It is an exciting time to be in solidarity with revolutionary Black, Indigenous, and Peoples of Color from around the world! This was especially palpable during the weekend of The Red Nation’s 2019 Native Liberation Conference (NLC) which took place September 7-8 in so-called Gallup, New Mexico (Diné and Zuni lands). Two members from Wyoming Red Star Coalition and one member of the Regeneration Magazine Editorial Board attended the conference after comrade Nick Estes, a co-founder of The Red Nation (TRN), extended an invitation to Marxist Center after Regeneration’s interview with him. The theme for the conference was “Anti-Imperialism & Solidarity with the Global South,” politics that emanated through Nick’s words in our interview as well as from conference organizers and speakers.
Founded in 2015, The Red Nation is a coalition of Native and non-Native artists, educators, students, and community organizers primarily based in the U.S. Southwest fighting for Native liberation. They “formed to address the marginalization and invisibility of Native struggles within mainstream social justice organizing, and to foreground the targeted destruction and violence towards Native life and land.” TRN has hosted an annual NLC since 2016, exploring and presenting on decolonization, global solidarity, police violence, incarcerated Native peoples, anti-capitalism, anti-fascism, borders, environmental and energy issues, feminism, and socialist organizing among many topics. This reportback serves as a review of various aspects of the 2019 NLC including logistics, panels, plenaries, and overall camaraderie and sense of the event. We are grateful for Nick’s and TRN’s invitation, and we hope that this reportback educates Marxist Center organizers about these great comrades in the Southwest and beyond.
Logistics are a crucial component of any event planning and facilitation and TRN comrades made sure people were taken care of. There was no registration and no costs to attend but TRN did collect donations to support their efforts. TRN provided lunch on both conference days which were delicious, homemade, and sensitive to various dietary needs and preferences. There was also a communal snack and drinks table located in the same room as childcare, also provided at no cost and organized by the Free Access to Movements Childcare Collective (FAM). Spanish-to-English translation was provided when necessary and TRN organizers discussed their ongoing efforts to also publish documents and essays in Spanish. The conference sessions took place in wheelchair-accessible and scent-sensitive locations, the El Morro Events Center and the Octavia Fellin Public Library only two blocks from El Morro. A great extension of solidarity and political education was renaming the rooms after political prisoners from struggles around the world: the Free Red Fawn Room, Free Lula/Lula Livre Room, Free Ahmad Sa’adat Room, and Shut Down The Camps Room. The Free Red Fawn Room was the main and biggest panel space and as an expression of solidarity, decorated with the flags of Bolivia, Cuba, the American Indian Movement, Palestine, Venezuela, the United Farm Workers, the national Māori of Aotearoa, and the modern Starry Plough used by Irish revolutionaries.
The first day’s opening plenary, “How we organize: Revolutionary Socialism and Native Liberation,” ground us in local Indigenous histories and struggles. We then learned about Gallup and bordertown violence, connecting earlier and ongoing colonization in the area by the Spanish by way of Mexico and the United States to police violence. An important person uplifted during this panel and throughout the conference was Larry Casuse, a Diné youth who, along with his comrade Robert Nakaidinae, kidnapped Gallup Mayor Emmett Garcia on March 1, 1973 “to bring an end to Gallup’s liquor industry, which profits from Native peoples’ death.” Larry was ultimately shot and killed by Gallup police that evening, spurring 500 people to march in his memory two days later. This spirit of Indigenous resistance continues in Gallup today as many conference participants referred to this important political moment and thanked Larry’s family members for attending and sharing his legacy with attendees. After lunch, we attended the Latin America Solidarity panel (with Spanish-to-English translation provided) which included comrades from the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research hub in Argentina, the Indigenous Guard of the Nasa Indigenous pueblo of Colombia, and Puerto Rico decolonization struggles video conferencing in. A crucial point emphasized by the panelists was the important position people in the imperial core (e.g. the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom) play in pushing back against their countries’ interventionist policies. They stressed being educated about foreign policy and efforts to destabilize Global South countries so we can be organized in solidarity with them to counter imperialist actions.
A major highlight of Day One was the closing plenary on Anti-Imperialism which included Melanie Yazzie, Nick Estes, Manu Karuka, Christina Heatherton, and Lara Kiswani. The full panel audio is available at this link. Lara powerfully spoke about the concessions so many Global South movements have had to make in the face of imperialist aggression and lack of solidarity from Global North leftists:
It used to be a fight for national liberation and now it’s one for humanitarian relief. It used to be a fight for self-determination and now it’s a fight for social services.”
