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Jul 27, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

It’s my hope, however vain, that the department of the interior would alway be in indigenous hands and that the parks service always be preferentially staffed by indigenous people.

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Me too! And more ...

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Jul 26, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

A lot to digest in this post. Thank you. I love writers who can make me think and feel. After all, isn't that why we're here?

I've listened to and enjoyed both your Water Cooler Podcast and the Mapping the Doctrine of Discovery episode. I was already an admirer of Antonia Malchik, and now I am also an admirer of Tina Ngata. So much to follow up on!

I've been aware of the Doctrine of Discovery for several years. In fact, when writing a graduate studies proposal back in 2019 for what I then titled, "A Critical Inquiry Into the Foundations of the American Experience" (or something to that effect), an examination of the Doctrine was to be part of my curriculum. But listening to Ngata has taken my understanding to a new level and provided me with a wealth of additional insights and resources. Her concept of a "Doctrine of Corporate Discovery" is spot-on. I have often referred to the speculators and developers who are plundering and ruining my beloved town and state as the new conquistadors. The mindset is the same, and, like a cancer, has metastasized into every aspect of our collective imagination such that people just throw up their hands and say, "What are you gonna do? That's just the way it is?" Indeed.

Here's a paragraph from the description of the episode that I found particularly brilliant and eye-opening:

"When we think about how the Doctrine of Discovery has taken hold of the social psyche, we must examine how it intersects with the flows of power and knowledge. Ngata provides two examples. First, it creates a patriarchal, hierarchical system of privilege and domination where resources and power flow upwards to a smaller and smaller group of people. The second element is the creation of a cosmological narrative of justification to protect this hierarchy. The hierarchy, then, is protected thoroughly by theological and “natural” justifications for exploitation. In this way, theology, enslavement, exploitation, and extraction mutually reinforce one another."

We have our work cut out for us if our goal is to uproot all of this and create a new narrative upon which human cultures can structure themselves in a way that privileges respect for all of creation, reciprocity, humility, contentment, and gratitude (is this un-American?). I have a couple of hours still open on my schedule next Tuesday, but otherwise I'm pretty much tied up. The future will just have to wait.

During the interview you mentioned something I had not considered before--that the trillions of dollars American taxpayers have spent building infrastructure to accommodate an automobile-centric lifestyle really amounts to a subsidy for the automotive and petroleum industries. I guess one could also say that we spent all that money building a giant gallows for planet Earth.

In an address yesterday, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke the following words: "One’s strength is not measured based on who you beat down, but who you lift up.”

Perhaps that would make an excellent motto for the Flathead Warming Center.

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Thank you for listening to the podcasts! I think Mapping the Doctrine of Discovery might be one of the more important ones I listen to. Since you already know about the Doctrine, some of the earlier ones won't be as useful, but the ones that, like Ngata's, show its effects internationally and/or psychologically, really help me start to feel my way into the depth of this problem and how much it dictates about our lives. The one with Robert J. Miller had similar insights. Miller hosted the day-long webinar on the international Doctrine of Discovery I attended last spring, and had speakers from South Africa, Finland, Australia, ... I forget where else. It's everywhere!

The amount of money that goes to support infrastructure to accommodate cars is mind-blowing. PARKING. You could spend a lifetime just focusing on the space, resources, and money given to parking spots.

And that is a GREAT motto for the Flathead Warming Center. We do have our work cut out for us. It makes it a little less daunting knowing we're not alone, and especially -- as you point out -- we're all also very busy trying to exist within it.

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Nia, there are so many parts of your essay I wanted to quote back to you that it ended up being pretty much the whole piece. So much to consider. Faulkner was right: “The past is never dead. It's not even past.” Thank you as always!

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I wanted to use that line but couldn't remember who said it! Thank you, Greg. (Also, if you have the time to read Debra's book, it really is so good. Utterly different.)

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I’m going to request a copy from my fave indie bookstore today!

