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August 04, 2003

Should Colonial Borders Be Maintained?

A Reaction To Ground Rules

This question really applies to nearly every part of the globe, not just Africa.
It is the question of representation, and how it relates to racial/ethnic subdivisions. It is the question of the rights of lower governmental tiers (i.e., states' rights). I’m not sure someone raised in the West can make an effective assessment on the issue.

In Western society, we have a worldview that is heavily influenced by landmarks that occurred only in the Western experience: the Magna Carta, The Treaty of Westphalia, the struggle between the Catholics and Protestants, etc. We have certain assumptions about nation states based on these events. And these events came about after something like three centuries of near constant warfare that raged all across Europe. It seems clear, to me at least, that the loyalty to nation-states and adherence to national borders is the result of lessons learned; that Westerners committed to the concept in self-defense, because the alternative was bloody warfare.

Africa has different experiences, a different history, and that has resulted in different assumptions. They haven’t had the same forces pulling in different directions. They haven’t had the centuries of continental warfare. To the best of my knowledge, warfare is usually local, inter-tribal, and the concept of wars of conquest between nations is a rather recent occurrence.

It does seem to be the case, however, that all current leaders and most people in Africa accept the current set of national borders, and it makes sense that the longer they remain in their present form, the more the idea becomes entrenched in the minds of the citizens. I’m certainly not trying to say that anyone should attempt to redraw any borders on the basis of ethnicity or other characteristic. But I also do not see any overwhelming objective imperative to maintain the borders as they are. It might be necessary to help stabilize the nations as they are, allow regions to split off as they wish, then encourage the re-formation of new nation-states based on the now-tested confluence of interests.

This isn’t really a well-researched opinion. I know that some regions of Nigeria already tried to split off, and weren’t allowed, and most people seemed to agree that it was better that they didn’t split off. I accept that the problems of Burundi and Rwanda wouldn’t be resolved by just letting the Tutsi’s split off into a smaller nation. But I would be interested in hearing why I’m wrong to think this way; the process of educating me on this issue might help others learn more about the problems and circumstances faced by the various tribes/nations/people of Africa.

To clarify, I'm not advocating a deliberate redrawing of boundaries. The only body that could do that would be the UN, which is composed of mainly outsiders and would redraw based on Outsider agendas. I'm offering a compromise somewhere between "redraw" and "enforce the status quo". I'm saying that social stability should be the goal, not necessarily a political stability that benefits only those in power. Some upheaval may be necessary to achieve a greater stability, and so I'm saying that we should not discourage secessions from existing states, if a tribe or group of tribes wishes to withdraw from a given nation-state.
The result, in the near-term, could be a division into 100+ nations in Africa. They may stay that way, or they may learn the hard way that it can be better to find strength in unity of numbers. In any case, the maintenance or dissolution of the current nation-states should be driven by the needs and will of the people of Africa, not well-meaning outsiders.

Posted by at August 4, 2003 10:06 PM

In the case of Nigeria, the southeastern portion sought independence from an enourmous state that was corrupt and dictatorial, as well as culturally and ethnically different. To say that it was "prevented" from seceding is a rather mild way of putting it: the independence movement was put down with slaughter and brutality. The same resentments remain, but there is also an added one: many in the southeast feel that the leadership of the independence movement just made things worse by failing to grasp when they were beaten, and pointlessly prolonged the agony. But that does not mean that it was "good" that the southeast's bid for independence failed. They remain stuck in a huge, corrupt country that has been ruled by a succession of military thugs and half-hearted attempts at constitutionalism. How an independent state of Biafra would have fared is unkowable. It could have been much better, the same, or much worse.

Eritrea's secession from Ethiopia was accomplished by many years of warfare. but it has come to be accepted "de facto".

