The Red Nation-Gallup: One Year of Struggle

IPD 2017
Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day in Gallup.

It has been over a year now since the Gallup Freedom Council of The Red Nation was formed. Continuing the work of activists and comrades that came before us, we remain committed to ending the racist and colonial violence and exploitation that Native people face. We have held strong to our commitments of upholding youth, elders, women, LGBTQ2I, and unsheltered relatives, as well as building and working in coalitions, and we have accomplished many goals.

The Work in Gallup Begins

In the beginning of 2015 the then newly formed The Red Nation started highlighting and documenting the brutal conditions faced by unsheltered relatives. It was in that year that 36 deaths by exposure were recorded and more than 170 deaths by exposure or alcohol-related causes were recorded since 2013. In response to this The Red Nation called for a march in Gallup. More than 200 people carrying signs with the names of those whose lives had been lost marched through downtown Gallup putting the City on notice and letting our relatives know that we stood with them. And it was in the fall of 2015 that we kept this commitment.

In coalition with several organizations, The Red Nation launched the No Dead Natives campaign to provide material support to our unsheltered relatives and to politicize the issues of racism, poverty, violence, and homelessness. We gathered hundreds of coats, blankets, toothbrushes, tents, gloves, socks, and nonperishable food items and the contacts we had built in Gallup distributed these to those in need. In collaboration with many organizations and activists The Red Nation also published The No Dead Natives Report. This report is a grounding document that still guides the work today.

Larry Casue Mural that was removed
The Larry Casuse mural that the city of Gallup removed and destroyed.

Larry Casuse Lives!

In the spring of 2017 following off of the work that had been done, activists in Gallup came together and formed a new freedom council of The Red Nation.

From the beginning the work of the newly formed Red Nation Freedom Council in Gallup has been rooted in the struggles of previous generations. Our earliest action was in the spring of 2017 when the city of Gallup had a small mural of Larry Casuse removed from the downtown area and destroyed. Members of The Red Nation as well as many community activists protested outside of the Gallup City Council as well as spoke out inside.

This was followed up two weeks later by a forum on bordertown violence specifically focused on panhandling and racial profiling by the Gallup Police Department that The Red Nation-Gallup co-organized and facilitated with Dr. Jennifer Nez Denetdale and local community activists. This event drew over 50 people, many of whom gave powerful and damning testimonies recollecting their own or their family’s experiences of being mistreated, discriminated against, or having violence done against them. That night, the city of Gallup lined the street outside the Downtown Conference Center where the forum was held with 40 police in riot gear and prevented the attendees from walking across the street to put in public comments at the City Council meeting. This did not deter us nor the work we do.

It is because of our presence in Gallup, and this work to highlight how unsheltered relatives are treated when they panhandle, that the city of Gallup, when faced with a lawsuit from a local lawyer, removed its anti-panhandling ordinance from the books.

That fall, The Red Nation made the decision to host the second annual Native Liberation Conference in Gallup. This conference exceeded our expectations and brought together several hundred activists and organizers over two days. Our local council organized a tour of the radical history of downtown Gallup that opened up the conference. This tour highlighted the history of coal mining, liquor stores, pawnshops, the seats of power, and the spaces in which our unsheltered relatives are brutalized. It also highlighted the often covered up or mistold histories of resistance including the 1932-35 coal strike, the place where Larry Casuse was murdered, the building which housed the offices of the old Communist Party, the marches which took place to end racist violence, and personal stories that were shared by local community members.

showing up at gallup city council for IPD proclamation
The community demands the Gallup permanent;y recognize Indigenous Peoples Day.

Indigenous Peoples Day Gallup

Following the recent work of many activists to get cities and states to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day, in August of 2017 (just prior to the Native Liberation Conference) The Red Nation-Gallup brought together a coalition to get the city of Gallup to adopt Indigenous Peoples Day. Unbeknownst to us a local activist, Mervin Tilden, had already done this work a year prior but encouraged us to get the city council to affirm its decision from 2016. Our coalition successfully pressured the mayor and the city council to read a proclamation declaring the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day as well as affirming that this resolution abolished Columbus Day. As part of the opening of the tour for the Native Liberation Conference, Mervin, an unsheltered Navajo activist, read the proclamation while welcoming all the participants to the conference.

