Advocates in Fremont County want to draw connections between colonialism in U.S. and Palestine
Fremont County for Ceasefire Now (FCCN) was created shortly after Oct. 7. It wants to make sure conversations about the Israel-Hamas conflict don’t fade away in the area. The group is made up of community members from the county and the Wind River Reservation.
They recently held a demonstration in Lander calling for an end to violence in Palestine. Around thirty people gathered at Centennial Park on Lander’s Main Street throughout the day for the demonstration on Nov. 18, holding signs reading “Ceasefire, Peace Now” and “Healthcare Workers 4 Palestine.”
The group is a coalition with “identities ranging from Jewish, Indigenous, Christian, LGBTQ2S+, folks who have experienced the systemic abuses of the U.S. prisons/immigration systems, and white allies” who “believe that violence against Palestinian people is legally unjustified and morally shameful,” according to a statement on the FCCN website.
Layha Spoonhunter is part of FCCN and is an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe. They’re a community activist who lives on the Wind River Reservation and said what’s currently happening in Palestine has ties to the history of the treatment of Native people in the U.S.
“Land removal, settler-colonial behaviors and near-genocide of people is something that is very similar to something that we, as Indigenous people here in the United States, have had to live for over 500 years now,” Spoonhunter said.
Spoonhunter said that other Native people have been showing their support for Palestinians by holding dances and participating in marches across the country. For the Northern Arapaho activist, FCCN is about bringing awareness to the issues Palestinians are facing and highlighting the connection to the treatment of Indigenous peoples in the U.S.
“This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart, because it's very much aligned with who I am,” they said.
As of November 23, the number of Palestinian casualties exceeded 13,000, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. The Israel’s Foreign Ministry says around 1,200 people were killed by Hamas militants on Oct. 7.
Taylor Pajunen lives in Lander and is part of the coalition. They echoed Spoonhunter’s sentiment and emphasized that FCCN is not anti-semitic. Rather, FCCN is an anti-colonial group that wants to call out the perpetration of violence and educate others.
“[The demonstration] was just a grassroots community of friends and partners who really believe in resisting colonialism and imperialism, whether it's here in Wyoming, especially on the reservation or in border towns, or in Palestine,” they said. “We see the interconnectedness of all forms of colonization and how it's affecting our community members here.”
Sam Dahnert is part of FCCN and is a Jewish American who is a descendant of a scholar of Holocaust and genocide studies. In response to the current ceasefire that is set to expire on November 29, Dahnert said that FCNN is “a diverse group that have a number of idealized outcomes that may differ from each other,” but added that the group is “united in an anti-genocide stance.”
Pajunen said there’s still been violence happening during the current ceasefire – and that the reduction in violence doesn’t mean people should stop paying attention to what’s going on.
“A lot of danger could come from that, of losing interest from the outside global population, especially in the United States. I see [the ceasefire] more as a call for us to keep engaging,” they said. Spoonhunter said that the conflict in Palestine has been happening long before the violence that occurred on October 7 and that the impacts of trauma, loss, and PTSD from violence that has already taken place will be felt far into the future.
“At the end of the day, we don't want Palestinian citizens facing genocide, we don't want Palestinian citizens facing war or the threat of being killed. That they will be able to still live in peace – that's what the final option should be,” they said.
FCCN intends to keep raising awareness about the conflict by holding signs on Main Street at least once a week. The collective also plans to keep doing research on the connections between colonialism, military and policing in Israel, Palestine, the U.S., and Wyoming, which they’ll share on the group’s website and Facebook page.