Border Imperialism: An Age Old Crisis

By: Christine Nobiss

A speech delivered on July 12, 2019 at a Lights for Liberty action.

I’d like to recognize this land I’m standing as stolen from the Ioway, the Dakota, the Meskwaki and the many other nations that thrived here before removal and genocide. 

Today, I want to speak about what the world was like before settler invaders stepped foot on these shores and about border imperialism.

I’ve heard some Natives say that life was like paradise before the onslought of genocide. We were all connected. The Indigenous economy was built on trade, cultural exchange and social networking which meant that we had sophisticated and far reaching trade routes that went from northern Canada to the bottom of South America. We had main roads that went through different marked territories, but there was never anything as severe and militarized as the imperialist imposed borders that now sharply define the land that is the United States of America. 

These borders defy our traditional migration routes and are keeping Indigenous Peoples out of territories that they are rightfully welcomed to be in. Many of the people being put in these internment camps, being forced out of the country or denied entry do not even speak English or Spanish. They speak their Indigenous language and many are signing away their rights to lands they traditionally had connections to. What’s important to remember is that this has been going on for 500 years and anyone who says that this country is great, and that Trump is responsible for this, is sadly mistaken. This is something that has been happening and will keep happening until we make drastic change to ideologies that perpetuate white supremacy.

Recently, I attended the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and was honored to co-write an intervention on border imperialism. I’d like to share some of that with you.

The U.S. government is enforcing aggressive border restriction policies on sanctuary seeking Latin-American Indigenous Peoples attempting to cross a border that cuts through territories their ancestors have always traveled. These impositions adversely affect the nationhood and identity of Indigenous peoples everywhere. Colonial border-policy enforcement, coupled with settler-state immigration laws, are some key factors in eroding Indigenous Peoples customs, traditions and national identities through displacement, restriction of movement and ongoing encroachment and exploitation of Indigenous territories. 

To make matters worse, this government is actively working on extreme measures that will result in a 60 billion dollar border wall between the US and Mexico that cuts across preexisting Indigenous lands and current treaty territories like those of the Tohono o’odham in the occupied state of Arizona. 

The forced removal of many undocumented Indigenous Peoples already established in the country and forcing them into inhospitable prison camps, separating children from caregivers, is in violation of the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples. I demand that this country implement article 36 of UNDRIP which states that Indigenous peoples, in particular those divided by international borders, have the right to maintain and develop contacts, relations and cooperation, including activities for spiritual, cultural, political, economic and social purposes, with their own members as well as other peoples across borders. AND, States, in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous Peoples, shall take effective measures to facilitate the exercise and ensure the implementation of this right.

I am one Indigenous person, but I know many of my relatives agree when I say no more internment camps, no more border patrol agents, no more paramilitary groups, no more coyotes, no more ICE and no more killing children and innocent Indigenous people seeking asylum from wars caused by this very country. 

Christine Nobiss