EDGAR VILLANUEVA: #CASE4REPARATIONS

The growing recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day changes a celebration of colonialism into an opportunity to reveal historical truths about the genocide and oppression of Native Americans and to celebrate indigenous resistance. We sit down with Edgar Villanueva, a globally recognized author, indigenous activist and expert on social justice reparations who recently launched #Case4Reparations, Decolonizing Wealth Project’s multi-year, multi-million dollar initiative to support indigenous and black grantees working on systemic and policy efforts that return wealth- in the form of money or land- to impacted communities.

Aired on October 11, 2021.

CtD-Logo2


Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO A SPECIAL EDITION OF 'METROFOCUS,' INDIGENOUS VOICES.

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

TONIGHT, WE'LL BE TALKING TO TWO INDIVIDUALS WHO EACH IN THEIR OWN WAY ARE CREATING NEW NARRATIVES IN THE SPACE OF INDIGENOUS RIGHTS AND IDENTITY.

FIRST, WE'LL TALK TO EDGAR VILLANUEVA.

HE IS AN AUTHOR AND THOUGHT LEADER WHOSE BOOK HAS LAUNCHED A FRESH DISCUSSION ABOUT THE FUNDAMENTAL ROLE OF COLONIALISM IN THE WORLDS OF PHILANTHROPY AND FINANCE.

THENEN, WE'LL HEAR FROM TY DEFOE.

TY'S WORK EXPLORES THE INTERSECTION OF COLONIALISM, SOCIAL JUSTICE, GENDER IDENTITY AND ENVIRONMENTALISM.

THIS IS PART OF OUR 'CHASING THE DREAM' INITIATIVE, REPORTING ON POVERTY, JUSTICE AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA.

SO, LET'S GET STARTED WITH OUR FIRST GUEST.

EDGARDV ED GLAR EDGAR VILLANUEVA IS THE AUTHOR OF 'DECOLONIZING WEALTH.'

IT IS NOW IN ITS SECOND EDITION.

EDGAR, WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU, IT'S AN HONOR TO BE HERE.

OH, WELL THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

SO, FIRST, I JUST WANT TO START WITH THE NOTION, THE TITLE ALONE.

WE HEAR A LOT ABOUT THE CONCEPT OF DECOLONIZATION.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN SPECIFICALLY IN YOUR VIEW?

WELL, TO UNDERSTAND DECOLONIZATION YOU HAVE TO FIRST UNDERSTAND COLONIZATION, BECAUSE DECOLON NATION IS THE PROCESS OF UNDOING THAT.

OKAY.

RIGHT, AND WE'RE OFTEN KIND OF FAMILIAR WITH THE CONCEPT BECAUSE WE WERE ALL TAUGHT ABOUT COLONIZATION IN SCHOOL, BUT THE PROBLEM IS, WE WERE TOLD A VERY ROMANTICIZED KIND OF VERSION OF COLONIZATION AND WE ARE TAUGHT ABOUT COLONIZERS, YOU KNOW, IN THE SENSE THAT THEY'RE HEROES, THAT THEY CAME TO THIS LAND, THEY DISCOVERED THIS, THAT AND THE THIRD.

THE TRUTH IS, COLONIZATION IS A FORCE AND IT'S A VERY VIOLENT FORCE AND I THINK OF IT AS A VIRUS, ACTUALLY, THAT TOUCHED THE SHORES OF THIS COUNTRY 500 YEARS AGO AND IT IS -- HAS CREATED SEPARATION, DIVISION, TRAUMA, IT CREATES THE US VERSUS THEM.

IT'S ABOUT EXTRACTING AND HOARDING RESOURCES AND FORCING ANY BEING THAT IS OTHER TO BECOME LIKE IT.

AND THIS IS AN EXPERIENCE THAT WE HAVE BEEN SEEING IN THE U.S.

FOR 500 YEARS AND LONGER AROUND THE WORLD.

SO, DECOLONIZATION IS A PROCESS OF SAYING, HEY, THIS HINGE HAS BEEN HAPPENING.

IT HAS CAUSED ALL THIS TRAUMA, WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO TO HEAL FROM THAT OR TO REPAIR FROM THAT?

