Native Liberation 2015: The Red Nation’s Year in Review

The Red Nation is an anti-profit coalition of Native and non-Native activists, community members, educators, and workers dedicated to the liberation of Native Nations, lands, and peoples. We formed in November 2014 with the intention to continue the centuries-old Native liberation struggle in the southwest and beyond, through active coalition-building and the widespread mobilization of Native and non-Native communities. Last year, for Albuquerque, the Native struggle, and the movement as a whole, was historic—and is indeed worthy of celebration.

Below are events The Red Nation hosted, sponsored, participated in, or attended. Although we could not include everything our members have participated in, we thought we would highlight some of the significant achievements. We look forward to 2016 with increased determination to advance the Native struggle for liberation.

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Jan. 28: #BorderTownJustice Community Forum on Gallup: A Border Town of Violence

At the call of community members, The Red Nation organizers Melanie Yazzie, Nick Estes, and Dr. Jennifer Denetdale held a dialogue with Gallup community members about rampant violence and racism against Native people in the small border town. More than 150 Gallup community members showed up, demonstrating a clear desire for action and frustration with the city’s political leadership. The result of the meeting was the formation of a coalition centered on border town justice to demand an end to racist violence against Natives in the community.

Because of active discrimination against Native people living in Gallup—especially the poor and homeless, Native people die violently of unnatural causes at catastrophic rates in Gallup, N.M. Violence, police terror, and death rates for Native people living on the streets rose dramatically after the closing of the Na Nizhoozhi detox center. Many died from exposure—in other words, freezing to death. Community members estimated more than 180 unnatural deaths of Natives in just the last two years.

Gallup, a town almost half Native borders the Pueblo of Zuni and the Navajo Nation, has as its main source of profit predatory businesses, such as high-interest loan companies, liquor stores, pawn shops, car dealerships, and other businesses, which profit from the immense exploitation of Native lives and land. The community holds the city of Gallup responsible for the negligence and active racist discrimination against Native poor and homeless.

Feb. 5: Film & Discussion: “Nuclear Savage: The Islands of Secret Project 4.1”

The Red Nation’s first “official” event, the film showing gathered about 50 people and set the tone for a tremendous year of struggle and victory for Native peoples and our young and developing coalition. The film told the story of how, in the 1950s, the U.S. conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, vaporizing islands and exposing entire Indigenous island populations to nuclear fallout.

Feb. 6: #FreePeltier International Day of Solidarity with Leonard Peltier & Political Prisoners

This event commemorated the 39th anniversary of the arrest of political prisoner Leonard Peltier, who continues to be one of the longest serving political prisoners on the face of the planet. Peter Clark of Albuquerque Peltier organized this incredible commemoration. Peter Clark is also leader of the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, headquartered at Albuquerque’s Center for Peace and Justice. The event was co-sponsored by The Red Nation, (un)Occupy, and ANSWER.

In about a month, on Feb. 6, 2016, we will mark the 40th year of Leonard’s unjust imprisonment. In a recent statement, Leonard wrote: “Over the last four decades, I have been supported by people of all backgrounds, races, and religions. As we approach the one-year mark on President Obama’s remaining time in office, it is crucial for my survival that everyone who has ever supported my release to please contact my official Committee that works on my behalf, and coordinate and organize with them.”

With rapidly deteriorating health, Leonard’s prospects for release in his lifetime lay with President Obama granting clemency. This year, his official committee is asking that we spread the word for President Obama to grant clemency. Preparations are already under way for this year’s 40-year remembrance of his arrest.

Feb. 27: #AbolishColumbusDay Press Conference & Speak Out

On Wounded Knee Liberation Day, The Red Nation launched the Abolish Columbus Day for the first time in the history of the city of Albuquerque. In our press release, we stated: “Columbus Day celebrates legacies of genocide and conquest of Indigenous Peoples of the Western Hemisphere. Albuquerque prides itself as an Indigenous cultural capital in the U.S. and Southwest. Indigenous peoples continue to be marginalized and exploited by racist holidays, mascots, imagery, and representation. By continuing to celebrate Columbus Day the City of Albuquerque contributes to the very palpable climate of racism against Indigenous people.”

At the launch of this historic initiative, in freezing temperatures and an unusual snow storm, over 80 community members and activists came out and vowed to abolish Columbus Day. Then City Council President, Rey Garduño, joined The Red Nation and the Albuquerque community in condemning Columbus Day that day and vowed to lead a city initiative for an Indigenous Peoples Day instead.

