Are we ready for bioregional governance?

While preparing for Movement Generation’s third session of our Course Correction series, Corrina Gould — the traditional spokesperson for the Confederated Villages of Lisjan (Ohlone) and co-founder of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust — asked us, “are we in enough of a crisis” to move towards building local, loving, and linked economies through bioregional governance.

Movement Generation’s image of Regenerative Economies. A spiral that joins spheres labeled, “Collective Self-Determination,” “Cooperation,” “Regeneration,” “Ecological and Social Well-being,” and “Sacredness and Caring.”

We know bioregional governance can seem like a real stretch, but as Corrina and other Native and First Nations people have reminded us, for original peoples bioregional governance is not a stretch.

One of the barriers to living into our principles of collective determination and bioregional governance is the the psychological barrier. This is not an innate barrier, but one strategically conceived over the course of over five hundred years. Colonization, conquest, and attempts at genociding our ancestors instituted a colonial worldview that is the mainstay of an extractive economy.

Across generations we’ve been indoctrinated to know and recognize, for example, corporate logos and functionally un-recognize, un-know and un-relate to the plants, animals, waters, and trees that are around us. Many of us have been disciplined to believe that we are separate from the land, separate from others, and separate from the living world. This world view drives the extractive economy.

While extraction defines what we’ve come to call racial capitalism, there is another side to the extractive economy that defines most relationships today: imposition. A colonial worldview depends on the imposition of binaries and hierarchies (i.e.: human over nature) and ultimately set in motion forced disconnection and ruptured humans from the collective, from the web of life. How did this happen?

Genocide, forced migration, kidnapping and enslavement that are the hallmarks of colonization and ongoing colonialism, for the most part disconnected many of us from the ways we relate to land, life, and spirit. Ultimately, from the way we relate to ourselves.

Another way we’ve been made to disconnect from the larger territories we call home is through the use of an enduring colonial tool: mapping.

Colonial mapping has been/is used on our lands to give shape to the physical world, by instituting arbitrary borders that allowed for the damming of rivers, that disconnected many people from our languages, discouraged or prohibited sharing and trading, and determined how and with whom we could build relationships. Mapping made it so that European colonizers could control what they feared, and what they feared and did not know was our lands and our people.

If Eco means Home then mapping deliberately disrupted our knowledge of home (ecology), and our management of home (economies) by disconnecting our relationships to home (ecosystems). This has for the most part endured through continued indoctrination of this globalized logic of control for the purposes of stealing and building wealth over the course of over five centuries.

So what does mapping have to do with understanding the barriers we might confront towards re-building bioregional governance? With rebuilding place-based governance? Well, what is the smallest scale of governance that we interact with daily? Ourselves! Our bodymindspirit as a whole.

We compassionately acknowledge that we all have different relationships with our bodies, and still it’s our first home, and our first place. Movements for queer and trans liberation , reproductive justice and liberation, and disability justice (all primarily led by Black and Brown Indigenous and women of color femmes and non-binary people) have laid the foundation and frontline praxis (or the interplay between theory and practice) of resisting and reclaiming our full selves against racist, ableist, white supremacist heteropatriarchy. We’ve been building and knowing our homes and leading the way for others, out of necessity and survival.

Knowledge of home is the best starting place for any line of inquiry. So how well do you know your first home, your lived ecosystem? Knowing our lived home can help us get to the roots of our psychological barriers that keep some of us from even imagining how to live into bioregional governance.

An imposed cultural shift of disconnection through domination had to happen at the scale of the human mind. So this means we were also mapped. Mapping imposes names, identities, creates a hierarchical imaginary world that is necessary to maintain white supremacy, heterosexism, ableism, gender binarism…all of which uphold the global extractive economy through racial capitalism.

This way of thinking made it so that colonizers and settlers saw the land that we belong to, as real estate and our bodies as a resource for labor.

So, if our bodymindspirit is an ecosystem, then the colonial mapping of our bodymindspirit has:

  • Dammed up the waters in our bodies. Crying is seen as weakness; menstrual blood is hidden and a source of shame;
  • Disconnected us from our understanding of our own fire management, from how we take care of our fire as our spirit, to regulate our spiritual growth and protection;
  • Controlled our wind — our ways of expression our emotions and placed those within a hierarchy. An emotional hierarchy means that happiness and joy are acceptable emotions, while sadness, grief, and anger are not, especially for QT/BIPOC people;
  • And then our flesh, made of carbon, our earth. We’ve been taught that some bodies are good and some are bad. Some are capable and others not. Some are deserving of life, and some are not. There are parts of our bodies that are seen as bad, shameful, or ugly. For some of us, this applies to our whole body. We have also been made to believe that other people carry expertise and authority about our bodies, instead of collaborating with us on our unique knowledge of our home.

Across the spectrum of social justice movements, we’ve intentionally, righteously and purposefully trained to keep our focus and energy at the macroscale of governance — and we’ve also been left with less time to plan and practice for what we will do at the microscale (inside our home, inside our self),when we do win! Our movement ancestors and elders — actively and in reflection — have told us that we also need to transform our intra- and inter-personal relationships in order to achieve truly just societies. We can no longer afford to sacrifice our self care in movement work. We can’t leave our friends behind, and we can’t leave ourselves behind either.

And while colonization and racial capitalism have continually tried to force us to abandon ourselves, to abandon each other, to abandon our care for the land and water, we are still here fighting for our place after all this time. So just imagine what kind of ancestral knowledge and generational healing we’ll activate as we remember our self-ecology together for the purposes of collective governance through care.

We can get back into right relationship with the living world we are a part of through building our ecological literacy, through knowing our bodymindspirits deeply and with trust.We simultaneously cultivate that knowing/feeling within our bioregional relationships — within the collective, within our workspaces, within our homes, on our blocks. This also grows regenerative economies and rebuilds community wealth based on sharing and caring. And it moves us even closer to rematriation (returning the land, restoring the sacred) and reparations (repairing relations). Knowing/feeling ourselves and our stories deeply is part of our strategy for a just transition to regenerative economies through bioregional governance.

*This is an edited transcript of concluding thoughts shared on “From Global Domination to Bioregional Governance,” the third session of Movement Generation’s free online course series Course Correction: Just Transition in the Age of Covid-19. For more information and to access recordings of our previous sessions, visit www.movementgeneration.org/course or email course@movementgeneration.org