Working Towards Indigenous Liberation From Turtle Island to Palestine. A Conversation Between Nick Estes and Maath Musleh


In this series of letters, regular contributor and Lakota historian Nick Estes exchanges with PalFest co-organizer Maath Musleh about Indigenous struggles and solidarities between Palestine and Turtle Island, but also with Indigenous nations in Bolivia, Venezuela, and Aotearoa.

Article published in The Funambulist 27 (January-February 2020) Learning with Palestine. Click here to access the rest of the issue.

Estes & Musleh Funambulist (1)
Palestinian flag in the Standing Rock water protector encampment. / Photo by Nadya Raja Tannous (Palestine Youth Movement, 2016).

September 27, 2019

Dear Maath,

I began this letter in Mni Luzahan (Rapid City), a white-dominated settlement sitting at the base of He Sapa, the Black Hills, our sacred mountains. More than 50 Indigenous nations maintain historical ties to this place, a land stolen from us to mine gold, a metal to us that had no intrinsic value.

This is our al-Quds.

For Lakotas, we call it “the heart of everything that is.” From space, the outline of the mountains looks like a human heart. The stories tell us humanity began here, shaped from the dirt — which is red like our blood.

N. Scott Momaday, a Kiowa author, once wrote that his grandmother’s stories of this landscape “lay like memory in her blood.” Confined to the reservation most of her life, she had never visited He Sapa but recounted her people’s history of this place.

Yesterday, I read an article about the migratory birds that fly into Gaza. The quails enter and leave, if not captured by the hungry, doing what many Gazans can’t: they enter and leave the world’s largest open air prison camp.

The U.N. predicts Gaza will be uninhabitable by next year — 2020. (Was it habitable this year? Last?)

Last week, millions throughout the world went on strike against climate change — in fear of an uninhabitable world. A young, inspiring Norwegian girl is the poster child for the movement. I wonder: What if she were a Palestinian, Syrian, or Guatemalan child? Would there be the same kind of mass support? No one seems to care that a future has already been taken from these children. They make news only when they die: their bodies wash ashore; they die in a prison camp; or they are gunned by Israeli snipers.

A European child crosses an ocean by boat for a righteous cause, embraced by millions. A Syrian child dies making a perilous journey seeking refuge in the very nations that have destroyed hers — and only harsher immigration laws are passed.