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  • Writer's pictureAntonio Gonzales

Quechan People vs. Mining Company & Indigenous Lead Homeless Advocacy—Across Indian Lands: 03/17/23

Across Indian Lands 03-17-2023

This transcript was edited and proofed for accuracy, made with the help of the built-in transcription & dictation feature in Microsoft Word. If you find any errors in this transcription please feel free to leave us a message by going here to Contact us https://www.aim-west.org/contact.

To hear to the original audio, go to www.aim-west.org/acrossindianlands and click on March 17th, 2023’s episode to listen or download.

00:00:00 Tony Gonzales

Aho all my relations welcome to another segment Across Indian Land. This is Tony Gonzalez, your host tonight, March 17th. And tonight we'll be speaking with Marcus Ramirez, Dmitra Smith and Ka’Lane Raposa of Santa Rosa. They'll talk to us about the their concern for the most vulnerable people there in Sonoma County, at a facility where a lot of medical problems have happened, there's been a murder and few people that have passed away. They'll give us some insight on what they're doing there about that. We will also be speaking with Bradley Angel, the executive director of Green Action.

He'll talk to us as well as Preston Arrowweed and also Faron Owl, and they'll talk to us about gold mining.

That's going on in their territory in Southern California and the need to protect these sacred sites.

And of course, the use of cyanide and mercury that goes along with that, just really compounds the problem and much worse, my relatives. So let's listen in on that.

I just want to say real quickly…a reminder to those of you that we just had a KPFA fundraiser.

It was successful, however, people did make promises for donations, so keep that money rolling in so we can keep the radio going another 75 years! My relatives now let's go into that interview with the Marcos Ramirez, Dmitra Smith and Ka’Lane Raposa,

Aho all my relatives, and on the line we have Marcos Ramirez, Dmitra Smith and Ka’Lane Raposa, and I had spoken to Marcos Ramirez in the past two to three weeks [when] he brought to my attention what's going on there in in Santa Rosa, just north of San Francisco here in California, my relatives, indeed working with the most vulnerable people, in that area of the population in Sonoma County. We we have a homeless and situation and people living in facilities that are dying. There are murders, and there's a lot of questions.

Marcos, why don't you please introduce our guest [and yourself] and tell us what what you have been doing. I know that there was a demonstration and you had a meeting with the city county yesterday as well. Please bring us up to date.


00:02:59 Marcos Ramirez

Thanks Tony for having me on. Yeah, I work with a mutual aid organization up here called Sonoma County Acts of Kindness, and we're out on the street every day developing relationships with our unsheltered neighbors, feeding folks. And so part of that, those relationships is we get to follow people on their journey to come into, or out of, [and] off the streets, into systems of care in this county. In practice, a lot of these systems are quite horrible and you know, they don't actually protect people and actually expose people to even more risk.

So that's kind of what we've been up to and supporting Ka’Lane was a former resident there at a facility called the Palms Inn and and Ka’Lane came to a broader coalition with Dmitra and a bunch of other folks and said I need support. And I need help and because the the number of folks that are dying or getting sick or fearing reprisal from these these organizations is is through the roof and it needs to be investigated so that culminated in a event yesterday and Ka’Lane and Dmitra should both speak about some of the work that they've been doing…Dmitra?


00:04:36 Dmitra Smith

Thank you so much for having me on, Tony, really appreciate this.

You know, I'm the former chair of the Commission on Human Rights and I still work in the Community with various organizations and also independently as a human rights monitor and activist…I [have] watched the county and the city of Santa, not engage in the innovative housing solutions that have been, you know, found to actually work like tiny homes—something I've been advocating for since 2013. And that's actually how I met Ka’Lane because he had done some incredible reports and just deep work on, you know, evidence based data and the practices that actually work in terms of how we approach homelessness in a holistic way. [Ka’Lane has] really laid the path forward [on homeless advocacy], but I found that folks weren't listening to him because of who he is.

We know that our black indigenous people of color here in Sonoma County have experienced generational erasure, and myself as an Afro indigenous person definitely experienced that in my work.

