Letter to the Occupy Together Movement

Harsha Walia

The following text is excerpted from FUSE Magazine 34.4 (September 2011). In order to read the full text, you can purchase the article below.

The words of Grace Lee Boggs are on my mind as I write today: “The coming struggle is a political struggle to take political power out of the hands of the few and put it into the hands of the many. But in order to get this power into the hands of the many, it will be necessary for the many not only to fight the powerful few but to fight and clash among themselves as well.” [1] This may sound counter-productive, but I find it a poignant reminder that, in our state of elation, we cannot under-estimate the difficult terrain ahead. I am inspired that the dynamic of the Occupy movement thus far has been organic, so that all those who choose to participate are collectively responsible for its evolution.I look forward to the processes that will further these conversations.

There has been much debate in Occupy Vancouver about including an acknowledgement of unceded Coast Salish territories in the statement of unity. I would argue that acknowledging Indigenous lands is a necessary and critical starting point for two primary reasons. First, the word “occupy” has understandably ignited criticism from Indigenous people as having deeply colonial implications. Its use erases the brutal history of genocide that settler societies have been built on. This is not simply a rhetorical or fringe point; it is a profound and indisputable matter of fact that this land is already occupied. The province of British Columbia is largely still unceded land, which means that no treaties have been signed, and the titleholders of Vancouver are the Squamish, Tseilwau-tuth and Musqueam. As my friend Dustin Rivers recently joked, “Okay, so the Premier and provincial government acknowledge and give thanks to our territory, but Occupy Vancouver can’t?”

Supporting efforts towards decolonization is not only an Indigenous issue. It is also about us, as non-natives, learning the history of this land, and locating ourselves and our responsibilities within the context of colonization. Other Occupation movements such as those in Boston, Denver, New York, Colorado, Winnipeg and New Mexico have taken similar steps in deepening an anti-colonial analysis.

Second, we must understand that the tentacles of corporate control have roots in the processes of colonization and enslavement. As written by the Owe Aku International Justice Project: “Corporate greed is the driving factor for the global oppression and suffering of Indigenous populations. It is the driving factor for the conquest and continued suffering for the Indigenous peoples on this continent. The effects of greed eventually spill over and negatively impact all peoples, everywhere.” [2]


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Harsha Walia is a South Asian activist and writer based in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. She has been active in a range of social movements for over a decade. A version of this article originally appeared in rabble.ca.


[1] Grace Lee Boggs, Living For Change: An Autobiography (University of Minnesota Press; 1998).

[2] Kent Lebsock, “Lakotas Owe Aku Supporting Protesters in New York,” Intercontinental Cry (8 October 2011).


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