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Message To The People

Message To The People image Message To The People image
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John Sinclair

O.K. We are engaged in a war for national liberation, for the liberation of the people of the youth colony, and what we must do is place this war in a political context, so there will be no mistaking what we are doing. So far we have accepted the established authority's definition of our struggle, that we are just "protesting" against their actions, that we are merely "student rebels" who are "led" by a "handful of radicals," that we just want to "tear down the country" and have "nothing to replace it with." These are the popular myths about us, about our movement, myths which are deliberately designed and broadcast to the broad masses of the people to turn them against us, and to keep them in the dark about what we are and what we want. And naturally the people believe these myths, mainly because we haven't been able to make the realities of our movement known to them. They believe these lies and slanders and are kept turned against us. And the only way we can turn them back around and win them over to our cause, which is THEIR cause finally--WE are their real friends, the pig is their real enemy, and not vice versa as the mass media put it--is by defining the situation in our own terms, setting the record straight, and going forth to educate and communicate with the masses of the people in our own terms, telling them the truth about the youth Nation and how we want to free all the people.

We have to turn the tables on the established order, we have to reject their definitions altogether, and we have to advance our own definitions based on the realities of our situation. We have to define ourselves as the POSITIVE thing we are, and we have to destroy the negative definitions of us advanced by the established order. We are a people, not a bunch of "antiestablishment protesters," and we have to make that clear. We are a people fighting a struggle for national liberation, that is what we have to make clear to the people. And in order to have a national liberation struggle, we must have a Nation. And we ARE a Nation, that much must be clear to all of us. We are a Nation, and we must make that fact known to all the people of the world. We are a Nation, and we must name ourselves and establish our national government, and build our national culture and our national social order, with our own political, economic and cultural institutions so we can take care of the needs of all our people. We have to stop milling around and stumbling around and pleading and begging with the people in power to give us what we need in order to survive and grow as a Nation, and we have to start striking out ON OUR OWN to answer the needs of our people. We are a Nation, but we are an underdeveloped Nation, a new young nation which has not yet developed the machinery which will enable us to serve the needs of our people, and we have to build that machinery and start it in motion right now, so we can grow to our rightful stature. Because if we don't start thinking about our survival, if we don't start building a whole alternative social order which will provide for our needs as a people, then we simply will not survive as a people. We will not survive, and that would really be stupid, because we CAN get all this together right now--as soon as we DO IT! But we have to do it, and we have to do it ourselves, and we have to relate to the things that will enable us to do it.

First, we have to name ourselves. Now the name that has been proposed and advanced in the last year has been -- WOODSTOCK NATION. Woodstock Nation. That is the name that has come forward, out of our collective national consciousness. And it seems to me that the name is right on, because it is rooted deep in our national experience. Now our national history is not long, we are a New people, and there is nothing wrong with that-all peoples, all cultures, all Nations have to start somewhere. Our mother country, the United States of Amerika, was an unnamed colony only two hundred years ago. Only two hundred years ago the Amerikan colonials were getting ready to declare their independence from THEIR mother country, they were defending themselves against massacres and brutal attacks by the mother country troops, they were protesting against colonization and taxation without representation and ignorance and greed on the part of the mother country government. That was just two hundred years ago, which is only a blink in the eye of eternity. It was new then, and we are new now. The People's Republic of China was born only twenty years ago. The Revolutionary government in Cuba was born eleven years ago. So it's never too soon to start, every nation is new when it starts, what is important is that the new Nations are born and go forth among the powers of the earth to claim their proper station.

We are a new Nation. taking our place among the powers of the earth, and it is fitting that we name ourselves according to our national development, with a name that is rooted in our national cultural experience. Woodstock Nation, as we all must know, comes out of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair of 1969, August 1969. Our national culture goes back father than that, it was born really in the middle of the last decade, I mean the 1950's, but it became apparent to all of us--and to the masses of the people in the mother country--that WE ARE A PEOPLE when 500,000 of us, or a million of us, a lot of us anyway, all gathered in New York State last August to celebrate our existence and the existence of our national culture. Woodstock was the culmination of years of growth for our culture, and our culture surfaced for all to see once and for all at Woodstock last year. Hundreds of thousands of our people gathered there to be together and to share our common cultural experience--and our food and sacraments, whatever we had--with each other. I'm sorry to have to say that I wasn't there--the established authority had me locked up in this penitentiary a month before the Festival--but I know what happened there, I know what went down, because the same thing has been going down on a smaller scale in other places on this continent for some years, and I've spent a lot of time at gatherings and celebrations like Woodstock. Where I come from, which is Ann Arbor and which is Detroit before that, one of the major centers of our national culture, we have been gathering and sharing like that for some time. And we will go on like that--Woodstock was a culmination, but it was a beginning too, the beginning of a widespread awareness of our size and strength and togetherness. A lot of us started to discover who we were and what we were doing and why when Woodstock happened to our people, and it only fitting, as I have tried to say, it is only fitting that the name of Woodstock be used to identify our Nation.