Mar. 14: #APDProtest Albuquerque Peoples’ Tribunal on Police Brutality

After months of negotiations, the City of Albuquerque and Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into a Consent Decree contract, which outlined the direction of reform for the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) after a condemning DOJ report found patterns of “unconstitutional” policing. Many believed the consent decree did not, and does not, address all of the problems with APD. For six months, the PSL/ANSWER and ABQJustice collected testimony from dozens of victims of police violence and also captured the intimidation that many victims experience from the strong possibility of future reprisals from the police for reporting on police violence and speaking out. Organizers embarked on a People’s Investigation to collect testimony after the DOJ investigation failed to identify racial prejudice as a central factor in police murder and violence in Albuquerque. ABQJustice published the findings in a report titled “Targeted: Prejudice and Racial Bias in the Albuquerque Police Department.”

At the Tribunal, jurors heard testimony from dozens of people on police terror in Albuquerque—the city with the highest per capita of police violence in the U.S. Sam Gardipe served as a juror and Melanie Yazzie testified about police terror waged against Native poor and homeless. Both are co-founders of The Red Nation. The verdict for APD was: GUILTY of racialized police terror, largely directed at Native poor and homeless.

April 4: #BorderTownJustice March: Stop Racist Violence against Natives in Gallup, N.M.

The Red Nation along with 80 community members stood up and spoke out against the palpable atmosphere of racist violence against Native people in Gallup, N.M. Demonstrators marched through the streets of Gallup chanting “Until racism is undone, Native people stand as one!” A community member stated that this was only the fourth march ever that had taken place in the history of Gallup. All marches, however, had the same theme: to end the violent exploitation of Native life. This action was a yet another declaration that there is a new dawn in Native organizing in this state, and that the Red Nation is going to continue the struggle.

May 16: #Gaza: Nakba 1948 to Current Humanitarian Crisis

In May, Palestinians and the world mourned 67 years of Nakba. In 1948, European and U.S.-funded terrorist squads forcibly expelled the Palestinian people from 80 percent of their homeland, in what is known as al-Nakba, or The Catastrophe. The Palestinian solidarity movement in Albuquerque organized a tremendous forum at the Mennonite Church featuring life-long resident of Gaza and trauma specialist Ayman Nijim. The audience of 150 was moved when a delegation of The Red Nation activists shed tears and spoke of their solidarity to the Palestinian cause. This year has been an important for the Palestinian solidarity movement to assert itself loudly and clearly as anti-colonial and anti-imperial.

June 13: #ABQPride Parade

For the first time in national LGBTQ Pride history, a Native transgender woman was chosen as the Grand Marshall of the Albuquerque LGBTQ pride parade, which drew more than 5,000 people this year. Mattee Jim (Diné), an activist and leader in the Native transgender movement, was chosen by the whole of the community’s leadership in a profound decision. Under The Red Nation banner, a large contingent of Native people led the march down Central Ave. in Albuquerque, pushing back the violence and oppression experienced each day on these same streets and setting the stage for more actions in the coming year. March slogans included, “Native and Trans People to the Front!”

June 13: #Charleston Massacre Vigil

When nine Black parishioners were murdered in yet another terrorist act against Blacks in America, The Red Nation, ANSWER, Father Frank Quintana, and others stood together with Black leaders and congregants of several Albuquerque churches. Bishop David C. Cooper of the New Hope Full Gospel Baptist Church, the largest African American church in Albuquerque, stated that the Charleston killings were part of a “Blacklash,” or a backlash against Black communities for standing up against the injustice of structural and systemic white supremacy, a struggle now epitomized by the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the rebellions in Ferguson and Baltimore. The Charleston vigil was an important show of unity in the face of right-wing terror that is on the rise right now.

June 26: #FreePeltier Stand-Out

In solidarity with Oglala Commemoration, marking the 40th year since the shootout for which Leonard Peltier has been illegally incarcerated for, Albuquerque Peltier, the local solidarity committee headed by Peter Clark, organized this action to demand clemency now! The Red Nation continues to demand the Peltier’s release and stands in solidarity with all political prisoners.

July 19: #BorderTownJustice: One-Year Memorial & Vigil for Murders of Cowboy & Rabbit

On July 19, 2014, two Diné men, Allison “Cowboy” Gorman and Kee “Rabbit” Thompson, were found beaten to death in a dirt lot on the west side of Albuquerque. Because of the severe and brutal nature of the beatings, their murders made national headlines. In spite of this, little to nothing was accomplished over the past year to improve conditions for the city’s Native poor and homeless who continue to experience daily rates of violence that surpass other sectors of Albuquerque’s population. On the one-year anniversary of Gorman’s and Thompson’s tragic deaths, The Red Nation called for a memorial and vigil at the corner of Central and Wyoming, a hotbed of police harassment. More than fifty people attended, including surviving family members. Amidst the mourning, prayers, and stories of the slain, private security from the Circle-K convenient store antagonized attendees and called towing services to have people’s cars removed. Despite the badgering from law enforcement and a thunderstorm, participants laid flowers and offered up words of encouragement and support to the surviving families.

