The Defiant Sprit of the Lakota Nation

Geoffrey Cobb

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

If people know anything about the Lakota nation, known to Americans as the Sioux, then it is the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn, in which the Lakota dealt the United States Army a humiliating defeat, completely destroying the Seventh Cavalry of General George Custer. This battle, however, was merely one chapter in the continuing struggle of the Lakota people against the ongoing colonialism practiced by the United States government.

Lakota houses on reservation land. (Photo: Larry Towell/ Magnum Photos New York Times)

The Lakota, a semi-autonomous people whose reservations occupy huge Areas of North and South Dakota have defined themselves over generations by stubbornly clinging to their culture, language and values against the forces of cultural assimilation wielded against them by the United States government.

In the 1860s, conflict arose as settlers entered the Lakota homeland, which covered a huge swath of the American Great Plains. A nomadic people, the Lakota lifestyle centered around hunting the massive herds of bison. The Lakota signed treaties protecting their homeland in 1851 and 1868, but the United States government broke them before the ink was even dry. After the disaster at Little Big Horn, the American army hungered for revenge and it responded with a campaign of terror, beginning with the Wounded Knee massacre, in which soldiers slaughtered hundreds of Native people, including women and children.

American bison — main resource of the nomadic plains tribes for food, clothing, tools and weapons (Photo source: Wikipedia)

The sovereignty of the Lakotas depended on bison, and the American government embarked on a program of systematic extermination of these herds, In a three-year period, hunters butchered more than three million bison, close to 3,000 animals a day. Their food source gone, the Lakota were forced to end their armed struggle and live on reservations, which was often the poorest and most desiccated land.

The genocide of the Lakota through the extermination of the American Bison — a mountain of bison skulls. (Photo source: Wikipedia)

The Lakota were to experience even worse horrors than the destruction of their traditional way of life. Their very culture was targeted for extermination. The American government mounted a nearly 100 year-long calculated assault on the Lakota as the state tried to force them to assimilate. The government banned the Sundance, the Lakota’s most sacred ceremony, with its days of fasting and ritual bloodletting and they were forbidden to openly practice their religion. However, perhaps most devastating to the Lakota psyche were the boarding schools, in which generations of Indians were forced to assimilate into white culture. Lakota children were severely beaten for even speaking their native tongue. As a result, many Lakota began to doubt the worth of their indigenous culture and lack of cultural pride still is an issue haunting many Lakota today.

The Lakota still struggle to cope with the attempts to destroy their culture. Their reservations are the scenes of grinding poverty. The Lakota have tragically high rates of unemployment, alcoholism, drug addiction, family abuse and suicide. There is a severe housing shortage on the reservations, which has magnified the effects of the covid pandemic on the Lakota.

Lakota culture, though, proved difficult to exterminate and their faith survived. Central to that faith is the belief that nature is our mother and that humans should live in harmony with nature. This belief manifested itself in 2014 when the Dakota access pipeline was announced. The 3.78 billion dollar underground oil pipeline was intended to run for 1,172-mile-long (1,886 km) across Lakota lands. The Lakota immediately objected to the project because it not only threatened the Missouri River, their water supply, but also would destroy sites of cultural, historic and religious significance to the Lakota.

A dead car carries a live message on Lakota land. (Photo: Larry Towell/ Magnum Photos New York Times)

In the Spring of 2016, The Lakota mobilized to protest the pipeline, but it seemed like David fighting Goliath. The protests, which lasted months through sub-zero winter temperatures, were organized by Lakota teenagers on the Standing Rock Reservation. In the vanguard of the protesters were women who defied mace attacks, arrests and strip searches. The police used teargas, bulldozers and “military-style counterterrorism measures” to suppress the protesters, but the Standing Rock protests attracted tens of thousands of Native Americans from across the continent, becoming the largest Native American demonstration against the government in over a century. The rallying cry of the protestors in Lakota was “Mni wichoni! Water is life!” The protests became a cause célèbre, drawing media attention from around the world, as international environmentalists supported the Lakota defiance.

President Donald Trump supported construction of the pipeline and spoke out in favor of crushing the Native American protestors, but in a shocking decision on August 5, 2020, a district court ruled in favor of the Lakota. ” Mike Faith, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, expressed delight at the verdict, “Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline.”

Trump, though, was not finished in his battle with the Lakota and would continue disrespecting them. Trump deliberately chose to target the Lakota by celebrating the July 4th holiday of American Independence at an inflammatory site: Mt. Rushmore, where massive heads of American presidents were carved into mountains the Lakota hold sacred. “Wherever you go to connect to God, that’s what the Black Hills are to the Lakota,” said Nick Tilsen, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and the president of NDN Collective, an Indigenous activist group. Prospectors seized the land during a gold rush in the 1870s, violating the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which recognized the Black Hills as Lakota property. In 1980, A Federal Judge sided with the Native Americans in a suit to reclaim the Black Hills but awarded them a monetary settlement in lieu of the land. The Lakota, offended by the decision, have never touched the money.

(Photo: Larry Towell/ Magnum Photos New York Times)

The statues were carved by a white supremacist with strong ties to the Ku Klux Klan. Harold Frazier, the chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, called the monument a “brand on our flesh” that needed to be removed. He said,” Visitors look upon the faces of those presidents and extol the virtues that they believe make America the country it is today. Lakota see the faces of the men who lied, cheated and murdered innocent people whose only crime was living on the land they wanted to steal.” Washington and Jefferson were both slave owners, and Lincoln ordered the hanging of 38 Lakota men in Minnesota after an uprising of 1862. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every ten are.”

Trump’s arrival again spurred Lakota protests and at least fifteen activists were arrested for blocking the highway leading to Mount Rushmore. One of the activists, Michael Patrick O’Connor, said he came because he wanted to express his outrage at the desecration of his people’s sacred lands and his frustration at a president who has failed the people of America. “I couldn’t find any reason not to be up here,” he said. “I felt like I owed it to the grandmas and grandpas, owed it to the people who suffered before us to do something and to come here because our people were gathering.”

Campaign banner during the struggle (Photo sourced: Wikipedia)

Good Voice Elk, a spiritual advisor for the Lakota, was among the older protestors. He said this was by no means his first protest. “I grew up in protests,” he said. “The seventies were really bad, and those kids, now they are the leaders.” Protesters ranged in age from senior citizens to children as young as 10. One girl was brought by her father from the Ute Mountain tribe in Colorado so she could experience Indigenous communities coming together.

Nick, Tilsen, the leader of the non-violent protest, has been singled out for retribution by local officials. He is facing felony charges that bring his potential prison sentence to 17 years. Tilsen is just the latest victim in the American government’s attempt to crush Lakota resistance. Despite the heavy-handed response to the protests, it’s hard to imagine the tenacious Lakota giving up anytime soon.

End.

USEFUL LINKS

Defend, Develop, Decolonise collective: https://ndncollective.org/

CIMARRON: GOING FERAL AND ETHNIC PREJUDICE

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 15 minutes)

LANGUAGE IS A TREASURE CHEST – 2

I observed in Language Is a Treasure Chest 1 that it is full of wonders but that it has some horrors in it too. And I found it to be so again.

I was reading a novel in which the word “Cimarron” appeared and, doing some quick research on the word, I came across a 2004 query in an email website or page called Word Wizard:

What is the etymology of the word cimarron? I’ve always been told that it means “runaway slave” in Mexican Spanish. Can anyone verify this?

The reply is dated the same day:

From Greek. It refers to people who live in perpetual
mist and darkness, akin to the ‘land of the dead’.
Latin ‘Cimmerius’, Greek ‘Kimmerios’, Assyrian
‘Gimirri’ even the bible ‘Gomer’ Gen.10:2 and
Esk. 38:6.
In Western United States it refers to a stretch of 
land that gets rainfall when other near by areas are 
desert year round.

