The Red Review

The Red Review — Challenging Eco-colonialism Using Indigenous Science with Dr. Jessica Hernandez

January 31, 2022 Socialist Action Season 1
The Red Review — Challenging Eco-colonialism Using Indigenous Science with Dr. Jessica Hernandez
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The Red Review
The Red Review — Challenging Eco-colonialism Using Indigenous Science with Dr. Jessica Hernandez
Jan 31, 2022 Season 1
Socialist Action

All the people who work on The Red Review live and work on stolen Indigenous lands across Turtle Island. We demand Self-Determination for Indigenous Peoples. There can be no reconciliation without restitution, which includes Land Back and seizing the assets of the major resource corporations and returning them to the commons.

In this episode of The Red Review, brought to you by
Socialist Action, Emily and Daniel talk with Dr. Jessica Hernandez about her new book, Fresh Banana Leaves, and her conceptualization of Indigenous science and eco-colonialism. We finish with a discussion about how Indigenous peoples and settlers can unite against common oppressors and what it takes for that to happen.

International Mayan League
Piña Soul
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Support the Show.

Show Notes Transcript

All the people who work on The Red Review live and work on stolen Indigenous lands across Turtle Island. We demand Self-Determination for Indigenous Peoples. There can be no reconciliation without restitution, which includes Land Back and seizing the assets of the major resource corporations and returning them to the commons.

In this episode of The Red Review, brought to you by
Socialist Action, Emily and Daniel talk with Dr. Jessica Hernandez about her new book, Fresh Banana Leaves, and her conceptualization of Indigenous science and eco-colonialism. We finish with a discussion about how Indigenous peoples and settlers can unite against common oppressors and what it takes for that to happen.

International Mayan League
Piña Soul
MiningWatch Canada

Support the Show.

Daniel Tarade  0:11  
Welcome to The Red Review. My name is Daniel. I use he/him pronouns. I'm coming to you from Tkaronto, the traditional lands of the Anishnabeg, the Haudenosaunee, the Wendat, the Chippewa and the Mississaugas of the Credit River. 

Emily Steers  0:25  
Hey, my name is Emily Steers. I use she/her pronouns, and I'm coming to you from the unceded territory of the Anishinaabe, Attawandaron, and  Haudenosaunee Peoples also known as Guelph, Ontario. 

Daniel Tarade  0:37  
The Red Review is brought to you by Socialist Action. All the people that work on this podcast, live and work on Turtle Island stolen Indigenous land. We demand self-determination for Indigenous peoples. We demand restitution before reconciliation, and we demand land back. Today we interviewed Dr. Jessica Hernandez, and Emily and I were stoked to have this opportunity. Jessica just published Fresh Banana Leaves, a book on what Indigenous science is to her and introduces us to concepts like eco-colonialism to really frame how capitalism has disproportionately impacted Indigenous communities and black communities. The book then lays out a basis for settlers and Indigenous peoples to unite around our common struggles and what it requires for that to be possible. So we really hope you enjoy this conversation we had. 

Emily Steers  1:33  
Hi everyone, and welcome to The Red Review, a Socialist Action podcast. Today, we are thrilled to be joined by Dr. Jessica Hernandez. Jessica is a transnational Indigenous scholar, scientist and community advocate based in the Pacific Northwest. She has an interdisciplinary academic background ranging from marine sciences to forestry. Her work is grounded in her Indigenous cultural ways of knowing. She advocates for climate, energy and environmental justice through her scientific and community work and strongly believes that Indigenous sciences can heal our Indigenous lands. She is the founder of Piña Soul, SPC, an environmental consulting and artesanias hybrid business that supports black and Indigenous-led conservation and environmental project through community mutual aid and micro-grants. Alright, so welcome, Dr. Jessica Hernandez! 

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  2:26  
Thank you for having me here today. 

Emily Steers  2:28  
So that is your professional bio. But can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your practice? 

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  2:35  
Yeah, so it's a hard question right when you're asked to talk about yourself, but I guess I am a young Indigenous woman who, you know, had the privilege to pursue higher academia, especially in the environmental sciences. I come from the Maya Ch’orti’ community, which is located in El Salvador, and also the Zapotec Pinza community that's located in Oaxaca, Mexico. Both of my parents were displaced because of my dad's involvement, or, you know, forced involvement in the Central American Civil War. Eventually, he made his journey to Oaxaca, where he met my mother. And you know, as a result of the United States providing them with refugee and asylum, he, you know, came with my mother to the United States, and I have been living here throughout my entire life, because I was born in South Central Los Angeles, California. 

Daniel Tarade  3:21  
Thank you for providing a bit more of the the personal background because the book is wonderful in how it integrates that. And you make a point, at some point in the book further on that outside of books, you don't have the opportunity to actually integrate personal with the academic. And as someone who also comes from a sciences background, I also share that criticism that it often becomes so formal. So my first question, just to get at this, this idea, you describe yourself as an Indigenous scientist, what does that mean to you? And why do you use this description instead of other descriptions used like traditional knowledge or, or cultural knowledge? 

