Posts Tagged ‘ocelots’

Central Park to Sabal Palms

April 8, 2008

Nailing down Homeland Security’s plans is like trying to spot the elusive ocelot. When asked whether the agency intends to build the Fence north of the sanctuary, its chief spokesman, Russ Knocke, said: “I can’t rule that out, but I cannot also definitely tell you that that will be the case.”

It is quotes like this which make Dan Barry’s New York Times article about Sabal Palms Audobon Sanctuary important in framing our national conflict over the Secure Fence Act. The wall has millions of detractors with very valid reasons, from my students whose heritage and extended family would be affronted by such a wall to outspoken advocates for the endangered species huddling in these last remaining stands of a lost ecosystem. The federal government and a few outspoken, if misinformed, syndicated talk-show hosts keep lauding the wall as an answer to everything from immigration to terrorism and drug smuggling. They do not let the facts get in the way, nor their own statements about the wall being a $50 billion deterrent rather than a panacea.

New York Central Park, 2006

The indefiniteness of the Secure Fence Act could be attributed to either indecision or misdirection, and since the United States government seems more determined than ever to build a wall, one must assume the latter. Last week, heavy equipment cleared brush from the levee in Brownsville’s Southmost community, presumably in anticipation of wall construction through this tight-knit community. Some residents hadn’t ever caught wind of a wall, perhaps because the proposed plans were 600+ pages in English and only 30 pages in Spanish. Other people we talked to in the Amigoland Mall community this week doubted that the wall would bisect their houses. They had heard that the plans for the wall circumvented their community; what they didn’t know was that this was only Plan B, and the government has still not specified which plan they will follow or how faithfully they will follow these plans. The only clarification they keep reiterating is this: it is coming, and it is coming fast.

Jimmy Paz, the director of Audobon’s Sabal Palms Sanctuary, is equally at home with noisy chachalacas and my students he also refers to as “Chachalacas” because their incessant teenage chit-chat sounds like the birds nesting in his refuge. At 62, he has walked these paths more than 50 years, observed Border Patrol and new immigrants come and go, seen some birds make a comeback and other species fade into shadows. He realizes the importance of the ground he stands upon, the grounds he invites my students to walk and clean sometimes. Paz, whose Spanish surname means “peace,” realizes the tranquility his stand of virgin Sabal Palm forest can offer city dwellers and native Brownsvillers. He understands that wildlife is one of the Rio Grande Valley’s greatest assets, with eco-tourism being the 3rd largest industry in Brownsville. It is with the full weight of this knowledge, then, that he says building a wall to cut of his wildlife sanctuary is akin to “…putting a fence around Central Park.”

Having lived in both Manhattan and Brownsville, I can recognize the collective pride both communities share for their parks. What the Brownsville sanctuary lacks in park benches and ice-skating and dog-walkers it more than makes up for in endangered species, migrating butterflies, and bird-watchers. Central Park is the pride of New York, and to see my students’ eyes light up as birders told them the distances they’d traveled to come for Brownsville’s beauty, it was clear that refuges like Sabal Palms are the pride of la frontera.

Dan Barry’s article in the New York Times is noteworthy most because it connects these two distant communities. If New Yorkers could understand the peaceful coexistence here on the border, they would most assuredly stand in opposition to a wall’s disruption. If the refugees with whom I waitered could see the harmony of new immigrants and old residents, Spanish-speakers and English-only citizens in the Valley, they would be outspoken against this symbol of division. If the NYPD could see the way the Border Patrol lends its watchtowers for hawk-sightings sometimes or the way Sabal Palms has sensors to monitor illegal activity, they would surely campaign for more of this cooperation and less rigid and costly barriers. If Times Square were made aware of Jimmy Paz and his birds in Brownsville, the Secure Fence Act of 2006 would seem the unconscionable, ill-planned, destructive and distracting suggestion that it truly is.

Sabal Palms Spanish Moss, November 2007

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Native Americans Take a Stand on the Border Wall

March 5, 2008

    What is an American? What constitutes a native of this nation of united states? This question has been raised for centuries, with a myriad of answers. Harry Truman stated that, “being an American is more than a matter of where your parents came from. It is a belief that all men are created free and equal and that everyone deserves an even break.” Alexander Tocqueville, in predicting the faith-based nonviolence of the 1960’s, wrote, “Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” America has been described as a melting pot, a salad, a patchwork quilt, a list of hyphenated names – all these different metaphors only emphasize the fact that the United States is a working amalgamation of like-minded immigrants from a plethora of countries, cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs.

    Native Americans surely define Americans differently.  Indigenous people must look at this country as a nation of upstart immigrants. Their immigration over the Atlantic or the Bering Land Bridge happened so long ago that “Native” has become a part of their name. Recent immigration of the past 300-400 years has irrevocably changed their lands, their rituals, their ceremonies, and their daily lives. Immigration brought disease which wiped out thousands, hunters which slaughtered hundreds of thousands of buffalo, lumberjacks who felled the virgin forests, railroads and highways which shrunk the vast continent before their disbelieving eyes. Immigration, and the resulting dishonest treaties, robbed them of ancestral land and resigned them to criminally minuscule plots like the Choctaw in Mississippi or the Lipan Apache of Texas.

    Native Americans have experienced terrorism on a grand scale and immigration beyond their imagination. So it is from a place of well-grounded knowledge and unique perspective that Native American tribes band together to oppose the Secure Fence Act of 2006, an action which supposedly wold eliminate both of these issues.

    Perhaps Native American tribes oppose a border wall because they recognize no terrorists have thus far been apprehended crossing the Mexican border. As Chertoff stated, “I don’t see any imminent threat of terrorists infiltrating from Mexico.” Maybe Native American tribes feel that a wall is more terrorizing than what it would allegedly protect. Perhaps Indigenous Peoples see enough terror in racial profiling, unwarranted xenophobic television shows, and nativistic rhetoric from “new natives.”

    Native Americans most assuredly recognize that the cost of the Secure Fence Act of 2006 will dwarf any of its intended benefits. Native Americans, with their long history of interconnectedness with Nature, can clearly see the destructive environmental effects this wall will surely have on their reservations, endangered animals like ocelots, thick-billed parrots, and Sonoran Pronghorns, last stands of Sabal Palms, wildlife preserves and birding refuges we’ve spend decades and billions of dollars preserving. Native American tribes like the Lakota, Mohawk, Oneida, Navajo, Acoma Pueblo, Hopi, and O’odham understand, and have understood for centuries, that immigration must be reformed and legislated so that immigrants have a net positive impact on their receiving society and culture and so that their rights are intact. From lessons throughout history, Native Americans would be first to second Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement, “Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds” (Martin Luther King Autobiography 189).

    Here is a segment of the declaration set forth by the Participants in the Indigenous Peoples Border Summit of the Americas II on Nov. 10, 2007, San Xavier, Tohono O’odham Nation:

 

Segment from the final declaration adopted by the Participants in the Indigenous Peoples Border Summit of the Americas II on Nov. 10, 2007, San Xavier, Tohono O’odham Nation

We express our collective outrage for the extreme levels of suffering and inhumanity, including many deaths and massive disruption of way of life, that have been presented to this Summit as well as what we have witnessed in our visit to the border areas during the Summit as a result of brutal and racist U.S. policies being enforced on the Tohono O’odham traditional homelands and elsewhere along the U.S./Mexico border.

We also recognize that many of our inherent, sacred, and fundamental human rights, including our cultural rights and freedom of religion, self-determination and sovereignty, environmental integrity, land and water rights, bio-diversity of our homelands, equal protection under the law, Treaty Rights, Free Prior Informed Consent, Right to Mobility, Right to Food and Food Sovereignty, Right to Health, Right to Life, Rights of the Child, and Right to Development among others, are being violated by current border and “immigration” policies of various settler governments.

We also strongly affirm the message expressed by many of the Indigenous delegates at this gathering: to be sovereign, and to be recognized as sovereign, we must act sovereign and assert our sovereignty in this and all other matters.

We therefore present this report with the intention of proposing, developing, and strengthening real and effective solutions to this critical issue:

We call upon the United Nations and the International community:

