“You who come from beyond the sea, bent on war,
don’t cut down the tree of our names,
don’t gallop your flaming horses across
the open plains….
Don’t bury your God
in books that back up your claim of
your land over our land,
don’t appoint your God to be a mere
courtier in the palace of the King”
– Mahmoud Darwish, The Penultimate Speech of the “Red Indian” to the White Man
(For the full text of this poem and the indigenous leader, Russell Means’ response to it, check out this link or scroll to the end of this post.)
Palestinians in Solidarity with Idle No More
Indigenous people have risen up across Canada in the Idle No More movement, a mass call for Indigenous sovereignty, self-determination and rights, against colonization, racism, injustice, and oppression. As Palestinians, who struggle against settler colonialism, occupation and apartheid in our homeland and for the right of Palestinian refugees – the majority of our people – to return to our homeland, we stand in solidarity with the Idle No More movement of Indigenous peoples and its call for justice, dignity, decolonization and protection of the land, waters and resources.
We recognize the deep connections and similarities between the experiences of our peoples – settler colonialism, destruction and exploitation of our land and resources, denial of our identity and rights, genocide and attempted genocide. As Palestinians, we stood with the national liberation movement against settler colonialism in South Africa, as we stand with all liberation movements challenging colonialism and imperialism around the world. The struggle of Indigenous and Native peoples in Canada, the United States, have long been known to the Palestinian people, reflecting our common history as peoples and nations subject to ethnic cleansing at the hands of the very same forces of European colonization.
The Indigenous resistance across Canada includes struggles against the ongoing theft of indigenous lands, massive resource extraction and environmental devastation (including tar sands and pipelines), the continuing movement of survivors of the genocidal residential school system, and movements to demand an end to the colonial and gendered violence against Indigenous women.
The Canadian government, reflecting its own settler colonial nature, was one of the earliest and strongest supporters of the establishment of Israel as a settler colony on Palestinian land and has since that time been a steadfast backer of Israeli wars, occupation, colonization, and oppression against our people. Canada has done so alongside the United States, which shares the same settler colonial nature, legacy of genocide, and massive support for Israeli occupation, colonization and apartheid.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has pronounced itself “Israel’s best friend,” supporting its assaults on Lebanon and Gaza and consistently attacking Palestinian rights both on the international stage and within Canadian borders. At the same time, it has embarked on a program of refugee and migrant exclusion, cuts to refugee health care, attacks on workers’ rights, support for massive resource extraction and environmental devastation – and attacks on Indigenous rights and sovereignty on treaty and unceded land. Harper and his government’s expansive praise for Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid is simply the other side of the same coin that attacks Indigenous self determination and plans massive resource extraction on Indigenous land.
We salute the Idle No More movement and the unity of indigenous people around its calls for justice, as well as the courageous hunger strike of Chief Theresa Spence. We note that this movement belongs to all Indigenous people and was launched by youth and women. Our struggle as Palestinians is the same – rooted in all of our people and finding its greatest strength in youth and women’s leadership.
Now is the time – from Canada/Turtle Island to Palestine, we must all be “Idle No More” , and take a stand: against colonialism, against occupation, and for self-determination, sovereignty, rights and justice for Indigenous peoples.
