August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Arlene Bowman: Virginia Police and Indigenous Men in a Van

Negative into a Positive: Virginia Police and Indigenous men in a van

By Arlene Bowman, Dine' filmmaker

Watched video about the racist Virginia cops and the Akwesasne film crew. Also, listened to the radio interview with Leadhorse: a negative incident which turned into a positive, which I have to act more about and upon. Very inspiring comments about this experience: "To help each and protect each other." As I said in my facebook comment, "I just viewed this video via Censored Blog. This video displays exactly what it's like to be targeted, to be asked for your id when you do nothing wrong and based upon the color of your skin which is brown. These guys are Mohawks, a video prod crew in Virginia. They think this happens only in Virginia but it's all over in North America. Certain places are worse like LA and others. It doesn't only happen to men, but to women too. Leadhorse is Choctaw from Oklahoma." He said this kind of harassment happens at the northern border, of Canada and U.S. It happens south, too, in Mexico and US states. Leadhorse said they were stopped because they were speeding but they did not see any speed signs. The police acted very aggressive, negative, shouted and over reacted in the video. It is a good thing, and I am glad, they all had video cameras to document the incident. This video depicts how truly atrocious some police men act in most instances because it has happened to me at the borders and in large cities like LA as well. I am a Dine' woman filmmaker. I have dark brown skin. Like them I did nothing wrong. I get harassed at the Canadian border when I re-enter Canada, such as the Peace Arch and the Truck crossing #15 in British Columbia. My partner witnessed a really negative incident with a guy at the Peace Arch so he knew I was not lying. Seeing is believing. I am glad Leadhorse speaks up because a person has to. He is brave, unafraid to speak up and to express himself even to other people at the cell when the police took him to jail. He spent about ten days in jail. Lots has happened to me with police, more negative than positive. However, once I was glad the police were present because I was being followed by a car in the middle of the night in Ash Fork, Arizona, a small town. I am from Arizona, Phoenix. No one was around that time of night. I did not stop at a red stop sign. The police saw that and stopped me. I told him I did not see the sign. I said I was looking for a gas station when I came to Ash Fork, Arizona on way back on I-40 to LA that night. He warned me at the time to stop at the stop signs. He did not give me a ticket, but as he was about to leave, I told him a person was following me in a car. Could he please watch me as I drove out of town. That person never followed me again as I drove out of the town.

A lot of this police racism happened a lot in LA during the late 70's when I drove my car and was stopped because I was a brown skinned person. I was 27 years old when it all happened. In the beginning I was very naive and I could not comprehend why this all happened, but now I know why it happens or still happens. This traumatic experience affects the psyche towards people and life. When this happened, I did not have anyone to speak to about this. I noticed that I could only relate to Indigenous men or men of color about this reality because it happened to them. They expressed their experiences about being stopped. I never heard White women express it ever. So removed from this reality are most White women. In Arizona there is racial profiling due to racist politicians and fanatics, which coerces police to stop people of color. Indigenous people get stopped because of their color. All this already happened to me in the late 70's in LA. As you the LAPD is not innocent by any means: Rodney King in 92. Racism caught in the act by a video camera, too.

Although this was inhumane to be treated this way, his reaction was inspiring, positive, calm, soothing and peaceful. Like he said those police men did not come in peace. It is good to know an Indigenous guy like Leadhorse exists in this chaotic world, whose words are grounded. People need more of this calmness. Thank you for sharing. Keep up your good work, Leadhorse. Thanks Brenda, for this interview and your Censored blog, a very good blog and other articles you write.

Listen to interview, and watch video of arrest, at Censored News:

Arlene Bowman, Navajo, was born on the Navajo Nation and grew up in Phoenix. She received her MFA in filmmaking and produced Navajo Talking Picture in Greasewood, Ariz., at her grandmother's hogan. Song Journey, on the powwow trail, was featured on PBS. Arlene recently traveled to France, where her newest short film, Graffiti, which is focused on racism toward Native people, was featured at the Amiens Film Festival. She currently lives in Vancouver, BC.

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