So when Ka’Lane came forward, I began to go to the palms and and and learn from him about what was happening there. We just could not get any support.

So over the years, folks have continued to die, continued to get sick as Marcos indicated. And then recently there was a murder of a black man—Will Woodard in December. Ka’Lane had been warning the administration of the Palms Inn and Catholic Charities and the City Council and the Board of Supervisors that the conditions were unsafe and that this was going to result in someone getting killed.

So this finally happened, this tragedy. So we came together immediately to push back to actually go into the Palms Inn and interview residents [bringing] forward an 85 page report of words and lived experience, from the folks that are living there—our most vulnerable populations.

We know that in Sonoma County, our California Indian people, our Native folks make up 1.5% of the population, yet are 10% and rising of our unsheltered community. We also know that many of our Indigenous folks cannot even come forward and engage with these homeless systems. [These systems] are harmful, there is a lack of cultural competency, and those systems are harmful to our California Indian people.

We've had a case of a woman coming forward experiencing sexual assault and being arrested with two advocates present despite reporting sexual assault. We had another case of an elder…with an adult son with disabilities experiencing extreme bias within one of these shelter systems. So [because] we see that our Native folks are actually homeless on their own land and unable to engage with these systems, and the palms in is one of these areas that we have been trying to make change in.


00:08:08 Tony Gonzales

Dmitra, this Palms Inn, where all this seems to be happening concentrated on right now, that's the southern part of Santa Rosa, the city itself. Maybe we can hear from Ka’Lane Raposa with his experiences, ad then we'll come back to you and see what the outcome was at yesterday's meeting. Ka’Lane could you introduce yourself?

00:08:36 Ka’Lane Raposa

Good morning. Please thank you for having me on. I moved into the Palms [Inn] shortly after it opened. In the beginning it really was the premium model of housing 1st and permanent supportive housing. There was a lot of programs and a lot of volunteers and a lot of staff. But after probably the first year it started to deteriorate and the staff started filling out. Volunteers were no longer showing up, the program started getting cut.

Then just prior to COVID-19, it had gone from a from a model for permanent supportive housing to [being the same as] any flophouse that you found in any urban area. The only people that came around where the prostitutes, the drug dealers and the addicts. When I warned the staff that things were getting bad there, those warnings went unrecognized and unheard. And so I started reaching out to the management there and the owner and I thought I was going to get some traction with him explaining how dangerous the place had become, but they only payed me lip service.

It was then that I got a hold of some other people to get some help and try to mediate meetings between the Human Rights Commission, Dimitri and some other organizations, and the the owners of the Palms. Not to put [the owners] on blast, but to work in the spirit of cooperation to try and solve this problem. But those meetings never came to fruition.

So I filed a grievance against Catholic charities, and I sent a copy of the grievance to all the [local] elected officials and there was never responded to, never even acknowledged that they received it. Then the murder took place and something had to be done. So I reached out to the coalition that I just joined and asked them if they would help me—and yesterday's demonstration march wouldn’t have been possible without the coalition.

Even though I don't know how effective it will be, you know, I’m hoping some change will come—I’m hoping for a grand jury investigation. Whether that will happen or not, I'm not sure. The officials in this country are just so incestuous, they’re in bed with each other, and in all kinds of dealings. So I don't have much hope that anything will come from grand juries here. Maybe a federal grand jury, and that's about where I'm at with this right now.


00:10:41 Tony Gonzales

And thank you for your input, your involvement and your concern Ka’Lane. And Dmitri the question that Ka’Lane is posing on the grand jury investigation and whether a federal grand jury would be more effective as of yesterday's news. What do you gather?


00:11:07 Dmitra Smith

Uh, well, I tend to agree with Ka’Lane. The elected officials have been fairly silent on all of this over the years. I will tell you that former officials in this county have indicated to me that there are serious questions to be asked with regard to what looks like profiteering off of homelessness funds and those allegiances between entities like the Palm, Catholic Charities, elected officials and the flow of homelessness funds. So it's certainly something that needs to be investigated, and appears to be part of a regional pattern of possible, you know, abuse and misuse of homelessness funds.

