Native Resistance and the Carceral State

Nick Estes: …the second amendment was passed in the context of The Battle of Wabash, wherein the Shawnee Confederacy, alongside allied Miamis, essentially wiped out the Continental Army following the so-called Revolutionary War of Independence. So what happened is that the standing army of the so-called the United States was like in shambles. It was almost nonexistent. And so the second amendment was passed to arm everyday settlers and to federally subsidized the armament of those settlers to essentially carry out Indian killing. To continue taking land. Because if we understand historically, as Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz in her new book, Loaded, argues: the second amendment was created to facilitate the taking of indigenous land and territory because the revolutionary war was not fought for, as we were told, as a war of independence from Britain, but it was fought as a war to expand settlement west of the Allegheny and Appalachian mountains and thus expand the institution of slavery.

And so, out of these well-regulated settler militias, you have the formation of the first forms of law enforcement on the frontier, to essentially bring order to a savage land. And so we can see the foundations of the carceral system as we know it today, as being literally codified in the founding documents of this nation; and unlike other so-called republics –capitalists republics– the U.S. Constitution has never been changed, right? It’s one of the few documents that exists in the modern world that hasn’t changed since it’s inception or deviated from what Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz calls “the cult of the covenant”.

So we can kind of see this ideological groundwork being built from the very inception of the United States onwards, and so if we think of modern police departments, but also the arming of everyday settler-citizens, we can think of this society as from the get-go, a carceral society that was –incarceration we tend to think of, as many in the black radical tradition have highlighted in the abolitionist framework, as one that essentially in prisons bodies to steal time from people that are alive, but often missing from that framework is the understanding of the role of indigenous elimination to essentially clear the land so that this capitalist project, the settler project can grow and can continue to expand. And so we have to see incarceration, mass incarceration, as essentially a sort of a logical outcome of the system. Because we don’t, when we talk about carceral studies, most people don’t consider the reservation system as one of the founding systems of control and containment. So yeah, I think the idea of studying but also in challenging the carceral system we have to actually talk about settler-colonialism as foundational to it. More here.

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