Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 19, 2020

Native leaders pass from coronavirus, while Trump rushes to mine sacred lands

Native leaders pass from coronavirus, while Trump rushes to mine sacred lands

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

Trump is rushing with the energy hatchet and targeting sacred lands with mining and drilling, as the coronavirus spreads through Indian country. The virus is claiming the lives of treasures in Indian country -- grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters and leaders.

Standing Rock former Chairman Jesse Jay Taken Alive in North Dakota died from the virus. Taken Alive helped preserve the Lakota language. Jesse's wife Cheryl, of nearly 46 years, died from the virus just weeks before.

"The language comes from the Creator, so it doesn't belong to one of us," Taken Alive said in a Lakota Language Consortium video. "The language belongs to all of us, so my message to all of the young people ... This is your language. When you learn it, you're going to be able to learn more about this beautiful thing called life," writes Grand Forks Herald.

Taken Alive was also a fierce tribal sovereignty advocate and he ardently supported the 2016 protests against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Oglala Lakota former Vice President Tom Poor Bear, who fought for Native rights in the American Indian Movement, battled the virus and passed to the Spirit World. Marlene Poor Bear, his sister, said Tom would be brought home to Wanblee, South Dakota, on Dec. 22 and laid to rest in Wounded Knee.

During the Peltier Tribunal in Green Bay, Wisconsin in 2013, Tom Poor Bear spoke out for justice on Pine Ridge in South Dakota, and elsewhere for Indigenous Peoples. Censored News was honored to report from the Tribunal live and share Poor Bear's words. 

Oglala Vice President Tom Poor Bear described being shot by the 'Goon Squad' during the Reign of Terror. Poor Bear said the feds armed the Goon Squad with weapons, automatic weapons, "to kill their own people."

"Then they started sending people like our brother Leonard Peltier to prison."
"The tribal government was very much a part of that."
Poor Bear the tribal government has changed a great deal. Poor Bear thanked the American Indian Movement for the courage it gave the people to stand up to the Goon Squad. In Wanblee on Pine Ridge every month Lakotas were shot and killed.
"The list is very long."
"I don't know how many times we shot our way out of Pine Ridge."
"Those days made us strong."
"We got control of our culture, we put it into our schools." He described the creation of the schools, clinic and radio.
"A lot of our people died."
It continued into the late 1970s. "All we wanted was to be proud of ourselves, proud of our tribal government."
Poor Bear said people are still being killed today. "The feds are not doing anything about it."
He said from the day they are born, American Indians are targeted for prison.
"We were arrested the day we were born."
He said he came to the Peltier Tribunal so he could come away with a strategy.
"Wounded Knee gave the people hope, not blind hope."

Teachers are also sacrificing their lives.

Philamena Belone, 44, beloved third grade Navajo teacher at Wingate Elementary near Gallup, died from the virus. She is the mother of three children. 

Philamena is one of 742 Dine' who has died from the coronavirus. CNN shares her life story and her love for her students. 

"I know that she kept wanting to go home to teach. She wanted to be with the kids that she was teaching," Phillip Belone, her brother, said. "She was actually on oxygen teaching when she would have been in the hospital, but her condition got to the point where she couldn't physically breathe."

Trump targeting sacred lands

Apache Wendsler Nosie battling to protect sacred Oak Flat from copper mining. Photo in front of White House by Steve Pavey.

Now, Trump is targeting Oak Flat, the Black Hills, the southern Utah wilderness, northern Nevada and Appalachia -- with copper, uranium, helium and lithium mining, gas drilling and more, the New York Times reports today.

While Apache are defending sacred Oak Flat in Arizona, the struggle continues to defend the Black Hills region from uranium mining.

The devastation of Oak Flat was halted for now, on Dec. 27.

Among the lawsuits filed, is a lawsuit to protect the southern Utah wilderness from new helium mining.

Trump continues to blast Native burial places, blow up pristine borderlands, rip out rare plants, block endangered species migration routes, and drain  precious water in the desert, for the construction of pieces of a border wall. Both border wall construction workers and US Border Patrol agents are infected and spreading  the coronavirus at a high rate from California to Texas.

The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website shows the rapid increase in infected U.S. Border Patrol agents. Along the Arizona border, agents have not worn masks during harassment stops. Agents have not informed the public who they have exposed. Last  week, the IHS service unit for Tohono O'odham and Pascua Yaqui, which is Tuscon IHS, showed the largest increase nationwide in coronavirus cases. On the Texas border, 1,782 Border Patrol agents have tested positive for COVID-19.

Already the toxic legacy of U.S. and corporate abuse has left behind a trail of cancers and respiratory diseases -- from coal mining, coal-fired power plants, oil and gas drilling, fracking, and uranium mining, strewn unreclaimed radioactive tailings and spills -- on the Navajo Nation and in the Four Corners region. 

Coronavirus spreading through grocery stores and schools

Meanwhile, New Mexico's list of virus outbreaks shows the virus spreading through WalMarts, grocery stores, schools and businesses in the border towns of Gallup and Farmington, where Dine', Hopi, Pueblo and Apache often buy food and supplies.

There are new virus outbreaks among home health care workers in the border town of Farmington N.M. There are numerous cases in schools in San Juan County and McKinley Counties.

While many states are concealing the outbreaks, New Mexico provides a daily Watchlist. Colorado also publishes an extensive weekly list of outbreaks.

San Juan County, New Mexico Dec. 18, 2020

The Navajo Nation's report on Friday, Dec. 18, shows new virus cases, which have daily ranged between 100 and 300 each day in recent weeks.

Indian Health Service Report

The Indian Health Service shows the greatest increase in coronavirus cases this week are in the Tucson service area, which includes the Tohono O'odham and Pascua Yaqui Nations, followed by Oklahoma, Phoenix and Navajo IHS areas.

Alaska and Oklahoma IHS areas have carried out the most testing.

Article copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News.

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