  • To end international policies which support economic globalization, “free-trade agreements,” destruction of traditional food systems and traditional land-based economies, and land and natural resource appropriation which result in the forced relocation, forced migration, and forced removal of Indigenous Peoples in Mexico, Guatemala, and other countries, and cause Indigenous Peoples to leave their homelands and seek economic support for their families in other countries.
  • To ensure that the UN human rights system pressures States to provide protection and take action to prevent the violence, abuse, and imprisonment of Indigenous woman and children along the borders who often bear the worse effects of current policies; to also implement immediate and urgent measures and provide oversight to end the physical, physiological, and sexual violence that is currently being perpetrated against them with impunity as a result of their migrant status, whether it is being carried out by employers, human traffickers, private contractors, and/or government agents.
  • To implement International Laws and mechanisms to prohibit the practice by the United States and other States of the production, storage, export, and use of banned and toxic pesticides and other chemicals on the lands of Indigenous Peoples.
  • To provide protection under its mechanism addressing Human Rights Defenders to review and monitor all laws and policies which criminalize humanitarian aid to immigrating persons and provide protection for those carrying out these humanitarian acts.
  • To call upon the United Nations Permanent Forum 7th Session to recognize and take into consideration this Report and its recommendations and to transmit them to the United Nations system to ensure their implementation.
  • To establish as a priority by the Human Rights Council, its committees, subsidiary bodies, Special Rapporteurs; the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, and other Treaty monitoring bodies; the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; and all other appropriate UN bodies and mechanisms to monitor the compliance to international Human Rights obligation of the United States, Mexico, Canada, and all other States in the creation and implementation of Border and immigration policies, in particular those affecting Indigenous Peoples.
  • To call upon the CERD to specifically examine U.S. immigration laws, policies, and practices as a form of racially based persecution and racial discrimination.

We call upon State/Country Governments and Federal Agencies:

  • To fully honor, implement, and uphold the Treaties, Agreements, and Constructive Arrangements which were freely concluded with Indigenous Peoples and First Nations, in accordance with their original spirit and intent as understood by the respective Indigenous Peoples.
  • To fully implement, honor, and respect the rights to land, natural resources, and Self- determination, which includes the right to freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development, for Indigenous Peoples in their traditional home lands.
  • To immediately initiate effective consultations with impacted indigenous peoples who are divided by borders for the development of respectful guidelines relating to border crossings by those indigenous peoples which ensure the recognition of each indigenous nation as culturally distinct and politically unique autonomous peoples and uphold their rights to move freely and maintain relationships within their homelands.
  • To respect and facilitate the use of Indigenous Nations/tribal passports, identifications, and immigration documents for travel across imposed borders, specifically tribes along settler borders between Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
  • To end to the militarization of the U.S./Mexico border along all Tribal and Indian Nation lands, and an end to military and law-enforcement activity and occupation in Indigenous Peoples’ lands everywhere, without their free, prior informed consent.
  • To end forced assimilation perpetuated by immigration policies which categorize of Indigenous Peoples as “white” or “Hispanic/Latino” while they are in the process immigrating, acquiring residency and/or naturalization in the United States or other countries.
  • To end the production and export of pesticides which have been banned for use in the United States and other countries, and to accept full legal accountability for the health and environmental impacts of such chemicals that have contaminated Indigenous peoples, their health, lands, waters, traditional subsistence, food systems, and sacred sites.
  • To end to the continual violation of the Native American Freedom of Religion Act and the destruction, desecration, and denial of access for Indigenous Peoples to their sacred sites and cultural objects along the border areas, and to enforce all cultural, religious freedom, and environmental protection laws and polices for federal agencies operating in these regions.
  • To provide protection for and end the intimidation of Indigenous and other peoples providing humanitarian aid along and within tribal lands to Indigenous and other displaced migrant peoples crossing the borders and to call for an immediate end to the criminalization of such expressions of basic human caring and assistance.
  • To end to the ongoing environmental contamination, ecosystem destruction, and waste dumping on Indigenous and tribal lands along the border by the military, border patrols, and private contractors doing business with federal agencies.
  • To ensure that the U.S. Border Patrol and other federal agencies operating on or near Indigenous Peoples’ lands are held fully and legally accountable for restoration, reparations, and/or remediation of any damages or harm they have caused to peoples, ecosystems, and places, in full consultation with the affected persons and Peoples.
  • To reinstate the Sovereign rights of Indigenous Peoples whose rights and status have been terminated through colonialist rule of law and daily practices of forced assimilation in all countries.
  • To ensure respect for Indigenous Peoples’ land and resource rights in their own homelands in all countries as the most effective way to address immigration issues and Indigenous Peoples’ human rights concerns overall.
  • To implement humane immigration policies that fully respect the inherent human rights of all Peoples and persons and fully comply with States’ obligations under International Human Rights Law.

It is with great pleasure that the Border Ambassadors partner with members of the Lipan Apache Band of Texas. We also hope that our invitations to Wallace Coffey of the Comanche Nation, and Billy Evans Horse of the Kiowa Tribe will be appreciated, and that they and they will unite with us in solidarity against the border wall this March 8-16 with the No Border Wall Walk.