Spiderman

—    Is that spiderman?

Owíčhašaotȟokšúnažiŋ kiŋ él awápȟe. Thiyátakiya waglé wačhíŋ. Wówaši waȟtéwakilašni, kichí wówaši ečhámuŋ kiŋ waȟtéwičhawalašni, mitȟóni kiŋ waȟtéwakilašni. Waŋná wašíču waŋ wímayuŋǧe na amáyuptiŋ kta čhíŋ. Nakúŋ wašíču waŋží táku witkótkoka iníyuŋǧe k’éyaš aluptiŋ kta héčha. Alupte šni háŋtaŋš wašíču waŋží čhaŋzé. Aníčhaŋze. Čhaŋké ablúptiŋ kta bluštáŋ. Éyaš… táku owákiyakiŋ kte? Iktómi wanáp’iŋ waŋ nawáp’iŋ. Tókhel okáȟniȟčhiyiŋ kta he?

—    Uh, no. It’s like… I’m Native, right, so it’s like, an important figure for us. He’s called Iktó.

—    Ah, yeah, cool.

Ákta imáyuŋǧe šni kiŋ wašté kte. Wičháša itȟókšu ú we. Oápȟe oȟ’áŋkȟo waŋžíla awápȟe kta héčha. Tákuni omákiyaka šni ye. Tákuni omákiyaka šni yé

—    You know I have a friend who’s Blackfoot?

Hiyáááááááááááááá. Tákuwe makáȟniǧa he? Tóhaŋni tȟóka Sihásapa waŋžíni átawaye šni!

—    Ah, yeah? That’s cool. I’m Lakota, so we’re like, I don’t know probably like 500 miles away from each other.

—    Oh, wow. That’s awesome.

—    Yeah.

Wičháša itȟókšu kiŋ waŋbláke. Čhuwí owákiniya na hepȟé, “Tȟuŋkášila, philámayaye,” epȟé. Wičháša itȟókšu hinážiŋ yuŋkȟáŋ wašíču kiŋ ablúta. Wičháša itȟókšu kiŋ él iyémič’iye na wašíču k’uŋ etáŋ ȟeyáb ečhúŋ iblútȟe. K’éyaš iyémaye na misákhib yaŋké. Wačhéye tkȟá. Uŋkákičhiyutapi. Iȟá.

—    So how much Native blood you got?

Advertisements

A Theology of dril

In Twitter, we feel as though we are simple individuals interacting with a group of other individuals around us. We reply to singular posts, we follow a person, we see twitter as a collection of carefully chosen individuals who exist around us. But when we peer out into the wider space of Twitter, we realize that we are not individuals. We are social creatures which inhabit some specific section of Twitter, specific places and communities. These places may be #momtwitter, #lefttwitter, or #pentwitter, along with others. One thing unifies all these places. dril.

dril influences how all of us interact with each other on Twitter. Have you ever walked backwards into hell, had trouble budgeting your life, or used twitter dot com? This is you being touched by dril. There are some people so fortunate as to not only have been touched by the visible presence of dril that we witness as users who exist on the platform of Twitter, but to also have been deemed worthy of a direct reply by dril. dril’s direct and indirect interaction with us helps us understand multiple things key to existing in a space like Twitter.

Firstly, we understand that we exist with dril on Twitter. dril is not an untouchable entity. dril does exist above us, but that does not mean that we, as active users of the platform known as Twitter, do not have the ability to attempt to communicate directly with dril. Indeed dril encourages our interaction with them. Our direct existence with and the constant visible presence of dril lets us participate with a special closeness to the most important entity that exists on Twitter.

Secondly, we understand that dril does not exist for the benefit or to the detriment of simple users of Twitter. dril, unlike the typical user of Twitter, is not there to garner attention for narcissistic reasons, organizational reasons, or otherwise. dril exists above these other users of Twitter. dril is detached from those very holes that Twitter seeks to fill in the lives of ordinary users. dril is superior to all other users of Twitter. Despite dril’s superiority, dril does not purposefully negatively nor positively impact our experience on Twitter. dril posts.

In existing on Twitter, we are touched by dril both through direct replies, but also through the influence dril has on the entirety of Twitter. We are all unified by dril. For example, in every corner of Twitter, you will find a person saying that they “will never log off,” a quote from a post of dril. This power of unification that dril exerts on us is called the Online.

The Online is something that touches all of those who exist on Twitter. The Online draws us closer to dril, but also draws us closer to each other as users of Twitter. As stated before, the power of the Online is a power that unifies the individuals that exist on Twitter, allowing us to be the social beings that we truly are. But the Online is not something that simply exists. The Online must be created and is given to us by dril. The way in which dril furthers the existence of the Online, and therefore the closeness of users, is through dril’s posts.

As we have thus far recognized, we exist on Twitter. dril releases posts on Twitter, which serve as a way to further the existence of the Online. What happens without the existence of the Online? When the Online subsides, the Discourse rears its ugly head. The Discourse is a way in which we, as users, are separated away from our social existence and turned into ugly individuals once again. As users, we naturally see ourselves as individuals, and want to participate in the highly individualized Discourse. The Online exists to make us a collectivity that is not divided by the Discourse. dril provides us with a way to escape our fundamental nature of self-individualization.

As users, we are imperfect and narcissistic. But we know that we also are most satisfied when we are in the Online, and so we find ways to further the Online. We have to ways to do this. The first is liking the posts of dril, the second is retweeting the posts of dril.

Liking the posts of dril reveals our narcissitic nature and fundamental misunderstanding of dril. dril is above our narcissism, dril existed for years on Twitter without many followers at all. But we, as mere users, think that likes will further the existence of dril. Our liking of dril’s posts is neither a positive or negative act in regards to furthering the Online, our ultimate goal as users. The Like rather reveals to us fundamental understandings of dril and of users.

Retweeting the posts of dril, on the other hand, is paramount to the furthering of the Online. In order for other users to see the posts of dril, we must retweet them. At any point in time, a part of Twitter may be clouded with the Discourse. To retweet the posts of dril is to push out the Discourse and replace it with the Online. Because we want to ensure that we collectively enjoy in the fruits of the Online, we retweet dril’s posts, to banish the individualized Discourse.

We do not only further the existence of the Online through the retweeting of dril. We further the Online through posting. Posting is an act reserved for only the most holy of users. To post is to be like dril. A post is something that can be recognized as Drilian. We contrast a post to a tweet. Let us compare a tweet and a post for maximum clarity.

A tweet: I’m just trying to convince people I’m right, and the more they yell at me, the more I just shrink away into myself.

A post: “im not owned!  im not owned!!”, i continue to insist as i slowly shrink and transform into a corn cob

Tweets may exude either neutral or negative energy, depending on whether or not the tweet furthers the existence of a Discourse. A post, on the other hand, completely contributes to the Online. It is possible for a user to tweet as does dril, but it is something entirely different to post. To post means that one furthers the Online and washes away the Discourse. The reason we regard dril as highly as we do is because dril has proven themselves to be the highest level of posting. Every tweet of dril’s is a post. dril suffered for four years in the desert of Twitter, where he tweeted and tweeted without having attention paid. But one day, dril created the above post, and defined himself as the ultimate propagator of the Online and vanquisher of the Discourse.

