October 17, 2008

American Indians Fight for Their Rights

Western Hemisphere: American Indians Fight for Their Rights

“The population of the pre-Columbus America was about 100 million, but during the next 150 years 95% of the indigenous peoples disappeared. I`d like to ask whether this can be called colonization, civilization, culturalization or evangelization? We must dispel the myth! Genocide! That's what it was!”

President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez told this at the opening ceremony of an aqueduct in one of the God`s forgotten villages in the state of Zulia on October, 12th. The event was timed to the celebrations of the Indian Resistance Day (which used to be called ''Columbus Day''). In recent years Chavez has repeatedly commented on the genocide against the American Indians and accused not only European crusaders but the US invadors as well.

Washington also has plenty of reasons to blame Chavez, who is viewed in the US as the one who wants to found an ''anti-imperialist Indian front» in Western hemisphere and involve the indigenous US citizens residing in Arizona, Minnessota, Nebraska, North and South Dacota, Oklahoma and other states.

The pro-American Indian activists from US are permanent guests at numerous forums and seminars held in Venezuela and other countries of Latin America. Those people are viewed as especially dangerous for the Bush administration as CIA and FBI experts say these activists are being regularly brainwashed by Chavez's ''Bolivarian commissioners''. An attempt to use “last of the Mohicans” is said to be one of the means the ''Venezuelan dictator'' keeps in mind to undermine U.S.

That is why the U.S intelligence agents are working hard in Latin America to find any evidence of Chavez`s plans to revive progressive pro-American Indian organization in the United States by providing financial assistance to them so that they could instigate violence. Under Bush, the U.S special services took up the habit of wishful thinking, so there will be no surprise if the ''evidence'' is found. There is hardly anything the U.S intelligence agents can't do to succeed in career.

Is there really a Chavez`s trace in the revival of the pro-Indian movement on the continent? Yes, there is. First of all, Venezuela offers a plan how to settle the problem with American Indians. The rights of the indigenous peoples are protected by the Constitution of 1999 in practice. Their native lands have the untouchable status. Their communities are quickly developing as huge sums are allocated for health care, education, housing and culture. Even minor American Indian peoples have their written language. Their commercially unprofitable books are also published by the state. Where else this can be found amid the global dictatorship of market economy? While doing his military service, Chavez lived in a hut with the aborigines, enjoying their cuisine, way of life and religious rites. That is why each time he meets the American Indians, he focuses all his attention on their traditions.

Chavez is also preoccupied with the consolidation of the American Indian movement on the continent. And this happens not because of his attempt to undermine democratic governments but due to this belief that historical justice must be restored.

American Indians are facing hardships not only in the United States. In Columbia thousands of them have become victims of a home conflict. To save their lives they flee to Venezuela. In a Mexican state of Chiapa they had to use arms to protect themselves and defend their rights for the territories. Hundreds of thousands of Mapuche (Araucano) people have been fighting for the autonomy but the government believes they do not differ anyhow from other Chileans. The same thing happened during the Pinochet dictatorship.

However, there were some moments of optimism during those 500 years of fight: a representative of the Aymara ethnic group, Evo Morales, became the first indigenous president of Bolivia, although the local oligarchs and the US Embassy in Bolivia did everything to prevent his victory. This encourages American Indians in Peru, Guatemala and Ecuador to stand up for their rights. Hugo Chavez decided that to form the Indo-Andean Federation (Federacion Indo-Andina), comprising all the countries from Bolivia to the Caribbean Sea, would be the right thing in that situation. He also keeps a close watch on the work of the American Indian parliament in America as its mere existence inspires hopes for the renaissance of all indigenous peoples on the American continent. Hugo Chavez takes steps to create the Pan American TV. And the chances are very high as the TeleSur channel, which owes its appearance to Chavez, now is CNN`s major Spanish-language competitor.

At the First Congress of Indian and Anti-Imperialist Warriors of the Americas, held in Venezuela on August 8-9, 2007, the delegates discussed the question raised by Chavez: “North American Imperialism: its danger to the indigenous people of Abaya Ayala”. There is nothing mysterious in the last two words. That's how the continent was called long before the arrival of Columbus on October,12, 1492. In many countries of the Western hemisphere this day is marked as the America Day, the Race Day or even Hispanic Day (Dia de la Hispanidad). The initiative to rename the holiday into the Indian Resistance Day was backed by all Chavez supporters from Canada to Chile.

Indeed, whether the US imperialism is so dangerous for the present-day American Indians? The cases of inhuman treatment of the “natives” by “educated” Anglo-Saxons have been almost forgotten. The creation of the most powerful state could hardly be devoid of such kind of incidents. The US Conservative politicians and historians quite often name the genocide of the American Indians among them, using, of course, a politically correct interpretation of those events. According to it, the natives had begun the confrontation as they won`t share lands, forests, rivers and lakes with the invaders. Official reports say mainly the indigenous peoples demonstrated their aggression while the white settlers only defended themselves, sometimes with the help of the army. So no kind of genocide of the indigenous people, which has long become one of the most disgusting periods in human history, took place in the US.

Driven into ghettos, the natives never recognized the fact of the invaders` victory. Indifferent at first sight, they were actually very insulted and humiliated, and passed on the legacy to restore the justice by all means from fathers to sons. One of the best known activists for the rights of American Indians, the leader of the Sioux tribe, Russel Means, made an attempt.

On February, 27th, 1973, he organized the coup in the town of Wounded Knee in South Dacota (Pine Ridge Indian Reservation) to topple the local corrupt regime and begin the tribal rule. The rebellion lasted for more than 2 months and attracted attention worldwide. The attempts made by the FBI agents to compromise the insurgents and accuse them of Communist-like ideology and cooperation with criminal groups were in vain. The federal authorities persuaded the natives to surrender. During the judicial process all the extremism and terrorism charges were proved groundless. Means and his supporters were freed and continued to stand up for the rights of American Indians peacefully.

Thirty years after the Wounded Knee incident, on December, 19th, 2007, members of the Lakota tribe, Russel Means among them, denounced all 33 deals with the federal authorities (“useless words on useless paper”, that is how they called it), and proclaimed the creation of an independent state of American Indians. “We are no longer US citizens, and everyone who lives in one of the five states which belong to our country, can join us”, - they said.

The proclamation of the Republic of Lakotah can mark the beginning of the process leading to the formation of other independent countries on the US territory which can thus result in a confederation. Some experts predict that the process can receive a boost if a Republican John McCain wins the November presidential election in US. The most radical analysts do not rule out that the American Indian headmen may use arms again, like it was at Wounded Knee. Others say they would either do this if Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua or any other country of the Bolivarian project faces foreign aggression. “Chavez's gold” or his “propaganda” are not the reasons. The American Indians just can easily distinguish between friends and enemies. That is why a portrait of smiling Chavez (and never George W. Bush) is often encountered in their houses in the Republic of Lakotah.

1 comment:

American Indian Advocate said...

Interesting article. I had not heard that Chavez was interested in funding various American Indian organizations for their struggle towards sovereignty. American Indian tribes are already sovereign nations, so I don't know exactly what he would encourage them to do...