30 June 2011

Border Militarization Destroys Indigenous Communities

Alex Soto, Tohono O’odham:

"...the Border Patrol troops are the real trespassers, not us. How can I, a Tohono O'odham person, be trespassing on my own land? Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Border Patrol, Immigration Custom Enforcement and their corporate backers such as Wackenhut, are the true criminals. Troops and paramilitary law enforcement, detention camps, check points, and citizenship verification are not a solution to ‘issues’ of migration. Indigenous Peoples have existed here long before these imposed borders, and Elders inform us that we always honored freedom of movement. Why are Indigenous communities and the daily deaths at the border ignored? The impacts of border militarization are constantly being made invisible in and by the media, and the popular culture of this country. Even the mainstream immigrant rights movement has often pushed for 'reform', which means further militarization of the border, leading to increased suffering for Indigenous communities. Border militarization destroys Indigenous communities." (see: O'odham: Border Patrol Lock Down Trespassing Charge Dropped, CENSORED NEWS, 23 June 2011)

In Arizona, O'odham have been mobilizing against the Border Patrol that has disrupted and displaced indigenous communities and militarized their space. As Alex Soto explains, "Currently the state of Arizona is pushing for the construction of the South Mountain Loop 202 freeway extension on Akimel O’odham land (Phoenix Area). The Loop 202 is part of the CANAMEX transportation corridor, which is part of the larger NAFTA highway project. The two proposed routes will either result in a loss of approximately 600 acres of tribal land, and the forced relocation of Akimel O'odham and Pee-Posh families or would gouge a 40-story high, 200-yard wide cut into Muadag Do'ag (O'odham name for South Mountain), which is sacred to all O'odham and Pee-Posh."

With the construction of the current fortified U.S./Mexico border, 45 O’odham villages on or near the border have been completely depopulated. According to No More Deaths, from October 2009 to April 2011 there have been more than 338 deaths on the Arizona border alone. In addition, 1,200 National Guard troops have been stationed along the southwestern border since June 2010. Also, the state of Arizona recently passed a bill which will allow for Arizona to build its own border wall. The law goes into effect July 20 of this year. The video below was produced as part of the O'odham mobilization against the militarization of their border areas:

In connection with this, please see the O'odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective, and the Border Opposition Action Fund.

Regarding border militarization, see Brenda Norrell's "Hacked data reveals US Marines as contract killers, hunting migrants on the border." Thanks to the hacktivism of LulzSec which penetrated the Arizona Department of Public Safety last week, just before the group closed down, we learn of the hunting and murder of migrants by U.S. Marines along the Arizona border.

Arizona law enforcement officers were aware that migrants were being hunted by off-duty Marines patrolling the border with assault weapons. The information was contained in a report from October 2008 by Arizona's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Investigative Support Center:

"In other incidents reported in October, U.S. Border Patrol agents encountered two subjects who claimed to be members of the Border Watch Group the Blue Lights based on the Caballo Loco Ranch. The subjects, armed with pistols and at least one M4 rifle, were dressed in full desert camouflage uniforms, similar to those of the United States military. They stated they were not members of the Minutemen, but paid contract employees who ‘get the job done’ and ‘were not just volunteers.’ They possessed valid United States Marine Corps identification cards."

As Norrell explains, "Arizona and federal agents have largely ignored the militia and white separatist groups patrolling this area, along the border of the Tohono O’odham Nation, south of Three Points, and southwest of Tucson."

29 June 2011

What Wikileaks Reveals about Canadian and U.S. Efforts in Suppression and Surveillance of Indigenous Communities

First, from Brenda Norrell's exceptional effort to keep us all abreast of a wealth of daily news concerning indigenous struggles--CENSORED NEWS: Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights--some extracts (please see the complete articles at the links below), with the most recent articles listed first:

Wikileaks: Top six ways the US and Canada violated Indigenous rights--Wikileaks reveals how the US and Canada worked globally to systematically violate Indigenous rights:

