Young Navajos Stage 200-Mile Journey for Existence
31 Jan.15 – By Lyla Johnston -Truthout
At dawn on January 6, 2015, a group of young Diné (Navajo) women and their supporters gathered at sunrise near the fire department at the base of Dził Na’oodiłii (Huerfano Mountain). From there the group embarked on a 200-mile trek through eastern New Mexico—a tribute to the 150th anniversary of the tragic “Long Walk.” Throughout this journey they have been raising awareness about the historical and present day challenges faced by Diné people and inspiring hopeful solutions to address these issues.
Idle No More Communications volunteers have been in contact with some of the walkers and will feature images and reflections from their powerful walk in the next grassroots newsletter. Keep reading to learn more about the beginning of their journey.
Organizers are calling out for community support in the form of walking, hosting or helping to garner basic materials. This first journey will end at Tsoodził (Mount Taylor), their southern sacred mountain. Three more walks are scheduled for spring, summer and fall so that each of their four sacred mountains is visited. The walkers intend to cover more than 1,000 miles in 2015.
The commemorated event occurred in 1864 that Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson – under the command of General James Carleton – enforced a merciless, scorched earth policy to bring Diné people into submission. During this time nearly 9,000 Diné and 500 Mescalero Apache men, women, children, and elderlies were marched at gunpoint for 300 miles to a small patch of arid land known as Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. Many perished along the way.
During their four-year internment at this reservation “experiment”—known in Diné as Hwééldi or “the place of suffering”—hundreds died due to starvation, illness and physical violence. In 1868, high costs of rations and soldier commissions caused the federal government to disband the experiment and release them back to Diné Tah, the Navajo homeland.
“We are walking to honor the resiliency of our ancestors who 150 years ago were forced to march hundreds of miles in the dead of winter on a genocidal death march,” says Dana Eldridge, one of several female organizers of the walk. “They sacrificed and suffered so much so that we could live within these four sacred mountains. So we’re walking to honor them.”
According to the organizers, the walk is not simply a re-enactment of The Long Walk, but their return to a traditional lifestyle.
“It’s something that people don’t do anymore. We have the convenience of vehicles. But walking an entire journey is something that’s revolutionary in a way,” says young organizer Nick Ashley of Gallup, New Mexico.
“Our ancestors walked so that we could be here on our homeland singing, dancing and praying the songs they did. But now everyone is chasing the American Dream and neglecting our homeland, our language and way of life,” says Kimberly Smith of St. Michaels, Arizona.
Several Diné elders, including Larry W. Emerson, think present day problems might be due to an abandonment of self: “One purpose of the walk might be for us to come back into ourselves via our traditional knowledge—into our homes, families, relations, communities and earth-sky knowing. Ké and k’é hwiindzin—to be conscious of our interdependent relationships based on compassion, love, and nurturing—are vital to our survival and we cannot come home to ourselves without these vital teachings. [We] offered several teachings [to the walkers] that might address the practice of coming home to ourselves, including some prayer songs.”
According to organizers, land-based prayer is an important part of their journey. “Everything we do is a prayer to return to our original selves,” says Laura Red Elk of Pueblo Pintado, New Mexico. “The mountains were our original naat’áanii [leaders] before IRA governments or the tribal council. Since our government is failing to protect us, we are returning to our original leadership by letting the mountains determine how we walk on the land.”
Organizers and their elders have chosen to name their movement as “Nihígaal Bee Iiná” or “Our Journey for Existence.” Due to the widespread presence of uranium, coal and gas extraction throughout Diné Tah, organizers feel that their environmental situation has reached a boiling point.
“One hundred and fifty years ago our ancestors stared their extinction in the face. And today, we young people are staring our extinction in the face. Our home will become an unlivable toxic wasteland if nothing is done,” Eldridge said.
According to the EPA, nearly 4 million tons of uranium have been extracted from Diné Tah since 1944. With over 500 abandoned uranium mines throughout the region, both homes and water sources are contaminated with high levels of radiation.
Additionally, over 20,000 tons of coal are strip-mined from Diné and Hopi lands every day by Peabody Coal Company alone. This coal feeds Navajo Generating Station, rated by the EPA as the highest emitter of toxic nitrous oxide in the country.
Organizers forecast that the next major threat is the onset of a boom in natural gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing—a process now banned in the state of New York.
Erin Konsmo of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network in Alberta, Canada, says that resource extraction is not only a threat to the environment: “Some of the highest rates of missing and murdered women are in the tar-sands extraction areas. This is related to worker’s camps and the lack of jurisdictional protection for women on tribal lands.” Organizers state that the heavy presence of extractive industries is having a similar effect on Diné women.
“We give life and we nurture life just like the land does. Our traditional leadership structure is matrilineal because we are the spinal chord of society, the first teachers of the children. We are journeying back to our original selves including our responsibility as women to protect the land and take care of it,” says Red Elk.
“It’s all the more reason for this walk to be led by majority women. As traditional caretakers of the land, their physical presence is in and of itself a resistance to resource extraction,” comments Konsmo.
