The teachers cut off their tongues
in the morning;
the language hanged
from their necks.
The graduate rendered silent;
each belted child
another native word hidden
behind a layer of oppression.
Sgath na teagasgairean ar teangan
a’ chàinnt chrochta
air barr ar n-amhaich.
An neach-ceuma na thost;
Bu gach clann shàraichte
facal dùthchasach eile na chaillte
I’d argue that the word “occupy” hasn’t been reinvented. I think it still means to take up space. I do think that there are now a set of ideas attached to the word but I actually think that if you poll people at any of these protests, most would tell you that they are ‘reclaiming’ space that ‘belongs’ to rightfully to ‘the people’. Ironic for obvious reasons.
I would genuinely like to hear about other definitions of “Occupy” because I hadn’t yet heard anyone say that the word was being redefined through the protests and other actions.
I also think that for me as an Indigenous woman, it is not in my best interest to reinvent the concept of occupation. I’d rather address the original issue of occupation - the colonization of the Americas and its long lasting impact. Everyday, the US government fails to live up to its promises to Indigenous communities. Every single day.
I think citizens of the US, including those at Occupy, are generally very ignorant to the self-determination struggles of Indigenous peoples. This is partially because Indigenous peoples are made to be invisible in the US. It comes from all fronts. Our schools teach children a grossly inaccurate American mythology. The use of past tense language when discussing Indigenous cultures - as though we have all gone extinct - only furthers the damage. The US government has intentionally discouraged people from identifying as Indigenous and made it incredibly difficult for those that would identify ‘legally’ as such. What other groups in the US go through as much to ‘legally’ claim their heritage? All because to truly learn/teach the real history and to acknowledge the living communities would be to admit responsibility. This invisibility is what allows non-Indigenous people to not think about our struggles when they choose to build a movement and brand it under the name “Occupy”.
I agree with you, at this point, a successful re-branding of the is unlikely. I’m very curious to see how the Boston group goes about this. But this is also the source of my frustration. I need there to be an acknowledgement (accompanied by real action and commitment) that Indigenous people and their causes were not of concern to the organizers and participants of Occupy unless they happened to be the same causes that those same organizers and participants were concerned with.
And to clarify - I do understand the financial focus of Occupy. For those that argue that conversations about decolonizing the language of the movement etc. derail the group from achieving its goals, I ask, what kind of movement dedicated to ending class warfare ignores the those that struggle most? Ignores the reasons why they struggle most?
There was no acknowledgment of- no apparent awareness of - and no concern for what the impact of using a word like “Occupation” would have on Indigenous communities. Some hear the word decolonization and assume we’re talking about putting people on ships and sending them “back to where they came from”. That’s an easy way to write us off as being ‘unreasonable’. What I think people are missing is that decolonization benefits all marginalized people - the only thing to be lost is unearned privilege.
I want this movement to be successful. I am still very inspired by the work that I’ve seen and some of the people that I’ve had the chance to dialogue with - particularly the youth. Like I said in my previous post, I’m eternally hopeful for us. I’m hopeful for us as a ragtag group of people that want more from their government and from the financial sector.
But I also know that no successful social movement in history became successful without growing pains and without thoughtful critique. We still have miles to go.
All the best to you as well - jillian