Many people have drawn parallels between the plight of Palestinians and Native Americans. But now, Tony Gonzales of the American Indian Movement (AIM), stated while speaking in San Francisco that “with a common legacy of bantustans (homelands) – Indian reservations and encircled Palestinian territories – Native Americans understand well the situation of Palestinians.”
Of course, there are certainly diverse views held by members of Native American communities on nearly every political issue imaginable. But a growing number of indigenous Americans have begun to see a parallel between the situation in Palestine and what the First Peoples of North America have historically faced.
Back in December of 2013, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association made news after taking a stand as one of three academic groups in North America that endorsed the Palestinian campaign for boycott of Israel on an academic and cultural level.
The Jerusalem Post ran a telling article back in January, entitled: “Native Americans turning on Israel?” The report focused on an anecdote of Muscogee Creek scholar Joy Harjo, who was said to have ignited a “firestorm of controversy when she announced on Facebook that she was leaving for a trip to Israel where she was scheduled to perform.”
The article explained that there was tremendous opposition within her Native community as well as others, to her support for the Israeli State and its oppression of the Palestinian people.
Gyasi Ross explains in her “Why I, as a Native American, support the Palestinian people,” that:
As a Native person of this country, I’ve come to the conclusion that I must support the Palestinian people and the pursuit of an autonomous Palestinian state.
Although many view both Native Americans and Palestinians as “indigenous and displaced people,” this is not the reason that I feel a sense of kinship with Palestinians.
Instead, this fraternal feeling for my brothers and sisters in Gaza and on the West Bank is due to a much more basic and primal feeling of fear: the realization that what befalls one oppressed group inevitably befalls others.
Indigenous people, as well as other oppressed groups worldwide, regardless of race or religion, have a vested interest in learning from the genocidal atrocities that the U.S. government initiated on Native Americans. Every person who strives for humanity also has a strong interest in preventing those same atrocities from occurring in another place at another time to another group of people — in this particular situation, to the Palestinians.
Palestinians, like Natives, are captives in their own lands. They, too, have no place to go, no geographical recourse. Lebanon, Syria and Egypt have all shown their callousness to Palestinian people and have used them like human chess pieces against Israel.
Short on options, Palestinians, like Natives, have no choice but to continue to be a thorn in the side of the oftentimes apathetic and oppressive governments that have come to power by whatever means available.
It is clear that Native American peace activists have become a visible presence at rallies against the War in Gaza. The motivation for this growing support seems to be summed up by Ross’s words. If you agree, help spread the word!
(Article by Jackson Marciana and Mike Ahnigilahi; image via Sharat G. Lin)