Woodstock has deeper roots too, in our culture. Bob Dylan lived in the town of Woodstock when he was at the height of his creative powers. And we can't forget how important Bob Dylan and his music were to our culture and its growth. Bob Dylan was the first brother, the first artist of our culture to reach the masses of the people in Amerika with the news of our culture, which was much smaller and much less highly developed then, but which did exist and which was unknown to the people before Bob Dylan jumped out there with Subterranean Homesick Blues. We heard that on the radio and knew that something else was happening, that a whole new thing was coming down, and it was truly beautiful to hear it and feel it. So we have to relate to that, even if Bob Dylan isn't as much a part of us now as he was for some time, we still have to relate to our progenitors and cultural heroes, we can't forget them and the role they played in our history. And Bob Dylan, who was so important to our growth, Bob Dylan was quite closely identified with the name Woodstock before the Festival went down last year, and a lot of us knew the name Woodstock and identified with it because of that.

Woodstock, the name, also suggests to me at least, Woodstock also suggests the native American culture which existed and flourished on this continent long before our own European ancestors arrived here to 'discover' America and name it for themselves and rip off the land and its riches from the people who lived here in peace. New York State, where the town of Woodstock is located, was the center of the Iroquois Nation before the white man carne to destroy it with his death drug--alcohol-and his greedhead ways and his notions of "private property" and "private ownership" and "free enterprise." And if you will investigate the Iroquois Nation which lived and flourished in New York State, even before the name "Woodstock" came to be, you will see that the Iroquois culture was very similar in its experiences and manifestations to the new post-industrial, post-scarcity, post-Western culture we have been developing on this same continent now. That culture had similar values and similar intentions to our own culture--especially the Seneca culture, which was rooted in communalism, peace, justice, equality, and harmony--a beautiful majestic people, the Seneca were, a member nation of the Iroquois Confederation, the Six Nations, before the white man came to destroy them and their culture. We have to check out the native American peoples thoroughly, because we are the ghosts of those peoples, we are the ghosts of the native tribes of America returned to claim the land and its bounty in the name of the people.

"Long ago the Ancient Ones told us that this would be.
The White man would kill the spirit of the people, and take it to a far place, but after awhile it would come back again, it would be born again.
In time a new spirit would come into the world and we should look for it.
Like the raindrops gathering in the clouds of springtime
so would the spirit come to a thirsty land and a dying people.
This light you must find.
When you seek for your vision on the mountaintop
you will be told how to find it.
For it will be something so big and so wonderful
that in it all peoples of the world can find shelter
and in that day all the little circles
will come under the big circle of understanding and unity.
The rainbow is a sign of that which is in all things.
It is a sign of the union of all the peoples
like one big family.

Right on. We are that spirit reborn, and it is only fitting that we should call ourselves the Woodstock Nation. We wear the colors of the rainbow, we are dedicated to the union of all the peoples like one big family. There can be no misunderstanding that. Woodstock last year made that apparent not only to us but to the masses of the people in the mother country, and our name Woodstock Nation reiterates that image every time it is heard. That's why I relate to it, and that's why all the people I know have been able to relate to it, because it brings to mind immediately the image of hundreds of thousands of young people united in a high-energy, peaceful, harmonious expression of youth culture, hundreds of thousands of people sharing their music and art, their food and sacraments, their bodies and spirits even in the face of overwhelming physical difficulties. Woodstock stands as the apotheosis of our culture, and it is a symbol of the turning point in our National history.

So I think all of us can relate to the name Woodstock Nation as the name for our new sovereign state. And that is our first task, to establish a name for ourselves. Once we have a name for our Nation, once we have formalized our National existence by naming it--for the lives of all people begin with their births, and then they are named, and then they go forth into the world--once we have named our Nation we can start our National life in earnest.

But naming ourselves is only the very first step. Once we have a name for our Nation we have to go forward and build the National institutions which will enable us to achieve self-determination for our people and our Nation. And in order to build the alternative social order which will enable us to serve the needs of our people, we have to establish a National government, so we can move in an organized and effective manner to determine our own political and economic destiny, the destiny of our Nation. A Nation is more than just its people, it is more than just its culture--although it is based on these two foundations, which are one solid foundation really--a Nation is also the machinery by mean of which the people can take care of their own needs, it is also the institutions created by the people which enable them to govern themselves, provide for their needs and their security, and insure the existence and growth of the Nation and its people. So we have to relate to that, we have to relate to a National government, but only a government which is created by the people and which is created by the people out of their own people's culture to take care of the people. Now my own vision, which I want to share with you here, my own vision is that we create a system of National government based on the native American form, with TRIBAL COUNCILS at every political level of our Nation, tribal councils which will be made up of representatives from all the various families or clans or sub-groups of our people. These tribal councils will operate at the local level, and the National level, and the international level, and they will represent the collective consciousness of the people of the Woodstock Nation. This form of self-government was practiced successfully by the Seneca people--and the Iroquois Confederacy and probably by other native tribes also--until the white man appeared on the set with his divisive, destructive ways and his death drugs and technology, which he used to mutilate and disrupt and destroy the native peoples and their beautiful cultures. This system of government was developed by the Seneca people and was used very successfully by them, and I feel that we can adapt this simple form of government to our own situations, to the conditions of our new Nation, to help us get ourselves together and serve the needs of our people. Let's check it out.

"The political organization of the Iroquois--the system by which decisions were made about problems affecting village, tribe, or confederacy--had three

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Photos by Magdalene Sinclair