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The Voices of Indigenous Peoples in 2007

Resistance and Censorship

by BRENDA NORRELL

The widespread censorship of crucial issues for American Indians increased in 2007, according to Censored Blog readers. The most censored issue was the "Silencing of traditional and grassroots’ voices by those in power."

The elected councils in the United States and band councils in Canada attempted to silence Indian spiritual leaders and traditional people by way of silencing and distorting the news in 2007. Elected tribal leaders also threatened and oppressed Indians speaking out in their own communities. Tailgating by tribal police, threats of harm and threats of membership removal increased for Indian activists, according to reports from across North America.

The next most censored issue was the "Nuclear, uranium and coal genocide on Indigenous lands." Throughout the Americas, Indigenous lands and people are targeted by mining and dumping that will poison their air, water and land.

Navajos are fighting the new proposed power plant, Desert Rock, in New Mexico. The Algonquin, Pueblos, Navajo, Lakota and others are battling new uranium mining, while Goshute and Western Shoshone fight nuclear dumping on their lands which will be detrimental to future generations.

Yaqui in Sonora are opposing the use of pesticides in agricultural fields which are banned in the United States, but are still produced in the US and exported to other countries. These pesticides are causing deaths and "jelly babies," Yaqui babies born without bones. O’odham are fighting a proposed waste dump in Sonora in their ceremonial community of Quitovac. Indigenous Peoples from Guatemala and Peru, now fighting copper, gold and coal mining in their communities, met with Navajos, Acoma Pueblo, Western Shoshone and others to create solidarity in action in 2007. As efforts intensified in the Americas, nuclear and mining corporations began targeting more communities in Africa.

"Where are the warriors?" asked Janice Gardipe, Paiute-Shoshone, during the Alcatraz Sunrise Gathering in November, urging a new wave of resistance to Yucca Mountain nuclear dumping and the gold mining that is now coring out the mountains and poisoning the water on Western Shoshone lands.

As the pollution from power plants increases and the black carbons are carried by the winds to the north, the Arctic ice melts and destroys the homeland and lives of polar bears, walrus and seals. Ultimately, it will kill the birds and fishes. Even there, the Bush administration rushed to capitalize on the misfortune and the deaths of endangered species. The Bush administration rushed to claim the regions of melting ice in the Northwest Passage for oil and gas drilling.

"Border deaths, abuse of Indigenous Peoples at the border and racism in border news," was the next most censored issue. As television news increased the racism and xenophobia toward migrants, the Bush administration and Congress layered on millions of dollars for private prisons to incarcerate migrants, with millions of fresh dollars for Texas and private border prisons. These included the T. Don Hutto prison for migrant and refugee infants and children in Taylor, Texas.

In Arizona, Mohawks joined Tohono O’odham at the US/Mexico border on Tohono O’odham land in November. Mohawks rushed to intervene in the arrests of Mayans on O’odham land as the US Border Patrol sped quickly away.

"These are your people," Kahentinetha Horn said, igniting a new wave of thought at the southern border. "As the Great Law says, you don’t ask for permission to save someone’s life," Kahentinetha said of the large number of people, including Indigenous Peoples, dying each year on O’odham land.

Mike Wilson, Tohono O’odham, continued to put out water for migrants, and search for bodies, including those of Mayan women who died walking to a better life with their children.

"No one should die for want of a drink of water," Wilson said.

The most censored news articles at the border included the digging up of the O’odham ancestors’ graves for the border wall on Tohono O’odham land, the spy federal spy towers in border communities and the corporate profiteering by US corporations and foreign corporations.

The foreign corporations benefiting from the new border hysteria include the Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems subcontracted by Boeing under the Secure Border Fence contract. Another is Wackenhut, whose buses wait at the border to be filled with migrants. The Wackenhut buses are owned by G4S in England and Denmark. (Earlier, Halliburton’s Kellogg, Brown and Root received a $385 million contract from Homeland Security for migrant prisons in 2006.)

