My place in “All space is public. All land is Indigenous. All ownership is violence.”
Yesterday evening, I saw Metis artist, activist, and educator Dylan T. Miner speak at the Civic Studio in a talk titled “All Space is Public. All Land Is Indigenous. All Ownership is Violence”. It was centered around Miner’s work and experiences discovering and navigating these statements and their definitions and truths, both in his life and those of the people around him, indigenous or otherwise.
I will not attempt to relay Miner’s message and answer to the statements in his stead, especially as he did not, nor speak for him or give an embarrassing, fan-girlish, detailed blow-by-blow of his words. I also do not pretend that my following thoughts are absolute, exhaustive, or all-encompassing, and rather revel in their fluidity, in their life, in their potential.
I asked and I listened. I push and I pull. I do not, however, create, as I see these as collective and intimate understandings that predate me, that are bigger than me.
This is just a semi-organized array of my own thoughts & previous understandings of this concept along with new understandings and others’ understandings that I want to apply, all built to create a broader picture of the statement.
For me, “All Space is Public. All Land is Indigeous. All Ownership is Violence” means:
Understanding the arrogance of power laying claim to land/people/space, of pretending to know these things better than others, than what they are saying and defining themselves. Opposite to that, it’s understanding the necessary resistance inherent in indigenous claim to space.
Understanding that being “Indigenous” is strictly relational to colonialism, to colonialists, to land, to space, to others, & to the self. I’m a bastard daughter who belongs nowhere and everywhere all at once, a riotous bruja of a woman with her limbs firmly planted in the concrete she irreverently burst forth from.
Understanding that American land is still indigenous even if arbitrarily (re)named and illegally occupied by foreign forces of oppression and violence. Even as Indigenous peoples fight and struggle on it. Everything that happens here happens in relation to that settler colonialist reality, whether echoing its assimilationist aggression or quickening its destruction.
Understanding ownership is neutral and merely a method or tool or medium. When wielded by dominance, it is a form of violence, of white Christian authoritarianism. Dominant ownership is the institutional, structural, and cultural practice of destroying and undermining indigenous sovereignty, of looking and (re)defining and defiling lands, spaces, peoples, bodies, and indigenous relationships to them for the benefit of power, in the name of profit. When wielded by indigenous peoples, it is righteous and necessary and radical and rebellious. It becomes about reclaiming, eschewing, identifiying, detailing, declaring, nuturing what belongs to us and our right to exist freely, naturally, spiritually, and justly.
Understanding that indigenous culture is very hard to kill. It shifts and forms and adapts deftly and only lies in wait to be discovered and worshiped once more. It only waits for you to see how it has incorporated itself into your every breath and move. Decolonization, then, is often about listening and interpreting things and spaces and ownership differently.
Understanding that there is a space beyond pro-capitalism and anti-capitalism, we’ll call it non-capitalism. Anti-capitalism is important and necessary as the intentional struggle against tyranny and violence, supremacy and whiteness, but non-capitalism is how we create and grow and exist as neither victims to nor victors over the terror but as friends, neighbors, caretakers, and lovers to one another despite its machinations, outside its violence and definitions.
Understanding that resistance is literal, ideological, pre-figurative, impatient, long-suffering, tough, angry, loving, gentle, ancestral. It is knowing that whiteness and capitalism and power is short, but our histories, our people, our memories are long. It is not inconsiderate, dismissive, totalitarian, dogmatic, unforgiving, graceless, cruel, imperialistic, non-consenting.
Understanding that Indigenous dialectics, or in my case, Afro-Indigenous bastard dialectics, is not trying to force and pin down absolute statements in a muck of contradiction but understanding that we predate narratives of power, and that years and years of seeming contradiction and resistance make for a story much richer and nuanced than their oversimplified binaries and dogmatic absolutes. It is knowing that once again, even as land and space and bodies are occupied, conquested, and violated, it is still indigenous.
Understanding that in the Pueblo Indians and enslaved Africans fought against the Anglo-Christians that cut off their feet, for thinking this would make us unable to continue to grow, to run, to fight. Our limbs are firmly planted in the concrete they tried to pave over us.
Understanding that, as Miner said, “Settlers appropriate both land and stories”, and my words are my reclamation and my resistance in vibrant, breathing, living motion. And they mean something.