Michelle Cook, a Diné attorney, was one of the guests of the Annual Solidarity Day of the CSIA-Nitassinan, on October 12th, 2019. She is now preparing a Ph.D. in political sciences at Arizona University, on the, in the USA not separable issues of Indigenous Human Rights, disinvestment and gender. She is founder of the Water Protectors Legal Collective (for those who tried to stop the DAPL in Standing Rock, from February 2016 to April 2017). She is a member of Women Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN). She has been touring Europe for a campaign (Divest Invest Protect) that aims to put pressure on banks and insurance companies to remove their funds from racist projects, deadly to environment and peoples depending on it.

Michelle Cook  en français
Also on Censored News
October 12th, 2019
Transcription and photos Christine Prat

I think in terms of Divest, Invest, Protect, I don’t consider myself so much a lobbyist as a reality check, and someone who is merely delivering facts and truths. And ultimately, I think that one of the important things we are doing is that we are not there to ask these banks to pity us, we are giving them a very clear warning that their time of dominating this earth is coming to an end.

After the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was a pipeline that over 10,000 people fought, in the heartlands of the United States of America, we were able to achieve, within the Obama administration, a halt to the pipeline. Yet, when the Trump administration came to power, within days that easement was denied and the pipeline was allowed to go through and under the Missouri River. Before that, since August 20, 2016, I had to watch our people being abused. I watched and had to witness and document the dog attacks, the bite marks on the breasts of my peers, on the breasts of the women. I had to sleep wondering whether or not my friends would be murdered. We had to watch as two of our precious Diné tribal members were injured. Their eyes were blinded through the use of so called non-lethal weapons by the police forces.

So, when the pipeline was going through, after the Trump administration took office, for me, for my own healing and my own wellness, I needed to know who paid for this. I had to see them, it was important. I needed to go where they thought they were safe. And they had to see me, so that whatever tears and whatever pains I had to carry was no longer mine, that all that violence and all that trauma that was given to us by their finance, they were going to take it back to them. So, when we visit these banks, I leave that pain with them, I leave that suffering, I leave that trauma within the walls of their institutions. I think that, on a very  basic level, what we are doing is trying to change financial laws, but I think on a much deeper level, what we are doing is really an exorcism of the system, of the spirit of predation, that has existed on this planet, that has disconnected us from who we are, that has alienated us from our inheritance as sacred creatures, sacred children of this earth.

So, I learned a lot from these meetings. From that particular A.G.M., this Annual General shareholders Meeting. As we approached the building, I could see the snipers on the roof. And here we are, Indian women. What have we done? Why do we need a sniper on our head? What more did we have than my feathers and pollen, and the medicine? So, I went to that meeting with those guns on us, and so did those women. And we were watched and we were followed by maybe security officers. Every time I went to the bathroom I was followed, every move I made, I was watched, in that space. Because we had entered into the temple of their god. Because money is the god of the colonialists. It has taken the place of the sacred. So, instead of chants you hear corporate songs, instead of seeing the sacred symbols of life you see their corporate image. This is a reverse prayer. When I was in that meeting I felt – a lot of people see that and say “Oh, you must be so brave”, but we are only brave because we have to be, only brave because of necessity, we have to, I have to. And, even though I had these men with guns following me, I had to meditate in there, and say to myself “I am going to do this, I can do this.” I think everyone has moments where you are going to be confronted with something that you feel that you can’t do. But you have to work through those fears, to be able to take the steps that are going to be necessary to save this planet. So, I was the last person to speak at the A.G.M. and as soon as my first colleague was on the stage, the audience was hissing at us, yelling and hissing at us. Immediately, as we entered the stage, despite of the fact that there were more shareholders there who were speaking, as soon as we got on the stage, we felt all this wave of malice and hostility. And the meditation that was required, in the face of that adversity, was very difficult. Because the point is, they are to knock you off so that you can’t communicate the truth. But I understood what was happening and through that meditation, through that prayer, I was able to maintain that calm center and to give them a message to hiss about. So, I think the process of taking women into those institutions is on its own an act of exorcism, because I think the very presence of Indigenous women is an act of purification of these temples of this so-called Western Civilization.