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  3:59  
Yeah, one of the reasons why I use the word or the term Indigenous science is just because, you know, being trained in, you know, formerly as we, and you probably can relate to this Daniel, where we're training the environmental sciences, we are taught that, you know, the only knowledge that's validated is like a knowledge that goes through the scientific method, right, where we formulate a hypothesis where, you know, we make an observation, eventually collecting data. And when we talk about that data it's numerical data. But when I look at the upbringing, and the knowledge that has been passed down to me, even from my father, that was passed down through his father through the generations, it's knowledge that kind of, you know, in a way follows the scientific method, but obviously, it's not as linear, right? Because oftentimes, when we look at science, we only focus on one question versus in Indigenous science, we tend to ask a more broader question, because, you know, it's knowledge that has been formulated through the generations. And I think that why I don't like to use the word traditional ecological knowledge, and oftentimes, that's case by case, it's all dependent on what people prefer, but for me, when we talk about traditional ecological knowledge in the environmental sciences, it has always been coined in the past tense as something that's no longer existent or something that hasn't adapted, and I think that one of the strongest push that I have is that our Indigenous knowledges have adapted especially to climate change, through all these changes that we have experienced. And I think that that's what makes them more of a science. And I think it's just that word traditional ecological, you know, the traditional word that makes me favor the word Indigenous science over that one. 

Daniel Tarade  5:31  
Well, you made the point very clear throughout your writing, that often the Indigenous communities, Indigenous peoples are treated as if they're in the past, either they've been completely displaced, and then what remains has been put in a museum, as if those people don't still exist. And I think the idea behind using the phrase, Indigenous science really does begin to re-frame the whole idea of how do we work within our environments. And just a follow up, because this made me actually laugh out loud, and you can tell me if that was your intention for this to be that kind of sarcastic almost response, but the quote is, In Western academia, if you study biology, and then integrate ecology, you're considered interdisciplinary. And I thought this was really funny because of how onpoint it is. Obviously, to the average person, if you ask them biology and ecology, those aren't separate disciplines. You instead in Fresh Banana Leaves, the book you just published, this idea of a holistic viewpoint that does not divide up people and the environment really, at all, but centers the connections between everything and everyone. So what do you see as the impact of this reframing when it comes to scientific practice? 

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  6:38  
Yeah, and one of the reasons why I wrote that is that oftentimes, you know, when we talk to other scientists, especially environmental scientists, they'd like to call themselves interdisciplinary. And when you get to ask them, you know, what makes your field or your study interdisciplinary, they will tell you Well, I study marine ecology, but I also study the biology of fishes or something which, you know, sometimes can, when you look at how they view that, right, it's interesting, because these are well-established scientists who have that name recognition, especially in their fields. And I think that it wasn't to be sarcastic, but I guess it comes off sarcastic, right? Because if you understand how, as you were pointing out that sometimes, you know, it's easy to find the connection between ecology and biology. And that, you know, there are younger scientists who are kind of moving against, you know, that whole reality that's separate. I think that with Indigenous science, it allows us to see overall the bigger picture, right. It allows us to see beyond the ecology and the biology, and it makes us understand that, you know, ecology and biology, are interconnected to ourselves, are interconnected to health, are interconnected, in many different ways. And I think that you bring up a great point, right on how in the western sciences, we have placed thing in boxes but in reality with Indigenous science, those boxes don't exist. You know, it's a more holistic system if we were to talk about boxes and systems, like, you know, we talk in the western sciences. 

Emily Steers  8:02  
Absolutely, Daniel and I have had many conversations about this because he's got a PhD in the sciences, and I recently finished my master's degree in Community Music. So academics from very different worlds, and a big focus of my program was interdisciplinary conversations between the arts and other humanities and how we can integrate other humanities in the arts more collaboratively and cohesively. And every single academic discipline that we approach, they always look at us a little bit funny at the beginning. It was very, very interesting to hear you talking about that. I know a lot of my colleagues in the sciences are like, okay, but we need to integrate the humanities and like, think about the impact of what our scientific developments are doing. You've discussed in your book, in really, really beautiful ways, how a lot of academics and would-be allies need to de-centre themselves and prioritize Indigenous knowledge systems and Indigenous governance. I appreciate that the example you used of the professor who was like, oh, we need to create a marine protection area in this part of the West Coast. And the local Indigenous groups, we're like, um actually no, because we have pre-existing arrangements here. And we're already working on protecting this in our own way. And also you didn't ask — the frustration that that engendered, I've seen similar situations. This idea of Western epistemological superiority, if you will, is unfortunately also really rife in activist spaces, which I am sure you have encountered. Like, we are a self-professed socialist organization, meaning we're building on revolutionary theories that were developed in Europe and Asia in the 19th and 20th centuries. My question is, how can we as revolutionary socialists contextualize our work and decenter ourselves focusing instead on the context of the land we're on? 

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  9:58  
Yeah, thank you for your question. And first of all, congratulations on finishing your masters. I think that, you know, it's a big accomplishment.

Emily Steers  10:04  
Thank you. 

