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Turtle Island Re-Emergent

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Issue: 62 Section: Opinion Geography: Canada Turtle Island Topics: colonialism, Indigenous, decolonization

August 28, 2009

Turtle Island Re-Emergent

by Stewart Steinhauer

Stone sculpture by Stewart Steinhauer Photo: Stewart Steinhauer

KUTENAI TERRITORY, TURTLE ISLAND—The genocide of Indigenous Peoples inside the territories claimed by Canada doesn’t end until Canada de-colonizes. As Jean-Paul Sartre recognized when he focused the intellectual power of european philosophy onto the subject of european colonization, colonialism equals genocide. As long as the fair folk of the Canadian State have a colonial relationship with the territorial Indigenous Peoples, then the genocide continues. Canadians left, right and center do not actively advocate genocide. However, there exists an unconscious denial of what Canadians conveniently do not have to witness at close range, thanks to several centuries of apartheid social organization.

Over the past several months, the media collective that calls itself The Dominion has generously offered me a space in the margins to talk to the few of you who happen by. If you’ve been following me, we’ve crossed the invisible apartheid border, looked at the forms of political economy that require apartheid, and had a brief glance at an indigenous socialism from Turtle Island’s past. The ideas I’ve been sharing with you aren’t my ideas. In cultures with an oral tradition, the great libraries of knowledge are held within the ranks of the living, and I’m grateful to those librarians who have gathered, and then passed on to me, some of the enormous storehouse of indigenous knowledge. Now I, in turn, am passing fragments to you.

The current phase of the genocide of Indigenous Peoples will not end by fiddling with the details and single instances of the mechanics of the genocide, for instance addictions, or suicide, or lateral violence. These are symptoms, not causes. For example, I don’t believe that addictions are a problem of the individual, but are individuals' reactions to the cause of the genocide. Colonialism. The entire relationship between our euro-ancestry sisters and brothers, and the remnants of our own societies, indigenous to Turtle Island, is colonial. The structure of modernity, with a representative democracy funded by and responsible to a capitalist economy, based on an extractive, exploitative, minimalist relationship with the natural environment, is colonial. Colonialism kills Indigenous Peoples.

An indigenous method of problem solving involves moving towards the desired solution, rather than away from the perceived problem. Many indigenous knowledge bases propose that human intention has actuating power in the physical world; we affect whatever we place our intentions on, through our conscious attention. If we place our attention on our problems, because we want to repair those problem areas, we unintentionally increase the level of energy flowing to the problem areas. Over uncounted millennia, this observed pattern has resulted in an indigenous social program of focusing on the desired outcome, a group behavior that some european somewhere called spiritual. In Dios, literally “In God.” However, I believe that euro-centric notions of spirituality are as far off base as euro-centric notions of what addictions are, for the same reasons.

Practicing my indigenous knowledge, I conjure an intention: humans as indigenous to the actual physical place where we each are, right now. I feel this "indigenaiety" as a relationship, signaled by the pull of gravity to my great Mother, the earth. You, reading these words, can feel this pull, too. Don’t let the illusion of cyberspace or printspace throw you off balance; call to your floating mind with your heart and flow into the physical pull. In Dios. Without the human-made confusion about God and Man.

The French called us the "Cris," the cryers, from the ceremonial action of making a specific sound set with voice, a syncopated counter-rhythm heard during many lodge-type ceremonies. In our own language we are known as the four-part beings, referencing the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of being human.

These four aspects are in motion. When they are balanced, you get a smooth ride. Riding the spinning wheel of these four aspects—call it a four directions medicine wheel—I conjure an intention: indigenizing Canada. Having this torture session stop would be nice. Ending the genocide would be great. But that’s not where to put my good energy, my builder’s energy, my creative energy. So I call with a Cree cry into the space between your heartbeats, the drum beat of Mother Earth, syncopated: let’s build social power, you and I.

Traveling the pathway from apartheid modernity to an indigenous socialism for the 21st century calls for walkers, each walking in our own way, but together, in the same direction. The footprints in the grass are already outlining a pathway, from the Mayan Zapatistas to the Bolivian MAS to the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Even from here I can faintly see the emerging outlines of a communal council system that someday will organically overgrow colonial forms of political economy.

In my ancient culture, the extended family was the core of the regional governance system, with female Elders gently guiding the whole process. A cross-linked communal council system existed inside the extended family structure. One organic possibility for Canada’s future is the re-emergence of extended, family-based, communal councils, where, for instance, Canadian youth, if faced with dysfunctional families of origin, can simply decide to create new extended families of choice.

In the ancient culture, fresh new humans were intentionally created, by adults three generations deep in childcare facility, on an as-needed basis. In other words, the absolute total size of the human population in any one bio-region was controlled by the members of the group acting in concert. Birth control was understood and practiced, sexuality was recognized as the powerful force that it rightfully is, and social systems were evolved to provide safe and complete outlets for all of that extra non-procreative sexual energy for which we humans are renowned.

By using this system, each new child entered an extended family circle where she/he was the center of attention for an adoring circle of adults who defined themselves in relation to her/him. Great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, aunt, cousin, sister were the circle they toddled into. Every effort was made by all of these adults to prevent injury or abuse.

The Cree education system had two childhood phases before one entered adulthood at puberty. Phase one was the above-described building of a central, indestructible core of individual personhood. When children reached a certain age, they were gently moved into stage two, consciously learning how to seek humbleness. By humbleness I mean seeking balance across both human and non-human systems, so that there is no Above or Below.

Cree children had, as companions in search of humbleness, all of their age-peers, and, as role models, all of the adults around them. Within this educational system, fresh new humans matured into adult humans who were fearlessly themselves and knew how to make decisions for individual action based on the best outcome for the whole group.

The entire practice was ritualized into a belief system that relied on the metaphor of ceremony. Each individual carried inside of themselves their own unique understanding of ceremony, while the actual practice of gathering together to perform ceremony created the conditions for the harmonization of individual, society, and Mother Earth. In Dios.

Turtle Island is re-emerging, after a long eclipse under the shadow of the Americas. I see a wonderful opportunity here for Canadian social activists to place intentions on creating an indigenized pluri-national, multi-ethnic space to fit into Turtle Island re-emergent. I ask each reader to consider what this would mean in their personal life.

Thank you for gifting me with this brief space of your attention.

Together, towards Turtle Island.

Gifted with a white privilege suit on his Birth Day, Steinhauer has been slipping back and forth across the invisible boundary between Turtle Island and Canada, since 1952, in his lovely birthday suit. And this is what he saw.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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