Because of this, we understand that all of us have the inner capacity to post. dril suffered as a lowly user like the rest of us before dril was able to propel themselves to the sanctified position they have today. There are plenty of accounts that we can describe as Drilian, accounts which seek to post in the same manner as dril in order to maximize the reach of the Online. These people are Onliners. They propagate the Online, even though they are not dril. Considering that there are Onliners, we must also accept that there are Discoursers. Discoursers are people who are so deeply trapped in their own narcissism that they constantly propagate the Discourse. To be an Onliner or a Discourser is not a permanent position. We all drift in and out of different levels of participation and furthering of the Online and the Discourse. But our ultimate goal as users should be to further the Online and minimize the Discourse.

 

Justification and Elimination; the Queering of the Native

LGBTQIAP2S[1], the queer umbrella. A queer umbrella meant to highlight the nature of gender and sexuality within a settler-colonial system of gender and sexuality. As Indigenous people, our genders and sexualities existed before the invasion of settlers to our lands, and our concepts of these two things were radically different from those brought from Europe. Man, lesbian, bi, trans, gay, woman, non-binary? All foreign understandings to people for whom those concepts would not be foreign for much longer. Settler authorities would force their ideas of man and woman on Indigenous peoples, attempting to destroy our systems of gender and sexuality, especially those that disrupted the cisheteronormative society that was attempted to be defined by the elite of the settler class. We ourselves were defined as “berdache” by colonial authorities, and by the beginning of the 20th century, we were on the precipice of erasure. But one group saw in berdaches their salvation and the ability to justify their existence; the queer settler.

“Half a century of struggle for trans rights in the U.S. is only one thread of a larger global tapestry” says a Teen Vogue article. “Employing a variety of genders beyond man and woman across the world, people who don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth have been working for centuries to guarantee their liberties since ancient times.”[2] A youtuber by the name of Contrapoints asks, “What does it mean to live a non-binary life?… Some cultures have ancient third-gender traditions, such as the hijra of South Asia… or the various Two-spirit traditions of Indigenous North American tribes.”[3] Pink News defines two-spirit as “a term used by non-binary Indigenous North American and First Nations people to represent those who possess masculine and feminine spirits.”[4] Critical-theory.com states, “Many Native cultures had a third gender, often called Two-Spirit, that was comprised of feminine and masculine qualities.”[5] And finally, a doctoral paper by Matthew Jackson says,  “In his own Algonquin language Harlan refers to himself as Sesquia’acon, meaning not a man or woman. This multiplicity of identity across the North American Indigenous community, in many ways mirrors my own position on the varied gender fluid identities that exist both globally and locally.”[6]

What do all of these quotes, from a variety of sources, have in common? They share the attempted colonial erasure of Indigenous genders into a “third-gender” role. These articles center cisheteronormativity and attempt to construct two-spirit genders around the “man” and “woman” roles that have been created for Indigenous genders that share characteristics with the European concept of “man” and “woman.” Before the imposition of colonial genders in our societies, this cisheteronormative thought of gender and sexuality didn’t exist. “Third-gender” roles weren’t seen in this numerical listing of

1.      man

2.      woman

3.      third-gender (man wearing a dress gender)

4.      fourth gender (woman wearing pants gender)

But eventually, two-spirit people were put into this ranking, included within the LGBTQIAP acronym, and asked to speak as part of oppressed settler communities. What does this mean? It means that Indigenous people were queered. And so for my fifth question of this article, and thankfully the last question, it serves to be asked, how and why were Indigenous people queered?

It is no secret that the scientific community attacked and continues to attack queer people. For many cisgender and straight people, to be queer is to be mentally ill in some sort of fashion. This is backed up by “scientific fact” which “proves” that gay people, trans people, any person who doesn’t fit into cisheteronormative society is mentally ill in some way. In the academic world, queer settlers needed a way to defend themselves. Anthropology has often been that site of defense against scientific attacks on queerness. This started in the 1950s and picked up steam in the 1970s.[7] Anthropological groups such as the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and Anthropological Research Group on Homosexuality/Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists (ARGOH/SOLGA) sought to explain what queerness was through some sort of social understanding of the history of queerness. Queerness was seen as a generally human trait (not affected by culture or conditions) which could be used to explain the presence and legitimacy of queer settlers in the United States. As we can see, this academic quest to justify queerness was an extremely liberal endeavor. Radical people of color who functioned outside of cisheteronormativity (all queered by settler society), and queer settlers to a lesser extent, were rioting at Stonewall and marching in cities across the country, taking the leading roles in these liberatory movements. Settler academia on the other hand looked to justify settler queerness through research and study rather than through liberatory violence.

In this academic environment, gay and lesbian settlers were compared to Indigenous social roles which may have had something in common with being gay or lesbian, although they usually didn’t. For example, wíŋkte were labeled gay, despite the fact that being wíŋkte has nothing to do with sexual attraction towards another gender.  With this distortion of Indigenous gender roles, settler anthropologists could prove that gayness existed as a perfectly normal human trait in societies across the planet. Gay people had existed before the arrival of the Europeans, therefore gayness was part of the human condition. The proximity to this “Indigenous gayness” not only justified gay and lesbian settlers as humans, but it also justified their American-ness. They became more American than the straight person could ever hope to be due to their historical attachment to “Indigenous gayness.” The Indigenous person of a non-western gender is simply a prop to be used and discarded once it serves its purpose. This then creates a pattern of justification of a queer settler identity through the elimination of Indigenous people of non-western genders and also through settler self-indigenization.

Not only did this process indigenize the settler, but it also queered the Native of a non-western gender. In the settler society’s eyes, that Native left a space in which the settler society attempted to eliminate them from existence, that of the social roles of gender and sexuality in Indigenous societies, and entered a new space that was being created by the settler, “the queer community.” This community was and is a primarily white community from which queered people of color are both excluded and included. In a material sense, people of color are often excluded from these spaces because of the consistent white supremacist structures found within the “queer community.” But queered people of color may be ideologically accepted into the community either as figures of justification (such as the two-spirit person) or as figures of heroism (such as Marsha P. Johnson). In this way, the queer settler is able to uphold settler-colonial society while challenging the cisheteronormative social structures which discriminate against them. We see that although the Native “entered” the queer space, their existence is only one that justifies queerness. If justification becomes unnecessary, the Native becomes unnecessary.

But the Native is still necessary in our current political climate, and so the phenomenon of justification and erasure continues to this day. Wíŋkte have transformed from being a justification of gayness to a justification of transness or “non-binary-ness.” As I pointed out above, there is a host of articles written by settlers across the Wild West of the internet and academia which attempt to use Indigenous people to justify the existence of a specific settler category of gender or sexuality. Queer settlers have updated their language to follow changes in Indigenous movements for people of non-western genders, such as the usage of the term two-spirit instead of berdache. But the base idea hasn’t changed. Indigenous people are objects to be used to justify the existence of queer settlers to their cis and straight peers. Of course, this type of justification is absolutely liberal in nature. Existence is not justified through protests or riots, but rather through participation in settler academia (or a journalistic structure influenced by it) which attempts to erase Indigenous people through queer self-indigenization and the queering of the Native. This liberal nature of justification serves wider state goals to eliminate the Native. And this state task of eliminating the Native is so deeply ingrained in settlers themselves that the state doesn’t even need to fund it. Queer settlers simply naturally participate in it.

Allyship is a common word among the left, a word which means almost nothing. If we were to give allyship a definition in this context, it would be to not use non-western genders as justification for the existence of queer settlers. We have been queered without being queer. We participate in queer organizations without being queer. We have been forced to function within circles where we are not understood or welcomed, but in current circumstances, we cannot leave them. Queer settlers have for the last hundred years, if not longer, participated in a key structural part of the elimination of the Native. And this aspect of the eliminatory project of settler states in which they have participated seriously puts in jeopardy their own existence. To eliminate the two-spirit person (or to queer them, which for me, is one and the same) is to rigidly enforce cisheteronormativity.

