“We can’t drink oil! Leave it in the soil!”
The chant rose up from the crowd at the Indigenous People’s Day march on Monday downtown, in celebration of Albuquerque’s second annual day devoted to recognizing the resilience of natives in recent centuries.
The event, organized by the Red Nation, protested both the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy and the incarceration of Leonard Peltier.
Protesters stopped in the street between the federal and county courthouses, where speakers discussed Peltier’s 41-year imprisonment and, in front of the police station, gave speeches addressing the Dakota Access Pipeline.
David Maile, an organizer with the Red Nation, said Columbus Day — celebrated in many other cities nationwide on Monday — represents a history of genocide and conquest.
Demonstrators march down second street in solidarity for Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday, Oct. 10, 2016 in Albuquerque New Mexico. Protesters gathered to speak out against Columbus Day and promote Indigenous Peoples Day, along with other controversies such as the Direct Access Pipeline and the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
“We’re marching and rallying today to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day as a counter to Columbus Day,” Maile said. “But also to demand clemency for Leonard Peltier, freedom fighter of indigenous peoples, to evict corporate polluters like the Dakota Access Pipeline and also to demand that racist violence to natives all over be ended and stopped. So it’s so much more than just abolishing Columbus Day, and it’s so much more than just celebrating today.”
Rally speeches covered everything from the Bureau of Land Management’s search for potential oil pipeline sites in Chaco Canyon to the history of indigenous LGBTQ peoples’ resistance.
Norman Patrick Brown, who was part of the Wounded Knee protest in 1973 and spoke in support of Leonard Peltier, said the protest in Standing Rock continues to protect Native American rights and their way of life.
“The only enemies that we have today are the unjust federal policies subjugating our people to the reservation,” Brown said.“All we want is our treaty rights to be honored. All we want is to determine our own future and to be recognized as independent people.”
Speaker Joann Spotted Bear, who is from Standing Rock, asked for support of new treaties that would protect water rights. Demetrius Johnson, president of the Kiva Club, also spoke on the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“I’ve never been more proud to be native, and never been more scared to be native,” Johnson said of his experience visiting Standing Rock.
Savannah Junes gave a speech on the Entrada, a reenactment of Don Diego’s conquest of Santa Fe that she called inaccurate due to its depiction of the conquest as bloodless.
She said abolishing the reenactment would mean the world to her.
“My children wouldn’t have to go through the oppression and confusion that I did when I was a child,” she said.
The Party for Socialism and Liberation tabled at the event to promote the Socialist presidential candidate Gloria La Riva, said Chris Banks, state chair of the Party for Socialism and Liberation of New Mexico.
“Most importantly we’re here to stand in solidarity with native people to demand clemency for Leonard Peltier,” Banks said. “This is his last shot in many ways. And to stand with Standing Rock, which, it’s no exaggeration to say, is out in front in terms of fighting the extraction industry, which is really destroying the planet.”
The Pueblo Action Alliance tabled to show support for the event and to gather donations for the Standing Rock encampment, Reyes Devore said.
“We know that it’s important to be here to show that we’re still here. We wanted to make a stand for what’s going on in Standing Rock,” Devore said.
She said the Alliance will send its fifth caravan of supplies to Standing Rock on Wednesday, and the group is fundraising to build a Pueblo Oven in Standing Rock.
Samia Assad also spoke during the march about the connection between Indigenous People’s Day and the occupation of Palestine.
“The link is very obvious. We share experiences. We’re both colonized. We’re both oppressed people. We both understand systemic racism and systemic genocide,” Assad said. “It’s hard to live in your own country and be dispossessed in your own country. That’s pretty much the experience of what the natives are going through, much like what the Palestinians are going through.”
Monica Cortez, a Sioux from South Dakota, said she attended the event to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“I support all of the sisters and brothers up in Standing Rock and Cannon Ball. They need justice to be served too,” Cortez said.
Hezhi Cao said she came to last year’s march and, while this one was smaller, it was just as important.
“The good thing is that people still show up, and at least I saw new faces. It’s not only native people. There are people from different races, so it’s people in solidarity,” Cao said.
Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.