Apart from the topographical reference, I thought the expert’s explanation highly dubious. And in fact I happen to know something about the Spanish-language origins of the word.

The searcher replied:

Thanks, Jim. I just wonder what connection this word has to Hispanics of Mexican origin because it shows up in their surnames (although not as common as Lopez or Vargas or Garcia). Is it just Mexican in origin or did that also come from Spain? So the “runaway slave” theory has no foundation then?

The expert’s reply did come back with a Spanish-language connection and he may be on to something with the topography, though I think he has it the wrong way around (as we shall see).

The “runaway slave” theory is not so obsolete.
Mexico did not have slaves (Outlawed in 1810)but
American slaves who fled to Mexico had to pass
through lands with water, or else parish
(sic).
When relating their tales of woe to the locals
the word ‘cimmaron’ arose to describe their flight
through the South West desert.

Very curiously, there was no further contribution to the discussion. I tried to leave my own but had to register, which I have done (though wondering if worth the trouble) and am now awaiting confirmation1.

A view of the Cimarron National Grassland, the largest piece of public land in Kansas, a 108,175-acre property in the southwestern part of the state. It was recovered from the Dustbowl ecological devastation by soil recovery and management practices. (Photo source: The Armchair Explorer – Kansas)

THE FOLK MEMORY WAS TRUE

          Continuing with a little light online research I find that the Castillian-language (Spanish) origin is the explanation most often given, with rarely a reference to Greek or other classical or archaic languages. For example, in yourdictionary.com:

American Spanish cimarrón, wild, unruly ( from Old Spanish cimarra, thicket): probably origin, originally referring to the wild sheep (bighorn) found along its banks

While in Wiktionary:

cimarrón (feminine singular cimarrona, masculine plural cimarrones, feminine plural cimarronas).

  1. (Latin America, of animals) feral (having returned to the wild)

  2. Synonyms: alzado, bagual, feral

  3. (Latin America, of people) rural; campestral

  4. (Latin America, of plants) of a wild cultivar.

But …. what about the “runaway slaves”? Under the title Cimarron People, Wikipedia has this to say: The Cimarrons in Panama were enslaved Africans who had escaped from their Spanish masters and lived together as outlaws. In the 1570s, they allied with Francis Drake of England to defeat the Spanish conquest. In Sir Francis Drake Revived (1572), Drake describes the Cimarrons as “a black people which about eighty years past fled from the Spaniards their masters, by reason of their cruelty, and are since grown to a nation, under two kings of their own. The one inhabiteth to the west, the other to the east of the way from Nombre de Dios”. (location in Panama — DB)

While we may indulge ourselves in a sardonic smile at commissioned pirate Francis Drake talking about the cruelty of others, or about slave-owning by a country other than England in 1570, we remember also that at the time Spain was the main competitor with England in the rush to plunder the Americas – and had got there well before them.2 Both colonial powers were already plundering Africa for raw materials and slaves.

The meanings of animals having gone “feral” or “returned to the wild” would easily have been applied by the society of the time to escaped African slaves, a society which, despite evidence to the contrary including agriculture in Africa, would have considered indigenous inhabitants of Africa as people living in the “wild”. Once escaped and no longer under European control, they would be seen as “returning to the wild”.

So what happened to the Cimarron People? Their settlements were subject to punitive raids by the Spanish, killing people and burning crops, so that in the end they came to a treaty with their old enemy. The Wikipedia entry says no more except that the “Cimarrons” and the English quarreled (not surprising, given that they were of no further use to the latter). I believe some of their settlements in Florida were raided and burned by US “pioneers” and soldiers and that the remainder became part of the Seminoles, a native American tribe that resisted the USA in the longest and most costly of the USA’s wars against the indigenous people, the Native (North) Americans. The Seminole had many tribe members of part-African origin in their midst.

And here – a surprise: The word “Seminole” is derived from the Muscogee word simanó-li, which may itself be derived from the Spanish word cimarrón, meaning “runaway” or “wild one”!

So, in line with what that on-line searcher back in 2004 had heard, no doubt a folk belief, the word cimarron is, in Mexico (and in the USA), of Castillian (Spanish) language origin and is connected to escaped slaves of African origin.

Some of the sources for “cimarron” also give us “marron” or “marrón” which is also related to escaped slaves and, in English, became “Maroons”. The Maroons, escaped slaves who inhabited mountainous regions of Jamaica and elsewhere became a great problem to the English settlers (after they took the island from the Spanish) which they failed totally to quell, the Maroons emerging victorious in many military engagements. In the Cockpits area of Jamaica, I have read, there is a place called Nanny Town, which is believed to be one of the settlements of the Maroons; their chief was said to be a woman called “Granny Nanny”3, whether because of her former slave occupation or for other reason4. In the end, like the Spanish with the Cimarron People, the English had to treat with them. Sadly the treaty required the Maroons to return newly-escaped slaves, which they did and for which they received payment.

Marroons in treaty with the British, shown here in a reversal of the actual power relations in the “Pacification with Maroons on the Island of Jamaica, by Agostino Runias (1728-96).
(Source image: Internet)

However if instead of being a voluntary escapee to go to a wild place you were forced by people or circumstance, well then, like Alexander Selkirk’s “Crusoe”, you’d be “marooned”!

Well then, what about the “cimarron strips” in the southwest of the USA? Could the word refer to strips of land “gone wild”? Or could the expert replying to the question in 2004 have been on to something?

If the slaves escaping through the desert from the USA to Mexico did indeed make their way through strips of watered land (not just for the water, as the expert speculates but for vegetation to conceal them), then there is a connection between escaped slaves and these strips of land. But not as the expert sees it, rather the other way around: since the escaped slaves, the “cimarrones” were travelling the strips, they would be called by those who knew about it (escapee hunters, escapee helpers and just observers), “cimarron strips”, i.e “those strips through which the runaway slaves travel.”

CHRISTIAN ETHNIC PREJUDICE

          However, if the word comes from Castillian (Spanish) what were the origins of the word in that language?

Perhaps a year ago, I was reading a book that described the Spanish State as having been characterised, contrary to many other European states, by mass expulsions and exiles on a number of occasions throughout its history5. Naturally enough, first on the list of expulsions was the well-known example of the Moors and the Jews. Those who were not slaughtered by the forces of the “Christian Monarchs” of Ferdinand and Isabella in the “reconquest” were obliged to convert to Christianity or to leave “with only the clothes on their backs”. This also occurred in Portugal.

Those Jews who left were the Sephardim or Sephardic Jews, who spoke Ladino, an archaic kind of Iberian Romance6 language with Aramaic and Hebrew words, along with the Moors, who spoke an Iberian-Arabic mixture or Arabic. The key of their houses or gates have been handed down to this day in families of both groups.7

Many converted, often referred to by Christians as “conversos” (Jews) or “moriscos” (Arabs) but were constantly under suspicion of reverting to their old religion even with the threat and constant trials and torture of the Spanish Inquisition. According to what I have read they too were sometimes called “marronos”, i.e in the eyes of the Spanish Christian ruling class, those who had been “domesticated” (Christianised) but had “returned to the their wild way”, (Moslem) i.e “gone feral”.

Forced conversions that had to appear genuine: “The Moorish Proselytes of Archbishop Ximenes”, Granada, 1500 by Edwin Long (1829–1891). (Image source: Internet)

Wikipedia on Marrones in Iberia confirms: The (Spanish) Inquisition was aimed mostly at Jews and Muslims who had overtly converted to Christianity but were thought to be practicing their faiths secretly. They were respectively called marranos and moriscos. However, in 1567 King Phillip II directed Moriscos to give up their Arabic names and traditional dress, and prohibited the use of Arabic. In reaction, there was a Morisco uprising in the Alpujarras from 1568 to 1571. In the years from 1609 to 1614, the government expelled Moriscos.

