Fire Walk With Me: a report back from the indigenous anarchist convergence

I answered a call to gather around a fire with Black, Indigenous, People of Color in Kinłání at Táala Hooghan Infoshop. Somewhere at the gathering, I expected to be in the presence of indigenous anarchism. I did not know if indigenous anarchism was the fire we would gather around, if it was the individuals converging, or if it was an empty space where individuals were to ignite the flames. It’s safe to say, my expectations were met. I witnessed an indigenous anarchism but it was unfamiliar to me, a Diné anarchist. 

Truthfully, it’s inaccurate to say that the indigenous anarchism I saw was unfamiliar because that implies it possessed unidentifiable attributes. I, very much, recognized the features of the fire and I recognized the methods to build that fire. In this case, the features were global indigenous justice and the methods were university jargon of the humanities discipline. The social movement that will be the fires of this indigenous anarchism require more and more indigenous resistance as the fuel to grow and grow the burning. What happens when we run out of fuel? Who do we reach out to for a fresh supply? I ask myself those questions knowing full well they will be answered quickly, meaning uncritically, by any individual enthusiastic with my premonition. Admittedly, the fire I had gathered around was not so much unfamiliar as it was unappealing. 

This was unappealing because I also answered the call as an indigenous anarchist [“sickened by fascinations with dead white-men’s thoughts (and their academies and their laws), reformist & reactionary “decolonial activisms”, and the uninspired merry-go-round of leftist politics as a whole”]. However, I found that many of the people in attendance were academics, activists, de-colonizers, and leftists that were in very good health despite their proximity to these toxic superstructures. Academics vigorously drawing from their learning curated by western liberal intellectualism while being hungry for another direction with an agreeable pan-indigenous guide. Activists energetically sharing their praxis acquired from footage of Standing Rock while local indigenous struggles remained unknown. De-colonizers robustly calling out problematic land acknowledgements for not being inclusionary while missing the value of being specific to the land they’re on. Then finally, leftists focusing on their vision of centralized solidarity as one voice united to change the world while the incoherence from every voice making individual demands to exhaust authority was never considered. 

Yes, the indigenous anarchism I saw was kind of unfamiliar and mostly unappealing but I would not say the gathering was unsuccessful. I believe people will grow this indigenous anarchism. An ideology succinct enough for Instagram stories, 280 character limit tweets, and vibrant screen printed art, excuse me, memes. A movement global enough to essentialize a racial, humanist, and material struggle of indigeneity so others will comfortably speak for any absent voice. A resistance so monolithic the powers that be could easily identify then repress all indigenous anarchists. 

For me, success would be more disagreements that are challenging and hopefully with humor. I’d rather agree or disagree with a new suggestion rather than dispute laudatory presumptions grounded in radical liberalism that has been indigenized, north american style, only for flair. 

I understand an indigenous person can have a complicated personal relationship with their indigeneity and their role within the violent dominance of capitalist settler-colonialism. Additionally, I understand an individual’s linear journey to Anarchism began somewhere and maybe they still sympathetically carry ideological mementos from their past. Facetiousness aside, I am glad people may have found potential from this gathering to develop their indigenous anarchist ideas.

The potential I have discovered at the convergence is the particulars of Diné anarchy. Fires made from crystal and fires made from turquoise. Fires bright enough to find the light of other Diné anarchists in this dark world I find myself in. A world sickened from the industrialization of civilized humans whose culture of control and destruction forces all living things to adopt, adapt, or die. I suggest that Diné anarchy offers the addition of a choice to attack. An assault on our enemy that weakens their grip on, not only our glittering world, but the worlds of others. An opportunity for the anarchy of Ndee, of O’odham, and so on, to exact revenge on their colonizers. Until all that’s left for Diné anarchists is to dissuade the endorsements of the next idol expecting our obedience. 

Worshipping Power: Peter Gelderloos speaking in Tempe February 28

Anarchist and author Peter Gelderloos will be speaking on “Worshiping Power: An Anarchist Vision of Early State Formation” on Wednesday February 28 at Boulders on Broadway in Tempe. The event is free and begins at 7 PM.

Worshiping Power: An Anarchist Vision of Early State Formation

Where do states come from, what causes them to arise, and how do they develop? The old dogmas that the State protects and uplifts humanity, or even that it is a necessary evil, have been thoroughly discredited. But many newer theories, that explain state formation within a single optic, or that suggest a single cause, or a linear, progressive evolution, also fall short.

This new book traces multiple pathways of state formation, describing patterns that arise within many different societies with different models of the family, religion, warfare, commerce, and economic production. Rather than being ancient history, state formation is a continuous process, given that perhaps the only feature universal to state formation is the resistance it provokes. As a result, states are continually falling apart, being overthrown, or struggling to maintain their power.

People who fight today against the problems of capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy, anyone who seeks to regain control over their lives, becomes wrapped up in this process as they run up against state authority.

Articulating the ongoing history of state formation—from divine states centered around new sites of spiritual production to democratic states arising from corrupted revolutions—allows us to better understand the ways states today attempt to govern, limit, or repress our movements today.

Peter Gelderloos is an anarchist from Virginia who currently lives in Catalunya. He is the author of How Nonviolence Protects the State, Anarchy Works, The Failure of Nonviolence, “An Anarchist Solution to Climate Change,” “A World Without Police,” and other works.