  1. The United States worked behind the scenes to fight the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In Ecuador, the US established a program to dissuade Ecuador from supporting the Declaration. In Iceland, the US Embassy said Iceland's support was an "impediment" to US/Iceland relations at the UN. In Canada, the US said the US and Canada agreed the Declaration was headed for a "train wreck."
  2. The United States targeted and tracked Indigenous Peoples, community activists and leaders, especially in Chile, Peru and Ecuador. A cable reveals the US Embassy in Lima, Peru, identified Indigenous activists and tracked the involvement of Bolivian President Evo Morales, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Bolivia Ambassador Pablo Solon, prominent Mapuche and Quechua activists and community leaders. President Chavez and President Morales were consistently watched, and their actions analyzed. Indigenous activists opposing the dirty Tar Sands were spied on, and other Indigenous activists in Vancouver, prior to the Olympics.
  3. The United States was part of a five country coalition to promote mining and fight against Indigenous activists in Peru. A core group of diplomats from U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Switzerland and South Africa formed an alliance with mining companies to promote and protect mining interests globally. In other illegal corporate profiteering, Peru’s government secretly admitted that 70-90 percent of its mahogany exports were illegally felled, according to a US embassy cable revealed by Wikileaks. Lowe's and Home Depot sell the lumber.
  4. Canada spied on Mohawks using illegal wiretaps. Before Wikileaks hit the headlines, it exposed in 2010 that Canada used unauthorized wiretaps on Mohawks. Wikileaks: "During the preliminary inquiry to Shawn Brant's trial, it came out that the Ontario Provincial Police, headed by Commissioner Julian Fantino, had been using wiretaps on more than a dozen different Mohawks without a judge's authorization, an action almost unheard of recent history in Canada." The United States and Canada tracked Mohawks. In one of the largest collections of cables released so far that targeted Native people and named names, the US consulates in Montreal and Toronto detailed Mohawk activities at the border and in their communities.
  5. The arrogant and insulting tone of the US Embassies and disrespect for Indigenous leaders is pervasive in US diplomatic cables. The US Embassy in Guatemala stated that President of Guatemala, Álvaro Colom, called Rigoberta Menchu a "fabrication" of an anthropologist and made other accusations. Menchu responded on a local radio station that Colom was a "liar."
  6. The collection of DNA and other data, makes it clear that US Ambassadors are spies abroad. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton states that the Intelligence Community relies on biographical information from US diplomats. In cables to Africa and Paraguay, Clinton asked US Embassy personnel to collect address books, e-mail passwords, fingerprints, iris scans and DNA. “The intelligence community relies on State reporting officers for much of the biographical information collected worldwide," Clinton said in a cable on April 16, 2009. Clinton said the biographical data should be sent to the INR (Bureau of Intelligence and Research) for dissemination to the Intelligence Community.

Wikileaks: Canada says UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights headed for 'Train Wreck'

In a diplomatic cable marked 'sensitive,' US Ambassador David Wilkins states that the US and Canada agree that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is 'ill conceived and is headed for a train-wreck.' It was written five weeks after the United Nations adopted the Declaration.When the United Nations adopted the UN Declaration, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia were the four countries that voted against it. Although the four countries later took action on it, the US and Canada gave only lip service and did not sign on to it, or fully endorse it.

Wikileaks Quito: US worked against UN Indigenous Rights Declaration in Ecuador--US Ambassador in Quito carried out US mission of working against adoption of UN Declaration:

"Wikileaks reveals that US Ambassador Jewell in Quito, Ecuador, described steps taken by the US to dissuade Ecuador from supporting the Declaration in 2006, the year before it was adopted by the UN. Jewell stated the government of Ecuador was inclined to support the Declaration in 2006. She said, however, that the US took steps to present papers to show that the UN Declaration 'is fundamentally flawed'."