Two-spirit people were some of the Indigenous people most viciously attacked by settler states throughout the history of colonialism. We were beat, forced to do manual labor, tortured both mentally and physically, degraded, raped, and killed. Many other Indigenous people faced these same horrors, but the reasons why differ strongly. The reason we faced these sort of attacks is because European/settler society had no completely engrained the gender roles that we associate with it today. Indigenous people were both a danger to Europeans in that they could show that the under-construction roles created in settler society weren’t the only way to live. But settlers, through the murder and suppression of Indigenous genders, were also able to consolidate the gendered society that they were constructing, a society which was formed around cisheteronormativity.

When the queer settler attempts to erase Indigenous people of non-western genders in order to justify their own existence, they enforce cisheteronormative structures. As history as shown us, one cannot escape oppression through participation in the society that created that oppression. A queer settler will never be able to free themselves through capitalism, since capitalism as a system will never accept a truly liberatory project for queer or queered people. To justify one’s own existence through erasure is to take part in the liberal settler project. Therefore, if queer settlers want true liberation and not take acceptance from a cisheterosexual establishment, they will have to work to dismantle the settler-state which formulated the very cisheteronormative social reality in which we live. The revolution must be decolonial so that the category of settler and the cisheteronormativity of society in the northern bloc of settler colonialism can be abolished. It is only through attacking the settler-colonial structures that created these systems of oppression that we can liberate ourselves from them.

[1] For many of those within the queer community the “2S” ending may be something unheard of. 2S stands for two-spirit, a term both specific to Anishinaabe people and a term that covers the whole umbrella of non-western genders and sexualities within the Americas.
[2] https://www.teenvogue.com/story/gender-variance-around-the-world
[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bbINLWtMKI
[4] https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/04/18/what-is-two-spirit-the-term-used-by-indigenous-north-african-and-first-nations-people-with-masculine-and-feminine-spirits/
[5] http://www.critical-theory.com/what-the-fuck-is-queer-theory/
[6] Jackson, M. (2011). Re-presenting gender fluid identity in a contemporary arts practice.. Retrieved from https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/430
[7] The vast majority of what I will say for the rest of this essay comes from the book Spaces Between Us; Queer Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Decolonization. I would highly suggest that if you’re interested by what I’m saying here, you go and check out that book.

Daud and Íya

—     This is the Tuscany of Israel.

God, I hated that job. You climb the corporate ladder so high that one day you end up in Israel trying to convince some winery that the best place to sell their product is at a Costco in Sioux Falls. And what a worthless place to try and sell Israeli wine. My father had always seen Sioux Falls as the ultimate goal. Grandpa was raised in McLaughlin and stayed there his whole life, never wanted to leave the rez. Dad was born in McLaughlin, but wanted to get to Mobridge. And once he got there, then he wanted to get to Sioux Falls. He lived in Mobridge for a while, but hated it. He didn’t want to see the rez, it was too close. He wanted to get away from it, far away. And eventually he did. He raised me in Sioux Falls, taught me that I had to make something of myself, study, go to Europe. Get further away from Standing Rock than he ever could.

It was just a business trip, but this seemed like the closest I would ever get to Europe. I told dad. He was proud.

—     Should find yourself a house down there! Maybe you could become the corporate ambassador to Israel.

And everyone at corporate thought it was hilarious that the Indian was going to get the Israelis to sell us their wine. “It was destiny!” or “Don’t drink it all away!” followed by cackles and chuckles was all I heard before I left. I was overjoyed by the time I finally boarded the flight to Tel Aviv. No more drunk jokes, no more Indian jokes, no more office war cries, nothing. I was free of my colleagues, my bosses. Sioux Falls and its stifling racism. I could lay back in my seat, take an ambien, and sleep all my problems away on the eleven hour flight. I’d get to Israel and it would be an escape from the hell that was South Dakota.

But even an ambien can’t make you sleep for eleven hours straight. By the time I’d woken up we were over Greece. I reached into the seat compartment in front of me and picked up a magazine that was lying inside. On one of the pages of the magazine was a map of Israel and the best resorts throughout the country. I eyed it for a little while, letting it sit on my knees crushed by the person in front of me leaning back in their chair. I looked at the valleys, gorges, cities and towns. And the borders. Thick black lines that highlighted the country like eyeliner. And right through the middle of the map was a mass of dashed lines, those kind that mean that a border isn’t concrete, even though there’s concrete at the boarder. At that moment, looking at all those dotted lines going this way and that, I realized I was flying right back to the Dakotas, landing right in Sioux Falls. I’d be travelling around Dakota Territory, hitting right up to the border of the Great Palestinian Reservation.

And so I landed in Tel Aviv, left the airport, and was driven to Bet Shemesh. From Bet Shemesh I would go to Neve Michael, a small town near the border with Palestine. Israel’s very own Mobridge. I’d only be in the country for three days and four nights. The first day would be visiting the winery, the second would be getting the deal finalized, and the third would be leaving. Not much of a vacation. But at a certain point, you can’t think of anything as a vacation. Especially an eastward flight from Sioux Falls to Mobridge. The next day, when I’d woken up still groggy from the flight and headed out to the winery, all pretense of relaxation exited from my brain.

The tour was awful. I hate wine. Who wants to drink concentrated alcoholic grape juice? And all the pretentious Israelis showing me around the facility in their awful robotic English. Horrible. I had to get away from it all, they were just as bad as the people back home. At home I’d drive to the park, walk around, try and take my mind off of everybody that I had to deal with at work, in public, around. There was no park near. But there was a hiking trail just three minutes away from the winery. As soon as the tour was over I left to the trail to try and forget everything I’d just had to do. Forget the people and the situation, the voices and the smells; the feeling. Just try and retreat away from what I was living.

There was a sign at the entrance that said that whoever walked on this trail was walking through the Valley of Elah, the battleground of David and Goliath. I learned about David and Goliath in Sunday school, but I never paid much attention. The stories bored me. When we got home from church, we’d eat lunch with my grandparents, and grandpa would tell me stories. Old stories. He’d tell me creation, White Buffalo Calf Woman story, random stories. He’d tell me scary stories, too.

One day at church we got introduced to hell. It wasn’t the hell of having to recite verses, or the hell of trying to hide your boredom from the teachers. No, they taught us about the real hell, fire and brimstone hell, the hell you’ll never come back from. They would sit there and describe its horrors, the eternal fire where we’d suffer. They’d try to explain eternity to us. That it was a like moving every grain of sand from one beach to another, a single grain at a time, and then doing it all over again, forever and ever. I’d never been more scared in my entire life. It put a deep anxiety in me, the first existential fear that I’d ever felt. When I got home, I told my grandpa everything they told me. I crawed my fears to him like a crow.

—     And you have to carry the sand forever and ever! Lalá, there’s nothing worse, nothing worse, and the only way you can escape it is to believe in Jesus! I told him crying.

—     Well, that’s nothing. Have I ever told you about Íya before?

—     I don’t think so, I’d say, wiping my tears away from my face, ready for another one of grandpa’s stories. He took in a deep breath, and began to speak.

—     Wáŋ, tȟakóža, let me tell you about Íya. Íya líla tȟáŋka, thípi wakȟáŋ kiŋ isáŋm tȟáŋka škhé. He will eat anything near him. One day, Íya was out walking around, and he saw a whole camp. Ločhíŋ ȟče. And since there was no four-leggeds around, he had nothing else to fill his stomach but the people he saw in the distance. Wičhóthi kiŋ ektá máni yé. When he arrived, he reached into the lodges with his giant hands, felt around, and began to pull people out. Wíŋyaŋ kiŋ é na wíŋkte kiŋ é na wakȟáŋheža kiŋ wičháyute, he ate them all. And since he was a couple stories tall, none of them filled him. And so they say that Íya is still out there today, hunting little kids down to eat them like he did those kids in the lodges.

