Please keep the following in mind as you read this: Albuquerque, New Mexico is already considered to be heavily occupied (and not in a good way) by many of its inhabitants.
I went out Saturday October 1 to join and photograph OccupyBurque's occupation of Central Avenue, otherwise known as our chunk of Route 66. It was wonderful and I got lots of great pix of 200-300 Burquenos and Burquenas taking over the central corridor through Albuquerque, playing leap-frog with Albuquerque Police Department west towards the University of New Mexico, then back east to the high-rise Bank of the West, and back west again until they landed at and occupied a UNM-owned park on Central and University.
UNM wasn't prepared for this encampment. First they announced they were opposed to it. Then a contingent of UNM faculty and friends sent a letter to UNM's President, backing OccupyBurque and calling for them to welcome the camp. UNM backed down, but said they were concerned about the fragile legacy trees in that park and offered Yale Park, next to UNM Bookstore, instead. Since Yale Park is historically noted as the center of major demonstrations against the Viet Nam war, OccupyBurque agreed to move there, which they did Saturday the 8th of October. This all took place while it rained and rained, causing major headaches for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which, of course sucked lots of local media attention away from OccupyBurque.
The camp was moved Saturday the 8th, just before a joint demonstration, again on Central, with the anti-Afghanistan war contingent. I couldn't make it to that demonstration, since I had a non-changeable lunch appt, but I got to observe it from across the street. Since then, the UNM administration has been trying every which way to oust OccupyBurque from it's publicly paid-for property.
Sunday, October 9, I finally made it to Camp Coyote, home of OccupyBurque, a little bit after they had started their General Assembly. I was interested in how they would manage their process. They had been posting, via a Facebook site, documents about GA decision-making and the OWS statement Keith Olbermann read. I was also interested in how OccupyBurque would represent the mixed population of its home-city.
I arrived just in time to witness something that immediately challenged my expectations. They had made it to Number 2 on the agenda. Terminology.
I have no notes, no video, no audio. But I heard a clear message. "OccupyWallStreet, OccupyEverything, we have a serious problem."
New Mexico is a minority-majority state. New Mexico is the most ethnically diverse state in the United States. Albuquerque is the most ethnically diverse city of a half-million people in the United States.
On top of that, New Mexico, including Albuquerque, has a very strong and vocal indigenous population. And for many indigenous people, the term "Occupy" is deeply problematic. For New Mexico's indigenous people, "Occupy" means 500 years of forced occupation of their lands, resources, cultures, power, and voices by the imperial powers of both Spain and the United States. A big chunk of The 99% has been served pretty well by that arrangement. A smaller chunk hasn't.
Sunday afternoon, OccupyBurque spent a long, long time debating whether or not to change its name. Interestingly enough, the issue was not introduced by an indigenous New Mexican. Rather it was introduced by an international person, who said that the term "Occupy" was problematic for indigenous people of other countries who had also been "Occupied" by imperial powers.
Then a number of indigenous people of New Mexico spoke. They spoke with passion of how stung and hurt they were every time they hear the word "Occupy." They spoke of how other indigenous people around the country also object to this term. They said over and over and over again that they want the term changed to "Decolonize." New Mexico's indigenous people want New Mexico and Albuquerque to be "Decolonized" and not "Occupied." For them, their lands and people have already been Occupied, and thus what they want is for it all to be Decolonized.
I don't know if anybody here at Daily Kos can grasp what I am writing. I grasped it immediately and it brought tears to my eyes, but I am from here, and I have spent some time working with indigenous people struggling against the forces that they are speaking of. When I worked in Flagstaff with Dine, Hopi, and Havasupai, we had a huge sign in our window that said, "US out of North America." I don't know if people here at Daily Kos can grasp that. But many indigenous people can. How seriously are we willing to take them? What kind of revolution are we talking about?
So, anyway, we had a heated discussion for about two hours. A lot of people understood it and agreed that we should change the name. A number of people didn't. An alternative was proposed: Let's replace the term "Occupy" with "Liberate," which the indigenous contingent was satisfied with. "LiberateBurque" sounded just fine to many.
But that creates some complications. The "Occupy" meme has already been set by New York. It's all over the Internet. It is a shot that's heard around the world. For many people it is empowering. A majority resonates, obviously. But what about a minority, the original occupants of this land, who feel great pain and oppression at the thought of another layer of being Occupied imposed upon them by a society which has always seen them fit to be silenced when they make things uncomfortable?
And what about other people, globally, who have the same feelings and objections?
The conversation continues this week. Currently OccupyBurque's Facebook page is using the term "Occupy Wall Street Liberate Burque," while periodically wrestling with the conflict. OccupyBoston is pushing for the term "DecolonizeBoston." OccupyDenver hasn't called for that, but has issued a manifesto calling for support for solidarity with Native American people as described by Colorado AIM: "If this movement is serious about confronting the foundational assumptions of the current U.S. system, then it must begin by addressing the original crimes of the U.S. colonizing system against indigenous nations." A number of other indigenous people around the country have also weighed in. I follow the hashtags #occupywallstreet combined with #indigenous to see what is surfacing.
Here are the beautiful faces of what is still "officially" OccupyBurque, also called "Occupy Wall Street: Liberate Burque," struggling with this very deep and uncomfortable conflict:
To peruse my complete collection of images from this conversation, please check out my facebook album.
Update 8:34 PM: Just found this:
Indians Counter Occupy Wall Street Movement With Decolonize Wall Street
From Indian Country Today Media Network
So what do you think about this?