THE BUSH FROM THE NUT?

          And is “ci” or “cy” in “cimarron” then merely a prefix? The word “marrón” exists as a colour in Castilian and a number of Romance languages and came into English as the colour “maroon”. Its development is taken as originating from the colour of the large ripe chestnut, rather than given to it later. Of course there are a number of words for colours or tints which have a botanical origin, “orange” being an obvious one.

Castanea Silva, the edible or Sweet Chestnut.
(Image source: Internet)

Alright, then the nut and tree might have been associated with uncultivated or “wild” areas, similar to those to which the “cimarrons” would escape. But where did the “ci” suffix come from? Somewhere in the midst of what I have been researching I came across an explanation, derived from Latin, meaning “towering”, “high” etc. But can I find it now?

The online sources are telling me that the relevant pages are up for deletion and I can join the discussion. No thanks, I do not have anything like sufficient knowledge to enter a debate on that, nor the patience of an academic to research it thoroughly.

But “high” and “wild” could easily correspond, given that valleys and plains lend themselves more easily to cultivation, as a rule, than mountainy areas, which might remain wooded or with with thick undergrowth. And that might also give us the “bush” or “thicket” referred to in a number of references for “cimarron”, which in turn might describe the “cimarron strips”. In parts of Latin America (and for all I know, in all of them) such as Chile, a “cimarra” is also a thicket or densely-grown area. The article in the Language Journal (see reference) comments that the “arra” cannot be a Romance language word-ending but even if true it seems to me that the author (or authors quoted) might be unaware that among those from Iberia who colonised or settled in the Americas, Romance language speakers were not alone. There were also Basques who spoke Euskera/ Euskara and for evidence, they applied a number of toponomics and left family names from the Basque Country (Basque descendants make up to 10% of the population of some Latin American countries). And “-arra” would be a common enough suffix or word-ending in Euskera.8

Opening title for the weekly TV Western series Cimarron Strip, starring Stuart Whitman, Judy Gleeson, Percy Herbert and Randy Boone. Though popular, only a years’ worth of episodes were screened.
(Image source: Internet)

OKLAHOMA PANHANDLE AND THE CIMARRON STRIP

          In the 19th Century wars between the Mexican Republic, the USA and the Native Americans in the area, it was carved up with less and less left to the Native Americans.   Prior to the American Civil War, white Texas wanted to join the Union as a slave state  and due to a US federal law prohibiting slavery north of 36°30′ parallel north, white Texas surrendered a strip of land north of that latitude. The settlement (temporary of course), left a strip as “Neutral Territory” (one can only imagine the temptation for African slaves in Texas to make for there).  After the Civil War big cattle ranchers moved in, disregarding treaties and named the area the Cimarron Strip.

Map of Oklahoma territory and “Neutral Strip” before the American Civil War.
Image source: Wikipedia, Texas Panhandle.

But that was because the word Cimarron was already in the area, from the “Cimarron Cutoff” leading to a crossing of the  Cimarron river.  And yes, there was a popular 1967-1968 TV series called “Cimarron Strip”, starring Stuart Whitman.  But, though I used to watch it, that is only faintly related to the story of the word that set me out on this journey.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Which days later had still not arrived – perhaps the site is no longer in operation, which would explain the silence after those two posters.

2Columbus voyage to America 1641 and Spain’s first colonial settlement 1565 (now Florida); Mayflower expedition to America with English settlers 1587 (now Virginia). However, Europeans had founded settlements much earlier, as with the Norse in the 10th Century and very likely Irish monks in the 6th Century. But it was the English and Spanish who conquered most, the Dutch, French and Portuguese less. The descendants of the English settlers after gaining independence from England completed the seizure and colonisation of most of the North American continent, while English colonists remaining loyal to the English Crown seized land to form what is now Canada.

4All the folk tradition, albeit conflicting on some points, declares that she had not been a slave which leaves one to wonder how she might have reached Jamaica from Africa without having been enslaved.

5 I borrowed the book from the public library and cannot remember its title at the moment.

6“Romance languages” is the name give to the group on Indo-European languages such as Castillian (Spanish), Catalan, Galician, Portuguese, Romanian, Italian and French. They are sometimes called “Latin-based” or “Latin Languages” but there is some dispute about the origins and developments of these languages.

7 Ironically, the door or gate “key” is also a symbol of return for Palestinian refugees driven from their homes by Zionist massacres, threats and fear during the founding of the State of Israel.

8 Among toponomics of North America’s southwest Durango (Colorado and Mexico), Navarro and Zavala Counties (Texas) are perhaps the best known; while Aguirre, Arana, Bolívar (Bolibar), Cortazar (Kortazar), Duhalde, Echevarria (Etxebarria), García, Guevara (Gebarra), Ibarra, Larrazábal, Mendiata, Muzika, Ortiz, Salazar, Ugarte, Urribe and Zabala are but some among a host of family names of Basque origin from the American south-west to Latin America. And of course the country of Bolivia, from Simon Bolívar, a Basque surname from a Basque toponomic.

SOURCES, REFERENCES:

http://www.wordwizard.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?t=1342

https://www.yourdictionary.com/cimarron

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cimarr%C3%B3n

Excerpt on-line from Language journal, Linguistic Society of America, Leo Spitzer, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Apr. – Jun., 1938), pp. 145-147: https://www.jstor.org/stable/408879?seq=1

Cimarron People: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cimarron_people_(Panama )

Seminole People: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seminole

Marrons, Marrónes, Maroons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaican_Maroons

Marronos” in Iberia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moors#Etymology

Marooned: https://www.etymonline.com/word/maroon

Marrón/ maroon as a colour, derived from the nut: https://www.etymonline.com/word/maroon

Basque diaspora to Latin America: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basque_diaspora

Family names of Basque origin in Latin America: https://www.academia.edu/7889462/Basque_legacy_in_the_New_World_on_the_surnames_of_Latin_American_presidents

Basque words ending in -arra: https://www.ezglot.com/words-ending-with.php?l=eus&w=arra

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oklahoma_Panhandle#Cimarron_Territory

 

LANGUAGE IS A TREASURE CHEST – I

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: // minutes)

Language is a treasure chest, full of jewels: history, philosophy, humour, politics, sex, literature, natural history ….. It is a chest full of wonders but it has some horrors in it too. I want now just to run my fingers through a few of those jewels, let some of those wonders trickle through my fingers and before your eyes.

Image source: Internet

          Language is composed of symbols – spoken words, then squiggles to represent those words on stone, wood, paper and electronic screens. In visual interaction, those symbols are accompanied by other symbols such as facial expression, hand gestures, bodily posture, tone, pitch, volume, emphasis …. yes, and chemical emissions. Different languages — sophisticated whole systems of symbols – have been developed for communication of information and recording but not only for those: for expression of emotion too. And each carries the history, philosophy etc of the particular culture that gave rise to that language and often many other cultures too. In turn, language comes to leave its imprint on the speakers of the language, to mold their very minds to some extent, shaping their culture. So when a language dies, much more dies than just a system of recording and communication.

We can see residues of Irish and the Gaelic culture in the way Irish people speak English, even those who have not been Irish-speaking in generations. We go to see a filum, sweep with a floor brush instead of “a broom”, reply to a question with a positive or negative of the same verb (will you go? I will/ I will not). Or we might have a thirst on us and go to a pub if the humour was on us. That pronunciation of an imaginary vowel between the ‘L’ and the ‘M’ is a residue of the Irish language and having physical and emotional feelings being on us, instead of having them, as in standard English, are the ghosts of expression in Irish. When other cultures are happy to thank us a thousand we say thanks a million, not because we are a thousand times more thankful than every other culture but probably because a million sounds like the Irish word for thousand, míle, from Go raibh míle maith agat.

