The Sacred Place Where Life Begins

By: Erin Anderson

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Paddle Journey 2001

By: Erin Anderson

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Flores Island Flyby

By: Roman Frank and Erin Anderson

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"DIRECT DIVISIONS"

BY JOSE BARREIRO
© 2001 NATIVE AMERICAS JOURNAL

Arcticle reproduced with permission of the Native Americas Journal. To subscribe to Native Americas Journal see www.nativeamericas.com

Almost every nation-state border in the Western Hemisphere bisects an indigenous people's ancestral territory. North, South, East and West-borders criss-cross Indian traditional lands, always with serious, sometimes disastrous impacts. The Spring 2001 issue of Native Americas represents an effort to survey a range of those cases, from the Alaska-Russian border that wreaked havoc on the Siberian Yupik throughout the Cold War, to the efforts by the southern Andean Mapuche to reunite across an Argentina-Chile border that is even more intractable than the Andes Mountains themselves.

In North America, new transnational covenants such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), meant to blur the borders shared among Canada, United States and Mexico, instead became further militarized in a drug war justification.

From the Maya of Central America, and Chiapas, to the Tohono O'odham, Yaqui and other tribes along the U.S.-Mexico border, to the Iroquois and Algonquin of the Northeastern Woodlands and Great Lakes, to the Blackfoot Confederacy of the Northern Great Plains, tribal peoples who have shared familial, geographic and cultural attachments have found themselves unable to visit relatives and to conduct the most basic civic and religious duties.

Navajo journalist Valerie Taliman surveys situations from Tohono O'odham on the Arizona-Mexico border to the Akwesasne Mohawk community on the New York-Quebec border to the Blackfoot Confederacy on the Montana-Alberta border. Aboriginal residence, predating the borders themselves and sometimes articulated in treaties, provides a basis of rightful, unimpeded border crossing, with implications for trade and commerce among tribal nations. Bill Weinberg analyzes several important cases from Central and South America where border-straddling Native peoples suffer in conflicts over national security by the countries that surround them. How Brazil and Venezuela secure their border makes a big difference to the Yanomami, who are situated in the middle and are working to secure their own territories in spite of any potential dispute. The same is true for the Maya nations of the Mexico-Guatemala border region and for the Miskito people, bisected by the Nicaragua-Honduras border-both of whom have had to endure wars that generated internal and external refugees, sometimes numbering into the hundreds of thousands. We also present in this issue the voice of Mapuche activist Nilo Cayuqueo, interviewed at his home in Oakland, Calif. Cayuqueo adds valuable insights on the impacts of borders in his discussion of the Mapuche peoples' quest for reunification.

Presently in the U.S., the Tohono O'odham on the Arizona-Mexico border, are working a bill through Congress that would grant U.S. citizenship to their relatives and tribal members on the Mexican side. At the northeastern end of the country, however, as Tuscarora contributor Richard Hill, Sr. attests, the traditional Haudenosaunee have not accepted citizenship in any country other than their own nation. While asserting treaty-guaranteed, border-crossing rights as a Haudenosaunee, Hill weighs in with some Last Words that critique the widespread trade movement through the border-bisected reservations, assailing individual traffickers who refuse to be regulated even by their own Native governments. We also welcome L. Saunders McNeill's report on the Siberian Yupik of the Bering Sea, who were cut off from each other for the length of the Cold War. Even today, border tensions and bureaucratic impediments severely limit their contact.

There are many other Native border situations not reported in this issue. Aymaras between Chile and Bolivia; Quechuas in Peru and Ecuador; Wayyu divided by Venezuela-Colombia; Ashaninka, between Peru and Ecuador; Emberá between Colombia and Panama; Maya and Nahuatl in El Salvador; on and on it goes. They are places well deserving of greater attention.

There are external and internal borders. For the Guarani Kaiowá of southern Brazil, as reported by Ricardo Funari and Jennifer Hanna, a generation-old quest to return to their traditional lands is starting to become reality. The Guarani gained international attention for committing suicide as a way of protest against a life without their ancestral lands. Much remains to be resolved, but they are living proof that linkage to the land is paramount for indigenous peoples.

"Native Americas is the award-winning publication of Akwe:kon Press of the American Indian Program at Cornell University. It features articles that cover the most important and critical issues of concern to Native (indigenous/ aboriginal) peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere, synthesizing the many voices, perspectives and streams of information that currently permeate the communication highways. Native Americas writers, thinkers and doers are firmly rooted in Native American community life. It is therefore a source of significant and reliable information. Many of the articles in Native Americas feature breaking news from in-depth investigative reporting."

Arcticle reproduced with permission of the Native Americas Journal. To subscribe to Native Americas Journal see www.nativeamericas.com

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