THAT IS A MOUTHFUL.

AND -- I WONDER, BECAUSE I WANT YOU TO TALK ABOUT YOUR BOOK, BUT I'M WONDERING FOR AUDIENCES, HOW MUCH OF TALKING ABOUT YOUR BOOK INVOLVES HAVING TO SORT OF GIVE A HISTORY LESSON?

SO MUCH.

I FEEL LIKE MOST OF MY DAYS ARE SPENT TEACHING HISTORY.

I SHOULD GET A DEGREE IN AMERICAN HISTORY, BECAUSE I AM LITERAL LLY RIGHTING A WRONG AN HELPING FOLKS UNDERSTAND THAT WHAT WE WERE TAUGHT IS NOT AM RAT.

AND WHEN IT COMES TO THIS BASE OF MONEY, WHICH IS WHERE I WORK, OUR ENTIRE ECONOMIC SYSTEM IN THIS COUNTRY IS CONNECTED BACK TO HISTORY AND WHETHER YOU ARE IN THE SPACE OF EDUCATION OR YOU ARE WORKING ON OTHER TYPES OF SOCIAL PROBLEMS IN THE WORLD, YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THE HISTORY OF MONEY AND ITS CONNECTION TO COLONIZATION FIRST, BEFORE WE CAN REALLY MOVE FORWARD WITH ANY SOLUTION.

EVERYTHING THAT IS BROKEN IN OUR COMMUNITIES TODAY HAS A ROOT BACK TO THE WAY THAT WEALTH HAS BEEN EXTRACTED AND THIS HISTORY OF COLONIZATION THAT WE MUST ALL UNDERSTAND.

SO, THAT'S LITERALLY HOW I SPEND MY TIME.

THERE'S A WHOLE SECTION IN THE BOOK THAT'S A PRIMER ON COLONIZATION, WHICH IS IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND BEFORE THEY GET INTO THE DEEPER END OF THE POOL.

OKAY, TELL US A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR BOOK.

SO, YOU KNOW, I GO TO THE TOPIC OF MONEY.

I'M A PERSON THAT HAS WORKED IN THE SECTOR FOR 20 YEARS, SO, I'VE WORKED IN AND AROUND, LIKE, LOTS OF WEALTH AND I'M INDIGENOUS AND AT A CERTAIN POINT IN TIME I REALIZED THERE WERE A LOT OF CONTRADICTIONS, AS A PERSON WHO DID NOT COME FROM WEALTH, THAT'S WORKING IN THE SPACE THAT HAS THE ILLUSION OF CHARITY AND OF DOING GOOD.

I HAD TO REALLY COME TO TERMS WITH THAT THERE'S CONTRADICTIONS AND UNDERSTAND THAT EVEN IN THE SPACE OF CHARITY, THERE'S A HISTORY OF TRAUMA CONNECTED TO MONEY.

YOU KNOW, OUR ECONOMIC SYSTEM IN THE UNITED STATES WAS BUILT OFF OF THE SLAVE TRADE.

THE WEALTH THAT WE HAVE AS THE RICHEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD IS SO LARGELY BECAUSE THAT WEALTH WAS EXTRACTED AND LAND WAS TAKEN FROM NATIVE AMERICANS.

AND SO, AS WE IN FINANCE ENJOY THIS BOUNTY OF WEALTH THAT WE SPRINKLE AROUND THE NONPROFITS, WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND WHERE THAT MONEY CAME FROM AND THERE'S A HISTORY BEHIND IT.

SO, THAT -- THAT'S A BIG PART OF THE BOOK IS HELPING FOLKS UNDERSTAND THAT THE ACCUMULATION OF WEALTH IN THIS COUNTRY HAS RESULTED IN TRAUMA AND IT IS UP TO US TO OWN THAT AND TO ADDRESS THAT.

NOW, DOES YOUR BOOK GET INTO -- BECAUSE SOMETIMES WHEN PEOPLE HEAR, YOU KNOW, TRAUMA IS INVOLVED, THEY MIGHT SAY, BUT THOSE ARE PAST TRAUMAS, THOSE ARE -- THAT'S THE PAST THAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT.

