AR!’s Anti-Colonial Stance
Written by Cusi Ballew
In Appalachia Resist! we recognize that the struggle for justice is fought on many fronts, and that in our fight against fracking and associated infrastructure in SE Ohio we must stand in practical solidarity with all struggles for justice. With that in mind we want to approach the campaign against fracking in the Wayne national forest with an anti-colonial stance.
Here in present day so called Southeast Ohio, we are situated on territory that at the time of colonial contact was shared territory between the Mingo, the Shawnee, and Tsalagi, among others. The best research I can find indicates that Appalachian Ohio, between the Muskingum and Hocking Rivers was shared hunting territory, and that near present day Portsmouth, was a salt spring shared as a necessary aspect of food preservation. Keep in mind that this is a chaotic snapshot of the history of this region, and that the effects of colonization and the theft of land, home and freedom involved in the establishment of the first 13 colonies had sent refugees from those lands streaming west, south and north, seeking a new home, and carrying with them new diseases from the Europeans. The upheavals of colonization moved ahead of the colonizers. Things were pretty shook up, when those indigenous to this territory first encountered European colonists. Due to this, and the fact that a lot of the histories I have access to about this territory were written by colonizers, this is the best approximation I can come up with as to whose territory this is.
In 1795, following decades of battles between the indigenous people of this territory, and the US, the Treaty of Greenville was signed by representatives of the Miami, Chippewa, Ottawa, Wyandot, Shawnee, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Delaware, Wea, Piankeshaw, Kaskaskia, and Eel River tribes, under duress, and threat of annihilation. The treaty was for peace, for which the US required the cession of land from the tribes. The treaty of Greeneville ceded most of present day Ohio to the US, along with the areas now known as Detroit, and Chicago, and other strategic ports and trading posts. Under the Treaty present day Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, along with part of Minnesota was said to be “Indian Lands”, forever. In Article 6 of the Treaty it is stated:
“If any citizen of the United States, or any other white person or persons, shall presume to settle upon the lands now relinquished by the United States, such citizen or other person shall be out of the protection of the United States; and the Indian tribe, on whose land the settlement shall be made, may drive off the settler, or punish him in such manner as they shall think fit; and because such settlements, made without the consent of the United States, will be injurious to them as well as to the Indians, the United States shall be at liberty to break them up, and remove and punish the settlers as they shall think proper, and so effect that protection of the Indian lands herein before stipulated.”
It is widely noted and agreed upon that the tribes upheld their end of the treaty, and that settlement continued to move into Indian Territory, with no meaningful response from the US. Thus was the Treaty of Greenville broken, and the westward expansion of colonization continued.
It is clear that the United States never had any intention of upholding Article 6 of this treaty. It is clear that the US expected settlers to move ever onward into designated Indian lands. It is clear that settlers had the tacit approval of the US to force out Indigenous communities until military action was again “justified”. This is the role of white settler colonialism in a colonizer state. To take up land, water, resources, and to cry for help from the state power whenever the indigenous fight back. Their role is to claim ignorance as they take, to feign innocence when called to account for their crimes, and at every step to feel entitled to more.
I cannot document here all the devastation caused by colonization, but the colonization of what is now called the United States of America was done through forced relocation, disease, war, massacre, attacking and outlawing native spirituality, and finally breaking up families, through boarding schools, which looked more like kidnapping, neglect and abuse.
No federally recognized tribe holds sovereign land in the state of Ohio.
This is all history. We can’t change what has happened here. Guilt does no one any good.
This is Now. The US Government continues to deny Tribal sovereignty, Indian Boarding schools still exist because enough schools have not been furnished, the US has broken and continues to break treaty after treaty, reservations and sacred sites are treated as sacrifice zones for resource extraction and transportation, and the disenfranchisement of native peoples across the US continues. We can change this. Settlers don’t have to be accomplices and bystanders to the predatory colonial state. It’s time that settlers become accomplices to the people who are of these lands, to the people who, against the most powerful nation in the world, have maintained their resistance to genocide and cultural assimilation.
For too long the settler environmental movement has reached out to indigenous people only when it suits them, used them as a strategy to save land for the american public. Public lands are stolen lands. The treaties that underpin the legitimacy of the US have been broken by the US. The covenant between the US and the “public” over public land has been violated. The US Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management have no legitimate right to auction off these lands for corporate profit. Energy Transfer Partners LLC., human rights abusers, enemies of Lakota sovereignty, and environmental criminals, now own the Rover pipeline. Let’s continue to stand together, indigenous and settler, and fight for the land. And let’s call it what it is, stolen land, occupied by a government whose claim to the land is based on lies, treachery and genocide.
Native peoples are on the front lines of environmental fights all over the world, not just Standing Rock. There are too many such fights to list here. Do some research, and get inspired.
Notes on indigenous solidarity and decolonization:
Cultural appropriation is not ok at this camp or elsewhere:
Native American is not a style. Many of the clothes, jewelry and especially feathers that native people wear have cultural significance. It is not appropriate to use or wear/carry items of cultural significance without permission, or as a style without doing research to find out what it means and if it would be inappropriate to wear/carry such a thing.
Native people were outlawed from having their ceremonies and spirituality in the US until 1978. Conducting or mimicking of native ceremonies by settlers is not respectful. On the contrary, it is deeply painful for those who have fought for their right to be indigenous and have indigenous communities, with the religious freedoms supposedly afforded by the Constitution. On top of that, due to colonization, and cultural assimilation, many indigenous youth are not raised with access to their traditional teachings. To this day, native languages are at risk, lacking enough fluent speakers to carry them on. In spite of this history, these languages are still spoken, these ceremonies are still practiced, and native people still fight for justice, land, air, and water. Out of respect for these realities, we insist that settler folk not pretend at native spirituality at this camp, and discourage settlers in general from initiating themselves into native ceremonies, or engaging in native spirituality without freely offered native leadership.