On the evening of Monday, October 9th members of the Autonomous Student Network dropped a banner from the University Teaching Center bridge that read “No Peace On Stolen Land.” We did this, both in response to the call for actions on Columbus Day and to the unique conditions of Indigenous organizing on campus, with which we stand in solidarity as revolutionary anarchists and leftists.
October 9th at UT was not just another “Columbus Day.” The Austin City Council has just renamed the date “Indigenous People’s Day.” On campus, the 9th marked the beginning of an entire Indigenous People’s Week, an entire week of events celebrating Indigenous knowledge, life, and resistance to colonialism. The events on UT are the first of their kind on any college campus in the nation, marking a historic moment. Shortly after our banner drop was the first event of the week, a panel on Decolonizing UT featuring Indigenous leaders from Austin and San Marcos. This is the first Indigenous People’s Day to be celebrated under Trump’s fascist regime and comes on the heel of a year full of local and national antifascist struggles against white supremacy.
Given this, we at ASN decided to take action in solidarity and put out the kind of militant message that the University would certainly never allow groups like the Native American and Indigenous Collective to voice for fear of punishment.
We did this, first, to break the silence far too many leftists hold on Indigenous liberation and decolonization. Far too often, self-proclaimed revolutionaries only pay lip-service to decolonization, using the genocidal history of the U.S. as a settler nation to bolster their critiques while doing little to center Indigenous knowledge, forms of life, and efforts towards decolonization. Far too many anarchists treat Indigenous peoples as historical and anthropological artifacts to be references as examples of stateless societies, simultaneously imposing a Western anarchist paradigm while erasing their ongoing struggles. The “liberatory” visions of many leftists draw up great visions of anti-capitalist societies with no place for Indigenous people to reclaim their relationships to land or their autonomy -essentially, leftist settlements that retain the power of settlers over Indigenous people.
Second, our militant and unapproved message aims to expose the hypocrisy and unethicality of the University itself. UT & Austin are both settler colonies built upon the lands inhabited by the Tonkawa, Lipan Apache, and Comanche peoples. UT itself, after this initial theft of land, was built again through the forced displacement of black and latinx residents in the early 1900s in a concerted effort by the city to force them to move east of I-35.
Now Austin’s third phase of colonial displacement is underway in the form of gentrification, fueled by the expansion of the tech & entertainment industries. We aim to make clear that an institution like this is inextricably rooted in the violence of genocide and colonialism. The administration routinely attempts to claim the labor and struggles of Indigenous activists in organizations like NAIC as proof of its progressiveness and diversity, an attempt we find laughable and grotesque in the face of their inability to respond to fascist flyering, racist events, and hate crimes on or around campus. We know that to decolonize UT ultimately means to uproot UT as an institution and to eliminate the power of the administration that sustains the University as a site of settlement, neo-colonial enterprises, and neoliberal scholarship.
We must mean what we say when we proclaim “No Peace On Stolen Land.” We must never stop agitating against both the illegitimate, settler-colony that is the Amerikkkan State and against leftist projects which recreate a settler relationship to land and indigenous peoples. Decolonization is an unending, material process that requires us to give up the comfort and safety guaranteed to us by settler-colonialism in order to act as accomplices in a militant struggle toward decolonization.
We say accomplice, because to be an ally is too comfortable. One can retain one’s safety, power, and status as an ally. “Ally” too often services as an identifier and symbol status for progressive individuals to bolster their own work and center themselves. To be an accomplice is to commit to unsettling debates and actions against colonialism. Acting as an accomplice is a commitment to act with Indigenous peoples in committing crimes against the settler-colony. It is a promise to listen and engage respectfully with the cultural practices and knowledge systems of Indigenous peoples, building relationships of mutual consent and trust. Decolonization will not be comfortable and it will not be a set of buzzwords and phrases we can use to fashion our “woke ally” identities. It will be the total overturning and destruction of the institutions that make our way of life possible, opening up a new horizon of possibilities for constructing relationships, community, and forms of life.
Being an accomplice means:
- Direct action to halt and sabotage the operations of the colonial state as it expands resource extraction and opens pipelines on Indigenous land
- Collective self-defense from police violence against Indigenous peoples.
- Comitting to processes for restorative justice and combating sexual violence against Indigenous people that don’t rely on colonial authorities
- Supporting indigenous struggles with whatever funds, resources, and skills we can offer
As anarchists, we know we have an obligation to commit to the struggle for decolonization. Because we hope for a non-hierarchical society, we must commit to supporting Indigenous people’s fight for autonomy. We cannot expect Indigenous peoples to conform to examples of anarchist organizing arising from Western and industrial nations. We must understand the struggle for Indigenous people’s autonomy as anarchist without assimilating their resistance into our projects or subjugating it to our leadership. Our role is not to lead indigenous people or teach them to become anarchists like us, but to act with and alongside Indigenous people, learning with them and building relationships to amplify our collective power until we can achieve total liberation and decolonization.
For the rest of this week, we encourage everyone to attend the events of Indigenous People’s Week. NAIC has lined up a wonderful array of events, and we encourage everyone to show up, build connections, and find out how you can get involved in their work building towards liberation.
–The Autonomous Student Network