What I think is unique about the campaign and the message we carry as Indigenous women within this divestment movement, is that it’s not just about taking money from that bad bank and placing it somewhere else. Centrally, what we are asking is for individuals to question the construction and the abstraction of money itself. We really need to understand the creation story of the banks of Europe in order to understand and to revive, to restore the ancient economic traditions of Indigenous Peoples that can be alternatives and that can heal this climate genocide that we are currently faced with. I think it’s also asking people: “Ask yourself what are your values, what have you been told as your value? Is your value just based on what you earn? Is your value based on your gender? Is your value based on your race? Are you good enough, are we ever good enough? Are we ever whole? Are we ever full?” We are never full in this capitalist system, there is never enough and is that value? What is your value? For us, as Indigenous people, we are taught even before we are born. When the baby is still in the womb, it receives songs, inside, in-utero, it is already encoded with the ancient knowledge of who you are. That is how it works, because when you are removed from your true identity as a sacred being of this universe, you don’t understand your power, and you don’t understand that you are never alone, that you are always connected, that you are always surrounded by your ancestors and by Creation, the elements are your relatives.

And this has been the civilizing mission of the so-called Western Civilization since the cult of Rome began. And it was those papal bulls issued by Pope Alexander Borgia that issued the Doctrine of Discovery that allowed the “Manifest Destiny” theory, to allow the colonization of the entire world, but also here against the tribes of Europe. You just happen to be closer to the seat of the empire, centuries ago. We just happen to be farther away, so we remember the time before the cult of Rome came. But that knowledge and your connections have been removed violently from you, by the Inquisition. That history of colonization, of imperialism, and inherently that racism and that feminicide, is all part of the intersectional forces that are bringing us to that problem that we have now with climate genocide.

So, as Indigenous Peoples we are the guardians of that knowledge of the time before, and that is why it is so important to listen to Indigenous Peoples and to follow their leadership. Because, in order for us to survive, we have to realign, in order for us to survive, you have to heal yourself. We are coming up to the 400th anniversary of the first ships coming to our shores, and now Indigenous Peoples are coming back here, so we see this full circle coming, and I see our presence here as what I hope will be a real awakening for the people of Europe. To re-awaken and to rekindle that sacred spirit that is inside us all, so that we can heal and bring together back what has been broken.

So, I invite you to join us and to really understand that I am not different from you, that we are one, that we are one people. We should not be divided and we have to unite, we have to come together now, there is no more time. I invite you to join and give yourself permission to follow your higher purpose and to find what you can contribute and what you can do to participate in the healing of this earth and to heal what has been wounded through colonization. In terms of the bank work, that kind of the simple part, that is just asking to follow Human Rights. But in order to really shift and transform society, we have to shift and transform you. So, what is it you need, what is it you want to hear, because you are here listening to us, you are all here, why are you here, what is it that you need to hear from us? I want you to ask for that from yourself: to wake up in the morning at dawn – this is what we do and this is maybe a knowledge I give you so that you can reconnect. So, in the morning wake up very early, when the sun is beginning to come up. Be disciplined. Wake up and give what you have, if it’s tobacco or if it’s corn pollen or if it’s corn meal. Offer that to the Earth. And ask for your healing, ask for the Creator to give you the strength and the knowledge. It is through this reciprocity, through this spiritual currency that you can realign and find what true power is. And that is your true inheritance as a sacred child of this universe.


Christine Prat   Français
July 24, 2018

Nowadays, you can hear every day from Western politicians and their corporate media that we are going through a ‘Migrants Crisis’. It has been repeated so many times that almost nobody questions the fact anymore. The only disagreements are about what to do about it. It is time to restore some truth about the facts.

There is no ‘migrants crisis’, there is a ‘racist crisis’ among the White Euro-Supremacist governments, as well as a prejudice among the so-called ‘democratic’ leaders that their voters are necessarily racists. It is unfortunately true that many white people are racists – as racism is totally irrational and based on extreme ignorance, knowledge being replaced by faith in what corporate media say. However, people don’t primarily vote against migrants, they vote because their life is too hard under the yoke of wild capitalism. It is still very worrying that more and more European and American countries vote for fascist or extreme-rightist parties, but it is certainly not the migrants fault.

We must not forget that many refugees trying to get into Europe are running away from wars started by the United States or European countries. We must not forget either that the countries migrants are coming from had been invaded and long been colonized (some are still) by those Western countries that are rejecting them now.

It must be clear too that there are many more refugees from those wars in neighboring countries in Africa and the Middle East than in any Western country. (At a time, Iran was the country sheltering the highest number of refugees in the world. Not because their regime was so much better, but because Iranian people are usually less racists than Europeans or white North Americans). The countries where people are fleeing to are usually too poor to feed them, that’s why some try to make it to Europe – or the USA when they escape from South or Central American countries.

