LatinaLista — When the term indigenous is used, first thoughts travel to foreign countries. For some reason, indigenous is equated to people who are of low education, speak in their own tongue, dress differently from the mainstream, live in poverty — far away.
Rarely does the average person think of an indigenous person as someone who has a spiritual link with their lands or has a college degree or lives right here in the United States.
Native Americans are the United States’ indigenous people. Their reverential ties to Mother Earth are well known. Their place in US history as victims of documented government abuse is legendary.
That’s why a recent plea for help from a daughter of a Lipan Apache that is making the rounds of the blogosphere is not only interesting for its content but for the historical record for which it will enter.
It is the 21st century version of Washington ignoring yet again the rights of the indigenous of this nation.
The Lipan Apache were a small group of Eastern Apaches who in an effort to preserve their heritage and lives continuously migrated away from aggressive and hostile people.
So, it’s rather ironic that the latest showdown between some Lipan Apaches and Washington is over the building of the Texas-Mexico border fence through Indian lands.
Poet Margo Tamez
In a letter by the famous Native American poet and activist, Margo Tamez, she outlines the assault her mother and other elders of El Calaboz have been enduring since July from the Border Patrol, Army Corps of Engineers, and the NSA.
It seems Margo’s mother has been harassed by the government because she doesn’t want to give up part of her land grant holdings to the border fence.
In her own words, Margo presents her mother’s case:
I am informing you of recent events in my maternal community of el Calaboz, Texas, a binational land grant indigenous rancheria of Lipan Apache, Chiricahua and Basque descent.
I am foregrounding this because I have been asked to submit documentation through the NGO, the International Indigenous Treaty Council, for the CERD investigation of human rights and indigenous rights abuses by the U.S. government against my mother community.
The Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) report to be directed toward the United Nation in March 2008, which will for the first time in over a decade focus on abuses by the United States to oppressed groups.
This year, as a result of the recently approved UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples rights, indigenous people have a specific opportunity to submit documents on behalf of their communities.
I’ll be working hard the next week to complete a draft document, with evidentiary materials, for review by an international human rights and indigenous rights attorney who recently accompanied me on an investigatory field trip to my paternal community, Redford, TX, of the Jumano Apache.
I wanted to keep you informed of this progress, and through this following letter, establish a way to communicate what I’m doing and how it impacts all my work. See the earlier letter below.
Subject: Emergency in el Calaboz, Lipan Apache & Basque-Indigena North American Land Title Holders!!!
I wish I was writing under better circumstances, but I must be fast and direct.
My mother and elders of El Calaboz, since July have been the targets of numerous threats and harassments by the Border Patrol, Army Corps of Engineers, NSA, and the U.S. related to the proposed building of a fence on their levee.
Since July, they have been the targets of numerous telephone calls, unexpected and uninvited visits on their lands, informing them that they will have to relinquish parts of their land grant holdings to the border fence buildup. The NSA demands that elders give up their lands to build the levee, and further, that they travel a distance of 3 miles, to go through checkpoints, to walk, recreate, and to farm and herd goats and cattle, ON THEIR OWN LANDS.
This threat against indigenous people, life ways and lands has been very very serious and stress inducing to local leaders, such as Dr. Eloisa Garcia Tamez, who has been in isolation from the larger indigenous rights community due to the invisibility of indigenous people of South Texas and Northern Tamaulipas to the larger social justice conversation regarding the border issues.
However recent events, of the last 5 days cause us to feel that we are in urgent need of immediate human rights observers in the area, deployed by all who can help as soon as possible–immediate relief.
My mother informed me, as I got back into cell range out of Redford, TX, on Monday, November 13, that Army Corps of Engineers, Border Patrol and National Security Agency teams have been going house to house, and calling on her personal office phone, her cell phone and in other venues, tracking down and enclosing upon the people and telling them that they have no other choice in this matter. They are telling elders and other vulnerable people that “the wall is going on these lands whether you like it or not, and you have to sell your land to the U.S.”
My mother, Eloisa Garcia Tamez, Lipan Apache (descendant of Mexican Chiricahua descent elder, Aniceto Garcia, who gave her traditional indigenous birth welcoming ceremony and lightning ceremony), is resisting the forced occupation with firm resistance. She has already had two major confrontations with NSA since July–one in her office at the University of Texas at Brownsville, where she is the Director of a Nursing Program and where she conducts research on diabetes among indigenous people of the MX-US binational region of South Texas and Tamaulipas.
She reports that some land owners in the rancheria area of El Calaboz, La Paloma and El Ranchito, under pressure to sell to the U.S. without prior and informed consent, have already signed over their lands, due to their ongoing state of impoverishment and exploitation in the area under colonization, corporatism, NAFTA and militarization.
This is an outrage, but more, this is a significant violation of United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People, recently ratified and accepted by all UN nations, except the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Furthermore, it is a violation of the United Nations CERD, Committee on Elimination of Racism and Racial Discrimination.
My mother is under great stress and crisis, unknowing if the Army soldiers and the NSA agents will be forcibly demanding that she sign documents. She reports that they are calling her at all hours, seven days a week. She has firmly told them not to call her anymore, nor to call her at all hours of the night and day, nor to call on the weekends any further.She asked them to meet with her in a public space and to tell their supervisors to come.They refuse to do so. Instead, they continue to harass and intimidate.
At this time, due to the great stress the elders are currently under, communicated to me, because they are being demanded under covert tactics, to relinquish indigenous lands, I feel that I MUST call upon my relatives, friends, colleagues, especially associates in Texas within driving distance to the Rio Grande valley region, and involved in indigenous rights issues, to come forth and aid us.
Please! Please help indigenous women land title holders resisting forced occupation in their own lands! Please do not hesitate to forward this to people in your own networks in media, journalism, social and environmental justice, human rights, indigenous rights advocacy and public health watch groups!
Jumano Apache West Texas-Chihuahua Lipan Apache South Texas-Tamaulipas, Apacheria Nuevo Santander Land Grant–Basque Colony)