* * *

Recently I was reading a novel, mostly based in Exeter, a city in Devon, SW England and I learned that the city’s name is derived primarily from the river Exe, with the ‘ter‘ being part of the noun ‘ceaster’ which meant first a Roman military camp (caster) and later, a town. Many place-names in England contain that ‘ceaster’, ‘caster’ or its variant ‘chester, for example “Lancaster” and “Manchester”.

View of the River Exe, Devon (Image source: Internet)

Of course, with regard to the ‘Exe’, I could not help but think of ‘uisce’, the Irish word for “water”. And I’ve known for some time that Devon and Somerset have a great many megalithic monuments (more than Ireland even I read somewhere) and that nearby Cornwall has a surviving Celtic tongue (though spoken by few today). Anyway, I did a little digging with the help of the Oracle of Delphi, which today goes by the name of Google (which by the way in a short space of time has become an internationally-recognised noun and verb!).

The Wikipedia entry for Exeter tells us that the river Exe in the name of the city is from Old Brittonic, a Celtic language and means “ ‘water’ or more exactly ‘full of fish’”. Well that sounds pretty much like the meaning of the word “uisce” in Irish, which is also a Celtic language. But the Wikipedia entry for the river itself, as distinct from the town, says that the word “comes from the Common Brittonic word ‘iska’” meaning ‘water’ etc. But then the entry goes on to make the extraordinary claim that the word is unrelated to the word “whisky” while at the same time stating the latter word comes from classical Irish/Gaelic “uisce beatha” (‘water of life’). But since the Brittonic word for the river means ‘water’ and the Irish ‘uisce beatha’ (which became ‘whisky’) means ‘water of life’, then the words iska/ exe and uisce are obviously not only closely related but almost exactly the same!

Perhaps the entry meant something else and merely expressed it badly.

However, I am grateful to Wikipedia for drawing my attention to the connection between the Celtic words for ‘water’, ‘river’ and ‘fish’. Because the word for ‘fish’ in Irish is of course ‘iasc which is not a million miles away in sound from ‘exe’ or even ‘uisce’. And if we were to stick the letter ‘P’ before the word ‘iasc‘, which the Gaels would never do, given that they avoided that letter and sound whenever they could, we would get the word ‘piasc‘, quite like the plural word for fish in Welsh, ‘pysg‘. And of course sisters of this word can be seen through some of the Romance languages, which in many ways are close to the Celtic: pez in Castillian, peixos in Catalan, peixe in Portuguese, pesce in Italian. And of course, for the astrologers, Pisces (Pis-kays) from the Latin, the star sign of the fish.

Now, the Greek word for ‘fish’ is psari, not all that similar (although it begins with the letter P too) but here’s a weird coincidence: the Greek name for the fish symbol used by early Christians, which is supposedly based on the first letters of the Greek words for Jesus, anointed, son, God and saviour ….. is the ‘ichtus‘. And the sound of ichtus is not a million miles away from the sound of iasc!

The early Christian symbol, based on Greek words (Image source: Internet)

Anyway, back to Exeter, probably a Celtic settlement in a Celtic land by a river with a Celtic name, in a Celtic language, later a Roman town (perhaps preceded by a Roman military camp) with the word for ‘town’ coming from Latin, then overlaid by Saxon language.

Old Brittonic” is the name given by philologists to the Celtic language once spoken all over Britain and of which the remaining survivors are Welsh and Cornish and, on the European mainland, Breton in Brittany and some words in Gallego in Galicia. Philologists call that branch of the Celtic languages P-Celtic because of its many old words beginning with the letter “P” which in Irish and other Goidelic or Q-Celtic languages (Manx and Scots Gaedhlig) begin with the letter “C”.

Exeter is an old place name in Devon and old place-names – as distinct from new ones like “Sea-View” used by property merchants to sell housing estates – tell us a lot about the history and culture of the people who named them and, often, something about their past in nature (for example all the places named after trees in this now-deforested Ireland).

Twenty-six, more than half the names of the 50 states that form the USA, are formed from Native American words or phrases. The original Americans, dispossessed, so many of them wiped out and a very small minority remaining in their ancestral lands, must find it hard to insist on the usage of their own place-names. Yet many of those have survived – European colonisers learned the names from the natives and for convenience continued to use them in their European languages so that they have now become US English words.

Of the Anglicised names of the 32 Counties of Ireland, only three are not of Irish origin – and the “English” names of those three were given to them by the Vikings. We are surrounded by the signs of our native language and culture but, for most of us, also cut off from them. This is hard to justify since unlike the Native Americans, for the most part, we have absorbed the invaders and we remain the majority on our land.

The 32 Counties of ireland — only three of the ‘English’ versions are not of irish language origin. (Image source: Internet)

And yes, “Britain” and “Britons” were words associated with Celtic culture, derived from Praetani or Pretani, meaning “the people of Britain” and perhaps once a dominant Celtic tribe. Yes, and “Scotland”, it turns out, referred to a land in the north of Britain colonised by the Irish, to which they brought their language which has now developed into Scots Gaedhlig. And in the Middle Ages, a “Scotus” (Scot) was more likely to be an Irishman than what we today call a “Scotsman”.

And the “Scots” language of the poetry of Robbie Burns, including its practically extinct variant “Ulster Scots”, is actually based on German from Saxony and, except for some words, not Celtic at all!

Yes, it can all be a bit confusing. But interesting too.

End.

“THE LAST COLONY IN AFRICA” — REPRESENTATIVES SPEAK IN DUBLIN

(Approx. reading time: report 10 mins; background 2 mins.)

Report by Diarmuid Breatnach

On Tuesday March 5th a meeting in the Teachers’ Club, Parnell Square, was addressed by representatives of the Western Sahara people and by experts in human rights matters.

2015 protest by Saharawis, mostly women.
(Photo source: Internet)

          Western Sahara, a territory of 266,000 square kilometers (103,000 sq. miles) in the Maghreb, was part of Europe’s carve-up of North Africa, when it was known among most states as Spanish Sahara, in acknowledgement of the European state that occupied it. Its people speak Arabic and Castillian (Spanish) and some also speak French, an influence from neighbouring French ex-colonies.  Few speak Berber.

Mohamed Belsat of the Polisario speaking at the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The UN General Assembly in 1964 called on Spain to hold a referendum there which the Franco fascist regime declined to do but in 1975, after the dictator’s death, the new regime pulled out of the territory, practically handing it over to Morocco and Mauritania. After a conflict between those two states, Morocco emerged as the sole occupier and the conflict since then has been between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Saharawi people, who seek independence.

Chaired by Mark McLoughlin, filmmaker, the Dublin meeting had been arranged at short notice and its advertising further hampered by cancellation of a booking at Trinity College.

TRACING THE PLUNDER OF SAHARAWI NATURAL RESOURCES

          Erik Hagen, of Western Sahara Resource Watch, with a display projected on a screen, showed how his organisation traces the ships arriving at the territory and departing with phosphates mined there to their destinations. From the registered tonnage of the ships, the amount of phosphates plundered can be calculated. The companies involved claim that they are doing no wrong, since they pay Morocco for the cargoes.

Mark Hagen illustrating a point with reference to the display. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

But according to the UN, no state may extract resources from a disputed territory without the consent of the people. Hagen talked about how EU had changed the wording to replace “consent of” with “being of benefit to” and then went on to effectively falsify agreement on benefit, using a document on consultation with huge majority – and a total of Saharawi organisations – voting against as evidence for.

The only company currently exploring for oil in Western Sahara is San Leon, an Irish company, although they failed to find any and are currently fighting in financial difficulties.

