United States attacks on Native America: Tohono O'odham Nation [formerly Papago Nation]

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Mon Aug 12 08:49:27 MDT 2002


Note by Hunterbear:

The "borders" that separate the United States and Canada, and Mexico and the
United States. are obviously, from a Native perspective, arbitrarily and
artificially and irrationally imposed distinctions.  In each of these
situational instances, a number of tribal nations are split by the Anglo
borders. The primary political and socio-cultural identification of
virtually all Native American people is with their respective tribal nation
and its culture [way of life]and many Natives have never considered
themselves "citizens" of, say, the United States, Canada, or Mexico.

The United States in both border situations, and Canada as well, are
consistently problematic from a Native standpoint -- but the northern border
situation does have, to some extent, protection for Native free-crossing and
related rights via the Jay Treaty of 1794, the Treaty of Ghent which
followed the War of 1812, and a flow therefrom of essentially supportive
court and administrative decisions.  In addition, a long series of crossing
rights battles fought by the Indian Defense League of America -- a major
leader of which was the notable activist and Tuscarora [Iroquois] chief,
Clinton Rickard --  has reinforced Native border rights in the north. [See
the very well done Barbara Graymont, ed., Fighting Tuscarora: The
Autobiography of Chief Clinton Rickard [Syracuse, New York: Syracuse
University Press, 1984.] But problems in that setting, never absent, have
certainly increased sharply within the last year.

The southern border has no such treaty protection for Native peoples on
either side.  Mexico has been far less problematic than the United States --
but, until fairly recently, the U.S. relationship with the tribal nations
involved in the south has been relatively restrained.

But no longer.  The US is presently riding rough-shod over Native rights in
the Mexico/US region.

Legalistic efforts to ease this southern border situation -- e.g., pending
legislation introduced a year ago by Arizona Congressman Ed Pastor -- have
stalled.

Anger is building rapidly among the Tohono O'odham [formerly Papago Nation.]
They could, soon enough, move to attempt what the Mohawks in the north have
accomplished: indicated in this quote from the attached article:

"So far, the Tohono O'odham have not considered evicting federal agents from
their land, as the St. Regis Mohawks did from their Akwesasne reservation on
the New York-Canadian border. Since 1996, the Mohawks have allowed Border
Patrol agents into the reservation only to pick up suspects the nation's
police have detained."

But that could change in the southern border situation -- and damn fast.

Hunter [Hunterbear]  Micmac / St Francis Abenaki / St Regis Mohawk


--------------------

Strangers on Their Land Indian nation: U.S. Border Patrol harasses tribe
members

By Letta Tayler LATIN AMERICA CORRESPONDENT
August 12, 2002
http://www.newsday.com/news/printedition/ny-womexi112819752aug12.story


San Miguel Gate, -- U.S.Mexico border - Laverne José's heart pounds with
fear every time she pulls her van loaded with health care patients up to San
Miguel Gate, a wood cattle guard that splits the ancient lands of the Tohono
O'odham Indians between Arizona and Mexico.

U.S. Border Patrol agents frequently stop or search Jose and her patients,
who are members of the tribe. Usually she's ordered to detour to an official
U.S. entry point, adding at least 90 miles and many hours to her trip to a
clinic on the Tohono O'odham (pronounced "to-HO-no OATH-am") reservation in
Arizona. If her passengers lack documents recognized by the United States,
sometimes they're seized and sent back.

"We were here long before the U.S. government," said José, a shy,
soft-spoken woman. "But we're being treated like illegal immigrants on our
own land."

Long before and after the arrival of the white man, the Tohono O'odham moved
freely across the sun-scorched Sonora Desert that spans Arizona and Mexico.
But a U.S. crackdown on undocumented immigrants that began a few years ago a
nd intensified after Sept. 11 has turned the Indians into suspected or de
facto illegal aliens.

Reservation members complain of being routinely stopped and sometimes
harassed by U.S. Border Patrol agents who swarm across their land, hunting
for potential terrorists these days.

In addition, welfare reforms targeted at undocumented workers have denied
8,400 Tohono O'odham - nearly a third of the tribe - access to health care,
Social Security or other social services that under U.S. law should be
extended to all members of federally recognized Indian reservations. Those
Indians have been cut off because they lack documents such as birth
certificates that Washington recognizes as proof of citizenship. In the eyes
of the U.S. government, they are simply undocumented immigrants.

The Tohono O'odham, whose name means "desert people," see a bitter irony in
the clampdown: While the federal government is treating the Indians as
potential law-breakers, it is seeking their help in detaining undocumented
immigrants and drug smugglers, who in the past few years have turned this
isolated reservation into the busiest - and deadliest - illegal border
crossing in the United States.

"It's a double standard," said Henry Ramon, the Tohono O'odham vice
chairman. "The government wants something from us but they don't want to
give us our due in return. In the meantime, our land is turning into a war
zone."

