Corvallis Social Justice: Land Acknowledgements in Activist Circles, Helping Unhoused Neighbors Beat the Heat, “Bodyland”
Last Tuesday’s Corvallis AdvocateCitySpeak took a deeper look at Indigenous land acknowledgments, with a particular emphasis on discussing what meaningful actions people in Corvallis can take individually and collectively to go beyond acknowledgment and actively support local Tribes and Indigenous communities.
For one of the questions, panelists Luhui Whitebear, Lara Jacobs, Chanti Manon-Ferguson, and Rachel Black Elk were asked for their thoughts on activist groups/circles in Corvallis that have been sharing land acknowledgements within their organizing work.
Some of these groups’ acknowledgments identify the violent acts and ideologies of settler-colonialism as both ongoing and at the root of systemic issues like the climate crisis; houselessness; rape culture; and attacks on queer, trans, and gender-diverse identities. What has sometimes been neglected from these statements, however, are recognitions of the continued existence and unique struggles of local Tribes and Indigenous peoples, and/or commitments to supporting them. Panelists explained the harms this can cause, and why it’s imperative to center Indigenous people in activist work.
“One remedy that I’ve been working on with people is that you build trust and you get feedback from people that are going to be fiercely honest and fiercely loving of their communities to share with you, and to really receive the feedback,” said Black Elk. “I’m all for people naming outright settler-colonialism; it’s important because there’s so much erasure, and that’s part of what settler-colonialism banked on – the erasure and eradication of our people… And so calling those things out are really important, but to really remain diligent of how you center a community – that is very personal work for each activist that I hope continues to happen for them as they navigate what they share and what relational accountability means to them.”
“I think asking the question of whether or not they’re doing anything to engage or help Indigenous people who are impacted by those frameworks that they have within their statement [is important], and also looking into what efforts the organization is making to be really intentional either for learning or teaching or holding space for Indigenous people and for local Native communities,” said Manon-Ferguson. “I think [there’s] also looking really critically internally to see what frameworks or systems are within their organization that are upholding settler-colonialism, and looking to see how historically or currently their organization might be – intentionally or not – still upholding colonial systems, and then trying really to dismantle and address those to not create further harm within their own organizations.”
“One thing I’ve noticed more recently within activist circles and community organizing is that sometimes people think Indigenous people only belong in certain contexts, and so we get boxed into, ‘Is this about [insert Native issue]?’” said Whitebear. “And that’s when Indigenous people aren’t invited to even speak or be involved with organizing or planning or coming up with goals for the work, when in fact we’re involved in many things, and if people are truly committed to that understanding that settler-colonialism and imperialism – which are hand in hand – are the root cause of all of our issues, then they would understand that Indigenous people have a place among everything… Like what Chanti was bringing up, are you replicating settler ideologies and systems by boxing us into these little categories and [by] using us as an accessory [to sound more inclusive]?”
“I work in conservation – recreation ecology is my field – and a lot of the activism I’m involved with is geared more towards climate change, and I think that why it’s important to center Indigenous knowledge in certain contexts is because our voices have been missing from the science, been missing from the field, been missing from the activism ever since Europeans came to these lands,” said Jacobs. “It’s only very recently in history that our voices are being included, and our different types of knowledges – which are very distinct from Judeo-Christian European-based knowledges – are even being accepted as a different form of science, even though our sciences – like our traditional ecological knowledges – can be 10,000 years old or even more depending on how old our communities are. And when we’re looking at ecosystem crises and global crises, if we’re not looking at relying on the knowledges of the people who have been here the longest, the people who have sustained these lands since time immemorial before colonization without all of the harms that we see today, then what are we doing? Why wouldn’t we want those voices in the mix?”
To listen to the full CitySpeak recording, click here.
Help Unhoused Neighbors Beat the Heat: It’s a hot week in Corvallis – the hottest it’s been so far this summer – and for many in the area who don’t have quick or easy access to drinking water, shade, indoor spaces, and/or supplies to help stay protected from the heat, conditions can be dangerous, and even deadly.
