August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A letter to Birmingham: From the anti-Mexican State of Arizona

Column of the Americas
A letter to Birmingham: From the anti-Mexican State of Arizona
A special-length column
By Roberto Cintli Rodriguez
Posted at Censored News

Dear Birmingham…

I write this to you from Tucson, Arizona, from a state synonymous with dehumanization and racial profiling, from a land of fear and hate. Birmingham, I think you know what I speak of. But don’t think I am alluding to your past; also today.

HB 56, the bill that your state legislature recently passed and that your governor signed, is being touted as the toughest anti-immigrant bill in the country, one that was affirmed by a U.S. District judge this September. This measure requires school officials to act as immigration agent sand permits police officers to detain people without bail, based merely on suspicion of being in the country illegally. That it has fomented hate and caused panic and fear was the point, wasn’t it?

You might be wondering why someone from Arizona would be writing to a Southern city or state capitol? The answer is simple; Birmingham represents memory; it is etched into the psyche of the nation. It is also seared into Tucson’s memory, not just because many of us from the U.S.Southwest also lived through the civil rights era, but also because on May 3 of this year, one of our elders in our community was arrested for attempting to read the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” by Martin Luther King Jr. This occurred during a school board meeting, this in the midst of a hostile anti-Mexican, anti-Indigenous and anti-immigrant atmosphere in this state.

Here we have our own Bull Conner; Sheriff Joe Arpaio – the same Sheriff who unapologetically proclaimed on CNN that it was an honor to be compared with the KKK (11/12/07). Here, we also have Tom Horne, former state schools superintendent, who has long invoked the memory of MLK Jr., in his six-year effort to eliminate Ethnic Studies. He claims that doing so would constitute the fulfillment of MLK’s Dream. His successor, John Huppenthal,campaigned on the promise to “Stop ‘La Raza’. ” That is his dream. Against all evidence, he is conducting a modern-day Inquisition into Tucson’s Mexican American Studies K-12 department, attempting to prove its maize-based curriculum is anti-American.

In Tucson, our struggle is not simply about the right of our students to learn Mexican American history, language and culture, but even more so, our struggle here is about the right of everyone to be treated as full human beings. Indeed, this is something that you, Birmingham, know all too well. Last month signaled your grand return to the world stage of dehumanization;it’s as if you had been waiting some 50 years to breathe uninhibited, able once again to exhale the fumes of racial supremacy. This is something you haven’tbeen able to do since the courts and the civil rights movement forced you to cease your legalized discrimination against  African Americans. But your fight is not really with brown people; it’s just about enforcing the law, right?

Please note that in Arizona, we don’t refer to dehumanizingmeasures that violate the rights of human beings as laws. Yet, this is beyond how we characterize this new bigotry; we are conscious that Mexicans in many parts of the country are viewed and treated as less than human. The following quote by Otto Santa Ana, in Brown Tide Rising, explains this bias: “Only humans have human rights.” I am certain that African Americans inthe South understand this well.

Here, we have heard your governor, Robert Bentley, brag about the toughness of HB 56. Truthfully, there’s a bit of racial nostalgia and wistfulness communicated in his voice, projecting the sublime and whispered wish: “If we could only also apply these laws to our Black population too.” AmI mistaken, or is he not the same governor who in January proclaimed that only people who believe inJesus Christ are his brothers and sisters.

As such, I don’t have to wonder what he thinks of Muslims,Buddhists, Hindus and Jews. But forgive me if this causes me to question whether he considers African Americans, American Indians, Arab Americans and Mexicans as his true brothers and sisters too. As long as they are “legal”?

Birmingham, is this how you wish to be known and remembered?As a place that in the 21st century openly and legally dehumanizes its brown populations?

Birmingham, do you think the world actually believes you when you say you have nothing against brown people, Mexicans or immigrants – that your only beef is with “illegal aliens?” Do you think your ability to discern is credible? Isn’t that like dehumanizing African Americans, but hiding behind“states rights.” Wasn’t slavery and segregation legal in your state, in this country?

So Birmingham, yes, please lecture us on “the rule of law.”And keep listening to your governor, because we here in Arizona are certainly paying close attention. Here are his words in reaction to the judge’s ruling:“…this fight is justbeginning… I will continue to fight at every turn to defend this law against any and all challenges.”

Don’tknow what you hear, but eerily, we hear echoes of George Wallace: “segregationnow, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”

Birmingham, your state legislature and your governor have once again brought “disgrace upon your state.” We know the objective is to take HB 56 to the Supreme Court. And let’s not mince words; we know that ethnic cleansing is not an unintended consequence. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way.Here, we thank your civil and human rights organizations and your religious community. Please continue to fight. Our memory is long. Yes, we remember the1950s and 1960s… but we also remember the Trail of Tears.  Please do not permit a new one on your soil. After all, the brown men, women and children subject to this new draconian measure… they are our brothers and sisters… as they are yours.

