I attended school in my late teens and early twenties — my undergraduate and early graduate years — in upstate New York in the city of Syracuse — and yet never in that time did I become knowledgeable about my Indigenous neighbors, the Onondaga Nation. They refuse to participate in the US Census, refusing to be made “knowledgeable” in that sense, available for apprehension as an object by census-takers, makers of imperial knowledge. They shield themselves from imperial eyes. How does it work? Are borders maintained with police? Is there a system of entrance and exit? Where am I, if not in the world where all of that is happening? How do I become an ally? Are there language barriers? How am I only just now arriving to these questions? A change must have occurred in the way I think. The Onondaga people live on 35 square miles of land one mile north of Syracuse. They base their lifeways on lunar cycles. They treat animals and bodies of water as kin. Are there ways for others to learn their language?
What is my relationship to US settler-colonialism? For historian Nick Estes and the members of the Red Nation, the US is not a “nation of immigrants” but a “nation of settlers.” My ancestors are said to have arrived to North America from Ireland and Italy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries — after the Civil War. They settled in apartments in urban ethnic enclaves in New York and New Haven, another group in Memphis, TN. After service in the two World Wars, they purchased homes in the new postwar suburbs of Long Island — though “purchased” is perhaps a misnomer, as the banks retained portions of these mortgaged properties, debt in that way a permanent tool of extraction. Both grandfathers launched and ran small businesses. Before I was born, however, both were dealt charges of tax evasion. One settled quickly by paying a fine; the other refused, and may or may not have had minor mafia connections, my parents always denying involvement of that sort (though maybe also hinting at it in secret?). All I know is, expenses ate away at his always-no-more-than-modest wealth, leaving my parents and I no inheritance other than debt. Since leaving my parents’ home, I’ve lived in rental homes on land that was several centuries ago stolen from Native people. My parents sent me off to a settler-colonialist boarding school, a “university,” so that by boarding school’s end I was left with the bill, a bill that in its form as debt has sentenced me to life as the equivalent of Staff at another of the system’s boarding schools. Can a person of my circumstance join the Red Nation? What would that mean? What would that entail? The struggle, after all, is worldwide, is it not? All of us occupy a place in it. Time to decolonize the world, from within and without Occupied Territories. (There’s your microcosm and your macrocosm. There’s your cognitive map. There it is: the totality and one’s place in it. It was there, in a sense, in Brave New World and its reservation system, albeit distorted by the particulars of Huxley’s standpoint and powers of vision.)