Wikileaks Peru: US feared Indigenous power--US Ambassador in Peru obsessed with fears of Venezuela, radicalism and Indigenous rule:

"Wikileaks releases from Peru once again reveal the pro-copper mining and anti-Indigenous sentiment of the US Embassy in Lima. Former US Ambassador Curtis Struble in Peru expresses fear that Indigenous may once again govern Peru. Struble is again on the look-out for Venezuela's "meddling," and again is tracking Indigenous activists. This time, on the US watch list, is Aymara activist Felipe Quispe of Bolivia, leader of Pachakuti Indigenous Movement, according to the June 19, 2007 cable. In one of six cables released Friday, Feb. 25, from Lima, Ambassador Struble writes of the regions of Peru. He said the southern highland province of Puno has an 'affinity for far-left radicalism.' Struble fears Venezuela is involved here and fears the movement of Bolivarism. 'Evo Morales is widely popular, but he is admired for his poor, indigenous background, not for his political views,' Struble wrote. Continuing his obsession with the feared 'radicalism' and Indigenous rule in Peru, Struble writes of the 'ethnocacerism' of Antauro Humala. He calls this 'a murky philosophy that seeks to return Peru to a past when only indigenous persons wielded political power'."

Wikileaks: US engaged in espionage of Indigenous activists

"A Wikileaks cable reveals the US Embassy in Lima, Peru, identified Indigenous activists and tracked the involvement of Bolivian President Evo Morales, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Bolivia Ambassador Pablo Solon, prominent Quechua activist Miguel Palacin Quispe and community leaders. Since the writing of this cable, the bonds with Native Americans and First Nations have grown stronger in the struggles for justice. Bolivian President Morales and Ambassador Solon were in the forefront of the Indigenous global climate change efforts in 2010. Palacin was in Tucson for an anti-mining conference in 2007, and more recently at the climate summits in both Cochabamba and Cancun. The US Embassy report dated March 17, 2008, focuses on Indigenous activists and their supporters who, the cable states, were organizing "anti-summit" protests against the European Union-Latin American Heads of State summit scheduled for mid-May of 2008 in Lima. James Nealon at the US Embassy in Lima wrote the cable released Sunday, Feb. 13. 'The greatest concern among our European Union mission colleagues is the threat that radicals could hijack the protests by aggressively confronting ill-prepared security forces, as occurred in Cusco in February'."

Wikileaks Peru: US Ambassador targeted Indigenous activists, promoted mining--Diplomats protecting mining interests of Barrick, Newmont, BHP; US, Canada, Australia, UK, Switzerland and South Africa:

"...The diplomatic cables reveal the US promoting multi-national corporations, while targeting Indigenous activists and their supporters. The new cables reveal that a core group of diplomats formed an alliance with mining companies to promote and protect mining interests globally. The diplomats were from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Switzerland and South Africa."

Wikileaks on Indigenous Peoples: US white privilege:

"The most disturbing aspect of the US State Department cables on Indigenous Peoples is the haughtiness and white privilege that bleeds through the print. The cables make it clear that to the United States, Indigenous Peoples are annoying, even potential terrorists, and must be dealt with. Along with the Mapuches defense of their land and environment, the Wikileaks cables released so far [to December 2010] show the United States’ obsession with Bolivian President Evo Morales and his growing popularity. In the Bolivian cables, the incorrect facts, poor content and unreliable sources are the most glaring aspect."
Chile: "The US spy in Santiago said, 'Secretariat General of the Presidency Minister Viera Gallo told the Ambassador January 30 that the GOC – and Chilean society - are only belatedly taking seriously a growing problem with Chile's indigenous (largely Mapuche) population, which has never been fully integrated and is becoming increasingly radicalized. Mapuche alienation and protest activity could impact on issues such as terrorism, energy, and development in environmentally sensitive regions.' This cable, and other cables, show the growing concern by the United States of the rising collective power of Indigenous Peoples, it terms of uniting with other groups and stopping the development of enormous development projects such as dams that destroy Indigenous lands. With the Mapuches, the US is concerned about connections to the Basque and NGOs (non-governmental organizations.)"