Those people are so desperate that they risk – and in many cases lose – their life trying to get to countries that boast about being ‘rich’ and ‘free’. Tens of thousands of migrants die trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. ‘No More Death‘ has been counting for years the dead people they found in the Sonora Desert, trying to reach the US border.

At the moment, European leaders – and their accomplices in the big media – claim that they are negotiating with African countries to cooperate and reach agreements about stopping migrants to try to cross the sea (also insinuating that they try to find solutions for the refugees in those countries). In an article by Bill van Auken, published by Counter Currents on June 26th, 2018, it is said that twice as many migrants die in the Sahara Desert as in the Mediterranean Sea. Algerian militaries – who always had good friends among French politicians and corporations since the ‘Independence’ – push back people to near the Niger border, in the middle of the Sahara, in the Ténéré – meaning sand dunes desert in Tuareg language – and force them to walk back without having given them food or water. It is over 9 miles to the border with Niger, but in that environment, for people who have been without food or water for days, it is certain death.

“The shocking revelation by the Associated Press was substantiated by videos showing hundreds of migrants stumbling through a sand storm and others being driven in massive convoys of overcrowded trucks to be dumped at Algeria’s southern border with Niger and forced into the desert at gunpoint.

As the AP itself makes clear, the murderous policy of the Algerian government is being carried out at the behest of the countries of the European Union, which have increasingly sought to induce North African regimes to act as their border guards, impeding the flow of migrants by means of intimidation, violence and death” says the Counter Currents article.

It’s just an example. The same is happening everywhere. French politicians (and other European politicians) have a lot of good friends among African militaries and dictators. But ask Mali, Niger, Nigeria to cooperate with keeping the refugees? They can’t control their northern border at all. The French war supposed to bring ‘peace’ in northern Mali is a disaster, it turned into a civil war as everywhere where Western countries interfered. Worst example is Libya, which is just a murderous mess since European countries attacked, on the ground of getting rid of Khadhafi. Still, European countries are asking Libya (is there still a country called that name?) to help with the migrants’ “problem”. Libya, as Iraq and Syria, has been totally destroyed by Western interventions, leaving only ‘civil’ war behind. What some Libyan militaries do to ‘help’ is to shoot migrants trying to reach the coast.

US/Mexico border

Then, you have those Walls being built everywhere.

The best know is the Wall in Palestine. It is not a border wall. It separates the territories occupied in 1948 from those occupied in 1967. It separates people from their families, from their fields, from going to their holy places, from travelling in general. Of course, it has been built entirely on Palestinian – 1967 – territory, meaning that the whole breadth of the wall, the road for militaries and police, and any ‘Israeli’ facilities, have been taken from Palestinian land, not one inch from Israeli settlers’ stolen land. Of course, Palestinians who try to cross can be shot, which won’t be reported by the corporate media.

There is also the wall, or fence, built on the US/Mexico border, which has been ignored by media for decades, until it was renamed “Trump’s Wall” by European politicians and media who don’t like Trump. As a matter of fact, the building started years ago, and was not finished because it was too expensive. All Trump did, was to claim that he would finish the Wall and make it higher, sending the bill to the Mexican government – which immediately replied that it was out of question. The Tohono O’odham and Yaqui, whose territory is arbitrarily cut by the border, have had problems long before Trump was elected. Their land has been cut on a map, with ruler and pen, by the Guadalupe-Hidalgo Treaty of 1848. Until the 1990’s, people from tribes and villages arbitrarily crossed by the border, could go to the other side without too many problems. According to Ofelia Rivas, Tohono O’odham from the border, the real problems started just after September 11, 2001.

