What we discussed on our panel was the future of this region; a region which has been called, at times, Raven’s Bioregion and sometimes Cascadia. I advocate for the resurgence of traditional tribal nations based on our model of old: decentralized networks of autonomous clans, villages and tribes in alliance with one another; each with it’s own territory and natural resources which it cares for. This is a land based, cultural approach unique to indigenous cultures all over the world. This is a vision that is in sharp contrast to the colonial powers, which see traditional tribal entities as threats to imperial power and control of resources. Resistance to the empire has never ended. Tribes on both side of the border have engaged in active resistance to resource extraction which threatens their lands and sovereignty. Much of British Columbia is unceded tribal territory where the Canadian government and First Nations have never settled land disputes. On the Alaska side a number of “left outs” have not seen the benefits of the Alaska Native Claim Settlement Act. Wrangell, Petersburg, Ketchikan, Haines, and Tenakee have never received land settlements. Similarly dozens of tribes in Oregon and Washington lack federal recognition, such as the Chinook and Duwamish Nations and even the Winnemem Wintu Tribe in the Mt. Shasta region in California. Even those tribes which have federal recognition or have received settlements find themselves struggling with “tribal” governance entities that are essentially colonial institutions.
Where does Cascadia fit into this framework? For the time being Cascadia is just a vision while our tribes are living, breathing entities which have been on this land for hundreds if not thousands of years. To a great degree the hard work of rebuilding our tribal nations rests in our hands and our hands alone. For the most part non-Natives will simply need to stay out of the way while we relearn our languages, rebuild our clan houses, reintegrate our young people into our clan system, and re-consolidate power back into our traditional institutions and traditional leadership structures. While our internal struggle to raise our indigenous conscience is ours alone, our external struggle against a sick, dying and potentially dangerous colonial system will call for the need of strong allies.
Our clan and tribe sovereignty rests on two over-arching principles. The first is internal recognition of ourselves as a distinct people. The second is external recognition from another clan, tribe or village. This works on many levels; from a house or sub clan on up to a clan on up to a tribe on up to a tribal nation and finally nation to nation recognition. If we want to integrate into the colonial system and become an appendage of the empire then by all means, federal recognition is important. But if we want to rebuild our tribal nations and reclaim our lands and traditional relationship with those lands then federal recognition and support is unnecessary. Instead we should be seeking recognition, support and alliances with our fellow tribal nations. Yet even then, we are few and they are many.
How do we stand against the onslaught of global liberal capitalism as it sidelines our people to access our resources, leaving us poor, destitute and without our culture in our own lands? These are powerful forces at work and our numbers are not what they once were. In the early days of our relationship with the US, my tribe held a conference of clans to decide whether or not to resist the US Empire or pursue land claims via their legal system. We chose the latter. We need a new conference of clans and tribes, and new alliances. Now, rising among the new comers to this land is the Cascadian Bioregional movement; a movement which includes a vision of learning to live in this land in a way that doesn’t destroy it. A movement which stands against colonialism and imperialism. We do not need their help rebuilding our nations, but for our nations to last we will need their alliance to hold on to the region and hold on to what was once ours and can be again. Cascadia is that strong ally from among non-natives that we need if we hope to survive the coming decades and centuries.
From the PIELC Brochere.
Cascadian Bioregionalism and the Indigenous Future
(Organizer: Casey Bryan Corcoran) (LAW 110)
The lands and waters of the Cascadian bioregion are subject to
a unique and complex legal situation in regards to policies of
ongoing colonialism here. The U.S.-Canadian boarder divides
both major watersheds and Indigenous Nations, and the Aboriginal Title to vast areas west of the continental divide to this day
have never been surrendered. In the face of collapsing ecologies
and economies, is there an intersection between the bioregional
movement and the Indigenous resurgence here? Panelists will
present understandings from Tlingit, Coast Salish, Jewish settler,
and Irish settler perspectives.
Panelists: Vince Rinehart, Writer and Indigenous Activist, Lingít
Latseen; Xhopakelxhit, Indigenous Activist, Ancestral Pride; Elona
Trogub, Student Activist, Cascadia Branch – PSU; Casey Bryan Corcoran, CoEditor and Activist, Autonomy Cascadia.