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Article by: Swaneagle Harijan
Wednesday 13 Sep 2000


Summary: Are Kevin Gover's words just that?


Kevin Gover's words are inspiring and could incite ourtight hope if the current face of genocide against Indian people is truly addressed.

The atrocities endured by American Indians are horrendous deserving of intense scrutiny by both mainstream and alternative press. The lack of such attention is a blatant display of racism on the part of "good hearted" citizens from the mainstream to the most radical.

Bordertowns in New Mexico surrounding the Navajo, Hopi, Ute and Pueblo reservations have been the scenes of grisly torture murders of Indian people since the early 70\'s. (See Rodney Barker's "The Broken Circle") Rolling vulnerable Indian people who drink in the back alleys of Farmington, Shiprock and Gallup has been a "rite of passage" for young white men for decades. Too often this activity has led to cruel disfigurement and killing of the Indians victimized.The murders are not limited to Indians drinking. The lack of action on the part of police as well as racist comments made to families of victims furthers the powerlessness and vulnerability of people plagued by centuries of the worst forms of colonialist bigotry,theft and genocide.

Indian families are discouraged from protesting by offcials who wish to keep the scope of the problem under wraps. Yet the violation is worsening as murders in the small Arizona bordertown of Winslow reached nine within a year.The climate of terror such crime creates is akin to what is happening to Mayan Indians in Chiapas, where international human rights observers have established peace camps to bear witness to Mexican army and paramilitary incursions as well as having such presence lessen attacks.

Ramona Tewangoitewa, a young Dineh Hopi woman, lost her brother to murder over 2 years ago. (See Indian Country Today, March 8, 2000) She has been a lone, courageous voice of outrage against the racist institutions that continue to fail Indian people whose lives do not equal the value of it\s white citizens. In the few phone conversations I have had with her, I have been deeply moved by her determination to see that something is done to resolve the situation. She has organized several vigils in an effort to bring attention to this genocide. It is time that activists focused on what is happening here as well as in other communities of color.

On June 11, 2 young white men were finally arrested after the murder of an Indian woman June 9. The 2 have also been charged with the torture murder of a Navajo man 2 years ago. Ties to the ku klux klan have been downplayed, but evidence belies this.

Since 1984, I have been living with traditional Dineh grandmothers for 3 weeks to 4 months at a time because of their request that nonIndians bear witness to their nonviolent resistance to the largest forced relocation of Indian people in the 20th century, now going into this new millennium. Hidden behind the fascade of the Navajo Hopi Land Dispute is the reality of expanding the largest coal strip mine in North America. Peabody Coal Company has been responsible for destroying ancient kivas, burial sites, occupied hogans,ceremonial,herb and food gathering areas, water sources, as well as providing fuel for the power plants contributing most significantly to green house gases. Peabody also sucks up over 3 million gallons of water a day from the Black Mesa acquifer to transport the coal in a 300 mile long slurry line to the Mojave Generating station in Laughlin, Neveda.

Life for those resisting is harsh due to constant harassment and surveillance by armed Bureau of Indian Affairs police, Hopi Tribal Rangers and other federal officials. Low overflights by fighter jets and attack helicopters create fear, scatter livestock and disrupt ceremonies. A few days ago, I received a phone call from the family I have worked most closely with for 16 years. I was told that a helicopter landed on a sacred site by the home of a resister family. 6 armed police got out and walked around, got back in and flew off only to land again a ways off before leaving. This occurred several times within a few days. Also, the BIA is hiring more police to escort impoundment crews that take the livestock of resisters. The children of resister families are harassed in school forcing some to stay home and risk losing food stamps due to lack of attendance. Over $35 million has been sent to 27 reservations for more law enforcement. How much has been sent for education? I have seen the conditions resister children face during years when most are receiving the education all deserve. Can the BIA be transformed into actually being of service? I fear the damage it has wreaked is far too great.

The fate of those relocated will be seen in retrospect as a major human rights violation of the late 20th centurty within U.S. borders. Thousands of relocatees have died over the past l5 years. Thousands are homeless and then there are those forced to live on the \"New Lands\" where the suicide rate is among the highest in the nation. The water source has been tainted by the largest nuclear spill in U.S. history when United Nuclear\'s Churchrock damn broke in 1973 spilling 97 million gallons of highly redioactive contaminants into the Rio Puerco. The barren landscape is not conducive to the raising of corn or the herding of sheep. People live in misery awaiting death. The promised training and jobs never materialized. Assimilation is no success story.

What is happening in the southwest is replicated in diverse variations in many towns bordering reservations. News of murders of Lakota people in Rapid City, South Dakota and White , Nebraska has hit some national press, but fails as well to draw the outrage of activists who appeared in numerous cities since the WTO demonstrations kicked in the new wave of resistance in November and December of l999.

If the BIA has failed Indian people and has continued to do so under the auspices of Kevin Gover, how will it change now? Can it become an agency of human rights when it\'s very purpose has been to further genocide? How will tribal councils (formed under the Indian Reorganization Act in the 30's to create legitimized governing bodies serving to access corporations and the federal government to the resources surprisingly discovered in unwanted lands)address grievances created by corporate rape and pillage? When will traditional voices ever be given a chance to be heard? The spirit of those who hold land and life to be sacred is continually silenced by the forces who claim authentic representation while pocketing profit by selling out the future from under their own children. Activists further the silencing by refusing to learn about genocide's uninterrupted flow that will take us all down with it. Urgent action is necessary. How will the peoples of Chiapas, who know of Big Mountain, Leonard Peltier and other Indian struggles, feel solidarity with American activists if we fail to do effective solidarity work?

Will global upholders of conscience be inspired, surprised by the new levels of courage, truth and action on the part of Kevin Gover, the BIA and the post WTO actions? We'll just have to see....


In Peaceful Struggle,

Swaneagle Harijan


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