Thursday, January 31, 2019

With Role Models Like Geronimo and Crazy Horse...

Rod Coronado has spent six years in prison for his actions on behalf of animals.

Interview by Brian Whitney

Rod Coronado is one of the best-known eco-anarchists and environmental revolutionaries of our time.  A lot of us sit around talking about how much we care about the Earth and the animals.  Rod feels the same way, except he did shit about it that got him thrown in prison.

He is out now and working to protect animals in a more lawful way, but one that is hopefully no less effective.   

This interview first appeared in the book Subversive.

A Normal Middle-Class Kid

Brian Whitney:  Without getting into any serious specifics, could you talk a little of your background in activism?

Rod Coronado: I am descended from the Yoeme indigenous nation, or Yaqui to the outside world.  My people come from and live in what today is known as the northern Mexican state of Sonora and southern Arizona.

My people have fought the onslaught of western civilization since 1533, and my life and my work is simply the continuation of that.  Since the early 1980s, I have dedicated my life towards the preservation of all that is still wild and free, most specifically, our animal relations.  

But I wasn’t raised in my homelands or on a reservation, I grew up as a pretty normal middle-class kid, though my parents struggled to provide me with more opportunities than they had.  

They started out life as farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley, where many Yaquis fled persecution in Mexico to start a new life in America, where soldiers weren’t killing us like they were in Mexico. 

So I gave up the privilege that my parents worked hard to gain so that I could pursue the passion of not only myself but my ancestors.  I choose to fight the destruction of the natural world, because though Indians aren’t being mowed down in America like they once were, our animal relations are, and continue to suffer the consequences of war. 

For me, such a path isn’t a choice, it’s an obligation. It’s the decision to honor the sacrifices of our ancestors and recognize, that for many, 9/11 is every day and when such terror is being committed, we have an obligation to fight it.

Icelandic whaling ships Hvalur 6 and Hvalur 7 sit at dock in 2009.  In November 1986, 20-year-old Rod Coronado and another activist sank the ships and did an estimated $6 million in damage to a whale meat processing station.  Although raised from the water, the ships were never used for whaling again.  No one was injured in the action.

Pretty Wild Things

BW:  You have done some pretty wild things in your past for your causes.  Many people, no matter what their cause, like to talk about what they believe in, but are unwilling to put their freedom on the line for it.  Where were you mentally and emotionally that you were willing to put it all out there like that?

RC:  Although my own struggle has focused on the natural and wild world, having knowledge of the traditions of resistance among indigenous peoples has always been a component of my mental and emotional state. 

Some people believe in God and Jesus, and have their own divinations, but that God never appealed to me.  That God was a malevolent God that represented to the people already living peacefully here, the invasion of their homeland. 

The basis of my evolution as a contemporary revolutionary is the knowledge that an alternative worldview existed that mostly only indigenous people still believe in because they know it isn’t intellectual concepts, but the way that humans had learned to live harmoniously, with each other and the environment.  

And guess what?  It worked, and existed for thousands of years, without resorting to genocide and war as a means to gain respect.

So once I became aware, I knew I didn’t have to adhere to the guidelines of Church and State to determine my own intellectual, spiritual and political growth.  I developed mentally and emotionally with role models like Geronimo and Crazy Horse, not white Bible heroes.

An old FBI Wanted poster

The People Who Didn’t Make Good Slaves

BW:  How did your experience in prison change you as a person?

RC:  Before you can be a warrior, you must recognize that you are choosing a path in which your own safety and security is willingly sacrificed for the sake of others.  Tantamount to that is the possibility of physical death and imprisonment, which is the state’s greatest deterrent to mass resistance.

So you enter this struggle recognizing that if you get caught, and imprisoned then you simply join a long line of great people who were imprisoned for their beliefs—Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and many more from every continent. 

In countries willing to right the wrongs of former rulers like South Africa and Ireland and Nicaragua, political leaders include former revolutionaries who engaged in armed struggle, in ways that today are defined as terrorism.  They also were imprisoned for years, and many of them still are. 

So my own journey through prison was my own personal story of growth and evolution, where I am no longer a free-moving member of society, but a physical prisoner living with hundreds of other men who are similarly removed from society. 