Later on in a one-on-one conversation with Lara, she also rebuked what she termed the “privilege of critique,” repudiating the Western left’s tendency to favor voicing individual opinions of Global South peoples facing imperialism (especially when the pressure is at a precipice) when “it is our collective responsibility to condemn imperialism.” She implored us all to understand both “primary and secondary contradictions” with regards to U.S. imperialist aggression because we can lose strategic and collective power if we do not have a firm understanding of them. Overall, the panelists emphasized the need for substantive acts of solidarity with Global South movements especially during times of heightened action from imperialist forces.
The second and final day of the conference opened with a Radical Walking History Tour of Downtown Gallup, setting the stage for a transformative day of listening, education, and strategy. The opening plenary led by TRN members Nick Estes, Dina Giglio-Whitaker, Rodrigo Rodriguez, and Janene Yazzie discussed the group’s Red Deal. You can read more about it in TRN’s actionable document, Nick’s Jacobin article, and Teen Vogue’s coverage as well as staying up to date on TRN’s organizing efforts stemming from the Red Deal’s principles. Almost all attendees acknowledged that they knew what the Red Deal was when Nick asked the audience, a hopeful sign of growing consciousness and the reach of its theoretical and practical foundation:
‘Red’ because it prioritizes Indigenous liberation, on one hand, and a revolutionary left position on the other.”
Panelists mentioned critical infrastructure laws being pushed by U.S. and Canadian governments to criminalize protest actions for blocking energy development and extraction projects and new laws restricting gun access to domestic violence offenders as recent challenges and points of reflection. One panelist mentioned that if the new gun laws were applied to New Mexico police officers, 40% would not be able to own a gun, highlighting ongoing connections between police violence against civilians and officers’ violence against their families. The main panel specifically focused on socialist organizing included Rachel Herzing of the Center for Political Education and Khury Petersen-Smith of the Institute for Policy Studies with Nick Estes moderating. Panelists primarily discussed their respective roles in socialist education and organizing and extended their organizational resources to those in attendance. Nick discussed their recently published primer on TRN’s primary political ideology of revolutionary socialism and the connection between Palestinian and Native liberation.
The day closed out with panels featuring vital lessons learned from various organizing efforts including the Arab Resource and Organizing Center’s role in ending Urban Shield, a police militarization and exchange program, and TRN’s work against nuclear proliferation in the Southwest. After Cheyenne Antonio, TRN’s current chair, gave her address, the closing plenary featured her and other TRN women and femme comrades discussing Indigenous feminism. Panelists traced various lines of Pueblo/a/x, Hopi, Zuni, and Diné conceptions of feminism and feminist thought, connecting them to their present struggles in the Southwest and decolonial feminist struggles in places like Palestine and Venezuela. They, like their comrades in Day One’s Anti-Imperialism closing plenary, received a long round of applause, segueing into final goodbyes from TRN comrades who all gathered on stage for a collective prayer with attendees and group hug amongst themselves.
One thing we voiced to TRN comrades as an important next step is the facilitation of more strategy-based sessions. We learned a lot from people’s particular struggles but how can we translate these lessons into effective direct actions and basebuilding efforts? This is also especially important given Marxist Center’s call for submissions on anti-imperialism and internationalism, imploring us all to think about what it means to be in solidarity beyond words of support. NLC 2019 provided helpful opportunities to think through conference logistics to meet everyone’s needs— food, childcare, spaces for quiet and reflection were all components that were collectively strategized. A subsequent question is how can we take this care and intention into daily organizing, writing, direct actions, and beyond?
We are thrilled by all the generative and good faith discussions that occurred at NLC 2019. A number of attendees used this opportunity to begin networking and planning for what became the TRN Alburquerque Freedom Council’s Indigenous Peoples Day rally in solidarity with #CloseTheCamps. We hope TRN and Marxist Center continue to be strong allies in struggles over Indigenous self-determination, anti-imperialism, decolonization, labor and environmental issues and much more. Please visit https://therednation.org/ to subscribe to TRN’s newsletter for regular updates as well as their reports, analysis, campaigns, podcast, and social media.
Always in solidarity,
Regeneration Magazine’s Editorial Board