Culdaf, County Donegal, Ireland Aug 27, 1997 — As I look out on the North Atlantic from the tip of the Inoshowan Peninsula in the village of Culdaf I am sitting at a third floor window of the Culdaf House, a 350 year hold farmhouse built by an English overlord who participated in the violent suppression of the people of Ireland. Ireland is a place of four worlds. It is a place of mystery where the “fairy people” who first lived on the island beginning 7000 years before the present made their marks everywhere on the land in the forms of “fairy forts,” “fairy circles,” standing stones and mythic tales. It is next a place of the Celts who arrived 3500 years before the present and who are Gaelic; they are the Irish with cousins in Cornwall, Wales, Manx, Isle of Man, Breton, Scotland and the Castilians of the Iberian Peninsula. The third of these worlds is the Ireland of an occupied nation controlled by the English and the Anglo-Irish. Finally the fourth world is the Ireland of renewal now reclaiming its place in the sweep of history the vital and deeply rooted nation of “fairy people” and the Gaelic.
Ireland is the first land where England practiced its colonial organization to control a people through “favored surrogates.” The installation of a colonial bureaucracy designed to “administer shortage” among the colonized peoples and a bureaucracy that controls the establishment of a colonial educational system designed to “anglicize” Irish children were the main features of the “Bureau of Irish Affairs.” Indians in the United States (Bureau of Indian Affairs) and Canada (Department of Indian Affairs, Aboriginals and Maori in Australia (Department of Aboriginal Affairs) and New Zealand (Department of Maori Affairs), Zulus and Xosa and other peoples in South Africa, and peoples of Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka have an intimate knowledge of the Irish experience. This is so because the English colonial administration in Ireland became the systems of colonial administration in other parts of the world. England’s colonial violence done to Ireland spread like a swine flu to peoples throughout the world.
Now, as it begins the long struggle to resume its proper identity, Ireland still suffers from remnants of England’s colonial violence. After decades of violent upheaval Northern Ireland is only now becoming the subject of serious peace negotiations 76 years after England imposed its rule modern rule over these counties in Ulster. Irish women secretly and slowly speak softly to one another of the ancient responsibilities of the Druids for fear that even now after Ireland’s independence from England (since 1922) punishment may be quick and sure for being Irish. There is a great split between the Anglo-Irish (the “favored surrogates”) and the Gaelic Irish that will take a long time to repair. It was, after all, the Anglo-Irish who helped the English keep the Irish in poverty for centuries. Then there is the persistent knowledge, though not widely spoken in public, about the complicit role of the English government in the starvation of millions of Irish during the Potato Famine (1845). Ireland’s ancient traditions, so long suppressed, are in just the last 14 years beginning to resurface though the lingering fear of punishment remains.
Peat Bog diggers are finding more and more ancient evidence of pre-historic Ireland in the form of nearly petrified trees still standing and covered with peat. One Irish woman explained with notable excitement that some of these trees have been found to be three thousand years old and older, and a few have been found with chopped notches and even bronze ax heads still stuck in the wood. All of this she said testifies to the ancient roots of the Irish people. The government of Ireland is instituting special laws to protect “fairy sites” all over the island even as local communities have persisted in their own demand that such sites remain sacred. This is a part of the renewal and the recovery.
Ireland Hosts Congress on Violence
One important step toward Irish recovery was taken in August 1997 when Ireland hosted the World Congress on Violence and Human Coexistence in Dublin. In the spirit of inter national cooperation, the Center for World Indigenous Studies had agreed in 1995 to collaborate in the organization and the conduct of this important undertaking. In a way, we at the Center for World Indigenous Studies saw this as an opportunity to join in the process of renewal for Ireland even as we note that Indians in the United States and Canada continue to suffer under the oppressive system of colonial rule England first imposed in Ireland so long ago.
Irish President Mary Robinson (now the Human Rights Secretary for the United Nations) spoke to the Opening Plenary of the World Congress on Violence and Human Coexistence at the University College Dublin on Sunday August 17 urging the Congress of 350 delegates to identify and propose new measures for reducing violence in the human community. I delivered a keynote speech on the “Political Future of Nations” at the Closing Plenary calling for increased vigor in the implementation of self-determination throughout the world as a measure to create an open international community where violence could not prosper. Mr. Russell Jim (Coordinator for the Yakama Nation’s Environmental Protection Program and a member of the CWIS Board of Directors) called on the assembly to take measures to preserve a protect traditional human cultures as a step to reduce violence. Filomenita Mongaya of the Black Women and Europe Network delivered a speech in the Closing Plenary urging greater restrictions on violence against women. Taslima Nasrin of Bangladesh, a writer who under Bangladeshi Islamic Law is threatened with execution because of the words she wrote about depredations against women urged tolerance and understanding for free speech among the states of the world. These were the beginnings and the endings of the World Congress in Dublin, but there were many other presentations and discussions throughout the Congress that offer hope and possibility for reducing violence and promoting human coexistence.
The Center for World Indigenous Studies sent a delegation to the World Congress as one of eight collaborating organizations working with the National Committee of Development Education (Dublin, Ireland) Smurfit Group, Department of Sociology and Faculty of Arts at the University College Dublin in Ireland to organize the four day Congress. Other collaborating organizations included the Glencree Centre for Reconciliation, Pave Point, Rescue Trust, Women’s Education, Research and Resource Centre, The Cost of the Troubles Study Ltd (Belfast) and An Crann/The Tree (Belfast) and the European Commission. The Congress was chaired by Dr. Don Bennett of the University College Dublin and the coordinators were Jessica Bates and Fergus Keane.