On October 9, 2017, The Red Nation Gallup and our coalition celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day with a march through downtown and a rally at the downtown courthouse plaza. The celebration was unique in that Queens from the Native LGBTQ2I community led the chants and Stella Martin, a longtime community advocate, DinéTranswoman, and Red Nation member gave the main speech.

NDN Octavia Fellin Library
The Red Nation distributes supplies and food for relatives on the streets as well as children’s winters jackets.

No Dead Natives and the Struggle to Keep Our Relatives Alive

The Red Nation-Gallup took up the mantle of the previous years of collecting and distributing winter clothes and survival gear for our unsheltered relatives. From November of 2017 through February of 2018 hundreds of jackets, gloves, coats, tents, and feminine hygiene products were distributed for free to anyone in need. We also chose to highlight the reality of half of children living below the poverty line in Mckinley County by collecting children’s winter clothing and distributing this as well. The Octavia Fellin Library, true to the legacy of the anti-imperialist activism of its patron, Octavia Fellin, opened its outdoor sidewalk space for us. Several hundred unsheltered relatives and relatives living below the poverty line came out for several weeks for coffee, tea, food, and much needed community and supplies.

May Day 2018
Marching with Somos Gallup in downtown Gallup.

Our Work is Intersectional and International

In our work in Gallup we engage in building solidarity with dispossessed and oppressed peoples from all corners of the earth. In February 2018, to celebrate Black History Month and to educate ourselves about the African Liberation Struggles, we organized a film screening of the documentary “Long Distance Revolutionary.” This movie focuses on Mumia Abu Jamal, a former member of the Black Panther Party as well as a member of the MOVE organization. He is currently in prison for his activities in both organizations and was falsely accused of a crime he did not commit.

On May 1, International Workers Day we answered the call for action and joined with the undocumented immigrant community and Somos Gallup in marching for workers and immigrants rights. We brought the messages of “No Ban on Stolen Land,” rejecting the Trump administration’s attempts to ban immigrants and refugees from “Muslim countries, and “Immigrants are welcome in Native communities,” declaring our solidarity with our relatives from the Global South fleeing US imperialist violence in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Following our Red Nation comrade Melissa Tso’s recent trip to Palestine and in solidarity with the Great March of Return, a campaign of protest and marches in Gaza called for by Palestinians living under occupation, we organized two days of activities May 14-15. Melissa gave a presentation about her trip to a global conference, where she met with Palestine solidarity activists from around the world including comrades in the Lebanese Communist Party, and she spoke about her time in Palestine meeting with activists and organizers resisting occupation. The next day, thanks to our comrades in the K’é Infoshop in Window Rock, we held an all-day information stall set up under a tent where we handed out fliers and talked with patrons of the Window Rock flea market. During the lunch hour traffic, we held a small but lively picket at the main intersection in Window Rock flying Palestine flags and holding signs. Later that evening before the sun went down we dropped a giant Palestine flag banner off the side of a cliff for drivers and passersby to see. A Pueblo elder sewed the flag and donated it The Red Nation.This gesture of Diné solidarity was filmed and was seen by thousands around the world.

True Colors Drag SHow
True Colors Drag Show the last day of Gallup PRIDE 2018.

End Violence and Discrimination against LGBTQ2I Relatives!

Our work in The Red Nation in Gallup has from the beginning grounded ourselves in Indigenous Queer Feminism by uplifting and highlighting the work and voices of Native LGBTQ2I relatives and activists.