Al-Awda NY, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition
Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign – Vancouver
Canada Palestine Association, Vancouver
Canadian Palestinian Federation of Quebec
Chicago Movement for Palestinian Rights
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA)
COMMIT Community Leadership Institute
Free Ahmad Sa’adat Campaign – Palestine
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
International Women’s Peace Service, Deir Istyia, Palestine
Labor for Palestine – US
LA Palestine Labor Solidarity Committee
Niagara Coalition for Peace
Niagara Palestinian Association
Not In Our Name (NION) Jews Opposing Zionism
One Democratic State Group
Palestine Solidarity Network – Edmonton
Palestinian Queers for BDS
Palestinian Rights Committee
Palestinian Students Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel
Popular Democratic Unity Party – Jordan
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid Vancouver
Queer Visions at the World Social Forum: Free Palestine
Regina Solidarity Group
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) – UBC
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) – Calgary
Students Against Israeli Apartheid – York University
Students Against Israeli Apartheid – University of Toronto Missisauga
Students for Justice in Palestine – Ryerson
Students for Justice in Palestine at Brooklyn College
Students for Justice in Palestine – Florida Atlantic University
Students for Justice in Palestine – University of New Mexico
Students for Palestinian Rights – University of Waterloo
US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
US Palestinian Community Network
Voice of Palestine
Voices of Palestine – Seattle
Women in Solidarity with Palestine (WSP)
Leila Khaled, Palestinian resistance icon
Abdullah Khalifeh, Vancouver, BC
Abla Abdelhadi, Ottawa, ON
Ahmed Alqarout, Gaza, Palestine
Akram Shaban, Surrey, BC
Alaa Khaled, Saida, Lebanon
Ali Yassir, Quebec
Amahl Bishara, Massachussetts
Amira Dasouqi, Memphis
Andrew Chalfoun, Owings Ridge, MD
Aref Nammari, Colorado
Ayeda Ayed, Toronto, ON
Ayman Anwar, Gaza, Palestine
Aziz Arafat, Gaza, Palestine
Bassel Araj, Palestine
Beesan Ramadan, Palestine
Bilal Jiddo, Bethlehem, Palestine
Chris Lymbertos, Oakland, CA
Dana Olwan, Syracuse, NY
Danya Mustafa, Albuquerque, NM
Dina Al-Kassim, Vancouver, BC
Eyad Kishawi, Divestment Resource Center
Faisal al-Refai, Jerusalem, Palestine
Falastine al-Saleh, Palestine
Faten Toubasi, Etobicoke
Gale Courey Toensing, Connecticut
Habib Haj Salem, Tunisia
Haidar Eid, Gaza, Palestine
Haithem Gammoudi, Tunisia
Haithem el-Zabri, Austin, TX
Hala Dillsi, Los Angeles
Hala Sayed, Toronto, ON
Hammam Farah, Toronto, ON
Hanan Abunasser, Gaza, Palestine
Haneen Maikey, Palestine
Hanna Kawas, chairperson, Canada Palestine Association
Hiyam Arrafih, Toronto, ON
Iltezam Morrar, Ramallah, Palestine
Intissar al-Masri, Rome
Ismail Zayid, Halifax, NS
Jenna Sweiss, Thorold, ON
Julian Durzi, Toronto
Khaled Barakat, Vancouver, BC
Khaled Mouammar, Richmond Hill , ON
Laith Marouf, Montreal, QC
Lara Khalidi, Jordan
Linda Tabar, Toronto, ON
Luma Abu Ayyash, Raleigh, NC
Mahasen Nasser-Eldin, Occupied Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine
Maram Salim, Hebron, Palestine
Marek Falk, Seatte
Marsilio Salem, Venezuela
Mary Rezk, Brooklyn, NY
Moataz Elkafarna, Gaza, Palestine
Mohamad Hamad, Calgary
