Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Guest Post: Elizabeth Ann Mitchell, Penobscot, On Why She Disrupted Janet Mills With Some Truth

Elizabeth Ann Mitchell at center.  Photo credit: Carl D. Walsh, Portland Press Herald

This Saturday, June 10, water protectors led by the Penobscot Nation will gather at the river in Bangor to show their determination to protect their water from the state of Maine. Attorney General Janet Mills has absurdly claimed that the Penobscot's ancestral fishing rights do not include control of the waterways that their canoes were designed for, and the conflict came to a head in Portland at last weekend's Democratic Party "truth" rally.

Today's guest post by Elizabeth Ann Mitchell explains why she confronted Mills and what happened after that. Her account was first published on facebook.

(Written June 3, 2017)
We never really talk about what it means to be an activist. Some days you show up to a rally and you just end up holding a sign, or following a chant that someone starts. I think that we see activism how it is portrayed in the movies.

Sometimes, we forget that being an activist is maybe one of the most dangerous things that you'll partake in, in your lifetime.

I'm not saying this to be dramatic because life is dramatic enough as it is. I think we forget that people die for less. Die for just having different colored skin.
 Janet Mills continued speaking as her supporters roughed up protesters
at Portland, Maine "March for Truth" rally 
Today I got a reminder of how dangerous activism is. I was reminded of how the world looks at me. Today, I got called a bitch. I got called useless, worthless, a disgrace, disgusting, disrespectful, rude. I had more people than I could count on two hands and two feet approach me and violate my personal boundaries and use physical force against me. Men using their strength to silence me. Women would grab my arm and when I snatched it back, cried out for the help of a man to come save them from me.

Today I was given a literal shove back into reality.

Activism is nothing like you see on TV. You can't just stand up in front of a crowd and expect everyone to sing Kumbaya at the end of your speech. Most of the time, people demonize you and decide that it's their job to take you down because you're too loud, or you're too angry, or your “disrespectful”, or “rude”. Or you just don't “have the right” to do it. Today I remembered that activism is scary. Today I remember that being an activist means putting your hands in the air and smiling at the waiting mob, ready tear you to pieces once the first punch is thrown.

Mentally preparing yourself and your body for what may come, while speaking the truth, which is their trigger to hurt you.
Photo shared by Marena Blanchard, who posted it with
some useful links to readings on environmental racism.
I didn't know what to expect going to the rally. All I knew is that I was going to say the things that nobody else wants to. To say the things that everyone needs to hear but doesn't want to hear. I knew that I had a message for Janet Mills but I didn't know how I was going to deliver it. I decided to walk up to the podium today because I realized that my message needed to be heard not only by her, but by everybody. The rally was for truth apparently so I figured they had the right to know the truth too.

The truth is, Attorney General Janet Mills is trying to steal the rights to the Penobscot river, from my people. The State of Maine took Penobscot land, Penobscot children, and now they want to take the Penobscot river.

We are people of the river; our lives are interwoven with its fate. Just like it's every Mainer's responsibility to hold their leadership accountable, it is my responsibility to stand for the water, for Nebi.
Elizabeth Ann Mitchell at center and Maine Attorney General Janet Mills at far right.
Photo credit: Carl D. Walsh, Portland Press Herald. 
I took the platform today because I had the opportunity to. It was the perfect opportunity. A crowd of over 100 people with news photographers, and reporters with cameras. My message could be spread who knows how far with these tools at my disposal for the first time. We forget that indigenous peoples do not have platforms like Janet Mills. We almost never get recognition for our truth because we are continuously silenced. These platforms don't exist for us for a reason.
Youth water protector Luke Sekera with mic being supported to speak by Elizabeth Ann Mitchell.
Banner by ARRT! Photo credit: Dorcas Ngaliema

Today I got to see the kind of a person our Maine attorney general is. She's the kind of person who would allow a mob of angry men to assault young women of color without batting an eye. The kind of woman who allows her dedicated followers to use violence against the people who expose her. The kind of woman who has the power to stop a mob but allows it to escalate anyway.
photo credit: Dorcas Ngaliema
The article that was written in the Portland Press Herald forgot a whole part of my message. They forgot that at the end of the rally I spoke again. At the end of the rally I reminded everybody that I was there out of love. That I wasn't there to be “disrespectful” or “rude”.

I was there for Nebi. I was there because I stand for the water. I was there to remind people that water is life.

I was there to remind people that we are destroying our Mother Earth. I was there to remind folks that my people are still fighting for what is rightfully ours. That we cannot live without water. I was reminding people of how sacred water is, and how we need to protect it from people like Janet Mills.

Sometimes love comes in the form of radical truth.

"It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains."
-Assata Shakur
Check out my friend Marena's post on the action:

1. Show up for the Indigenous leadership protecting water in Maine: https://www.facebook.com/events/101752987077517/?acontext=%7B%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

2. Follow Dawnland Environmental Defense and donate to the ongoing legal battle.

3. Watch a video to educate yourself about this issue: http://www.sunlightmediacollective.org/index.…/the-penobscot

4. Follow Sunlight Media Collective on Facebook.

5. Follow the efforts of No Juniper Ridge Megadump Expansion, another issue also affecting the water and our Indigenous family in Maine.

6. Also follow Community Water Justice and get involved in the struggle against corporate water mining in Maine.

1 comment:

Joanne Twomey said...

I applaud you, and support your work. I served with Janet and would never support her candidacy for Governor