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  10:05  
And I think that oftentimes, even the way that we have been taught in Western society is that we shouldn't, you know, when we we have something that we're passionate about, especially as you were mentioning the social causes, or even in the sciences, right, we kind of adapt that persona that, you know, whatever we're doing, it's kind of part of our identity. And I think that, you know, that's great, because it allows us to not decenter ourselves in certain areas where we shouldn't be decentering ourselves, like the sciences. But I think that, you know, oftentimes, as you were mentioning, a lot of these theories come from Western Europe, and are not really aligned with Indigenous values of the Indigenous communities whose lands we're occupying, or whose lands were trying to lead these movements. And I think that it starts with willing to learn, and I think that oftentimes, you know, that willingness to learn can be met with a lot of reception, just because, you know, when we critique something, we take it personal. And that goes back to, you know, how we view ourselves especially if we have adopted that persona, that identity, right, of what it means to be a radical activist or a scientist, right. And I think that, you know, willing to learn, and also willing to seek stories that are not the norm — in every movement, or in every discourse, there's a norm, a narrative that has become the dominant narrative — and I think that it's important for us to ask ourselves, who is not being heard, or who doesn't have a seat at the table, so that we can disrupt that norm. And I think that that happens everywhere, even in radical spaces, where there's a dominant narrative that has kind of taken over that discussion. And I think that, you know, if we start questioning and making those reflections as well, it will allow us to kind of center the voices that are often left out of the discourse. And I think, you know, because we're willing to learn and also willing to be uncomfortable, right? Because then, you know, we are going to take certain things personal, but I think that, you know, when we start reflecting, it allows us to decenter ourselves and avoid taking things personal. That's, that's my advice, but obviously, you know, I'm willing to hear what you both have to say about that as well. 

Emily Steers  12:08  
It's often very uncomfortable in activist spaces because you know everyone there is very well-meaning and people are there because they want to help and being confronted with the idea that they're actually doing harm is often a really fraught conversation to navigate — the ego death necessary for decentering this Western European theoretical perspective is, I think, really, really important for us, especially white activists to keep at the forefront. 

Daniel Tarade  12:36  
And I'm sure maybe this is a conversation, Jessica, that you've had come up. You've addressed it specifically in your book, but I've seen it play out where there are people that can describe themselves as progressive, left, socialist, whatever term they want to call themselves, but they take umbrage, they get offended by being called a settler. Yet, in your book, you break it down in not such a normative way. And from what I understand, you don't use the term settler to be a all-disparaging term, but instead to again provide that context for how the work ought to be done. So maybe for all of our listeners, just break down what I thought was a very interesting way of viewing one person in relationship to the environment, you're either Indigenous, you're a welcome guest, or you're an unwelcome guest, or you're a settler, and maybe just expand on that idea. 

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  13:23  
Yeah, I think that that goes back to teaching my grandmother instilled in me. You know, at a young age, I knew that I was displaced, I knew that I wasn't necessarily in my ancestral land. You know, it's a privilege and a curse as well, right, because my friends were the only ones displaced from their communities, from their families. So whenever we will talk about going back home, we will go back to our ancestral lands. And as a result of that, my grandmother always told me that, you know, anywhere I walked, especially as a displaced Indigenous girl at that time, right, and obviously, I have grown up since, I will be an unwelcome guest. And that's because, you know, I was going to be in someone's home. But you know, I'm still Indigenous to the Americas, but I wasn't going to necessarily be at my home, right. And as a result of that, you know, she always reminded me that I had to build relationships with not just the land, but the people, right, because we look at landscapes as someone's home, right? And obviously, you're not going to welcome anybody into your home. You know, you're going to have people coming into your home, like we look at the metaphor of what a home is, right, that physical, you know, building or whatever home you have, you're not going to welcome just anybody, you have to welcome guests, right. We welcome guests to our home. And I think that you know that unwelcome guest is someone who is displaced and not necessarily has been welcomed by the community. And I think that you know, anywhere I go, I'm going to be an unwelcome guest and it's my duty and responsibility to build those relationships with the people and the land that I'm currently displaced on so that Indigenous communities can welcome me into their home. And I think that you know, with the word settlers, right, it has become like that word that we don't like to mention because you know, it makes people uncomfortable, but I think with the word settlers, you know, those who are settlers have to build a relationship to be an unwelcome guest and eventually you're welcome guests and oftentimes, it's a lifelong journey. And you know, it's not up to me to determine who's a welcome guest because, you know, unless I'm in my land, but it's ultimately the responsibility of the Indigenous communities. And I think that that ties back to the critique that a lot of indigenous peoples and scholars have we land acknowledgments, right? We're gonna acknowledge the lands and the people, but when it comes to building those relationships with such land and people, we don't take action. And I think that, you know, if you start doing that, you know, you can move yourself from, you know, obviously, sometimes we we inherited the roles of settler and we cannot dismantle that right. I think it's always up to the Indigenous communities to determine who is a welcome guest. So I hope that that answered that question. 

Daniel Tarade  15:48  
Oh, absolutely.

Emily Steers  15:49  
I was thinking throughout your book, I was at a talk with a Haudenosau0ne elder. Haudenosaune is one of the peoples whose lands I'm currently on. I'm kind of in the overlap between Haudenosaunee and Anishnabeg land. The elder was talking about the idea, He said, We are all indigenous to somewhere by which he means like, go back in your ancestry, and you will find people who who did have a deep connection to land and to place, you will find people who were living in balance with the earth, who were trying to find ways of revering the earth and respecting the earth and being in relationship. He said, do your research, not only to the lands you're on now, but how your ancestry and your family lost their relationship with Earth and with land. That's been something that's just been really, really important for me in my understanding of place as an immigrant to Canada. My parents are from the UK. And so I was just wondering, how does that fit into the context of being an unwelcome guest and learning about land and land based practice? 

