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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jack Forbes: Descansa en Paz

PRESS RELEASE – February 25, 2011
Photo credit:  Carolyn L. Forbes.

A Tribute to Professor Jack D. Forbes

(Powhatan-Renape, Delaware-Lenape)
A husband, father, family member, friend, colleague, mentor, and professor Jack D. Forbes (UCD Professor Emeritus), moved on to the Spirit World on Wednesday, February 23, 2011. 
Survived by his wife Carolyn, his daughter Nancy O’Hearn, his son Kenneth Forbes, son-in-law Bill O’Hearn and grandson Jack O’Hearn.
Born January 7, 1934, he lived an eventful life and left behind a visible and profound legacy. His impact was extensive.  Jack earned his Ph.D. in history from the University of Southern California in 1959.  His doctoral dissertation, The Apache, Navaho, and Spaniard (1960), was published in a matter of months after earning his doctorate.  Jack went on to write numerous books and journal articles, and his scholarship represented pathfinding work and reflected the particular time in which he wrote.  For example, his book, Columbus and Other Cannibals (1992) was one of several books that focused on the Quincentennial (mainstream society's so-called 500 year anniversary of the supposed “discovery of America” or 500 years of survival, post-invasion) event of 1992.  His 1966 journal article, “An American Indian University: A Proposal for Survival,” (Journal of American Indian Education) had a significance influence on the Tribal College Movement and was published two years before the creation of the first tribally-run college (the Navajo Community College; renamed Dine College in 1997).  Today, Native America now has 35 tribal colleges which enroll approximately 33% of the Native American postsecondary population.  Jack's article helped ignite the tribal college movement.  In 1970, he co-founded DQ University, an indigenous university/tribal college, located near Davis, California.
In addition to his significant scholarship, Jack stepped forward and took a political position on various Native American issues.  He provided an important voice in the 1975 documentary, The Broken Treaty at Battle Mountain (narrated by movie actor Robert Redford) in which he asserted that the tribal people in Nevada had legal entitlement to roughly 85% of the land base in the state.  Much of this land base is classified as federal government land and labeled as Bureau of Land Management (BLM) domain.  Jack believed so strongly in his political positions that he was willing to go against the so-called authorities who wanted him to keep quiet.
Jack emerged as one of the founding leaders of Native American Studies which began in 1969.  Well before this year, he advocated the establishment of Native American subject matter but faced deaf ears and opposition from mainstream higher education.  However, due to the political times--Affirmative Action, the takeover of Alcatraz Island, the larger Student Protest Movement of the 60s--Jack and several others were able to establish Native American Studies programs at different universities.  Thus, NAS programs came into existence at UC Davis when Jack was hired in 1969.  The creation of other NAS programs he influenced at that time included UCLA, UC Berkeley and the University of Minnesota.
Before his retirement from UC Davis in the mid-1990s, Jack worked hard to create a strong Native American Studies program at UCD.  Through his effort, along with the support of his NAS colleagues, NAS at UCD became an academic department in October 1993.  Jack also began the creation of a graduate program which became reality in 1999 after his retirement.  However, before retiring he created a graduate seminar in the 1980s entitled “Native American Ethnohistory” (NAS 280).  This seminar still exists today.  He also pushed for another seminar, “Basic Concepts in Native American Studies” (NAS 200) which was first taught in the winter quarter 1994, some six years before the graduate program came into existence.
Jack extended his academic career beyond the U.S. borders.  In 1980 -1981 he served as a Visiting Fulbright Professor at the University of Warwick, England.  He received the Tinbergen Chair at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam in 1984; was a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and Fellow of Linacre College at Oxford University, England in 1985-6; and a Senior Fulbright Scholar at the University of Essex, England in 1993.
Although Jack retired in the mid-1990s, he never really retired.  He always made his presence known, both on and off campus.  He continued to take political stands on various issues and remained committed to his beliefs and convictions.  He gladly served on the committees of Native American graduate students at UC Davis, UC Berkeley and other universities.  His students hold him in high regard for his rich ideas and guidance.  As recent as the winter quarter 2009 he taught an NAS graduate seminar on Termination policies and their impact upon Native American populations.
We will miss Jack. We respect him for his courage, humor, intelligence and humanity.  He will always remain in our hearts.
Written by Prof. Steven Crum, UCD and Prof. Annette Reed, CSUS
Services will be private with a public memorial to be scheduled at a later date.  Flowers and cards may be sent c/o Wiscombe Funeral Home, 116 D Street, Davis CA 95616.   Donations to the Jack D. Forbes Memorial Fund in Native American Studies can be sent c/o Native American Studies, UC Davis, One Shields Ave., Davis CA 95616, made payable to the UC Regents.  For further information about the fund, please call 530-754-9497.