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Jul 23, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

Nia, I think I've got your number after this. You are either an intellectual octopus or a gang of sixteen brilliant scholars. I can't imagine how you keep such a wide view while being acutely present to that which is embedded in the entanglement of detail. Many gratitudes.

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That is very complimentary, thank you! Maybe I just listen to 16 brilliant scholars? Who knows, but I do know I'm way overdue picking the peas and gathering huckleberries. Can't do everything!

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Great observations about kindness and anxiety. I wonder if kindness as a floor could have a second meaning - that there are many ways to be "kind" and qualities of it, and not all of them are equal. The trivial connotations of being pleasant and civil, reducing friction, is the bare minimum floor. more like the superficial trappings of kindness. But if you want to appreciate kindness as a true achievement - the ceiling of what we are capable of - it has to go side-by-side with messy things like anger, friction, shameful history, reclaiming power and ownership; stuff that challenges our kindness and decency by pointing to higher forms of it and saying we can do better. Anyone can walk in and stand on the floor. But if you can do justice to all that ugly stuff *and* still remain kind and decent, you're almost touching the ceiling!

I was also thinking about what you say about "anxiety" being an excuse, a cover. I see how that's true. But you could also say it simply describes one of the barriers: that for better or worse people who are implicated in the settler legacy (most of us, in some way?) *are* made anxious by these discussions - and while this is a good thing, it also means they will inevitably find defenses and escapes, maybe even go on the offensive. In order to be and do better, people first have to reckon with their basic psychological reactions and see it for what it is. So if people can recognize that maybe they are anxious and threatened, and that this is interfering with their willingness to listen and understand and care, maybe that's still a valuable first step.

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“But if you want to appreciate kindness as a true achievement - the ceiling of what we are capable of - it has to go side-by-side with messy things like anger, friction, shameful history, reclaiming power and ownership; stuff that challenges our kindness and decency by pointing to higher forms of it and saying we can do better.” LOVE this. Yes. To retain compassion and act kind while dealing with the more challenging aspects of life with other humans is the real struggle.

You are right, I think, about that perspective of anxiety. I guess what I’m thinking of is less *actual* anxiety than what is called such from the outside but what actually ends up being racism or entitlement or both. That’s the thing that I find immovable very often where I live. With the water arguments with the CSKT, I finally realized that there was no way of assuaging the fears of a certain slice of people because they fundamentally believe that no Native Nations should have control of anything, and in many cases don’t believe they should have access to anything. It should be settled (and is, really, though some people are trying other strategies to fight it), the CSKT gave up most of their water rights to come to a solution, and there is still a battle going on led by people who think they shouldn’t have any at all. That’s the kind of thing I’m thinking of that isn’t actually anxiety. I think it’s important for people working on these issues to understand the difference.

Otherwise, as you say, there is real anxiety and if people can face that and grapple with what’s beneath it, you can make a lot of progress. It is a *very* valuable first step and I wouldn’t want to see it skipped.

There’s also something I don’t think a lot of people who live far from these regions understand, which is that building trust and relationship doesn’t always work because you’re not just interacting with someone’s personal worries and concerns, you’re also interacting with the power of whatever media they’re taking in, which is often straight up lies or propaganda. Talking with someone who’s been saturated in FOX News and the like for years is very different from talking with someone who, well, hasn’t. It’s just one more problem we can’t solve with individual action. Necessary but not sufficient …

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Jul 25, 2023·edited Jul 25, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

It's true: I have not had to deal directly with the level and sheer intensity of hatred and rigidity you regularly encounter. I cannot imagine how much that must force you to confront the scope of the problem. I remember a post you made last year, when you described being at a town meeting and receiving a gaze from a familiar neighbor, which chilled you to the bone. (The post where you cited the scene from Sound of Music when Rolf betrays the captain).

