Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

June 2, 2019

When San Carlos Apaches Were Censored: When Truth was Stolen and a US Congressman Went to Prison

By Brenda Norrell 
Censored News

Today, I came across this censored article that I wrote as a staff writer for Indian Country Today 15 years ago. It was good to read the words again of Ola Cassadore Davis, San Carlos Apache, who passed to the Spirit World.
Perhaps Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi should have listened to the Apache elders when they warned him about violating what is sacred. 
Renzi was eventually sentenced to three years in prison because of his land scam involving copper mining, in which he sought to personally benefit. Renzi served two years in prison.
I always wonder, when I read these censored articles, what a difference in history these words might have made, if they had not been censored by Indian Country Today. 

After I was censored for years, and terminated with no cause given, I published this article below in 2006, on a free website that led to Censored News as it is today.
In the late 1990s, Indian Country Today was sold by Lakota publisher Tim Giago to the Oneida Nation in New York.
There was a series of non-Indian editors, and many vital articles were censored. Specifically I was told verbally and in writing to stop writing about "grassroots" Native people. Many staff reporters, including myself, were forced into enormous debt because of expenses. Another reporter sued over this and received a settlement.
To the public, to the people, it was another kind of debt, the truth was stolen and it is owed to them. Today the newspaper is owned by the National Congress of American Indians. Time will tell if it lives up to its responsibility for truth telling and avoids the popular plagiarism of stay-at-home writers, profiteering from the hard work of journalists.

Before the newspaper was sold, during the 1990s, while publisher Tim Giago owned it, we were able to cover news in a way it was never covered. I was able to join the Zapatistas in the jungle in the beginning of the movement and be present at Big Mountain, San Carlos Apache Nation and across the west.

During those years, I talked with great icons like Buffy Sainte Marie, Russell Means, Floyd Westerman, John Trudell, Thomas Banyacya, Dan Evehema, Hopi elder who was 107, and more elders now in the Spirit World.

When Indian Country Today began in the mid 1990s, we had incredible editors, including Avis Little Eagle , now publisher of Teton Times in Standing Rock, and Monte Ecoffey of Wounded Knee, who died too young. The great photographer Larry Gus, Hopi, was also on staff in the Southwest office. Larry joined the Indigenous delegation to Chiapas, and that is how we met our lifelong friends, including Jose Matus, Yaqui Ceremonial Leader, who later passed to the Spirit World.

The newspaper fired me the day before the Indigenous Peoples Border Summit in 2006, as I got off the plane for it. I covered it anyway.

The Mohawks came from the north in 2006, and again for the border summit in 2007.
When the Mohawks saw the US Border Patrol on the Tohono O'odham Nation, arresting Indigenous women and children, the Mohawks sprang out of their cars without a moment's hesitation, and ran to their rescue.
The US Border Patrol forced the migrants into the back of the truck, as if they were cattle, and sped away. These pitiful tiny people, women and children, appeared to have walked from Guatemala.
That day I learned how Mohawks respond to this horrible abuse of human life and human dignity at the border.

That day we also saw the chained link fence cage where migrants were held by the US Border Patrol, on the sovereign Tohono O'odham Nation, outside in life threatening heat. 
Lenny Foster, Dine', called it nothing more than a "dog's cage." Next to the cage, south of Sells, was a US spy tower, in 2007, on the Tohono O'odham Nation.
Mohawks asked how the Tohono O'odham Nation could permit this to happen on their land.

Today, the US Border Patrol agents continue their abuse and assaults on both O'odham and migrants. Many migrants are Indigenous people and have walked across countries in their desperation to survive.
During this time of censorship, when US bombs fell on Baghdad, Louise Benally of Big Mountain compared the US oppression to when Dine' were forced on the cruel Longest Walk and their imprisonment at Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. Dine' suffered from starvation and many died along the way and at the barren prison 

Louise was censored by Indian Country Today, as was Bahe Katennay of Big Mountain when he spoke of oil and gas drilling in Dinetah, the Place of Origin. Lenny Foster, Dine', was censored when he described the treatment of Leonard Peltier in prison.
During these years, truth had a friend reporting at the Hague. Paul Rafferty published these censored articles in his UN Report. Paul was among the first to publish the photos of US soldiers torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
While Congressman Renzi went to prison, others did not. Those responsible for desecrating Mount Graham with telescopes included the University of Arizona in Tucson and the Pope, who led the push for this desecration.

Today, San Carlos Apaches continue to battle mining, desecration at Oak Flat, and continue to protect their land and water.
Today, to the south at the border, dozens of federal laws have been waived, as Trump begins the destruction of the fragile Sonoran Desert for his border wall, which will destroy the habitat of all living things, bulldoze Native American graves, and create a no-man's corridor -- of land seized from the poor -- for the private corporations who fund politicians.
Below are the censored words of San Carlos Apache.

