Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

November 10, 2007

End of the game: Indigenous Peoples' bringing down Apartheid wall

By Brenda Norrell

Mohawks were among 19 Indian Nations at the Indigenous Peoples' Border Summit of the Americas 2007. The four-day summit concluded Saturday with a challenge from Mike Wilson, Tohono O'odham who puts out water for migrants. Lenny Foster, Dine', spoke on Native inmates' ceremonial rights and freedom for Leonard Peltier. Petuuche Gilbert, Acoma Pueblo, shared insights into law and the border, with the summit culminating in a Blackfire resistance concert.

Mike Wilson, Tohono O'odham, said it is important to dispel the myth of sovereignty. "We have no sovereignty. We only have the sovereignty that the US Congress allows us that day."

Wilson said if the Tohono O'odham Nation was truly sovereign, it would not have an occupying army and unchecked police power on its land, including the Border Patrol, National Guard and Immigration and Customs agents. Wilson said children as young as six-years-old have been imprisoned in the unit known as "the cage" on O'odham land at San Miguel.

Wilson described searching for the bodies of migrants who have died. Since 2006, 246 migrants have died in the Tucson Border Patrol sector, where the Border Patrol's inhumane border policies are enforced.

On the Tohono O'odham Nation, 65 people perished in the desert. Wilson is now searching the desert for the remains of another five human beings.

"Where is the moral outrage?" Wilson asked. In July, Wilson found the remains of a 17-year-old who was seven-months pregnant.

Wilson said the Tohono O'odham Nation spent $16 million to build a new cultural center. "Not one penny was spent to prevent migrant deaths."

It is time, he said, for Native people to stop the romantic myth of sovereignty and the cloaking and choking on victimization. It is time to emerge from silence about the women, men, children and unborn children who die on Indian lands for want of a drink of water.

"Do not think your silence honors me as a Tohono O'odham person. It dishonors me." Wilson said it is time for all people to become a voice for the mummified migrants found dead in the desert.
"They have no voice."
Wilson displayed a huge pile of his plastic water jugs from his water stations on O'odham land that had been slashed. He said people talk of outside Minutemen, but these are "O'odham Minutemen."

Singing with a strong voice a song for Leonard Peltier, Foster called for freedom for Peltier. Foster said he visits Peltier three times a year for the sweatlodge ceremony. "They gave him the Pipe, but they will not let him have tobacco."

"Leonard's health is not good. We miss him and pray for him," Foster said as he described the hope of Peltier's release. "Leonard sends his love and support and is in solidarity."

Petuuche Gilbert, Acoma Pueblo from New Mexico, described the colonized thinking that the border delegation experienced on Tohono O'odham land on Thursday, during a tour of where the border barrier is being built.

Gilbert recalled the words of an Acoma Pueblo referring to the Catholic Church.

"They made slaves out of us to make this church. I guess that's why we are Catholics now."

Gilbert said the border wall is going up on Indian lands because Indian Nations are not functioning as true sovereign nations.

"Because we do not have that sovereignty over our lands, territories and natural resources." Gilbert said that one day, Indian Nations would be sovereign nations again.

Jay Johnson Castro described abuses at the prisons for profit. Those include Don T. Hutto Detention Center near Austin, Texas, where migrant babies and children are imprisoned, and Raymondville migrant internment camp near Brownsville, Texas.

"Near the Texas capitol, there are hundreds of children in prison for profit," Castro said of Hutto. Describing conditions before the protests began, he said children were kept in cells separate from their parents, wore prison uniforms and given out-dated milk to drink at Hutto.

"If they were to take a cookie to their cells, they would be punished." In the cells, when they used the toilet, anyone walking by their cells could watch them.

One woman was sexually assaulted by a guard in front of her child and was never charged. "We don't know what happened to the mother and child," Castro said.

Homeland Security denied entry to the United Nations' Rapporteur on migrants, Jorge Bustamante, in May. At Raymondville internment camp, a prison guard exposed the fact that migrants were being fed food with maggots in it. The United States is one of only two countries in the world, the other one being Somalia, who does not ensure the rights of the child and has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Castro also described the "Endgame," a United States policy to remove all "aliens" that is now in its fourth year.

The Border Summit concluded with the chicken scratch sounds of Gertie and the TO Boys, followed by the resistance vocals and chords of Blackfire, sounding out the need to keep San Francisco Peaks sacred from waste water. Blackfire's Navajo family band of Klee, Jeneda and Clayson Benally called for justice for the political prisoners: migrants at the border and Leonard Peltier.

Klee Benally told the gathering that the arrest of Maoris in New Zealand, organized for self-determination, was both a test and an indicator for what is to come here.

Standing in solidarity with Maoris and Apaches protecting Mount Graham in Arizona, Blackfire joined the summit in declaring an end to borders, discrimination against migrants and a new era of human rights. Jones Benally joined his children onstage for traditional Dine' songs with the drum.

The Border Summit, emboldened by the delegation of Mohawks, renewed their determination on Saturday to halt the border wall and hold the Tohono O'odham Nation responsible for the deaths of men, women, children and unborn children who have died on O'odham lands "for want of a drink of water."

After traveling to the Tohono O'odham Nation border with Mexico, an Indigenous Peoples' delegation from the summit unleashed a new movement to honor the lives and deaths of migrants.

Diana Joe, Yaqui, among the Indigenous women present who worked the fields as a child, said, "May the farm worker people live long!"

Indigenous Peoples called for action to bring down the wall and stop the deaths of Indigenous Peoples' walking to a better life. This land, all of Turtle Island from the north to the south, is the home to Indigenous Peoples.

As Indigenous Peoples here stood in solidarity with those walking, Native people said it is the white people in the United States who are the invaders. They arrived here without papers, visas or passports.
Kahentinetha Horn said it is time to stop "crying about all our suffering," acting subjugated and time to take action."Why don't we just go out and pick those people up," she said of the Indigenous Peoples walking in the desert.
Speaking of the Tohono O'dham who allow people to die for a drink of water, Kahentinetha said, "They make Hitler look like a school boy."
She urged people to start taking down the border wall.
As Mohawk Mark Maracle put it, "It doesn't take a lot of people to bring down this border wall!"
Recent articles by Brenda Norrell
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