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Open Letter to Shakira: A Call for Hemispheric Unity

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Dear Shakira:

I am a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House in Montana for the 2010 cycle. I am writing to you to ask you to heed the call to action on the need for passage of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People by the Obama administration.

As your work in Haiti attests: the cultures and people of Haiti come from many places around the globe; they are also of native descent. The recent natural disaster was made worse by historic poverty, disinvestment, and neglect. Their story is not uncommon in this hemisphere; it has been the normal condition of life since European contact.

Your latest effort addresses the recently passed immigration law in Arizona. This law is a symptom of a larger need affecting all aboriginal people in the hemisphere. There has been a lack of accountability by the transplanted European colonial powers in the entire history of European contact in this hemisphere. The U.S. and Canada fail to be accountable to indigenous people and the international community. The UN declaration changes that.

Passage of UN Declaration by the USA, Canada Needed

I call upon you to act to give awareness of the needs of the peoples of this hemisphere to be protected under the provisions of this law. The Arizona law which disparately impacts Latinos is the latest to epitomize the systematic destruction of aboriginal people that has been the policy of 500 years of European contact.

This declaration is needed on many levels for all aboriginal in our hemisphere; we must move to ensure it is honored in our countries. As in the U.S. southern border, there are multiple issues between the U.S., Canada, and tribal groups. I mention just a few of the issues here:

  • Strong guest worker laws are needed in our nation, as well as greater freedom of movement by aboriginal people. Such laws must make illegal worker exploitation by employers; and a lawful wage and extension of health benefits to guest workers.
  • In the U.S., gun rights activists fail to see the impact of 10,000 gun shops lining the U.S./Mexico border, causing 80% of gun violence, according to Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
  • The health care legislation still does not guarantee coverage to even legal immigrants on par with the rest of our citizens.
  • The northern border issues include religious persecution, difficulty with issues such as transporting eagle feathers, and sweetgrass.
  • The environmental impacts of tar sand development with first nations, and along that, the economic disparity.
  • Native rights in the growing relevance of the Bakken Formation that straddles the U.S.-Canada border.
  • Stronger civil rights protections; the Arizona law is a disturbing and growing trend that speaks to the need that the Obama administration must make a more serious commitment to civil rights for all, not just African Americans.
  • Overall, aboriginal people must have freedom of movement; as we are contributors to the economy of the hemisphere. We are entitled to all of the protections of the UN declaration on par with the rest of the world.

Many indigenous rights activists equate the U.S. effort to build a fence along the U.S./Mexico border as "psychological oppression and terrorism." A democracy does not engage in terror, yet for too long, actions like the one taken in Arizona have been tolerated. This past week, President Obama signaled immigration will not be dealt with and delayed action. We need cross border indigenous activism as never before.

Calling for "The Concert for the Americas"

It is time to come together, as aboriginal people from every corner, and every island of the western hemisphere -- and state a right to exist, and a right to survive. I have contacted the company representing you, and I would like for you to act to bring immediate global awareness to the plight of all aboriginal people in this hemisphere. Your agency seems to think this may be a distant possibility in the late summer of 2010; on the heels of your summer tour. Though they did not give a yes or a no, I appeal to you to headline the effort.

We are working to draw in all talent from across all the aboriginal communities in the hemisphere. I urge you to take the lead as a visible entertainer on the global stage; to bring our common struggles for dignity before the global community. It is time we are given the dignity in our internal political processes that are afforded all people; we have a common need to heal from the destructive imprint of colonialism in the Americas and build a better future.

To highlight our need for the protection of the international community, what better way to build a social movement than this proposal for the Concert for the Americas. I call it this because of the language must change. Immigration has become a buzzword to evince fearmongering in the American right. It is time to change the language dynamic to reflect the greatness of humanity and the vast array of civilizations in the western hemisphere; we contribute to the richness of the human experience on so many levels.

The music, stories, celebration and culture is mixed with the emotional pain, loss, deprivation, and despair that has defined our collective existence. I have written here about my own story of my people's survival on Hill 57, Great Falls, Montana. Yet, with all we have been confronted with; we have never lost hope. We turned out in numbers in 2008 to elect this nation's first African American President. We were promised change; we will hold our leaders to this. In doing so, and in seeking the passage of this most vital human rights law: we will find the world stands with us. Thank you.

Note to Readers: On ways you can help to make the Concert for the Americas a reality:

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