Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

November 17, 2017

Akimel O'odham Andrew Pedro -- 'Indigenous Anarchists, White Anarchists'

Photo by Christine Prat


Andrew Pedro, Akimel O'odham
Talk transcribed by Christine Prat 
October 22017

Revolutionaries and Anarchists, the people who identify themselves as Anarchists, are still very colonial. Especially here, because a lot of them don't realize what they are saying and how it affects Indigenous people. A lot of it comes from not having cultural, spiritual, religious values, and it is not really up to me, no matter how you want to word it, we have a different view. For myself, as I identify as an Anarchist, Anarchism is a surface layer of what our traditional way of life really means to us. Because to me, Anarchism is the idea of being free from all those forms of oppression, and it is how we lived long ago. To my understanding, as O'odham people, we were free to travel in our territory. We had Tohono O'odham, Akimel O'odham, Hia C-ed O'odham, but it wasn't really a border, it would not say that we were not allowed to go to certain areas to do what we had to do, it was just having respect for the people who already lived there. To me, a lot of White Anarchists, those of Latino descent also, those types of Anarchists and other people in Phoenix, and in a lot of Arizona, don't really recognize that. We are still here, we do still hold these cultural and spiritual values, but to them, it gets in the way. They predominantly look at it as not being atheist. I have no problems with being an atheist, but that's their choice, and, being O'odham, we don't force our beliefs on anybody, we don't make people have to understand, because those are things just for us, for the O'odham people themselves. Like certain places where we go to, certain ceremonies that take place, of which we don't even tell other tribes, because those are for us, for the O'odham people. And I am sure the same goes for other tribes as well.
The O'odham people always were very inclusive to other people. Some say it's how we got here to these days, being very friendly to other people, to Christianity itself, to the White people, to the Spanish. That kindness existed and put us in the situation we are in right now. I believe it's because of that strong belief and strong cultural values that we had. It's the reason why we are still living today.
There were times when the O'odham people revolted against the Church and burnt down all the churches. Things like that have happened. Nobody really remembers, and Anarchism being almost totally atheistic, and their beliefs and values lying within it, they view any type of religion as being oppressive. But it's not really the case. For one, Indigenous and Anarchism are very new ideas. For us, we are Indigenous people, and I think those who identify as Anarchists as well, on the political side of it, recognize that indigeneity always comes first.
For myself, Anarchism is the top level, the top layer, the surface level of what himdag means to me, because those things overlap. Our ideas and how we do things overlap in different cultures, in different ways. The way I feel, O'odham society, how it was explained to me, the times before and how it is now in the world, all is similar to what Anarchism wants to be, but it's not really there yet. Especially within the way Anarchism works, those spaces they are going to which don’t allow religious items and things like that. They don't really want to have talks about what it means to certain people. In many ways, there is a loss. There is a loss because they don't really belong to here in the first place. They don't have that connection to the land, they don't have that connection to these things.
My best hope for White Anarchists, specially in Arizona, is that they understand there is a way they can help with indigenous issues, but it doesn't mean it has to be in a spiritual sense. They don't have to understand the sacredness of what Moadag Do'ag means to us. There is capitalism, go fight against that, go fight against what you know. They don't have to understand and think of what it means to us, because those teachings are for us, they are for a certain group of people. It's not the same as what is being inclusive or pushing people away.
It has been hundreds of years, some say thousands of years, it is long standing ideas and cultural ways that we have followed, that we still follow. While the people, the ancestors, whatever you want to call them, of those White people, those White Anarchists, probably don't even stem from Arizona in the first place, a couple of generations ago. But us, we have always been here, so we have those connections and a deeper understanding of what it means, of what this desert means to us. All these plants life, all these animals, that means to us. They don't have that, which leaves them at a loss, because they don't understand those things. A lot of indigenous issues – colonialism is one of the roots driving those White Anarchists to fight against in the first place. Capitalism is a main root, colonialism is a main root, and if you're not really fighting both, then what are you doing? You're not really helping anybody, you're gonna be colonial about it, and won't think about Indigenous people. I don't want a White Savior to come and help save the day, and I am not going to stand there and hold a White Anarchist's hand to lead them along the way the whole time. They just need to have an understanding of the fact that some things are for them, and some things are not, and that's ok. A lot of time, White Anarchists get defeated, when we tell them: now we are not going to participate because we have lives, we have a whole other world to deal with. The Reservation itself is another world. It's not as fast, things don't get done like they do out here, it's different cultural values that apply. Even if people are not necessarily cultural, they cannot have those understandings that are all different in there. The way we process things in our head and how the city people do it…
So, it's kind of hard to really have meaningful conversations with a lot of White Anarchists, because they are kind of stuck in their world, like "I am right", and it's a kind of colonial mentality, then. These people don't know what they are talking about, they don't live out here, but yet, this is our land!
In the past, let's say 5 years, we had quite a few problems with a new Anarchist group that had come up, they kind of came out of "Occupy". They are still very liberal in the way they organize, and they organize with a lot of liberal groups in Phoenix. I guess it's not really understood, maybe even to them, maybe they are not sure of what Anarchism means to them. Which causes more problems, if you don't know what you're doing, why you're doing it. Even some of the Antifa groups, now, start doing the same thing, which is not very inclusive for Indigenous people. They feel uncomfortable because it's seen in a very White way. There was a group that is not really around now, but who were identifying as an Anarchist group, "fight capitalism", "fight this", but they were just words. The biggest capitalist project in Arizona is the 202, the Sun Corridor, and nobody knows what you're talking about, when you try to talk to them. That's part of the reason why. They should be taking upon themselves to learn what is happening in the area that they inhabit. And knowing that there is a connection with Indigenous people, but knowing… our connection is not fully necessary to understand that something is sacred and a lifelong understanding, it's something that takes your entire life, it's not something we can just explain to somebody, in a video or in an email, those are things that take our entire life and full understanding of what really happens. For them, we say they won't understand, just because of who they are, they are White people, they are Latino people, but they're not gonna understand it the way we do.
Those things are affecting them differently than us, because we have those strong belief that we'll be ok in the end. Even 20 years down the line, I hope this won't happen, but 20 years down the line, if these freeways are here, there are people that will still be alive and practicing our culture and making them pay, somehow. With Anarchists it's not really like that. I very often see White Anarchism as very short-term victories, it is stuck in believing that they can hold the space, but what is "holding the space" in occupied land? Having an Infoshop somewhere, if you don't recognize Indigenous people, that's colonial to me. That's just a part of the problem. I think you're being an Anarchist if you're being anti-capitalist in any sense, antifascist and so on, if you don't have an anti-colonial stand, then you're just as bad as everybody else.


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