Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Reclamation of an Indigenous Continent

[This essay was authored and presented by Roberto Rodriguez of Column of the Americas. He has asked readers to please post this essay, to forward and disseminate it widely. If you would like to receive news from the Column directly, write to them at:]

JUNE 19, 2006


Along the U.S.-Mexico border, the body count continues to pile updaily. Meanwhile, the Minutemen patrol the U.S.-Mexico border and shameless politicians find it easy to denounce illegal immigration as the cause of all the nation's problems – including linking it with"the war on terror."Amidst all the clatter, the only views not being heard are the ones that matter most. Thus here, we bring you a truly historic column, featuring the views of those that have come before us to these lands: American Indians:

"The immigration issues are many and are so very complex; however, we cannot have a productive dialogue about anything when we begin theconversation, thinking it is 'us against them' or when the truth' is only half true or we only use rhetoric to back our claims. We can't resolve any of these complex issues if we label our neighbor as an'immigrant and not as a relative, friend or human being."
Nadine Tafoya
Mescalero Apache -Salt River Pima -Maricopa
"I feel that as Native Peoples of the Americas, we have the right to be anywhere on this continent as we have for generations. To hear people telling my relatives that they are 'illegal aliens and criminals and to get out of our own land is very disturbing!"
Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, PhDPresident/Director, The Takini Network
"Indigenous peoples haven't known any borders. Colonial borders are new. It's ironic that essentially white men of privilege who created the category of white - that it is they who determine who gets permitted into our lands."
Winona LaDuke, founding director, White Earth Land Recovery Project
"From the point of view of the laws of the indigenous nations of North America, the Europeans are the original illegal immigrants in the area of North America. The United States… has, for more than 200 years, methodically and militarily violated indigenous law, and even solemn treaties, in order to take over and occupy the vast majority of the lands of Indigenous nations and peoples.… it is hypocritical in the extreme for the people of the United States to now pretend that it is a paragon of virtue, and a country that has always conducted itself on the basis of the rule of law."
Indian Law Scholar, Steven Newcomb
"The movement to try to force the Mexican people to learn the English language and the culture and traditions of America to stay in this country may not be totally successful. I can tell you from firsthand experience that when the federal government tried to strip me of my language and traditions, it did only a partial job, because of my resistance to being subdued. Today I am glad I have retained myculture, traditions and the Keres language, for that is where my heart and soul belong"
Katherine Augustine - Laguna Pueblo, retired nurse
"Too bad WE didn't think of insisting that European arrivals speak OUR language. We'd all be speaking Ojibwemowin right now."
Patty Loew, Assoc. Prof., UW-Madison
"In an important and emphatic way, the indigenous peoples of the Americas are reclaiming their continent, whether with the ballot, by boat, by air, or on foot. Let us call it repatriation on the march."
Shirley Hill Witt, Coauthor, El Indio Jesus
"The white supremacists masquerading as patriots are building a fence at the southern border to keep out the brown people. Notice that they aren't building a fence at the northern border… Recall too that the 9-11 terrorists were here legally, complete with freakin' flyernumbers. I'm for all the Native people to have cross-border privileges up and down our hemisphere, and would close the borders against all the peoples from other places who look down on us."
Suzan Shown Harjo - Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee - Director, Morning Star Institute
"I suspect at least half those people coming across that southern border are indigenous peoples who have been directly or indirectly affected by anti-indigenous rights policies and U.S. lead neo-liberal free trade regimes often resulting in the privatization of land. I am concerned the U.S-Mexico border is becoming a war zone giving rise to old world colonial attitudes spawning white-lead vigilante militias with U.S. military support. Indigenous peoples of the U.S. and our tribal governments must demand border justice and not be used by the homeland security program of the U.S. to undermine the civil liberties of our indigenous peoples and mestizo brothers and sisters of theLatin American countries."
Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network
"The argument used by the Minute Men, that their mission is to keep terrorists out of the U.S., cannot be ignored: With terrorist training camps recently found just north of the U.S.-Canadian border, their mission makes little sense and gives weight to my belief that the Minuteman movement is clearly racist. So is the new U.S. policy to keep our southern relatives out by militarizing the border to the south. Not that troops are wanted on the northern border either, but why send 6,000 troops to the southern border when no terrorists ever have been detained there?"