Inherent in the concept of democratic government is the right of any administrative subdivision to secede by vote. Unfortunately, no existing government acknowledges this right. Canada comes close to it, in that most Canadians agree that the people of Quebec have the right to vote themselves out of our Confederation if they choose to, even though it would be resented ---- but there is actually no formal legal acknowledgement of this, only a tradition of civility. There are few examples of it actually happening. Norway's peaceful secession from Sweden in 1905, to the eventual advantage of both areas, is one of the few cases.

There are many cases in the world where secession is urgently needed: In Tibet, Communist imperialism, racism and genocide make Tibet's secession imperative, as it is equally imperative for the people of China to overthrow the parasitic aristocracy that rules them. Several regions in the Indonesian Empire would clearly be better off if they could successfully split off in the way that East Timor did.

In Africa, there are some significant regional secession movements, but in most cases people would be perfectly happy to preserve existing boundaries, no matter how arbitrarily they came into being, if they could live free of tyranny within them. The most important issue is clearly that of freedom. When Africa is finally rid of the obscene degradation of dictatorship, and the indirect imperialism that props it up, it can then turn to issues of regionalism and boundaries. Without a democratic context, these can't be settled without violence and suffering.

Posted by: Phil Paine at August 5, 2003 12:41 AM

Native American Decolonizing Pedagogical Praxis

Deidra Suwanee Dees

As a Native American from Muscogee Nation, I am working on my doctorate in cross-cultural Education at Harvard in order to contribute to decolonization practices among Native American and non-Native educators in the postcolonial world. My research on cross-cultural curriculum addresses indigenous dissertations regarding the impact of European colonization exploring the challenges people are forced to live with that affect many parts of the world today. Utilizing critical and creative language arts, the curriculum affirms traditional indigenous values as a conduit of resistance while under occupation and neo-occupation. The research supports cognitive preferences and traditional learning styles that sustain decolonizing pedagogical praxis such as cultural restoration and regaining tribal sovereignty.

Components of the language arts curriculum are being submitted which demonstrate the literary deconstruction of colonization in the postcolonial era. The comprehensive curriculum addresses pedagogical praxis relating to indigenous languages, history, religions, cultures and education.

10 Lines
Muscogee Feathers: Decolonizing Manifesto

when I was a child
I used to hide my Muscogee feathers
because I thought they represented my shame,

when I became a woman
I began to wear the wounded feather
to honor my nation’s devastating pain,

now that I’m a mother,
I boldly wear the eagle feather
to show my ride into the enemies’ eyes
making them accept their blame

16 Lines
Missionary: Institutionalizing Religion
as a Tool of Postcolonialism

in sunday school you
showed me
tools and tales of primitive culture,

compelling me to embrace them,
compelling me to live among
them in the land of primitive,
with tools and tales of primitive culture;

I grew up and found you were
a cruel usurper,
not saving souls at all, but stealing
tools and tales of primitive culture,
stealing lives,
stealing souls,
sealing the fate of your own;

you became
tools and tales of primitive culture

17 Lines
A Peat Bog in Windover

I saw you on tv
scraping brains

from my skull
in a peat bog in Windover,

how easily you held the trowel,
for the camera,

your career on my

dead bones

Native American Graves
Protection and
Repatriation Act stopped

your exploits

18 Lines
Urban Indian: Native American Diaspora

dispersed, detached
living in tall
concrete and steel,
how do I live without my tribe?

where is my tribe?
don’t know my tribe,
searching for tribe,
how do I live without my tribe?

scattered, severed,
matriarchs and medicine,
dances no more,
how do I live without my tribe?

suit and tie,
briefcase of leather,
working for whiteman,
but how do I live without my tribe?