I used the time to educate myself, keep in good physical and mental health, regularly participated in traditional sweat lodge ceremonies and did my best to help raise awareness within the consciousness of individuals I met in prison, while also learning from these connections too.  In prison, we are with the people that capitalism and colonialism created, the people who didn’t make good slaves.  

So as a revolutionary, you have to recognize it’s an opportunity to help people take back control of their lives and their identity, without using violence, or acts that land you in prison.  I’ve spent a total of six years in prison, but I’ve always told people I’m not ashamed of what I did to get there.  

I did what I think a lot of people would have done had they not had the conditioning of society such as that that I rejected.  Had they the free will and ability to see when you destroy an ancient forest or treat animals miserably, you are committing a crime much greater than the laws of the dominant society.

Rod Coronado in Idaho

A Grave Ecological Mistake

BW:  How does your work with the environment and for the protection of animals relate to colonialism?

RC:  My work directly relates to colonialism because I’m fighting the very same attitudes towards nature, animals, and people that colonialism embodies and that are still alive today. 

We’re seeing that with wolves in the United States, which have begun to regain a hold in their former territories.  This is cause for great celebration, as wolves were one of the most persecuted nations on this continent, similarly bison. 

So my generation (not just among indigenous thinkers) recognizes now that the genocidal war we waged against wolves, that wiped them out in the early 1900s was a grave ecological mistake, denying the value of these apex predators to their environment or the other people and animals who revered and respected them.

But rather than support wolf recovery, we are seeing politicians and “sportsmen” line up demanding that these vicious predators once again be wiped out, arguing that even natural predation on deer, elk, and other natural prey, is a bad thing, because even those wild animals belong to us humans more than wolves. 

That’s the attitude of a colonial, and my people fought it hundreds of years ago, and I continue to fight it today, unfortunately.

Coronado is currently the leader of Wolf Patrol.  They describe themselves as a conservation movement founded on the principles of biocentricity and indigenous cultural preservation. 

Wolf Patrol

BW:  What is life like for you now?  Are you able to work on some causes that you care about?

RC:  Since I’ve completed an eight-year term of federal control, be it pre-sentencing supervision, actual imprisonment and a long term of probationary supervision, I’ve returned to fight for wolves, bears and other predators in the Great Lakes region where I now live. 

Every indigenous nation in this area opposes the hunting of wolves, and like me see the similarities between how wolves are viewed and treated, and how indigenous people are still seen today.  

In the course of defending wolves, my group, Wolf Patrol has uncovered illegal trapping and baiting, and continue to work to catch poachers.  

I’ve found illegal baits, which were treble fish hooks wrapped in meat and meant to be swallowed by wolves and coyotes so that they would die a slow and agonizing death.  That’s as bad as anything Columbus or Cortez did, in my mind. 

But rather than be the antagonist, we report such discoveries, and in this one case worked alongside Wisconsin state game wardens to tear them down.  These people recognize that I want to help protect “natural resources” as I do, so we work together.  That is the kind of revolutionary activity I’ve been able to continue today. 

Next month we will be returning to Wisconsin to investigate bear baiting practices.  In the one state, over four million gallons of food waste is legally used to lure bear close to hunters at an estimated 60,000 bear bait stations, most of them on public lands. 

And it’s not just the bears that are being killed.  Wolves have been defending their territory and pups against canine invaders which come in the form of bear hunting hounds that are used to pick up the scent of a bear that visited a bait station. 

Last year nine hunting hounds were killed by a pack in an area of national forest that the state’s wildlife agency has delineated as a “wolf caution area.”  But still bear hunters loose their dogs in the area, and when they get killed, develop an even greater animosity towards wolves. 

I haven’t been arrested in years, but after just two years in the field, Wolf Patrol’s presence led to local politicians passing a law, “The Right to Hunt Act,” which was written specifically with Wolf Patrol in mind.  The law makes it illegal for us to follow hunters or film their activities, despite being on public lands.  

Governor Scott Walker signed the law at the annual convention of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, symbolizing to me that though my recent actions haven’t been illegal, they still are revolutionary enough to cause the destroyers of the wild to once again circle their wagons.

"Let our opposition who believe in violence carry the burden for its justification, but let those who believe in peace and love practice a way of life that our society sorely needs now more than ever." - Rod Coronado

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