Weekly paychecks for Diné miners and generator operators are a constant reminder of their economic dependence on the fossil fuel industry. Walkers hope to raise awareness about self-sufficiency as an alternative to the extraction economy. They will disperse heirloom corn seeds to communities along the way and speak on the importance of food sovereignty and self-reliance.
“We are being told to invest in our own destruction in the name of the economy,” says Eldridge. “People say we need these jobs, but we don’t. To take care of ourselves it will take a tremendous amount of work, but it is a beautiful dream and it is so possible.”
Organizers are urging others to join them, especially Diné people, for all or part of the walk.
Smith encapsulates the spirit of the walk by saying, “We have to go back to where the wisdom is embedded. We have to reintroduce ourselves to those places. It is our inherent right and responsibility. The uplifting that our people need is there. We want to bring it back for our people, we want to honor our elders, our children and most importantly, we want to honor the earth.”
For more information on “Our Journey for Existence,” contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source. …more
Bahrain security forces shoot directly at protester’s face
Hussain Radhi – BCHR – 21 Jan.15
A video has emerged showing Bahrain security forces appearing to shoot a protester in the face at close range, using birdshots. According to activists, the video was filmed Tuesday in the capital Manama’s suburb of Bilad al-Qadeem, which has seen daily protests ever since opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman was arrested in late December.
In the video, a man holding up a poster of Salman is standing on a street corner, just a few metres away from an armoured police vehicle. The vehicle is covered in splats of paint, which local residents have taken to throwing from their windows when these vehicles roll through their streets. For a while, nothing happens. But suddenly, a slot opens in the side of the vehicle, and the barrel of a gun emerges. Shots are fired directly at the protester.
He then starts to run and collapses in the street. He can be seen bleeding profusely from his face. Several protesters rush to carry him away, and the camera cuts off. In another scene – which France 24 has decided not to show here, as it is quite graphic – the same man is being treated at an unknown location. His face is riddled with what appear to be small birdshot wounds. Birdshots are commonly used by Bahraini security forces against protesters.
“The man was not taken to a hospital – protesters never are, because they know they would end up straight in jail”
Tensions have been very high in Bilad al-Qadeem since Salman’s arrest, because it is his hometown. Security forces have all sorts of tactics to quell protests, often using copious amounts of tear gas and shooting birdshots. This man was quite brave to go up to the vehicle like he did because, unfortunately, this is not the first time security forces have shot protesters at close range. Several other such incidents have been reported in the past.
The man was not taken to a hospital – protesters never are, because they know they would end up straight in jail. But our contacts in the neighbourhood say his wounds are being treated.
Salman, who is expected to stand trial at the end of the month, is a Shiite cleric accused of attempting to overthrow the government. He is also the head of the Al Wefaq movement, a Shiite political party that is highly critical of the country’s rulers. On Tuesday, another opposition activist, Nabeel Rajab, was sentenced to six months in prison for a tweet that allegedly insulted the army.
Bahrain is a Shiite-majority country (about 75 percent of the population), ruled by an exclusively Sunni monarchy and government. Since February 2011, members of the Shiite community who feel discriminated against have regularly gone into the streets in protest. Dozens of protesters have been killed since then. …source
Former Idaho governors blast Otter’s nuclear waste deal
Karen Zatkulak – KTVB – 15 Jan.15
BOISE — Two former Idaho governors are furious and say their work keeping nuclear waste out of Idaho could be erased by a recent deal backed by Gov. Butch Otter.
Cecil Andrus and Phil Batt were so upset over the recent deal with the Department of Energy that they held a press conference Thursday morning.
They say the deal goes against an agreement made back in 1995, concerning spent nuclear waste at the Idaho National Laboratory.
“It’s a travesty as to what has taken place under their watch,” said Andrus.
Back in 1995, the spent nuclear fuel coming in to the Idaho National Laboratory was huge concern for many and a highly debated issue that crossed party lines.
It was that year that former Gov. Cecil Andrus’ work to keep the waste out came together in an agreement drafted by then Gov. Phil Batt, and passed by voters.
The one-of-a-kind deal between Idaho and several federal agencies said commercial nuclear waste could not be shipped into the Idaho National Laboratory.
“That agreement was designed specifically to keep nuclear waste from coming in to Idaho, they want to bring more in, it’s a total revocation of what we were trying to do in this agreement,” said Andrus.
Batt and Andrus were emotional about the letter, sent last week from Gov. Otter and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to the Department of Energy. It expressed support for a new research project that would bring two shipments of spent fuel rods into Idaho.
“It’s going to be that they’ve created a Yucca Mountain in Idaho. That the two of them have done to this state what every other state has opposed and what we have opposed to this date,” said Batt. …more
WIPP ventilation system is unsafe, needs improvements
By Sarah Matott – 7 Jan.15 – Carlsbad Argus
CARLSBAD>> Two reports about inadequate safety conditions at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant criticized the facilities contractor for insufficient information in the plans it created to control the decisions that are made during an emergency.
Both reports were conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Enterprise Assessments starting in June and focused on WIPP’s recovery plan for operating diesel equipment with restricted airflows, and on the deficiencies found in the facility’s safety maintenance assessments.
The contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, has already started to revise its plans to improve the ventilation system and further ensure the safety conditions of their workers.
Donovan Mager, communications manager at Nuclear Waste Partnership, said that improving the air filtration in the underground was already a part of the WIPP recovery plan, and that it is something that WIPP will continue to improve.
One report focused on the facilities use of diesel-powered equipment underground.
The report said that the current conditions at WIPP present a challenge for conducting safe operations with the underground diesel equipment due to the air filters currently being used, which restrict the total airflows in the underground working areas.
According to the DOE review, Nuclear Waste Partnership must resolve issues with underground ventilation to protect workers from the diesel-filled air.
Diesel fuel powers equipment at WIPP, such as generators, forklifts and machinery used for roof-bolting.
“The most significant concern is that NWP does not have a sound engineering approach for determining the minimum ventilation rates that will ensure safe conditions for underground workers,” the Office of Enterprise Assessments report said.
The second report released by the Office of Enterprise Assessments Review found that WIPP did not follow safety rules the Department of Energy had set. Among the rules not followed in 2014 was a requirement that the facility undergo safety self- assessments every three years. …more
World-famous Berlin street art blacked out
12 Dec. 14 – The Local DE
Twitter users in the capital’s Kreuzberg district reported that men arrived with cranes and spotlights on Thursday night to paint over two of the capital’s most famous street art pieces.
The street art in at Cuvrybrache in the Kreuzberg neighborhood have caught the eye of Berliners and tourists alike since they were first painted by Italian street artist Blu in 2007 and 2008.
They are often listed among the top street art sites to visit in Berlin.
One shows a headless man straightening his tie with gold watches on either wrist, connected by chains – a commentary on modern employees’ enslavement to time.
The other is of two men struggling to demask each other, one representing East Berlin and the other West Berlin, making a statement about the formerly divided city’s troubled past.
But construction plans by architectural firm Langhof and investor Artur Süsskind would tear down the buildings on which the murals are painted to build 250 apartments, a kindergarten, a supermarket and an open-air terrace facing out onto the River Spree.
The online petition, by resident Jascha Herr, wants to place the murals under monument protection. As of Friday morning, the petition had collected 4,669 signatures and seeks to obtain 5,000.
“The city of Berlin loves to promote its alternative scene – and more precisely the cultural value of its artists – but it simultaneously discards them,” Herr said in his petition. “It is simply about selling to investors, who only see personal profit in the alternative landmarks of the city. But the cultural identity of the city belongs to all of us.”
The San Diego rapper charged with conspiracy over an album reflecting gang culture is just the latest hip-hop artist to have his words used against him in court.
Meet Tiny Doo, the rapper facing life in prison for making an album
3 Dec.14 – Geoffrey King – Guardian
Tiny Doo is allegedly benefiting from increased sales of his album.
As rappers go, Brandon Duncan’s approach is not unusual: his lyrics reflect the violent reality of the streets. But in the pantheon of rappers who have had run-ins with the courts, Tiny Doo looms large. Despite his lack of a criminal record, Duncan stands accused of nine counts of participating in a “criminal street gang conspiracy”, charges that could land him in prison for life.
But Duncan is not charged with participating in any of the crimes underlying the conspiracy, or even agreeing to them. Rather, he’s effectively on trial for making a rap album.
While details are sparse and the evidence presented against Duncan thus far is reportedly thin, prosecutors appear to be operating on the premise that criminal activity by others, mentioned in Duncan’s lyrics, benefits sales of his album No Safety. “We’re not just talking about a CD of anything, of love songs,” Deputy District Attorney Anthony Campagna argued to the court at Duncan’s preliminary hearing this month.
The San Diego County district attorney’s office declined to comment on the case to the Guardian, instead pointing to comments by the gangs division chief prosecutor, Dana Greisen, asserting: “Rap music, it’s just another form of communication that gang members use” in furtherance of their crimes.
Putting a musician on trial for his lyrics is antithetical to Americans’ free speech rights, and quite possibly unconstitutional. What’s more, the “criminal street gang conspiracy” law that Duncan is charged with violating – part of an anti-gang initiative package passed by California voters in 2000 – stands in marked contrast to conspiracy as California has traditionally defined it.
Ordinarily, to be guilty of conspiracy in California an individual must agree with another person to commit a crime, then at least one of them must take action to further that conspiracy. The charge Duncan faces requires no such agreement: so long as prosecutors can show that Duncan is an active member of the gang and knows about its general criminal activity, past or present, he can be convicted for benefiting from its acts.
This kind of legislation is often born of moral panic, and can lead to ill-advised prosecutions. But the manner in which it is being applied to Duncan should disturb all who care about free expression. Under the prosecution’s logic, acclaimed photographer Danny Lyon might never have finished The Bikeriders, let alone made later photographs documenting the American Civil Rights Movement, prison conditions in Texas, or the continuing effect of the US government’s genocide of Native Americans, because his affiliation with the bikers he photographed would have landed him a long prison sentence. …more