Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

January 5, 2020

Native People urge peace and friendship with Iran, demand U.S. get out of Iraq

Michelle Cook, Dine', who visited Iran on a friendship visit, urged peace and
diplomacy. Photos courtesy Michelle Cook.
Native People urge peace and friendship with Iran, demand U.S. get out of Iraq

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
French translation by Christine Prat

Native Americans rallied for peace today, sending a message of friendship to the people of Iran and demanding that the U.S. get out of Iraq, as they called out Trump for both assassinations and provocations for war. Dineh, Lakota, Pueblo and Tohono O'odham led the urgent call for peace and diplomacy to halt the tragedies of war.

Michelle Cook, Dineh lawyer, urged all people to arise for peace, engage in diplomacy and protect Iran.

"Over a decade ago, in what seems like another world now, I was welcomed into Iran where the bones of Kings like Darius the Great and Esther still remain. These are also Holy Lands," Cook told Censored News today.

"My heart breaks for the Iranian people, for the nomadic tribes of Iran, our relatives, who should never be harmed or demonized."

"Our Dineh hands, like the Persian hands, weave rugs, the wool fibers carrying the knowledge and imprints of our ancestors."

Cook said she opposes any U.S. war funding.

"We have so many Native American service members who will be impacted by this tragic and ill-informed maneuver. I pray protection over our servicemen and women who are being called to a dangerous, false and immoral duty for the personal gain of bad men."

"I urge all people to actively resist any call for force in Iran and any message which uses negative cultural or racial stereotypes against the Iranian people or seeks violence. I urge all peoples to protect Iran, prevent violence and act immediately for peace and diplomacy.

Ofelia Rivas, Tohono O'odham said from the southern border today, "Every atrocity is covered up, erased by politicians and corporate media, then justified with more death by war."

"Peace to the people that expose this and battle it every day."

The Red Nation, comprised of Native American scholars and social justice advocates, spoke out against the criminal act of assassination and the provocation of war with Iran.

'No War on Iran! U.S. out of Iraq!' said the Red Nation in Albuquerque today. "Three decades of US sanctions, militarism, and occupation has ripped apart Iraq, wreaking havoc on the population."

"The US assassination and murder of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top military official, this week by a drone strike on Iraqi soil is a clear indication the United States is willing to start a war with Iran using Iraq as a staging ground."

"This criminal act on behalf of the Trump administration and the Pentagon is part of an effort to not only provoke war with Iran, but it is also a crude retaliation against the popular uprisings in Iraq against the brutal US military occupation of the country entering its seventeenth year." Read statement.

Joye Braun, Lakota, Cheyenne River Sioux Nation in South Dakota, said the Lakota people stand for peace and are not the enemy of the people in Iran.

"We have a close bond with the people of Iran. There are tribal people over there plus we have a shared relationship with our oppressors in forms of colonization and exploitation."

"To the people of Iran we the original people of this land are not your enemy. We do not stand with this or past government regimes who have oppressed our peoples.

"We send our prayers and know we stand for peace," Braun told Censored News today.

Waste Win Young, Lakota from Standing Rock in North Dakota, said the American Indian Movement was involved in brokering peace with Iran in the late 1970s and 1980s. Waste said Lakotas today have the respect and ability to broker peace.

"Auntie Marilyn Phillips-Harden-Takes the Knife from Cheyenne River and Juan Reyna were negotiators for the more than 50 American hostages in the American Embassy in Tehran," Waste Win Young told Censored News today.

"There was an Oglala woman married and living in Iran, Jeaneene Lonehill-Greyeagle (mom of Dana Lonehill.) Her first husband was Iranian. Iran would not believe she was Indian and not Iranian. Uncle Bill Means, Uncle Russell Means and Aunty Marilyn helped get her home."

"Indigenous people from Turtle Island have the respect of the Iranian people. We have the ability to reach out and broker peace as we have done in the past," Waste Win Young said.

"Rich man's war," said Louise Benally, Dineh of Big Mountain, who has spent the past 40 years fighting forced relocation from her homelands because of Peabody Coal's seizure of water and land for coal mining.

"War wouldn't be an option," Louise said. "This is all about an unfit president who started this to get out of impeachment. He'll go for any process, but most of the people don't support this dumb idea."

Louise was among the first to speak out against the war in Iraq, as the bombs fell on Baghdad, comparing it to the genocidal Longest Walk that Navajos were forced on by the United States to Fort Sumner. Louise's words were censored by Indian Country Today as the war raged in Iraq.
Speaking out for peace, Michelle Cook, Dineh said after her visit to Iran, "As Navajo people, we are taught to take care of the earth, and in return, she will take care of us, this is an ancient practice of ecological sustainability.

"If we violate the rules of nature, as well as the teachings of the Holy People they can discipline us, therefore we are taught to do whatever we can to maintain hozho. This is what the elders have said."