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at:

Thanks & Sincerely
Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
Column of the Americas
PO BOX 3812
Tucson, AZ 85722

Lakotas, Dakotas, testify against Keystone pipeline in South Dakota

Photo by Vi Waln
US Department of State hosts Public comment meeting in South DakotaCopyright 2011
Vi Waln
Lakota County Times Editor
Photos copyright Vi Waln

Published with permission at Censored News

PIERRE, SD – "Lakota people are given the power to take care of Mother Earth,” Sandra Little said. “You people were given the power of fire and you misuse it. You have to think about what you're doing."
She spoke against the Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL) expansion at a public meeting held here last week.
Photo by Vi Waln
Officials heard from over 150 people. The meeting was held to gather public and written comments on whether granting a permit for the KXL project is in the US national interest. The meeting, which was facilitated by Jim Steel of the US Department of State (DOS), was conducted under an extremely heavy law enforcement presence.
“We understand there are strong views on this issue,” Steel said, “and we will consider all written and oral comments.” Written comments will be accepted until October 9, 2011. Anyone wishing to comment can submit their views by mail, online, fax or email.
TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP filed an application in 2008 for a Presidential Permit with the DOS to build and operate the KXL Project. The proposed KXL Project consists of a 1,912-mile pipeline that would transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Oklahoma and Texas. The proposed project could transport up to 830,000 barrels per day and is estimated to cost $7 billion dollars. 
“It’s pretty clear that none of the federal agencies understand trust responsibility nor do they care,” stated Lana Gravatt who serves as the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Yankton Sioux Tribe. “We can't pray to the Great Spirit if the environment is destroyed.” If the permit is granted the DOS “would be in breach of trust. If you are going to destroy the environment, I take it personal.”
Photo by Vi Waln
"We understand the environment, we understand the sensitivities," stated Rob Riess of the Sheehan Pipeline Construction Company based in Oklahoma. “We will leave Mother Earth, as it's been called today, just the way we found it."
“The government is breaking the law because they have failed to consult with our tribal nations," stated Andrew Iron Shell.
Representatives from SD Governor Dennis Daugaard’s office, the SD Trucking Association, Harding County Commission, SD Building Trades, SD AFL-CIO, SD Union representatives, Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce, Fall River County Commission and the Harding County School Board all spoke in favor of the KXL project. They stated the KXL would bring jobs and tax revenue.
A very large group of Laborers’ International Union of America (LIUNA) representatives also took turns testifying in favor of the project. Most of them, along with several pipefitters, welders, electrical workers and other laborers, were brought in by charter bus from out of state. Many who offered comments stated they were from Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Texas and Wyoming.
"Hiya means no to this project,” stated Maryann Bear Heels McCowan. “It holds no future for our children."
Photo by Vi Waln
The KXL project would have to cross Mni Wiconi water lines located in South Dakota. According to the Mni Wiconi Act, the Oglala Sioux Tribe must concur with a Bureau of Reclamation easement for the lines to be crossed. The oil pipeline will also cross over much of the Ogallala Aquifer, a vast underground water source serving people in eight states.
“We need jobs but not jobs dependent on tar sands oil,” stated Trista Olsen, who operates a ranch in Mellette County. “A spill from this pipeline would affect the drinking water supply of 2 million people.”
South Dakota Indian “tribes are not supporting this due to the lack of consultation,” stated Martin Skye of the United Sioux Tribes Development Corporation. “Our water quality is more important than this oil.”
The “oil spills in Canada are very intense,” said Pat Spears of the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy. “All people along the proposed pipeline route are at risk. We are very concerned about our water.”
“We cannot drink oil,” stated Kandi Mossett, a Mandan-Arikira-Hidatsa tribal member and Indigenous Environmental Network activist. “We were born in water and we have to have water to survive.”
The Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association has “recommended that the application for a Presidential permit be denied,” stated Rodney Bordeaux, Chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The “Keystone pipeline has and will go through Treaty territory; we were not consulted on any part of it. The route initially went around tribal lands so [TransCanada] wouldn’t have to consult with us.”
Photo Vi Waln
A Treaty Council resolution opposing the approval of a permit was presented by Faith Spotted Eagle of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. "The DOS must clean their ears and hear us." The KXL expansion has “the potential to injure our grandchildren,” she said.
“These issues are real,” stated Michael Jandreau, Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Chairman. “The reality of what can occur [in terms of an oil spill] has been proven. Please take into consideration the wishes of our tribal leaders.”
Law enforcement officers appeared flustered when a small group of Lakota protestors, dressed in camouflage clothing and balaclava style head gear, filed silently into the meeting. They carried sage and wore eagle feathers. Some stood peacefully while others paced the aisle.
The anonymous Lakota activists did not speak out publicly. However, they left without incident when police officers stated they were “interfering with security measures.” 
Interested parties can view pertinent documents, including the Final EIS, along with other updates and further information by visiting:
A final public meeting is scheduled for Friday, October 7, 2011 in Washington, DC. However, interested persons can still comment on this proposed project until Sunday, October 9, 2011.
Written comments are being accepted by email, fax or online. Fax your written comments to 206-269-0098.
To comment online please visit:
You may email written comments to:
You can also mail them to the following address: Alexander Yuan, Keystone XL Project NID, PO Box 96503-98500, Washington DC 20090-6503. Again, the deadline for submitting written comments is Sunday, October 9, 2011 at midnight.

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