JoKay Dowell, Quapaw-Peoria-Cherokee, OK Eagle and Condor Indigenous Peoples' Alliance
"Indigenous peoples are brothers and sisters, regardless of which sideof the line drawn in the desert sand they are from. Our historic relations pre-date any European conquest. Our 'free trade' was much less conflictual, and was on more of an equal basis. Corporate 'free trade' is the driving force behind American politics and international actions…. It continues to be, contradictory to the interests of humanity."
woliwon chi miigwech, Karen S., Ypsilanti
"Are 'immigrants' the appropriate designation for the indigenous peoples of North America, for enslaved Africans and for the original European settlers? No. Are 'immigrants' the appropriate designation for Mexicans who migrate for work to the United States? No. They are migrant workers crossing a border created by US military force. Many crossing that border now are also from Central America, from the small countries that were ravaged by US military intervention in the 1980s and who also have the right to make demands on the United States. So, let's stop saying 'this is a nation of immigrants.'"
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz – mixed-Cherokee activist, professor, writer
"False and violent borders have been imposed upon our many peoples and upon the landscape, dissecting our Mother Earth, our home continent, in two and attempting to sever our deep connection with the land, and with each other… We maintain our recognition and respect for all our Indigenous brothers and sisters of the Western Hemisphere, with whom we traded, learned from, loved and laughed with for millennia. We are Indigenous, of this place on Mother Earth, called Turtle Island, the Middle Place, Abya Yala and the Fourth World. And we remain bonded together forever, knowing ourselves as the K'iche and Karuk, Saraguro and Cheyenne, the Cherokee, Xicano and Chumash, we are all relations."
Tia Peters, Zuni, Seventh Generation Fund
"If America is a shining beacon of hope for legal immigrants perhaps the laws should be adjusted to make it a reality for the illegal immigrants. They also see America as a place where dreams can be lived. Ironically, most of the illegal immigrants are Indians, or Indios as they are known in Mexico, and in Central and South America. Most of their ancestors did not come over on the Mayflower or on the Spanish galleons. They were indigenous to the Western Hemisphere."
Tim Giago, president, Native American Journalists Foundation
"Americans can say, surely not with pride, that our country knows from centuries of personal experience how unchecked immigration devastates life and why it's an issue that deserves the best of our thinking and empathy. These are thoughts that cross some of our minds when we hear rhetoric about the so-called invasion of illegal immigrants (many of whom are -- gasp -- Indians) and calls to protect "our" land. If we smile in response, it's not so much out of agreement. We see a paybackcoming home to roost."
David House - mixed Cherokee/Scots-Irish, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"It's never been clear to me why animosity exists toward today'si mmigrants, considering the founding fathers arrived as immigrants. Are today's anti-immigration voices afraid of a new Manifest Destiny?… Many Native prophecies foretell the demise of U.S. indigenous people from European invaders. But the stories also speak of a time when the land will be reclaimed by indigenous people.Perhaps the time has come.
Jodi Rave reports on Native issues for Lee Enterprises.
On Haudenosaunee citizenship & naturalization:
"Naturalization was not race-based as the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) granted citizenship to other ethnic groups. Once a person became a Haudenosaunee citizen they were expected to discard any previous connection to their birth nation. They had to speak an Iroquoian language, dress as Iroquois, contribute to the security of their host nation and provide for the well being of their new families and communities though a host of activities ranging from hunting, fishing, food preparation and home building. They took part in the elaborate ceremonies which defined Haudenosaunee spirituality and were given extensive instruction into the history, customs and beliefs of their new nation. In the end, the Haudenosaunee people expected the new citizen to undergo an almost complete transformation; physically, mentally and spiritually. This process worked extremely well… [it] secured our survival and provided for our prosperity"
Doug George-Kanentiio Mohawk writer
The Popul Vuh – one of the most important books ever written on this continent -- offers us a valuable lesson and roadmap about migration disputes. The volatile conflicts among the Maya finally ended when those who were new to the land accepted those who were here before them as their guides. In this spirit, we do the same. So too should the general public, Congress and the president.

Feel free to send your views to or 608-238-3161. You may also post them here.

The original bilingual columns are posted at:

Info regarding their Amoxtli San Ce Tojuan documentary and origins/migrations research can be found at:

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