Clive Symmonds, expert in international law talked about the policy of isolating produce from occupied territories, by first compelling their labeling as such, which, although that would not ban the products, would facilitate a ban if such were decided. The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 introduced to the Oireachtas (Irish legislature) and currently being processed with cross-house support despite Government opposition, is an example of how such a ban may be implemented (and Senator Black’s Bill will also be valid for Western Sahara). Of course, as Symmonds pointed out, such labeling is left to the exporter which in this case would be the Kingdom of Morocco.

Clive Symmonds speaking on human rights legislation and W. Sahara (Photo: D.Breatnach)

 Symmonds also referred to the EU Fisheries Agreement which, in permitting fishing within what Morocco claims as its territorial waters without reference to the Saharawi people, is permitting the plunder of the Saharawi people’s fish stocks – and the Irish State is a party to this, having signed the Agreement. Symmonds pointed out that the judgement of the European Court of Justice on 21st December 2016, stated that Western Sahara is a “separate and distinct” territory from Morocco and that trade agreements between the EU and Morocco do not apply to the occupied territory. The EU is in violation of this judgement.

A REFERENDUM IS THE ONLY DEMOCRATIC WAY”

          Mohamed Belsat, Frente Polisario Ambassador to Europe, talked about the policies of the Irish state, the EU and, in particular, France. Belsat said that they were in collusion with the Kingdom of Morocco and that in particular, France often seemed to be the opponent of the Saharawi people even more than Morocco.

Referring to what he said was the only democratic of ascertaining the will of the Saharawi people, Belsat said that it was a referendum. Morocco had called for this since they had flooded Western Sahara with Moroccans but, since the process of registration of genuine and historical residents of the area had been completed by the UN, the Moroccan Kingdom had withdrawn all support for a referendum.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The cost of the occupation to the Moroccan kingdom is huge, in terms of military presence maintenance and so on,” Belsat said, adding that the cost of every litre of water supplied to the occupation forces was equal to four times the price of a litre of whiskey. Furthermore, the cost to the Kingdom exceeded the benefits it extracted from the colony. In January, Morocco had at last joined and signed up to the constitution of the African Union, the organisation of African states, of which Western Sahara is a founding member and which has a long-standing position on Western Sahara being an occupied colonyFor all these and other reasons, including dissatisfaction with the regime among the Moroccan general population, he felt that a campaign of pressure on Morocco and on the EU might well bear fruit in terms of the decolonisation of this “last colony in Africa”.

Later, Belsat’s response to a question from the audience amounted to an admission that there was no “peace process.” (sic) in operation (despite a reference to it by a number of speakers) and that as a result of this and the conditions under which they were kept by their oppressors, it was increasingly difficult to restrain the youth from resorting to armed resistance. At this a member of the audience commented that armed struggle against the army of the Moroccan Kingdom backed up by France would be “suicidal”.

57 POLITICAL PRISONERS BUT MANY MORE HAVE DISAPPEARED WITHOUT TRACE”

          ElGhalia Djimi, Vice-President of ASDH (Saharawi Association of Victims of grave violations of human rights by the Moroccan State), which cooperates with the League for the Protection of Western Sahara Political Prisoners in Moroccan Jails (LPPS), who had arrived in Ireland that day, made her presentation next.  Speaking in French through a translator, Djimi talked about the conditions of life under occupation for the Saharawi people. Djimi showed a compilation of clips of soldiers, police and people in civilian clothes physically assaulting protesting Saharawi women, pulling their hair, punching and kicking them and informed the meeting that those in plainclothes were Moroccan police.

ElGhalia Djimi speaking on Moroccan Kingdom repression of Saharawi people (Photo: D.Breatnach)

There are 57 Saharawi political prisoners in Moroccan jails,” ElGhalia Djimi said, “but many more that have disappeared without trace.”

Unemployment is high among the Western Sahara people and as a result of that and other deficiencies in their lives, a drug problem has arisen, she told her audience. There are no third-level education facilities in the territory, obliging them to go to institutions in Morocco. Although they can study to gain professional qualifications for civil employment, those available are not usually those required by the employers, which is not true for their equivalent in Morocco, with the result that often Moroccans fit into the administrative jobs better than do the Saharawi people. In terms of their treatment by the authorities, all Sahawaris carry a Moroccan ID card but letters on it indicate their ethnic origin (which Belsat likened to the Nazi State’s requirement that German Jews by identifiable in their national ID documentation).

Moroccan citizen settlement in Layoune, the capital of Western Sahara, had now placed the indigenous people, once the majority, in a minority.

Mark Hagen, of Western Sahara Resources Watch.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

SOLIDARITY IN DUBLIN

          In conclusion of the speakers’ presentations, Mohamed Belsat asked for support from the Irish people with their “history of struggle for freedom and solidarity with other struggling nations”

A couple of members of the audience mentioned that there had been an active solidarity committee with Western Sahara in Dublin in the past and one wondered about the possibility of resuscitating it.

Comment: The solidarity Committee in Dublin was independent of any political party or organisation, its name was Western Sahara Action Ireland and its FB page is still in existence. Between 2011 and 2012, the group organised a number of public events, including: two protests about Moroccan repression of Saharawi protesters, one in Dame Street and another in O’Connell Street; a protest against the EU’s Fisheries Agreement outside the Dublin offices of the EU in Dawson Street; the construction and maintenance of a “Western Sahara Tent” at the Electric Picnic of 2012, along with an exhibition of photographs taken in the territory. The latter was visited by Michael O’Higgins who was then campaigning for the Presidency of Ireland (he also appeared in the film shown at the beginning of public meeting in Dublin).

On each of the Dublin street events, a small group of Moroccans had attended to harass and attempt to intimidate the protesters, almost certainly sent by the Moroccan Embassy but their efforts were to no avail.

Flag of the Western Sahara liberation movement.
(Photo source: Western Sahara Action Ireland)

BACKGROUND

          There had been many uprisings against colonial rule in the history of Western Sahara and the last Rif War, from 1920 to 1927, had cost the Spanish State military 23,000 casualties, of which 18,000 were fatalities. Only for the intervention of the French1, the forces led by Abd el Krim would have kicked the Spanish colonialists out of the footholds to which they were still clinging.2

Like the French in their North African colonies, the Spanish occupiers had suppressed risings not only by military force against insurgents and torture of captives, including electric shocks, but also by terror against the civilian population, including assassinations, massacres, rape and internment without trial.

Both European states also developed their own Foreign Legions. Forget about the 1924 Beau Geste novel by PC Wren and the various screenplays3 to which it gave rise; the Foreign Legions were tough terrorists in uniform, founded not to fight in open war but against resisting colonial peoples.

Since 1963, Western Sahara has been on the United Nations’ list of “non self-governing nations”.  In 1965, the UN General Assembly, in its first declaration on Western Sahara, called on the Spanish State to decolonise the territory and, in 1967, to hold a referendum on self-determination but Spain refused. From 1973 to 1975, the Frente Polisario fought an armed struggle for national liberation.

Western Sahara in context. (Source image: Internet)

After the Spanish State abruptly pulled out in 1975 (following the death of its fascist dictator General Franco) and – without allowing elections of an independent Saharawi government before doing so – it relinquished control to the Kingdom of Morocco (which had formally claimed the territory since 1957) and Mauritania and conflict broke out between those states. Mauritania in time abandoned its claim and Morocco moved in and seized Western Sahara.

The Saharawi people protested Morocco’s occupation of their land and were suppressed by military and police. The Frente Polisario fought the occupying Moroccan military from 1975 until a UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991, since which there has been no Saharawi armed struggle but plenty of Moroccan repression. One of the features of the struggle was the displacement of a large part of the Saharawi population as people fled the Moroccan military, many to Algeria (which had won independence from France in 1962 after a fierce and dirty war), where they remain in a refugee camp. The Moroccan Kingdom then built a wall to prevent Saharawis from returning, which it guards by troops and miles of landmines.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1The casualties of the French, according to Wikipedia, amounted to 10,000 with 2,500 killed in battle. The casualties of the insurgents and of the indigenous civilian population, as usual in these situations, is difficult to determine but, according to Wikipedia, came to 30,000, of which 10,000 were fatalities.