I never worried about hell again after I heard that story. No eternity of shoveling sand would ever scare me more than the thought of Íya finding me. He wouldn’t think twice once he saw me, he couldn’t think, all he wanted was to eat. To eat me. I would be swallowed whole, have to sit there in his stomach, spending eternity in there with all the other poor souls that he would end up eating. There was nothing worse, nothing that any priest could tell me could be any worse.

I walked on the trail and looked at all the hills around me. They looked like all of the buttes scattered around Lakota Country, they looked like all the little hills around the Black Hills. When I got a little bit older, became a freshman in high school, things got hard for me. It’s not easy to be a Native at a majority white high school. One day I came home from school, crying, tired of all the same racist jokes that the kids would tell. Grandpa was visiting, saw me come through the door and rush to my room, saw how hurt I was. He sat me down and talked to me. He told me the story of how Íya died. It was one of those moments that you can’t fully appreciate as a teen. He told me the story, and I pretended to still be upset, like it hadn’t phased me at all. Like I was so scarred by teenage life that nothing could save me. The veneer you put up around family to assure them that you’re hurting, just in case they don’t believe you. But the story saved me. All you want to believe as a kid is that the good guys win and the monster dies. All those kids at school were monsters. And knowing that Íya had been killed, even if I didn’t really believe it, gave me some sort of confidence.

But when you grow up, you have to deal with all these Íyas in your life. They’re everywhere. They’re at work calling you honey, at the bar calling you Pocahontas. They live in Sioux Falls, DC, and apparently in Israel, too. Your grandpa dies, your parents age, you don’t go back to the rez anymore. You start to forget things. You get distracted.

Until you hear skittish steps in front of you. I looked up. It was a teen, and he was moving like an Indian in a bordertown neighborhood he shouldn’t be in. I had no idea why he was on the trail; this was a place for tourists coming from the winery, not lost kids. And not only was he a lost kid, but he was the only brown kid I’d seen the entire day. You see things on the news, you know that things for brown kids in Israel isn’t easy. You know that things for brown kids isn’t easy. So I called out to him, seemed like the only right thing to do. As my grandpa would say, you don’t just let someone in a pickle stay in the jar.

—     Hey!

He stopped and looked at me. You have that whole split second of eye contact to decide what it is that you want to do. You could change your day, week, year, life, all of that gravity weighing on a choice that you make almost immediately in real time, but that you think out carefully in your head. In his eyes, I saw him making the decision, the sparks flying, gears turning, engine chugging, choosing whether he would talk to this strange woman walking along this trail, or whether he would blink, turn, and run the other way. The eyes tell you when someone’s in that sort of situation, nothing else.

And after that split-second, the split-second that takes no time but all a lifetime of thought in your head, he stepped forward. And stepped again, and again. He walked towards me, worried at first, but with a smile coming up on his face, the anxiety being left behind where the decision had been made.

—     ! السلام عليكم

—     Uhh. Um, waalkum isalam, I sputtered out.

I’d studied a bit of introductory Hebrew and Arabic on the flight. This interaction wouldn’t be long if he couldn’t speak English. So I asked him

—     Do you speak English?

—     English? Umm, a little. he said as he pinched his fingers together.

—     Shu ismik?

—     . اسمي داوود

—     What?

—     Daaaaa. Uuuuud. Daud.

—     Daud?

—     Yes, he said with a smile. My name is Daud.

There’s something special about interactions like those. You don’t really understand each other, and you know you never really will, but sometimes you just need to talk to someone. I was glad to be talking to another Indian after having spent all my time in a winery with a bunch of rich Israelis.

Come to think of it, he was the first Indian I’d spoken with in months. There was no other Native working at the office. I stayed home a lot now that I was working, so I didn’t get to talking to anyone at bars, parties, anything like that. I stayed quiet at home, didn’t try to talk to anybody. And Daud. Well, I don’t know why he decided to talk with me, why he stopped, why he didn’t just keep walking. But he did, he stopped. And as his steps towards me faded away, and he stood still next to me, trying to communicate in our Arabic-English hybrid language, a new set of steps began.

I looked behind us to see what it was. And there he was. Uniform, rifle, beret, boots.

—     ?מה אתה עושה

—     Uh, I’m sorry, I don-

—     !סתמי ת’פה

The Palestinian boy didn’t move. He just stood there and looked at the soldier as he walked up to us, yelling in Hebrew. I didn’t understand anything, I just stood there. “Don’t trust the police, they’ll make you a statistic,” is what my mother always told me. I wanted to move, I wanted to get away, but I couldn’t. And what would I do? Run away off into the hills of a foreign country. I had no idea where I was. And what about the boy? When I looked at him, I could see that he felt the same way. His mom had told him the same thing. But she’d also told him never to run, always to listen, obey orders, or else.

The soldier kept approaching, eventually got within a few steps of us, still screaming. He held his rifle at his side.

—      ?!אנגלית מדבר אתה

—     I don’t know if he understands you.

—     !שתקי

And at that moment, the boy turned heel and ran. An Indian running from the army, the Indian police, the police police, running as fast as possible, leaving everything behind him. His thoughts, his past, his future, his life. All of it had become a cloud of dust rising up around me and the soldier. And being an Indian, I knew that there was only one way that this story could end. I looked from the boy running over to the soldier standing in front of me. And just as slow as I studied the boy’s eyes when I first saw him, I studied the eyes of the soldier. But I didn’t find the brain working, no decision making process. The decision was immediate.

Grandpa would tell me stories he’d got from his grandparents. Stories they’d got from their grandparents. He would tell me about how the Bluecoats invaded Lakota Country. He told me that they would come in and just start shooting people, whoever dared look at them, whoever would dare move. The night that grandpa had told me the story of Íya, I was the most scared I’d ever been in my life. I got in bed, hid under the covers, and waited for Íya. Waited for his big hand to reach through the window and pull me out of my room. I couldn’t take it anymore, the fear, the horror. I called grandpa into my room.

—     Lalá! Lalá! Come here, please, Lalá!

—     Tókȟa he, tȟakóža? My grandpa said in a soothing voice, sitting down on my bed. He knew I was frightened.

—     Lalá, Íya imánihaŋ. I don’t want him to eat me, I don’t want him to eat me, Lalá.

—     Niyútiŋ kte šni, tȟakóža. You’re too small, you wouldn’t fill him up anyways, he said with a smile on his face.

It didn’t make me feel any better. The humor didn’t help. Knowing that he existed was enough to make me afraid, it didn’t matter if he ate me or not. His existence was enough.

—     Lalá, does anything scare you?

He leaned back and looked at the ceiling for a moment. The smile came off his face, he began to look very serious, thoughtful. He turned back to me, looked at me. He gave me that look, the look of love and hurt that only a grandparent can give.

—     When I was your age, my lalá told me the same Íya story that I told you. I got scared, just like you, so I asked him what scared him the most, just like you. He told me, “wašíču kiŋ.” So I asked him why, why he was scared of them. He told me, “Matȟéča k’uŋ héhaŋ mílahaŋska kiŋ lalá ktépi.” You see, tȟakóža, when I was born, there was no more Bluecoats. No cavalry. No army. The army couldn’t kill us anymore, they couldn’t kill family anymore. But there were still whites. They could kill me. Just like they killed my lalá’s lalá. They could kill any Indian. I don’t have to think of Íya coming for me to be scared anymore. I just have to go to Mobridge, just be an Indian in Mobridge.