At the time I remember thinking that in a way the captain inadvertently betrayed Rolf's trust also, by assuming he could simply be shown the light of truth and goodness ("You'll *never* be one of them!"), and he would immediately come around. But the captain didn't respect how deep in Rolf was, how much trust and deprogramming would be required for him to even consider giving up that identity. That's just a Hollywood movie, but I couldn't help recalling your reference there.

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Ah, yes -- not a neighbor, but someone I was pretty friendly with and saw most days up until we disagreed about her approach to trying to oust a school administrator whom some teachers disliked. We never even had a conversation about it. She just knew I wasn't on her side. I ran into her in the lobby of the middle school last winter and I swear to goodness I feel like she truly would kill me if she thought she could get away with it. I also really think she's got a mental health issue that's causing it. She hates me so much. It's disconcerting but there's not much I can do about it.

Come to think of it, I think the person I was writing about wasn't her, but someone she was working with on this issue, which in the end was such a small, local thing, it depressed me to no end that people were prepared to destroy relationships over it. Anyway, I don't know if that person even remembers how she felt about me at the time, but we've worked together a few times over the last year and seem to get along okay now. So that's something!

It IS just a movie, but the way you're describing it gets to why I brought it up in the first place, because it reflects for a moment the complexities of those relationships. And you're right! For many people, it's how deep they're in, how much their views or activities have been affirmed. Now you're making me think of Christian Picciolini, who was a white supremacist for years before starting an organization to connect with and deprogram white supremacists (https://www.christianpicciolini.com). Also why I recommend this essay on echo chambers and epistemic bubbles probably more than I recommend any other: https://aeon.co/essays/why-its-as-hard-to-escape-an-echo-chamber-as-it-is-to-flee-a-cult

I think you need all of this, the connections and relationships and trust-building and understanding. It was just that in the context of what was being discussed on that panel -- stolen land given back -- and other things that happen in a lot of places including where I live, it feels really important to me to remember that while we're trying to bring people around to a different way of feeling about a situation, others are suffering the consequences of that situation. So even *while* you (or someone) does that work, decisions still have to be made. I guess it's a bigger question of whether or not justice should have to wait for enough people to feel comfortable with it.

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Jul 27, 2023·edited Jul 27, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

​"I guess it's a bigger question of whether or not justice should have to wait for enough people to feel comfortable. What a great way of putting it. ​I'm tempted to say it depends on whether justice *has to* wait for them to feel more comfortable (because ​it's literally not possible without more minds being changed and more support), or would benefit from their getting more on board but it's not essential.​ In your region the people supporting justice don't seem to be in power - so it might require more common ground and cultivating of trust, I don't know. Perhaps part of the work of convincing them is ​simply to help them appreciate the cost of waiting to help them ​feel convinced.

And love that you linked to a C. Thi Nguyen piece - I'm a fan of his stuff! What you said about the fallacy of catering to people's "anxiety" and treating everyone as a potential ally makes me think of this other article he wrote about the distinction between a "polarization" narrative (everyone is equal) and a "propaganda" narrative (there are real bad guys manipulating the narrative and it's not equal) : https://www.bostonreview.net/articles/polarization-or-propaganda/

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You are ABSOLUTELY right. The panelist who answered the question about white settler anxiety talked mostly about what's politically possible at any given point in time. He was a white guy (who'd worked with an Aboriginal group in Australia on the Land Back thing he was presenting on); I would have been interested to hear what Dina Gilio-Whitaker had to say about it. I wasn't able to ask because they ran out of time for questions after that.

I think "​simply to help them appreciate the cost of waiting to help them ​feel convinced" might be closer to where we're at. We don't have to get too far into the weeds here, but my county has become one of the most conservative in Montana, meaning not just "small government" conservative, but deeply ideological and driven by both that and disinformation and paranoia. However, the people we hear are the ones speaking the loudest, as is true in most places. And as is true in most places, voter turnout is really low. Too many people are disengaged entirely and I wonder if that affects these issues almost more than outright opposition. What I've been trying to work on -- not in any organized way, just me doing whatever I can -- is finding ways to deeply reframe people's understanding of values like "freedom."

