by Brenda Norrell
Photo Ofelia Rivas, O'odham
Photo Ofelia Rivas, O'odham
TUCSON -- Activist Ward Churchill will speak at a benefit for the traditional O'odham resisting oppression and abuse by US Border Patrol agents and protesting the construction of the US/Mexico border wall in their traditional homeland.
Ofelia Rivas, founder of the O'odham VOICE against the Wall, said funds raised at the benefit will support the struggles of the O'odham living on both sides of the border, on O'odham lands in southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico.
Rivas points out that the US border wall construction has resulted in the unearthing of O'odham ancestors, in violation of spiritual laws and federal laws. The wall is now a barrier to annual sacred pilgrimages of the O'odham.
"The wall has destroyed the sacred resting places of our ancestors and has closed our ceremonial routes," Rivas said.
Since Homeland Security has coopted the Tohono O'odham Nation government in the United States, Tohono O'odham police are working with the US Border Patrol agents and abuse O'odham on a daily basis. The region has been militarized by federal agents and basic human rights are denied.
"The O'odham are considered illegal undocumented persons in our own lands. The policies of the wall have criminalized O'odham. We are considered suspects in our own lands, interrogated and harassed," Rivas said.
Rivas has been held at gunpoint, handcuffed and repeatedly followed and harassed by US Border Patrol agents and Tohono O'odham police. Rivas' family lives on both sides of the US/Mexico border in the traditional O'odham homeland.
"O'odham VOICE is our resistance to continue our way of life, continue to maintain our Him'dag and continue to cross this illegal International Border across our lands," Rivas said.
Traditional O'odham oppose the construction of the border wall in their homeland. They are struggling to halt the abuse of O'odham and migrants by police and the various federal immigration agents that swarm their land.
Many migrants dying in the Sonoran Desert are Indigenous Peoples, Mayans and other Indigenous Peoples, from southern Mexico and Central America. Traditional O'odham upholding the Him'dag, the sacred way of life, oppose the oppression and militarization leading to the deaths of Indigenous Peoples on their lands.
Rivas said the O'odham VOICE Against the Wall, organized in 2003, advocates for the traditional O'odham leaders and elders of the O'odham communities in the southern territory of the United States and northern territory of Mexico.
Churchill will speak at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, 4831 E. 22nd St., on November 13, 2009 at 7:00 p.m.
Churchill's talk is part of the "Apartheid in America: Surviving Occupation in O'odham Lands" gathering, which features a concert by Resistant Culture, a punk rock/metal band from Southern California.
"The event is dedicated to raising awareness of the connections between repressive border policies at home and abroad," Rivas said.
Announcing the event, Rivas said, "Ward Churchill is a prolific American Indian writer, a member of the Rainbow Coalition Council of Elders, and on the leadership council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado. In addition to his numerous works on Indigenous history, he has written extensively on U.S. foreign policy and the repression of political dissent. Five of his more than 20 books have received human rights writing awards.
"Former Chair of the Ethnic Studies Department, until July 2007 Ward Churchill was a tenured full Professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Colorado/Boulder, where he received numerous awards for his teaching and service. In April 2009 a jury unanimously found that he had been fired by CU in retaliation for his observations on 9/11 and in violation of the First Amendment. Professor Churchill is currently litigating to have that verdict upheld."
Rivas said Resistant Culture's music is best described as tribal grind core -- weaving the indigenous flute, rattle, tribal drum, and chant into a backdrop of extreme punk and metal. The concert will take place at Dry River, 740 N. Main (University and Main), November 13, at 10:00 p.m.
Supporting the O'odham struggle and in opposition to censorship and rigid conformity, the events will be broadcast live at www.livestream.com/earthcycles
Rivas said sponsors of the event include the Dry River Radical Resource Center, Earth First! Journal, and Voices Against the Wall.
"The event is open to the public. Donations of $10 to $20 are requested, but no one will be turned away. A delicious vegetarian meal will be served at 6:30 p.m.," she said.