean gendarmerie inside this prison.

The objective of these demands is a protocol of massive visits, of cultural character, to carry out the Nguellipun (Mapuche ceremony) and the authorization to carry out cultural workshops including the revitalization of Mapuzugun (the Mapuche Indigenous language).

Nothing will break our morale and spirit of struggle in defense of our political cultural rights and our support for the different processes of territorial recuperation.



Jorgue Cayupan

Alvaro Millalen

Jose Caceres

Mapuche Political Prisoners CCP Temuko