Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

November 6, 2020

'Grave Robbers and Thieves -- An Unconscionable Society' by Ofelia Rivas, Tohono O'odham

Photo by Ofelia Rivas: Israel's Elbit Systems constructing spy towers on Tohono O'odham Nation

'Grave Robbers and Thieves -- An unconscionable society' by Ofelia Rivas, Tohono O'odham

By Ofelia Rivas, Tohono O'odham
Censored News

French translation by Christine Prat

We live in an unconscious society. The dead are memorialized and buried, mothers and fathers, Grandmothers and Grandfathers, and children. It is unconscionable to dig up a person from their grave for a man-made water waterway, a golf course, a building and border technology or any other so-called progressive economic or other similar developments for human entertainment, human advancement, and the continuous neurotic so-called human evolution.

In the world of the first people, the indigenous people, the O'odham people (The People) a buried person is undisturbed and many burial places are unmarked. It was only at the onset of assimilation and indoctrination into foreign religions that the burial places now have crosses and markings and are confined into a designated location.

The world of conscience living O'odham has time and time again been greatly disturbed when a buried relative, buried for thousands of decades has been disturbed. It is a time of greatest grieving for the ancestors that are unburied, removed, examined and categorized and boxed into storage. It is unconscionable to rummage through these unearthed remains and take their personal belongings and sell it for a personal profit.

The United States government has conveniently waived all protective laws, laws and regulations and protocols created by their system to control. The U.S. has waivered these laws to allow a long time practice of grave robbing, looting pottery, and so-called artifacts, belongings of the dead.

My generation are witnesses and we have conducted the offerings to acknowledge the ancestors in the proper manner in a restricted and private manner. This is a custom of the O'odham we hold sacred and regard sacred, although throughout my life many violations have occurred, violating original prayers and open discussion of restricted knowledge and restricted gender information. 

The Elders have continued in absolute reverence for restricted knowledge and references to restricted ceremonies and gender restrictions in sacred places and information, but in recent times these violations have created unnecessary continued repair and cleansing work. I have witnessed a woman disclosing restricted information and I have witnessed non-O'odham use sacred items and sing restricted songs.

Once we were a people of great discipline in the protection of the sacred and held great regard for this information for the benefit of all O'odham and all life. There was in fact very little that was documented about the O'odham and often misdocumented and mis-subcategorized, such as being referred to as Pima, such as in the book the Pima Revolt.

The entire United States and the world knew very little about the Tohono O'odham Nation,  formerly the Papago Tribe, until after 9/11. It was declared that the American way of life needed protection from terrorists which directly impacted 73 miles of International boundary which is O'odham lands. Prior to 9/11, the O'odham had always continuously disregarded the International boundary that divided communities and people and places, and continued to travel throughout our homelands. All these recent changes are because of complete militarization of the reservation, and also surrounding communities. There are restrictions of mobility and immigration regulations used to physically and verbally attack and harass, surveil and monitor and endanger the lives of O'odham.

The terrain of the homelands has become a playground for border patrol agents to play with their military government equipment bringing the O'odham way of life to a critical level. The ceremonies, natural food system and the very well-being of the O'odham are greatly impacted by the armed military's so-called low warfare tactics on the lands and people. 

Photo: Elbit Systems, an Israeli defense contractor responsible for Apartheid security in Palestine, is destroying a Tohono O'odham burial place and ceremonial places for the construction of spy towers, integrated fixed towers. 

This is a message to the people of conscience to once again acknowledge this ongoing atrocity and hold responsible all the United States Government military called the border patrols, and all its components, all its contractors: United States Corps of Engineers, Elbit Systems and Meridian Engineering and all the elite controllers.

I further challenge young indigenous people of today who are integrated into this system, educated, of resources and media capacity to directly create Indigenous conscious laws and have the means and ability to create legislation and rewrite laws and regulations without the rhetoric and convenient loopholes, for our future generation survival.

Ofelia Rivas on Tohono O'odham homeland. Photo by Jason Jaacks

In Solidarity,
Ofelia Rivas
P.O. Box 1835
Sells, Az 85634 

Ofelia Rivas is the longtime founder of O'odham Voice Against the Wall and lives on her homeland on the Tohono O'odham Nation. Rivas has spent her life in the struggle for human rights and to halt the militarization of her homelands.

Copyright Ofelia Rivas. No portion may be used in any manner without permission.

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