Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights 2020

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Morning Star: Standing with the oaks

Memorial Oak Grove Press Release
From the Oak Grove Tree-sit Community 9/17/08

Article by Morning Star Gali
Photos by Brenda Norrell (Longest Walk Feb. 2008)
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Through the last 21 months this community has shown endless resilience, determination, compassion, and courage in the face of brutality and political repression. I'm endlessly thankful for the thousands of people who have raised their voices with us. I believe that these last 2 years will be remembered as a turning point for all who are fighting to defend the Earth and with it the lives of our children. We have learned that fear--of violence, of authority, of the future--is a prison we create for ourselves. We have learned that cooperation and love transcends race, gender, class, and all the other artificial classifications that are imposed in order to keep us divided. We have learned that this Earth is not inherited from our ancestors, but is on loan from our children.

We protected the Grove for as long as we did because it was a memorial to what we have lost. 95% of North America's native forests are gone. The Grove was a poignant reminder of how much wild habitat our culture has destroyed in order to develop nuclear technology and orchestrate a legal system under which the most cruel and voracious war criminals are considered President. If we continue this current rate of consumption, we face worldwide economic and ecological collapse. As a society we have a desperate need to open up a conversation about how to rehabilitate our land if we hope to live to see our grandchildren. It was common among many Native societies for people to make decisions based on how their children would be affected 7 generations later. I feel that we need to study this wisdom deeply or our species will go the way of the carrier pigeon who were once so numerous their numbers blacked out the sun for days at a time as their flocks enveloped the skies.

If we could use even a tiny percentage of resources that the University of California devotes to the development of nuclear weapons, we could vastly improve the lives of impoverished people in our community and throughout the world. The University is a huge machine devoted to profiting off and perpetuating war. A lot of their most flaunted "achievements" are concerned with the destruction of habitat and the consolidation of political power within the military industrial complex. It is when this abuse is too flagrant that we are obligated as conscientious citizens to take direct action against injustice. It is because we are deprived of even the most cursory democratic input that we must take matters into our own hands and tell them "Enough is enough!"

At the Grove I have learned that humans do not have a monopoly on language. Trees speak very, very quietly so that you have to put your ear close to hear them, but what they told me is unmistakable. They said, "Our brothers the squirrels, the turkeys, the deer, the foxes, the chickadees, the hawks, the raccoons, the bluejays will have nowhere to go if we are gone. And then our human relations will be left alone with no air to breathe or food to eat."

At times I feel overwhelmed at the magnitude of destruction that has been caused, and it's easy to feel powerless because we have all been robbed of an ecological heritage so vast we may never understand what this continent looked like 516 years ago. But it also gives me a feeling of great freedom because even the smallest acts of love can have an enormous rippling effect. The tree-sit has touched all of us in one way or another, and my experiences here will inspire me to fight for the Earth until I die.

This place is important to many Native Americans because the soil contains the bones of their ancestors. But the University continues the 500-year-long tradition of genocide against indigenous people. They have denied requests to repatriate the 13,000 remains of Native Americans held at the Phoebe Hearst museum and they continue to deny the Native community proper access to their burial grounds. Some attempts to lay down ceremonial offerings have been met by University police with arrests and even shoving a mother with her 2-month old infant in her arms. There are clearly racist policies intending to suppress Native cultural and religious practice, and should be recognized as a hate crime.

This place is important to many people because it was a whisper of what we have lost in the war against the Earth. Let's work together to find new ways to organize our society, because this current economic system is poisoning everything we need to survive. We have to organize ourselves at the community level and learn how to live respectfully with the Earth. Self-sufficiency is the most direct path to creating the change we wish to see in the world. We started this work at the Oak Grove Tree-sit, but it is by no means finished. The struggle to defend what is left of the natural work needs to continue with all of us asking ourselves, "What can I do for the land that gives me life?" I ask myself this every everyday. Today the answer is, "Keep loving, keep fighting."
Morning Star Gali

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