He started to raise his rifle.

—     !הפסק

He put his finger over the trigger.

—     !הפסק

And before he had the time to pull the trigger, I tackled him. He wasn’t expecting it, had his focus on the kid, so I took him completely off his feet. He yelled as I held onto him, I tried to keep him from moving. He thrashed around, tried to pull me off, anything he could do to get free. But I held on as hard as I could, wouldn’t let him go. Couldn’t let him go. Both of us were yelling, screaming, swearing. I didn’t know what was going on. Eventually I began to lose my strength. It’s hard trying to keep a soldier occupied. And as with everything else, the longer you’re at it, the more your mind loses focus on what it’s supposed to be doing and begins to race around. I started thinking.

Would I die in Mobridge like my father was scared to? Scared to die near the rez. There it was, right there, right over the hill. We’d been travelling as far away from it as possible, and now I sat looking back at it, wrestling with a Bluecoat. And as I rolled around with the soldier, I cried. I cried for fear of my life, I cried for the boy. I cried because I was scared. I wanted to go home. And not home to Sioux Falls. I wanted to go home. Right there past the dashed line in the distance, back to grandpa, back to stories, back to comfort. I wanted to go home.

And while I looked to home, a thunk sounded next to me. The soldier stopped struggling. I held onto him for an eternity, waiting for him to thrash again. But he didn’t move. Nothing. I looked over to my side, and saw the still and bleeding head of the soldier, a large rock, and Daud’s feet. I looked up at him. We looked at each other like the first time our eyes had met, just three minutes earlier. We couldn’t have looked at each other for longer than a second. But that second was the longest of my life.

We looked at each other as we were.

Two Indians

Two Palestinians

Two Natives

Pronouns

Toháŋl lakȟól’uŋkiyapi čháŋna wóčhažitȟokab kiŋ (pronouns) uŋk’úŋpi šni. Čha hé uŋ toháŋl lakȟól’iwaye čháŋna omátaŋyaŋ. Wíŋmakte. Lakȟóta kiŋ makȟápi háŋtaŋš heyápi, “Andrea héčhuŋ” naíŋš, “Wíŋkte kiŋ héčhuŋ” naíŋš “héčhuŋ” eyápi. Wíŋkte kiŋ Andrea ečíyapi kiŋ hé slolyápi. Wašíču kiŋ lé slolyápi šni. Wašíčuiya wóčhažitȟokab kiŋ uŋk’úŋpi kta héčha čha hé uŋ toháŋl wašíčuuŋkiyapi čháŋna uŋkótaŋyaŋpi šni. Lakȟól’uŋkiyapi čha lená slol’úŋyaŋpi. K’éyaš wašíču kiŋ lená slolyápi šni yuŋkȟaŋ okaȟniȟya owíčhuŋkiyakapi. Uŋspéwičhakhiya iblútȟiŋ kte.

I begin this short piece with that paragraph because this topic is incredibly difficult for me to talk about in English. I can express myself with a paragraph in Lakȟótiyapi about something that will take me several imperfect paragraphs to explain in English. And even with my explanations in English, I already know, my heart will never except whatever I write here. All this aside, let’s start at the most simple observation. Pronouns are a fundamental part of any language. In English, they are fundamental because it is the way through which we categorize and compartmentalize groups of people. If someone uses she/her, we will unfortunately categorize them. If someone uses they/them, they will be categorized. In Lakȟótiyapi, the importance of pronouns is that they don’t exist. There is no he, she, I, we, or any other pronoun in our language. We either use the noun itself to identify a person, or we just use nothing at all.

For many Očhéthi Šakówiŋ people, this isn’t much of a problem, as they feel comfortable using the pronouns he or she. But for me, a wíŋkte, I have a problem with all this. Due to the fact that my gender wasn’t forced into the category of man or woman, but instead outright eliminated, there isn’t a good choice of pronouns for me. This makes it so that when I speak English, I feel no identification with any pronoun, either old or new. Lakȟótiyapi doesn’t have this problem. And the reason why is obvious. It is the language that allows us to express our genders and how we identify. When we speak English, we have to attempt to move our systems of identification not only over to another language, but also over to a language that is fundamentally colonial in nature.

In my heart of hearts, I know that it’s wrong for me to use any pronoun. Nothing feels right, and whenever someone refers to me as any pronouns, whether she, they, or anything else for whatever reason, it feels incredibly uncomfortable. And this is very important, because the use of pronouns is, as highlighted before, fundamental to the functioning of the English language. I feel no connection to a pronoun such a xir, and also having someone repeat “wíŋkte” instead of a pronoun just feels very strange and unnatural to me. There is no escape and no solution to the problem.

For this reason, I unfortunately have to simply choose a pronoun. For that reason, I’ve reluctantly chosen she/her. But the resolution to this problem isn’t reluctance, it is highlighting the necessity of being able to speak Lakȟótiyapi. If people speak Lakȟótiyapi, the problem of pronouns disappears. So how do we teach Lakȟótiyapi to people. This not only means Lakȟóta people, but settlers on Lakȟóta land as well.

It should be obvious to anyone who has studied the history of the United States that it is a virtual impossibility that Lakȟótiyapi will ever appear in any school primarily meant for non-Lakȟóta kids. What is required for the teaching of Lakȟótiyapi to everyone on Lakȟóta land is a genuine decolonial revolution which seeks to eliminate the presence of English from Očhéthi Šakówiŋ in its entirety. Language is an important part of decoloniality for many reasons, and in this essay I’ve just focused on one small reason; pronouns. Perhaps one day in the future I’ll further expand on the importance of decoloniality in language. But as of now, I find it important to underline that language is one of the main ways through which settler-colonialism reifies itself. No revolution in Očhéthi Šakówiŋ is radical in nature if it doesn’t seek to throw English outside of the borders of our nation. English fogs up our ability to understand ourselves and how we function with ourselves and all our relations. As we build a revolutionary potential in Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, maybe we are best served in using our language, in whatever limited manner to remind ourselves of who we are. And in looking towards our language and our relations, we have a phrase that has survived and thrived despite the attempted elimination of our languages, genders, and selves.

Mitákuye oyás’iŋ

Kill the Wíŋyaŋ, and Save the Woman; Settler-Colonialism in Gender

(Disclaimer; In this essay, I attempt to pretend that I’ve studied gender seriously at any length within a colonial academic setting. I haven’t. I had a Women’s Studies 101 class about a year ago. I’ve also read about half of an Endnotes article entitled The Logic of Gender. This is all to say, I do not profess to be well-versed on the deep aspects of Gender Studies, Women Studies, Trans Studies, or any other Studies. Most of my knowledge comes from conversations about gender with friends in those fields. What I do profess to be is a Lakȟóta wíŋkte who is worried about trends that I’ve seen within Queer circles and through my discussions with people who work and study within Gender Studies. This essay is me voicing my concerns and proposing a wide-reaching and non-specific answer to those concerns.)

The last time I came out to a non-native friend as wíŋkte, she asked me what that meant. I told her that wíŋkte was one of the four genders that we have among Lakȟóta people where a person born wičháša decides that they are going to partially comply with the social roles of wíŋyaŋ, but that they are truly neither wičháša nor wíŋyaŋ because Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka gave them a spirit distinct from both and they have their own social roles that, although leaning towards those of wíŋyaŋ, are different. Her eyes immediately began to glaze over.