Aug. 21: True Colors Drag & Talent Show

 The Gallup LGBTQ community invited The Red Nation to co-sponsor its True Colors Drag and Talent Showed, hosted by the Rainbow Naatsiilid Program. Dr. Jennifer Denetdale, a member of The Red Nation and Navajo Nation Human Rights commissioner, was honored for her courageous work on gender and LGBTQ justice within the Diné Nation and against racist border town violence.

Aug. 22: #SaveOakFlat March in Santa Fe, N.M.

At the call of the Apache, The Red Nation joined more than 60 protesters in Santa Fe, N.M. to demand justice and the protection of the San Carlos Apache’s sacred site at Oak Flat. The march made headlines, taking place during the highly profitable annual Indian art markets held in the Plaza and train station. Many longtime residents of Santa Fe remarked this was the first Native-led protest in the city’s history.

Oct. 7: #IndigenousPeoplesDay Proclamation

Five days before a planned march and rally to abolish Columbus Day, City Council President Rey Garduño, with guidance and input from The Red Nation, wrote, sponsored and signed a proclamation recognizing every second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day. Albuquerque’s Indigenous Peoples Day proclamation declared that the day “shall be used to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous peoples on this land.” Three conservative, right wing city councilors (Dan Lewis, Don Harris, and Trudy Jones) refused to sign the proclamation, preparing the ground for political struggle in the days ahead.

Oct. 12: #IndigenousPeoplesDay First-Ever March & Rally

Five days after the Indigenous Peoples Day proclamation, more than a thousand people charged into the streets to celebrate Albuquerque’s first-ever officially recognized Indigenous Peoples Day, forever burying the Columbus Day holiday here in the process. Feelings of pride and joy mixed with anger and determination as marchers, galvanized by the popular struggle to abolish the celebration of genocide, carried banners and placards demanding action to end racist border town violence against Natives by police and racist community members, the eviction of the extraction industries and corporate polluters from Native lands, and for the federal government to uphold treaty rights for all Natives, on and off-reservation, as a first step towards addressing the catastrophic health care, unemployment and housing situation experienced by Native people everywhere.

Leonard Peltier was named the Grand Marshal of the Albuquerque Indigenous Peoples Day by organizers. Hundreds of protesters chanted “Clemency Now!” as they streamed past the Pete V. Domenici federal courthouse in Albuquerque. The winning of Indigenous Peoples Day in Albuquerque, accompanied as it was by a large politically focused march Native people in alliance with working people of all backgrounds, revealed that a new and powerful urban-based Native movement may be on the horizon. Momentum from the Albuquerque events will be felt everywhere. One day after Albuquerque’s historic march, Mayor Javier Gonzalez proclaimed Indigenous Peoples Day in New Mexico’s state capital, Santa Fe, after city councilors conferred with The Red Nation and Santa Fe’s Native community. Sam Gardipe, 59-year-old co-founder of The Red Nation, said of the action: “We haven’t seen this kind of Native movement in 30 or 40 years. I’m hoping this is just the beginning and things will change for the better.”

Nov. 2: #IndigenousPeoplesDay Resolution

The Albuquerque City Council, because of demands from the local Native community, voted unanimously for legally declare the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day. The day is nationally celebrated as Columbus Day. The Indigenous Peoples Day resolution was the culmination of a full calendar year of organizing, coalition building, and education to bring people together under one banner for Native liberation. This happened because hundreds of people channeled their skills and willpower into making history and took to the streets to demand change.

As John Rehouse, a Diné activist who co-founded Diné C.A.R.E. and the Coalition for Navajo Liberation, said in an email to The Red Nation about this historic achievement, “your collective vision and work is a dream come true.”

Nov. 27: #NoDeadNatives in Gallup: Red Friday

Last winter, 20 Native people died unnatural deaths in Gallup, NM from exposure to severe weather. This winter is supposed to be even colder and wetter. Gallup, however, has taken no action.

On Black Friday, The Red Nation called on all people to show support for our unsheltered relatives in Gallup by donating emergency relief supplies in a drive we are calling “Red Friday.” This drive is part of our sustained Border Town Justice campaign. Red Friday was a huge success, going a long way toward meeting the needs of the frontline forces in Gallup trying to save lives. The campaign is ongoing. It is significant because the drive is not a led by non-profits. It’s led by anti-profits like The Red Nation. It is not telling people that charity will fix poverty and racism. It is saying that while we try to save lives, we need to tear this system down so there is no need for charity!

 

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