“Today We Experienced America”: Arresting Indigenous People on the Border
By BRENDA NORRELL
THE GATE, TOHONO O’ODHAM NATION (Arizona).
Indigenous delegates to the border on Tohono O’odham Nation land were outraged by the federal agents, hovering customs helicopter, profiteering contractors, federal spy tower, federal “cage” detention center and watching the arrest of a group of Indigenous Peoples, mostly women and children, by the US Border Patrol on an Indian Nation.
“We saw it all firsthand in America,” said Bill Means, Lakota and cofounder of the International Indian Treaty Council on Nov. 8, when an Indigenous delegation went to the US/Mexico border here, south of Sells, to document human rights abuses for a report to the United Nations.
“Now we are going to take this wall down,” Means said, after viewing the construction of a border vehicle barrier by contractors and National Guard on Tohono O’odham land.
Speaking a few hours later to the Indigenous Peoples Border Summit of the Americas II in San Xavier, Means called for solidarity of Indigenous Peoples throughout the world to halt the arrests of Indigenous Peoples who are walking north in search of a better life, and solidarity to bring down the US/Mexico border wall.
“One inch of intrusion into our land is not acceptable!” Mohawk Mark Maracle told the Border Summit. “I became very angry when I saw those guys rounding up our people.
“It is a violation of our Great Law to witness what we did today and do nothing about it.”
The delegation included Mohawks, Oneida, Navajo, Acoma Pueblo, Hopi and O’odham.
Near the border, at the scene of the arrests of a group of Indigenous Peoples, Mohawks stood before US Border Patrol agents and held their fists high in solidarity, as the Border Patrol packed nearly a dozen Indigenous Peoples into one vehicle.
The delegation also viewed the federal spy tower next to Homeland Security’s migrant detention center known as “the cage” on the Tohono O’odham Nation. The first stop, however, was the abomination of the new vehicle barrier wall being constructed on O’odham land.
Kahentinetha Horn of the Mohawk Women Title Holders said she saw the callousness of the Tohono O’odham district official standing before them and speaking in favor of the border barrier.
“This is completely illegal,” Kahentinetha said, adding that it violates human rights legislation. Kahentinetha was outraged at the arrests of the group of Indigenous Peoples, who appeared to be Mayans from Oaxaca, Chiapas or Guatemala.
“We stood in front of the Border Patrol, we started yelling at them,” Kahentinetha told the Indigenous Border Summit. She described how the Mohawks stood with fists held high in solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples being arrested earlier in the day.
“We were passing some of our strength on to them to fight.”
The Indigenous delegation documenting the abuses planned to intervene in the arrests, but the Border Patrol crowded the group into a vehicle and left quickly.
“I came away feeling very frustrated and very discouraged,” Kahentinetha said.
Mohawk warrior Rarahkwisere, among those heartbroken to see the arrest of fellow Indigenous Peoples on Indian land, said these brothers and sisters of the people were not drug runners or criminals, these were women and children walking in search of a better life.
Jay Johnson Castro of Del Rio Texas, leading protests against the imprisonment of migrant children at Hutto prison in Texas and the border wall in Texas, was in the delegation.
“I hear ‘sovereign nation,’ but I didn’t see a sovereign nation.”
Castro said the buildings near the border on the Tohono O’odham Nation are labeled with signs, “Homeland Security and Tohono O’odham Nation, like they are in partnership.”
Maracle said the same atrocities that the United States government is now accusing migrants of doing, is what the invaders did when they arrived on Turtle Island: rape, robbery and murder.
“If you don’t stop and grab hold of your destiny, there is not going to be one for your children.” Maracle said all the nations need to come together and stop what is happening here. “I know from past experience with the Mohawk Warrior Society where our power lies, it is with the people. The power is in the people, don’t ever forget that.”
Chris George, Oneida from Canada, said, “When the Border Patrol came up, they thought we were the enemy,” relaying how the Border Patrol asked the summit delegation who authorized this delegation to be at the border.
“No one authorizes us to do anything. It was the Creator who took us there.
“They were packing, we were packing, too, with a good mind and a good heart.”
“All of the Indigenous Peoples need to come together. Don’t let the United States government tell you who you are. We know who we are. We are Haudenosaunee, People of the Longhouse.”
Lenny Foster, Dine’ (Navajo) and advocate for Native ceremonial rights for inmates, said what he witnessed at the border was “brutal, vicious and evil.”
Foster said Dine’ know that all human beings all have five fingers, but what he witnessed within the district official and federal agents was no internal recognition of being five-fingered people.
“They were robots.”
Referring to the Tohono O’odham district official who led the tour, Foster said she was defending the policies of genocide.
Foster asked who is setting these policies in the United States. “Who is running the government? It is the white man, it surely isn’t the people of color.”
Describing how the Indigenous Peoples were arrested and rushed into a small vehicle, Foster said, “It reminded me of Gallup, N.M., and how they round up our people, stack them up like stacks of wood.”
Foster was at this same place, a dirt path leading to Mexico known as The Gate, years ago when the American Indian Movement protested the violation of human rights here. Foster pointed out that during this day, he viewed the heavy buildup of police and agents. There were police from the BIA, Tohono O’odham Nation, along with US Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs agents. The National Guard were also there, working with the contractor constructing the border vehicle barrier, while a white customs’ helicopter hovered overhead.
At the same time, on the Mexico side, two men sat under a tree.
An attorney for the O’odham in Mexico was prevented from crossing into the United States on Tohono O’odham land by the US Border Patrol, even though he held a letter from Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris requesting him to come and meet with him today. In the letter, Chairman Norris stated that the attorney could enter the Nation for the meeting by way of The Gate here.
However, the Border Patrol officer at the scene refused to allow the attorney to enter, even with a letter from the chairman. Over-ruling Chairman Norris on Tohono O’odham land, the US Border Patrol agent said the attorney must have a US visa to enter, and not just a letter from Chairman Norris. The attorney waited there, with a Tarahumara accompanying him who held a US visa.
Foster pointed out that the Mexican federales or police, who arrived on the other side, could do anything with the two people left there. “They could even be torturing them now.”
Means also pointed out that the delegation was “tailed” or followed from the tribal capitol of Sells. Means also said that the Berlin Wall had come down, but now there are other walls to divide the people, including the wall between Israel and Palestine.
At the border wall construction at The Gate, Means said one of the workers told them, “The Israelis are helping us put up the fence.”
At the US/Mexico border, border wall contractor Boeing has hired a subcontractor Elbit Systems, an Israeli defense contractor, who participated in constructing security at the Apartheid Wall in Palestine.
Speaking of what is happening in the United States now, Means said the “gated communities” of the United States have now expanded into a “gated country.” It is a country where the government welcomes the rich. The Indigenous Border Summit witnessed what the United States does to Indigenous Peoples.
Means quoted Black Hawk of the Sac and Fox Nation: “Why is it you Americans always take with a gun what you could have with love. We experienced America today.”
Brenda Norrell is human rights editor for U.N. OBSERVER & International Report. She also runs the Censored website. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.