Friday, January 4, 2008

Indigenous land owners in Texas plea for immediate intervention, US prepares to seize lands for border wall

Homeland Security has issued a 30-day notice to south Texas land owners, expiring Monday, January 7, 2007, to seize private lands in Texas for the border wall. Lipan Apache issue a call for help:

By Margo Tamez
Photo by Jay Johnson-Castro

This is a request for immediate intervention on behalf of indigenous land title holders of the rancheria of El Calaboz, La Paloma, and El Ranchito in South Texas. I am writing to you this evening as the indigenous peoples of El Calaboz, La Paloma and El Ranchito rancherias in South Texas express grave fear for their safety, their livelihoods, and being ripped violently apart from our sacred lands held in our communities prior to contact with Spanish settlers and empresarios, and thereafter, in continuity.
Elders, such as Eloisa Garcia Tamez, and others in our communities threatened with Eminent Domain, by the Department of Homeland Security and carried out by Secretary Chertoff, have authorized me to request immediate emergency intervention from the International Indian Treaty Council at this time.
The 30 day period which Chertoff forced upon the threatened communities will expire on January 7, 2008. Today, an emergency national conference call was held to address key concerns of the South Texas independent indigenous rancherias whose lands are not only physically on the International Boundary (IB), but also whose traditional and titled lands (by Spanish, Mexican Republic and Texas Republic title) are dissected by the IB and are also in Tamaulipas, Mexico. We are communities of both indigenous Hleh pai nde'--the Light Gray People, the independent Lipan Apache of the San Pedro de Carricitos Land Grant of 1786. As well we are communities of Basque-Nde' and Basque-Comanche peoples who are the First Peoples of the contact period after 1745 when Basque laborers toiled under harsh conditions and mixed in with the indigenous of the region to survive colonial mission, presidio, hacendado and empresario rulers.
Today the impacted communities of South Texas held a conference call with allies from Tohono O'odham, Yaqui, Jumano Apache, as well as a team of committed civil and human rights attorneys, land grant attorneys, human rights attorneys, activist organizations, and academic activist-scholars from the University of Texas system. We heard the voices of the first impacted communities of this horrendous 'border security project'--the voices of mothers, daughters, uncles, fathers, and grandparents whose lives and lands are currently under threat of eminent occupation on January 7, 2008.
Tonight, my mother, Eloisa Garcia Tamez, expressed to me that more and more elders are giving up--and considering surrendering to Secretary Chertoff, due to their advanced age, their sense of hopelessness, isolation and extreme fear of an impending sense of doom which the national media churns out daily on the television and papers--militarized violence.
This fear is not unfounded. Our community is all too familiar with militarization, as we are a hyper-militarized and occupied region.
My mother, tonight, fearfully recalled to me the reason why she believes some elders will surrender and sign the waiver which will forcibly relocate them. In the mid 1930's the army came to build the so-called 'secure levee'--which was forced upon the community. At that time the army constructed a dangerous levee system, against wishes of the the traditional indigenous farmers--my great grand parents and grand parents, grand uncles and grand aunts included. At that time, they forced a massive destruction of the traditional fields, and flooded our all of our families to the south of us. Women, children and elders were flooded out and vanished horrifically--a dramatic display of hyper-militarized power to dominate through terror, and bring my ancestors under the authority of the U.S. Army.
My mother retold me, tonight, that she remembers how during this time period the U.S. Army and Border Patrol ran their vehicles into the front doors of the small jacals (traditional shelters, or 'gowas'--wickiups) and how she ran and ran ... in fear of being run over and killed and seeing her family destroyed. She recounted how they burst open doors and forced their way in the homes and how she hid under the bed as the soldiers destroyed everything in their maniacal rampages against the indigenous. Thus, tonight, the elders, who were also vulnerable teens and young children at that time--again--specifically regarding the trauma associated with the U.S. Army Engineers' 'levee', are all too cognizant of the subversive ways of the U.S. government, forced occupation and militarized terror tactics. They fear that none will ever know that it will happen again--because the level of policing and Marshall law at the I.B. is so hyper militarized, so naturalized and so normalized that no one would even blink an eye if they are all overrun again.
Therefore, as the days draw close to the January 7 deadline, more elders who are sick, exhausted and overstressed by the national terror being focused upon the small and defenseless rancherias --are talking about surrendering.
We empathize with them and are encouraging them through our voices and prayers. However, my mother and many others, are gaining strength and productive structures to express and organize their outrage and sense of justice --from the national and international support pouring into us. We are firmly committed to the longer struggle for justice.
Our community has fought hand to hand with U.S. soldiers in prior waves of empire, and we will not, as my mother says, ever surrender. My mother gave me permission tonight to go forward and to request formally that the IITC step in on our behalf and respond with immediate intervention, for this is a struggle that is inclusive, and foregrounds an indigenous democracy--one that is horizontal and far-reaching. At this time, we invite you to join the Working Group.
The Working Group is holding a national press conference telephonic call on Monday, January 7, 2006.
We will keep you advised of further details regarding the legal and political defense of the land title holders of El Calaboz rancheria.
Respectfully, Margo Tamez

To Margo Tamez
From Bill Means, cofounder of the International Indian Treaty Council
As one of the founders and present Board Members of the International Indian Treaty Council I want to give my total support to saving your tradtional lands and comunities. You are right that unless there is massive support the US general public will never know or care about what is happening on the US-Mexico border. The continuous Human Rights violations by the US must be exposed. Is it only white people who are welcomed to the US? Where is the Statue of Liberty for the Southern Border of the US? Where is Ellis Island? Give Me your tired, your hungry, your huddled masses! Is this just for white people? The US policy on the US-Mexico border is totally racist! IITC is in support!
Toksha, Bill

Photo: Border wall protest in Brownsville, Texas/Photo credit Jay Johnson-Castro

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