Mohamed Elreefi, Gaza
Mohammad Battah, UK
Nada Elia, Seattle, WA
Nadia Awad, Brooklyn
Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, San Fransisco
Raed Abass Tawil, Palestine
Rafe Hasan, Winnipeg, MB
Rami Mustafa, Palestine
Rana Abdula, Winnipeg, MB
Rana Hamadeh, Ottawa, ON
Rawan Kittani, Palestine
Razan Abu-Remaileh, Vancouver, BC
Rima Hussein, Berlin
Saadeddin Ziada, Gaza, Palestine
Sa’ed Atshan, Cambridge, MA
Saher al-Sous, Beit Sahour, Bethlehem, Palestine
Sakinah Hasib, Toronto, ON
Saleem Qawasme, Ramallah, Palestine
Salma Abu Ayyash, Cambridge, MA
Sami Majadla, Vancouver, BC
Sandra Dughman-Manzur, Toronto, ON
Sarah Abdulla, Winnipeg, MB
Sarah Abu-Sharar, Mississauga, ON
Selma al-Aswad, Seattle, WA
Sophia Azeb, Los Angeles, CA
Tala al-Jabri, Dubai, UAE
Wafa Qutaina, Jordan
Waleed Yosef, Lebanon
Walid Husseini, Jerusalem, Palestine
Wesam al-Khateeb, Amman, Jordan
Yara Abbas, Ramallah, Palestine
Ziad Suidan, Atlanta, GA
Zuhair Al-Atwi, Berne, NY
Annette Howell, Chicago, IL
Azadeh N. Shahshahani, President, National Lawyers Guild
Bettejo Passalaqua, Spring Hill, FL
Bilal Ahmed, North Brunswick, NJ
Bill Shpikula, Toronto
Brenda Paterson, Kelowna, BC
Carrie Zadrazil, Canada
Cathy Bellefeuille, Ottawa, ON
Cheryl Blood Bouvier, Calgary, AB
Colleen Ross, Canada
Daniel Stover, Vancouver
Dara Bayer, Boston, MA
Deepa Naik, London
Dennis Kortheuer, Long Beach, CA
Dorice Tentchoff, BC
Edna Brass, Vancouver, BC
Ed Mast, Seattle, WA
Elise LeBlanc, Halifax, NS
Emily Smith, Belgium
Emma Rosenthal, Los Angeles
Erika Munoz, Ottawa, Canada
Esther Nelson, Lutherans for Justice in the Holy Land, Portland, OR
Frances Everett, Canada
Freda Guttman, Montreal
Hal Ward, Edmonton, AB
Helene Matz, Norway
Henry Zaccak, Toronto, ON
Ian Ki’laas Caplette, Nuu-Chah-Nulth Homelands
Ivan Tentchoff, Gibsons, BC
Jack Friesen, Courtenay, BC
Jake Javanshir, Toronto, ON
Jamilah Bahay, Calgary
Jane Lee, Brisbane
Janis Favel, Regina, SK
Joanna Zilsel, Gibsons, BC
Joe Catron, Gaza, Palestine
Judith Syme, Montreal, QC
June Rugh, Seattle
K. Elayne McClanen, Sandy Spring, MD
Karen MacRae, Toronto
Keith Hirsche, Cobble Hill, BC
Larry Zweig, Fuerth, Germany
Lauren Lowe, Hamilton, ON
Rev. Linda S. Trout, Etters, PA
Marcie Riel, Oshawa, ON
Marilyn Totten, Truro, NS
Marlene Newesri, New York, NY
Matthew Graber, Philadelphia, PA
Melissa Hill, Onamia, MN
Michael Billeaux, Madison, WI
Michael Carr, Florida
Michael Letwin, Brooklyn, NY
Nanice Ahmed, Riverside, CA
Natasha Bannan, New York
Nazbah Tom, Oakland, CA
Nicole Davis, Toronto
Nicole Gevirtz, Voorhees, NJ
Pamela Joyner, Canada
Pei-Ju Wang, Ottawa, unceded Algonquin territory
Peter Gose, Ottawa
Radoslaw Smaczny, Toronto, ON
Robert Smith, Crystal Lake, IL
Roberta Davenport, Imperial Beach, CA
Roger Beck, Toronto, ON
Rev. Sandra R. Mackie, Gettysburg, PA
Sayaka Yajima, Toronto, ON
Sheila Purcell, Ottawa, ON
Spenta Kandawalla, Oakland, CA
Sumbal Naseem, London, ON
Suzanne Weiss, Toronto, ON
Tammy Murphy, Philadelphia, PA
Tanya Rodrigues, Ottawa, ON
Tar de Moutonnoir, Montreal, QC
Rev. Thomas Johnson, Claremont
Tonomi Kinukawa, Oakland, CA
Dr. Trevor Purvis, Ottawa
Will Thomas, Auburn, NH
“The Speech of the American Indian”
(An English translation of Mahmoud Darwish’s poem)
1. So, we are who we are, as the Mississippi flows,
and what remains from yesterday is still ours–
but the color of the sky has changed,
the sea to the East has changed.