SO, DOES YOUR BOOK TALK ABOUT HOW TRAUMA -- OR DOES IT ADDRESS TRAUMA THAT EXISTS IN THE HERE AND NOW?

ABSOLUTELY.

IT IS, YOU KNOW, WHEN I TALK ABOUT COLONIZATION, I DON'T JUST TALK ABOUT IT IN THE HISTORICAL CON CONTEXT.

COLONIZATION IS STILL HAPPENING.

IN THIS COUNTRY, WE ARE STILL SEPARATING CHILDREN FROM THEIR FAMILIES, RIGHT?

THE TRAUMA IS VERY RECENT.

WE ARE HEARING IN THE NEWS DAILY ABOUT THE BODIES OF CHILDREN BEING FOUND IN BOARDING SCHOOLS THAT CLOSED DOWN IN THE '80s.

THIS IS A VERY HARMFUL, TRAUMATIC PROCESS FOR MY COMMUNITY WHOSE GRANDPARENTS WERE TAKEN AWAY AND SENT TO INDIAN BOARDING SCHOOLS THROUGH A PROCESS THAT WAS ORDAINED BY THE CHURCH AND BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

SO, WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT JUST WHAT HAPPENED 500 YEARS AGO.

THIS IS A VIOLENT FORCE OF EXTRACTION, DOMINATION AND OPPRESSION THAT IS VERY MUCH ALIVE AND WELL TODAY AND CONTINUES TO HARM US.

WE'VE GOTTEN SO ACCUSTOMED TO IT, BECAUSE THIS IS ALL WE'VE EVER KNOWN.

WE'VE ONLY KNOWN A SOCIETY THAT IS FULL OF EXTRACTION AND DOMINATION AND SO THIS IS WHY, AT NIGHT, WE SLEEP VERY SOUNDLY WHILE DOWN THE STREET, CHILDREN ARE IN CAGES AND DIFFERENT TYPES OF CAMPS.

THIS HAPPENS ALL AROUND US.

SO, IT IS REALLY ABOUT UNDERSTANDING THAT, YES, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT SOMETHING FROM THE PAST THAT CAN INFORM OUR PRESENT, BUT THIS IS VERY MUCH STILL A VIOLENT ACT OF OPPRESSION AND FORCES AT PLAY RIGHT NOW THAT IS TEARING OUR COUNTRY APART.

SO THEN, HOW DO YOU REIMAGINE THIS SOCIETY, THE ONE THAT WE'VE ONLY KNOWN AND ADDRESS OR ATTEMPT TO PROVIDE, AS YOUR BOOK DESCRIBES, I WANT TO MAKE SURE I GET THIS RIGHT, BALANCE, THERE WE GO.

HOW DO YOU BEGIN TO CREATE THE IDEAS THAT COULD CREATE BALANCE IN OUR SOCIETY?

WHAT I'M ADVOCATING FOR IS TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION.

AT A FEDERAL LEVEL, AT A GLOBAL LEVEL AND THEN ABSOLUTELY WE CAN TALK ABOUT TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION AT AN INSTITUTIONAL LEVEL.

WE AS A NATION, BEING AS ENLIGHTENED AS WE ARE IN SO MANY WAYS, WE'RE THE ONLY NATION THAT HAS NOT HAD A PROCESS OF TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION TO ATONE FOR THE ATROCITIES THAT HAVE BEEN COMMITTED AGAINST BLACK PEOPLE AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLE BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

WE'VE NEVER HAD AN OFFICIAL APOLOGY FROM CONGRESS FOR SLAVERY.

WE'VE NEVER HAD AN APOLOGY OR PROCESS OF TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION FOR EVERY SINGLE BROKEN TREATY THAT HAS -- THAT HAS HAPPENED.

AND SO, WHAT WE DO IN THE U.S., INSTEAD, WE WANT TO REWRITE HISTORY, WANT TO PRETEND IT DIDN'T HAPPEN.

MORE THAN HALF OF THE STATES IN THIS UNION DO NOT EVEN MENTION NATIVE AMERICANS IN K-12 HISTORY CURRICULUM, RIGHT?

THERE'S AN ACTIVE REWRITING AND ERASURE OF HISTORY, VERSUS COMING TO TERMS WITH OUR HISTORY.