2For more on the Rif War 1920, read the article about it (see link in Resources and Useful Links).

3Including those of 1939 starring Gary Cooper and Ray Miland, 1966 with Telly Savalas and Doug McClure and the BBC serial of 1982.

 

REFERENCES AND USEFUL LINKS

Sahara Press Service: https://www.spsrasd.info/news/en

Western Sahara Resources Watch: https://www.wsrw.org/

Western Sahara Action Ireland facebook page (please bear in mind that at the time of writing this group is not active): https://www.facebook.com/groups/256377861125569/

Article on the Rif War 1920 by me: https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2018/08/09/an-old-war-with-a-lesson-for-today/

Recent Amnesty International report on Western Sahara under Moroccan rule: https://www.refworld.org/docid/5a9938ac4.html

 

AN OLD WAR WITH A LESSON FOR TODAY

Diarmuid Breatnach

August 9th is the anniversary of the last blows struck in the Battle of Annual, which took place in the Rif, in the Maghreb region of North Africa in 1921. The battle was a major defeat for the Spanish military and part of the Rif people’s resistance which was suppressed with genocidal weapons ferocity by the Spanish and French imperialists, including the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction by the Spanish.

Illustration of the death of a Spanish General Margalla in a much earlier colonialist venture into the Maghreb, 1893 (source of imageL

Many features of this struggle bear important lessons for us today wherever we are in the world but perhaps in particular to the Catalans struggling for independence. And although the struggle of the Rif people was apparently noted by Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara, who we are told learned guerrilla tactical lessons from it, it seems mostly forgotten and Wikipedia’s coverage (the Rif Wars) is modest.

THE BATTLE

In 1921 the Spanish State sent armed forces to extend their area of control beyond the coastal strip around Ceuta and Melilla and other bases in North Africa. They had penetrated 130 kilometres when they encountered light resistance of a skirmishing nature, which continued for five days.

At the end of that period, on August 22nd the Berbers attacked the Spanish Army’s encampment at Annual in force with 3,000 irregulars against Spain’s 5,000 soldiers. General Silvestre decided upon a withdrawal along the line of their earlier advance and that march began in order at 10am but soon turned into a rout, with Spanish soldiers killed by bullet or knife. The dead presumably included Silvestre, whose body was never found.

In the following days the Berbers overran more than 130 Spanish guard stations (containing up to 20 men), took a number of towns and reached the Spanish colony town of Melilla, which Abd el Krim did not attack for fear of other nations being drawn in to defend their resident nationals in the city, a decision he apparently regretted for the rest of his life. The Spanish evacuated fleeing colonists but soon reinforced some towns in particular Melilla, mainly with the Spanish Legion and Moroccan Regulares.

A somewhat menacing representation of the face of Abd el Krim in Time Magazine, 1925, during the life of the Rif Republic (image sourced: Wikipedia).

Analysis of the defeat tends to lay the blame on lack of military efficiency on the side of the Spanish without giving any credit to the tactics or leadership of the Berbers. If that were an accurate assessment one wonders why Guevara and Ho Chi Minh could be reputed to have learned lessons in guerrilla warfare from the conduct of the battle by the Berbers.

Wiki gives a Rifian casualty figure of 800 but reports that “final official figures for the Spanish death toll, both at Annual and during the subsequent rout which took Riffian forces to the outskirts of Melilla, were reported to the Cortes Generales (Spanish Parliament) as totaling 13,192 killed”; Wiki also says the Spanish may have lost up to 20,000.

As well as loss of men, the Spanish Army lost huge amounts of war material which were of course used against them later. Wiki: “11,000 rifles, 3,000 carbines, 1,000 muskets, 60 machine guns, 2,000 horses, 1,500 mules, 100 cannon, and a large quantity of ammunition.  Abd el Krim remarked later: “In just one night, Spain supplied us with all the equipment which we needed to carry on a big war.” Other sources give the amount of booty seized by Rif warriors as 20,000 rifles (German-made Mausers), 400 machine guns (Hotchkisses)) and 120–150 artillery pieces (Schneiders).”

Kaid Sarkash (Riffian leader) pictured in 1924 with another, both Berbers carrying captured rifles: Spanish Mauser & French Berthier Carbine.
(Photo sourced: Wikipedia)

The Spanish imperial-colonialists had lost all the territory they had gained in the region since 1909, lost some stature in the eyes of colonised people and lost face among its other imperialist and colonialist competitors, which might have mattered most to the Spanish authorities. Readers from the Spanish state can confirm or deny what Wiki states, that the defeat is seen there as the worst of the Spanish Army in modern times.

The victorious Berbers under Abd el Krim set up the Rif Republic in September 1921 and tried unsuccessfully for recognition from Britain and from France. There does not seem to be much written about the Republic or if there is, it is difficult to find.

Territory of the Rif Republic (outlined in red) next to “Spanish North Africa”
(image sourced: Wikipedia).

POLITICAL CRISIS AND CHANGE

In response to the Battle of Annual, PSOE delegate and prominent party member Indalecio Prieto declared in the Congress of Deputies: “We are at the most acute period of Spanish decadence. The campaign in Africa is a total, absolute failure of the Spanish Army, without extenuation.”  A War Ministry investigative commission (headed by a General!) although it detailed a number of military mistakes, due to political interference failed to lay the blame squarely on the Army.

The political crisis however led to a great fall of confidence in the Spanish feudal-type military caste ruling class and in the monarch, King Alfonso XIII which is credited with contributing significantly to the birth of the Second Republic (1931-1939 – the one that was overthrown by military uprising and led to the Franco dictatorship, from which the current State has evolved).

WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

However, the loss of face for the Spanish imperial State also led to a thirst for revenge in sections of the Spanish ruling class and military. In 1923 Miguel Primo de Rivera1 led a military coup d’etat in Spain, blaming all problems on parliamentary democracy (such as existed) and was supported by the King, Alonso XIII. From the following year until 1927, Rivera took command of the campaign in the Rif and in 1925 the French, although competitors with the Spanish, joined the offensive.

Spain was an early user of chemical weapons against civilian populations and according to Wiki, “between 1921 and 1927, the Spanish army indiscriminately used phosgene, diphosgene, chloropicrin and mustard gas (known as Iperita2). Common targets were civilian populations, markets, and rivers.  In a telegram sent by the High Commissioner of Spanish Morocco Dámaso Berenguer on August 12, 1921 to the Spanish minister of War, Berenguer stated:

I have been obstinately resistant to the use of suffocating gases against these indigenous peoples but after what they have done, and of their treacherous and deceptive conduct, I have to use them with true joy.

The gases were produced illegally in Germany and sold to and bought illegally by Spain and later produced also illegally in Spain. The German chemist concerned, Hugo Stoltzenberg, was later granted Spanish citizenship but joined the Nazi Party during WWII and after the War continued his chemical weapons research in Hamburg. He sold his factory in 1969 and died in 1974.

The war was fought with ferocity on both sides but the Spanish and French had superior armament, aircraft and the Spanish at least dropped chemical weapons on civilian centres, killed domesticated animals and poisoned drinking water and fish. In two years most of the Berber resistance was crushed and in July 1927, Abd el Krim surrendered to the French, who exiled him. The French and Spanish abolished the short-lived Rif Republic, the first in North Africa.

An Association for the Defence of Victims of the Rif War considers that effects of the use of those chemicals have persisted and account for the high incidence of cancers in the population of the area.

