A mirror Story: The striking similarities of Native American Ordeal and the Oromo people
(By Najat Hamza)
History is more than an increment of events recorded for remembrance; it is the sum of our experiences embedded with the blue print for the future. One could even argue, the irrelevance of history in our lives as an individual and society in general. But, in most instances, history proves itself relevant whenever we are faced with impossible predicaments and scrambling to find solutions to problems we face. However, this article is not about the relevance of history rather, it is about the fate of Oromo people and the usage of land as an oppressive tool by the enemy.
As documented in the archives of history throughout the world, Oromo’s are not the only indigenous people targeted for their land and their identity. This article will be exploring the indigenous people of Americas, the Native Americans in comparison to the Oromo people. Native Americans have their own way of life, culture, tradition, language and indigenous religious beliefs untouched by the outside world. They were communal society in nature. They embraced a philosophy of living in harmony with nature. The land has and still has special place in their spirituality, as something scared, something to be protected and nurtured. Contrary, to their European invaders that viewed the land only from economic points of view.
At the end of 15th century Europeans migrated to the Americas to conquer the land and resources. Their only obstacle was removing the indigenous people off of the land in order to achieve their objectives. However, the special relationship Native Americans had with their land presented a challenge to the new conquerors. The Europeans wanted the land to settle on, to use, to prosper from and to own. Native Americans viewed land as part of their identity, intrinsic in nature and not dependent on economic again or be swayed by it. Thus, the Indian wars spanning decades are part of these two opposing views. The Native Americans put up a fierce resistance against the Europeans and it was apparent to them that were losing. The Europeans could not win by arm forces, so they used the law to achieve their objectives.
The most devastating blow to Native Americans was delivered as a piece of legislature called The Dawes Act of 1887 which allowed for the allotment of tribal land to an individual ownership. When an individual Native American accepts these pieces of land he/she is granted a U.S. citizenship which means they are no longer under the protections of Indian tribal land and jurisdiction. Thus, every U.S citizen has to abide by the law of the land and state laws and regulations as well. This elaborate plan allowed United States government to take control of 90 million acres of Indian land and made 90,000 Indians Landless in their own ancestral land. In 1908 another legislature called the Curtis Act was introduced to the law which delivered the final blow to Native Americans. The Curtis act, basically abolished tribal communal jurisdiction and rendered tribal government useless.
After they have lost control of their lands and their way of life, a war was declared on their identity. In the name of assimilation, Native Americans were forced to assimilate into Europeans ways of life. Children were forcefully removed from their families and communities and sent to Indian boarding schools established by Europeans to be more “civilized.” They were forced to abandon their languages, cultural heritage and their identity. Their elaborate plan worked because we now see people who have lost their pride, sense of identity and a place they once called home. They live as second citizens in their own ancestral land and trying to survive.
In the Native American Story, European settlers took the center stage as an unwelcomed intruder of once pride filled people while in the Oromo Story we have a garden variety of oppressors. All of these oppressors have one characteristics in common, savagery. We can reflect back to the time long before intruders entered Oromo land and remember how our society functioned. We had our own governing system, culture, tradition, language and peace among us. That order and harmony we had among us and our neighbors were disturbed because savages took over our land and our ways of life much like Europeans took over Indian lands. Menelik II created a land reform that suited his special interest and allowed him to ration our land to his officers, generals and whoever he deemed worthy. Our own land was leased to us by appointed people and the church and the reminder was under direct control of this brute.
Every regime that came and left had one form of land reform or another, but one thing is crystal clear, none of those reforms are in the best interest of the Oromo people. Case in point, what is going on with Finfinne’s sounding area special Oromiya zone is no different. I have outlined how an oppressor can hide behind the law to achieve an objective in the Native American story. The current situation in Oromiya is exactly the same. The law should only be considered law if it upholds a high moral value not when it caters to the special few while disregarding others. We have managed to keep our identity, culture and language against all odds. Are we now defeated both in sprit and in strength to allow our enemies to rob us of our land under the guise of development? Are we ready to say that those who wrote history in their own blood, so that you and I can stand tall as Oromos, did so in vein? Are we ready, to give up? If we are anything like our ancestors the answer is Never!
My massage to the TPLF is that, as much as you like to think of yourselves as clever, I would like to say you did not invent the wheel. You have recycled an old idea and trying to paint it new. We recognize your agenda and we are fully aware. You will not win!!! We will prevail!