Our Karuk Agroecosystem Resilience Initiative: xúus nu’éethti team has been mourning and reflecting on the recent police killings of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Justin Howell, Sean Monterrosa, and Jamel Floyd, among countless others, and discussing the ongoing pattern of sanctioned violence against Black and non-Black Indigenous people and People of Color (BIPOC) by law enforcement officers. In our personal and professional lives, as well as with each other, we have been discussing approaches to radically reform policing, criminal justice and law enforcement institutions in our communities, as well as strategies for addressing systemic racism and white privilege in research in environmental science, food studies and conservation fields more specifically. We have been grappling with how to best practice anti-racism and centering of Black, Indigenous, and Peoples of Color first in our work, research and advocacy and how to deepen our anti-racist learning, commitments, practices and alliances collectively and individually. The Karuk-UCB partnership works to recognize that we are all coming to this conversation from different experiences, racial backgrounds, and situated perspectives.
Our team is composed of Indigenous and non-Indigenous members, based at different institutions – including the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley/UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the US Forest Service – and we are involved in different webs of personal and professional relations that are taking time to acknowledge our positionalities so we can act to support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and anti-racist practice. Academic partners on the grant affiliated with UC Berkeley’s Dept. of Environmental Science, Policy & Management have also committed to the following actions. Team members with children are drawing on Black Lives Matter Instructional Library as an important resource for youth and teachers.
While taking the present moment to focus on the specific injustices related to police/law enforcement officers killings and violent enforcement actions against Black lives, we have also been discussing connections between patterns of racist policing in Black and Indigenous communities. We align with L. Simpson’s calls for “expressing resistance to all forms of colonial gendered violence” and decolonizing the “systems that create and maintain the forces of Indigenous genocide and anti-blackness.”
It is an anti-blackness intrinsically linked to the genocide, white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, and colonialism used to maintain the dispossession of indigenous people from our homelands…black and indigenous communities of struggle are deeply connected through our experiences with colonialism, oppression, and white supremacy. Indigenous and black people are disproportionately attacked and targeted by the state, and, in fact, policing in Turtle Island was born of the need to suppress and oppress black and indigenous resistance to colonialism and slavery.Leanne Simpson, 2014 (Yes! magazine article)
As a team, we pledge to deepen our understanding of structural racism, settler colonialism and white supremacist patterns, and work toward dismantling these systems of oppression. We pledge to have difficult conversations and create a supportive space within our partnership to understand our own privileges and dynamics. We want to support the BLM movement by amplifying the message of justice for the Black community while we mourn the loss of all those that have passed at the hands of sanctioned police violence. Our work is structured around Indigenous voices, but we can step up and center more conversations to affirm that Black lives do matter and support that centering through action.
Specifically, we will be:
- holding dedicated space on weekly calls;
- bringing anti-racism more explicitly into our theoretical frameworks and approaches to doing research and policy advocacy;
- sharing anti-racist reading and training information;
- participating in a 21 day racial equity habit building challenge: https://debbyirving.com/21-day-challenge/;
- amplifying BIPOC scholars and recruiting BIPOC students to participate in our research team;
- focusing on how to more deeply align our food sovereignty and eco-cultural revitalization initiatives with antiracist struggles;
- holding our institutions accountable; and
- uplifting Black and Indigenous-led land and food sovereignty organizations, including: Soul Fire Farm calling for reparations for Black-Indigenous farmers; the National Black Food and Justice Alliance organizing for Black food and land; the Okra Project providing free, delicious, and nutritious meals to Black Trans people experiencing food insecurity; the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition confronting systemic barriers that prevent Black and Brown people from accessing food, place and economic opportunities; and multiple Bay Area Black-led food and land justice organizations, including Common Vision, Urban Tilth, Black Earth Farms, Raised Roots, Acta Non Verba, and Happy Lot Farm & Garden.