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It may be that the Gallup even won’t resonate as strongly with some of you as it does me, but it’s been a continuing story in border towns across the Southwest for a long, long time. It’s all rooted in colonialism, of course, which requires the colonized to be considered second-, or even third-class citizens, essentially with no recourse to local law enforcement or the courts to defend them. The exceptions are First Americans who’ve reached ‘the pinnacles of success’, of course; the Ben Nighthorse Campbells of the nation (ptui).
When we moved to the Four Corners in 1973, we were flipped out when we discovered that there was a blatant two-tiered pricing system in Cortez at many of the businesses that could get away with it. One was sometimes quoted a price ‘for Whites’, and a higher one ‘for Navvies (Navajo/Dinehs) or Utes’. Ah, and especially for pickup trucks, the modern-day ‘Indun ponies’. Part of it was likely due to the fact that an entire segment of the redneck population erroneously believed that Utes, for instance, received large monthly stipends by the ‘federal gummint’. It wasn’t true then, nor is it now, but one thing was true: enrolled tribal members had money paid into interest-bearing accounts that were given to them on their 21st birthdays, and most of them wanted: pickup trucks. Hence, the rationale to gouge the young adults for them.
But that financial racism pales in comparison to our eventual discovery that ‘rolling drunk Induns in the parks’ (beating them senseless) or outright murdering them was almost a redneck rite of passage for some of the white supremacists coming of age. It’s undeniable that alcoholism is endemic among some Native tribes, and I strongly suspect that more research needs to be done on the biochemical links between the Indigenous being so prone to both diabetes and their craving for alcohol, while being at the same time allergic to it, but that’s a whole separate conversation.
One such killing in the late 70s was said to have been committed by the local sheriff’s son, and I don’t find it at all hard to credit. At the time, the sheriff was finally found to have been running his own drug ring out of an eight-sided house at which many dead bodies were discovered, and at least that fact finally caused the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to get involved.
During the same time frame and extending for years, sincerely ugly things were happening to First Americans in Farmington, NM, some of which was chronicled in former journalist Rod Barker’s book ‘The Broken Circle’, with its own brand of magical realism stirred in.
It may have been the militant Indigenous ‘riots’ in Farmington that finally caught the attention of the CO civil rights commission, perhaps even the New Mexico one, but those good folks did come to Cortez to hold hearings on the issue eventually. As so often happens, fearing local reprisal, few First Americans were brave enough to testify about the many beatings, murders, and (I assume) brutality by police that went on, but eventually the practices slowed down, if not stopped altogether. Who in the Anglo/Bilagnna world can say for certain?
How many, for instance, know how harassed and spied upon the Tohono O’odhom and other Indigenous near the Mexican border are by the ever-more militarized Border Patrol agents cum Homeland Security? Or how many times, and in how many ways the United Nations Declarations of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples have been either ignored, or worse, scoffed at? Or care how about the over 1000 aboriginal women who’ve been murdered in Canada since over the past two decades, or the many who’ve simply disappeared? (Hint: not Stephen Harper)
Or of the relentless resource grabs, including Indigenous land, water, and minerals all over Turtle Island, far too many to single out, but most recently Arizona and Utah seem to be riding the crest of that wave. But really, the Indigenous struggle against genocide, ecocide, and sociocide is global and interconnected by corporate capitalism and corruption.
Yes, it’s good to see civil actions protesting these issues, including the recent US #Caravana43 weeks-long (iirc) tour to protest the still-missing 43 Ayotzinapa teacher training students kidnapped by alleged drug lords at the behestst of the local Federales. (Background of the politics of the story here, including ‘US Collaboration in Mexico’s New Dirty War’) Many of the students are Guerrero Indigenous. Stops in San Francisco, Sacramento, Kansas City, Philly, Birmingham, Chicago and other cities to come, brought concerned activists out to the streets to join their budding ‘next Mexican revolution.
In Spanish, with English subtitles, this may make you feel the tragedy.
Now let’s turn to the march against indigenous racism and violence in Gallup on April 4. In his photo essay on the event, UNM professor David Corriea has captions under some of his photos, including these:
“The Red Nation, an Albuquerque-based group of indigenous activists and allies, prepared a march through Gallup, New Mexico on Saturday, April 4, 2015. Marchers demanded an end to racist violence against Native people in Gallup. Since 2013, when a detox center closed, more than 170 Native people died unnatural deaths in Gallup. The names of those people were printed on yellow signs and carried by marchers.”
“A 2008 Congressional investigation found that there was one payday lender in Gallup for every 500 residents, and 70 percent of the customers for these payday lenders were Native American. A New Mexico legislative investigation noted that some payday lenders and pawn operators charged interest rates greater than 1,500% APR”
Yes; Indun farming.
You might enjoy nuestro amigo ChéPasa’s ‘Down Country and the Persistence of Colonialism in New Mexico’ for his deeper and unconventional considerations on the subject.
The Red Nation also did a photo and video essay.
A dark and horrid statistic:
A Dineh song of resistance
‘Upon suffering beyond suffering, the Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world. A world of broken promises, selfishness and separations, a world longing for light again.
I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colours of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole earth will become one circle again….
I salute the light within your eyes where the whole universe dwells. For when you are at that centre within you, and I am at that place within me, we shall be one.’
~ Chief Crazy Horse, Oglala Sioux, 1877