I didn't know you were a fan of Nguyen, too! I really do recommend that essay more often than pretty much any other. Thank you for sending me the Boston Review piece. I hadn't seen it and it's such a relief to see someone point out what's actually going on here, and to do it so well.

He was on an early episode of the Conspirituality podcast and I've listened to it a bunch of times because it's just so good and they really get into the difficulty of shaping a moral world at a global scale. (Episode 55; I can't find a direct link to it.)

I really appreciate our conversations!

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"Kindness is a floor, not a ceiling." 👏👏👏 That is an absolutely perfect statement and I look forward to quoting you obsessively on it. Kindness as the conditions for necessary hard conversations, not a replacement for them (which is the toxic positivity version of "HEY, STOP COMPLAINING, CAN'T YOU BE KIND?").

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You said it so much better than I could! "Kindness as the conditions for necessary hard conversations, not a replacement for them." YES!

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Jul 22, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

What a mind and heart Nia

Thanks

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Thank you, Harry. 💗

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Jul 22, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

Yes! Yes! I love this—it’s like you’re writing with a very precise ball-peen hammer, thwacking away the bullshit so we can see the core. Thank you for writing.

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Thank you for reading! Sometimes it’s hard to get to it because it’s all so big, but then someone says something that throws it all into some kind of clarity … or at least tries to.

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Just popping in here to say that I am looking forward to reading an entire month's worth of writing from you after I pass the bar next week.

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Hot damn GOOD LUCK! Can’t wait to hear how it goes. Rooting for you!

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I can't wait to hear how it goes, too :)

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💪😀

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Jul 22, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

A great read, as always. I just put Debra Darling's book on hold at the library. (A library is a commons!). And thanks for the nudge to read Chris La Tray.

One of our local environmental nonprofits just appointed a new executive director. I met her for coffee yesterday. She told me her dream is to have a twenty acre regenerative farm. I told her about the Farmerama "Landed" podcast and sent her a link.

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“Landed” is a great series I think, and Farmerama does a number of episodes on that subject. Thanks for sharing it more widely. I love hearing about people’s intentions to generate land. They just need access to it.

And yes, a library is a commons! One of the first people I ever interviewed on this subject mentioned that. And DNA, knowledge, literature, …

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Jul 23, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

"A library is a commons", I love that! Like socialised knowledge :)

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Very much so!

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Jul 22, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

You are such an amazing writer Nia! It makes me feel so much! I often feel how you were feeling, standing at the basketball court, your old house, the Buffalo, Sacajawea! How we as humans ask for so much and do not listen to what we are being told by the land we touch everyday! Love u! ❤️❤️

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You’re so wonderful, Val, thank you! I can imagine you know those feelings so well, especially, somehow, the basketball court. Love you too! 💗

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I forwarded this to two different circles who need to read it, one in South America and one in New Zealand. You managed to explore topics we need to learn more about. Bravo.

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Oh, thank you, Mark. One of the professors I quoted works with people on the Doctrine of Discovery all over the world, definitely in New Zealand. And East Africa. And Scandinavia (it effects Sami people in northern Sweden and Finland, too). It’s such a huge thing, hidden in plain sight so to speak.

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Wow, I loved this one. A,) I’m going to get a copy of Debra Darling’s book next time I am in Great Falls. Hadn’t heard of her and thank you for the recommendation. B.) I wanted to applaud and hoot and holler over your thoughts on kindness and the fallacy of building trust. Just ... thank you. I spent years trying to get white ranchers to tolerate wolves and bears and change their behavior and all it did was encourage a sense of entitlement that they had to someone caring about their oversized complaints. And I am from a white ranching family. Trying to “build trust” sounds lovely but does very little to change behaviors or hearts and minds. I still don’t know exactly what works. But after having been taken to see the latest Q anon movie that is getting way way more audience members here in rural Montana than any other movie and then walking out in 5 minutes because I was unaware of what it was before I went there and then having my mother, go on, and on about how great it was, I truly understood the futility of “building trust” for change. C.) i’ve had nightmares for years of being stuck back in my rural Montana high school, because for some reason I didn’t graduate (in the dream, of course) so I getI get it. The past can be scary and also the way forward.

