Stand up for working class communities-Protect SNAP!

This blog post first appeared on Hunger Free Colorado’s website, and was reposted here with their permission, find out more info here or email Anya@HungerFreeColorado.org.

Key points

The Proposed Standard Utility Allowance Rule Will:

  • Exacerbate the struggle of affording both food and utilities for many low-income families 
  • Have harmful impacts on health and well-being and weaken Colorado’s economy
  • Cause 40% of Colorado SNAP households to receive smaller SNAP monthly benefits
  • Disproportionately impact older adults and people with disabilities

What can you do?

Submit a comment opposing the rule! The Trump Administration must review public comments on this proposal before it can finalize the rule changes. Speak out against the proposal by commenting before the December 2nd deadline. Click here or text HFC COMMENT to 52886 to submit your comment. You can use the key points from this blog to inform your statement!

What’s the proposal?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing a rule to change how states take utility costs into account when determining the amount of SNAP benefits households qualify for. Under current federal SNAP rules, states have the flexibility to set the Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) and calculate shelter costs for low-income households. States have historically set their SUA to cover most SNAP household energy expenses during the months with the highest energy usage in the state or region. The proposed “one-size-fits-all” rule ignores the variance in utility costs between states and will force Colorado to lower the value of allowed utility expenditures to the limit set by the USDA, reducing already meager SNAP benefits for millions of households.

What’s the impact?

-Proposed Federal Budget slashes food stamps 30%, with a radical restructuring of the program that greatly reduces benefits for the overwhelming majority of receipts, grocers and retailers that provide access to food, jobs and economic health in communities. Will result in 4 million people losing benefits all together. 

– proposed changes create unnecessary bureaucracy and infrastructure, a cost that could fall on Colorado

Food stamps support families in building and maintaining a strong foundation for health and well-being. If such a proposal were enacted, the modest average food stamp benefit of $1.40 per meal would be further diminished. It would significantly impact the majority of those who are eligible for food stamps—children, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.

– An increasing body of research demonstrates why food assistance is a smart investment that yields positive returns in the form of food and nutrition access, economic stability, health and well-being, employment, education, and productivity, which benefits all of us.

– Food stamps only make up a tiny portion—about 2%—of the annual federal budget.Cuts would not provide noticeable savings to taxpayers and, instead, negatively impact the health and well-being of Colorado residents and communities, as well as our state and nation’s economic health.

– To conclude, with deep cuts to food assistance, Medicaid, Medicare, affordable housing and community programs, the Trump Administration’s budget proposal endangers the well-being of our residents and economy. Moving forward with such a proposal would lead to an increase of hunger and poverty, with the ripple effects being felt by all communities in Colorado.


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Our roots, relations and the land we stand on

Tree roots in upstate New York
Photo by Shirley Coenen

We live on land that has been changed by the actions of human beings to the point that it may not continue to support our existence. This land that we talk about so much isn’t just a location. It’s a biosphere, a living organism of which we are one part, on which we depend. Mother earth is not just the backdrop, environment or stage for human activity that exists to support us.

The current ecological crisis that we find ourselves in is in fact a crisis of human relations- with each other, with the land and with our roots. It’s a crisis created by false separation from reality- that is the biosphere and ecological planet that we rely on, which results in a set of assumptions that drive all systems of oppression- whether it be colonization, heteropatriachy, white supremacy.

It’s essential to understand that every struggle, every fight against these systems of oppression- is also an ecological struggle, and that every struggle we declare against climate change or environmental degradation is also a struggle against systems of oppression.

The problems in our relationships with each other and with the so called environment/nature are the same. If we understand ourselves as part of a living, breathing, pulsing, shifting ecosystem continually being shaped by and shaping us, then everything we do has ecological implications, and every attempt to protect or heal our ecosystem is inevitably rooted in questions of social justice.

Breathing in, as the trees breathe out. Breathing out, as the trees breathe in.

Much of the oxygen we breathe is made by not only the foliage and trees of the land, but is also produced by the plankton and algae in the oceans, and the oceans are in grave danger. The only way we can stop (or reverse) the extensive damage happening to our oceans- the dangerous levels of acidification, oxygen-starved dead zones depleted of any life at all, massive coral reef extinctions, massive floating islands of garbage and other threats to our marine ancestors, including major sources of human food- is to have whole communities and societies of people who think differently, who understand and practice interdependence, who are not pressed by poverty into overfishing, who understand the connection between burning fossil fuels and poisoning the oceans and are able to do something about it. Only an interdependent humanity with the resources and power to make good ecological choices can act effectively on behalf of the ocean life or any other part of the mother earth’s ecosystem essential for our lives.

