This summer a group of 18 Native and Xicana youth from the United States traveled to the West Bank to connect with Palestinian youth: The Indigenous Youth Delegation to Palestine. By creating a forum to reflect together, this cross-continental exchange is an opportunity for youth to learn first hand from each other by sharing tools and strategies regarding displacement and occupation. Over the course of two weeks, the delegation will travel to locations around the West Bank, as well as Palestinian cities and villages inside in the state of Israel.
The main partners in the delegation are SNAG (Seventh Native American Generation), a grassroots collective that publishes a magazine produced by young Natives across the Americas, Huaxtec, a community-based group that organizes around Xicana issues in the Bay Area, and 7th Generation Indigenous Visionaries, a newly formed group of students from Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas. The Palestine Education Project (PEP) and Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) provided logistical and organizational support.
On the Palestinian side, there were five youth-oriented cultural/community centers participating, located in refugee camps and villages across the West Bank and Jerusalem. At each center approximately 15 youth participated in the project. They took English classes to better communicate with the delegates and have been participating in and facilitating workshops about American Indigenous and Xicana histories, struggles, and cultures. Likewise, prior to departure, the Indigenous Delegates have participated in and facilitated workshops about Palestinian culture, history and current issues.
During the delegation, there were tours of the refugee camps, as well as workshops at the various cultural centers designed to facilitate a sharing of struggles and experiences of oppression and resistance to that oppression. There were also meetings with Palestinian organizers to discuss BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) strategies, the Stop the Wall campaign, and the work of Al Haq (a Palestinian Human Rights Organization), as well as Addammer, a prisoner rights organization, among others. The delegation visited and met with residents and organizers in Jerusalem, Al Khalil (Hebron), Qalandia, Qalqilia, Akka, and Jaffa, as well as sites of Palestinian villages destroyed when the state of Israel was formed.
Throughout the two weeks, there was also plenty of sharing meals with each other and engaging with various forms of cultural expression and resistance. Making use of print media, traditional music, hip hop, photography, poetry, video, and other forms of arts media, the participants aim to share their stories in a transformative way that will contribute to building an international movement against colonization and for self-determination. Media created, stories collected, and connections made during these two weeks in Palestine will then be used as part of a broader popular education effort in both Palestine and in indigenous and immigrant communities in the U.S. The delegation is one piece of a much larger process that is as much about the actual coming together of youth on the ground in Palestine, as it is about the organizing and building of a movement before, during, and after the delegation:
“Understanding that liberation can only be achieved collectively, we are creating solidarity networks across race, culture, country, and the walls and borders that have been built to divide us.”