There is a Catalan independentist sequel; according to Wiki: “On February 14, 2007, the Catalan party of the Republican Left (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) passed a bill to the Spanish Congress of Deputies  requesting Spain to acknowledge the “systematic” use of chemical weapons against the population of the Rif mountains. The bill was rejected by 33 votes from the governing PSOE and the opposition right-wing PP who form the majority in the Spanish parliament.”

BACKGROUND – IMPERIALISTS DIVIDING PLUNDER

The Treaty of Fez 1912 was one in which Sultan Abdelhafid ceded Morocco to the French, who shared the spoils out thus: for recognising the treaty and land gained, Germany, which they added to their Cameroon colony but German also ceded to France and area which is now part of Chad. The Spanish got part of the Rif area including an iron mine and permission to build a railroad to it, which was the cause of riots and the start of the First Rif War. The Battle of Annual took place in what is called the Second Rif War and the joint French-Spanish offensive and use of chemical weapons in the Third Rif War.

But already in 1904 the UK, France and Italy in secret treaties had divided between them the Maghreb (that area covering almost the whole of North Africa and today including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania and Western Sahara) into spheres of influence.

TODAY

What remains of that “Spanish North Africa” is Ceuta and Mellila, which Morocco demands Spain decolonise and the Spanish State denies are colonies at all. In 1965 the UN asked the Spanish State to decolonise the territory and in 1966 that it hold a referendum, neither of which it did. From 1973 the Saharawi people fought very successfully under the Polisario Front against Spanish occupation and in 1975/76 the Spanish State abandoned Western Sahara without handing it over to the Saharawi people but by agreement with Morocco and Mauritania which then moved in, since when Morocco has fought the Saharawi people without the latter’s surrender. Mauritania withdrew its claim in 1979 but Morocco has claimed the entire territory and its natural resources (which are significant) and attacked Saharawi settlements and jailed and tortured activists. Other Saharawi people live as refugees in Algeria. The UN does consider that the Saharawi are entitled to self-determination and recognises the Polisario Front as the legitimate representatives of the people and has stated that Morocco should withdraw; the UN maintains a post there but does not monitor Moroccan state actions towards the Saharawi, much less police them.

The UN does not list Ceuta or Melilla as areas in need of decolonisation.

Flag of the Rif Republic design (source: Wikipedia)

Currency note of the Riffan Republic – note conversion rate into English or French currency but not Spanish!
(image source: Wikipedia)

LESSONS

The Rif War has a fair bit of overall coverage on Wikipedia but very little on the Berber leader Abd el Krim and even less on the Berber Republic. I look forward to finding more material about it for my education. I came across this whole struggle by accident and indeed, by strange coincidences, I have family and personal connection to Arab and Berber anti-colonial resistance in the region.

However, the lessons for us and in particular for the Catalans are these, I believe and, given what is at stake now and the enormous human cost paid to obtain those lessons, we should be prepared to study them:

  • The Spanish ruling class was a ferocious one in modern times even before the Franco regime. It showed its ferocity again during the Franco years, during the Transition and, when it felt it necessary, in years since – including under a social-democratic government. It has not at all changed.

  • Capitalists and imperialists will cede no territory unless it is absolutely unavoidable to do so or unless they gain some alternative territory elsewhere. This was true of Spanish North Africa – how much more so will it be true of what they consider as their territorial base and one of the most economically successful parts of that ‘base’!

  • The imperialists of the world, including long-established democracies, come to mutual arrangements which are often kept secret from their own populations.

  • Even competing imperialists will join with other imperialists or their atrocities will be ignored by competitors when they find it in their imperialist interests to do so. As the EU President has already shown, there is no help coming from the European capitalist and imperialist states for Catalan independence – not even a public condemnation of Spanish police violence.

  • Liberals and social-democrats who espouse anti-colonial feeling have a tendency to end up, however reluctantly, supporting their state’s repression of colonialised people’s resistance. This has been seen and will continue to be seen in the PSOE but may also come to be seen in sections of Podemos – with the latter, one can certainly not expect energetic defence of self-determination.

  • A serious defeat for the ruling class can destabilise it sufficiently for revolution or radical reform to take place and to succeed. In this way, should the people of Catalunya succeed in establishing and defending an independent republic there, it could be the spark that sets off detonations throughout the state and allows a genuinely democratic Spanish Republic to emerge. Which means that all genuine democrats in that state should support and strive for the victory of the Catalonian people, both for the rights of the Catalan people but also in their own self-interest.

  • The imperialists violate rights but also language: just as they claimed then and still claim that Ceuta and Melilla are not colonies, so they claim that Catalunya and southern Euskal Herria are not either.

APPENDIX

COINCIDENCES

My father, Deasún Breatnach (1921-2007) worked in Tangiers in journalism for a short period, probably 1947-1949 (he married in Madrid in ’47 and seems to have been back in Ireland in ’49 or at least soon after). Tangiers at that time was by treaty (another imperialist one!) under the joint control of the British, French and Spanish. Deasún told a story that an Arab acquaintance contacted him saying he had an important friend who wished to meet him. Deasún attended by arrangement and the man, who was a muslim religious and temporal leader, wished to get a story of Spanish Army atrocities against people in the Rif, including electric shock torture, out to the world. Deasún took down the report and protest letter in English as requested and sent one copy to a world leader (I forget now but possibly Churchill) and another to the United Nations and filed a story about it to the Irish Press. The Press did not print it because, according to the Editor, they had no corroboration. Deasún said that the Gibraltar Times (if that is the correct name) had run a story on it also but by the time they had this discussion it was about a year later.

Unrelatedly, about a decade ago I joined a small group of activists in a solidarity campaign, Western Sahara Action Ireland, which ran a FB page and took a number of street actions (on a number of occasions harassed and threatened by thugs sent from the Moroccan Embassy). We also set up a “Sahara tent” at an Electric Picnic festival which was visited by Michael D. Higgins. The Coordinator of the WSAI group left to take up work elsewhere and, as a number of us were also active in other struggles we were unable to keep the group going but the page is still maintained and can be accessed at (see Links).

LINKS

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Annual

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rif_Republic

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_weapons_in_the_Rif_War

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rif_War

Western Sahara: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Sahara

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Fez

https://www.facebook.com/groups/256377861125569/

 

FOOTNOTES

1Whose son Manuel Primo Rivera was a prominent fascist in 1930s Spain.

2After Ypres, where the Germans used it in WWI for the first time.

BENETTON SENDS ARMED POLICE IN VIOLENT OPERATION AGAINST MAPUCHE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE

Translation by Diarmuid Breatnach
https://www.pagina12.com.ar/93239-en-cushamen-siguen-los-atropellos

Abuses against indigenous people continue in the Cushamen region.

Six months after the repression that led to the death of Santiago Maldonado, members of the (Argentine) Gendarmerie entered the Mapuche community this morning. They tied up several of their members and seized the horses, which were then taken to a van owned by businessman Luciano Benetton. They (the victims – translator) said that the operation was illegal and do not rule out that “planting evidence” was the purpose.

Members of the Mapuche Pu Lof community in Resistencia Cushamen, in Esquel (in Argentina – trans.), denounced that this morning Gendarmerie officers carried out a new raid ordered by Judge Graciela Rodríguez and prosecutor Díaz Meyer after a complaint from the Leleque ranch, owned by Italian magnate Luciano Benetton. According to the members of the community, the occupants were cuffed with plastic ties during the operation and their horses seized, these being taken to a van belonging to the Tierras del Sud (Southern Lands – trans.) company, owned by Benetton. A woman was injured and had to be taken to hospital. Yesterday was six months since the disappearance and death of Santiago Maldonado, victim of the police repression of that same community.