Iceland's support of Indigenous Declaration an 'impediment' to US relations

"The United States scrutinized Iceland's support of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, according to new cables released by Wikileaks. The US cables reveal the behind-the-scenes maneuvers of the United States, the last country in the world to support the Declaration. US Ambassador Ambassador Carol van Voorst said Iceland's support of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was an 'impediment' to full cooperation between the US and Iceland at the United Nations. Van Voorst said Iceland is the only country in the Nordic that does not have Indigenous Peoples. Iceland officials, however, said they would join other Nordic countries in support of the Declaration, Van Voorst wrote to the US State Dept."
Second, from APTN:

U.S. considers ‘Native Canadian groups’ as possible terror threats: embassy cables

"The U.S. has been keeping regular intelligence on potential security threats in Canada, including the activities of unnamed First Nations groups, according to two cables sent by the U.S. embassy in Ottawa and obtained by APTN National News....The cables, sent from the U.S. embassy in Ottawa, and titled, Security Environmental Profile Response For Mission Canada, appear to be part of regular updates on the situation in the country. The U.S. identified the involvement of Aboriginal groups in anti-U.S. demonstrations and as possible terror threats in a Feb. 27, 2009 cable."...'Human rights groups, small political protest/grass roots organizations and Canadian Aboriginal groups are prone to carrying out demonstrations aimed at the host government and sponsor anti-U.S. demonstrations,' reads the cable from 2009....The cables also list potential terrorist threats in Canada. Under the heading 'Indigenous Terrorism,' the cables outline several subgroups of interest, including Anti-American Terrorist Groups and Other Indigenous Terror Groups....The cables...include Aboriginal groups under the heading of 'Other Indigenous Terror Groups'..."
Third, from rabble.ca:

Wikileaks comes to Canada: Federal failure on aboriginal rights

"You just know things are bad when the U.S. criticizes Canada for its treatment of Indigenous people. Wikileaks late last week released a memo from the American Embassy in Ottawa to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, outlining a land claim process that is hopelessly mired in bureaucracy, costly court cases, allegations of the mismanagement of First Nations funds and assets, and the lack of any lucid definition of aboriginal rights. The disparaging memo, which dates back to August of 2009, ends rather pessimistically. 'As long as Canada lacks a clear definition of aboriginal rights or a uniform model for negotiations, effective mechanisms to resolve aboriginal grievances in a timely manner will remain elusive'...."

28 June 2011

Parang in Lopinot, Trinidad: La Cruz de Mayo

The first parang band I had ever interacted with in person was Cristo Adonis' "Los Niños del Mundo" on Calvary Hill in Arima, Trinidad. Cristo Adonis is the shaman of the Santa Rosa Carib Community, and all of the members of the band were also members of the Carib Community. Then I found out that yet another band was also associated with the Carib Community, that being "Los Niños de Santa Rosa", managed by Jacqueline Khan, then Secretary of the Santa Rosa Carib Community. Moreover, for celebrations of the Caribs' annual Santa Rosa Festival, prominent and popular parang bands were invited to play at night in the Carib Centre. From this I proceeded to learn more about parang and how it fits in with the notion of Carib resurgence, specifically in connection with the Carib conceptualization of "maintained traditions." Clearly the history of parang exceeds the boundaries of indigeneity--the songs are sung in Spanish, and many of the songs are based on Catholic themes. However, the music has formed an integral part of the Amerindian mission experience in Trinidad, fortified by the arrival of mixed Spanish-Amerindian (mestizo) immigrants from Venezuela, many thousands of whom relocated to Trinidad between 1870 and 1920, and often intermarried with their kindred population of Spanish-Caribs in Trinidad.

One particular ceremony at which parang is performed is the Cruz de Mayo (May Cross), a ritual whose performance strongly mirrors the contemporary Santa Rosa Festival and was likely the source of its patterning. The Cruz de Mayo celebrates the month of Mary, and is also when the maypole is performed, which has even more significance for the Caribs as it was amalgamated into their traditions of weaving the sebucán, their cassava strainer (the dance around the maypole, weaving the ribbons together, is seen as mimicking the weaving of the sebucán).

Perhaps one of the most prominent historical figures in parang alive today is Clarita Rivas, a good friend of our family. She recently called to let me know that a performance of hers, for the Cruz de Mayo celebrations in Lopinot, had been filmed and uploaded to YouTube. She is also close to members of the Carib Community, and knows of my interest in parang. In that vein, I present the beautifully recorded videos below, produced by a friend of Clarita's friend, Maria Nuñes. Clarita is accompanied by the ever dynamic and engaging singer, Paul Hernandez.