WHAT WE ALL NEED TO DO IS EDUCATE OURSELVES ABOUT WHAT HAS HAPPENED AND WHAT'S BROKEN IN THIS COUNTRY AND ADVOCATE FOR A NATIONAL TRUTH AND HEALING PROCESS SO THAT WE CAN ONCE AND FOR ALL COME TOGETHER AND ACKNOWLEDGE THAT HISTORY OF WHITE SUPREMACY HAS NOT ONLY HARMED MY COMMUNITY OR THE BLACK COMMUNITY, IT'S HARMING ALL OF US AND IT'S REALLY IMPAIRING OUR ABILITY AS A SOCIETY TO MOVE FORWARD AND TO HAVE RACIAL HEALING.

WELL, YOU KNOW, I WANT TO PROBE A LITTLE BIT DEEPER INTO THE IDEA OF TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION, I BELIEVE IS HOW YOU PUT IT, AND I WANT TO GO DEEPER INTO THAT, BECAUSE AFTER THE SUMMER OF 2020 IN THE WAKE OF THE, YOU NKNOW, BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT, WHICH IS CONNECTED AND NOT ENTIRELY SEPARATE FROM THE INDIGENOUS MOVEMENT, BUT THERE SEEMED TO BE SOME SORT OF EFFORT TO PERHAPS MAYBE BEGIN TO ADDRESS SOME OF THESE ISSUES BUT FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE OF COLOR ACROSS THE BOARD AND THIS IS FROM STORIES THAT WE'VE DONE INVOLVING ASIAN HATE AND THE WAY THOSE COMMUNITIES HAVE BEEN TREATED IN AMERICA AND OF COURSE AND THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY AND INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY, DOES THIS AMOUNT TO NOTHING MORE THAN JUST 'SORRY'? IT CAN FEEL EMPTY TO PEOPLE.

WHAT EXACTLY DOES THIS RECONCILIATION MEAN, PARTICULARLY WHEN IT COMES TO PHILANTHROPY AND FINANCE?

YOU KNOW, PART OF TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION IS ACTUALLY NOT JUST SAYING I'M SORRY BUT REALLY LISTENING TO WHAT WE AS PEOPLE OF COLOR SAY WE WANT AND NEED TO HEAL AND THEN PROVIDING THAT.

AND SO, IN ADDITION TO TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION, WE NEED TO CONSIDER THE PETITION FOR REPARATIONS FOR BLACK AMERICANS, WHICH WE ARE A MAJOR SUPPORTER OF AT MY ORGANIZATION.

WE NEED TO LISTEN TO WHAT INDIGENOUS PEOPLE ARE DEMANDING IN ORDER FOR US TO MOVE FORWARD AND TO BE WELL AND TO HAVE THE ABILITY TO THRIVE IN OUR COMMUNITIES.

AND SO IT'S BOTH AN ACT OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, AN ACT OF APOLOGY, BUT ALSO AN ACT TO RECONCILIATION, WHICH MEANS THAT WE RIGHT THE WRONG.

AND SO, WE HAVE TO REPAIR AND REPAIR FOR ME LOOKS LIKE REPARATIONS AND THE APPRECIATION FOR THE SELF-DETERMINATION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY.

AND THE WORD REPARATIONS IS SOMETHING THAT I THINK HAS BEEN BANTERED ABOUT QUITE A BIT, BUT PERHAPS NOT WITH -- MAYBE NOT WITHOUT FULL UNDERSTANDING OR WITH ALMOST EACH GROUP OF EACH INDIVIDUAL HAVING THEIR OWN INTERPRETATION OF WHAT THAT MEANS.

SO, WHEN IT COMES TO INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES, WHAT DOES REPARATIONS ACTUALLY LOOK LIKE?

FOR INDIGENOUS FOLKS, OUR DEMANDS VARY, BECAUSE WE HAVE 574-PLUS SOVEREIGN NATIONS IN THIS COUNTRY, BUT IN GENERAL, THEY, YOU KNOW, I'M A PERSON WHO SUPPORTS FINANCIAL PAYMENT FOR REPARATIONS, YOU KNOW, I'M ADVOCATING FOR THAT FIRST FOR BLACK AMERICANS WHO HAVE BEEN ADVOCATING FOR THAT FOR A LONG TIME.

