By That Super O'odham 2012 & That O'odham Bastard!
June 17, 2009-Green Valley, AZ
On June 16th, 2009, members of O'odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective and Phoenix Class War Council (PCWC) took a trip down to Green Valley which is located south of Tucson . We traveled to the little border town because the ACLU hosted an open forum about the constitutional rights that individuals have at internal border check points and around the border in the supposed “100 mile constitution free zone”. Of course, “illegal immigration” and drug trafficking was at the core of the concerns express by the citizens of Green Valley, but the community was unprepared for the intrusion of their human rights and land due to the Border Patrols search and seizure polices.
This small retirement community was now experiencing the reality of “securing” the border and the end result of the Border Patrol enforcement (harassment). A reality that we as O'odham are all so familiar with and go through on our travels on the Tohono O'odham reservation. Of course, we knew our voice, the O'odham Voice, the Indigenous Voice was going to be overlooked. So we decided to engage the overall “white” crowd. Presenting how we, young O'odham, see the Border debate through a completely different scope. That we see it through the scope of the continuation, of the colonization of our traditional lands, by “foreign” and otherwise “alien” peoples not from this area of the world. Who never consulted the original peoples of this land, the Akimel O'odham and Tohono O'odham, with “their” borders? We shared our history with all the “ U.S. ” citizens in attendance, and dared to engage their concept of what the borders means to them.
The ACLU presented an overview of authority that Border Agents possessed, much to the audience's dislike. Being that the Border Patrol is entrusted with such power in the name of securing the state. These people were caught in the dilemma of their “own” vision of what America's southern border should look like: a militarized zone, blocking an "inferior, diseased-infested, criminal invasion” (we have heard all of these insulting descriptions of immigrants uttered by anti-immigrants over the years) of their beloved “homeland”; A dilemma which shook their everyday way of life with the elevated enforcement at the I-19 checkpoint between Tucson and Nogales. Leaving them to ask the question, “WHY”? “Why am I subject to the routine stops, out of line questioning and searches too?” “I'm an American citizen!” “I'm a tax payer!”
The ACLU allowed a public commenting period for those who wanted to voice their accounts and concerns. The local media was present, to report the same old point of view that often dominates media headlines on the border debate. Such as the Arizona Republic's front page coverage of the prior night's anti-check point gathering in Tubac. Just like the gathering in Tubac, many Green Valley citizens made clear their strong resentment of U.S. Border Patrol authority to enter their private property to apprehend the evil “invaders” from the south. And to express their disgust with Border Agents question, search and seize routines at the checkpoint stop, which seemed to be shared by many, if all residents who attended, but generally followed by a statement defending the agents and their individual conduct and behavior. The result was that even those critical of the checkpoints and the intrusion found themselves in agreement with the more militant pro-border ideologues on protecting the sovereignty of their “homeland” (good ole red, white and blue).
The underlining white supremacy couldn't have been more clear when a member of our collective was spit on (yes, spit on!) and physically assaulted by a deranged woman. After making pro-Border/Checkpoint statement, she felt the need to violate the dignity of the first brown face near her. The woman was confronted by us, ushered out by some ACLU volunteers, and was told to leave the grounds immediately. She did so, while shreiking more pro-Border rhetoric out the door.
But we, the O'odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective, would not let such racist tactics stop us. We were given the oppurtunity to address the forum and dared to step the debate up a few notches and offer a voice rarely heard in such a crowd of concerned, “American” citizens. The Collective stood up and told the otherwise noted, Milighan (o'odham for white) crowd, and said “yo, welcome to our world”. We shared our reality, and the conditions facing other O'odham, that we suffer when we travel on our traditional homeland, and just as they voice their concerns of harassment, infringement of land, and individual rights, we too stated, we suffer the same persecution by Border Agents. We too feel the ever growing squeeze that the federal government strides for, all in the name to secure the southern and northern borders.
We understand these borders were established to further regulate commerce and labor, and to uphold the current economic system that is embodied by NAFTA (North American Free TradeAgreement).With that being laid out, we expressed how we are quagmired in a problem we, and many others of brown skin, did not make but are now stuck in.
The encroachment of power by the federal government jeopardizes our most natural rights to exist as indigenous people. Jeopardizes our right to conduct our traditional ceremonies, which take place on both sides of the border, jeopardizes our right to see family in Mexico, and jeopardizes our right to keep up our O'odham Him'dag (Traditional Way of Life) alive.
The federal government lack of understanding of O'odham also paved the way in the current drug cartel invasion. Border policies and operations shifted the war on drugs right into our backyards which lead to the elevated violence by rival cartels that use our traditional routes for drug and human smuggling. Their invasion leads to our O'odham youth to be tempted with quick money, to escape their impoverished reality they face on the reservation.
WE explained our connection and history of the very land “they” call their “homeland” and put in context, who really is the “invader” if you start from the view of the O'odham, the first people of this land, who are now divided by the colonial powers of United States and Mexico . Plus, put our struggle in a much broader stance, by citing the United Nations adaptation of the Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
O'odham Solidarity Across Borders and PCWC understood the importance of engaging a community such as the one in Green Valley . We felt the best way to fight the ever growing rise of white supremacy and white nationalism along the border was to take it the heart of the debate by travelling down to the borderlands to intervene. By just sharing what the border means to us as O'odham, we help weed out the racist wa-hoos, and white extremists in this meeting. We checked them from infecting this forum and gave the rest of the crowd the chance to further know about our people, the O'odham, which in this instance, went over well. We received good feedback, even if they disagreed with the overall dynamics of the border and the root causes (neo-liberalism and NAFTA).
As the meeting came to an end, we met many who wanted to know more about the history of our people. A history that is never cited, never told in the settler mythology of the region. We were approached by many who wanted to support and lend their resources to what we face, or to just express their thanks to our very presents there. We were blessed to meet an older Yaqui elder originally from the traditional Yaqui land in the Pueblo of Vícam (Mexico ), but now residing in Green Valley . She was happy we represented not just the O'odham view, but the view of all tribes that are divided by the border, such as the Yaqui. In our two hours in Green Valley, we witnessed the horrors of where ignorance and hate can go when unchecked by the historical truths that WE represent by just breathing, just living. We also took note of how the possibilities of the border debate can change when put in the context of indigenous people. Directed towards a future where all people, no matter of what they look like and come from, are considered human beings, which also includes the "illegal" brown faces that cross in this country seeking a better life for themselves and family.
Our two hours in Green Valley showed that we, the O'odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective and PCWC, elevated the debate to what we, and all concerned people should be opposing, global capitalism and the means the state uses to ensure its existence. An existence that unrightfully does not see the human toll it infects, only the profit it earns. We feel our two hours in Green Valley opened some, not all, minds to that bigger issue at hand. Even though the system tries hard to divide us with false barriers (racism, borders), people are still open to the truth when standing face to face with youth such as ourselves, whose mere existence undermines all which they are fed by their leaders and so called experts of U.S./Mexican Border (Looking at you Mr.Dobbs).