The reports of community members were disseminated through the Communities in Conflict Support Network, reporting that the troops arrived in the community at the first hour of the morning and “kept the members of the community under guard without even letting them go to the bathroom.” They reported that the officers took the horses that they had in the community, which they loaded on to a truck of the company Tierras del Sud, owned by Benetton. After the operation, a woman named Vanesa Millañanco had to be transferred to the hospital in Maitén and the community maintained that her health status is unknown.

“We denounce this new outrage at Pu Lof Resistance Cushamen as totally illegal because it was not supervised by witnesses, that is to say that the repressive forces did what they wanted during the time when they could incriminate members of the community through planting false evidence,” the community statement declared. The community also targetd the Security Minister, Patricia Bullrich, as responsible for a “hunt against the Mapuche people and a truly unscrupulous media defamation campaign.”

Another source: http://www.laizquierdadiario.com/Por-orden-de-Benetton-la-Policia-de-Chubut-volvio-a-invadir-la-Pu-Lof-de-Cushamen?utm_content=bufferb8e48&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

GOVERNMENT OF ARGENTINA CREATES FAKE TERROR ORGANISATION TO ATTACK POPULAR RESISTANCE

Diarmuid Breatnach

Let us suppose that the Minister of Justice of an Irish Government held a conference with representatives of the Gardaí, the Army and the judiciary. As a result of the conference the Government created a strike force and issued a 180-page report in which the main tendency was the need to eliminate an organisation called the Irish Resistance Movement.

The mass media hails this Report and highlights the danger of the IRM.

However, Left and alternative political activists have never heard of this IRM before but we find that a Traveller activist is named as the spokesperson, Irish socialist and republican organizations are listed as belonging to it, in addition to campaigns against homelessness, the Water Charge and some smaller ones for political prisoners, human rights, civil rights etc. Some of the names of independent political activists also appear on the list.

As proof of the existence of the IRM and who belongs to it, the report shows a crowd demanding the exoneration of the Jobstown defendants, which includes a person whom a large force of police later killed in an attack on himself and a few comrades. A number of ongoing trials still not concluded are also added for good measure.

Then, the Report also claims that the “IRM” contains internationalist solidarity organisations in solidarity with the Kurds fighting ISIS and with the Palestinians and is receiving arms training from ETA.

And the “IRM” is linked to a number of demonstrations which have shut down the centre of Dublin in protest against austerity measures, protest occupations of buildings, etc.

L-R: Minister of Security Patricia Bulrich and Mapuche historian and activist Moira Millán (photos: Internet)

What would we think?

We would probably conclude that the Government was preparing the ground for a massive attack on our organisations of resistance and on the right to protest.

If in addition to the publication of the Report, the Traveller’s spokesperson, which the Minister of Justice claims to be a spokesperson for “IRM”, two months ago had a the body of a mutilated vixen left on her doorstep, we might also think that the Government might be setting her up to be killed.

Demonstration in Argentina in protest at arrest and subsequent disappearance of Mapuche solidarity activist Santiago Maldonado on 1st August 2017. (Photo source: Latin American Media)

The preceding is an approximation of what is currently going on in Argentina. On December 29th 2017 Patricia Bulrich, Minister for Security of the Nation of the Cambiemos coalition Government of Argentina held such a conference with provincial security executives and issued a 180-page report on the danger of “RAM” (“Ancestral Mapuche Resistance”). This organisation has never before been heard of but Bulrich claimed in the Report and in a televised press conference that it is coordinating the activity of a huge number of organisations and is creating a great terrorist threat to the State.

“Resistance is not Terrorism! Freedom for all the Mapuche political prisoners”! (Photo of poster from Anarkismo.net)

Linked to “RAM” she gave a long list of organisations including those of original people and resistance in the areas of trade union, community, socialist and anarchist activity. Support for the Kurds was listed as evidence against some anarchist organisations and other organisations were alleged to be funding and publicising “RAM” while the Colombian FARC was alleged to be giving them military training.

Mapuche demonstration Patagonia January 2017 (Photo: Latin America Media)

The “RAM” may be a fake organisation but the State terror threatened is real.

The Minister publicly named Moira Millan, a Native People activist of the Mapuche, as the spokesperson of this “RAM”. This in the context of the recent killing of one Mapuche activist and the disappearance of Mapuche solidarity activist Santiago Maldonado in August 2017, which events led to demonstrations of Mapuche protest.  Santiago was later found dead.

Millán lives in Patagonia, is a mother and in fact a member of two Mapuche organisations: The March of Native Women for Holistic Living and the Pillan Mahuiza Community. She writes and lectures on the history of the Mapuche, organises meetings in particular of Native women, gives traditional cooking classes, and speaks publicly on the rights of the Mapuche people. Millán has never been charged with any illegal let alone armed activity but last October, the mutilated body of a vixen was left on her doorstep. The message is both an insult — vixen in Spanish is “zorra” and is used as a moral and gender insult, particularly by the Right against female Left activists – as well as a death threat, i.e that her body will be next.

Millán’s reaction to the release of the Report and Bulrich’s press conference was quick and scathing:

“Yesterday, while I thanked the children who voted that the library of School No. 8 Luis Bernet of Parque Chacabuco should bear my name, the Minister of Security, Mrs. Patricia Bullrich, mentions me in her absurd and ridiculous report as the main spokesperson for RAM”, she said, adding that “the lady Minister – Bullrich — continues with her delirium tremens, inventing terrorists where there are none”.

“In her fevered dreams she sees herself, hooded, like the Ku Klux Klan, hunting Mapuches, assisted by the insipid and mediocre Governors of the South,” said Millán.

“Lie, lie but something will remain … ‘The lie has short legs’, says the popular saying: Are you coming for me, Mrs. Bullrich? Why are you afraid of us so much?” asked the Mapuche campaigner.

“Here I am, holding my truth as a weapon, and the wisdom of the Mapu as a shield; they have initiated ‘the hunger games’ and you believe that your government will win; make no mistake, we belong to a people that has been invaded, but never defeated”, concluded Millán.

(See further down for a way to take a few minutes to help)

End.

Links:

Video compilation of Bulrich, Millan, oppression, resistance: https://youtu.be/BIgJVa3d1iA

Original article quoting (in Spanish) Millán’s reaction to Bulrich’s statement and report: http://www.infonews.com/nota/312623/persecucion-a-los-mapuche-moira-millan

Guardian report on disappearance of Maldonado: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/06/santiago-maldonado-argentina-election-missing-backpacker

TeleSur video about finding of Maldonado’s body:

YOU WANT TO HELP?

Those who wish to express their concern at this demonisation of resistance, the killing of Santiago Maldonado and to lift the threat of incarceration or death on Moira Millan may wish to write to their local Argentinian Embassy, which is obliged to relate information back from their host countries on attitudes to Argentina.

Embassy of Argentina Dublin: 5 Ailesbury Drive Ballsbridge Dublin 4 Ireland

Phone Numbers in Dublin:
Telephone: (01) 269.1546 – Telephone (Int): +353.1.269.1546

Fax Numbers in Dublin:
Fax: (01) 260.0404 – Fax (Int):: +353.1.260.0404

Email Addresses:

General Email address: eirla@mrecic.gov.ar

Consular Section: secon_eirla@mrecic.gov.ar

Administrative Section: adm_eirla@mrecic.gov.ar

Commercial Section: comercial_eirla@mrecic.gov.ar

Cultural Section: cultural_eirla@mrecic.gov.ar

And Argentinian Ministries:

Minister of Security of the Nation of Argentina is currently blocked (for some reason). The Minister of Justice may be accessed through the Department’s page (see link), then use their email contact system:
http://www.jus.gob.ar/contacto.aspx

Minister of the Interior: info@mininterior.gov.ar

Chief of Ministries: mpena@jefatura.gob.ar

It may also help to outline concerns to the Amnesty International and Frontline Defenders organisations.