In 2007, the majority of the media censored the fact that all environmental laws, and federal laws protecting American Indian remains, were waived by Homeland Security to build the US/Mexico border wall. Dozens of endangered species are at risk as Homeland Security voids court orders, citing national security.

Already, the building of the wall at the Arizona border has been detrimental to the endangered jaguar which migrates between Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. The Sonoran pronghorn, which does not jump fences or anything else, will also be affected. Only a few dozen Sonoran pronghorns remain in the US, while several hundred are found to the south in Sonora, Mexico. A new barbed wire fence was recently added alongside the border wall on O’odham land which will harm the jaguars, pronghorns and other endangered species. Destruction of the habitat, particularly in the San Pedro area of Arizona where Homeland Security voided all laws, will destroy fish and migrating birds.

"Leonard Peltier," was the next most censored issue. As Peltier’s legal challenges continued and censorship increased, there was a theater production of his life in Boulder, Colorado. Another censored issue was the efforts made on behalf of all American Indians inmates’ religious and ceremonial rights.

Further, the censorship of the injustice by police and courts was widespread. The arrests and racism of police in border towns around Indian communities continued. With the oppression of Indian youths by police and prosecutors, pushing them into rage, prisons continued to be filled with America Indians. The US military recruiters continued to target American Indian youths, considering them as "expendables," to fight and die in Iraq.

The "American Indian delegations in Venezuela," was the next most censored issue according to Censored Blog readers, regarding the Indian delegations from North America who met with Indigenous leaders in Venezuela to form solidarity in action. The effort by Vernon Bellecourt, attending in a wheelchair and in frail health, was his last. He died after returning to the United States.

The next most censored issue was the "Zapatistas meetings at the US/Mexico border." Subcomandante Marcos and the Mayan Comandantes held meetings near the US border as part of the Other Campaign, beginning in April of 2007. Just two hours’ drive south of the Arizona border, Marcos and the Comandantes met several times with O’odham, upheld the fishing rights of the Cucapa in Baja, Mexico, and met with Yaqui, Mayo, Seri and other Indigenous communities in northern Mexico, culminating in the International Intercontinental Encuentro in the Yaqui Pueblo of Vicam in the state of Sonora, Mexico.

While the media in the United States increased its censorship of these issues in 2007, the alternative national media and international online media continued to provide coverage.

It was the international online media that covered the Indigenous Peoples’ Border Summit of the Americas 2007. While upholding the right of Indigenous Peoples to freely pass in their ancestral territories, they opposed the US/Mexico border wall, militarization of border lands and new passport requirements. They opposed the corporate profiteering at the border for the border wall, private prisons and private security firms such as Blackwater now planning a border training camp in Kumeyaay territory at the California border.

Mike Flores, Tohono O’odham organizer of the summit, told the gathering, "The United States is going to continue to build walls and close us all in, or close us all out, and privatize our lives."

The international media, from China to Taiwan, Russia to Belgium, extensively covered the Lakota Freedom Delegation’s announcement of withdrawing from the treaties and declaring sovereignty on Dakota lands.

While the media in the United States continued its pathetic and manipulated news coverage, the international media covered the fact that four countries voted against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The countries are the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand followed by arresting Maoris in the sovereignty movement. The United Nations declaration upholds the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their aboriginal lands.

Both New Zealand and Australia’s mainstream media continued biased and racist coverage.

More recently, a new censored topic has emerged: the seizure of private lands of Apaches and other residents in Texas for the US/Mexico border wall, using the law of eminent domain. Since Homeland Security has issued a 30-day notice, Texas mayors and residents are now mobilizing to stop the border wall, militarization and occupation of the Texas border.

Bill Means, cofounder of the International Indian Treaty Council, spoke of the fire of resistance and resilience at the Alcatraz Sunrise Gathering in November.

"We consider it relighting the fire of Indian survival, Indian resistance here in this hemisphere. To remind people that first of all, John Wayne didn’t kill us all. That we’re still alive, distinct cultures that are thriving here in America."

BRENDA NORRELL is human rights editor for U.N. OBSERVER & International Report. She also runs the Censored website. She can be reached at: brendanorrell@gmail.com