"The holy people also taught us how to live, and not to consume too much of any resource, this teaching extends to oil consumption. Wars should not be fought for oil. Oil is like the blood of the mother earth," Michelle said. (Read more below.)

While the United States continues its pattern of wars based on personal political gain and control of oil reserves with complicit media, the late Thomas Banyacya, Hopi, made a resounding plea for peace.

Banyacya spent seven years in prison for refusing to sign up for the draft and followed this as a global voice for peace, speaking out against war and nuclear weapons.

Pointing out that the uranium for the first atomic bombs was ripped from the earth in the Four Corners region without consultation of Hopi spiritual messengers, Banyacya warned the world of the consequences of relentless wars. Listen to Banyacya's words.

Michelle Cook, member of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, wrote the following after her visit to Iran in 2008.

Introducing Michelle's report from Iran, Ofelia Rivas, Tohono O'odham, said today:

"Tribute to a strong-hearted warrior woman striving to bring justice to a world of industrial nations craving minerals and fossil fuels -- creating refugees of millions of human beings and death -- and who grieve by systems such as the united states immigration."

"Every atrocity is covered up, erased by politicians and corporate media, then justified with more death by war.

"Every atrocity and pain is what we feel when we are melancholy when we are sad and know something is not right."

"Peace to the people that expose this and battle it every day," Rivas told Censored News.

