Words and artwork by Tabitha Lean
Ok, so this might seem a little bit premature. I mean we haven’t even got you mob paying the rent for the space you occupy on our country yet. But the thing is, I don’t just want you to pay the rent, I want you to be good tenants too.
What exactly do I mean by this?
Well, my people have managed this country since the very first sunrise. We lived on this country as caretakers of the land and the waters; we honoured the sky, the river, the stars and the trees. We lived on this country sustainably, since time immemorial.
But now our Mother is suffering. She’s straining under all of the pollution, the fracking, the mining, the continual and exponential growth of mega cities, railways, highways and mines. What use is your money to me, your rent, if I have no country left?
So, if you want to be a good tenant, here are some truths you need to reckon with:
- You cannot talk about tackling climate change without acknowledging Indigenous people. Please stop white-washing environmentalism, when our mob have been practicing sustainable consumption from the time of our creation. The biodiversity that exists now in this country, has been inherited from our old people – that’s the plants, the animals, the landscapes – you all benefit from their management approaches, credit where credits due, yeah?
- If your environmentalism isn’t Indigenous-centered, it’s not environmentalism; and if your understanding of ecology and how to salvage what we can from the poison of capitalism isn’t Indigenous-centered, it will fail.
- Environmental degradation is a direct result of colonialism, and blaming our people for not being vegan, driving a Tesla or using plastic straws while struggling to exist in this country under its imperial violence, won’t solve the problem of white supremacy and capitalism, nor will it save the Earth. Unless you understand the systemic and institutional nature of environmental destruction, you will never be able to fight against it.
- While settler colonialism is pushing for environmentalism with objectivity and no emotional investment, know that Indigenous people are pushing for land autonomy and that involves not only being emotionally invested, but the land, water and all life is relative to us, and is our kinship systems. Our brand of environmentalism recognizes a web of relationships and the way that preserves and nurtures families, which leads me to my next point…
- Not all environmentalism is created equal! White environmentalism will never have the breadth of connection or depth of understanding that Indigenous environmentalism has. We come from the land, we are forever connected to her, and we will always return to her.
- So much of your environmentalism and land movements are about displacing and replacing Indigenous stewardship in order to assert some white nativism, pride, or ownership. All of this means that environmentalism inevitably gets weaponized through diverse political dogma. I mean, we’ve all seen it, the well-meaning among you who tokenize our environmental issues, or those that want to simply relegate Indigenous-land relationships as ethnostates, and those conservatives that use environmentalism for their fascist agenda. Settler colonialism is a direct way to control land. That means separating us from the land. Do this, and you will not save the planet.
In summary, if you want to be good tenants, do not underestimate the power of Indigenous people in this country just because you have mistakenly assumed your colonialism is due to our defenselessness. This is our country, we are witnessing a final setting of the sun and we have been preparing for this moment since you set foot on our shores. We are the front line. We have a cultural and spiritual relationship with this country. Be a good tenant, and make a stand beside us because Indigenous people across the globe are the only ones who can make the sun rise from its darkest descent.
We Exist. We Resist. We Rise.
Me (a daughter of the land)
PS: your rent is late