“Basically I’m a trans woman,” I told her. That she understood.

This basic interaction introduces us to the colonial nature of gender. Gender as a system is something that has been forced upon everyone. Simone de Beauvoir is someone to which most people in any field of Gender Studies is introduced, and in her work The Second Sex she explains the rise of gender in the West (and attempts to do so, with horribly racist consequences, in other parts of the world). Problematically, both de Beauvoir and those who have come after her assume that this system of gender functions in the same way in the Americas as it does in France. De Beauvoir, and so many settler feminists who use her work, either erase (gender in) Indigenous societies, or create a racist idolization of a continental matriarchal society in which women controlled men with the sheer force of their voice. The settler Marxist-feminist view of gender has looked to radically subsume Indigenous genders to class struggle and European views of patriarchy. So let us travel across the Atlantic to view gender’s true origins and manifestation in the northern bloc of settler-colonialism.

When the United States invaded Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, they ran into many problems. One of these problems is that Očhéthi Šakówiŋ people were living using a communistic kinship-based mode of production. The United States saw this as a problem for multiple reasons. First, a kinship-based mode of production is not capitalism. And what frightened the US even more; this wasn’t just a different mode of production, this was communism. When the United States had begun the “Sioux Wars,” settlers had spent around 250 years in a modal struggle (that is, a struggle concerning modes of production) in the Americas with Indigenous and Afrikan peoples[1]. For the ever expanding imperial-capitalist power that was the United States by the time of the “Sioux Wars,” there was no accepting a non-capitalist mode of production under which a people could live. But not only was there a difference in the mode of production, there was a difference in how gender was seen in that mode of production. For Očhéthi Šakówiŋ people, gender was not nearly as strictly imposed in a binary system as it was for European settlers[2]. There were divisions of labor along gendered lines, but people were free to choose with which gender they would comply and which division of labor they would take up. This system of choosing your own gender was not something that settlers whose goal was to impose capitalism on Očhéthi Šakówiŋ people would allow. And so they began the process of eliminating our genders.

The elimination of Indigenous genders was done in various ways. The first was by eliminating Indigenous people themselves. As Patrick Wolfe points out in his essay Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native this process of elimination can be carried out in many different ways. The colonial army and government can kill the Indian outright, or they can eliminate epistemologies, ontologies, genders, philosophies, and various other lifeways through assimilationist genocide. Both of these processes of elimination have been used by the United States to eliminate Indigenous genders on the land of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ nation. In 1930 the reservation superintendent on Íŋyaŋ Woslál Háŋ Oyáŋke encouraged the police to pick up and imprison a wíŋkte. She was known to be one of the best seamstresses and craftspeople on the entire reservation, having made many dresses for people all around. But she broke the colonial gender roles that were set for all people living in occupied Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, settler or not. The breaking of these capitalist goals for gender was a heathen communistic tendency that had to be stopped in order to encourage and preserve the colonial patriarchal capitalism system. The police picked her up, threw her in jail, and cut her hair[3]. This is among the more violent (recorded) cases of elimination of Očhéthi Šakówiŋ gender. Much of the time nowadays acculturation encourages people of non-western genders to fit within colonial patriarchal views of gender in Očhéthi Šakówiŋ society (or outside of it, a point we will soon discuss)[4]. In this way, we see that the gendered violence and oppression that Indigenous people face is different from that gendered violence and oppression that settlers face. But how so?

Let’s take a moment to look at how cisgender settler women on one hand and wíŋyaŋ on the other are oppressed. I don’t want to enumerate the multiplicity of ways in which oppression occurs in daily life, but rather look at the systems that oppress these two groups of people. Cisgender settler women are oppressed by a patriarchal capitalist system. This system ensures that capitalism is able to reproduce itself and function at its highest ability (which means the ability to best extract surplus-value from exploited workers). Without oppressing women, certain aspects of capitalism very quickly begin to unravel, and due to the weakness of capitalism, the whole system would crumble. The oppression of women is key to the maintenance of this system. Wíŋyaŋ also face this patriarchal capitalist exploitation that cisgender settler women face. But we must recognize that capitalism is secondary to settler-colonialism. Without settler-colonialism, there could be no base upon which the capitalism of the northern bloc of settler-colonialism (and moreover the world capitalism system) was built. Aside from the general oppression of settler-colonialism, what is the gendered oppression that wíŋyaŋ face? They face the erasure of Indigenous genders and the imposition of settler-colonial genders on wíŋyaŋ. This system seeks to completely eliminate any ability to express “wíŋyaŋ-ness” and to substitute that gender for that of “woman.” The elimination of wíŋyaŋ comes in multiple ways. The first is the imposition of imperial-capitalism upon Očhéthi Šakówiŋ people. No longer able to function within a kinship-based mode of production, our genders have their material basis in which they function taken away from them. The second way in which wíŋyaŋ is eliminated is through cultural means. If a wíŋyaŋ is raised in a society where she is taught to be a woman, the goal is to eliminate the Indigenous gender role and to replace it with a cisgender settler woman’s role. The surface goal of this is to make Očhéthi Šakówiŋ wíŋyaŋ into productive members of the imperial capitalist economy and society. Making wíŋyaŋ into women allows them to participate in the reproduction of capitalism until the settler-state completes its ultimate goal of eliminating all Indigenous people. The ultimate objective of this is to eliminate indigeneity in general and to legitimate the settler-society which has been built on Indigenous land. In summary, we could take the famous phrase, “Kill the Indian, and save the man” and make it, “Kill the Wíŋyaŋ, and save the woman.”

Marxists-Feminists analyze gender through class. And this makes sense, because all settlers, whether they are cisgender women, transgender, non-binary, genderfluid, and a host of other non-conforming genders, all suffer in life due to a patriarchal capitalist system which, in their minds, can only be undone through a revolutionary communist movement which seeks to overturn this system. This movement uses a class analysis as its fundamental building block upon which nearly everything else is set. But this class analysis of gender falls short for Indigenous people. Our genders are not oppressed on a class basis but on a modal basis. This means that Indigenous genders (and Indigenous people more broadly) are oppressed because the northern bloc of settler colonialism seeks to suppress and eliminate our modes of production that it deems dangerously communistic and in this way expand its imperial ambitions on Indigenous land. Our struggle against capitalism involves class-struggle. Indeed within Indigenous communities you can see struggles between the Indigenous bourgeoisie and non-bourgeois Indigenous people. It would be silly to not recognize the fact that, due to the influence of capitalism, we have a need to struggle upon the basis of class as do settlers to some degree. But it would also be silly to not recognize that the mission of settler-colonial society has never been to proletarianize Indigenous people, but rather to eliminate us. This means that class struggle is not the only means through which we struggle. It is clear to those who have properly studied the history of nations occupied by (settler-) colonial entities that the entirety of class struggle is based upon the struggle of mode of production. If the settler forces had not waged war on the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ nation, we would not have a need for a modal struggle. This modal struggle looks to defend ourselves not as proletarians from the onslaught of the greedy capitalists, but rather as a kinship-based people defending themselves from the settler-colonial patriarchal capitalist system forced upon us. The struggle to decolonize our land, our nations, our people, and in this specific context our genders, is a combined struggle of modal conflict and class conflict.

