Collecting Words

Thames Sunset, London England, Summer 2012, taken by Tanya Nielsen

I have always loved words, the way certain writers can string together a phrase, or a paragraph to communicate an idea or an image. This love started with poetry, then prose; I found beauty in the words of theorists and philosophers as my reading levels developed enough to understand them.

I not only read eloquent words, I collect any that I have a profound connection to, any that relate to moments of my life. Lately, I have been collecting words that relate to my research. I have been reading for my comprehensive exams, and came across an interesting quotation while reviewing an article on anarchy and indigenous connections to place (Barker and Pickerill).

The quote was originally from Jake Swamp, a Mohawk chief and founder of the Tree of Peace Society. It was part of a speech he gave at the Re/Envisioning Relationships Conference that was then published in Alliances: Re/Envisioning Indigenous – Non-indigenous Relationships (edited by Lynne Davis).

“[W]e have been given the responsibility at the beginning of the world to be grateful for what we have, and for the earth. We have the understanding, and we have the attitude, but it’s hard to practise the way we live today. We cannot go to the river to drink from it anymore; therefore, our relationship with the river is now changed. Our relationship to everything in the world is now changed. And we have to teach our children to invent new ways of looking at life.” (Swamp, 2010: 20)

The article by Adam J. Barker and Jenny Pickerill argued that anarchist activists need to recognize, respect, and work with the indigenous connections of place, if they are going to work with indigenous activists. While I found the article interesting and relevant to my research, I could not shake this quote from my head. Our relationship to the earth (and the river) has changed, and we need to change the way we engage with it. This is not a new idea, but the way Jake Swamp communicates it has left an impact on me.

© Tanya Nielsen (,  2016

Barker, Adam J. & Jenny Pickerill. “Radicalizing Relationships to and Through Shared Geographies: Why Anarchists Need to Understand Indigenous Connections to Land and Place.” In Antipode 44, no. 5 (2012): 1705-1725.

Swamp, J. “Kanikonriio: Power of a Good Mind.” In Alliances: Re/Envisioning Indigenous – Non-indigenous Relationships. Edited by Lynne Davis. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010. 15-25.


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