CSQ: How do you see the Armenian experience in relation to those of other indigenous peoples?
Last summer an Apache friend and I gave a workshop on First Nation women’s spirituality at a conference called Sisterspace. We talked about the similarities between our cultures and what had happened to us as indigenous peoples. I feel sad that when Armenians come to the United States, they do not understand that they are occupying the land of America’s indigenous peoples. They see the Statue of Liberty, but if a statue was built in Armenia saying “Welcome oppressed peoples of the world”—how would we feel? Why should indigenous peoples from around the world feel good when they see that statue? It’s a symbol of oppression. April 24 is Armenian Genocide Day, and I’m always saying to the Armenian committees, “Please invite Native American speakers because we are on their land; they have been through genocide also. We need to be in solidarity with them.” As a result of isolation, the pain of being one of the most conquered nations, and extreme economic hardship, Armenians have not done much to reach out to others facing freedom struggles.
I am an indigenous woman. I am upset when Armenia is called a European country, because Armenia was a Near Eastern culture that existed for thousands of years before European civilization existed. The Near East is not even shown on maps today, so Armenians have had to join with Middle Easterners to promote our rights. I am tired of racism by omission, where non-Arab Middle Eastern women are left out. And in today’s world, Middle Eastern women need to be included on an equal basis with other indigenous people in all of the conferences and movements for people of color.
CSQ: How do you feel about the younger Armenian generation growing up in the United States?
For a lot of Armenian youth, the force of assimilation is so great that many of the Armenians in the United States have lost touch with their culture. But even though my Armenian culture is repressive toward women, I would rather work within that culture and educate people to liberate women than have American culture take over.