CENSORED in 2004: Apache protest Rep Renzi

Apaches protest Congressional hearing to dilute environmental laws
Congressmen want to bypass environmental protection laws

By Brenda Norrell

Censored News
SAFFORD, Ariz. – San Carlos Apache protested outside a Congressional field hearing and accused Congressman Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., of attempting to water down environmental protection laws aimed at protecting the red squirrel and other species in the fragile environment of sacred Mount Graham.
Ola Cassadore Davis, chair of the Apache Survival Coalition, said Renzi was promoting unprincipled developers like the University of Arizona astronomers, at the expense of Apache religious life and Apache family values.
Davis criticized Renzi’s efforts to remove endangered species protections from the Mount Graham Red Squirrel and to thin and clear-cut the summit forest surrounding the Mount Graham International Observatory. The University of Arizona's $120 million Large Binocular Telescope is nearing completion, despite Apache protests and lawsuits.
“How would Congressman Renzi like to have the hair on the top of his head thinned and parts of his hair chopped out. That’s a pretty sacred place to him, I would guess. But he disrespects places that are sacred to us,” Davis said.
“Renzi should see the fire on top of Mount Graham in July as a warning from God,” she said, referring to the summer wild fires on Mount Graham caused by lightning.
Renzi and U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., are promoting the Mount Graham Sky Island Demonstration Project, which would allow tree thinning on about 2,000 acres on the mountain. The Congressmen said the aim is to protect 21 areas on the mountain from wildfires.
However, the proposal would exempt the project from the required environmental-impact statement, which Renzi and others have said is overly time-consuming.
Federal lawmakers held a formal hearing on the Endangered Species Act Endangered Species Act in Thatcher on Sept. 20. Members of the House Resources Committee said they would accept testimony only from subpoenaed individuals at Eastern Arizona College.
Renzi claimed environmental protection laws prevented forest thinning and contributed to the Nuttall and Gibson fires, charring 29,400 acres last summer.
Davis, however, said the wildfires are being used as a ploy by the Congressmen and greedy developers to washout environmental laws.
“Congressmen like Renzi would sacrifice sacred places in order that developers can destroy the forests, rivers, mountains and special places of this country. The reason our endangered fish and wildlife animals are now endangered is because unscrupulous developers backed by people like Renzi.”
Davis, among the Apaches making statements to protest, said they should look at the Earth to see what is happening.
“Renzi and the astronomers on Mt. Graham look up at the stars, but they don’t look down at their feet to see what they have destroyed on the earth beneath them.”
Raleigh Thompson, retired San Carlos Apache Tribal Council member, said it demonstrates how Congressmen serve the rich and powerful.
“As long as Congressmen like Renzi are around to serve rich and powerful developers by attacking the country’s cultural and environmental protection laws, endangered species problems will continue.
“How would Renzi like us to go to his Church and set up a rodeo or casino beside it or put an Indian crafts shop on top of his Church’s high altar? What he is doing to our mountain and its endangered red squirrel is no different.
“This disregard for people and animals is the way the white man has treated Indians since the 19th century.”
Thompson said Dzil Nchaa Si An (Mt. Graham) has been part of Apache tribal homeland for centuries.
“It was also part of the original reservation land given to us in 1871. But when early settlers and squatters came into our rich lands, they convinced the federal government to take Dzil Nchaa Si An away from us. They wanted it for its water, lumber and other resources.
“They took our fertile Gila River valley from us too, a place where the reports of the early federal Indian Agents said we grew corn and other crops for as far ‘as the eye could see.’ Congressmen just like Renzi have since 1871, on five separate occasions, dismembered about two-thirds of our original Apache reservation’s acreage.
“No wonder we are poor. They stole the best parts of our land. Congressmen like Renzi don’t care if we go extinct any more than they care if the Mount Graham Red Squirrel goes extinct.”
San Carlos Apache elder Erwin Rope said projects such as these get approval because they promise jobs, which never arrive.
“While the $200,000,000 taxpayer financed telescope project creates some temporary jobs, it creates very few permanent jobs,” Rope said.
Rope pointed out that according to the official Forest Service’s Arizona Department of Transportation studies, the most jobs created would be 33 in Tucson and 30 in Safford.
“That is an extremely inefficient and wasteful way for anybody to help local communities,” he said.
Mike Davis, Apache Survival Coalition member and American Indian, said Apaches must speak up to protect the small creatures.
“We Indians respect and honor the intent of our Great Spirit, -- for animals to live on this planet. It is wrong to abandon endangered animals that need our help as desperately as the Mount Graham Red Squirrel.”
Ola Cassadore Davis pointed out that Mount Graham has more vegetation life zones than any other mountain in North America, and that the forest at the summit is the southernmost spruce-fir forest in North America.
“We Apache also know this place is unique. It has been spiritually a part of us for centuries. But people like Renzi don’t care about anything except the money that can be made from those places.
“Look at the severely endangered animal like the Mount Graham Red Squirrel, now down to just a few hundred individuals before the recent fire.”
Apache protesters, which included elderly, said it was inappropriate for police to watch over their protest at the hearing with a police attack dog.
Davis said the Congressmen want to make the living creatures go extinct so the University of Arizona can build a city of telescopes on the mountain.
“If it hadn’t been for the squirrel, the University of Arizona would have by now built a city of telescopes all over the summit of this sacred mountain.”
The League of Conservation Voters recently named Renzi to its "dirty dozen" list of lawmakers which the group considers to have anti-environmental voting records.

Article copyright Brenda Norrell. May not be used without permission.

About the author

Brenda Norrell began as a news reporter at Navajo Times during the 18 years that she lived on the Navajo Nation. She was a stringer for the Associated Press, USA Today, and other national publications before becoming a staff writer for Indian Country Today. She created Censored News as a result of the censorship at Indian Country Today. Censored News is in its 13th year with 19 million pageviews. It has no ads, grants or revenues.

No comments: