Saturday, 27 February 2010

An alternative to killing: Avatar, Ecuador and the Suquamish

In James Cameron's Avatar, ex-Marine Jake Sully leads a war by indigenous Na'vi against destruction by an Earth-based mining corporation. A white guy saves the peace-loving natives, unifies the tribes, gives them machine guns. What's wrong with this picture?

Ecuadorean native peoples who have been living through a long environmental battle against oil pipelines say the answer is not war, but dialogue.

Video by PRI's Melaina Spitzer. Listen to her full length PRI podcast.

The Suquamish (a Salish people in the US Pacific Northwest) have an alternative to Avatar, says Fran Korten of Yes magazine: "There are many paths to power that don’t involve guns. Yeah, they take longer and can’t be portrayed in a burst of climactic drama. But they seem to work better. That’s why native people for centuries have survived by withdrawing to a safer spot to regroup. Some have gone on to find those other routes to power. Like using the sender culture’s laws to gain recognition of rights; exploiting the sender culture’s enthusiasm for gambling to gain financial power; reviving traditions to strengthen cultural power; and perhaps most importantly, working with allies to change the sender culture itself. It’s that last one, I believe, that’s the true solution.
... my neighbors the Suquamish have been using all the nonviolent levers. Yep, they’ve got a thriving casino. They, together with other Northwest tribes, have mounted lawsuits to defend their rights to fish and to protect land and fishing grounds. They’ve helped revive the region’s magnificent canoe journey traditions. And they’ve worked with allies to, among other things, regain their land.
Suquamish potlatch at HAC opening
from Indian Country Today Mar 2009

"One place is particularly poignant. In 1904 the U.S. military took over part of their land where Chief Seattle once lived. In 2004, exactly 100 years later, the State of Washington returned that land, after a campaign that involved many non-native allies, including YES! Magazine editor Sarah van Gelder. Then, just last March, they opened a new building, called the "House of Awakened Culture," right next to the newly regained land. It’s a place of community for the Suquamish. But it is also a place for native and non-native alike to share a different vision for how to live—one that respects all the creatures and the Earth and allows us to come together as a community, honor our ancestors and our roots, and build a world that works for everyone."

We could learn, from natives, to use "weapons of mass democracy".
More about the Ecuador pipeline and other megaprojects from Friends of the Earth, BBC, Corpwatch, and AmazonWatch.

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