By Hwaa Irfan
Jan Brewer, Governor of Arizona who is about to sign the Anti-Migrant Law SB 1070, speaks of Arizona as a place that rose from the ocean floor spouting hot lava from its volcanos. Canyons were carved out by former rivers and as millions of years passed the land formed along with desertification to provide a home for the Hopi and Navajo Indians today. What Brewer means by “today” can surely not be in the same breath as the rest of the Arizona population that migrated there. Yes, I say “migrated” though other terms can easily be employed when looking at the earliest settlements by non-natives.
Those that migrated there did not change the place names given by the Native Americans such as “Ear of the Wind Arch”, and “Spider Web Arch” albeit the English equivalent; and the Native Americans were more than just the Hopi and Navajo when it comes to Arizona. They include:
• The Apache (Navajo)
• The Maricopas
• The Pimas
• The Papagos
• The Yumas
• The Mohaves
• The Wallapais
• The Chiricahuas
• The Havasupais
• The Hohokam
• The Tohono O’odham Nation
• The Yavapai
• The Hopi
Federally, there is recognition of 21 tribes/clans consisting of 250,000 Native Americans according to the 2000 census living on 24 Indian Reservations.
Before the First Migrants
Before Native Americans were bundled off to live on Reservations – away from the land and life they had known, and separated from the rest of the incoming population/migrants from beyond the sea, life was very different. The Navajo were nomads, living off the land as they roamed. Albeit plentiful in fish, the two things the Navajo never ate was fish or pork. In the winter, their camps could be found on the highlands, and near the rivers in the scorching summer sun. Their homes were of brush, with the earth scooped out beneath for the domestic floor. When they moved camp, they burned their temporary homes. For food they lived on berries, nuts, fruits from various trees, mesquite beans, acorns, the fruit of the giant cacti/yucca, and calves as well as horse meat. There life was self sustaining not desiring more than they needed. There are reports of them being selfish, but they were generous with food.
There was no hierarchical structure, as all members with the clan were considered the same, but like in most things, there was division of labor, with councils of men, and the chief being male. Women built the homes each time they moved.
When it came to marriage, they married outside of the clan, never allowing marriage to near second cousin. A man interested in marrying a young girl/woman, as in Islam, approached the parents. Polygny was not unusual. Women had the privilege of women’s time when menstruating, and would keep the company of other women. This was her time to not be imbalanced by the presence of men. Boys and girls grew up in without having to obey, and like the children of Nubia, both had the kind of freedom where they never had to obey.
Amongst the Hopi, every village is an autonomous government. Given the inability of democracy to facilitate the needs of “all of the people”, maybe this form of governance argued for by many anti-federalists is the natural way. Their language is ancient (Aztec) in origin, and their belief system is deep-rooted in religion which transpires as a deep reverence for all things. They are ancestors of the Anasazi who have a complete belief system which covers all things in life to the extent that they have a ceremonial calendar.
They believed in One Supreme Being Who is the invisible Source of everything.
The Hopis traditionally were farmers, but the force of progress has undermined this self sustaining lifestyle towards cash for work. Part of their contribution to humanity’s food supply is the corn of which they grew 24 varieties. They hunted wild mammoth until they became extinct, and then bison, The Hopi home is made of stone and mud, standing several stories high, this may be the most likelihood origin of the American skyscraper. Unlike American homes, the basement, the kiva, is a place of worship and religious ceremony blessing the home above.
Like the traditional societal structure of the Nubia of Upper Egypt and Sudan, the structure was matrilineal. The nature of commitment from a man to a woman as a stage towards marriage is most honorable, as the groom and his male relatives weave the bridal costume, and the bride to be grinds corn for three days for her groom. When a man marries, the offspring become members of the wife’s clan.
These are but two examples missing from a much wider debate over migration.
