Four centuries after the first white settlers landed in New England, Native American groups are reaching across the ocean to war-torn Palestinians.
Aiming to support a liberation struggle some think is analogous to the early days of America’s manifest destiny, the Bay Area-based Indigenous Youth Delegation to Palestine made their first international contact during a two-week tour through refugee camps along the Israel-Palestine border in August 2009.
Ras K’Dee, a member of the delegation and editor of Seventh Native American Generation (SNAG) magazine, shared his experiences from the trip prior to a concert in Kresge Town Hall. The event, a publicity venture in ongoing efforts to increase awareness of minority struggles, was hosted by UC Santa Cruz’s Native American Resource Center.
K’Dee described his goals.
“There isn’t that international wedge of support for Palestine either,” K’Dee said. “In the long run, we want to create a solidarity movement.”
An ethnic Californian Pomo Indian, K’Dee drew multiple parallels between the two groups. He equated the Cherokee Trail of Tears with the forced migration of Palestinians from Israeli lands, and compared placement of Native American children into boarding schools with Palestinian families separated by impassable military checkpoints.
“The U.N. created a land for Jews, who have been historically kicked around Europe,” UCSC student Eliot Rosenstock said. “[The Jewish people] wanted a base, and it hurts me to see my own people now marginalizing another religion.”
Native American Indians are a minority in their own home country. A 2008 diversity report revealed that they make up about 1 percent of the student population at UCSC.
Fourth-year Merrill student and attendee Amalia Coronado stated that as a Native American, she felt a connection to Palestinians in what she felt was a battle for visibility and equality.
“There’s just so much going on everywhere, it’s great to make these cross-cultural ties,” Coronado said. “We’re all fighting for similar things.”
Debates rage over the legitimacy of Israeli settlements, pitting Israelis against Palestinians.
The divide permeates Rosenstock’s own life as well. While his family consists of unequivocal supporters of a Jewish nation, Rosenstock was found tabling on behalf of Palestine.
“To them, as soon as I stop supporting Israel, I become ignorant,” Rosenstock said.
The event culminated in a performance by hip-hop group Audiopharmacy, whose mellow-feeling beats incorporated lyrics of indigenous opposition, a message coinciding with the one carried by the delegation. Or in K’Dee’s words, “resisting the exportation of oppression with solidarity.”
Cross-continental connections were made with the youth of Palestine, who welcomed the delegation as the culmination of a program of study centered around Native American and immigrant populations of the United States.
“It was dope, man,” K’Dee said. “They were doing their traditional dances for us. We did an exchange with them, did some of our own cultural things.”
K’Dee spent two years prior to the trip learning about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the situation of displaced Palestinian refugees.
“We could never provide the real truth if we hadn’t been there,” K’Dee said. “We want to educate people … and the ultimate goal is change.”
In a closing remark, K’Dee noted that Palestinians have so far counted 42 years of what has been considered occupation, while American Indians have counted 560.