I DO THINK THAT SOME TIME OF PAYOUT IS REQUIRED AND SHOULD BE GIVEN ALSO TO INDIGENOUS PEOPLE HERE.

BUT BEYOND MONEY, A LOT OF THE DEMANDS THAT YOU SEE COMING FROM OUR COMMUNITY ARE AROUND LAND.

WE'RE VERY CONNECTED TO LAND AND THE DISPLACEMENT OF OUR FOLKS THROUGH FORCED REMOVALS THROUGH THE LAST FEW HUNDRED YEARS HAS REALLY BEEN TRAUMATIC FOR OUR PEOPLE, SO I THINK RETURNING LAND TO OUR COMMUNITIES IS A MAJOR DEMAND.

YOU'LL HEAR THESE #LANDBACK CAMPAIGNS THAT ARE HAPPENING ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY RIGHT NOW.

WE ARE ALSO ASKING FOR RESPECT AS SOVEREIGN NATIONS TO BE TREATED IN A GOVERNMENT TO GOVERNMENT TYPE OF RELATIONSHIP WITH THE U.S. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WHO CONTINUES TO VIOLATE THOSE UNDERSTANDINGS AND THOSE TREATIES THAT ARE IN PLACE.

WE HAVE BEEN PUT AS A PEOPLE TO BE UNDER STHE FEDERAL GOVERNMEN TO THE EXTENT OUR TRIBES ARE NOT OFFICIAL UNLESS THE GOVERNMENT SAYS SO.

WE HAVE TO PROVE OURSELVES TO THE U.S. GOVERNMENT IN ORDER TO EVEN BE ELIGIBLE TO BE IN THOSE TYPES OF RELATIONSHIPS.

SO, WE HAVE TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY, THERE'S SO MUCH AT STAKE THAT CONTINUES TO DENY OUR EXISTENCE AND TO PUT US UNDER THE FOOT OF THE U.S. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND THESE, YOU KNOW, DECADES AND DECADES OF OPPRESSIONS ARE REALLY RESULTING IN VERY HARMFUL IMPACTS IN OUR COMMUNITY.

THIS IS WHY WE HAVE HIGH RATES OF SUICIDE.

IMAGINE BEING A YOUNG PERSON FIGHTING FOR YOUR IDENTITY IN A COUNTRY WHO SAYS YOU'RE NOT NATIVE AMERICAN UNLESS THE U.S.

GOVERNMENT SAYS YOU ARE.

SO, THOSE ARE THE THINGS THAT WE WANT.

WE WANT TO BE -- WE WANT PROTECTIONS FOR OUR COMMUNITIES AND, YOU KNOW, RESPECT FOR OUR TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY AND WE WANT CONSULTATION, GOVERNMENT TO GOVERNMENT, BEFORE YOU BUILD PIPELINES THROUGH OUR COMMUNITIES, THOSE TYPES OF THINGS.

SO, WE CONTINUE TO BE TREATED AS A DIFFERENT CLASS OF CITIZEN IN THIS COUNTRY AND CONTINUE TO BE DISRESPECTED BY THE U.S. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

SO THOSE ARE JUST A FEW THINGS THAT WE'RE LOOKING TO CHANGE.

OKAY.

YEAH.

ALL RIGHT, WELL, FOR EVERYONE, JUST A QUICK REMINDER, THE BOOK IS 'DECOLON NIZING WEALTH.'

THE AUTHOR WE'VE BEEN SPEAKING TO, EDGAR VILLANUEVA IS THE PRINCIPLE OF THE DECOLONIZING WEALTH PROJECT AND LIBERATED CAPITAL.

SO, EDGAR, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US AND COMING UP, WE'LL TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF THE ISSUES FROM A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT LENS.

MY GUEST WILL BE THE GROUNDBREAKING INDIGI-QUEER ARTIST TY DEFOE.

THAT'S NEXT.

©2021 WNET. All Rights Reserved. 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019

WNET is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Tax ID: 26-2810489