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  16:55  
Yeah, I think that that's a beautiful teaching that the elder shared with you. And I think that, you know, it is true, right? We look back at everyone's roots, we are Indigenous to a certain place. And I think that often times it's because of these systems that have for some reason governed globally, like capitalism, and you know, patriarchy, right, we have lost a sense to place right. And when we look at where we see the history of the loss of Indigeneity, it's because they targeted the woman in those cultures. And we're seeing that even parallel, reflect today, right, because when we talk about environmental activism, we talk about environmental justice, climate justice, especially in Latin America, where I can speak from, it's our Indigenous women who are leading those movements, but it's also our Indigenous woman's who are being impacted or who are facing violence. I often tell people that, you know, the missing and murdered Indigenous woman transcends across the United States, it goes across the Americas. And I think that, you know, when we look at that relationships that even Europeans had, you know, we'd look at the witch trials, right, it targeted women because, you know, it's always women are at the core of our cultures. And I think that, you know, that has resulted in many European descendants from losing their culture, losing that sense of place, right, because they targeted the women. And I think that, you know, it's a great teaching to embody. And I think that requires people to also ask what their intentions are also in seeking that ancestry. Because oftentimes, you know, if we don't have good intentions it's not necessarily to do good, right. And I think that, you know, when you have good intentions, you can align that to seeking, you know, to searching more of your roots, and that, that what allows people to kind of reclaim those relationships with nature, and despite being displaced, right, because I think as a displaced Indigenous woman, I had to reclaim my relationships with nature because it wasn't that environment that, you know, carryied my ancestral histories, there was a different environment. I think that as a result of that, we learned how to better come in terms with building relationships with both Indigenous peoples and land. So yeah, thank you for sharing that teaching the elder shared with you. 

Daniel Tarade  18:58  
The idea that the patriarchal oppression really does transcend different areas of the world because it was brought about as a dominant mode. And one point you make in the book very well is that there's a lot of knowledge, a lot of really developed science amongst Indigenous people in the Americas that Western scientists are still struggling to try and understand today — ideas of permaculture, ideas of architecture. You mentioned talking about some of these main systems of oppression, and you've mentioned a few from colonialism to capitalism, and you use the term throughout the book, eco-colonialism. And maybe we can open up the conversation a little bit about that. And then near the end, we can talk a little bit more about the struggle against this and how we need to situate ourselves in beginning to heal and undo the damage. So I want to share an example with you that came out of Canada. This past summer, record breaking heat waves hit BC, and I think in the Pacific Northwest it was probably quite similar. And in Canada, the epicenter was this small town in British Columbia called Lytton. It hit 50 degrees, which was an all time record in Canada, and then the whole town burnt down within a few hours. So the province of BC warned the residents of Lytton and they helped evacuate and whatnot. What they didn't do was warn or work with any of the nearby Indigenous communities. So I want to share a quote from Chief Matt Pasco, who chairs, the Nlaka'pamux National Tribal Council, and this is his quote, The root of the problem is not simply a failure to communicate but what he alleged is a lack of respect for Indigenous governments and leaders. Does this example that I'm sharing, does that fit your description of eco-colonialism and the facets of eco-colonialism? 

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  20:33  
Thank you for sharing that example. And you know, it was a — it's kind of like a tragic right to hear about those examples. And, you know, unfortunately, they continue to happen. And yes, I will say that that is an example of eco-colonialism. And I know that, you know, one of the beauties of terminology is that we can define it in different ways. And the way that I view eco-colonialism is the reality that non-Indigenous peoples are the ones making the policies or making the decisions that govern our natural resources, that govern resource allocation, right. In this sense, it was the allocation of the resources to evacuate, to kind of persist or to make those decisions, right in terms of like, what how to come in realization with ,you know, the extreme heat wave, and I think that the fact that they forgot, or, you know, oftentimes didn't even think about, including Indigenous peoples, or to inform them of some of the solutions that they could help with, kind of shows that eco-colonialism that continues to happen even today. And do you know how the tribe was impacted by the heat waves, since they didn't evacuate?

Daniel Tarade  21:35  
They managed their own evacuation in the end, but they didn't have the assistance, so the impact was disproportionate then to to the settler communities.

Emily Steers  21:43  
And we've seen that British Columbia or so-called British Columbia, lots and lots of different Indigenous nations live out there, has had a really, really terrible year in terms of climate devastation, as I'm sure you are aware. You're not you're not far away from there in Seattle. Just the way that resources have been allocated has been very transparently in favor. And also with the flooding that happened last year, we also saw the example of like the RCMP, the national police force, being deployed against Indigenous land defenders in Wet'suwet'en territory while communities were completely flooded out and had no road access, and no resources, and were running out of food. So it's like very clear where these colonial governments were putting their priorities, which is very transparent eco-colonialism. Our last podcast guest, we were very, very privileged to talk to Teresa Tait-Day, who's a matriarch from Wet'suwet'en. And she was telling us about some groups like the First Nations Major Projects Coalition, which is a group dedicated to engaging dialogue and asserting self-determination regarding extractivist projects and infrastructure development. And they're heading up all kinds of really, really cool work. What do you think Indigenous-led resource development would look like?