Finally, I also found two videos (there are likely more) of Cristo Adonis performing parang, including at a previous Cruz de Mayo in Lopinot:

25 June 2011

Lost Taíno Tribe: Movie Trailer

Alex Zacarias has been working over the course of the last few years in documenting the Taíno resurgence on video, producing numerous important videos along the way, and even launching a large and bustling Taíno social network around the broader film project. It is a massive, collaborative project, and what follows is the latest trailer.

Especially poignant are the words of Roberto Mucaro Borrero, of the United Confederation of Taíno People (UCTP), who explains that in a context of erasure, of a formalized genocide where governments and academics have written the Taíno out of existence, simply announcing oneself as Taíno is itself as a political act.

Beyond Extinction: Consciousness of Taíno and Caribbean Indigeneity

Symposium - Beyond Extinction: Consciousness of Taíno and Caribbean Indigeneity
Friday, August 26, 2011, 2:30 – 4:30 PM

American Indian Museum
Event Location 4018, 4th level
Washington DC
Cost: Free

Moderated by the museum's assistant director for research José Barreiro, this symposium features scholars Sergio Bernal, Juan Martínez-Cruzado, Cristián Martínez Villanueva, and Lynne Guitar, who discuss the survival of the Taíno language, identity, and material culture in contemporary Caribbean consciousness.

Solidarity between the Kalinago of Dominica and the Taíno of Puerto Rico

The video below, from Alex Zacarias, features the Chief of the Dominica Carib/Kalinago Territory meeting with members of the United Confederation of Taíno People, and speaking about international indigenous solidarity, activism, organization, and unity.

17 June 2011

Cristo Adonis, Speaking on Amerindian Heritage Day in Arima, Trinidad, in 2008

Cristo Adonis is one of the key figures at the heart of Arima's Santa Rosa Carib Community, a shaman, a nationally noted parang singer, a builder of Amerindian thatched huts, a hunter, a gardener, and much more. In a series of interviews below he expounds on the meaning of Amerindian Heritage Day, the problems of recognition and survival, and the continuing challenges to the viability of the Carib Community.

Some notes on the first in the series of video segments of an interview between Tracy Assing and Cristo Adonis (Tracy Assing is a member of the community who would later produce a film, to be discussed in future posts on this site):
  • Adonis says the "day of recognition" (Amerindian Heritage Day), is an important day for young people of indigenous blood to become more aware of where they came from--then interrupted...

In the second video segment, these are some points to note:
  • Resuming from before, Amerindian Heritage Day will help raise awareness among the young people of the indigenous community itself, and to him personally, to give him more strength to carry on a fight begun long before;
  • After eight years that this Day has been instituted has there been any "measurable progress," Tracy Assing asks? Adonis says he is not satisfied, that the Day is not doing anything, it is only a show for people;
  • He says there is a need for land, for more educational events, and for greater youth involvement--there is a need to teach people in the Community, especially young people, respect for the elders, and also to teach elders how to pass information on to the young people;
  • Adonis remarks on the growing age of those who regularly attend meetings in the Carib Community, and what will happen tomorrow when we are gone? "Where do we go from here?"
  • Indigenous People have something to contribute to this country (Trinidad & Tobago) and the world; protection of the environment, self-sufficiency, etc.
  • "Do you feel recognized in your country?" Assing asks, saying that on the street he looks like everyone else, so how does he make his presence felt as Amerindian? He begins by answering, before being interrupted, about being more vocal and more visual.

In the third video segment, these are some of the main points expressed by Adonis:
  • Resuming from before...the Caribs have to be more vocal and more visual, and they need to do that themselves;
  • He says they cannot only depend on the authorities to announce a day of recognition...and is then interrupted again...

Some interesting points to note from this, the fourth and final video in the series of segments:
  • Adonis speaks of the three members of the Santa Rosa Carib Community on the Government's Cabinet-appointed Amerindian Projects Committee, as having a unique take on events;
  • He says that when the Caribs depend on being showcased, certain unspecified impositions are placed on the Carib Community, one of them seeming to be the constant request for information from schools.

