Bernard Perley is Maliseet from Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, Canada. He teaches courses in linguistic anthropology and Native American studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He combines his art and architecture background with ethnography to promote Indigenous language revival and social justice issues. And, he loves drawing cartoons.
“I am Ethiopian just like my neighbor who was born and grew here.” These words were spoken by Ras Henry, a mature Rastafari man who migrated 12,000 kilometers from Jamaica to Ethiopia in the 1970s. Like many other Rastafari, Ras Henry took up the offer of land in the southern Ethiopian city of Shashamane.
In the autumn of 1969, Indigenous activists captured global attention when they occupied the abandoned prison on Alcatraz Island. Their hope was to transform the site into a center for Indigenous cultural life, and for nearly two years they held the island in defiance of the federal government, bringing increased attention to the oppression of Indigenous peoples in the United States.
The rebellion in the streets and universities was deeply felt in the world of American anthropology, beginning no later than 1965. The radicalization can be traced through the substance and atmosphere of the Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association.
At my current institution, a group of interdisciplinary faculty gathers every so often to talk about ways to “decolonize” our syllabi. In our meetings, we discuss how the use of “decolonize” remains fraught and even nonviable given our location on stolen land, and I share with them anthropologist Yarimar Bonilla’s use of “unsettling colonial logics and institutions” (2015) as a modus operandi for thinking about and engaging in such efforts.
Silence chose me
I didn’t choose silence
silence immobilized me