Indigenous Peoples Southern Border Rights Campaign
By Brenda Norrell
TUCSON -- In the new Southern Border Rights Campaign, the Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras/Indigenous Alliance Without Borders, is working toward national guidelines to ensure border rights for Indigenous Peoples in their homelands, from California to Texas.
Indigenous Alliance Without Borders director Jose Matus, Yaqui, said recent meetings were held with members of the Gila River Indian Nation, Cocopah Nation and Kumeyaay Nation, along with meetings in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The purpose was to network and solicit support for a Southern Border Rights Campaign. The Alliance is working toward national guidelines and a manual for Southern Indigenous Border Rights at the U.S./Mexico Border region.
Matus, Yaqui ceremonial leader, has traveled to Yaqui communities in Sonora, Mexico for thirty years to bring Yaqui ceremonial leaders to the United States for temporary stays for ceremonial purposes. At the US border, there were repeatedly harassments and detainments of ceremonial leaders and their families.
Indigenous Peoples living along the border in their traditional homelands, from California to Texas, continue to be harassed and intimidated by US federal agents, including the US Border Patrol, and local enforcement agencies working with Homeland Security. The situation has not improved under the Obama Administration.
While the United States piously demands that other countries assure basic human rights to their citizens, the United States remains one of the greatest offenders of the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were the four countries that refused to vote in favor of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The stated rights include the right to prior and informed consent and the right to traditional territories.
The Alliance said, "The militarization of the southern US border with Mexico threatens the survival of Indigenous Peoples living on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico borderline. Our survival as Peoples depends largely on our ability to practice our ancient Indigenous languages, spiritual beliefs, culture and ceremonies in privacy and community without interference. This is not merely a cultural and spiritual concern; it is a matter of human right that exists in the U.S. legal statues, U.S. Constitution and International Law."
Matus said the following statement by the Indigenous Alliance Without Borders was completed in cooperation with the International Indian Treaty Council:
"Southern Border Crossing for Indigenous Peoples And the Lack of U.S.-Mexico Border Rights & Justice
By Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras/Indigenous Alliance Without Borders
The United States is quiet about the U.S. vote of ‘NO' to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples"
‘We did not Cross the Border, The Border Crossed Us'
The militarization of the southern US border with Mexico threatens the survival of indigenous peoples living on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico borderline. Our survival as Peoples depends largely on our ability to practice our ancient Indigenous languages, spiritual beliefs, culture and ceremonies in privacy and community without interference. This is not merely a cultural and spiritual concern; it is a matter of human right that exists in the U.S. legal statues, U.S. Constitution and International Law.
It is well known that the US was one of four countries voting against the recently adopted United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is dishonest for a government that lauds itself throughout the world as a Nation of Laws and protector of Human Rights to vote against the basic rights of Indigenous Peoples in its own country as well as the rights of hundreds of millions of Indigenous Peoples throughout the world.
To restore American credibility and make progress on these issues the Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras will advance a vision of responsible local, regional and international engagement that emphasizes human rights, solidarity and cooperation in an interdependent world, realizing that progress on compelling southern border problems will require the active support of friends, allies, and other major stakeholders in the local, regional and international community.
With that purpose, the Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras is spearheading the first ever Southern border transnational collaboration of Indigenous Peoples to address the rights of mobility and passage, militarization of the southern border and seek national policy on Southern Indigenous Peoples' border rights, justice and recognition for the cultural and religious rights of Indigenous Peoples, and their traditional ceremonial leaders.
Our goal is to create a strategic collaboration along the US-Mexico border among Indigenous Nations/communities and their organizations, allies and partners. We also propose future collaboration, mutual support and solidarity with northern border tribes including the Dakota-Nakota 7 Council Fires of South Dakota, who engaged in similar issues along the US-Canada border. Our aim is to unite Indigenous communities across borders in bringing key Indigenous Rights issues to the U.S. Government and 00international arena, in particular to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Department of State and the United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples.
As Indigenous Peoples, we must come together as one organized voice - we must speak for ourselves. Therefore, the Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras asks for the support of all Indigenous Peoples, friends, community allies and partners to stand in support of the fundamental sovereign principles of our traditional Indigenous cultural beliefs. Our social justice journey is to establish Indigenous human/civil rights, cultural survival and protection of our Indigenous languages, and the protection of mother earth and sacred sites at the southern border.
Networking and Coalition Building to promote Indigenous Southern Border Rights & Justice
Solutions may only be possible with consistent political pressure, an organized Indigenous community and the support of human rights organizations locally, nationally and internationally. Assistance and support will also be required from federally recognized border tribes who would also benefit from the restoration of mobility for their members on the south side of the border fence.
The best strategy for defending Indigenous rights, the rights of indigenous people's mobility and passage of the U.S.-Mexico southern border must involve a combination of factors and strategies, including mobilizations of Indigenous communities and tribal councils, creating political pressure, the use of domestic courts and international human rights mechanisms.
Approaches through U.S. Domestic Law and Policy
Southern Indigenous Peoples can seek remedies to secure border crossing rights for their Mexican Indigenous relatives through:
· Federal Indian law and legislation, both at the State and Federal level;
· Internationally-established human right to maintain their cultures and cultural connections across international boundary which may be secured by seeking the proper interpretation of the Native American Languages Act of 1996, and the American Indian Religious Act of 1978 as amended in 1996;
· Seeking legislative changes to ensure that all Mexican Indigenous Peoples are allowed access to the United States equal to that of Canadian Indigenous Peoples and the Jay Treaty;
· Extending the program used for one southern border tribe, the Kickapoo, by issuing American Indian cards (Form I-872) to all southern border tribes and creating new guidelines under which a tribal membership/tribal affiliation card from southern border tribe would be sufficient for entry for Mexican members of that tribe;
Strategies for gaining Southern Indigenous Border Rights
· Generate pressure on the US Government to accept the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
· Pursue remedies for violation of their internationally-recognized human rights through two major international human rights systems, the United Nation (UN) and of the Organization of American States (OSA);
· Seek solidarity and support from other allies, friends and partners;
· Reinforce our efforts by conducting trainings, conferences, and disseminating information about our rights.
Approaches through International Law
Communicate our concerns to UN Human Rights Council Special Procedures, such as the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, and the newly created mandate, the Independent Expert on the Right to Culture;
File Shadow Reports with appropriate Treaty Monitoring Bodies under UN Human Rights Treaties to which the US is a State Party, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD);
Consider using the CERD Committee's Urgent Action/Early Warning procedure in urgent cases;
Attend the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues as several of its agenda items for 2010 are appropriate for the raising of these trans-border issues; Meet and network with other Indigenous Peoples from North America concerned with trans-border issues."