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I love Debra’s writing so much. She’s only published two novels but they are more worth waiting for than about anything else I’ve ever read.

Wow, I love these thoughts! I know just the kinds of conversations you’re talking about. THANK YOU, first of all, for all the work you’ve done. I have to believe it makes some kind of difference, even if we can’t see it now and justice can’t wait forever, nor should it have to. And I am so sorry about the movie. I know what you’re talking about there, too—some of my close family have been dealing with the same thing from their relatives, talking about how “important” that movie is. It’s pretty horrifying.

I believe in building trust, in doing all this work, I really do, but you probably know more than many that there are massive forces building another kind of trust that we can’t compete with easily. I don’t know exactly what works, either. I guess nobody does or we wouldn’t be facing these things. But we’ll keep trying.

RE C) I hate that dream! I have a similar one (separate from the crumbling elementary school) about taking mathematics exams in college or high school after missing classes all semester, or performing in a music concert after failing to practice for months. It is a way forward but I still don’t like them!

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Jul 21, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

Well done, powerful even. But a cryptic ending.

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I went out after posting that to pick up our farm share CSA, and realized on my way that I should have brought Debra’s book back in because it’s related to how she retells Sacajewea’s entire story (down to the inescapable fact that she was a child, which almost everything I’ve ever read or heard about her skims over), and by resurfacing and retelling many of these stories we can start to see where things went wrong. Not that it started there, which you of course know. But all the stories matter.

I like being able to write about what I think really matters here, but I do miss having an editor who will point things like that out before I post it!

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Jul 22, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

Cryptic ending doesn't detract from what you said.

As the author of a book on walking, you will be interested to know that I heard a guy who is writing a book about walking speak last Sunday. What's interesting about that is that he was speaking from pulpit in the UU church in Peterborough, NH where Henry David Thoreau once stood around a 170 years ago and, it is believed though not for sure known, delivered a version of the lecture that led to what is still probably the most famous essay on Walking.

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That’s amazing. I would like to believe he delivered that lecture there, just so that intersection could be so close. “In wildness is the preservation of the world,” from that essay, is something I keep trying to write on … wildness of the world, including inside of all of us.

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Jul 22, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

I believe it and I think the speaker did, too. Thoreau has an interesting reputation and role around here in his native habitat.

As for wildness within as opposed (or is it opposed?) to without, I think there is a lot of confusion. I'm struggling through John Dewey's Experience and Nature in which how we deal with without v within is a central theme. It seems to me that our cultural tradition inclines us to live too much in our heads.

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Jul 22, 2023·edited Jul 22, 2023Author

I was thinking of Jack Turner's "The Abstract Wild," where he waxes on about his thought that Thoreau was speaking of wildness within ourselves as well as "wilderness," that it's about the experience of the human Self in relation to the world as much as the actual physical wild. Or something like that. Every time I dip into that book, even the passages I marked up come across differently to me: "Thoreau's famous saying 'in Wildness is the preservation of the World' asserts that wildness preserves, not that we must preserve wildness."

And as someone who is always struggling to get out of her head and a lot more grounded, I concur with that!

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Jul 22, 2023Liked by Antonia Malchik

You're not a Gemini, are you? I remember a counterculture therapist I had a few years ago (an inexperienced one) actually screaming "Get out of that busy Gemini brain!" at me. She was right, and I have made quite a bit of progress in doing so.

I like The Abstract Wild. It is Abbey-esque, but maybe better than Abbey.

Just a draft of John CLayton's latest book, which also addresses this topic in his particular way, to read and comment.

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