Items that are currently being sought include water bottles, sunscreen, Gatorade and other electrolyte drinks, battery-powered handheld misters or fans, cool rags, ice, ice packs, snacks, and coolers. They can be dropped off at the RRFM’s Free Store, located in room M252 of the Benton Hall Plaza on 408 SW Monroe Ave, on Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday between 12:00 and 6:00 p.m. Alternatively, those who would like to supply any of these items but are unable to bring them to the store can either send a DM [direct message] to the Corvallis RRFM Instagram or the Stop the Sweeps Corvallis Instagram, or send an email to email@example.com and ask for items to be picked up.
At the store, these items will be picked up for distribution by organizers with Stop the Sweeps, who have dropped off water and supply stations at Pioneer Park, the Eric Scott McKinley Skate Park, and the BMX Track thus far, which are locations where groups of unhoused folks are currently staying. Supply stations currently include cold water, electrolyte drink powders, ice, baby wipes, simple first aid kits, and sunscreen. Organizers will be checking on and restocking these supply stations three times a day – morning, afternoon, and evening – each day this week.
If you would like to get involved or help pay for gas, coolers, etc., send a DM to either group’s Instagram account.
Hiring to Displace: The City of Corvallis Parks and Recreation Department is currently accepting applications for a temporary/seasonal position that specifically entails carrying out sweeps of houseless encampments throughout the city.
The job title is Parks Worker II – Camp Cleanup. According to the position summary, the two primary tasks include cleaning litter in city parks and natural areas, and “cleaning up” abandoned camp sites or camp sites that have been posted – a process which often involves taking the resources and possessions of unhoused folks who are being displaced, and taking little care to ensure that they’re still in a usable state after camps have been cleared.
The job description doesn’t mention anything about de-escalation training, pointing unhoused people towards helpful resources, or providing other means of direct assistance or care. According to local advocates like Maddie Bean, the Street Outreach and Response Team (SORT) Coordinator for the Corvallis Daytime Drop-In Center (CDDC), this is frequently evident in the department’s overall approach to camps.
“I communicate with a couple of people on Parks and Rec, and for the most part they don’t do outreach work, and they’ve even told me that they’re not really trained in de-escalation or trauma-informed care,” said Bean “So they’re coming into this situation, in my opinion, underprepared and undertrained. It’s less the fault of an individual and more the fault of the city and these organizations that are sending their employees to these traumatic events that they don’t really know how to deal with.”
“It’s absolutely not a trauma-informed process at all,” said Bonnie Whindam, a local activist who has given public testimony at past city council meetings in opposition to the sweeps. “People forget that just being homeless is chronically traumatizing, and then they come in with loaders and tractors and just scoop everything that people cannot carry on their backs up – tents, belongings, photographs, medications.”
bodyland: Koa A. Tom, a local photographer, artist, activist, and owner of Light Rider Studios, has a new interactive exhibit up at the Joan Truckenbrod Gallery in downtown Corvallis that explores the connections between human bodies and land – in particular, how both are subject to the violence of ownership, control, and conquest.
Titled “bodyland”, the exhibit consists of giclee prints on wood panels depicting melded images of people and places. The panels can be touched and moved around, evoking one of the piece’s main themes: consent.
“The purpose [is] to connect with one’s own hand to issues of consent when it comes to lands and bodies, mediated safely through art objects,” said Tom.
Through this mediation, viewers are given explicit consent – are invited – to engage with the piece through touch, and to reflect on how, like lands and bodies, the images will change as a result of these tactile interactions.
“My intention in connecting land and bodies is to reveal the similarities in how they are treated, contrasting that with how art objects are typically revered,” said Tom. “When invited, however, touch can become play; you are invited to play with bodyland.”
Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration: Next Thursday, Aug. 4, at 6:30 p.m., the Veterans for Peace (VFP) Linus Pauling Chapter will be hosting the 2022 Corvallis Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration at the Riverfront Park on 1st and Madison.
The annual event invites community members to come together in honor of the victims and survivors of the cataclysmic atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, as well as nuclear frontline communities whose bodies, lands, waters, and lifeways have been harmed by radiation exposure through nuclear tests, waste disposals, and uranium mining carried out by the U.S.
Community members are encouraged to attend not solely for commemoration, but to become motivated and empowered to join “a growing united front to abolish nuclear weapons” and to divest from war and U.S. militarism. More information and resources on actions to take are available on the VFP’s website.
The 2021 Corvallis Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration was covered by The Advocate and can be read about here.