There is a new student film on Cascadia that is of interest. I’m glad they correct the Beer Bottle Borders and show the Bioregional Boundaries accurately. Map making has historically been an overtly colonial endeavor, and as we turn to bioregionalism to re-assert healthy boundaries throughout Turtle Island, it can’t be emphasized enough that we need to confront neocolonialism at every step. As we begin to speak of Bioregional Sovereignty, it must always be clearly understood that our broader autonomy and interdependence rests on the foundation of the unique Indigenous Sovereignties throughout this land base. A line on a map through a watershed is foolish in the eyes of any sensible bioregionalist, but drawing lines through Indigenous Nations is a crime of a different measure.
This doesn’t mean that there are no Nations with a foot in two bioregions. I haven’t done detailed research, but I’d venture to say that Shoshone Peoples and Dakelh Peoples dwelt within and without Cascadian watershed boundaries. Within both groups of Nations, some bands inhabited lands which provided for a much less settled way of living than some of our neighbors on the Coast, crossing the continental divide at times. And our bioregional neighbors on the Plains certainly help us understand my favorite new unsettling word, Usufruct. Next would be Incommensurable.
Usufructuary and Incommensurability: now let us philosophize with a hammer. The Western ideology of private property lives in a different world than true Indigenous Sovereignty. The European overlay on modern Tribal governments has cheapened the word “sovereignty” into little more than rhetoric in some cases, as if letting the slaves rearrange the furniture in the slave quarters would give them a measure of “sovereignty”. I want to celebrate the many places where true Indigenous Sovereignty is still practiced, but if you’re following me, you’re realizing that full sovereignty is on the verge of extinction, if not compromised in every last corner of the globe. But Resurgence is happening, and it’s happening now. And as things change, all Cascadians, Indigenous and settler, need to be on guard against neocolonial smoke and mirrors. To do this, we’ll need to make some “unlawful matches and divorces of things“.
First, let us recognize that bioregions define themselves, and we can simply understand them. Geomorphology cares not for politics, hence my love of geomorphology. The first step towards bioregional understanding is to leave Ideology behind. Just look, just listen. Where are you, and who else is here besides you and your babbling ego? Cascadia is a place, not an idea. But when we listen to the land, the living Earth and all of our unique and peculiar relatives we share this place with, we do not hear silence. This land puts ideas in our heads. Enough time alone in the wildness here is enough to destroy all the Ideas you may have entered with. And then the land begins to dream through you, you begin to feel something other than dispossession. You may think you own this land, or like me, think you own nothing; but beyond that ideological duality, if you drink this water and eat these salmon, if you turn to face that which the others are running from, you will begin to understand that this land owns you. You respond and so does She. They say we project and anthropomorphize, but they do not understand that it is the land who is projecting us. In so many ways, we are being imagined. But we imagine back, and it is plain to see how profoundly our ideas bring forth consequences. We live in Absolute Relationship.
Now, we can renounce their Empire, refuse to be “amerikkkan” or “kanadian”, put on a different pair of shoes, and identify as Cascadian. Good. But it has to go deeper than that. Identities can change with the weather. But who are you really? What are you made of? A skin encapsulated ego? Dirt and wet spit? Who are you beyond the idea of yourself? What(sic) is the land beyond your idea of it? Cascadia is a dangerous word because it betrays our hidden identity crisis. A crisis that could go wrong, and we know it. Einstein said that a problem could not be solved with the same level of thinking that created it. So what level of thinking are we hung up on?
Here we can understand Incommensurability. There are different levels of understanding, both finite and infinite games. Not all is equal, and being “under” a law doesn’t change our true stature. So let’s embrace our uniqueness and particularities. I would say that Cascadian Bioregional Sovereignty is compatible with and complementary to Indigenous Sovereignty precisely because these are incommensurable. They can and do overlap, even interact, but they cannot be understood at the same level. Further, being neither equal nor equally interchangeable, we can say that Bioregional Sovereignty rests upon Indigenous Sovereignty as it foundation, but it cannot and will not work the other way around. Cascadia finds its recognition in Indigenous Sovereignty, while Indigenous Sovereignty recognizes itself. This is because Indigeneity is merely the understanding of what is. In this particular place. It just is. “Indigenous” is not a humanistic construct, nor another item on the laundry list of identity politics. This is why it is so threatening to their Empire, this is why true Indigenous Sovereignty cannot be recognized by their Empire. Like the Buddha said, “I need no validation, the Earth is my witness”.
Indigenous means their Empire is just a sand castle, but we are the sand and the wind and the wave about to wash it all away. Cascadia is then the understanding of the death and rebirth of a particular place, the revolution that neither ends nor begins. They came here with their “laws of the land”, but to become Cascadian is to recognize that the Land is the Law. And here, in this place, those of us who ran to the edge of the world to escape the Leviathan will turn and face that machine-beast, stand upon the Indigenous Sovereignty of the Land itself, and fight together with all of our relatives; not just for our lives, but for Life itself. This is the place for that battle, and it has already begun. Are you with us? There is nowhere left to run.
-as prayer, in a good way, from the edge of the Salish Sea, waiting for the ferry. See you in the streets of Victoria!