O white master, Lord of the horses,
what do you want from those making their way
to the night woods?
Our pastures are sacred, our spirits inspired,
the stars are luminous words where our fable
is legible from the beginning to end
if only you’ll lift up your eyes:
born between water and fire,
reborn in clouds on an azure shore
after Judgement day…
Don’t kill the grass any more,
it possess a soul in us that could
shelter the soul of the earth.
Tamer of horses, teach your horse
to ask forgiveness of nature’s soul
for the way you’ve treated our trees:
O Sister tree,
look how they’ve tortured you
the way they’ve tortured me;
never ask forgiveness
for the woodcutter whose axe felled
both your mother and mine…
2. The white man will never understand the ancient words
here in spirits roaming free
between sky and trees.
Let Columbus scour the seas to find India,
it’s his right!
He can call our ghosts the names of spices,
he can call us Red Indians,
he can fiddle with his compass to correct his course,
twist all the errors of the North wind,
but outside the narrow world to his map
he can’t believe that all men are born equal
the same as air and water,
the same as people in Barcelona,
except that they happen to worship Nature’s God in everything
and not gold.
Columbus was free to look for a language
he couldn’t find here,
to look for gold in the skulls of our ancestors.
He took his fill from the flesh of our living
and our dead.
So why is he bent on carrying out his deadly war
even from the grave?
When we have nothing left to give
but a few ruinous trinkets, a few tiny feathers to
embroider our lakes?
you killed over seventy million hearts,
more than enough for you to return from slaughter
as king on the throne of a new age.
Isn’t it about time, stranger,
for us to meet face to face in the same age,
both of us strangers to the same land,
meeting at the tip of an abyss?
We have what is ours and
we have what is yours of the sky.
Yours air and water, such as we have.
Ours pebbles, such as we have,
yours iron, such as you have.
In the shadow domain, let us share the light.
Take what you need of the night
but leave us a few stars to bury our celestial dead.
Take what you need of the sea
but leave us a few waves in which to catch our fish.
Take all the gold of the earth and sun
but leave the land of our names to us.
Then go back, stranger.
Search for India once more!
3. Our names: branching leaves of divine speech,
birds that soar higher than a gun.
You who come from beyond the sea, bent on war,
don’t cut down the tree of our names,
don’t gallop your flaming horses across
the open plains.
You have your god and we have ours,
you have your religion and we have ours.
Don’t bury your God
in books that back up your claim of
your land over our land,
don’t appoint your God to be a mere
courtier in the palace of the King.
Take the rose of our dreams
and see what we’ve seen of joy.
Sleep in the shade of our willows
and start to fly like a dove–
this, after all, is what our ancestors did
when they flew away in peace
and returned in peace.
You won’t remember leaving the Mediterranean,
eternity’s solitude in the middle of a forest
rather than on the edge of a cliff.
What you lack is the wisdom of defeat,
a lost war, a rock standing firm
in the rush of time’s furious river,
an hour of reverie for a necessary sky of dust to
an hour of hesitation between one path and another.
One day Euripides will be missing
as well as the hymns of Canaan and Babylon,
Solomon’s Song of Songs for Shulamith
and the yearning lily of the valley.
What you white men need will be the memory of
how to tame the horses of madness,
hearts polished by pumice in a flurry of violins.
All this you will need,
as well as a hesitant gun.