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  23:08  
Yeah, one of the examples that I can think of that kind of relates to this question of what Indigenous land resource development looks like, is just that when we plant something, right, and then we harvest it, we only take what we need. And oftentimes that kind of comes in tension with capitalism, right? Because with capitalism, we try to commodify to the best that we can to create a higher profit. And I think of like, the ways that we practice our agriculture, back in, in my communities, through the milpas. And the milpas are these holistic agricultural systems that have been passed down to us from our ancestors, where we don't necessarily need to do a lot of action to have them be sustainable because they sustain themselves. Like, the only thing that we probably sometimes do is, you know, remove someone like the dead leaves or remove some of like, you know, sometimes small weeds that we use for our teas, but not to that extent, where we have to do a lot of caretaking of it. And when we harvest a milpas, it's a community joint event. Instead of equally sharing everything, we share it in a way that if you have four people in your family, you get four corn, if you have six people in your family, you get six corn. And I think that, you know, that comes in tension with capitalism because oftentimes, you know, we have been taught that communism, right, which, you know, I think that in this case is that relationship that we have with just taking what we need, you know, it's gonna be described as communism. It's kind of stopped, right. And I think that, you know, Indigenous-led resource allocation or development will look like something like that. But obviously, you know, I don't know if these settler governments will ever accept that just because, you know, they're going to see it as communism and they're going to use that to kind of, you know, allow people to go against it right. As you know, Canada and the United States are global leaders in terms of like stopping the spread of communism, right, which I think tying it back to Fresh Banana Leaves, that was one of the reasons why my father and a lot of Indigenous people had to fight in that Central American Civil War. It was because, you know, they coined that as communism, even though you know, it already was a movement led by Indigenous peoples against the oppressive systems that they wanted to go against.

Daniel Tarade  25:16  
It's something that we often refer to when we talk about the untenability —  just the fact, any support for capitalism means supporting the subjugation of a certain group of people. Because if you're not going to equally develop resources and share resources, you want to make profit, well, someone has to lose out in that equation. One thing that we do talk about, and this kind of gets to some earlier questions about the roots of, of socialist ideas coming mostly from Europe and Asia, but we use this term scientific socialism or dialectical materialism, looking at two different ways of thinking and trying to find the best way forward. And one idea that I draw on in my own writing is this idea of metabolic rift, where this is something that Marx talked about a long time ago. And I think it's also a bit embarrassing then for Western science that I took up until the 1800s, for them to realize that nutrients that are taken from soil has to be returned to the same soil, otherwise, it gets depleted. It was seen as like a huge academic achievement. So do you see any intersection then between the concept of scientific socialism and the ideas that emerge from the practice of Indigenous science? Or do you see them maybe as distinct ideas that are coded in entirely different language?

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  26:25  
Yeah, I see a lot of parallels and like, thank you for sharing that example. Because, you know, we have been taught throughout the generations that when you pick up a plant, you kind of have to gift it with something. And usually it's like native plants to that area, right. And it's interesting because going to the environmental sciences, when we read those articles that kind of share the same knowledge, obviously, they don't give credit to Indigenous knowledge systems, they don't give credit to Indigenous communities that have been practicing that since time immemorial. And I think that, you know, it kind of is interesting, because, you know, there's a lot of parallels between, you know, what you mentioned and also the way that Indigenous communities live and continue to thrive even to this day. So thank you for sharing that example. That's like, great.

Emily Steers  27:07  
I've been really heartened. We've been talking a lot about things like important documents in the history of socialist thinking, like the Transitional Program, and the legacies of the Bolsheviks and all that kind of thing. One of the really radical things that people really often overlook was one of the first things that was done in a lot of these revolutionary contexts was, first and foremost, return of control of the land. Like land was returned to the control of Indigenous people or oppressed people, people who lived on that land, even if they weren't necessarily supporters of the revolution, and then, you know, maybe fought against the revolution. That was still a really important thing. And I think that's an important thing for any left-leaning organization, is like self determination of oppressed peoples supersedes everything else, even when that comes into conflict with things in our own political ideology.

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  28:02  
Yeah, thank you for sharing that. Because I think a parallels from the Central American Civil War, right, because it was a resistance to kind of regain the stewardship of the land, that this land that was sold to large international agricultural corporations that introduced plantations, you know, from bananas, to pineapples, to avocados, and through those land grabs, right, they started using Indigenous peoples as low wage, right, where, you know, your pay, like two pennies to do really hard labour because they needed somebody to harvest these monoculture agricultural systems. And I think that, you know, it parallels very similar to that, right, because their whole mission was to kind of regain that land and also give it away to each family. It wasn't to, you know, to have a dictator. It wasn't to have, you know, one person own the entire land. It was to give it back to the people who were stewarding those lands. And I think that this whole concept of ownership, right, it also kind of goes against, you know, a lot of socialism because, you know, socialism is like all we all own the land or we all steward it, right? But then in capitalism, it's like one person or one government owns the land, there's this ownership of the land. And, and, you know, it's interesting to see that parallel as well.

Emily Steers  29:13  
Talking about the political context, and you talk about this a lot in your book, especially what your father went through in El Salvador and then coming to Mexico, given that capitalism is this driving force of violence and displacement and general awfulness in Latin America and Central America, what political alternatives are being advocated for by marginalized communities and what alternatives are being pushed for or have been pushed for in the past?

