Afghanistan to Big Mountain-Censored Native voices

Native Americans say it is time for America to re-examine itself

Native poets, filmmakers and spiritual leaders say war is no remedy for

By Brenda Norrell
Independent journalist
December, 2001

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Native American poets, filmmakers and spiritual leaders say America is being deceived by the national media about the intent behind the bombing of Afghanistan.

 It reflects the deception and murder of the voiceless that Indigenous peoples have long known.

 Simon Ortiz, Acoma Pueblo N.M. poet and professor in Canada, said images of the bombing of Afghanistan are the nightmares Indigenous peoples have always lived with.

 Ortiz said it is now carried out in the conquest for oil.

 "When I've seen the few photos of the destruction and killings caused by U.S. bombs in Afghanistan, I immediately think of what Acoma and the other Pueblos would look like if the same hellish madness were ever visited upon them," Ortiz said.

 "People standing amidst the ruins and rubble of their adobe and stone homes. Children and old men and women stunned, weeping quietly. It is horrible to envision.

 "This is victory over the enemy?

 "And then I think of January 1599 when Acoma was laid to waste and hundreds of Acomas died at the hands of Spanish conquistadors under Don Juan de Onate.

 "That was victory over the enemy?

 "No, that was an obscenity of death and conquest committed so that Native land and its resources could be gained, just like what is taking place now in Afghanistan and the Mideast -- obscenity of death and conquest committed  so that control over oil resources can be gained."

 Ortiz, internationally-known author of "Woven Stone," and dozens of other books of poetry and essays, like Navajo filmmaker Arlene Bowman, relocated to Canada because of professional opportunities for Indigenous peoples.

 Bowman, independent filmmaker living in Vancouver, British Columbia, said the war on Afghanistan is an energy war and at home, President Bush is rapidly undoing the preservations of sacred lands put in place by the Clinton administration.

 "I observe mostly the drive by the federal government to get to the energy sources in Canada and the United States fast!"

 "Bush is definitely a redneck of a president."

 Bowman, producer of "Navajo Talking Picture," shown in international film festivals and "Song Journey," shown on PBS, was born in Fort Defiance and grew up in Phoenix. She is concerned for Navajos at home. and elsewhere.

 "Probably Bush doesn't care about Aboriginal peoples and is racist. What else is new?

 "He doesn't care if the Dineh people will not get enough water on their land and if digging for uranium will affect Dineh people, leaving them with cancer and radiation."

 "It's not his brain and body or children. Has anything really changed for us?"

 Bowman said Bush has become an opportunist by way of the tragedies of others, "ramming through" his energy policy while the mainstream media has acted with complicity in a crime against humanity.

 "The opposition voice is censored out literally. The United States is. becoming a 'banana republic,' a police state."

 Bowman said racism towards people of color has not diminished, but major networks refuse to cover America as it is.

 "Just observe the major television news networks. It's all 'Rah! Rah!' for the flag and gun-ho flag waving.

 "The censorship bothers me a lot. Big Brother is watching and it's real."

 Meanwhile, at the southern border of the United States, Pascua Yaqui border rights activist Jose Matus says all of the work done in recent years to halt abuse of Indigenous at the attacks in New York.

 "We have lost whatever little ground we gained in our fight and struggle to stem the tide of law enforcement abuse of authority and violations of rights," said Matus, a Yaqui ceremonial leader.

 While the militarization of the United States and Mexico border intensified, Matus said the so-called war on terror has terrorized Indigenous people crossing the border with an intensified climate of "racism, hatred, xenophobia and vigilantism."

 Matus and other members of Derechos Humanos in Tucson have documented assaults and harassment if Indian people by border and immigration officials. The human rights organization has also pressed for the easing of visa requirements for ceremonial leaders. With more than 30,000 Yaqui living in Sonora, Mexico, the border has divided families and is a barrier to cultural and spiritual gatherings.

 Matus said Bush continues to press for legislation, which will endanger Indian people and result in further abuse of civil and human rights.

 "The September 11 attacks have taken away whatever little civil liberties we had and have given rise to hatred and xenophobia against immigrants of color more than ever before."

 The profiling of people of color is a violation of rights Indigenous in the borderzone have long known.

 "Why are people of color always profiled and not whites?" Matus asked.

 American Indians have long warned it is time for America to reexamine itself and its treatment of Indigenous peoples and Mother Earth.

 In April, a presentation to Lehman Brothers stockholders at the World Trade Center was censored by the media.

 Following a protest outside, a delegation of Navajo, Hopi and Lakota elders and spiritual leaders addressed a stockholders meeting of Lehman Brothers, the parent company of Peabody Coal which mines coal on Navajo and Hopi lands on Black Mesa, Arizona.

 Joe Chasing Horse, Lakota, told stockholders, "You have taken all of our land, now we have come to show you how to take care of it."

 A traditional Hopi elder told stockholders, "Lehman Brothers, even though we are just a few here, we speak for the Creator, who is the majority."

 In comments never publicized by the mainstream media, the Hopi elder said, "Therefore we demand you to stop the Peabody coal mining and the slurry. We demand again," said the Hopi elder who asked that his name not be published.

 "Traditional and priesthood people don't want this mining. The Hopi prophecies say that we have to protect land and life. If we don't protect our beautiful Earth -- our Heaven, our Mother, we will suffer with her."

 "Our ancestors warned that someday this would happen. White men will say that it is our own people that sold this land. I will not accept this.

 "Our roots are rooted in our villages and it goes up to the whole universe. If we break these roots the world will get out of balance.

 "I pray for you and hope that we open your eyes and you find the majority in your heart."

 Before their deaths, Hopi elders Thomas Banyacya and Dan Evehema warned that calamities would befall all of humanity if Navajos were forced to relocate and the Earth was desecrated with further coal and uranium mining on Black Mesa.

 After returning from New York to Big Mountain, Ariz., in the so-called Navajo-Hopi land dispute area, John Benally said the people have been struggling for 32 years because of the turmoil created by Hopi and Navajo tribal leaders intent on making money from the 92 billion tons of coal beneath the ground at Black Mesa.

 Benally said the resistance actually goes back 500 years to the Spanish invasion, followed by invasions of Europeans and Kit Carson.

 Benally said the Navajo, Hopi and Lakota delegation moved in solidarity with the Zapatistas whose caravan through Mexico in the spring gave them hope.

 "We felt the wind, it came from the South. It is telling the Indigenous people to rise up for their beliefs, their culture. These things are not being respected by anyone but the Indigenous people."

posted with permission from Brenda Norrell