Waziyatawin calls for resistance

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Photo of Waziyatawin Angela Wilson, academic, author and activist of Dakota ancestry

Waziyatawin Angela Wilson has authored and edited five volumes, notably co-authoring "Remember This!: Dakota Decolonization and the Eli Taylor Narratives," an anthroplogy text on campus. Photo by Jeff Wood for University Communications.

One of America's leading indigenous intellectuals today delivered a devastating critique of Western industrial civilization, calling it unsustainable and labeling its impacts catastrophic.

"Human actions threaten all life on the planet," said Waziyatawin Angela Wilson, a university professor, author and activist. She said the Euro-American world view that places humans above all other life forms is the foundation of the most exploitive and rapacious era in human history.

"This cannot be sustained much longer," said Waziyatawin (wuh-ZHEE-uh-tuh-ween), an enrolled member of the Upper Sioux Community near Granite Falls, home to the Sisstonwan and Wahpetonwan bands of the Dakota people.

She earned a doctorate in American history from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. She holds the Indigenous Peoples Research Chair in the Indigenous Governance Program at the University of Victoria in New Zealand.

Speaking at the Jan. 27-29 Power in Diversity Leadership Conference, Waziyatiwin called on students, educators and higher educational professionals in the Atwood Ballroom audience to resist government oppression and to join in dismantling corporations that exploit people and the environment.

Waziyatawin drew a contrast between what she called "humancentrism" and the world view of the Dakota. The difference, she suggested, is captured in mitakuye oyasin, a prayerful Dakota phrase that translates as "all my relations" or "all are related." In the traditional Dakota world view, humans are not above other life forms, but connected with them in a circle of life. 

She predicted world conditions will deteriorate as fossil fuels and water become scarce and as the effects of climate change and species extinctions accelerate.

"Essentially, all modern life is dependent on oil," she said. Exploitation of Canadian tar sands is evidence, she argued, of rising fears that the world is fast running out of oil.

The continued existance of the U.S. government is not guaranteed, she said, because it is tied to an oil-based, extractive, exploitive economy headed for collapse.

She suggested the U.S. government's vulnerability will afford indigenous Americans opportunities to reclaim lands lost during the last four centuries.

Waziyatawin reminded her audience that humans lived without fossil fuels and can again. But, she said, that mode of existance will not support the current population.

She urged her listeners to join Occupy the Machine, an emerging direct-action movement with an aggressive agenda for crippling sectors of American life that threaten the environment.

She is the author or co-editor of five volumes, her most recent being "What Does Justice Look Like? The Struggle for Liberation in Dakota Homeland."

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