Indigenous Women’s delegation to Zapatista’s First International Gathering for Women in Struggle, in Chiapas
by Corine Fairbanks, Oglala Lakota, American Indian Movement Southeastern Ohio
“Revolutionary struggles cannot achieve collective liberation for all people without addressing patriarchy, nor can women’s freedom be disentangled from racial, economic, & social justice.” -Victoria Law
The Zapatista women will host the First International Gathering of Politics, Art, Sport, and Culture for Women in Struggle in Chiapas, Mexico from March 7-11, 2018. A delegation of women from all walks of life, racial, social-economic, and cultural backgrounds strongly feel that we could learn much from our Zapatista sisters. Their indigenous perspectives and willingness to decolonize and reshape the political landscape into something that works for all people speaks to us as we look at the challenges we face in the US and Canada.
Here is the original notice that the women of the Zapatista Movement put out:
The desire to go to this gathering and to form this delegation came after much discussion regarding women’s liberation and women voices after the January 20th, 2018 Cincinnati Women’s March. The national theme and platform for Women’s Marches across the United States was “Hear Our Vote”. Many of us were disappointed with this because we felt that it marginalized women that could not vote, or chose not to participate in voting. In response, Black Lives Matter Cincinnati (not affiliated with National BLM) organized an open forum discussion about how to effectively fight for women’s liberation. The dialogue about women’s liberation, was to be approached from several different angles, ideas, and points of view, and addressing the problems of believing that voting is the greatest and most important power as oppressed and exploited people.
There were many subjects touched on, and not everyone in the audience was comfortable with it, yet the forum was a huge success with almost 300 people in attendance, many of whom were standing. Featured panelists included were from Black Lives Matter Cincinnati, American Indian Movement of Southeastern Ohio, Concerned Citizens for Justice, Cincinnati Revolutionary Students, and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) Metro Cincinnati. Video footage of this panel can be found at Black Lives Matter Cincinnati Facebook group page; https://www.facebook.com/BlackLivesMatterCincinnati/ The final thoughts concluded that there needs to be more discussion on Women’s liberation, community empowerment, and teaching our young and old people to learn how to organize around these issues.
Then in the first part of January, a few of us within the radical justice community in Cincinnati, saw a call out for the Women’s gathering by the Zapatista Women. Knowing what we know about the Zapatista Army, women play an equal role in leading armed resistance and use the “Revolutionary Law of Women”. This document gives an overview of the combination of social and political struggles that the Zapatista women identified as needing to change. Some of these factors included; Poverty, Rape, Domestic Violence, Access to Health care, Medicine and Treatment, Alcoholism, issues of sovereignty over bodies and land, and to be treated fairly and with equal political voice at home, in the community, and in the Zapatista Army.
The women I spoke with about going to this gathering in Chiapas, agreed that our work in our own communities largely encompasses the same issues with that of the Zapatista women. An Anishinaabe Elder that lives in a rural area of Canada commented that these are the same issues she deals with in working with Residential Boarding School survivors. A Dineh young woman living in Los Angeles, working as a Social Worker for Los Angeles County, said the same thing. As the delegation started quickly forming, it became obvious that in order to continue discussion on women’s liberation, we had to also go to this gathering to get some more “tools” and bring them back to share with our communities to analyze and have critical discussion.
This delegation is led by Native women. We are fundraising for 12 women to attend this gathering in March, Some Native, some not. Some of the Elders and Native women identify with “Indigenous feminism”, some do not. Some of the non-Native women identify as feminists. Yet all of us are working in our communities to better it; to keep our air clean, our waters protected, our lands from being raped by fuel extractions, and collaborating with various grassroots radical and revolutionary organizations on rural and urban landscapes with all of this and with social justice issues too. As activists and organizers, we are women, and we too are fighting to destroy patriarchal systems and structures- even within our own movements and within our Nations/Tribal structures. We believe that what we can learn from the experiences of the Zapatista women can be applied to our everyday struggles and within the current movements in our communities. In addition, we will be having fundraisers with a table set up to encourage attendees to write messages that they want us to take and share with the Zapatista people. We are not just limiting it to fundraising events to gather these messages, but also, we have made this request and offer on social media.
“We women attending the gathering would like to bring our Zapatista Relatives offerings from our homes. If you have any words of solidarity you would like us to share with our Zapatista sisters, please let us know. Upon our return, we hope to have community meetings and discussions to share what we have learned & our Zapatista Relatives responses to your messages as a way to provide a connection to them through us. ”
If you are reading this before March 7th, and would like us to include your message, please send me an email at email@example.com to be included in our presentation in Chiapas.
This conference is fast approaching and we are making a call out for help. We have fundraisers planned throughout the month of February to meet our goal of $8,000 for travel expenses. Please invest in our communities. Invest in us. Our Delegation is small but our women are from various areas of the US and Canada represented:
American Indian Movement
Big Mountain Dineh Nation
Black Lives Matter Cincinnati
Biindigen Healing & Arts
Idle No More Canada
Idle No More Detroit
Women of All Red Nations (WARN)
Water Protectors North/South Dakota
Any dollar amount that you can spare to help us reach this goal would be appreciated. Any effort to spread this message far and wide is greatly appreciated. Below is a link to our go fund me request:
Perhaps this endeavor of getting 12 women to Chiapas for this gathering is a bit ambitious. Perhaps the main purpose is to also role model to other communities that it takes a spark from an idea, and collectively working together, we can make it happen. Either way, we were not going to be intimidated by costs or pessimism to achieve this goal. Our Native Elders have taken this to ceremony and prayer and we feel that the women that are meant to go on this trip, will go. We believe that the 2 most important components to this mission is to first show solidarity because our Struggles are similar. Secondly, to bring back what we learn from our Zapatista Sisters, and share with our families and communities.
As diverse as this delegation is, we all agree that when women are free, communities are empowered, and everyone is free.
WOPILA TANKA /MIIGWECH/ AHEHEE’ / ANUSHIIK / GRACIAS/ THANK YOU