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  29:41  
Yeah, if we were to coin it with a western term, it'd probably be socialism, right, where the community has been trying to take back their land through the land back movement, right, that transcends across the Americas and sometimes transcends globally. And I think through that sometimes because, you know, like we were mentioning before, you know, it can be coined as something as communism, right, all these countries go against it, and they provide the army or the government with support to, you know, kind of stop the rebels, right, that are trying to spread communism. And oftentimes it might not be communism, it might just be the fact that you know, people want to break systems of oppression that continue to marginalize them, as you were mentioning, and I think that oftentimes because of that, sometimes we have to work within those systems. We're seeing in Latin America, how there has been, you know, more Indigenous representation in the presidential campaigns. And I think that sometimes it's hard, right, to try to go against a government system that it's globally, right. It's a global dominant, especially in terms of capitalism, democracy, because you know, the world leaders, right, when we talk about Europe, and the United States, Canada, they follow these ideologies. So sometimes for Indigenous peoples, the best way to do that is to work through the system, but you know, in the in the most positive way, you know, we will have back our land. We will be living in relationship with the land. Not in the way that we owned it, not in a way that we're trying to make the most profit out of it, but in a way that we're healing, especially since some of the impacts of climate change cannot be reversed, right, we kind of have to adapt to those impacts, because, you know, our governments haven't taken actions for generations.

Emily Steers  31:17  
And especially with the incredible violence that activists face. Like there is a certain amount of — you need to protect yourself, protect your families, while still fighting for the cause. So of course, that definitely shapes things a little bit differently than it does here where we don't face, as activists in Canada, we don't face the same kinds of oppression and violence that activists and Indigenous peoples in Central America do.

Daniel Tarade  31:44  
I wanted to follow up on this to hone in on a specific example you share in Fresh Banana Leaves — the Zapatista movement. What lessons ought we draw from this? And even if you want to give a bit of a background for the people listening to this, who who don't know of this struggle, what was it? Who was leading it? What do we learn from it? What should we learn from it?

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  32:05  
Yeah, and thank you for bringing that up. Because I think that also answers the question Emily asked. The Zapatista movement was actually a movement led by Indigenous women. And then it goes back to the patriarchy, right? When we look at the Zapatistas, it was Comandante Marcos, who's a cisgender man, who was kind of became the face of that movement, but the Zapatista movement was just an act of resistance, where indigenous peoples were tired, you know, waiting for the government to take action to protect them, waiting for the government to provide them with resources whenever they needed them. So what they did is that they took over a city in Chiapas, and as a result, they reclaimed their lands. They had weapons, there wasn't that much violence because you know, of the numbers and the numbers of supports that they were able to gain, you know, the Mexican government kind of backed out, they didn't actually meet them with violence. And as a result of that being Chiapas, the Zapatista community, which is made up of several Indigenous Maya pueblos of you know, that area, they're the ones leaving their government structures, they're the ones who have people determining what kind of steps or solutions their communities or nations because you know, they're made up of different tribes, are going to take and I think that with the Zapatista movement, it also shows and highlights how it's a lot of women and Indigenous woman who have the solutions to oppressive government systems. But as a result of that, we're seeing either their erasure, right, or silencing of their voices. Because when we look at the Zapatistas, I think it wasn't until 2012, when a book came out that actually highlighted the Indigenous women in this movement. You know, they're not highlighted, right, they tend to focus on the men or, you know, that's why they continue to face extreme violence, right. Like, we have many Indigenous environmental leaders who are murdered in Latin America, you know, disappear or go missing, because the government knows that if Indigenous women are leading something, they can lead to solutions, like the Zapatistas actually took to reclaim their lands and to govern their environments, their educational system, like their children are being taught their native languages. Because you know, we also see that language loss in our communities. And I think that's a beautiful movement. And it has inspired many Indigenous communities across the globe to kind of do that. But when it comes to, you know, what kind of Indigenous Environmental movements we know, the Zapatistas are kind of missing from the discourse, even though they're one of the first successful Indigenous nations that kind of took that self-sovereignty, that Indigenous determination to reclaim their lands and govern themselves in their proper cultural protocol.

Emily Steers  34:35  
Amazing. And it's interesting, I haven't done a lot of extensive research into the Zapatistas. It's been kind of something I've been chipping away at. But as you say, in everything I've seen about the Zapatistas and videos about them and articles I've read, it really does not talk very much about the leadership role that women took and really kind of minimizing the critical role that they played in the leadership and the conception of the movement as a whole.

Daniel Tarade  35:01  
So I want to ask a follow up question and I'm gonna read a brief passage from your book. And maybe we can talk about it a little bit more. "For me personally, in order to defeat the ecowars as Indigenous people, we must become a solidified nation, which means that intertribal and pueblo relationships must be fortified. However, we must understand that we are going against a giant system, settler colonialism. And we need folks who will be willing to give up the power and privilege they are granted within the system, based solely on their race or socioeconomic status, in order for us to truly reach environmental justice and end the ecowars." So you highlighted this necessity for Indigenous peoples and settlers to present what we would call in socialist language a united front in the struggle for self determination for all peoples, particularly oppressed peoples, and for justice. I want you to maybe to expand on this. And also, do you see the seeds for this anywhere today in the Americas? Do you see the first steps being taken towards such solidarity? Or is that work that still needs to be done?

