Monday, December 21, 2009
Censored News Snapshots 2009
TUCSON -- Prolific American Indian writer, scholar and activist Ward Churchill visited Tucson on Friday night, bringing with him a new meaning to the word “occupation.”
Delivering a talk entitled “Apartheid in America: Surviving Occupation in O'odham Lands,”
Professor Churchill Spoke to a full hall at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson about the U.S. government's history of conquest, genocide and occupation of traditional Indian territory.
As a sort of ominous beginning to his talk, Mr. Churchill opened his remarks by saying, “It's an honor to be here; it's always an honor to be anywhere in North America, on Native land.”
Churchill discussed the legitimacy of the “claimed territory” of the United States as “the difference between a 'claim' and a 'reality',” which, he said, are not the same thing. “The United States 'claims' many things,” Churchill said. “Those things have to be interrogated because a 'claim' is not the same as the reality. The United States claims indigenous land as its own, over which it asserts jurisdiction, enforces its own rules -- on everyone.”
Professor Churchill recalled watching on TV a public address in 1990 by former U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush. “(Bush) actually gave a very accurate assessment of international legal obligation, Churchill said. “'Illegally occupied territory,' (Bush) said, 'must be restored to its rightful owners; legitimate governments,' (Bush) said, 'must be re-established in place (of) those that had been usurped; and those who engage in lawless aggression in the occupation of other people's property and assert their authority over them by armed force had to be put back in line with law using any means necessary.'”
Churchill said he jumped up and started cheering at Bush's remarks, which struck him as an ironic rationale laid out by a modern American head of state for why the U.S. must give back the lands it took by force; the lands, Churchill said, which it continues to occupy illegally.
Throughout much of his talk Mr. Churchill made connections between the South African Apartheid regime (1948-1994), the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian lands (1948-present), and Nazi Germany's conquest of Western Europe before and during World War Two. He relentlessly tied back all of them as each following the U.S. example of its own conquest of the Americas and extermination of the indigenous populations over the past several hundred years.
A representative of the traditional O'odham ceremony leaders and the founder of the O'odham VOICE Against the Wall, Ofelia Rivas shared the stage with Professor Churchill, speaking about, in her view, one of the main problems with settler relations with indigenous people in America: “Since the very beginning of the intrusion of our people we haven't had any dialogue. “We weren't at that table when (the U.S.) made that international border. We were not considered to be human. I have to go back to that point because that's the point where we begin as O'odham people. When we begin to remember those things, then maybe we can begin to understand what it means to O'odham people.”
“When you start to feel that kind of compassion for human beings – not because they are different and because they have the same mindset as you and because they support the same ideas as you – then maybe we can change things.”
Ward Churchill has written over twenty books on Native human rights, American foreign policy, and the repression of political dissent in America. According to the website of the University of Colorado at Boulder's department of Ethnic Studies, of which Churchill is a former Chair, Churchill served as a delegate to the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations (as a Justice/Rapporteur for the 1993 International People's Tribunal on the Rights of Indigenous, an advocate/prosecutor of the First Nations International Tribunal for the Chiefs of Ontario, and is the recipient of various writing awards. It also states he is a member of the Colorado chapter Governing Council of the American Indian Movement (AIM).
Churchill's and Rivas's talk was sponsored by Dry River Radical Resource Center and the Earth First! Journal.