Category Archives: Indigenous struggles

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Lessons from Standing Rock

By Tracy L. Barnett

STEELE, N.D., Dec 8 – We only made it 70 miles from Oceti Sakowin Camp in Standing Rock when a whiteout and fierce winds forced us to seek refuge in this tiny town, where the Kidder County Ambulance District and a wonderful EMT nurse named Mona Thompson took us in like a mother. Mona, we soon learned, has led her volunteer emergency services in manning the front lines on the reservation side after the attacks on the Water Protectors from the paid law enforcement personnel of neighboring Morton County. This improvised emergency shelter is filled with people, many of them coming from or going to Standing Rock, and were up until all hours talking about this historic phenomenon and how it has impacted them and the nation. I will share more about Mona and her story soon.

As for myself I am moved more deeply than words can express. To see the quiet resolve on the part of our Native brothers and sisters, to see their compassion for us in the face of our distress – both physical, for the bitter cold, and emotional, for the bitter truths we are facing. Not for the first time but for the strongest time, face to face with those that our government has deceived and betrayed time after time over the past 250 years, and it keeps going on.

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Wixaritari Take a Stand: Indigenous community takes back its land from Mexican ranchers

Wixárika woman overlooks the community of San Sebastian Teponohuaxtlán "Wuaut+a" in the Mexican state of Jalisco. (Facebook/San Sebastian Teponohuaxtlán)
Wixárika woman overlooks the community of San Sebastian Teponohuaxtlán “Wuaut+a” in the Mexican state of Jalisco. (Facebook/San Sebastian Teponohuaxtlán)

Tracy L. Barnett
Intercontinental Cry

A contingent of at least 1,000 indigenous Wixárika (Huichol) people in the Western Sierra Madre are gearing up to take back their lands after a legal decision in a decade-long land dispute with neighboring ranchers who have held the land for more than a century.

Ranchers who have been in possession of the 10,000 hectares in question for generations say the seizure is unlawful and that they will not hand over the land — setting the scene for a showdown that observers fear may end in violence.

Read the full story at Intercontinental Cry

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San Antonio Missions preserve Native American history in Texas’ first World Heritage Site

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Story and photos by Tracy L. Barnett
For The Washington Post

Two weathered gravestones sit in a small, dusty rectangle in front of the grand Spanish church at the heart of the nation’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, the San Antonio Missions. I’ve been to Mission San Jose many times — to attend the lively Mariachi Mass, to photograph its antique majesty, to reflect on the history of this place and its role in the settlement of the American Southwest. But this is the first time I’ve thought of it as a cemetery.

I’m seeing it through the eyes of two direct descendants of the missions’ original inhabitants, members of the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, whose ancestors inhabited this part of what is now Texas for thousands of years. Some 300 years ago, they helped to build these missions, and their descendants maintain a vital connection to them.

Last year the five missions, spread out over about 12 miles along the San Antonio River, received the coveted designation of World Heritage Site. Four of them are still active Catholic parishes, attended by some of the original Native American descendants; the fifth, Mission San Antonio de Valero, went on to become a military garrison — the legendary Alamo, now converted into a memorial to the battle fought there.

Ramón Vásquez, a straight-talking Texan with a dark ponytail, and the soft-spoken Jesús “Jesse” Reyes Jr., an anthropologist in a cowboy hat and bolo tie, are my guides today. Ramón, executive director of a nonprofit organization called the American Indians in Texas, has teamed up with Jesse to create Yanawana Mission Tours — named for the pre-Hispanic name for the San Antonio River — which offers an eye-opening perspective not just on the missions, but also on American history itself.

Read the rest of the story here

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Remembering Yuka+ye: Wixarika teacher and activist left a storied legacy

By Tracy L. Barnett
For El Daily Post

If Wixarika, or Huichol, culture and language have a future, if the world view of this magical people persists, if their sacred lands remain a spiritual sanctuary, the tireless struggle of Jesús Lara Chivarra will not have been in vain. The death of this indigenous fighter leaves a void in the hearts of many.

Wixarika (Huichol) culture lost a champion when Yuka+ye died

Jesús Lara Chivarra and Cilau Valadez face the entrance to First Majestic Silver Corp. headquarters in Vancouver, demanding entrance to the annual stockholders meeting. All photos: Tracy L. Barnett

While most people were celebrating the holidays, others  from Canada to Mexico mourned the loss of a leading Wixarika scholar and teacher, a cultural ambassador and an indigenous activist whose work on behalf of indigenous unity spanned North America.

Yuka+ye Jesús Lara Chivarra’s path took him from the Huichol Sierra to the halls of power. He hobnobbed with rock stars and artists, he faced down police and corporate executives, he taught college students, film producers, attorneys, journalists – but he was always most at home in his village.

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10 Films You Need To Watch On This International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

By John Ahni Schertow
Intercontinental Cry

For over two decades, the United Nations has observed the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9. An effort to promote and help protect the rights of the world’s Indigenous Peoples, each year the event is attributed to a specific theme. This year, the theme is “health and well-being”.

Referring specifically to the ability of Indigenous Peoples to access health care services, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked the occasion earlier today, stating,

“On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I call on the international community to ensure that they are not left behind. To create a better, more equitable future, let us commit to do more to improve the health and well-being of indigenous peoples.” [sic]

Due to their relative remoteness, Indigenous Peoples tend to have significantly limited access to health care services. It is a particularly alarming reality given the complex health challenges that Indigenous Peoples often face: systemic opiate addiction in northern Ontario, Canada; the plague of cancer that is decimating Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador; the police raids and military assaults to which Indigenous Peoples are routinely subjected for simply saying “no” to the ravages of industry. The list could go on for weeks.

Indeed, there is much more to consider when talking about the health and well-being of Indigenous Peoples, as the following ten films remind us.
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Huicholes Film wins best documentary: Red Nation Film Festival

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The film Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians has won Best Documentary Film by the Red Nation Film Festival, the premier showcase for Native American and Indigenous film in the United States. The award was shared with The Life, Blood and Rhythm of Randy Castillo, by director Wynn Ponder and producer Johnny Depp.

The selection was the only Latin American film to be awarded.

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Film chronicles the movement to save a sacred land and a visionary culture

Turama2-HuicholesFilm-esThe film Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians will be on a North American tour with 30+ screenings in more than 20 cities in the United States and Canada, with the U.S. premiere at Rice Theater in Houston, Texas, and theCanadian premiere hosted by Cinema Politica in Montreal, Quebec. The documentary presents the emblematic case of the defense of Wirikuta, sacred territory to the Wixárika (Huichol) people against the threat of transnational mining corporations. The Wixárika people, native to the Sierra Madre, have since time immemorial made their pilgrimages to this land; now they find themselves at the forefront of a spiritual crusade to protect life, evidencing the internal contradictions in our materialistic world.

“This documentary combines stunning cinematography with engaged and compassionate storytelling to bring an underrepresented tale of resistance to Cinema Politica audiences and beyond,” said Ezra Winton, co-founder of the Montreal-based media arts organization. Continue reading