10 Lines
Epistemologies on Being Owned By White People

your grandmothers

were owned by white people
—my people were not

they did not buy and sell us
they did not make us to cook for them,

clean toilets,
pick cotton,

they did not
force us to lay down for them,

but now we do it for free

16 Lines
Neo-Colonialism: Impact of the Oppressor
on Native American Identifiers

there’s lots of space and it’s quiet in the house,
the hallway emanates only a faint creaking,
all alone—never took a spouse,
there were more important goals her heart was seeking;

Muscogee traditions have long faded to the back
giving way to whiteman awards and commendations,
they too have dwindled down to matter-of-fact,
now she dies insignificant in her generation;

images of Indians dancing with the chief
sometimes replace her hours of silence,
contrasting misguided assimilated beliefs
that torture her conscience without deliverance,

following privilege of the master with all of her heart
she traded her identity to play the hero,
becoming white—the highest of whiteman arts,
only to find out she has arrived at zero

13 Lines
no money

for Bell Air Mall

pierced Ellanae’s ears

when she was twelve,

school kids laughed

when they found out…

but we’ve
this way for ten thousand

16 Lines
Dying Turtle’s Call

you invaded my space with anti-climatic explosion,
you purged my tongue with a new breed of speech,
my muscogee values descend upon erosion,
how can you still drive me into retreat?

your concern for the Jews in the great holocaust
makes me want to believe you hold sympathy,
but my indigenous nation is almost lost,
why can’t i convince you to believe in me?

when muscogees ruled, we all had enough to eat,
every child went to sleep at night in a warm place,
there were no radiated rivers nor dreaded disease,
but now you behold an emaciated race;

absent of trees, land and all that belonged to me,
i am the essence of a dying turtle’s call,
you’ve stolen everything—even my dignity,
how can you hurt me more when i’ve already lost it all?

16 Lines
Speculative Discourse with Powerful
Leaders of European Conquests

White Slave Owner called my name
to see if he could accept the blame
for buying and selling Negro people
under protection of the steeple,

Mr. Slave Owner, it’s painfully late
for you to resolve ungodly mistakes;
without the comfort of ill-gained wealth
you now burn in the pit of hell;

White Indian Killer called my name
to see if he could accept the blame
for killing off the Redstick men
at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend,

Mr. Indian Killer, it’s too late
for you to renegotiate,
Muscogee land was not for sale
now you will always burn in hell

17 Lines
adopting weapons of the oppressor

muscogee culture survives

tribulation, genocide

we still dance the way
our ancestors danced around

the sacred

strong like the
Moai statues of Easter Island;

adopting weapons of
the oppressor

our enemy no longer white—
battles muscogee

like the Rapa Nui of Easter Island

we learn
to destroy ourselves

28 Lines
Theoretical Deconstruction of the Legacy of Conquests

they celebrate
a day off from work and school
—swaddled in patriotism,
the heralded navigator
and renowned explorer;

sitting alone
I know your exploits of
countless christian sins—
stealer of land and children,
cold slave owner,

building your house on the
blood of natives,
filling your hunger on the
nectar of virgins—
clumsy navigator,
crucible murderer—

come close to me
and smell my nectar,
rub your hand
against my nipple,
cast your
finger below my navel,

Mr. Columbus, let me whisper,
come closer to me;
my breath like fire
erases your existence
when I whisper

38 Lines
While You Were Sleeping

while you were sleeping
thieves moved into Muscogee Nation
steeling our land and animals and displacing
our children

while you were presiding
over land that was not your own,
Muscogees retreated into the woods of the land
we were born upon

while you were dictating
from your lofty domain, Redsticks fought
to save our nation from slavery and annihilation

while you were sipping
your wine overlooking the terrace of Monticello,
mothers searched for food for
starving babies

while you were writing
about the pursuit of happiness the blood of
my people was crying from torment and despair

while you were experimenting
with American colonization,
atrocities against Black and copper people grew
with staggering momentum

while you were sleeping
in the bed with injustice,
my nation was stripped
of its rights of ownership and self-governance

while you were speaking
on the principle of benevolence and amassing
collections of “knowledge,” Muscogee knowledge
was destroyed and replaced by your own

while you were dying
Muscogees were being moved on the Trail of
Tears to another tribe’s territory
that would soon be taken away

now, Mr. Thomas Jefferson,
while you are burning
in the flames of hell,
Muscogee Nation is rebuilding and rising

