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Indigenous turn cameras on Border Patrol

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AIM song Border Summit
Photo Brenda Norrell

Border Summit of the Americas: International Indian Treaty Council members: Floyd Westerman, Jimbo Simmons, Tony Gonazles, Bill Means sing AIM song.

Border Summit opposes Border Wall


Indigenous turn cameras on Border Patrol


By Brenda Norrell


SAN XAVIER, TOHONO O’ODAHM NATION, Ariz. -- While the Bush administration plans a multi-billion dollar border surveillance system, Indigenous people along the border are turning their own cameras and camcorders on the Border Patrol and federal agents, who are terrorizing Indigenous Peoples.

   “We need reservation camera patrols. Young people can carry cameras, take pictures and videos,” said Floyd Westerman Red Crow, Indian actor and activist, during the Border Summit of the Americas, held Aug. 29 – Oct. 1.

   Bill Means, member of the International Indian Treaty Council, highlighted comments from Tohono O’odham and other Indigenous Peoples on the violations of human rights, on the third day of the summit.

   The Border Summit opposed the Secure Fence Act of 2006, passed by the Senate at the same time as the Border Summit. Indigenous Peoples set in motion plans to monitor and document abuses by the US Border Patrol and other federal agents.

   Describing it as “psychological oppression and terrorism,” Indigenous called for a halt to the militarization of their ancestral homelands and sacred places.

   While the US government presses for the border fence, Means said it is important for Indian people to demand an environmental impact statement before any fence construction begins. Further, Means said the US government must abide by federal laws, including the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

   The Border Summit urged Indian people to inform Boeing stockholders of issues surrounding sovereign Indian lands, including burial places, traditional routes of passage and the fragile ecosystem of the desert, before Boeing proceeds with any construction.

   Means said the new border movement needs to find a place for everyone, including young people who do not want to work within the system. Camera and security patrols are one way that Indian youths can be of service.

   “We have to find that place for everyone in this movement, from the revolutionary to the local priests, to get them involved in this social justice movement, that is what I heard,” Means said, summarizing comments at the summit.

   “We organize our own patrols in the city of Minneapolis; young people can have their own patrols.”

   David Garcia, Tohono O’odham and former tribal councilman from the border area, said he has already begun the practice of videotaping Border Patrol agents.

   “Some of those agents are not there anymore,” Garcia said.

   At the conclusion, Jose Garcia, lieutenant governor of the O’odham in Mexico, said the most important aspect of the summit was bringing O’odham people together with other indigenous peoples to work to resolve issues.

   “It brought us together in unity,” Jose Garcia said.

   The Border Summit established the Bennett Patricio, Jr., Memorial Human Rights Fund to provide funding for tribal members, in honor of the 18-year-old Tohono O’odham ran over and killed by the Border Patrol on April 9, 2001.

   Patricio’s parents Angelita and Ervin Ramon, said the Tohono O’odham Legislative Council denied their requests for legal funds and the family has been struggling to find attorneys who will not abandon the case.

   As the Patricio case proceeds to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, David Garcia pointed out to the summit that the Tohono O’odham Nation had already set a precedence and given money to other families of O’odham victims and persons in need.

   Indigenous at the summit requested that a new human rights office be established on Tohono O’odham tribal land. Further, Indigenous said the social justice movement and churches should become involved in human rights issues with tribal members.

   Tohono O’odham said a date should be set for the time when the Border Patrol will leave sovereign tribal land. Tohono O’odham should be trained to provide their own law enforcement.

   Pointing out the high rate of deaths of migrants on tribal lands, Indigenous urged the Tohono O’odham Legislative Council to pass humanitarian policies, which would prevent the deaths of migrants.

   “No deaths,” Means said, stressing that the policy should be zero migrants deaths on tribal lands.

   Currently, Tohono O’odham Nation law criminalizes transporting migrants, including a fine for first offense and jail time for second offense.

   Means pointed out that if an O’odham transports a migrant dieing in the desert on tribal land to a hospital, the O’odham would be charged with a crime.

   Since many of those crossing the border are Indigenous Peoples, Means said there is a moral responsibility to prevent “our indigenous brothers and sisters from dieing.”

   Urging a new campaign on both sides of the border, Indigenous said there is a need to establish water stations on tribal lands and educate border crossers. Those crossing the border need to know that Indian people on this side are not their enemies. They also need to be encouraged to honor Indian homelands and the people.

   Manny Pino, Acoma Pueblo, said indigenous are affected all the way from the Kumeyaay in California to the Kickapoo in Texas.

   “As indigenous people, we didn’t draw lines on the land,” Pino told the summit.

   “It was all our Earth Mother.”

   Pino said that Indian Reorganization Act governments were “shoved down the throats” of Indian people in the United States. In the same manner, Pino said the US government is telling the Tohono O’odham Nation if the tribe does not allow the military on their lands, their federal funding will suffer.

   Nationwide, Pino said many Indian people are being caught up in attitudes of racism toward migrants. He said this reflects a tactic that the US government has long used to divide the people, including the so-called Navajo and Hopi land dispute.

   Pino said it is important for Indian people to recognize the real enemy.

   “It is George Bush, Homeland Security, the Patriot Act and the people who want to tap our phone lines.”

   Casinos, he said, are not the answer. He said casinos have only added to colonized thinking. “Casinos have made us greedy.”

   Pino said money is too often placed as a priority above Indian traditions and protecting Mother Earth, including selling the natural resources.

   “We have to teach ourselves to decolonize our minds.”

   Reflecting the comments of many in the border area, Pino said a border wall will not stop the people from coming across. “The ‘Tortilla Curtain’ will be torn.”

   Michelle:   , Navajo law student, assisted in preparing the final proclamation from the Border Summit. Summarizing comments, she said free, prior and informed consent of Indian people is required before states or corporations begin any development on sovereign Indian lands.

   “If there are ancestral remains, they have to stop development. They have to repatriate those remains. However, it is the Native responsibility to make them accountable. We have to go out there and watch them to make the accountable.

   Another vital area of concern is food security and whether Indigenous Peoples will be able to sustain themselves by growing their own foods.

   Among the priorities is the need to nullify the North American Free Trade Agreement, resulting in the starvation of Indigenous farmers, and all other trade agreements. The import and export of genetically modified foods must be halted, especially the corn and grain that has decimated Indigenous farmers, the summit said.

   Indigenous stressed the need for programs in schools for Indigenous language, accurate history and cultural continuity. Further, Indigenous stressed the right of O’odham children to school transportation, now often halted by Homeland Security in the border area. Indigenous urged the creation of new Indigenous newspapers and radio stations.

   Further, Indigenous said there should be efforts to address racism and xenophobia within tribes and establish protocol for conflict resolution to achieve unity.

   Reflecting comments on holding Mexico accountable, Indigenous said Mexico must establish a living wage mandate and take earnest steps to eradicate poverty. Further, the summit opposed corporate profiteering by Halliburton’s Kellogg, Brown and Root under contract to build migrant prisons.

   Mexico will also be asked to pressure the US to undertake an environmental impact statement to preserve the fragile desert ecosystem and abide by international laws.

   The summit urged the United States to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and abide by Article 35, which recognizes the rights of Indigenous Peoples living on both sides of borders and their right to continue their spiritual and cultural practices.

   The summit was organized by Tohono O’odham Mike Flores and facilitated by the International Indian Treaty Council.