Ecologically-focused activism- that is work around wildlife, nature, climate change, etc, that doesn’t take into account the unequal impacts of ecological destruction on different groups of people, or the different relations they may have to the land, water, trees, and more than human species, ends up perpetuating the injustices that are blocking our way toward lasting solutions.

At this current coyuntura, many of the most powerful fights against global capitalism are being led by Indigenous peoples whose deep cultural ties to specific ecosystems give them an understanding of our interdependence with the land, water, and other species and a clear picture of the disastrous costs of the current system. In every case of Indigenous environmentalism, the defense of specific waters and lands is also a fight for Indigenous sovereignty and resistance to multiples forms of genocide. Non-indigenous people often frame the fight as a battle to defeat climate change, or a fight for clean air and water, without understanding that it is, at its core, a battle for indigenous survival, for the most basic of human rights: the right to exist.

That is why, “water is life” doesn’t just mean that we have to drink it to stay alive, It means that water is alive, land is alive, that these presences in our life are not inert “natural resources” to be packaged, managed or sold. They are bound by a billion strands into the fabric of our living world, and tearing them apart for profit cuts deep gashes into our selves on the deepest level- as well as destroying and severing our connection to the bioshpere. These consequences we see, span far and wide. The failure to recognize this is destroying us, beginning with the Indigenous peoples whose commitments to these truths stand in the way of the final extractions: the last reserves of oil, the last clean water, the last standing forests, the last uncontaminated stretches of ocean, the last great damnable rivers.

When power is in the hands of people whose driving logic is to accumulate as much wealth as they can, as efficiently as possible, they will always choose short-term profit, no matter how destructive, over accountability to our relations. Underlying this capitalist, colonialist logic, I believe, is a profound fear that those who don’t dominate are doomed to be dominated, that the choice is between stealing and starving. Part of our work then, is to enrich the impoverished soil of the possible, of our own imaginations and to cultivate through our movements and daily practices the belief that we can create communities in which it makes sense to place our lives in each other’s hands, neither exploiters not exploited, but simply kin.

We have the creativity and intelligence to solve the problems we face, but in our current historical moment we find a great portion of human intuition and brilliance tied up with managing white supremacy, patriarchy and challenges of just surviving oppression.

If we forget this truth- that every struggle is an ecological struggle- and if we continue to build limited movements that treat the multitude of crises we face as separate and the work of racial, gender and economic justice as separate, we will not be able to gather the power, resilience and clarity we need in order to build a different future. I believe we have it in us to rise to this moment, to end this failed system of domination and restore the streams of creative resilience, and establish a global culture of reciprocity and generosity. As the trees breathe out we breathe in, and as the trees breathe in we exhale a sigh of relief.

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Action Alert: Contact your representative today about NAFTA 2.0

We are now entering an important stage in the Trump Administration’s rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Corporations are lobbying heavily to pass the renegotiated agreement as is. Without big changes, NAFTA 2.0 will continue to harm American
workers and the environment while increasing the cost of healthcare and life-saving drugs. The Agreement can come up before Congress at any time and without much warning. .

Contact your representative today regarding the Trump Administration’s NAFTA 2.0, so they know we are watching and that we expect them to support Coloradans not a handful of multinational corporations waiting to profit from another bad trade deal

Below is a sample script you can simply make a few easy edits and copy/paste to send.

——————————————————————————————————

Congressman Joe Neguse—Email or call Fort Collins office (970) 372-3971

Introduce yourself. Say where you are from and why you are calling/writing:
 List one or more reasons why you want changes made to the original NAFTA
 American jobs are outsourced to Mexico where wages are low and labor rights are lacking.
 Americans are forced to accept lower wages as employers threaten to outsource jobs to Mexico.
 Non-enforcement of environmental protections damages the environment and harms public health while making it cheaper and easier to outsource American jobs.
 Private trade rule enforcement tribunals prioritize corporate profits over workers and the environment. Countries are forced to either repeal labor and environmental protections nor “compensate” foreign corporations at taxpayer expense.

Tell your Congressperson what provisions you want to see in NAFTA before it comes to a vote in Congress. List one or more items you feel most important:
 Swift and effective enforcement of protections for Mexican workers, allowing them to form independent labor unions, bargain for higher wages and improve working conditions. This will help narrow the wage gap between American and Mexican workers.
 Swift and effective enforcement of laws protecting the environment and public health.
This will help reduce incentives to outsource American jobs to avoid more rigorous protections in the US.
 Elimination of monopoly patent protections for Big Pharma inserted into the revised NAFTA that will permanently raise drug prices, prevent competition from affordable generic medications and deny millions of Americans life-saving drugs and medical treatments.