From Native American Land to U.S. Land
From life before the first migrants, the rude awakening took the form of the following as described by current Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer:
“Spaniards sent exploration parties northward from Mexico. The first was a Franciscan priest named Marcos de Niza, who entered the territory in 1539. Other Spanish missionaries followed and established missions to bring Christianity to the Indians [see the Doctrine of Discovery]. Tumacacori Mission, north of Nogales, was founded by Padre Kino at the center of an Indian settlement”.
“After Kino’s death, Spanish development of this area came to a halt. In 1821 Mexico declared its independence from Spain and eventually went to war with the United States. This war ended in 1848, and the land north of the Gila River became United States territory. In 1853 the rest of the area was acquired by the Gadsden Purchase”
There was an open invitation to settlers, not unlike the Zionist invitation to settlers in Palestine. The response involved over 50,000 miners seeking to make it rich overnight because of the abundance of gold, silver, and copper. After Mexican independence won from Spain in 1822, Arizona became a part of the Mexican State of Vieja California under the Treaty of Cordoba in response to the War of Independence by Mexico.
In 1846, the ideology of “Manifest Destiny” or the “Doctrine of Discovery” America initiated the American-Mexican War. In 1848, Mexico was forced under the The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to hand over its land to America, under the condition that America paid Mexico $15 million in compensation. America was still haggling over desired, land, and it was not until the Gadsden Purchase/Treaty of La Mesilla for $10 million . After the great American Civil War, Anglo-Americans feared the influence and political clout of Mexican-Americans, so the capital of Arizona remained fluid moving from Tucson, Fort-Whipple, Prescott, and then finally to Phoenix.
With the advent of the 1900s, the Republicans sought to keep Arizona American, by making it a part of the Union under New Mexico. It was not until 1912 that Arizona became the 48th state. World War I helped to transform Arizona from a frontier state into a modern state with the demand for copper.
Allah (SWT) made the earth a wide expanse for us to roam in, the Qur’an tells us, but we are the ones who create our own borders. The fact that Arizona is on the border with its past, and the fact that the natives of Arizona to some extent live on their land has become a part of the scenery, but where are their rights? As the protest raises against the Anti-Immigrant Law SB1070 the thought that technically speaking, such a law is utter nonsense when Native Americans are being treated as illegal migrants in their own land, and that those who propose the law are migrants themselves, or are descendent of migrants should be the focus. The issue of how the U.S. treats its neighbors when it comes to politics, trade, employment, and social issues should be the focus. If the U.S. stopped seeing its geographical neighbors as it’s back-door from which to exploit resources and labor for its own benefit, along with corruption and the U.S. – led drugs war in Mexico, there would be less need to cross the border with Arizona, as dangerous as it is, because the reason would be removed. There can be no peace until there is justice for all, and justice is not just a matter of rights, but it is also a matter of a way of life that is so different than the one that the U.S. seeks to impose on the people of the land, the Native Americans. Practice what you preach America, and stop practicing what is in fact unsustainable.
In the words of the Artists Against SB 1070:
“We believe, the decision by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to sign into law the poorly conceived immigration measure SB1070, marks a new low in the fight to protect civil liberties in The United States. This law allows any officer of the law at the state, county, or city level in Arizona to determine the legal immigration status of anyone at anytime, among other provisions, including making it a crime to be in Arizona illegally.
“Millions of people everywhere believe it will lead to rampant racial profiling, particularly against people of Latino/a heritage. President Obama has called it “misguided.” Furthermore, immigration is a national issue and the state of Arizona has no constitutional role in determining who has legal status in this country.
“We are calling on members of the worldwide artistic community—whether visual, performing, literary or other discipline—to boycott the state of Arizona in opposition to this unjust legislation, for as long as it remains on the books. We ask artists to not perform, produce, present, appear or conduct business in Arizona so that lawmakers there understand that the rest of the country disapproves, so they will feel the economic impact of their bad decision. We call on talent agents, managers, publicists, unions and associations to also support this effort and the artists they represent who choose to join.
“We also call on fans and supporters of the arts to contact their favorite performers and artists and encourage them to participate in this boycott. Fans can also show their support for the boycott by writing to Arizona Governor Brewer, and by supporting their favorite artists when they make appearances in other states.
“The artistic community has a natural role to play in commenting and responding to social issues. Now more than ever the time is right to act.
To Sign-on & Endorse this Campaign as an organization, group or as an individual; please send your: Name, Title/Affiliation and City & State to
The law was signed in by Governor Jan Brewer on May 17th 2010, setting the example that it is possible to make anything legal even if it is against the laws of the nation. To comment from New America Media, native American Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez, professor at the University of Arizona has the following to say:
“With Arizona in the spotlight, most of the nation has focused on the draconian anti-immigrant law SB 1070, which makes it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant. But this is the culmination of a war that has been going on for 518 years. The mood here is not anti-immigrant. It is anti-Mexican. The racial profiling law has little to do with legalities; it is about the expressed targeting of red-brown indigenous peoples.
“Law officers will not target generic Hispanics or even Mexicans. Their profile is 100 percent indigenous. That’s why American Indians in Arizona understand precisely what this law is all about (Navajo Times, May 13). They are subject to this profile because the similarities are obvious: short, dark hair, dark eyes and red-brown skin. Spaniards are not at risk.
“How do we know this? Look to the historic practices of la migra, or the current practices of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. They have been racial profiling for years, and now the governor has authorized all law enforcement to be able to do the same, under threat of lawsuits. For years, those of us with red-brown skin have lived this reality anywhere along the U.S.-Mexico border. Nowadays, this anti-Mexican sentiment, under the veneer of anti-illegal immigrant fervor, is nationwide.
“This is about our bodies.
“In past years, they’ve gone after our tongues. In Arizona, in the year 2000, Proposition 203 virtually gutted bilingual education, based on the belief that it is better to be monolingual than bilingual. Arizona was simply following the lead of California’s Proposition 227 in 1998. But to this day, the question remains: What does language have to do with legal status?
“The latest salvo is HB 2281. This one is about our souls.
“This new law is an attempt by Superintendent Tom Horne to eliminate ethnic studies. Specifically, Horne has targeted Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program, arguing that what is taught there is outside of western civilization and should not be taught in Arizona schools.
“This law has nothing to do with “illegal immigration.” If anything, it resembles the practices of the early European friars who deemed indigenous knowledge to be godless and demonic and attempted to destroy it completely. The burning of the books of our ancestors – indigenous peoples of this continent – resides deep within our psyche. The philosophical foundation for Mexican American studies in general is Maya-Nahuatl knowledge – derived from thousands of years of maize culture.
“Anthropologists refer to it as Mesoamerican knowledge. One part of it is: In Lak Ech – Tu eres mi otro yo – you are my other self. It is an ethic that teaches us that we are all part of each other. It is a human rights ethos connected to social justice and love of humanity.
“This is what Horne wants to ban. Could book burning and an auto-de-fe be next? Of course. This is what he wants. He has singled out Rodolfo Acuña’s book, “Occupied America,” and Paolo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” as examples of books that preach hate, promote segregation, anti-Americanism and the violent overthrow of the U.S. government.
“After the law was signed last week by Gov. Jan Brewer, metaphorically, an auto-de-fe was precisely what Horne came to conduct at TUSD the very next day. Hundreds of middle and high school students laid siege to the TUSD headquarters. When he failed to show his face, he scheduled a press conference at the nearby state building a couple of miles away. The same students marched there, laying siege to the state building. Eventually, 15 arrests were made. I was one of them.
“Why are students willing to be arrested? Because the two books singled out are but the beginning. The new law authorizes the monitoring and censorship of books to ensure that they are in compliance with the law. Only non-educators could have come up with this one.
“And so here we are again. Welcome to Apartheid Arizona, U.S.A”. from source
Arizona Councils of Government Arizona’s Native American Tribes http://edrp.arid.arizona.edu/tribes.html
Brewer, J. “The Arizona Story” http://azgovernor.gov/kids/AZ_History.asp
June, P. Mexican-Spanish War: Mexican War of Independence http://www.pjjune.net/history/arizona/arizonapage2.htm