I certainly hope that the grand jury here in Sonoma County would investigate this, and I also agree that there are troubling alliance even within our court system that could prevent a truly substantive investigative process to take place. So we will continue moving forward. I will say that those of us on the ground working to bring forward the voices and lived experiences of these vulnerable folks at the Palms Inn have received letters from the lawyer of the owner of the Palms Inn indicating that our activities are somehow defamatory.

You know, I want to reiterate, we are simply acting as a platform for the most vulnerable folks in our community. The coalition is Sonoma County Acts of Kindness, the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights, the NAACP (for which I am the 2nd Vice President), Love and Light and the New Center for People's Power, Centro De Poder Popular. So we find that we have safety in numbers. We keep us safe and we will continue to advocate for our Native and black unsheltered residents and all unsheltered people in Sonoma County.


00:13:17 Tony Gonzales

Thank you very much Dmitra Smith. And Marcos Ramirez in the short time we do have, what do you make of this and what are the next steps that you foresee? Because we'll have you back on the air on the next roll, please.

00:13:33 Marcos Ramirez

Thanks, Tony. Well, coming off of this action and like Ka’Lane and Dmitra said, we had a list of demands and so those demands need to go before… We know [those demands] they've been sent to various politicians. But you know, things are ratcheting, up words are powerful and we are calling for an investigation. We're calling for oversight and these legacy organizations who just seem to get contract after contract.

You know the public needs to wonder. Their eyes do not lie to them. When you look at what's happening on the streets? There's millions and millions of dollars going somewhere and it's not helping. That needs to be investigated because places like the palms exist, they get millions of dollars to meet the letter of the contract There are politicians who shake hands for the ribbon cutting ceremony, and folks are just left to their own devices with no support, and that has to stop. So we're going to keep pushing forward. I really appreciate you Tony for having the coalition on and we're going to keep elevating the voices of those on the street.

00:14:58 Tony Gonzales

Thank you very much Marcos and meet us and less over the years they've been finding their bodies decomposing there and the smoothing the stenches with and it brings the attention and it should be more than that there should be. More more contact with. With the clients in those centers more often. Including the Veterans Administration being more accessible and providing services to the veterans in that area. I want to. Thank all three of you and Marcus and and to make sure we'll get back to you on the follow up to this very soon, please. Thank you very much I want to thank them both for shedding light.


00:15:38 Marcos Ramirez

Thank you, Tony.

00:15:43 Tony Gonzales

On a facility there in Santa Rosa, we'll keep an eye out for that. And how else? The community can help in bringing attention to the most vulnerable people there in that area and in our communities today. All right, let's now listen in to the talk that we had with. Bradley Angel, Preston Arrowweed and Faron Owl.

00:16:07 Tony Gonzales

Aho relatives and tonight I've invited Bradley Angel to talk to us. [He is with] Green Action [and] has been involved in a lot of California projects protecting sacred land from extractive industries and pollution. I believe we've had the Bradley Angel before, on the radio program along with Preston Arrowweed—must have been about a year ago—but today we're we're gonna be talking about what's going on tomorrow Saturday, protecting sacred land. There's a Kwanamii Spirit Run going on as well. Bradley, please introduce yourself and welcome Preston and Faron to the show.


00:16:36 Bradley Angel

And hello, everybody. Greetings from Arizona. On my way to the Quechan nation in. Yuma, AZ for the events that Quechan travel members are holding tomorrow, that green action is in solidarity with standing up once again to protect sacred and traditional lands from yet another cyanide leach gold mine proposal. This is just such an important issue and you know the attacks on the indigenous lands and sacred and traditional lands continue as all the listeners know. But there's also been a lot of victories, including last year against a cyanide leach gold mine that was proposed at a really sacred place called Indian Pass. And let me introduce Preston Arrowweed, who's a elder of the Quechan tribe, and a traditional singer as well. We also have Faron Owl of the Quechan tribe with us as well. So Preston, take it away.

00:17:44 Preston Arrowweed

Hi, I’m Preston I think what I've talked about a lot is they're using claims. [The mining companies] buy [the claims] up and they use it to do what they're doing. Yet we have claims there too, from thousands of years ago—remains of the past. Archeological sites are out there and it shows that we have been there, yet won’t [acknowledge our claims] at all, [instead the mining companies] use their own [claims] that they go by. But to me that's wrong. [The mining companies and US government] should look at our [land claims] and [the mining companies refuse to honor our claims, and instead are pursuing the mining claims] is what they're doing. [Mining companies lawmakers who support the mines] make up laws, they create to create some kind of law to do what they're doing, and they just jump ahead of us. And I think that's wrong too, because it just doesn't give us a chance to say anything. Then of course, they got the money too—that’s another thing—they brought up everybody…They’ve got grants, they've got money there, so they give [money] to [lawmakers, government officials] and they go for it. So that's our problem we have here.


00:18:36 Tony Gonzales

Are they reaching out to to consult with you of their plans?

00:18:46 Preston Arrowweed

They are supposed to consult with the Quechan tribe and I don't know if they have. They they don't show anything on record that we have talked to them—I don't know if we have. And I went to some meeting once in Pearl County and I objected to somethings. But yeah, I don't think they listen to what I said, but…I don't think they're consulting the tribe. They're not looking at the Tribal beliefs, Tribal ways, Tribal religion—they don't accept that at all—[and] they should. I've seen him destroying a mountain. For what? For gold. And they completely destroyed the land we're trying to preserve. What I'd like to say, preserve it, leave it intact. It's wrong [to destroy the land]. That mountain is created like we were created, all of us. Yet they pass us all up just get the gold so that they can…Somebody, somewhere is making a lot of money!

00:19:43 Tony Gonzales

Where's the water coming from, Preston?


00:19:44 Preston Arrowweed

They don't realize that the Colorado River coming, the Colorado goes by here, but yet when they’re digging, they're going into that groundwater, the aquifers. The aquifers if they contaminate it because gold mines that use cyanide, [the cyanide can get into] the water…in the aquifers, [which flow into] to the Colorado River. [That water] will go to communities around here, and the community needs [to know] and isn’t even aware of [this danger].

See…years ago, they told me that [the Quechan people] have no jurisdiction underground, [the Quechan people] only [had jurisdiction over the land] on the top. No, no, you're wrong, I said. We do have jurisdiction underground. Our belief is that our creator's son went under under the ground…for four days, and he came out, and became the four Eagles from the.Eagle of the West…the North Eagle…the East Eagle, and Eagle of the South. We are the eagle of the South, the fish eagle. So we did… go down there, the Creator's son, his name is Komashtam’ho. He went down there for four days and came back up. So I hold that belief.


00:21:00 Tony Gonzales

Thank you very much for that story there, Preston. And Faron Owl, please tell us what your role is on this and you're going to be at the Spirit Run tomorrow yourself?


00:21:01 Faron Owl

Yes well, first of all, going back to what Preston said, I agree with what he says and I think the biggest factor here right now is that our membership, our Tribal membership does not know much about what's happening. And that's why we're doing this whole function for the weekend, but more importantly, once we get them notified, we'll talk to them. We have some speakers like Bradley, Preston and others to come in and talk about the health [that] can happen [from contaminated water], talk about clean water, talk about the endangered species that are out there. But more importantly it is our sacred land.

We're going to finish up near one of the geoglyphs, on our run tomorrow and Preston is going to tell a little bit about the creation story and how that relates to our land out there—basically to inform everybody that this land is our land, you know—but at the same time to emphasize, that our creation story, and our ceremonies…all [happen] out there. It's not, just a desert, it's an important area to our Tribe and our Tribal membership.

00:22:13 Tony Gonzales

And Faron, [your] phone number? You are the contact person for both the Spirit Run and for the action tomorrow? You want to give your phone number out to the public?


00:22:23 Faron Owl

Yeah, my number is 928-210-0114…


00:22:38 Tony Gonzales

…alright, thank you, and back to Bradley Angel. Bradley. I wanted to ask you, what are next steps or what do you foresee happening here? I see the principle of free power and informed consent is totally violated and and this is also international, among the articles of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that was adopted by the United States back in 2010. Where do you see this going…in terms of describing the the situation there and the gold mine threat?