Monday, February 21, 2011

From Egypt to Arizona to Wisconsin...

What's at stake in the O'odham trial

The prosecution of indigenous peoples' activists over protests last year brings into sharp relief what kind of Arizona we want
O'odham reservation Sonoran desert illegal immigration Mexico Arizona
A government helicopter patrols the O'odham reservation in the Sonoran desert to deter drugs smugglers, but also illegal immigrants, hundreds of whom have perished trying to cross the desert from Mexico to Arizona. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

Arizona is definitely not Egypt, where the UN has estimated that some 300 pro-democracy activists were killed … neither can Arizona be compared to Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, Bahrain, or especially Libya, where hundreds more have been killed in ongoing protests.

And yet, Arizona has been haemorrhaging the past two decades during which the harsh Sonoran desert has claimed several thousand lives. This has occurred as a direct result of official US policies, namely the continued militarisation of the border that results in a deathly "funnel effect". This is precisely what undergirds Arizona's cultural or civilisational conflict; it isn't simply about fear and hate, but of forced migrations and the borderlands as a vast desert cemetery for those whose footprints did not quite take them to the promise land.

All these deaths are predictable, with mathematical precision: export genetically modified corn to the south and, in short order, millions of people, unable to compete with the cheap US-subsidised corn, will eventually migrate north. Militarily close off crossing paths to the east and the west and the only place left for crossing is this godforsaken desert. Just since 2000, in Arizona alone, more than 2,100 human remains have been recovered. Not to be forgotten is that many of those bodies recovered show evidence of violence (can we overlook the killings of Raul and 9-year-old BriseƱa Flores by white supremacists on the border?).

The deaths of thousands is tolerated precisely because human beings – as part of free trade agreements (Nafta) – are treated as less than human, never factored into the equation. Couple this with an extreme rightwing state legislature and we have a perfect storm.

This nation's, and this state's, solution, to this crisis is to further militarise the border and to criminalise and imprison, via kangaroo courts (Operation Streamline), the migrants, particularly in private prisons. The flurry of anti-Mexican, anti-indigenous and anti-migrant bills has indeed created a response in Arizona. From May to July, weekly protests erupted throughout the state, including one with close to 200,000 protesters in Phoenix. These resulted in mass arrests, from students chaining themselves to the state capitol, taking over streets or state buildings, to indigenous activists occupying the Tucson Border Patrol headquarters.

This week, the indigenous activists find themselves on trial, facing the charges of criminal trespass. The defendants, part of the O'odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective, did so to protest the militarisation of the border; this includes the sending of yet more national guard troops; the efforts to wall the 2,000-mile border and the use of military drone technology.

This radical protest took the nation by surprise because of the narrative that has been fashioned by far right forces of aliens, brown hordes and silent invasions. The occupation is deep with symbolism. Who is invading whom? For indigenous peoples, the militarisation of the border has, indeed, meant invasion and criminal trespass. And in the case of various indigenous nations, particularly the O'odham, it has come at a steep price: the division of their nation; the desecration of sacred lands; the depopulation of their villages; and their inability to move freely across their own lands. Their action was taken not in isolation, but in solidarity with those opposed to the state's repressive legislation.

On 23 February, the trial of five members of the O'odham collective will begin. This will come at a time when the state legislature continues its path of virtually seceding from the United States (SB 1443) – a bill that purportedly exempts Arizona from federal laws and another proposal that would exempt Arizona from international law (SCR 1010). With the ethnic studies ban coming to a head – Tucson's school district was given until 18 April to eliminate their Mexican American studies programme – Arizona is seemingly set for a state-wide showdown between those who desire to live in the 21st century and those who would prefer to return to the 19th. This is a reminder that the Arizona conflict is also about would-be inquisitions and forced impositions of culture.

Unfortunately, the budget situation in Arizona is not dissimilar to Wisconsin's, where union workers and their supporters have finally had enough. Conservatives nationwide, and state by state, are prepared to please corporations and the super-rich by giving them unneeded tax breaks while continuing to stick it to the poor and middle classes, under the tragicomic guise of fiscal conservatism. The amazing protest in Wisconsin continues; it may presage the future of state battles nationwide.

In Arizona, we know only too well what conservative legislators are capable of. The question is whether the prospect of mass protests at state capitols can exercise restraint on them. We watch Wisconsin and wait.

Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at:

This was published in the Guardian UK:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How far can Arizona secede? Guardian UK

How far can Arizona secede?

The state's racist campaign against Mexican Americans' and indigenous peoples' rights will make it an international pariah
Mexican American protest in Arizona against SB 1308/1309
Jose Olivas holds a drawing of a baby as he protests against Arizona's Senate bill 1308 and 1309 outside Arizona's Capitol building in Phoenix, Arizona, 7 February 2011. The two bills seek to overrule the 14th amendment of the US constitution by denying American citizenship to children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants. Photograph: Reuters/Joshua Lott

Ningun ser humano es illegal – nigun libro es illegal. No human being is illegal – no book is illegal.
This succinctly defines the human rights situation in Arizona. Arizona is a place where conservative state lawmakers do not appear to know the meaning of: "inalienable rights" – seemingly hellbent on revoking not just the 20th, but also, the 19th centuries. They seem to believe that if a majority of them agree to anything – including the taking away of peoples' basic human rights – that their votes, along with their governor's signature, constitutes a law.

Those opposed to their concocted laws have turned to US courts for relief. And now, as state legislators continue on their seeming path to secede from the Union, the opposition is now also examining international courts and forums for possible relief. Also being explored is the possible use of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in this dispute. This treaty ended the war between the United States and Mexico, with the Mexican nation ceding, under threat of force, half its territory. Ironically, it is also a treaty that purportedly safeguards the rights of Mexicans living in what is today the United States.

This path of examining the treaty and international law has been triggered by the states new racial profiling SB 1070 and the anti-ethnic studies HB 2281 "laws". Same with new proposed laws: HB 2382/SB 1097 – which would, in effect, force children to identify the legal status of their parents; and HB 2561/SB 1308 and HB 2562/SB1309, which would deny birthright citizenship to children and that would nullify the 14th amendment to the US constitution.

The stagecoach has, apparently, yet to arrive in Phoenix with the memo that informs Arizonans that all human beings are born with rights, as opposed to being granted them by governments, and that no government (local, state or federal) can take them away. That's the meaning of inalienable.
Actually, the stagecoach finally appears to have arrived this year because the state legislature, in a tragicomic manner, is now attempting to cover its behind. First, a proposed Arizona law, SCR 1010 (pdf), calls for Arizona to be exempt from international law. Now, Arizona legislators are proposing yet another law, SB 1443; it would enable the state legislature to ignore federal law – that is, to ignore the "supremacy clause" of the US constitution.

But Arizona politicians, beware. The community of nations anticipated such behaviour from rogue governments; through the years, the United Nations has created and developed treaties and conventions that protect the rights of all human beings. So has the Organisation of American States.
Aside from all the rogue gun laws, much of the hate legislation that has been advanced in the state legislature, with the governor's signature, has focused on one particular group: Mexicans/migrants/indigenous peoples. Most of these pieces of legislation appear to be in clear violation of virtually all international human rights treaties and conventions. The operative word is "appear" – as legal research has now begun to examine the feasibility of bringing a court case or cases on this question before the OAS and/or the UN.

This could conceivably result in the opening-up of a second legal front. Both SB 1070 and HB 2281 have already been challenged in court, with good prospects of them eventually being ruled unconstitutional. The HB 2281 case involves a lawsuit by 11 educators against the state, charging that their ability to teach Mexican American studies, which was declared out of compliance on 3 January, has been hampered due to discriminatory treatment by the state. The Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) has until 18 April to comply (with the order to eliminate Mexican American studies). The legal theory for a second legal front (with regard to HB 2281) would involve the fact that virtually all international human rights treaties and conventions protect the right of all peoples to their history, culture, language and education.

Amid these legislative assaults, in perhaps an ironic twist of history, the actual Treaty of Guadalupe is currently on display at the Arizona State Museum in Tucson, offering a stark reminder that all treaties are alive, including this one. Without revealing legal strategy, perhaps at no time has the time been riper than now, to put forth a test case involving this treaty. One element of such a challenge (or related challenges) would involve whether in fact Mexican Americans continue to be protected by this treaty and whether, in fact, Mexican Americans also constitute indigenous peoples.

Tupak Enrique Acosta, a co-founder of Tonatierra in Phoenix, an organisation dedicated to fighting for the rights of indigenous peoples, said he welcomes such a development. To those who would challenge the indigeneity of Mexican Americans (Chicanas/Chicanos), he says: "Bring it on."

Yet, whether this second legal front, in fact, includes the treaty or not, what the overall moral challenge involves is something even simpler: the right of all peoples to be treated as full human beings and the right to an uncensored education.

Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at: