SAN FRANCISCO -- The AIM West Conference began today with a memorial for Darrell Standing Elk. Darrell was honored by his family, friends and Tony Gonzales. Darrell was remembered for his spiritual guidance, his humor, and the warmth of his love that he blanketed on others.
Darrell was honored, and Russell Means was also recognized. Darrell's daughter Sue also pointed out the missing and murdered Indigenous women. Right now Dennis Banks granddaughter Rose Downwind of Minnesota is missing.
During the afternoon session on Saturday, Mike Wilson, Tohono O'odham, described documenting abuse by the US Border Patrol and an increase in violence toward O'odham.
"The Tohono O'odham tribal government has completely surrendered to the US Homeland Security." Wilson said people ask 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 described how the US is building 15 camera surveillance systems on the Tohono O’odham Nation.
"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 said 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."
On far right, Meldon Fulwilder, Salt River O'otham, with Marcos in Sonora, Mexico. Photo Brenda Norrell
Meldon Fulwilder, O' otham, Salt River Pima, described how the Border Patrol pulled him over at gunpoint.
Meldon described how the US Border Patrol agents pull over the O'odham elders and search their vehicles.
Meldon described a sacred run to the sacred sites in the Tohono O'odham area. He said it is now hard to cross the border to sacred places. He said these traditional routes should be available for crossing for the traditional people.
"That's how it is done here."
"The Border Patrol is out of control."
Meldon said the traditional people still go into Sonora, Mexico, to the sacred places and people, but there are these obstacles.
Meldon said on Salt River Pima, the ceremonies are being brought back. It was the loss of Gila River water that brought the ancestors of the people to Salt River.
David Garcia, Tohono O'odham, described efforts with the ACLU to document abuses by the US Border Patrol agents. "More and more people are stepping forward and sharing the abuse."
Garcia said there have been shootings, and without the media, one O’odham could have gone to prison for decades.
Garcia said that they are bringing these issues to the international arena.
Currently, Garcia said the struggle includes fighting new legislation, S750 pushed by Arizona Sen. John McCain, that would waive more federal laws and expand the US Border Patrol jurisdiction along the US border.
Garcia said the Tohono O'odham Nation is being used as a stepping stone for actions that could be expanded to other regions.
Garcia described the huge surveillance towers now planned for the Tohono O'odham Nation.
Lipan Apache from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, described their struggle for recognizance in Mexico and their difficulty in crossing the border.
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