Lately, Native people have taken to the streets malls in demonstrations of Public Indian-ness (“PI”) that surpasses the sheer volume of activism of even Alcatraz and the Longest Walk. There’s a heapum big amount of PI going on right now! Many people, non-Native and Native alike, are wondering what the heck is going with their local Native population and how this so-called #IdleNoMore Movement managed to get the usually muffled Natives restless enough to be Indian in public. I mean, like Chris Rock said, he hasn’t ever even met two Indians at the same time. He’s seen “polar bears riding a tricycle” but he’s “never seen an Indian family just chillin’ out at Red Lobster.”
Now, people can’t seem to get away from us.
And that’s cool, but isn’t that what pow-wows and November is for? People (non-Native and Native alike) can only take so much PI, right? Is that what the Idle No More movement is? An extended Native American Heritage Month, where non-Natives have to act like they’re fascinated by Native culture?
In a word, no. It is much more. Please consider this a fairly exhaustive explanation of the Movement, what it is not and what it is. If for some reason you cannot read the next 1000 or so brilliant words, I can be summed up thusly: Idle No More is not new. Instead, it is the latest incarnation of the sustained Indigenous Resistance to the rape, pillage, and exploitation of this continent and its women that has existed since 1492. It is not the Occupy Movement, although there are some similarities. It is not only about Canada and it is not only about Native people.
Finally, and probably most importantly, it (and we) are not going away anytime soon. So get used to it (and us).
The intensity of violence against female activists is on the rise in Guatemala. Lolita Chavez, member of the K’iche’ People’s Council, was attacked by armed men who attempted to lynch her as she was returning home after a peaceful protest against abusive extractive practices and projects affecting the environment. Photojournalist James Rodriguez from Mimundo.org explains:
During the morning of the 4th, roughly 400 residents of Quiché, along with members of the CPK, carried out a peaceful protest denouncing local mayor Estuardo Castro’s continuous arrogance and his lack of respect for the people’s refusal to sell their lands to transnational corporations, as proved during the 2010 community consultation.
As the protesters passed the community of Xetinap Quinto, a group of men armed with machetes, sticks and knives intercepted members of the CPK and proceeded to chase and beat several of them. These armed men were particularly interested in recognized leader Lolita Chávez, as they called out her name, chased her, and did manage to injure her, but not seriously. Lolita received cuts and bruises but managed to escape. Nevertheless, three other women were hospitalized due to injuries
Two weeks ago, in an area close to Guatemala City, Yolanda Oquelí Veliz, a human rights lawyer and leader of a movement against the expansion of mining activities, was also attacked when returning from a pacific protest. The blog FrontlineDefenders reports:
Yolanda is a woman human rights defender in San Jose de Gulfo who is a community leader resisting the Exmigua mine. From everything we’ve heard, from all sides, mining of minerals such as gold and silver, sand and alloys is a huge issue in Guatemala. Generally the community affected is not consulted. No objective information or public process of consultation takes place to allay fears about damage to the environment; whether the rivers will be polluted; whether the forests will be felled and thus their water supply compromised; and also, what will happen after the mining licence expires and the environment needs to be repaired and rebuilt
Yoly (as she wrote her name) has a history of intimidation because of her work. Her lawyer (pro bono) has lodged roughly 10 complaints through the legal process. She has been tear-gassed; graffiti had been written on her walls and threats against her and her children have been significant. Despite this, the Government to date has been mute.
Different networks issued Urgent Actions but the Government has not responded with the requested protection for the activists. Furthermore, civil society has been extremely quiet about the crimes.
Although the ad for the fried chicken wrap has been pulled, there is still much to discuss. An opportunity is present for us to engage in a more meaningful dialogue about health in our communities.Part of the social media and web backlash this commercial generated played on the historical references, of what Patricia Hill Collins calls the “controlling images of Black women,” where you have a happy Black woman, singing and swinging over fried food. Others quickly built the correlation between the increasingly high rates of diet-related disease in the U.S. and the marketing of fast food and soul food to Black communities.
Fried chicken is a staple item in the culture of American food with its roots in southern cooking. A vast majority of Black folks in the U.S. can trace their family lineage to the South. Chicken is not a staple item for marketing because we are Black; it is because we are American. Soul food is an American style of cooking made from a recipe of years in food conservation in the midst of oppression, living in survival mode, turning leftovers into lunch; it also blends African along with Native American/First Nations’ styles and traditions. The soul food menu was born out of a mentality of survival based on economics and environment. For more on the rich history of soul food and culture, check out award-winning documentarian Bryon Hurt ( of “Hip Hop Beyond Beats and Rhymes”) and his new project Soul Food Junkies.
Although the plantation and agricultural conditions for the majority of Black people in this country have changed since the turn of the century, the need to survive environment and economics has not. When friends with dietary restrictions, such as no red meat or pork, ask me how I was raised, I tell them: “I eat all forms of well-cooked dead animal.” That’s just how it was growing up. It is a luxury when a family can forgo cost analysis to be highly selective or picky when it comes to food, especially for those growing up in a working-class family like I did. And I think that is a critical issue when we are talking about food: economics.