 Retain the ban on the original NAFTA’s undemocratic private trade tribunals that allow corporations to sue countries and demand millions in “compensation” from taxpayers in order to repeal labor, environmental and public health protections.


Request a response to your message and indicate you will be looking forward to your congress member’s support for a fair trade deal that prioritizes American jobs, a healthy environment and robust public health including access to affordable medical treatment.

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A love letter to white people this Halloween: Stop colonizing the lives, land, and stories of others.

In Spring 2019, we had a healing justice workshop focused on how whiteness shows up in health, healing and wellness spaces in our community and the role of white folks in dismantling it. This blog post was co-written and inspired by several participants who shared space and conversation, posted here with their permission. 


There have been many conversations regarding what cultural appropriation looks like, and to what extent we all participate in it. Cultural appropriation can be defined as the “cherry picking” or selecting of certain aspects of a culture, and ignoring their original significance for the purpose of belittling it as a trend or benefiting from it.  

Cultural appropriation is a form of violence that stems from the history of colonization and stealing of this land, enslaving people from Africa, and really, the racist history and ongoing genocide of native peoples perpetatued by white supremacist culture. 

White supremacy culture is that of colonization. Of taking. Of envy and of fear. The majority of white people can name no more than two generations back in our families. The majority of white people barely know where their grandparents were from, much less who their ancestors were. The majority of white people have no traditions, and the ones we have, are rooted in consumption and the superficial application of institutional religion, both of which are steeped in histories of violence. 

It is a deep, dark hole of grief and loss. White folks don’t even know what we lost. Many of us don’t know our ancestors, don’t have stories of creation and hope and family; only stories of destruction and genocide. Our coming of age ceremony is a school shooting. Our song is a ballad about rockets and explosions. Our elders die alone surrounded by their stories of family members who no longer visit them. Our cities were built by the blood of slaves, on top of the graves of native people.

This loss is real, palpable, and painful. There is a profound level of fear inherent in white people and the way we desperately grasp that which is not ours. This hole cannot be filled by our self delusion, and it represents generations of isolation and grief. It is our own generational trauma that we carry with us and pass on to our children. It hurts, and we do not know how to assuage that pain.

So we take. We take the traditions, costumes, dances, songs, and agency of marginalized groups after we have decimated their populations and destroyed their homes, and we polish these items so the suffering is obscured. We take their words out of context, and we use them to make money and to fake solidarity. We take their circles and stories and we wash them with our whiteness, and we struggle to fit them into our bloody box. We take their lands, their trails, their mountains, their rocks, and we climb and walk on them, snatching frenzied glimpses of what we want to call connection, enlightenment, being woke, and wondering why they slip through our grasp. 

We want to learn something about ourselves that we lost, and so we keep taking lives of other communities. But that one doesn’t fit, so, you know…on to the next.

The cycle needs to stop. It is the responsibility of white people to face our history and to dismantle the culture we have created. Stop hiding behind the stories and tokens of other people, and be accountable for the brutal ways we have consolidated our power and privilege. Stop pretending like you can hike, climb, meditate, or dress in hipster clothing, your way out of this power dynamic. Let’s stop with the excuses. You are powerful, and it is time to own that and to use it to fight back against the culture of death and violence that has left us spiritually and culturally bankrupt. Call out the bullshit when you see it, in yourself and in others. Stop colonizing the lives and land and stories of others. Stop perpetuating the culture of death, and instead fight for the living.

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The land holds memories

The Council Tree was a well-known gathering point for Arapaho and other Native people on what is now the southeast side of Fort Collins. The tree is referenced in names for a city library branch, a street, and a church. Photo: Colorado State University Libraries, Archives & Special Collections

By Doreen Martinez, Ph.D., and Lindsey Schneider, Ph.D.

This was originally written for CSU, and has been edited and appears here with the permission of the authors.

Where the prairie converges with the plains, the foothills watch. They have long been the relatives of these lands and witnesses to all adventures, explorations, and settlings. The plains and prairie have also long been partners in this space; they are the original innovators, the knowers and teachers. The foothills remain present as protectors of those west winds and incubators of the snow and rain that feed these spaces, peoples, and purposes.

Our sense of this place, our sense of this land, is beckoned through this convergence and their an­cestral traditions. Waters flow in snake rivers, are cradled in valleys where corn and long grasses, such as Indian ricegrass and needlegrass, grew and grow, dozens of flowers, includ­ing prickly poppy, yucca, rabbitbrush, and prairie sunflowers, bloom and nestle; these are the homes for the bison, prong­horn, and deer, as well as swift fox, burrowing owls, and gold­en eagles.

