Saturday, May 5, 2007

Indigenous Alliance Without Borders

Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras Gathering

Indigenous Peoples' communities and their aboriginal territories are dissected by the international border from Texas to California, including the Kickapoo, Tigua, Yaqui, O'odham, Cocopah, Pima, Yavapai, Apache and Kumeyaay
By Christina Leza
Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras

TUCSON, Ariz. -- On Saturday April 28th the Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras/Indigenous Alliance Without Borders held a gathering for its members in Tucson, Arizona near the U.S.-Mexico international border in the Southwestern United States. The gathering was attended by both Alianza members and staff, as well as invited members of indigenous and human rights organizations and local indigenous communities. Representatives of the indigenous peoples community development organization Tonatierra were present to talk about their work in the international indigenous movement and its relationship to the indigenous border rights issues addressed by the Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras. Tupac Enrique Acosta of Tonatierra also delivered a message from Gerald One Feather of the Oceti Sakowin (Lakota Nation) inviting the Alianza and the Yaqui people to a Seven Council Fires ceremonial event in July to discuss shared goals in gaining recognition for indigenous rights of passage across U.S. international borders. At this recent Alianza gathering, the need to establish a North-South U.S. indigenous border alliance was discussed as a critical goal for developing policy recommendations that address the rights of indigenous peoples along U.S. borders.

The Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras is an indigenous grassroots organization committed to promoting respect and protection of indigenous rights for indigenous peoples on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly rights of mobility and passage for members of indigenous communities divided by the southern international border. The Alianza was founded in August of 1997, when indigenous peoples on the southern border gathered in the lands of the Tohono O’odham Nation in Southern Arizona to discuss U.S. border crossing policies impacting indigenous communities along the border. Since this time, the alliance formed of individual tribal community members has worked to protect the rights of indigenous ceremonial participants to safely move across the border that now divides formerly united indigenous communities. Since the tragedy of 9/11, policies to heighten U.S. border security have increased the difficulty of indigenous community members to maintain their rights of passage and traditional ties to their communities. U.S. southern indigenous nations affected by such policies include the Kumeyaay in California, the Cocopah, the Tohono O’odham, the Akimel O’Odham, and the Yavapai-Apache in Arizona, and the Kickapoo in Texas. To better secure safe border passage for members in these communities, the Alianza discussed plans to conduct Know Your Rights workshops within indigenous communities in Sonora, Mexico and strengthen connections to indigenous councils and organizations in Mexico. The organization also discussed plans to hold passport application workshops for U.S. tribal members along the southern border in preparation for new U.S. international travel requirements beginning in January 2008 that will require presentation of a valid passport from anyone crossing between the U.S. and Mexico by land or sea, in addition to travel by air—a requirement that will severely affect border indigenous community members who travel across the border regularly to maintain family and community ties.

Following the gathering, two members of the Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras further addressed such policy issues as part of a discussion panel on indigenous border issues that concluded the “Braving Borders Building Bridges: A Journey for Human Rights” tour hosted by the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) in partnership with the Coalicíon de Derechos Humanos and the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Alianza panel members Anabel Galindo and David Jaimez, also of the Yoeme Commission for Human Rights on the Pascua Yaqui Reservation, along with Tohono O’odham activist Ofelia Rivas of O’odham Voice Against the Wall, spoke of human rights violations against indigenous peoples along the border. Such discussions between human rights organizations is significant, as the Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras Project Director Jose Matus recently stated, “The social change and justice movement must come together as one human movement and develop alliances with indigenous rights, immigrant rights, LGBT, labor, religious groups, youth, and other people of color human/civil rights movements to foster leadership development in order to promote common purposes, mutual support and resource sharing among organizations.” Also discussed at the Alianza gathering were plans to increase communication with indigenous community members and activist organizations to create a resolution for an indigenous “Border Justice Campaign” plan of action.

On the following Saturday, May 5th, a staff representative of the Alianza and Ofelia Rivas of O’odham Voice Against the Wall also spoke with Jorge Bustamante, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, during a visit to Tucson by Mr. Bustamante to hear testimonies of human rights abuses on the southern border. The fact that many of the migrants who are criminalized for their passage through unauthorized ports of entry to the U.S. or who die in the Sonora desert attempting this entry are indigenous peoples from throughout Latin America whose potential earnings in the U.S. contribute to the economic and cultural survival of their home communities was addressed during this discussion. Also addressed was the difficulty of obtaining U.S. support and recognition for existing international law supporting rights of international passage for the cultural and economic activities of indigenous peoples, such as ILO Convention 169 which expressly states the responsibility of governments, “to take appropriate measures, including by means of international agreements, to facilitate contacts and co-operation between indigenous and tribal peoples across borders,” (International Labour Organization Convention No. 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, Part VII, “Contacts and Co-operation Across Borders,” Article 32 1991). Mr. Bustamente promised to deliver information provided by representatives of both indigenous organizations to Professor Rodolfo Stavenhagen, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have heard that Mexican Yaquis have a right to dual citizenship.
Is there any truth to this? I am trying to help someone who is a Yaqui from Sonora Mexico.

Could you please direct me to someone I may be able to contact for him, or he could contact to help answer any questions?

Than you