[Week 3 Discussion] 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance by Gord Hill

Submitted by RosaReborn in readingclub

I hope everyone enjoyed the text. This was the longest text we've done so far so if you didn't finish it let us know. Again the our Riot chat can be accessed here but discuss can also commence in the comments.

This text begins with a glimpse into the societies of the indigenous peoples across the Americas prior to European invasion. It gives a detailed history of imperialism and ruthless genocide at the hands of European invaders. It covers the history of American atrocities, including indigenous and African enslavement, massacre, betrayal, racism, and others. But more important than the horrors done to the native peoples was their ability to engage with their persecutors and fight back for their lands and for their humanity. Tales of Crazy Horse, Geronimo, the Afrikan-Seminole alliance, Tupac Katari, and countless groups that fought for their survival brought inspiration to the indigenous peoples of the past as well as freedom fighters across the world today. The actions of those willing to stand up to one of the most brutal and sustained genocides in history serve as a reminder that only action can solve some ills. The text demonstrates that when talks and negotiations are repeatedly proven to be hollow, it is those who act that will make an impact and preserve the legacy of self-determinism and freedom.With current events like the Dakota Access Pipeline, this text is not so much a history as something to be extended by freedom fighters across the world today.

So what did you think? Did you learn anything surprising? Do you really hate Western movies now (but didn't you always hate them anyways, what are we 60)? Alternative history theories where Europeans were successfully repelled and never returned to the Americas? Connections between what has been occurring in Palestine or elsewhere?


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RosaReborn wrote

I felt one thing the article did well was connecting imperialism to capitalism. Market forces were clearly made the source of the cruelty, much like what we see today. It's immediately clear that the indigenous people were seen of as either useful (as slaves and guides), inconsequential (leaving them outside the gates after battle to be slaughtered), or troublesome (leading to huge militarization and subjugation.

"After they learn our languages I shall return them, unless Your Highnesses order that the entire population be taken to Castille, or held captive here. With 50 men you could subject everyone and make them do what you wished."

The other thing that really intersted me was the need to destroy networks. Europeans pitted tribes against each other and tried in rip people from their families and lands as a way to ensure that the communities could not network a resistance. The French even began the scalping stereotype which I was unaware of. We see the focus on destroying networks also with African slaves being sent to different cities after abduction, the American and European communist and anarchist groups of the 20th century, and Palestinians today with Gaza's isolation from the West Bank. An organized resistance is the best defence from those who seek to control and dominate.

Also, I was unaware of how large the indigenous population was. Upwards of 75 million was much larger than Europe's at the time and it was really interesting reading about pre-columbus life, I wish there was more of that.

"With a few exceptions, the First Nations were classless and communitarian societies, with strong matrilineal features. The political sphere of Indigenous life was not dominated by men, but was in many cases the responsibility of women. Elders held a position of importance and honour for their knowledge. There were no prisons, for the First Nations peoples had well developed methods of resolving community problems, and there was—from the accounts of elders—very little in anti-social crime. Community decisions were most frequently made by consensus and discussions amongst the people."


Tequila_Wolf wrote

Will make more responses later, but for now I'm wondering what this text was for? So far I've only read half (should finish it later today), and it seems to be by an large a historical account of colonisation and resistance. A researched counter-narrative, and also one that highlights that people didn't just roll over and give the land.

What else does it do? Who is it written for?


RosaReborn wrote

I agree that I wish the focus of the paper was more on the actual resistance as opposed to simply the European Imperialism. Most of the reference to armed struggle didn't really go beyond "150 fighters stood their ground at ...." or "Some resistance was made but the population of X was reduced to 5% its initial levels." I would have liked more detail and impact in some of the descriptions of resistance.

That being said it emphasizes how brutal American colonization was and how much was put in ideologically and materially into dominating it. So many times today I feel small against the powers that dominate the world. I don't know what I can do against such great odds. More ideology and material are being spent to sustain the functioning of society than ever before, and in all likelihood maybe only 5% of us will remain after future struggles, it is still important to fight.

Basically I enjoyed it because it was a story of resistance in the face of shear brutality and there is some inspiration and comfort in that, even if things don't have a happy ending. Maybe I'm adding a lot to the story since most of it does read like a (more accurate) textbook