These lands, siblings of the Rockies, hold many lessons and ways of being. The clay still holds knowledge and foot­prints of beings, events, and experiences. It, the clay, waits for new stories and new understandings. Communities were here over 12,000 years ago; those were the times of the mammoth. And, although they are often called the Paleo-Indians, they were here: relatives, ancestors of societies and knowers of land, sensors of place, and practitioners of purpose.

“These lands, siblings of the Rockies, hold many lessons and ways of being.”

What is now Larimer County, and the lands from which Colorado State University was born, come from these histo­ries, from this place, these knowers that are thousands and thousands of years old. Let us also recall some of those who were here before and adjacent to CSU’s birth: the Apache, the Arapaho, the Cheyenne, the Pueblo, the Shoshone, and the Ute are named by the Colorado Department of Education to be those earlier neighbors, residents, and citizens.

As we also know, in the time period we recognize peoples historically, they were the original inhabitants, the interspecies kinship knowers, the original land-grant stewards. Furthermore, the Coman­che, the Kiowa, and the Navajo/Diné, were frequent travel­ers, regular knowledge gatherers, and recurring residents, as well as the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota and the Pawnee. All these nations, tribes, and peoples have walked, laughed, and learned in these lands. Some of us can still sense their presence as their stride walks within us, their laughter continues to feed us, their knowledge is still teaching us; and we, their relatives, still call this place home.

Most historical records of CSU, Fort Collins, Larimer County, and the United States suggest that history began with the arrival of white/European settlers, the structures they built, the religion they practiced, and the economic endeavors they undertook. Only certain people, cer­tain cultural formations, are positioned as the agents of history and thus, they wield the tools to capture, create, and acknowl­edge historical records. Indigenous people, when we are mentioned in such histories, are too often portrayed as obstacles to the inevitable march of progress. In such accounts we exist as mere historical pre­cursors to the stars and stripes of democ­racy – an era of improvement manifested in land-grant institutions.

While this may be typically accepted and understood as truth, we seek through ethical and edu­cational obligations to enhance our sense of place, this place, and our histories. We must teach the fallacies, inaccuracies, and continued legacies of this singular history, this one-dimensional knowing of land, chronicle of memoirs, and erasure of life.

CSU’s 150th anniversary is a cause for celebration; yet, it is also a critical oppor­tunity to reflect upon the dire cost paid by the original people of this place and these lands. We must call to, recognize, and re­quire the University’s ongoing obligations to that legacy and to the Indigenous com­munity today. For we do know the original peoples of this area cultivated a profound sense of place, and a wealth of history, tra­ditions, and lifeways for thousands of years through the learning that came from, on, and through the land, water, and all the inhabitants.

In recognition of place, histo­ries, and our relationships, there needs to be acknowledgment of the more dynamic realities of people, nations, education, and sociopolitical demands and desires as well as the writings, the recordings of truth of these histories. All of the past living and learning on what is now CSU’s campus are what give it its presence and sense of place today – including what and who existed prior to those 150 years.

The removal of tribal nations and era­sure of this original sense of place within these lands was neither an inevitable result of Westward Expansion nor was it simply an unfortunate, if violent, phase in histo­ry. It was the intentional work of national policies and the enforcers of edicts and dictates, including Colorado Gov. Freder­ick Pitkin, who held the state’s top office from 1879 to 1883 and ran on a campaign of forcible Ute removal and extermina­tion. And yet today, Pitkin Street is one of the main campus thoroughfares. Pitkin’s violent legacy is only one example of the erased histories we are obliged to uncover and name, since such truth is fundamen­tal to the University’s nature. Otherwise, the ongoing erasure of Native American and Indigenous presences goes unnamed, their/our lifeways positioned as antithet­ical to growth, evolution, and, ironical­ly, freedom. Practices such as street and building naming glorify and historicize, once again, those responsible for that ini­tial removal under the auspices of progress and triumph of knowledge advancement. Celebrations of history can serve to re-sto­ry familiar and beloved places as having been established on a blank slate, rather than located on stolen territories through violent, forceful, and vicious means.

In an effort to begin to challenge that erasure and to recognize the original stew­ards, knowers, and protectors of this place, CSU has recently adopted a land acknowl­edgment process. It aims to recognize that these lands CSU now occupies, and thus CSU’s founding, came at a grave cost to the nations and peoples who were (and are) here. The acknowledgment affirms the on­going ties Native nations and peoples have to this space. As a land-grant institution, CSU has an obligation to rewrite and more fully understand our sense of place.

Doreen E. Martinez and Lindsey Schneider are members of the Native American Studies faculty in CSU’s Department of Ethnic Studies.

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