Three Native LGBTQ2I activists and community advocates started Gallup Pride. Stella Martin, Mattee Jim, and Jeremy Yazzie have been at the center of fighting back against the rampant anti-queer and anti-trans violence directed in particular towards Native peoples in Gallup. Their work ranging from health advocacy, AIDS and HIV testing, LGBTQ2I community support building, and events such as Drag Shows and Gallup PRIDE, and their work in solidarity with unsheltered relatives, has literally saved lives and has built a foundation for Native LGBTQ2I liberation. They have been active in The Red Nation movement since our first march in Gallup in 2015 and when they announced they were reviving Gallup PRIDE this year we joined in supporting this effort.

The Red Nation members participated in the Gallup PRIDE candlelight vigil highlighting all of our LGBTQ2I relatives that we have lost over the last year. In particular the local community remembered several Native Trans women that were killed or had passed from illness.

The Red Nation Gallup also hosted the first ever “All My Heroes Are Queens” Indigenous Queer Feminist Symposium at the El Morro Theater in Gallup. Speakers included The Red Nation co-founder Melanie Yazzie, Dr. Jennifer Nez-Denetdale, Stella Martin, Renee Grey, CJ Gallegos, and several more who highlighted their experiences and spoke to the need to build the movement. One of the most incredible moments came when several fierce Pueblo Feminists held the first ever Pueblo Feminist panel speaking openly and unapologetically about Pueblo Feminism and the issues faced by women and LGBTQ2I peoples in Pueblo communities.

Gallup PRIDEfest the following day in downtown Gallup was a fierce and fabulous gala supported and sponsored by a dozen organizations and featuring drag presentations as well as free rapid HIV testing, sex positive education, and fierce speeches by local LGBTQ2I relatives including legendary and local Native LGBTQ2I historian Ms.Virgil who spoke about her experiences about coming of age and the many fights, scrapes, parties, and wild times of the community.

Later that evening the community of Gallup literally packed the El Morro Theater for the True Colors Drag show with event organizers making the announcement that the show had sold out. This presentation from Native and Latinx Drag performers touched upon themes of self-care and struggle, love and romance, colonialism, unapologetic and fierce erotica, as well as some very hilarious and queer presentations.

window rock palestine demo.jpg
Red Nation members in Window Rock holding a banner that reads “Our young will never forget #1948” in remembrance of the Nakba.

Join the Movement!

 The situation that the ordinary poor and dispossessed face around the planet is certainly not in our favor currently. Locally we face discrimination, violence, low wages, high unemployment, slum lords, and a changing gentrifying economy still rooted in the exploitation, erasure, and murder of Indigenous and working poor peoples. Organizing for liberation in the “Most Patriotic Small Town in America” is not an easy task.

However, this past year has taught us that it is possible to make gains, to build solidarity, and to grow our community of strugglers, fighters, and organizers. We know that the people and the people alone are the makers and changers of history. And we know that we cannot go it alone, and neither can you.

As we wrote in The Red Nation Principles of Unity: “We are not “above” the people. When the people move, we move with them. We are the “permanent persuaders” who believe revolutionary change is not only possible but inevitable. Like our hearts, our politics are down and to the left. And because we are the “five-fingered ones,” our fists are the size of our hearts. We raise our fists to lift the hearts of our people. We give everything and take nothing for ourselves.”

We are gearing up this winter to protect the Greater Chaco Canyon Area from the new sale of leases that will open up lands for fracking; we will be collecting winter supplies for the No Dead Natives Campaign to keep our unsheltered relatives alive in the streets; we will be continuing our work to end discrimination and violence against our LGBTQ2I relatives; we will be standing with Undocumented immigrants against the crackdowns; and we will be continuing to build networks of solidarity with comrades in struggles worldwide.

If you are shaking with every bone in your body at the injustices in this world, if you see the current reality and are raging with anger and sadness, if you feel alienated and isolated and alone but seek communities of resistance and liberation to join, then know that we are here for you. You no longer have to fight alone.

To get involved and to join us get in touch!

Contact us:
Facebook: The Red Nation-Gallup

Protest at Gallup City Hall of the removal of Larry Casuse mural