Walking In Beauty As A Framework for International Peacemaking In Iran

Navajo Peacemaker Michelle Cook, reflects on her journey to Iran

By Michelle Cook, Dineh

(April 2008) International politics and decisions impact Navajo people and Indian country in very real ways. If the U.S attacks Iran it will have consequences for the numerous Navajo and other indigenous peoples who are currently serving in the armed forces.
Leaders, advocates, and youths of Indian Nations have the responsibility to ask questions to protect indigenous servicemen and women from fighting wars or engaging in military conflict that can be prevented or is unnecessary.
Few Americans are aware that in 1953 the U.S through the C.I.A orchestrated an overthrow of the popularly elected Iranian government and installed in its place a puppet government.
This was primarily a response to the Iranian decolonization efforts to manage and benefit from their oil, which had previously been under direct control by American and British companies.
This effort of decolonization would strip the U.S and Britain of their profits. The U.S created a coup that overthrew Prime Minister Mosaddegh, leader of the decolonization efforts; putting in his place the U.S backed Shah Mohammed Reza.
The U.S backed Shah Mohammed Reza and this regime ruled over Iran with an iron fist violating the dignity and human rights of anyone who questioned.
In the 1970’s the Iranian youth and peoples engaged in the Islamic Cultural Revolution lead by Imam Khomeini and threw out the U.S backed regime creating the new theocratic nation of the Islamic Republic.
Ever since the revolution Iranian people have been managing their oil. Few are also aware the United States supported Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980’s.
Currently, actors within the United States government claim that Iran is a threat to national security and as a result of this perceived threat the U.S government believes it has the right to wage a military attack on Iran.
The United States claims that Iran is developing weapons of mass destruction however the United States has yet to provide conclusive evidence to substantiate this claim. Additionally, Iran, as well as other “non-nuclear weapons” states through the signing of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, have the legal right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, therefore, they would not be acting outside their legal limitations if processing uranium or developing nuclear technology.
If the United States were to attack Iran it will be with no moral or legal authority. In fact, an attack on Iran will be illegal under international law and could be seen as an act of aggression. Considering the current Iraq occupation and the volatile situations of occupied Palestine, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Afghanistan a U.S military strike would send an already unstable Middle East further into chaos and farther from any realization of meaningful and effective self-determination, peace, and security. This is not to say Iran is a utopia, Iran like all states has its own set of social, economic, and political dilemmas and these problems will only be effectively solved by the Iranian peoples themselves not by Americans from thousands of miles away. Iranian people and peoples of the Middle East are not “terrorists” when they defend land and resources that rightfully belong to them.
Unfortunately, American people have been led to believe the stereotypes and often perceive Islam and peoples of Middle Eastern descent as nothing more than “terrorists” and violent people.
As opposed to dialogue the United States has made threats of violence and has created sanctions that have isolated Iran from the international community, elevating anti-American sentiments as opposed to resolving core contentions. Many Iranians and American alike believe that the core contention between the U.S and Iran lie not in issues of “terrorism” but rather Iranian control and management of its oil.
The potential war with Iran would only benefit the oil companies who want to monopolize the market and dictate the price of oil. The lives of Navajo people and the welfare of American people are worth far more than green paper or barrels of lifeless Iranian oil for the profit of western trans-national corporations.
I went to Iran, because people have the right to hear both sides. Furthermore, the American people and Navajo people are entitled to know what we are being led into and deserve nothing less than full transparency when situations such as these arise. I went with a peacemaking tradition armed with Navajo prayer and the wisdom of the ancestors.
Iran is an ancient place, its population is 62 million, about half of whom are below the age of twenty. Iran is also home to several distinct tribes, such as the Ashayer, Gonbad, Qashqai, and Bakhtiyari. These tribes are nomadic, moving with the seasons, herding sheep across vast mountain ranges. Iranian tribes like the Navajo tribe are also weavers. It is the tribal peoples of Iran who are the renowned weavers of the many of the Persian Rugs. These tribes face some of the same challenges indigenous peoples in the Americas face, poverty, lack of health services, traditional mobility, and language revitalization to name but a few. In the United States rarely do we hear about these tribes or the beauty and diversity of Iranian peoples and cultures.
I met with Iranian youth who are in the process of defining and redefining themselves in relation to Islamic Republic of Iran. I found a people who are in the process of striking a balance between ancient Islam and modernity. I found strong women who are defining women’s rights in Iran on their own terms and at their own pace.
As I walked through those ancient sacred lands, I didn’t see terrorists. I saw the faces of real people; I saw families, mothers, fathers, and children, not racist stereotypes found in the media. Iran is home to many kinds of cultures and faiths.
I found some of the most kind and hospitable people I have ever encountered. I found the people who practiced Islam to be a kind and prayerful people, much like Navajo people. In Islam guests and strangers are treated as messengers of God and are given great respect, I was this given this degree of respect and was invited into their homes, where we ate and prayed for peace together. Saying both Navajo and Islamic prayers.
I wanted Iranian people to understand the diversity of America, the idea of sovereign Native Nations, of distinct peoples, as nations within a nation. I wanted them to understand some of the realities, strengths, and challenges of indigenous peoples in the United States, most importantly not to see Navajo as a vanishing people, but as active protagonists in a long and epic battle for complete harmony and self-determination. I wanted them to know the Navajo people not only as the people who walk in beauty but also as a fierce warrior people who have fought and are still fighting for the liberation, restoration, and healing of our peoples, the earth, her resources, our culture, and our language.
When I shared my story with Iranian people, I felt a real sense of solidarity, almost a familial connection. I found people who were compassionate about the struggles of indigenous peoples of North American. Although we are different, we have one thing in common. Iranian peoples like indigenous peoples want to determine their future, practice their culture, and religions without interference from outsiders, foreign rulers, and influences. I talked with veterans of the Iran and Iraq war of the 1980s who defended their land and are advocates for peace because they never want to experience war or it’s destruction in their lands again, in fact, the Iranian people are still healing from the trauma caused by this war.
The Navajo people have much to teach the American people and the world in terms of non-violence and conflict resolution such as the Navajo Nation Peace Makers Court and Navajo Peacemakers.
The aim of Navajo peacemaking is to resolve conflict and restore harmony to individuals in conflict non-violently based on Navajo custom and belief. Navajo peacemaking framework is built upon the Navajo philosophy of hozho, and uses a process that stresses dialogue and what Robert Yazzie explains as “talking things out”.
The United States can learn much from Navajo in this regard, for the U.S has consistently failed to facilitate dialogue or talk things out with the Iranian people or the government. This failure not only threatens the safety of the American people but also the lives of Iranian peoples and young indigenous and Navajo soldiers. If the U.S government is unable or unwilling to facilitate this dialogue civil society and Indian Nations must advocate for and create these conversations.
As Navajo people, we are taught to take care of the earth, and in return, she will take care of us, this is an ancient practice of ecological sustainability. If we violate the rules of nature, as well as the teachings of the Holy People they can discipline us, therefore we are taught to do whatever we can to maintain hozho. This is what the elders have said. The holy people also taught us how to live, and not to consume too much of any resource, this teaching extends to oil consumption. Wars should not be fought for oil. Oil is like the blood of the mother earth. Navajo people and American people need to look to ancient wisdom and reevaluate the consequences of the overconsumption of earth resources; both biofuels like palm oil and ethanol as well as fossil fuels like oil and coal.
One needs only to observe the changes in the weather, the hurricanes, and floods, imbalances in the atmosphere, to see the consequences of drifting away from our ecologically sustainable practices. Some call it climate change perhaps Navajo see it as discipline by the Holy People for living out of balance with the earth and not respecting her.
We are the Diyin Nohookáá Dine'é the Holy Earth Surface People. Navajo people are vested with the sacred responsibility of maintaining hozho. We were taught by the Holy People to value and respect all life as sacred. This includes the earth and human life.
This also includes the lives of Middle Eastern peoples and the Iranian people, however different our cultures may be. I believe hozho or walking in beauty can be applied to create harmony on local and global scales. To create and advocate for a world and society where peace and harmony abound personally, locally, nationally, and internationally.
Walking in beauty or walking on the path of pollen, it is a hard path to walk, but it is a way the ancestors gave to personally and collectively find peace. Walking in hozho or peace is walking like a warrior, but not all warriors carry arms, some carry songs, some cedar, and some carry prayers for peace.

Article copyright Brenda Norrell and Michelle Cook, Censored News.

1 comment:

Ranger1 said...

Thank you for writing this.