Monday, May 11, 2009

The Wounded Knee Incident: "We Shall Remain"

Tonight I was finally able to catch the documentary, "We Shall Remain" on PBS, a documentary chock full of actual footage from the occupation and subsequent standoff with the federal government at Wounded Knee, South Dakota by the American Indian Movement in 1973. Watch it here online if you missed it. It's one of these mind blowing stories that make you go, "Why the HELL didn't I learn about this in high school?"

Please at least watch this clip right now. It's horrifying.

A friend of mine, watching it with me, remarked that the fact that we didn't know about this is a sign of just how marginalized native histories are in the United States, even among other racial minorities. We had a discussion about the place of indigenous movements within other progressive social movements here, how centralizing them transforms the scope of any other movement. Say, the feminist movement.

I stumbled upon this article in my reflection on the film. It's by Andrea Smith, one of the incredible founders of Incite! Women Of Color Against Violence. Great summary of what indigenous feminism does to broaden the overall picture of feminism. Here's a taste:

Progressive activists and scholars, while prepared to make critiques of the US and Canadian governments, are often not prepared to question their legitimacy. A case in point is the strategy of many racial justice organizations in the US or Canada, who have rallied against the increase in hate crimes since 9/11 under the banner, “We’re American [or Canadian] too.”

This allegiance to “America” or “Canada” legitimizes the genocide and colonization of Native peoples upon which these nation-states are founded. By making anti-colonial struggle central to feminist politics, Native women place in question the appropriate form of governance for the world in general.

In questioning the nation-state, we can begin to imagine a world that we would actually want to live in. Such a political project is particularly important for colonized peoples seeking national liberation outside the nation-state.

Whereas nation-states are governed through domination and coercion, indigenous sovereignty and nationhood is predicated on interrelatedness and responsibility.

Why isn't native history, with all this horror in it, a part of our Civil Rights curriculum? Why don't we know about AIM at all, let alone as much as we know about the SCLC and SNCC.

Obviously, I can understand why native histories and stories like the Wounded Knee incident are more threatening to current institutions of power, since they've been less resolved than those of the black civil rights movement. But I can't understand why social activists aren't more prone to make these stories known themselves, in alternative forums, if they're so neglected in mainstream pedagogy. I guess, documentaries like this one are the first step...

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