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  36:05  
Yeah, thank you for reading the passage. I think that the reason why it's important, and I think it starts with intertribal relationships, right, because oftentimes, even within tribes and pueblos, we have conflicts. And I think that one of the conflicts that oftentimes I forget to mention is that during the Central American Civil War, or during this migration movement, where a lot of Central Americans are being displaced, there is a lot of xenophobia among Indigenous communities, where not every Indigenous Pueblo or Nation actually gives them refuge. And I think that oftentimes, I forget that it was a privilege for my father to have received refuge and asylum from my maternal mom's Pueblo, because you know, that's not the case. And as a result of that, because the Zapotec Nations were made up of different pueblos as well, there's a lot of pueblos that don't necessarily come in relation with my Pueblo because, you know, they go against this notion of like, oh, you're letting immigrants come in. And it's kind of that domino effect, right, that we see throughout the Americas where even in Central America, right, there's xenophobia against people from South America. And I think that, you know, that's the first step. And I think that before we start doing that work, right, we shouldn't call on allies sometimes, because, you know, we haven't solidified ours for ourselves. Even across settler borders, sometimes there's not that intertribal relationship that should be happening between First Nations in Canada, Native Americans in the United States, and Indigenous peoples in, you know, Mexico and Latin America. But I think that, you know, it's important that we do have allies who are willing to give up their power, especially the power that's granted through several privileges. And obviously, that's through the systems are in place. And, you know, hopefully, we do start seeing that. I mean, we have started seeing people been allies to Indigenous communities, but the numbers are so few that it hasn't really created this large ripple effect. I mean, obviously, it's planting seeds, but it hasn't become a ripple effect. And hopefully, you know, it's our generation and the future generations that we start seeing that more of that solidarity, because, you know, we're still being governed by politicians who still have conservative values that do not align or support Indigenous communities as a whole.

Emily Steers  38:11  
Kind of jumping off of that, because of the recent discoveries made at the residential schools in Canada, the discovery of the unmarked graves, has really catapulted Indigeneity and Indigenous issues into the spotlight of Canadian discourse. But that also laser focuses into the Canadian context. And a lot of the times we forget about the very different contexts elsewhere. I mean, I was really struck, like I didn't know until I read your book that there was no treaties governing Indigenous and settler relationships in Central and Latin America. And so like, the ways that the Indigenous struggles look very different and the struggle for self-determination has looked very different in those contexts. So we really arbitrarily limit our discussion of Indigenous struggles to Indigenous people in Canada and the United States, but what are some of the struggles in Central America that we ought to know about and support? You talked a lot about mutual aid, what mutual aid projects should we be engaging in?

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  39:14  
Yeah, thank you for your question. I think that that's a discourse that we come in tension sometimes, right? Because I think that even when we look at colonization, even the year 1492, Christopher Columbus didn't land in the United States or Canada first, he landed in the Caribbean. So as a result, we saw colonization kind of impact South America, Latin America first. And that's why, you know, oftentimes we didn't have treaties, right, because we had a different wave of colonization that is different, that looks different from the United States and Canada. And I think that as a result of that, right, that's the first way that we ignore Indigenous communities from Latin America by not acknowledging that colonization and that 1492 happened in the Caribbean, which is part of Latin America. You know, going back to the question Daniel had, we have to build those intertribal relationships where we're also uplifting other voices that Indigenous peoples, especially south of the border are also facing, and obviously in a respectful way, right, especially for those of us who are displaced, we have to do it in a respectful way. And I think some of the movements that even have happened today is in the Maya K'iche' community of Guatemala. And, you know, we were able to lead a mutual aid with that, alongside the International Maya League. They were fighting against a mining company that was poisoning their waters and soils. And, uh, you know, fortunately for us, because there was that, you know, solidarity across settler borders, they received media attention to the point that you saw that it was our Indigenous women elders or matriarchs, who were in the frontlines being thrown tear gas, right, or being thrown those bombs of tear gas. And I think that it was the way that the media was able to portray it, it erased that Indigenous women were the ones leading that movement, it was Indigenous women who were tired of their waters being poisoned, and the government, you know, ignoring them, because obviously, they're gonna prioritize the mining company, right, which I think has some ties to Canada. I don't really understand fully the connections, but it has ties to Canada as well. 

Daniel Tarade  41:08  
We wouldn't be surprised.

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  41:09  
Yeah, most of the mining comes from Canada.

Emily Steers  41:12  
So much. 

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  41:13  
That's an example right of like, some of the ways that we can support one another is to uplift those movements that don't necessarily get media attention and to uplift them in a way that they're told by the Indigenous peoples. And I think an example that ties back to immigration or displacement is because of that poisoning of the water, the ongoing climate change impacts, ongoing violence Indigenous peoples face, that we're seeing those caravans of Central Americans, mostly Indigenous peoples, being forced to flee their countries. And then what the United States does is that it criminalizes immigration, it has put our children in cages, and I sometimes kind of make the similarities of, you know, boarding schools right, because it's our children are being separated from their parents and put in cages where we are having children pass holidays, be alone, feel like they have been abandoned by their parents because they were taken away from their parents arms. And unfortunately because of that language disparity, right, because not every Indigenous person from Latin America speaks Spanish, we are losing a lot of our Indigenous children to preventable deaths. I think that you know, we had the third year death anniversary of Jackeline Caal, a seven year old Maya K'iche' girl who died under US custody because her father was forced to sign a paper in Spanish. And obviously, he didn't know how to read Spanish or English, and he wasn't provided the translation services to advocate for his daughter's health. And I think that, you know, it ties back to her Maya K'iche' community continuing to fight. But sometimes that fight, because we don't have the resources to lead that fight to the way that we can be successful, is forcing our people to be displaced. But Canada and the United States, again, criminalizes immigration, especially in immigration that comes from south of the border.

