Although the daily news is flooded with stories of police violence toward Black people, the incidence of police violence against Indigenous peoples is higher.
When I began to spend time with Indigenous people, I was surprised to find out about the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous relatives (MMIR). And how that is related to oil pipelines and capitalism. That became easy to understand as I learned about the environmental racism of building pipelines near Indigenous reservations. The man camps, construction worker camps, were thus near Indigenous communities.
One of the first actions I was involved with after retiring to Iowa was to rally against USBank’s funding of fossil fuel projects. But besides demonstrating against the Dakota Access Pipeline, a number of people held signs, and spoke about MMIR.
Our heart goes out to Bemi (Shyla Wolf) – Meskwaki – who was assaulted on March 30, 2023 by Officer Kyle Howe while three of her young children watched from the car and screamed in fear. She ended up with contusions on her lip, neck, arms, and full body soreness. Officer Howe is known for targeting Meskwaki folks in Tama and represents the continuation of a long history of police violence and injustice perpetrated on Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island. Though Indigenous Peoples are targeted at alarming rates by cops, these disturbing statistics are not being heard by the rest of society due to the intense efforts to erase us and our place in the US.
Maggie Koerth from FiveThirtyEight, reports that “depending on the year, either Native Americans or African-Americans have the highest rate of deaths by law enforcement. The fact that Indigenous Peoples have such high police murder rates is not a well-known statistic because the population is smaller and because violence to Indigenous folx is not of particular interest to mainstream media. According to a CNN review of the Center for Diseases Control, “for every 1 million Native Americans, an average of 2.9 of them died annually from 1999 to 2015 as a result of a legal intervention”. For the Black population the number is 2.6, for Latinx it is 1.7, for Whites it is 0.9 and for Asians it is 0.6.”
This is a startling statistic because Native Americans only make up 0.9% (2.9 million people) of the population. Furthermore, these deaths are most likely under-reported just like the other epidemics that Native Americans face, such as missing and murdered women, abuse, rape, stalking, runaway children and violence committed by non-tribal members. In fact, the deadliest mass shooting in US history, known as the Wounded Knee Massacre, occurred in 1890 when United States Army troops murdered up to 300 Lakota, including women and children. According to Matthew Fletcher, director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center, “The data available likely does not capture all Native American deaths in police encounters due to people of mixed race and a relatively large homeless population that is not on the grid.” (CNN) In a paper written by B Perry in 2006 titled, “Nobody trusts them! Under- and over-policing Native American communities”, they presented evidence from 278 individual interviews with eight separate Native Nations that police action toward Native people ranged from ignoring victims to outright brutality against suspects. (Fatal Encounters Between Native Americans and the Police)
Collective Action Will End Police Violence to Indigenous Peoples by Sikowis Nobiss, Great Plains Action Society
Policing in this country began in the 1700’s with “slave patrols” to capture and return those fleeing their enslavement or planning uprisings. Policing has always been about protecting capitalists and their property.
The only way to end police violence and abolish this inherently white supremacist institution built on colonization and the greed of capitalism is for communities to take collective action. Centering mutual aid and radical healing in our communities will take back power and end erasure of us, our history and our culture. Taking back power builds strength and increases resources, which we need to oust violent cops and create our own culturally appropriate systems of accountability and wellness programs. Great Plains Action Society remains committed to this goal and will continue to work diligently towards abolition of systems set up to eradicate us.Collective Action Will End Police Violence to Indigenous Peoples by Sikowis Nobiss, Great Plains Action Society
It is by building mutual aid communities that we take back our power from “inherently white supremacist institution built on colonization and the greed of capitalism”.
I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.
So, the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”Ronnie James, Des Moines Mutual Aid
mutual aid is the new economy. mutual aid is community. it is making sure your elderly neighbor down the street has a ride to their doctor’s appointment. mutual aid is making sure the children in your neighborhood have dinner, or a warm coat for the upcoming winter. mutual aid is planting community gardens.
capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.
in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices.Des Moines Black Liberation
I belong to the Quakers for Abolition Network, described in this excerpt from Western Friend.
Mackenzie: Let’s start with: What does being a police and prison abolitionist mean to you?
Jed: The way I think about abolition is first, rejecting the idea that anyone belongs in prison and that police make us safe. The second, and larger, part of abolition is the process of figuring out how to build a society that doesn’t require police or prisons.
M: Yes! The next layer of complexity, in my opinion, is looking at systems of control and oppression. Who ends up in jail and prison? Under what circumstances do the police use violence?
As you start exploring these questions, it becomes painfully clear that police and prisons exist to maintain the white supremacist, heteronormative, capitalist status quo. The racial dynamics of police violence are being highlighted by the recent uprisings and the Black Lives Matter movement.
We are in the same place, with a call to imagine a culture radically different than the one in which we live. Abolishing police and prisons, like abolishing slavery, would change the structure of our society: dramatically decreasing violence and undoing one set of power relationships that create domination and marginalization. And in place of this violence, we could, instead, have care.Abolish the Police by Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh, Western Friend, Nov 2020