Friday, April 1, 2011

Why Environmentalists Hate Native Americans

Dan Waters is a snarky 22 year old queer biracial wonderment who is part White, Portuguese, and Native American (Wampanoag-Kiowa). He currently lives in Massachusetts, and plans to become a Lawyer. That is, if he can survive Algonquin language classes and polyamorous dating right now! He also identifies as Two Spirit, and prefers male pronouns, but cherishes his female body that he was given graciously by the Creator. He blogs at Identity Exposure.

Jessica Yee brought up an interesting fact (see point 2, bolded). Within the Green movement, there is a lot of contention and condemnation that happens. Hell, people want to discredit us all the time. I think one of the most teeth-grinding things that bother me is that environmentalists, basically big-shot scientists who are majority white and upper class, feel it’s necessary to tell us we should ‘care’, ‘do more’, etc. It’s not our fucking fault white people brought over factories in the first place, noooo. A lot of what the Green Movement proposes (minimalism, less consumption, be aware of what you are eating, etc) is basically common sense, at least to most Natives.

A local (like, real local. It’s right next to me) issue that sparked a lot of contention was the Cape Wind Project. Basically, many animal rights activists felt the life and habitat of many wildlife would be in jeopardy, the Wampanoag felt it would hinder their religious ceremonies of greeting the sun (we are, after all, people of the Dawn Light), and fishermen valued the spot due to the quahogs and other fish gains.

The biggest reason, I feel, that Cape Wind did get approved was this: none of the groups could fucking stand each other. So instead of a unified voice, it was separate, “bothersome” tufts of people.

Why do animal rights people hate Native Americans? Well, I am not sure, because I myself am Native American and animal rights. However, in Native lifestyle and tradition, humans are considered part of the food chain. I will not disagree that factory farming is indeed a threat and not conducive to Native tradition, but many animal rights folks disagree with hunting and whatnot. Many arguments about how the Arctic Circle is affecting Inuit/Aleut people went unspoken because, in reality, it’s a “lot easier to sell fluffy polar bears than it is to sell a people that eat whale blubber.” (Quote taken from real-life conversation).

As Winona LaDuke says in the documentary titled Homeland (great movie by the way): “A native person harvesting in an ecosystem; whether it is caribou, whether it is fish, whether it is deer, whether it is a macaw whale, is something which totally rankles a lot of environmentalists. Because there is this unreconciled relationship between a settler society and an indigenous society.”

In the spirit of full disclosure, most of my food is pretty vegan, except for the occasional meat. This is traditionally the diet around the Eastern Woodland peoples, and I am trying to decolonize my diet. I was strictly vegan for three years of my mid-teen life, but once I started reading about Native tradition and thought, I grew a more acceptance of my spot in the world. Many times, I feel, my vegan friends are somehow trying to “overcome” their animal-ness, or being part of the food chain. I fully believe in specisim, but isn’t trying to “overcome” your own spot in the natural world a way of being specisist too? If a POC was trying to “overcome” their race by acting more white, what would we say about that? I am not saying I disagree with veganism, and its core values. What I am saying is that while the majority of traditional Native diet may be very vegan, there was room for meat as part of the natural order of things. I do believe that taking a majority vegan diet would benefit the world, but trying to put it off as a nice trendy spin is kind of making it look like a brand new concept, when it in fact wasn’t. In another disclosure: I consider myself an animal rights activist.

The biggest argument about Cape Wind towards the Native populations was that, inevitably, the wind turbines would be helping the planet and thus we should be thankful. This is proven false, because, THERE ARE TONS OF OTHER PLACES TO PUT THE TURBINES!

Why were they put there, specifically? Because it was the easiest pitch, that’s why. There are tons of other places on Massachusetts soil, but because the ocean doesn’t technically “belong” to anyone, they wouldn’t have to deal with negotiations from either Natives (burial grounds, reservation lands, etc.) or home/land owners (rich white people). Also, the argument that wind turbines totally justify a potential infringement on wildlife is SO counterproductive and likely to lead to an aneurysm with how mind boggling that justification is.

Environmentalists (and so called environmental policy makers) also seem to forget that bad policies and industrialization affects the poorest communities first. The poorest people in America are, in fact, Native Americans. So industrialization, effects of mismanagement, etc, affect us first (see: environmental racism). Many haters would argue that since I am a City Indian, I am just preaching on a soap box. I however feel so much sadness from the Coal Wars, or the Black Mesa issues, Bush’s energy policies, radiation effects on reservations, and still today the Buffalo dwindling and now mustangs, our old war ponies, being hunted for sport and because they are “bothersome”.

By the time many read this, my 22nd birthday will have come and gone. If we were going traditional, I’d have survived 22 winters. I plan on counting many more winters, especially a big winter (Ice Age) that may come from the neglect of the earth. Until reality seeps in and consuming/settler society norms continue to be challenged, I do fear for Mother Earth. However, I doubt she would stop providing, because her love is pretty unconditional. I just plan to thank her as much as possible for that. As always, I like to give titles of things that inspire my writing and delve deeper than I can with one post. Daniel Wildcat's "Red Alert!: Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge" is great, as well as "God is Red" by Vine Deloria, Jr. An anthology that is great and I suggest for any mixed blood, City Indian, or reservation brother/sister is "For Indigenous Eyes Only: A Decolonization Handbook". Thank you!