There are many more walls in today’s world. According to an article in USA Today, published on May 24th 2018, there would be 77 walls completed, under construction or planned all over the world. According to a post on World Atlas – updated on August 1st, 2017 – there were 20 walls completed, some more under construction or planned – apart from The Great Wall of China, the USA/Mexico border wall and the ‘Israeli’ wall in Palestine. [Completed: between North and South Korea, 1953; China and Hong Kong, 1960s; Egypt and Palestine, 1979; Kuwait and Iraq, 1991; Melilla – Spanish – and Morocco, 1998, anti-migrants wall; Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, 1999; South Africa and Zimbabwe, 2000s; Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, 2001; Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, 2001; Ceuta – Spanish – and Morocco, 2001, anti-migrants; Botswana and Zimbabwe, 2003; India and Pakistan, 2004; Saudi Arabia and Yemen, 2004; Brunei and Malaysia, 2005; Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, 2006; Saudi Arabia and Iraq, 2014; Bulgaria and Turkey, 2014; Hungary and Serbia, 2015; Hungary and Croatia, 2015; Macedonia and Greece, 2015. Under construction: Between China and North Korea; Iran and Pakistan; United Arab Emirates and Oman, Slovenia and Croatia. Planned: Estonia Russia; Belize Guatemala]. The number of racist walls is still increasing. Building companies like Lafarge – now indicted for crime against humanity for having paid a lot of money to Da’ish in order to keep working in Syria – can only approve of all these walls. (Remember the stories about Dick Cheney’s company during the 2nd war against Iraq: selling to the US Army materials to destroy, and to US allies in Iraq materials to rebuilt…)

So-called ‘democratic’ European politicians and their media claim that they are sensitive to people’s suffering (which is a lie) but cannot possibly accept all migrants. As long as the world finds it normal that Gaza has the highest population density in the world and no access to any basic products or services, you can’t accept that Western countries claim that they cannot let all people in.

Once they have claimed that they cannot take all of them, they insist on the difference to be made between ‘political’ refugees and ‘economic’ refugees. This is a hoax. The definition of ‘political refugee’ is too narrow, that of ‘economic refugee’ is too vague.

In the late 1990’s, I happen to have been involved with the refugees’ issue. I learned a lot, I met a lot of people, I have been busy full time for months, I attended a PhD ceremony about Palestinian Refugees in International Law, I got a lot of information and testimonies, and all I can say is, everything they claim about their policies are lies and international law does not solve anything.

First, there is the distinction between ‘political’ and ‘non-political refugees. A ‘political refugee’ is someone threatened by his or her own government, so that he or she cannot ask for protection in their own country. That’s it. When people first flee a war zone through a neighboring country, which is considered safe but has no means to help them, so that they are sure to die of starvation, they are rejected from Western countries, as the certainty of starving to death makes them ‘economic’ refugees. In case of civil wars, people trying to escape from areas held by non-governmental groups – even those officially considered as terrorists by the West – can’t get political refugee status, as it is their government that should protect them! During the horrible Algerian civil war of the 1990’s, people threatened by ‘Islamists’ tried to ask political asylum in France – the Western countries hating ‘Islamists’ so much – but they were rejected, as it was up to their government to protect them. At the time, about 200 Palestinian refugees from Lebanon asked asylum in the Netherlands. They had been “advised” to say that they were threatened by Hezbollah (as it was considered absolute enemy in Western countries). However, Hezbollah was not in the Lebanese government, thus they were not political refugees. Moreover, it was not true that they were threatened by Hezbollah, but by other groups. However, they could not change their story, as having ‘lied’ means immediate and definitive rejection.

Rejection on the ground of ‘having lied’ is a very common method to get rid of people. The interpretation by those who take the decision is that there should be no difference at all between the refugee’s first statement and what he or she can say during other questionings in the course of the examination of their case. People can be in a state of shock when they arrive directly from a massacre site and be unable to tell their story properly, then come by and tell the truth, which is rejected as being ‘different’ from the first version, even if the new facts only confirm that they are threatened. There is for instance the case of women who have been raped, in countries where it is a terrible shame, and are unable to talk about it when they arrive. If interrogated again weeks or months later, they can have been convinced by social workers that being raped is not a shame, that it is being a victim. If they tell the truth, there application for asylum is immediately rejected for not having said the same the first time!

At the time, a French journalist who wanted to investigate about asylum seekers, spent 10 months in a South American country where trade union leaders and activists were often killed or arrested and tortured. She learned everything about a trade union and then managed to get false papers to come back to France, posing as an asylum seeker. At Paris airport, she was put in a cage with about 50 asylum seekers. She described how bad it has been for days, sick people getting no help, no possibility to sleep, pregnant women screaming in vain, one man totally freaking out from what he had just be through… Ultimately, only two persons out of 50 were allowed to apply for asylum, herself, who was typically a false refugee, and a man whom she knew nothing about. The totally traumatized guy was rejected. Then she went through the whole process of trying to get refugee status, it was very hard too, having to queue for days at administration buildings, being very poorly housed, being interrogated as a suspect, and so on. She managed to publish a book about what she saw and experienced.