Among the scores of delegates presenting at the Congress were people like Esthela Ortega from La Universidad del Zulia (Venezuela) who spoke about teasing, taunts and terrorism as a part of women’s experiences of public harassment. Particia McRae from Muhlenburgh College in the United States of America presented a paper entitled “Child soldiers: Victims and Perpetrators-Case Study of Guatemala,” and Pramod Kumar from the Institute for Development and Communication in chandigrarh, India spoke to the Congress about “Management of Ethnic Conflict in Singapore.” Angela Delli Sante from Berlin, Germany spoke about “Terrorism and Drug Traffickers: The Army and the Muth of the ‘Shining Path’ and ‘MRTA’ in the Upper Juallaga and Aguaytia Regions of the Peruvian Amazonia” and Sue Finch of the National Early Years Network in London, England discussed “Physical Punishment Discipline or Violence?” Margarita Sanchez-Mazas of the University of Geneva, Switzerland presented a paper entitled “Tackling Xenophobia through value conflicts” and Heino Noor of Tartu University Clinic, Estonia addressed the subject of “Suicidality, Violence, and Coexistence in the Post-Socialist Society.” These were among the more than 120 intervention presented during the Congress.
The Center for World Indigenous Studies delegation included Mr. Russell Jim from the Yakama Nation, Dr. Melissa Farley, Dr. Richard A. Griggs, Ms. Barbara Jim from the Yakama Nation, Mr. Greg Grove and his wife Mary Grove from the Cowlitz Nation, Dr. Leslie Korn and me.
Mr. Russell Jim presented a paper supplemented by overhead projections describing the installation and technical affects of nuclear power plants in ancient Yakama territories and the long term impact of nuclear power on the culture and traditions, not to mention the health, of the Yakama people. Mr. Jim detailed for the assembly his great knowledge about nuclear power, but made this highly technical subject understandable and accessible. He drew attention to the affects of radioactively contaminated water seepage on traditional Yakama foods and ultimately cultural practices. He also drew attention to the growing evidence of radioactive contamination affects on the health of Yakama people as incidents of cancer, arthritis, and diabetes affect more and more individuals.
Dr. Melissa Farley delivered her intervention, “Prostitution, Normalized Gender: Violence and the Pimping of Nations” before a packed assembly. She addressed the responsibilities researchers have when examining violent social phenomena like prostitution. She called particular attention to the parallel between “nations and their lands being raped” and the rape of women through prostitution and the need to take note of rape and prostitution of indigenous women as indigenous territories are being over run by commercial and military force.
Mr. Greg Grove of the Cowlitz Nation gave a presentation entitled: “America’s Violence in Cowlitz Country.” He described the extensive mining of coal, clear cutting of ancient Cowlitz forests and pollution in the Cowlitz river as evidence of “development violence” against the Cowlitz and their homelands by the French, the English and finally the United States of America. Grove described the 2600 square mile territory of the Cowlitz people and explained how the environmental damage done to the land undermines the Cowlitz culture and destroys the people.
Dr. Leslie Korn delivered a well received presentation entitled, “Development as a Precipitant of Community Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress” where she described externally imposed development as the caustic force that breaks down traditional societies resulting in generations of community trauma and particularly a form of “post-traumatic stress” for individuals. She explained how incidents of self-inflicted violence, suicide, and self-hate are evidence of community trauma and traumatic stress. She further elaborated on the importance of “self-determined development” as the antidote for the plague of violence resulting from externally imposed development.
Dr. Richard Griggs and Dr. Rudolph Rÿser delivered a presentation entitled: “Continuing Colonial Violence in the Fourth World” where each discussed the role nations and states play in relation to each other and how boundaries between nations and between nations and states can be the focus of effective conflict resolution.
Ms. Barbara Jim offered an intervention entitled, “Human Radiation Experimentation: Targeting Indigenous Peoples” where she discussed the violent implications of state sponsored radiation experiments involving the intentional release of radioactive materials into natural rivers to determine the affects of such radiation on American Indians who consumed fish from the rivers.
The reemergence of Ireland in the last 14 years even though it became an independent nation-state in 1922 occurs in the same time period as other nations have begun to resume their role as distinct political identities. Ancient nations like Catalunya, Slovakia, Latvia, Chechnya, and Vanuatu, began in the 1970s to reclaim their responsible role in the family of nations, and now Ireland has begun the process too.
Read about Ireland:
Dames, Michael (1992) Mythic Ireland. Thames and Hudson. (272 pages) An extraordinary undertaking by a geographer who understands the necessary connections between a people, their land and their cosmos. Dames notes:
Every civilization tends to assume that it is the ‘fact’, and others are ‘fiction’, but in Ireland the myths of previous ages are inclined to hang on and on, till eventually (with or without permission), they become embedded in the consciousness of subsequent erase.He has traveled Ireland and knows it intimately. This is not a travel book, nor is it a scholarly monigraph though it is both. It is, in reality, a poem about Ireland. Dames notes further “the Irish population [is] scattered across the world, Ireland’s position is elusive, both in space, and (as this book tries to show) in time. Ireland lies here and there, now and then. The Other is often heard knocking on both sides of her door.” And so his wonderful poem goes.
Cunliffe, Barry. (1997) The Ancient Celts. Oxford University Press: New York. (324 pages). Cunliffe undertakes a study of the Celts and “our changing visions of them (as this study offers) an incomparable insight into the human need to establish an identity-and of the difficulties which this poses to archaeologists, who, by their best endeavours, attempt to remain objective.” This is a wonderfully thorough and scholarly examination of the often difficult history of the Celts as they emerged from what is now middle Europe and arrive at the outer edges of the western European continent in the form of Bretons, Irish, Kernow, Welsh, Scotts, Iberic Castilians and Portuguese holding among them collectively and singly the ancient traditions of Europe-now hidden behind the layers of relatively modern waves of population movements into Europe.