Opening Comments: Native Liberation 2017

1CE6D172-6D50-4A70-9166-B4A66FF7890Fby The Red Nation

On March 1, 1973, nineteen-year-old Larry Casuse with his comrade Robert Nakaidinae, kidnapped Gallup Mayor Emmett Garcia, who was also the owner of the most notorious bar in Gallup called “Navajo Inn”. The frustrated Diné youth understood then what many feel today. In 1973, Gallup had 39 liquor stores, about that many exist today. Police made 800 public drunkenness arrests per month and Diné men and women were frequently found dead in ditches from hit-and-runs or exposure. Robert and Larry kidnapped mayor Garcia to bring an end to Gallup’s liquor industry, which profits from Native peoples’ death.

Larry was shot and killed by Gallup police later that evening. Police posed one after the other over Larry’s body, treating him like a trophy kill and taking souvenir photos. The Gallup Independent photographed them in the act, and the scene became the front page iconic image that was framed and displayed behind the bar at the police officers’ fraternal lodge.

Why would the police treat Larry with such disrespect and hostility?

Larry was a warrior. He had immense love and compassion for his people. He knew that Gallup was a factory of exploitation and racism against his Dine’ kin. Larry was also outspoken about these injustices; he was involved with two of the most powerful Native organizing forces of his day — Indians Against Exploitation, which was founded right here in Gallup, and UNM KIVA Club.

In other words, Larry was a revolutionary. He was a warrior who died to liberate his people and the land.

Two days after Larry’s murder, 500 marched in Gallup in his memory. Less than three weeks after that, 1,000 marched to demand justice for Natives in Gallup. On that spring day in 1973, the police tried to silence Larry for refusing the destruction of his homelands and the murder of his people.

They failed… because you cannot kill the Spirit of Indigenous Resistance.

In Larry’s own words he said of himself, “My reason for being put on this Earth is to tell mankind we must now undermine all false persons who are destroying Mother Earth.”

So we find ourselves here today. We continue Larry’s struggle. We are all Larry. As much as Gallup remains at the center of historic and everyday brutal exploitation, it also remains a center for Native liberation. Hence the title of this conference.

This is also why are we hosting our second annual conference in Gallup, a place dubbed “America’s most patriotic small town.”

We tend to think of places like Gallup, in small town America, as peripheral, on the margins of mainstream society. In reality, if we look at Gallup — a place known well by Pueblo and Dine people — we get a clearer picture of what exactly it means to be “America’s most patriotic small town.” USA patriotism has always meant, and continues to mean, the wholesale annihilation and exploitation of Native people. The police who killed Larry were upholding the laws of the USA; they were defending the USA against Larry’s intentions to undermine the legitimacy of the USA. The USA could not exist without the continued exploitation, theft, and extraction of life from Indigenous peoples.

The Red Nation formed to resist the same factory of death that Larry gave his life to undo over forty years ago. This factory of death is called the USA, and Gallup is its most patriotic small town.

After the vigilante murders of Kee “Rabbit” Thompson and Allison “Cowboy” Gorman in Albuquerque in the summer of 2014, it was clear to us that an organized force like Indians Against Exploitation needed to return in this day and age to defend our relatives against this death drive once more.

The Red Nation is, however, not exceptional. We simply carry on traditions of resistance that have existed for as long as colonialism has had our people and our lands pinned under its boot. In the spirit of Larry and all freedom fighters who come before us and who will surely come after, we organize for nothing less than total Native Liberation. We fight back in the spirit of our ancestors, those old ones from the before and before and those who are already forthcoming, and to do what we have always done: live. This is our founding principle and ultimate goal.

Who’s ready to liberate and invigorate?