00:23:17 Bradley Angel

,Well clearly…with millions of dollars of corporate…and unethical profit on the line, you know these companies going to fight. But just like happened last year when another company attempted to proceed with gold mining on a really sacred area called Indian Pass—I mean, even the White people called it Indian pass—but led by the Quechan and…the grassroots people from the Quechan led by Preston. Faron was on the council at the time, and Green Action…and earthworks and so many other groups came together on an amazing coalition to back up the tribe [for] that victory.

…I think the battle is on. And as Faron was saying, the tribal members are educating other tribal members and hopefully, you know, with lots of support this will become a victory as well. But it just never ends, right? So people have to be vigilant and stand up and and decide to protect the land and the people and sacred sites, and that's what we're doing together and we plan on winning this.


00:23:38 Tony Gonzales

Indeed you will and it looks good. Well Bradley, you and Green Action, you had a good track record and your commitment to working with the Tribal communities in California. I wonder, Preston any closing words [for] getting as many people out tomorrow just to come out and support the both the run and the Land is Sacred activities that will begin at three o'clock the run at 8 AM. And then…people can listen to it on live radio at KUAV [105.3 FM in Southern California/Arizona on the Fort Yuma Quechan reservation which boarders Mexico and crosses State Lines]


00:24:16 Faron Owl

Tell him your range, Preston of your radio station.

00:24:18 Preston Arrowweed

It's 20 miles to 20 miles of range, it's a low power, radio station…


00:24:26 Tony Gonzales

…But Preston do you have any closing words?


00:24:36 Preston Arrowweed

I was thinking of something that happened sometime ago with the Russians -Uh, what do you call their Uh, their their crimes against humanity? What they're doing well, the United States have been doing that to the American Indian since they came here. Crimes against American Indian. That's [been happening] all the time, it’s happening now. They're using their laws to take everything away from us. See, it's always been going on.

So when are they going to stop and be honest and deal fairly with us? You know, because whatever we're doing, we're fighting something not only for the Native American way, but for humanity, for people too. It includes the Non-Indian too, but they don't know it. Whatever we do, we're just trying to save the environment, we’re trying to save the world, we’re trying to do what should be done. That's all we’re doing and I don't think they see it because they want money.


00:26:23 Tony Gonzales

Aho, first thing I wanna thank you Preston Arrowweed, Faron Owl, and Bradley Angel for coming onto the program. Bradley, we'll w keep in touch to follow this up while you keep us posted…Thank you.

00:26:42 Bradley Angel

Thank you, Tony Gonzales, and thanks to PSA.


00:26:44 Tony Gonzales

Right I want to thank them both all three for sharing information with us about what's going on in Southern California and the prospect of our gold mine there on Sacred land that we need to protect We'll be following up on that my relatives.


00:26:55 (Audio from video of the 50th Anniversary Gathering of The Occupation of Wounded Knee, recorded by Frank Sterling with First Voice Media Plays for about 30 minutes)

00:56:02 Tony Gonzales

My relatives we’re coming close to the hour. Here I just want to remind you, Leonard Peltier is still in prison. We need to make calls to the White House. Leave a message with President Biden at area code 202-456-1111. That's 202-456-1111 my relatives leave a message there with President Biden, release Leonard Peltier [give him] executive clemency, a COVID-19 release is just as good my relatives

Now [I] just wanna give a shout out once again to all my relatives who had a fantastic weekend Mexica new year down in San Jose, CA, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the weather was, you know, really coming down, the rain…was coming down on us but the people still showed up both in [San Jose and in] San Francisco as well on Sunday March the 12th. So a a good year coming up for all of us indeed. And again to the Irish people and what it means to all of us and to Saint Patrick's Brigade, their families of 1848 and a big salute. And we'll go out with this, my love. This old Danny Boy to our friends and relatives, and that's it. We'll see you once again across Indian land

00:58:00 (End)

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