Hundreds of Border Patrol agents scour this Connecticut-sized reservation in
all-terrain vehicles and helicopters, searching for the 1,500 immigrants who
sneak into it each day. The agents' mission was not only to stop immigrants
but also to save their lives: From Oct. 1 to Aug. 1, nearly 70 immigrants
died trying to cross the reservation's harsh terrain.

Prickly-pear cacti and mesquite bake in stifling heat on both sides of the
Tohono O'odham reservation. The adobe or prefab homes are similar, although
more lack indoor plumbing and electricity south of the border. Nation
members on both sides of the twisted barbed-wire fence that marks the border
consider themselves as one.

But in 1853, when the United States bought 30,000 square miles of land from
Mexico, it left a dozen Tohono O'odham communities and several sacred sites
south of the border.

After the United States recognized the Tohono O'odham as an Indian
sovereignty in 1937, it treated Indians south of the border as members,
including them in its census and busing students to schools on the U.S.
side.

All that changed in 1994, when the mushrooming of illegal border crossings
prompted the Border Patrol to start sealing off entry points in California
and Texas. Immigrants responded by crossing in remoter areas, particularly
the 75-mile strip of border cutting through Tohono O'odham communities.

Indians complain that undocumented immigrants and drug smugglers litter
their land with garbage and sometimes rob them. Still, they express more
concern about Border Patrol agents.

"The Border Patrol agents trail us, and stop us and shine lights in our
faces. Sometimes they point guns at us. They say, 'Are you a U.S. citizen?'"
said Ana Antone, 53, a Tohono O'odham health counselor who was born in one
of the tribe's communities south of the border. "I tell them, 'Yes,' but
it's a lie."

José, 43, who shuttles patients to the Indian clinic in Sells, Ariz., 30
miles north of San Miguel Gate, said, "The border agents will search my
passengers and ask me how much I'm charging to bring people across the
border, even though I have a G for government vehicle on my license plate."

David V. Aguilar, chief Border Patrol agent for the Tucson, Ariz., sector,
which patrols the reservation, called the Border Patrol's relationship with
the Tohono O'odham "mutually beneficial." Border agents assigned to the
reservation undergo sensitivity training, but they can't refrain from
stopping people because they might be Indian, he said.

"A pickup truck or van going down the road may look like a typical Indian
nation vehicle, but it could be packed with immigrants," Aguilar said.

Illegal entry to the United States through Indian nations, which share 750
miles of isolated U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico, has become a key
concern since Sept. 11 - particularly since the Border Patrol has authority
to enter tribal lands only within 25 miles of the U.S. frontier.

So far, the Tohono O'odham have not considered evicting federal agents from
their land, as the St. Regis Mohawks did from their Akwesasne reservation on
the New York-Canadian border. Since 1996, the Mohawks have allowed Border
Patrol agents into the reservation only to pick up suspects the nation's
police have detained.

The INS and Mexico have issued visas to 1,000 Tohono O'odham living south of
the border to allow them restricted crossings. But Indians object to the
visas because they must renew them periodically - at their expense - and
because the visas classify them as Mexicans, when they consider themselves
Tohono O'odham.

The visas also don't help the 8,400 Tohono O'odham who have been denied
health care and other federal benefits under the 1996 Welfare Reform Act
because they lack U.S. birth certificates or other federally recognized
documents.

Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.) has introduced legislation to recognize all Tohono
O'odham by making their Indian nation identification cards proof of U.S.
citizenship. The bill has languished since Sept. 11.

The bill would help Laverne José's father, Henry José, who can't collect
Social Security and who for years was unable to obtain veterans benefits,
even though he'd won a dozen stars for bravery as a machine-gunner aboard
the battleship USS Mississippi during World War II. Henry José didn't have a
birth certificate because he was born at home on the reservation.

"The Navy never asked me for my birth certificate when it wanted me to
fight," said Henry José, a frail 79-year-old.

The bill also would grant citizenship to the 1,400 nation members who were
born in Tohono O'odham communities in Mexico. They include Francina
Francisco, 24, who was born in Magdalena, Mexico, a Tohono O'odham village
her mother was visiting for an Indian feast day when she delivered
prematurely. Though Francisco has lived since her birth on the reservation,
where her mother was born, she can't become a naturalized U.S. citizen
because her mother lacks a U.S. birth certificate.

Francisco never considered herself an illegal alien until she was turned
down by the U.S. Army and the Tohono O'odham police force, both of which now
require proof of U.S. citizenship.

"I'd like to be somebody, I'd like to help my people," Francisco said in a
voice that drifted into defeat. "But the U.S. government has lumped me into
a category with illegal aliens and terrorists. The doors are closed every
way I turn."

Copyright © 2002, Newsday, Inc.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`
Hunter Gray  [Hunterbear]
www.hunterbear.org (strawberry socialism)
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´





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