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Mohawk and Tohono O'odham: Sovereignty

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Mohawk Warrior asserting sovereignty.
Tohono O’odham and Mohawk speak out on sovereignty, during the AIM West Conference

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

SAN FRANCISCO — Tohono O’odham human rights activists and Mohawk Warriors spoke out on sovereignty, during the American Indian Movement’s annual west coast conference.
Mike Wilson, Tohono O’odham, described documenting the abuse by the US Border Patrol and an increase in violence toward O’odham by border agents.
“The Tohono O’odham tribal government has completely surrendered to the US Homeland Security,” Wilson said.
Photo Mike Wilson putting out water for migrants 
on the Tohono O’odham Nation in 2006. 
Wilson’s water tanks were constantly under attack 
by the tribal government, which created a law
forbidding giving water to migrants, even those dying.
This desert region has one of the highest rates of 
migrant deaths. Photo Brenda Norrell
Wilson said people ask him why — if the Tohono O’odham is sovereign — is the US Border Patrol on the Tohono O’odham Nation.
“In Indian country, we are not sovereign nations, we are not even sovereign people,” Wilson said.
“If we were truly sovereign, why do we have Border Patrol, as far as I’m concerned it is an occupying army in Indian country.”
Wilson, who called in to the AIM West with an O’odham and O’otham delegation in southern Arizona, described how the United States is building 15 camera surveillance systems on the Tohono O’odham Nation.
He was referring to the spy cameras being built by Israel’s Elbit Systems, which US Homeland Security gave the current border surveillance contract to.
Wilson explained that this was only the beginning.
“It is not only Tohono O’odham Nation.” Wilson said that what goes on in Tohono O’odham country can happen on any tribal land. He said Homeland Security has jurisdiction on any tribal land in this country.
Wilson asked if tribal governments are not protecting tribal members, “What recourse do we have in a civil society against systemic violations by the US Border Patrol?”
Mark Maracle, Mohawk Warrior, responded on the issue of sovereignty. 
Maracle said that Mohawks do not wait for anyone to tell them that they are sovereign.
“You don’t have sovereignty unless you assert sovereignty,” Maracle told Censored News.
“The United States and Mexico are not sovereign nations.”
“We tell them we are sovereign. We don’t wait for them to tell us that we are sovereign. We tell them. If you want sovereignty, you have to make sacrifices.”
Maracle said Mohawks have stood up against the state police, federal agents and all forms of government.
“We keep reminding them that this land belongs to us,” Maracle said.
Maracle said it is the same as dealing with bullies and cowards.
“They have to remember the power is in the people.”
“The worst enemies are our own people, the ones who are traitors. Traitors for the invaders.”
He said people have to be strong and need assertive, good spokespeople. Maracle said Indian people should not try and use the laws of the United States.
“You can not use their laws against them. That is why we have laws.”
Maracle said he is speaking because he was given the right to speak by the Mohawk clan mothers.
As for Treaty organizations, he said that not one Indian treaty was recognized by the governments.
“As far as we are concerned, all treaties are void.”
Maracle, quoting Sitting Bull, said, “Money is soon gone, but land is forever.”
Mohawks go after solutions, he said, they don’t just focus on the problems.

“You have to sit down and come to one mind.”


By Brenda Norrell, Censored News

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Brenda Norrell has been a news reporter in Indian country for 29 years, serving as a writer for Navajo Times and a stringer for AP and USA Today during the 18 years she lived on the Navajo Nation. After being a longtime staff reporter for Indian Country Today, she was censored and terminated. She then created Censored News, focused on Indigenous Peoples and human rights, now in its fifth year.


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