12 Lines
Trapped Inside Cotton Clothing

my body has not been
cleaned for
many days

—smell of my body grease
trapped inside
cotton clothing,

decomposing dishes stack
up overflowing my

the nightmare of the
colonial master from my childhood
returned to me

82 Lines
I Want to Ride A Fast Horse

borrowing a beast of the colonizer
I want to ride a fast horse
to Gulf Shores collecting rents that are mine
from dwellers in tall concrete and steel
who are living on my real estate

I want to ride a fast horse
to the BIA granting federal recognition to
Indian tribes that are not currently acknowledged
by the United State government

I want to ride a fast horse
to the Library of Congress burning
worthless whiteman words in treaties that
were never honored

I want to ride a fast horse
to your Wall Street casino removing your
addiction to gambling on my loss

I want to ride a fast horse
to the U.S. Supreme Court replacing
justices that not mine with Wilma Mankiller,
Russell Means, Leonard Peltier

I want to ride a fast horse
into your history of archeology before you
plowed up my grandmothers
and built a parking lot

I want to ride a fast horse
to the Department of Immigration deporting
white people as illegal aliens
unless they are given a Green Card by me

I want to ride a fast horse
to the FBI empowering them to convict
themselves for crimes against the American
Indian Movement

I want to ride a fast horse
to the United Nations adding seats for
ambassadors from every indigenous nation with
full voting power

I want to ride a fast horse
to the Department of Agriculture removing
pesticides and steroids that are not mine
restoring Mother Earth to beauty and health

I want to ride a fast horse
to the Department of Education
removing white heroes that are not mine:
Hernando de Soto, Christopher Columbus,
George Washington

I want to ride a fast horse
to where your children live
taking ….

I want to ride a fast horse
into the American Revolution holding war
crime trials for crimes against Indians

I want to ride a fast horse
to the United States Congress
passing laws that guarantee tribal sovereignty
which can never be revoked

I want to ride a fast horse
into your consciousness and rip out Manifest
Destiny, Christianization, Colonization

I want to ride a fast horse
to the Department of Defense replacing bombs
and guns that are not mine
with bows and arrows so you can kill
only one person at a time

I want to ride a fast horse
burning down your churches so you can
feel the pain I felt when you took
away our sacred fire on the Trail of Tears

I want to ride a fast horse
into your history of Black slavery
forcing you to make restitution for every
human you bought and sold

I want to ride a fast horse
into the American-Indian Wars and
write a peace treaty that—for the first time—
really works

I want to ride a fast horse
into your soul replacing your belief
in white supremacy with Indian community

I want to give my horse rest
in this land I’ve created returning Mother Earth
to balance, peace and harmony
before we kill each other

Posted by: Deidra Suwanee Dees at August 18, 2003 08:58 AM

I'm looking for a friend of mine Deidre Whiteman she attends Haskal Universty in Kansas. It is ridiculous that only one percent of our population is Native American!!. I enjoyed your poetry, but realize that understanding is limited in our power-based society. So, if you ever visit Haskal tell Deidra I said hello.

cathy stowe

Posted by: cathy at February 16, 2004 06:46 PM

I am here thinking and wondering that if one answers NO to this question, do they recognize that actually the current judges at the UN level are usually from the same colonial territories or same colonial schooling? Ironically, even those countries seeking to undo former colonial borders indeed seek-after their former colonialists (e.g. Angola or Cabinda calling on the Portugese or Ethiopia and Eritrea going to The Hague)...does this mean a renewed endorsement or blind-agitation or in fact selling themselves back to the wolves or colonial order? Amazingly, after each rulling the parties seem to be "satisfied" at least those directly involved from the aggrieved territories, be it the SPLA v. Khartoum, Congo V. Uganda and Tz or Nigeria v. Cameroon, et al...

Posted by: doreen lwanga at March 8, 2004 02:50 PM
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