Ricardo Bharath Hernandez, Chief of the Santa Rosa Carib Community, Speaking in Arima in 2008

Ricardo Bharath Hernandez is shown below speaking during the occasion of the eighth Amerindian Heritage Day, 14 October 2008, in Arima, Trinidad, and the week of events surrounding it. The speech took place in the Arima Borough Council. He welcomed several indigenous delegations, especially from Dominica, Suriname, and the United Confederation of Taino People. The Carib Community prepared a flyer/pamphlet, "Hyarima, Relentless Warrior," for the event.

Ricardo Bharath lists a series of demands/goals for helping to protect Amerindian heritage:
  • A once only public holiday to honour Amerindian history, which as the chief explains, represents a change of goals for the Carib Community, which previously had explicitly not sought a holiday--he feels that such a holiday would allow for nation-wide cultural events, expositions, parades, a rally, and reaching out all sectors of the nation, in order to "sensitize" and give "national visibility," gain greater recognition of the Carib Community, and aid it in attaining its vision; it is the only way for the government to make a major statement to the whole nation, and everyone would know why they have this holiday;
  • Chief Bharath refers to Suriname in noting that on the UN's International Day for Indigenous Peoples, that country has a public holiday;
  • Speaking on the "model Amerindian village," he calls for reflection on the past; he says the Carib Community is not asking for "compensation," but support for helping to develop themselves and preserve their unique history;
  • Chief Bharath thanks successive governments that have supported the Carib Community in many different ways, but does not want to rely on handouts, and does not wish to simply produce "cultural events" (dance, talks, etc.) that result in nothing tangible and lasting;
  • He emphasizes that the Carib Community does not seek to segregate itself, that it has always welcomed others with open arms, and as a testament to that fact it is a very "mixed" community;
  • He speaks of the First and Second UN Decades for the World's Indigenous Peoples, lasting to 2014, as an opportunity for government to do more to assist the local indigenous community--he notes that on 12 September 2007, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago voted in the UN General Assembly for the adoption of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which includes recognition and land appropriations, Chief Bharath uses this as a reminder to government;
  • Chief Bharath ends on a note of a common, Caribbean indigenous struggle.

Vel Lewis, Head of the Amerindian Projects Committee, Speaking in Arima in 2008

The video below dates back to Amerindian Heritage Day, 14 October 2008, in Arima, Trinidad, and the week of events surrounding it. The speaker opening the event is Vel Lewis, the head of the government-appointed Amerindian Projects Committee, one of whose main purposes was to reach a decision on the allocation of lands to the Santa Rosa Carib Community.

Some interesting points to note:
  • Lewis, using terminology adopted from the Canadian context, refers to the local community as the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community;
  • He says that "we all know what happened" since the days when Trinidad was populated entirely by Amerindians--in actuality, it is that history of what happened since the arrival of colonizers that has been the subject of great dispute, especially as "we all what happened" has usually prefaced the assertion that the Amerindians became extinct;
  • Lewis salutes the Santa Rosa Carib Community for maintaining the Carib culture, which in itself is just one of very many statements that serves as acts of routine, everyday official recognition;
  • Lewis praises the work of the Carib Community on the international front, in hosting international indigenous gatherings during CARIFESTA V in 1992, and again in 1993, and then becoming the chair of the Caribbean Organization of Indigenous Peoples;
  • He promised that during 2008-2009 there would be an intensification of the work of the Amerindian Projects Committee, and a campaign to raise public awareness--he refers to two films and a book to be used in schools (no further information provided), plus the work of the National Museum and National Trust to develop the exhibits at the Carib Community Centre;
  • Lewis talks about the development of a "model heritage village" which would be like an "outdoor museum"--this refers to the Amerindian village the Carib Community has long sought to establish; and,
  • In 2008, Trinidad and Tobago would be represented for the first time at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and Lewis draws attention to other aspects of UN work to develop awareness of local indigenous communities, as well as mentioning the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.