Last week, a group of 22 Natives from all over the country came together with a willingness to learn from each other, stand in solidarity with one another, and challenge the systems of inequity that threatens the health and welfare of our elders and youth.
In mid-February, Alliance for a Just Society began to recruit participants for their four day Native Organizer’s training hosted in partnership with the Praxis Project and Communities Creating Healthy Environments initiative. The response was unprecedented! We received over 300 emails and calls requesting to be a part of the training. We were then left with the task of narrowing the group down to only 20 participants. In the end, we had a very diverse group that included elders, young people, Natives from as far west as Hawaii and Alaska to as far east as North Carolina.
The week began with theory and ideology and quickly branched out to include comprehensive sections on campaign strategy and skill building. Each day was jammed packed with workshops that motivated participants and engaged them from morning to night.
In addition to the workshops, the training included an opportunity for all to take part in a solidarity action with the Council of Athabascan Tribal Government’s campaign to decriminalize their traditional hunting and fishing practices. The entire group of participants and trainers went to the Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affair’s (Senator Cantwell) office to ask that she schedule a field hearing on the matters of subsistence and co-management. We shared the recent report and storybook Survival Denied and a letter signed by over 25 non Alaska Native organizations (including the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, Slow Food USA and the Native American Voters Alliance) expressing solidarity with Alaska Natives and calling on the committee to hold field hearings. The group gifted the Senator’s office with a beautiful poster of the acclaimed photographer, Aaron Huey’s artwork; with the words “The land does not belong to us, we belong to the land.” When the group entered the Senator’s office, everyone crammed in the tiny entryway as one of the young men led a song/prayer. We asked the Senator’s staff to be sure to pass along our message and to send us a written response. We then left peacefully. It was this act of unity that set the stage for ongoing solidarity between the groups on a cross-sector of issue areas. Future plans are already in the works!
Participants reported feeling inspired after the week and armed with new tools to take back to their communities.
Due to the extraordinary response, the Alliance hopes to be able to offer a second Native Organizers Training in the fall of 2013.