Indigenous Border Summit Responds to Human Rights Crisis

PRESS RELEASE

Indigenous Peoples’ Border Summit of the Americas, Nov. 7 — 10, focuses on human rights and right of mobility

Del Rio, Texas, border and human rights activist Jay J. Johnson-Castro, Sr., among the speakers

TUCSON — A human rights crisis for Indigenous Peoples living along borders in the Americas threatens their survival, with rapidly expanding militarization and new laws which limit their mobility in their ancestral territories.

Responding to this crisis, the San Xavier District of the Tohono O’odham Nation will host the Indigenous Peoples Border Summit of the Americas II, Nov. 7- 10, with support from the International Indian Treaty Council.

Mike Flores, Tohono O’odham summit organizer, said, “It is necessary for Tohono O’odham and other Indigenous Peoples of the border regions to collectively address the adverse impacts that are increasingly occurring on tribal lands. The Border Summit of the Americas II will provide us the opportunity to do just that,” Flores said.

San Xavier District Chairman Austin Nunez joins Flores in welcoming Indigenous Peoples to the Border Summit on Tohono O’odham land, located near South Tucson.

The Border Summit will host a human rights workshop by the International Indian Treaty Council. The summit will be broadcast live on the Internet at http://www.earthcycles.net as was done in 2006.

From the southern Andes to the northern Arctic, corporations intent on seizing natural resources have increased the oppression and displacement of Indigenous Peoples, resulting in their forced mobility across national borders. Further, free trade agreements, mining and exploitive development have forced Indigenous Peoples into exile in the Americas, displaced from their lands where they farmed, hunted or fished for survival.

In the United States, corporate profiteering for private migrant prisons, experimental spy technology, poorly trained border agents, privatized security and new laws for immigration threaten the right of mobility in ancestral territories.

The human rights crisis at the southern border of the United States and Mexico has resulted in over 4,000 migrant deaths in recent years, including deaths of women from Guatemala on Tohono O’odham tribal land in Arizona who died walking with their children in 2007. Migrants, including Indigenous Peoples from Mexico and Central America, die of dehydration and severe temperatures while walking in search of a better life. The Border Summit speakers will include Tohono O’odham Mike Wilson, who puts out water for migrants on tribal land.

“No one should die for want of a drink of water,” Wilson said.

The privatization of prisons, including the T. Don Hutto Residential Center and Raymondville migrant tent encampment, both near Austin, Texas, reveals the sinister motivation of profiteering from the plight of migrants. Hutto imprisons migrant and refugee infants and children. Speakers will include Jay Johnson-Castro, Sr., of Texas, among those organizing protests against the prisons.

Johnson-Castro, was born in Portland, Oregon and raised in the Alaskan wilderness. He is tri-lingual (English-Spanish-Albanian) and has served on the Tourism Advisory Committee, Officer of the Governor, Texas Historical Foundation and Texas Hotel & Lodging Assn., Los Caminos del Rio and Val Verde County Historical Commission.

Residing on the border in Del Rio, Texas since 1992, Johnson-Castro has mostly been noted for promoting heritage tourism all along the Texas-Mexico border. He has also been championing the ecology and environment of the Rio Grande Corridor, submitting the Rio Grande as an endangered river and filing suit against the Federal Government to protect endangered species in the Rio Grande region.

Johnson-Castro has most recently become recognized internationally as a human rights activist for his hundreds of miles of Border Wall-ks and has traversed the entire US-Mexico border in protest against the border wall. He has also walked against the “for profit” prison camps of thousands of immigrant refugees, especially T. Don Hutto prison camp where untold hundreds of children have been imprisoned for profit.

A father of four grown children and grandfather of seven, Johnson-Castro is a sculptor, writer, photographer, pubic speaker and gourmet cook. He is the founder of Border Ambassador and Freedom Ambassadors. He is a columnist for the Rio Grande Guardian, “Inside the Checkpoints” (http://www.riograndeguardian.com/columns3.asp).

In May, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for migrants, Jorge Bustamante, was denied entrance into Hutto, and Johnson-Castro, with the support of Amnesty International coordinated human rights protests that followed.

The border wall and border vehicle barriers along the southern border have resulted in the removal of ancestors’ remains of the Tohono O’odham and Kumeyaay from their final resting places. Further, the barrier wall on Tohono O’odham land is a barrier interfering with an ancient annual ceremony.

Since ceremonial leaders from Mexico often lead ceremonies in the United States, new immigration laws threaten the survival of ceremonies, culture and languages. Because many Indian people are born at home, or lack funds for visas and passports, crossing the border has become a harsh ordeal.

Further, at both the northern and the southern borders of Canada and Mexico, federal border agents ransack and violate ceremonial items. Speakers on the right of mobility at the northern border include representatives of Mohawks and other Six Nations.

With the increased militarization and surveillance at the borders, the dangers from speeding border agents, aerial vehicle crashes and abuse and harassment by border agents increase. Women, children and elderly along the border are most often the victims of oppression and suffer most often from the lack of food, safe drinking water and medicines.

With the militarization and oppression increasing for Indigenous Peoples around the world, the Border Summit of the Americas invites Indian people to offer their testimony while receiving information and training on human rights.

The International Indian Treaty Council will present a human rights training, following the United Nations adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The US will be examined by the UN Committee for Racial Discrimination (CERD) Committee in March of 2008, in Geneva, Switzerland.

“This workshop will provide information as to how Indigenous Nations, tribes and organizations can use this historic opportunity to inform the CERD Committee on the true state of racial discrimination in this country and how it affects Indian Nations, Peoples and communities. This information will be very important to help the UN CERD experts get a more accurate picture of racial discrimination in the US and hold the US accountable to their obligations under international human rights law,” IITC said.

“An additional focus will be on strategies to defend our human rights, border rights, and protecting our sacred sites and traditional land rights using the newly-adopted UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples from the local to the international levels.”

The human rights workshop presenters will be Bill Means, Lakota cofounder of the Treaty Council; Andrea Carmen, Yaqui and Treaty Council executive director; Ron Lameman, Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations, and Francisco Cali, CERD Member and Treaty Council board president.

For more information: bordersummit2007@yahoo.com

Website: http://indigenousbordersummitamericas2007.blogspot.com

Jay J. Johnson-Castro, Sr. jay@villadelrio.com (830)734-8636

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