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Red Nation

A Red Deal

By Nick Estes - Jacobin, August 6, 2019

2016 was the hottest year on record — so far. It also marked historic Indigenous-led protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.

But Indigenous resistance didnt begin or end there. What did begin there was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s successful bid for Congress, and an Indigenous-led movement that galvanized the popular forces behind the Green New Deal, legislation that she introduced with Senator Ed Markey earlier this year. Ocasio-Cortez is herself a Water Protector, having visited the prayer camps, and Standing Rock was part of a recent constellation of Indigenous uprisings across North America and the US-occupied Pacific: Unist’ot’en Camp (2010), Keystone XL (2011), Idle No More (2012), Trans Mountain (2013), Enbridge Line 3 (2014), Save Oak Flat (2015), Protect Mauna Kea (2015), Nihígaal Bee Iiná (2015), and Bayou Bridge (2017), among many others.

Each movement rises against colonial and corporate extractive projects. But what’s often downplayed is the revolutionary potency of what Indigenous resistance stands for: caretaking and creating just relations between human and nonhuman worlds on a planet thoroughly devastated by capitalism.

After all, the image of the Water Protector and the slogan “water is life,” which were popularized at Standing Rock, are icons of this generation’s climate justice movement. And both are political positions not exclusively Indigenous, but grounded in decolonization. If Indigenous movements are foundational to climate justice, then why isn’t decolonization as well?

The Green New Deal (GND), which looks and sounds like eco-socialism, offers a real chance at galvanizing popular support for both. While anti-capitalist in spirit and paying lip service to decolonization, it must go further — and so too must the movements that support it.

That’s why the Red Nation, a Native resistance organization I helped cofound in 2014, recently drafted a skeleton outline of what we’re calling the Red Deal, focusing on Indigenous treaty rights, land restoration, sovereignty, self-determination, decolonization, and liberation. We don’t envision it as a counter program to the GND but rather going beyond it — “‘Red’ because it prioritizes Indigenous liberation, on one hand, and a revolutionary left position on the other.”

The GND has the potential to connect every social justice struggle — free housing, free health care, free education, green jobs — to climate change. Likewise, the Red Deal places anti-capitalism and decolonization as central to each social justice struggle as well as climate change. The necessity of such a program is grounded in both the history and future of this land, and it entails the radical transformation of all social relations between humans and the earth.

The Red Deal: Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth

By various - The Red Nation, 2019

The proposed Green New Deal (GND) legislation is a step in the right direction to combat climate change and to hold corporate polluters responsible. A mass mobilization, one like we’ve never seen before in history, is required to save this planet. Indigenous movements have always been at the forefront of environmental justice struggles.

Democratic socialist congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the main proponent of the GND, is herself a Water Protector who began her successful congressional run while she was at Standing Rock protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Thus, the GND and the climate justice movement in North America trace their origins to Indigenous frontline struggles.

With this background in mind, TRN is proposing a Red Deal. It’s not the “Red New Deal” because it’s the same “Old Deal”—the fulfillment of treaty rights, land restoration, sovereignty, self-determination, decolonization, and liberation. Ours is the oldest class struggle in the Americas; centuries-long resistance for a world in which many worlds fit. Indigenous peoples are best suited to lead this important movement. But it must come from the ground-up.

The Red Deal

The Red Deal is not a counter program of the GND. It’s a call for action beyond the scope of the US colonial state. It’s a program for Indigenous liberation, life, and land—an affirmation that colonialism and capitalism must be overturned for this planet to be habitable for human and other-than-human relatives to live dignified lives. 

The Red Deal is not a “deal” or “bargain” with the elite and powerful. It’s a deal with the humble people of the earth; a pact that we shall strive for peace and justice and that movements for justice must come from below and to the left. We do not speak truth to the powerful. Our shared truth makes us powerful. And this people’s truth includes those excluded from the realms of power and policy-making. 

In the spirit of being good relatives, the Red Deal is a platform that calls for demilitarization; police and prison abolition; abolishing ICE; tearing down all border walls; Indigenous liberation, decolonization, and land restoration; treaty rights; free healthcare; free education; free housing; full citizenship and equal protection to undocumented relatives; a complete moratorium on oil, gas, coal, and carbon extraction and emissions; a transition to an economy that benefits everyone and that ends the exploitation of the Global South and Indigenous nations for resources; safe and free public transportation; restoration of Indigenous agriculture; food sovereignty; restoration of watersheds and waterways; denuclearization; Black self-determination and autonomy; gender and sexual equality; Two-Spirit, trans*, and queer liberation; and the restoration of sacred sites.

Thus the Red Deal is “Red” because it prioritizes Indigenous liberation, on one hand, and a revolutionary left position, on the other. It is simultaneously particular and universal, because Indigenous liberation is for everybody.

Where will we get the resources to achieve these monumental tasks? We call for a divestment away from the police, prisons, and military (two of the largest drains on “public spending”) and fossil fuels and a reinvestment in common humanity for everyone (health, wellbeing, and dignity) and the restoration of Indigenous lands, waters, airs, and nations.

Download the Red Deal

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