I began this essay by speaking about my experience telling a non-native friend of mine that I’m wíŋkte. When she didn’t understand what this meant, I told her that I was a trans woman. This reflects the mission of the settler-colonial state to eliminate Indigenous genders and therefore eliminate Indigenous lifeways. This also reflects the elimination of wíŋyaŋ in order to make them women. With this in mind, we now have to take out the time to look at the colonial gender struggle in settler-colonial societies. The attempt by trans, non-binary, genderfluid, and other non-conforming gender people to expand the settler binary to a trinary, quadrinary, and so on, up to the point of eliminating gender altogether, is not radical when seen through the eyes of someone who belongs to an Indigenous gender that 19th and 20th century settler anthropologists would call “berdache.” Why is this? All of these settler genders still accomplish the goal of eliminating Indigenous genders. A wíŋyaŋ becomes a woman, a wíŋkte becomes a trans woman, a blokȟáte becomes a trans man, and any other gender from any other nation can be put on some sort of gender that colonial society has given a voice (however marginalized). This is not to say that trans people, for example, should not be allowed to be trans because they are erasing Indigenous genders in being so, nor does it mean that people should not continue to explore and understand European derived colonial genders (and anyone who would step to such a conclusion immediately outs themselves as a reactionary). But it is important to recognize that these genders keep with the pattern of gender elimination that we previously explored in the wíŋyaŋ/woman example. A “radical” may say that a communist society should recognize all possible genders in existence. This recognition of genders does not deal with the fundamental eliminatory goals of settler-colonialism in regards to Indigenous genders. Even the goal of doing away with gender altogether is a colonial aim in that it means a continuation of settler-colonialism until the goal of total elimination of all genders is reached.

Decolonizing gender is the only way in which we can properly reverse the settler goals of the elimination of Indigenous genders. Decoloniality is of course a process which inherently requires anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, and all the other “anti-”s and “pro-”s that leftists look for in their movements. Anything less than decoloniality of gender (or the many other fields where it applies) is reactionary politics. It is reactionary because it seeks to uphold the colonial gender system, no matter the array of genders that may be oppressed and eliminated within that colonial system. As long as the colonial system works, it is suppressing hundreds upon hundreds of genders within the northern bloc of settler colonialism alone. To those reactionaries who see the word “decolonial” and immediately think that I am calling for a suppression of all non-Indigenous genders, that is not the case. The goal is not an imposition of Indigenous genders, it is a liberation from the colonial system of gender in which we find ourselves. This decolonial liberation can only come from Afrikan and Indigenous states which decolonize gender through removing the material base and the superstructural elements through which Indigenous genders (and settler genders) are exploited. This means that we organize against settler-colonialism and the myriad of colonial structures it uses to uphold its colonial gender system.

It is only through decolonial politics that true liberation may be made.

(De)Colonial Glossary

Blokȟáte: An Očhéthi Šakówiŋ gender in which a person is recognized as having been born a wíŋyaŋ, but has taken on many roles of wičháša and some roles of wíŋyaŋ, making them blokȟáte. Under the colonial gender system, blokȟáte have been called trans men.

Íŋyaŋ Woslál Háŋ Oyáŋke: Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

Očhéthi Šakówiŋ: A nation which occupies the land approximately to the west of Mnísota (the Minnesota River) and to the east of Ȟeyúškiška (The Big Horn Mountains). This nation is made up of two primary linguistic groups, those being Lakȟóta speakers and Dakhóta speakers. These two people when referenced as one are called Očhéthi Šakówiŋ people.

Wičháša: An Očhéthi Šakówiŋ gender which takes on the roles of hunting, building, making equipment for both previously mentioned activities, warring, among many other tasks assigned to the gender. Under the colonial gender system, wičháša have been called men.

Wíŋkte: An Očhéthi Šakówiŋ gender in which a person is recognized as having been born a wičháša, but has taken on many roles of wíŋyaŋ and some roles of wičháša, making them wíŋkte. Under the colonial gender system, wíŋkte have been called trans women.

Wíŋyaŋ: An Očhéthi Šakówiŋ gender which takes on the roles of gathering, making clothes, childcare, among many other tasks assigned to the gender. Under the colonial gender system, wíŋyaŋ have been called women.

[1] In this essay, I mainly focus on the modal struggle and eliminatory mission of settlers towards genders within the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ and other Indigenous nations. But it is important to realize that Afrikans, both on the continent and in the Diaspora, have been forced to struggle along the same lines as Indigenous people in the Americas. There is a common misconception among many people that the word “Indigenous” means “Amerindian.” This is wrong. We find Indigenous people all over the world. The Indigenous identity is not created through being an Indigenous person in the Americas struggling against settler-colonialism, but rather the Indigenous identity is created through struggling against colonialism anywhere around the world. Afrikans are just as Indigenous as Amerindians, and although I have made a distinction between “Indigenous” and “Afrikan” in this essay (reproducing the problem, I admit), that distinction ultimately obscures the commonality of Amerindian and Afrikan struggles.

[2] The Očhéthi Šakówiŋ gender system was a system comprised of four genders. It is important to note that there were significant differences in these systems of gender between Dakhóta and Lakȟóta people, and further differences within bands of those two peoples.

[3] Medicine, Beatrice. (2002). “Directions in Gender Research in American Indian Societies: Two Spirits and Other Categories” In W. J. Lonner, D. L. Dinnel, S. A. Hayes, & D. N. Sattler (Eds.), Online Readings in Psychology and Culture (Unit 3, Chapter 2), Center for Cross-Cultural Research, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington USA.

[4] It is also important to point out that all Lakȟóta genders faced a similar sort of repression. This is not to say that wičháša or wíŋyaŋ have faced the same type of oppression as wíŋkte and blokȟáte. But it is important to note that wíŋyaŋ and wičháša have not been eliminated by being erased, but have rather been eliminated by being forced into western notions of man and woman. A type of erasure, yes, but not totally erased to the same extent as wíŋkte and blokȟáte have been. To reiterate, the entire system of gender that found itself within our kinship-based mode of production was ruthlessly attacked.

From the Continent to the Caribbean; Continuity of Imperialism

(Disclaimer; I wrote this while going through a bout of anxiety. When I decided to publish this, I ended up just not properly citing any of the works that I source below. I also wrote this in a day trying to distract myself from life. This piece doesn’t read the best, isn’t properly cited, it’s overall a bit of a mess. There’s your warning and my excuses.)

Within the first three months of 1877, both the Reconstruction Era had ended and the Great Sioux War had come to a close. But to choose an important year in US history for the beginning of this story doesn’t reflect what the story is about. The history of the United States, and more importantly the history of the world, isn’t made within specific dates. It is made in a lengthy continuity which ties these dates together. I would like to highlight one continuity in particular, one that seems to fly under the radar of many; that of 1877-1898. 1898 is often seen as the date in which the US Empire sprung into being. The reason being that, for those who see Indians and Africans as natural parts of the US Empire, the United States finally began to expand overseas. But if we look at US imperial history as one that starts long before the explosion of the USS Maine, we can see a much tighter connection between the “frontier” and the “oversees” Empire.

On February 28th, 1877 all “Sioux” land was annexed by the United States. This annexation established the Great Sioux Reservation, a reservation within South Dakota and Nebraska that would soon be picked apart by the United States for the next 35 years. The next month, the last of federal troops had pulled out of the final Reconstruction states and for the next ninety years Jim Crow and the KKK would rule over the southern United States. But in speaking of these purported areas of the United States as I just have, we automatically justify what the United States want us to see. So, let us clarify.

The New Afrikan nation is a nation built by Africans forcibly brought to Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, Seminole, and Cherokee land. New Afrika along with the previously mentioned nations are all occupied by the United States. The United States has used the land of the 6 nations and the enslaved labor of Afrikans to build various projects in an attempt to enrich the settler squatters and overlords occupying these nations. When we reach March of 1877, we see that a new means through which to occupy New Afrika had been decided on. No longer would the northern settlers attempt to suppress the most violent factions of the southern settlers. Jim Crow would become the law of the land; land which was still attempting to be incorporated into the United States.