(But if you must kill, white man, don’t slay
the creatures that befriended us.
Don’t slaughter our past.)
You will need a treaty with our ghosts on those
sterile winter nights,
a less bright sun, a less full moon
for the crime to appear
less glamorous on the screen.
So take your time
as you dismember God.
4. We know what this elegant enigma conceals from us:
a heaven dies.
A willow strays, wind-footed,
a beast establishes its kingdom
in hollows of wounded space,
ocean-waters drench the wood of our doors with salt,
earth’s a primordial burden heavier than before
but similar to something we’ve known since the
beginning of time.
Winds will recite our beginning and our end
though our present bleeds
and our days are buried in the ashes of legend.
We know that Athens is not ours
and can identify the color of the days
from puff clouds or rising smoke.
But Athens isn’t yours as well,
yet we know what mighty iron is preparing for us
for the gods that failed
to defend the salt in our bread.
We know that truth is stronger than righteousness,
and that times changed
when the technology of weapons changed.
Who will raise our voices to the rainless clouds?
Who will rinse the light after we’re gone?
Who will tend our temples,
who will safeguard our traditions
from the clash of steel?
“We bring you civilization,” said the stranger.
“We’re the masters of time
come to inherit this land of yours.
March in Indian file so we can tally you
on the face of the lake, corpse by corpse.
Keep marching, so the Gospels may thrive!
We want God all to ourselves
because the best Indians are dead Indians
in the eyes of the Lord.”
The Lord is white and the day is white.
You have your world and we have ours.
What the stranger says is truly strange.
He digs a well deep in the earth to bury the sky.
Truly strange, what the stranger says!
He hunts down our children, as well as butterflies.
O stranger, what promises do you make to our garden,
zinc flowers prettier than ours?
But do you know that a deer
will never approach grass that’s been
stained with our blood?
Buffaloes are our brothers and sisters, as well as
everything that grows.
Don’t dig any deeper!
Don’t pierce the shell of the turtle that carries our grandmother
the earth on its back!
Our trees are her hair,
and we adorn ourselves with her blooms.
“There’s no death on earth,”
so don’t break her delicate formation!
Don’t bruise the earth, don’t smash
the smooth mirror of her orchards,
don’t startle her, don’t murder the river-waisted one
whose grandchildren we are.
We’ll be gone soon enough.
Take our blood,
but leave the earth alone:
God’s most elaborate
writing on the face of the waters,
for His sake and ours.
We still hear our ancestors’ voices on the wind,
we listen to their pulse in the flowering trees.
This earth is our grandmother, each stone sacred,
and the hut where gods dwelt with us
and stars lit up our nights of prayer.
We roamed naked and walked barefoot to touch
the souls of the stones
so that the spirit or air would unfold us in women
who would replenish nature’s gifts.
Our history was her history.
To endure our life
go away and come back.
Return the spirits,
one by one,
to the earth.
We keep the memory of our loved ones in jars,
like oil and salt, whose names we tied
to wings of water birds.
We were here first,
no ceiling to separate our blue doors from the sky,
no horses to graze where our deer used to graze,
no strangers bursting in on the night of our wives.
O give the wind a flute to weep for the people
of this wounded place,
and tomorrow to weep for you.
And tomorrow to weep for you.
5. Tending our last fires
we fail to acknowledge your greetings.
Don’t write commandments
from your new steel god for us.
Don’t demand peace treaties from the dead.
There’s no one left to greet you in peace,
which is nowhere to be seen.
We lived and flourished before the onslaught of
English guns, French wine and influenza,
living in harmony side by side with the Deer People,
learning our oral history by heart.
We brought you tidings of innocence and daisies.
But you have your god and we have ours.
You have your past and we have ours.
Time is a river
blurred by the tears we gaze through.
But don’t you ever
memorize a few lines of poetry, perhaps,
to restrain yourself from massacre?
Weren’t you born of a woman?
Didn’t you suckle the milk of longing
from your mother as we did?
Didn’t you attach paper wings to your shoulders
to chase swallows as we did?
We brought you tidings of the Spring.
(Don’t point your guns at us!)
We can exchange gifts, we can sing:
My people were here once, then they died here…
Chestnut trees hide their souls here.
My people will return in the air,
Take my motherland by the sword!
I refuse to sign a treaty between victim and killer.
I refuse to sign a bill of sale
that takes possession
of so much as one inch of my weed patch,
of so much as one inch of my cornfield
even if it’s my last salutation to the sun!
As I wade into the river wrapped in my name only
I know I’m returning to my mother’s bosom
so that you, white master, can enter your Age.
Enter your brutal statues of liberty over my corpse.
Engrave your iron crosses on my stony shadow,
for soon I will rise to the height of the song
sung by those multitudes suicided by their
dispersion through history
at a mass where our voices will soar like birds:
Here strangers won
over salt and sea mixed with clouds.
Here strangers won
over corn husks within us
as they laid down their cables for
lightning and electricity.
Here’s where the grieving eagle
dived to his death.
Here’s where strangers won over us
leaving us nothing for the New Age.
Here our bodies evaporate, cloud by cloud, into space.
Here our spirits glow, star by star, in the sky of song.
6. A long time will have to go by before our
present becomes our past, just like us.
We will face our death, but first
we’ll defend the trees we wear.
We’ll venerate the bell of night, the moon
hanging over our shacks.
We’ll defend our leaping deer,
the clay of our jars, the feathers
in the wings of our last songs.
Soon you’ll raise your world over ours,
blazing a trail from our graveyards to a satellite.
This is the Iron Age: distilled from a lump of coal,
champagne bubbling for the mighty!
There are dead and there are colonies.
There are dead and there are bulldozers.
There are dead and there are hospitals.
There are dead and there are radar screens
to observe the dead
as they die more than once in this life,
screens to observe the dead who live on after death
as well as those who die
to lift the earth above all that has died.
O white master, where are you taking my people
Into what abyss
is this robot bristling with aircraft carriers and jets
consigning the earth?
To what fathomless pit
will you descend?
It’s your to decide.
A new Rome, a technological Sparta and an
ideology for the insane…
but we’d rather depart from an Age
our minds can’t accept.
Once a people,
now we’d rather flock to the land of birds.
We’ll take a peek at our homeland through stones,
glimpse it through openings in clouds,
through the speech of stars,
through the air suspended above lakes,
between soft tassel fringes in ears of corn.
We’ll emerge from the flower of the grave.
We’ll lean out of the poplar’s leaves
of all that besieges you, O white man,
of all the dead who are still dying,
both those who live and those
who return to tell the tale.
Let’s give the earth enough time to tell
the whole truth about your and us.
The whole truth about us.
The whole truth about you.
7. In rooms you build,
the dead are already asleep.
Over bridges you construct,
the dead are already passing.
There are dead who light up the night
and the dead who come at dawn
to drink your tea
as peaceful as on the day your
guns mowed them down.
O you who are guests in this place,
leave a few chairs empty
for your hosts to read out
the conditions for peace
in a treaty with the dead.
October 1992 (From: Eleven Planets. Translated by Sargon)
Here is Russell Means’ response to the Darwish translation above:
Euro-male,where do you come from?
Is not your mother sacred?
Is not your mother’s life sacred?
Is not her children sacred?
Do you understand rebirth?
I think not.
Do you understand being free?
Do you understand the sand?
Do you understand the rivers?
Do you understand the olive tree?
Do you understand the rocks?
Do you understand the air you breath?
Do you understand peace of mind?
I think not.
You know locks.
You know keys.
You know possessions.
You know theft.
You know destruction.
You know prison.
You know torture.
You know murder.
You know rape.
There is rebirth.
I will return as lightning.