“Fairly ‘sharing’ refugees between European Countries”: This is heavily discussed at the moment. Of course, the fascist governments won’t hear about it. But the very idea is unacceptable: if migrants want to go to a specific country, it is usually because they have family there, understand the language, know where to go. Sending them to other countries on the ground of ‘faire share’ would cut them off from their families, make it very difficult for them to study or find a job and expose them to people’s hatred, if the European Union manages to force racist countries to accept some refugees.

Separating families has long been a policy in Europe. Here in Rennes, where I now live, I have known people over 18 who had to ask their own stay permit, and were refused, although their mother and many other family members were living here legally. In the Netherlands, in the late 1990’s (it’s probably even worse now), young Moroccans over 18 had to get their own permit, which was often refused and were ordered to go ‘back’ to Morocco, although their father had been living legally in the Netherlands for 30 years. Some cases came to the media, because the people had been member of a trade union in the Netherlands, while the then king of Morocco, Hassan Number Two, strictly forbade Moroccans living abroad to become members of non-Moroccan organizations, especially trade unions which were equivalent to Communism to him. They risked their lives in Morocco and were on hunger strike.

European politicians always claimed that, ‘although it is not possible to accept all migrants’ (bastards!), they want to welcome and treat refugees with respect and dignity. This is a lie. Their policy is to make it as hard as possible for refugees in the hope that they will give it up. I met people who were working with refugees, I met refugees, I got a lot of information about the detention centers where they put asylum seekers before their case can be examined. The situation is terrible. They have to wait long before getting necessary medical care, pregnant women faint and are not helped, food is disgusting and scarce, they are housed in horrible conditions. I once met two Iraqi sisters who had been allowed to go out on a Sunday – but had to be back to the center in the evening. They said that they could not sleep at all, as they only got a mattress on the floor in a big room where men, from other cultures and languages, who had not seen women for a long time, were also housed. They were so scared of being assaulted that they did not dare to sleep. We could not even give them a piece of soap, it would have been taken. The refugees could only buy what they needed from the detention center, not at a supermarket price, but at a snack bar or hotel price. Of course, refugees did not have any money, but they could earn some by accepting very hard, dangerous work. I was told that in some detention centers, they mixed finely ground pork into the food, so that only Christians could eat. A friend of mine who very much wanted to visit a refugee she had heard of, got in touch with the only Christian organization that was allowed inside. She was told that they could get her in, at the condition that she would never tell what she had seen or heard. She declined, as the reason why she wanted to get in, was to start a campaign for the guy’s release.

Then you have those asylum seekers who are neither ‘political’ nor ‘economic’ refugees and thus don’t exist in international law. For instance, in 1998, there was the case of Samira Adamu, a 20-years-old woman from Nigeria, killed by the Belgian police when they tried to force her into a plane back to Nigeria. She had fled because her – poor – family wanted to force her to marry a 65-years-old man, known as violent, who had killed a previous wife by beating her too hard. The Belgian authorities ruled that it was not a political matter. More recently, among the refugees from Honduras who tried to enter the United States, there was a 17-years-old girl with her one-year old baby, running away because the baby’s father wanted to kill her. She had been thrown out by the US authorities in California several times, but said she would keep trying, having nowhere else to go.

Of course, the distinction between ‘political’ and ‘non-political’ refugees is bullshit. Western leaders claim that foreigners must respect their ‘democratic values’ (as if Capitalism left any room for other values than that of money!) When a Muslim woman wears a scarf in a Western country, it is political, but when a woman asks asylum to escape forced marriage or domestic violence, it is not political and it is too bad for ‘our values’. As to the ‘economic’ refugees, they come from countries that have been colonized, invaded by Europeans. They were always forced to give up their useful crops to produce export resources for the colonizer. Now, whether they are still colonized or not, they don’t have food security, while a minority of people, especially Western companies, are getting rich by exploiting their resources.

The truth is that Capitalism has reached the end of its functioning. The – illegitimate – Masters of the world are just trying to delay their necessary fall. They are clearly ready to destroy the world while they collapse. In between, they are trying to gain some time by turning people’s anger against foreigners. As fascist parties are getting more and more support, the so-called ‘democratic’ or ‘progressive’ parties try to stop them by imitating them in their racism, believing that the stupid poor are mainly racist. Of course, that policy can only bring more support to the fascist, racist parties. But political parties don’t have a solution. They have to disappear together with the capitalist world that makes them useful. Voters – per definition isolated individuals – won’t do it. Only when people will come into the streets and realize that they are not alone, there will be a solution, a Revolution.