Jim Crow was a system through which New Afrika and Afrikans could be suppressed. The fear of a New Afrikan nation had been alive among white settlers ever since the establishment of the first African nation in the Americas; Haiti. Settlers attempted to dispossess and terrorize all Afrikans in a continual attempt to affirm the legitimacy of the United States over New Afrika. It was clear that one sector of the population had done virtually all of the work in the production of wealth in this area of the country, but that group could not be recognized as anything other than a subset of the US population (and an inferior subset at that). The way that this subset of the population had been denominated by the United States was through a racial classification. The racialization of Afrikans was key to the legitimization of the rule of the United States over this land that it claimed as its southern half. If Afrikans were denationalized into “Black people,” a subset of US Americans, than it would be clear that no nation could exercise rights over that land other than the United States. The reason that we see the continuity of 1877-1898 as important for New Afrika and Afrikans is because the United States had made a decision as a whole unit (without a northern/southern split) on how best to oppress Afrikans. This general agreement on how best to suppress Afrikans, and therefore New Afrika, would be kept until the 1950s and 60s.

1877 saw the end of Reconstruction and the creation of the Great Sioux Reservation. The Great Sioux Reservation, though, had been under construction for the last 10 years (if not the last 200). During the height of the Civil War was the Dakȟóta war of 1862. This was not the first time a conflict had broken out between the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ people (that is to say, Sioux people, a people made up of both Dakȟóta and Lakȟóta people) and settlers. But it was the first time that generals had been sent to fight with them. No matter whether the US recognized the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ nation as legitimate in the field of international diplomacy, its continuous wars with the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ nation until 1891 would show that Očhéthi Šakówiŋ people were seen as a threat and, more importantly, that their land was wanted by the United States in order to increase its ability to produce capital. 1877 presents us with an important date, though. 1877 was the annexation of the last of sovereign Očhéthi Šakówiŋ land and the establishment of the Great Sioux Reservation. This would be one of the final annexations of the United States within what it says is its current continental boundaries.

The wars of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ nation against the United States lasting until 1891 is an important point. At this point in time, the United States had been constantly warring not only with the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, but with other Indigenous nations as well. It had been occupying New Afrika in its post Civil War form for the last 30 years, and new forms of oppression, such as the creation of the police, had been used to occupy Afrikan and Indigenous land. The army, National Guard, and police functioned across Afrikan and Indigenous land to suppress the uprisings of these people in the reclamation of their lands. These institutions had been perfected in the settlement and attempted occupation of land across northern Turtle Island. Once the United had been prevented from expanding any further on the continent, it decided to use its lessons experienced in the conquering of Indigenous nations and the suppression of New Afrika to lands oversees.

On April 21st, 1898, just seven short years after the last war with the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ nation, the United States prepared to send troops to the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. All of these countries deserve to be inspected, but I will primarily be looking at Cuba and the Philippines. In entering another war, and its first war with a major European world power since the War of 1812, the United States would use all of the lessons it had learned from its wars with Indigenous nations and from its occupation of New Afrika. It is here where it is important to once again mention continuity.

As young Indigenous, Afrikan, and settler children, we are taught that the United State’s first imperial foray was the Spanish-US American war. We are taught that the United States comes into existence in 1776 as an oblong blob on the eastern seaboard of North America. The Indigenous nations who were conquered to create this blob are erased. We then fast forward to 1861, where two blobs, one blue and one grey, are warring with each other. At this point in time, the erasure of Indigenous nations conquered by both blobs is complete, and one would never encounter the mere idea of an Afrikan nation. Once the blobs unify, we fast forward to 1898 where we have a completed continental blob which appeared out of thin air. My point in explaining the history of New Afrika and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ from 1877 to 1898 is to demonstrate that this idea of the blob is false. Indigenous people and Afrikans died for every single mile of land that the United States attempted to occupy. But in speaking of continuity, we must now see how the occupation of New Afrika and Indigenous nations leads to the occupation of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.

“The president and Secretary of War Elihu Root likened Filipinos to children who needed protection and guidance” (22 Schmitz). Much like Indigenous people in the United States, Indigenous Filipines were seen as unfit for government. But through the eyes of the US mind, Filipines were not even seen as such. George Dewey, an admiral who lead the Battle of Manila Bay during the war, was quoted as saying that “he would ‘enter the city and keep the Indians out” (https://www.filipinoamericanwar.com/emilioaguinaldoreturns.htm). When admirals are referring to all non-Black people of color as Indians, we start to understand how closely attached the conquering of Indigenous nations in the US is to the conquering of nations outside North America. But blackness is just as important when we look at the US involvement in the Caribbean.

When the United States entered Cuba, it found itself in a Black nation. The US, to its own horror, arrived to meet a revolutionary army that was primarily made up of Black Cubans and lead by a Black general, Antonio Maceo. Not only were Black Cubans armed and leading the country, but white Cubans were willing, to a certain extent, to give them a place in local, regional, and national government after independence. As is pointed out by Schmitz, the US drew parallels of these multiracial governments of Latin America with the Reconstruction Era South. “Newly enfranchised with freedom… corrupt whites and the Radical Republicans in the congress set out to humiliate the South… Only when decent white southerners organized to drive these governments out of power… was the South saved” (26-27). Clearly the goal of the United States was to save Cuba and Cubans from their own Reconstruction folly, a folly of recognizing Black Cubans as humans and giving them a place in the governmental process of the island.  And so that is what the United States did.

During the United States’ first occupation of the island, it attempted to replicate the lack of suffrage for Black Cubans as it had done to Black US Americans. “US authorities and their local allies considered citizenship, particularly voting rights, a privilege to be accessed through education and income” (54 de la Fuente). Although the United States looked to limit voting rights for Cubans, it was not able to convince the Constitutional Convention of 1901 to do so. Universal male suffrage was established. Although Black Cubans gained the right to vote, and a limited ability to participate in government, the last straw came at the formation of the Partido Independiente de Color, a Black Cuban political party looking to serve Black Cuban needs. Through Cuban racism and US support, the PIC was banned throughout the country. The banning of the party caused a revolt in Oriente province, which lead the US to intervene in Cuba. The Cuban government, to keep from a third occupation of the country by the United States, suppressed the rebellion and killed Black Cubans in Oriente at random. 16 years later, the first Klu Klux Klan chapter opened in Cuba, an organization that would only grow in size on the island.

Through its occupational governments and indirect rule of Cuba, the United States was able to encourage Cuban forms of segregation, the illegalization of Black Cuban spiritual ceremonies and festivals, the elimination of explicitly Black forms of political parties, and the suppression of racial rebellions. All of these tactics, along with those mentioned above, were honed in New Afrika and Indigenous nations. The various massacres that the US perpetuated in the Philippines were mirror images to massacres of Indigenous people and terrorist tactics used against Afrikans. When we look at these events, we cannot afford to see them as having grown out of nothing. The means of suppression that the US had learned from its previous 200 years of settler occupations were applied to these three nations in the Pacific and Caribbean. 1877 would lead directly to 1898, and 1898 forms multiple continuities which flow on until today. Seeing US history as continuities rather than events and dates is important to understand why the nation functions as it does. And although we can see this specific history as starting in 1877 and ending in 1898, that is untrue. What lead up to 1877 is just as important as the date itself, and what came after 1898 is just as important as the date itself. We don’t live in moments, we live in time, and seeing things as such helps us understand where we are today.