Daniel Tarade  42:55  
Yeah, it's something that we try our best to highlight here. One, on the Canadian mining companies, it's a stat that we like to highlight, but 75% of the world's mining companies are headquartered in Canada, because the regulations here are the most lax. You're allowed to trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange with fewer protections in place and regulations in place than in other countries. We've had previous episodes talking about Canadian mining companies taking advantage of genocide in Ethiopia. And we've highlighted it within Canada. And it's it's everywhere. And we need to highlight that because it chips away at that idea of Canadian superiority and nationalism. I think if that story was very widespread, how would you be proud to be Canadian if you knew that that was ongoing, and it's being done in your name? We will do a quick shout out then, there's a website Canadian Mining Watch, and they publish articles and exposes on the atrocities committed by Canadian mining companies abroad. And most of the time, it's either Africa, South America, or Central America. I just want to ask then more directly to the question of mutual aid, we try to the best of our ability with this podcast to share the links to different mutual aid projects that people can directly support. If someone's listening to this, and they're wondering, Where can I help in a financial way. So if you know of any mutual aid projects that you endorse, that you think are important, you can share with them now, or even if you remember them later, send us an email, we'll make sure that's included in the text of the podcast. But for example, I did see one on Twitter, people are raising money collectively to be able to purchase copies of your book so that younger Indigenous people can actually read your story that centers the Indigenous experience in science.

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  44:32  
Thank you for highlighting that one. And I think that, you know, oftentimes our Black and Indigenous youth don't have the resources, right, to purchase a book and I want to make it accessible. But you know, I also have limitations. But I think the ones that I do want to highlight is the International Maya League. There an Indigenous solidarity fund and with that Indigenous solidarity fund, what we do, because I'm also a part of the volunteer organization, you know, the volunteer aspect of organizations, is that we try to address immigration more holistically where we're trying to to uplift Indigenous voices within the immigration discourse, where we're trying to bring justice to the Indigenous children's death that we have experienced, like, you know, Jackeline Caal who was the young girl whose name I mentioned. And I think through that we also tried to highlight the climate injustices and how immigration, especially the forced displacement of Indigenous peoples from Latin America, is a climate justice issue. And I think that you know, oftentimes, and thank you for bringing up mutual aids, when we talk about organizations that are Indigenous-led, it goes back to that resource allocation, right, where we don't receive the funds, we don't receive the resources to do the work that we have to do for our communities. So that's an organization that was also featured in the book, especially Juanita Cabrera, the Executive Director, whose relatives kind of founded this organization that helps both displaced Indigenous Maya people and Indigenous Maya people back in our homelands. And I think that one of the mutual aids that we led was to support the Maya K'iche' community, especially as we were trying to uplift their stories, to support the Prensa Comunitaria, which is an Indigenous Maya K'iche'-led journalism, is, you know, small organization to uplift those stories. And, you know, thanks to being able to support that, you know, they were able to uplift their stories. And hopefully, Canada also received the news of like, what was happening in Maya K'iche' community in Guatemala.

Emily Steers  46:13  
One of the things that you really highlight is how critically important it is to understand land and have relationships with the land and kind of centering that in your activism and research and just day-to-day life. And emphasizing like how capitalism has really broken our relationships to land and how difficult it is to maintain a relationship to land, especially in urban spaces. And so how can we, especially those of us who are primarily based in urban centers, develop more tangible connections to land and place? And then how do we use that to inform our work and inform our advocacy?

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  46:52  
Yeah, thank you for your question. I think one of the first steps is to acknowledge that even cities are Indigenous lands, because oftentimes, even in Seattle, we tend to erase that these are Duwamish lands, right. And the Duwamish tribe is still trying to seek federal recognition. And I think they, you know, that's been stopped because their lands are Seattle. So you know, obviously, the government doesn't want to give up Seattle or any lands here. And I think that the second step is just to, you know, find urban parks, also find Indigenous communities, urban Indigenous communities, assist them in their efforts because they're always trying to, you know, they probably have a lot of efforts that they're leading on the ground that are relayed back to our environments, or relate back to our lands. And I think, you know, it's just like you were mentioning, Emily, like the teaching that that elder kind of shared with you, its kind of reclaiming those, those roots, those ancestral roots that many people have lost, so that we can better understand Indigenous communities of the lands we're currently occupying or settled in. And I think that, you know, that's the first way to do that. And sometimes access to even green spaces is not, you know, accessible to everyone, especially in cities. You have to drive a long way to, you know, be in a national park. But also, you know, understanding the history of the places where we currently live in and seeing how we can better build relationships and kinships with the Indigenous peoples and the land because I think that's what we were discussing, we tend to erase the connection between people and the lands. And I think that, you know, building the relationship with Indigenous peoples whose lands we're occupying kind of, you know, parallels our relationship that we're building with the lands that we're currently occupying or the environment.

Daniel Tarade  48:23  
If there's anything that we didn't ask you about, that you feel you really would like to share, you can take as much time as you want to highlight, say, repeat anything you want.

Dr. Jessica Hernandez  48:33  
No, just thank you for having me. And I think you know, these were all insightful questions, and I really enjoyed the conversation we just had. So thank you again for hosting me.

Daniel Tarade  48:45  
Thank you once again for tuning in to The Red Review, brought to you by Socialist Action. Thank you to Jessica for coming onto the show and sharing your knowledge with us. And thank you the listener for your support throughout our first year in the biz, so to speak. In the meantime, stay safe, stay active, and we'll see you first week of March, when we release what are going to now be seasonal reviews. We will be providing our take on December, January, and February, assuming we make it that far.